From Chablis, the area 180km southeast of Paris and a northern part of Burgundy, comes La Chablisienne, Vieilles Vignes, Chablis 2004 (942243) for $21.95. It’s pressed from 50 year-old vines that yield a more concentrated juice, by one of the best wine cooperatives anywhere, and is rated as a ‘Smart Buy’ by the influential Wine Spectator magazine. A collection of over 280 growers in the region, known for these all-Chardonnay wines redolent with the taste of what is described as “gunflint”, send their wines in to the co-op to be aged, bottled and sold. The vines are grown on limestone soil filled with fossilized oyster shells, and you’ll find perfumed, lemon and mineral or gunflint notes in the glass, echoed on the palate. Oysters, the age-old aphrodisiac, are the classic food match for this wine.
From farther south in France, and from an appellation northeast of Avignon, is the delicious red, Chateau de Montmirail, Cuvee de Beauchamp, Gigondas 2004 (685198) for $24.95. Southern Rhone reds from Gigondas are blends of three different grape varieties: 75 per cent, in this case, is Grenache for its power; 15 per cent Syrah and 10 per cent Mourvedre for the bouquet and colour these varieties contribute. Typical wine from Gigondas is described as a “tight-knit powerhouse of a red” and the 15.5 per cent alcohol will indeed strike you as you put nose to glass. However, the 20 days of fermentation this wine experienced, led to an intense fruit, leather and spice, and a characteristic “dustiness” in the taste, and means that the fruit isnt overwhelmed by the alcohol.
Silvio Grasso’s Pi Vigne, Barolo 2003 (50682) $49.95 may be this family-owned winery’s garden-variety Barolo, but it lives up to the adage that these wines are “Wines of kings, king of wines.” Made on a 10 hectare estate that produces about 70,000 bottles, and from the Nebbiolo grape whose classic aromas are tar and roses, this wine may be the one most likely to extract a smile from that thoughtful but disgruntled uncle. Tell him that the highly respected wine broker, Marc de Grazia, who both advises on winemaking and sells the wine of the estate, says of Grasso’s Barolos that over time “they acquire the quiet, refined, leisurely fabric and presence of a gentleman farmer.”