Category Archives: France

French wines

Domaine Laroche Chablis 2015

I have long been an anti-Chardonnay person. It wasn’t really until my introduction to wines from Chablis that I realized why I dislike Chardonnay…and why I love it. But before we get into the Laroche Chablis or my complicated relationship with Chardonnay let’s discuss what is Chablis.

Chablis is an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) from the northernmost wine district of the Burgundy region in France. The only allowable grape grown in Chablis (in order to be classified in the AOC) is Chardonnay. Wines in Chablis are nearly always vinified without oak, instead fermented and aged in stainless steel or other neutral containers. They are known for their purity of aroma and taste and are characterized as having aromas of citrus and white flowers, light bodied with zesty acid and flavors of citrus, apple, and pear with a distinctive shell-like minerality and salinity.

Laroche Chablis

Sherlock either disapproves, is jealous and wants some wine, or is trying to kill me. I can never tell.

So what’s my deal with Chardonnay? When I first started drinking wine my Chardonnay experiences were largely with California wine. American wine makers are gradually moving away the super heavy use of oak but the heavily oaked, buttery, burnt sugar and caramel flavors of the past Chardonnays linger in my memory. I don’t particularly care for a great deal of oak in any white wine really so those oaky Chardonnays are not my speed. But the racy, lean, and zesty Chardonnays of Chablis? Yeah baby.

My friends E&M don’t have a home base anywhere so quite often when they don’t have anywhere else to be they stay with me in Istanbul. Their “rent”: duty free wine like this Domaine Laroche Chablis. Domaine Laroche believes firmly in sustainable agriculture which relies on taking the relationship between vine, soil, climate and environment into account. They use no weed killers, no pesticides, no anti-botrytis treatments.

Laroche Chablis

Domaine Laroche Chablis 2015 Tasting Notes:

The Laroche Chablis is a great example of the regional terroir. The nose is simultaneously angular and citrus but soft and floral with a suggestive hint of smoky flint . On the palate zesty, mouthwatering acid melts into flavors of apple and pear. Clean minerals and light salinity complete this light-bodied, balanced, and lovely wine.

Bordeaux Tasting with Şarap Atölyesi

Naturally it took me four years here to find the wine tasting scene and now that I’m in it I’m sorry I’ll have to abandon it so soon. Most of the tastings I attend are run by Murat, founder of Şarap Atölyesi.

I love going to Murat’s tastings. Not only do I get to try new wines, often pulled from his private collection but it’s a double learning experience for me. I’m usually one of only few (if not the only!) non-native Turkish speaker so his lecture and materials are naturally all in Turkish. I generally take away 75-80% of what’s going on so it’s bot challenging and rewarding.

Bordeaux Tasting

Murat put together an excellent and informative presentation on Bordeaux. While I’ve read a fair amount about the region in various wine books, Murat had some interesting facts I hadn’t pulled out of the books:

  • 90% of wine production is red; 7% is white; and 3% sweet wines
  • Merlot is the most-widely planted grape red at 62%. Then it’s Cabernet Sauvignon at 25%, Cabernet Franc at 12%, and Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere together make up a mere 1%.
  • For white wine grapes Semillon is top at 52%, followed by Sauvignon Blanc at 36%, and Muscadelle at 7%. The remaining 5% is a combination of less popular white wine grapes.
  • There are roughly 8,500 chateau producing wine in Bordeaux accounting for 15% of France’s wine production and 1.5% of global production.

For this tasting he put together eight wines from his personal collection including one white, six reds, and a sweet, dessert wine.

Bordeaux Tasting

Bordeaux Tasting Notes:

I have extremely limited exposure to white Bordeaux so the Chateau Sainte Marie Vieilles Vignes 2015 (from Entre Deaux Mers in Bordeaux) was a real pleasure. A blend of 64% Sauvingon Blanc, 28% Semillon, and 8% Muscadelle this wine was aged in stainless steel tanks sur lie. Very pale yellow in color with no green, the nose was full of citrus, tropical fruits, and a little grass. It was a lot softer on the palate than I expected but still with lively acid, delicate tropical fruit flavors, and a mineral finish. Lovely.

From the AOC area of Bordeaux Superieur we tasted a Merlot-lead blend from Chateau Bel Air. This 2014 wine is 65% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignong, and 10% Cabernet Franc. The nose was fruity and a little floral with hints of violets, baking spices, and vanilla. Nice tannins, smooth, and fruity with a decent finish it was a good, standard example of wine from Bordeaux Superieur.

Next up in our Bordeaux tasting was a 2009 from Clos Rene in Pomerol. With a blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Malbec I was pretty sure I was not going to like this. So much Merlot! I don’t know what it is though about Merlot that I find so objectionable as a single varietal because blend it with even a small amount of other wines and it’s magic. The Clos Rene, which spend 18 months in oak, had a fairly deep nose, slightly perfumey, with dark fruits. Smooth, with a long finish and lovely tannins, this one had a lot of cloves and earthiness to it that gave it beautiful depth.

We were next introduced to the stunning Chateau Bardoulet 2012 from St. Emilion (Grand Cru Classe). This was a very rich blend of a whopping 85% Merlot with 9% Cabernet Franc, and a mere 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this was gorgeous: strawberries, raspberries, a little floral, sweet spices, vanilla, and a little nutty. Holy wow the tannins on this! I love me some tannins and this one had them in spades. This was really powerful with a finish for days and a velvety rich, slightly smokey palate.

Bordeaux Tasting

Moving on to a Left Bank blend we tasted a Chateau Carbonnieux 2009 from Pessac-Leognan (Grand Cru Classe de Graves). This blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc spent 18 months in oak to create a dark garnet wine with a nose full of red fruits, vanilla, baking spices, and dark chocolate. Gorgeous tannins, smooth, and with a long finish the palate was plummy with tobacco and leather.

The final red in our Bordeaux tasting was the Chateau Labegorce “Zede de Labegorce 2012 from Margaux (Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel) with 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. I must not have thought a lot about this one as my notes are really scarce. It was very fruity in the nose with hints of spice from the 15 months it spent in oak. On the palate the wine was balanced and elegant with soft tannins and a long finish.

We finished the tasting with a Chateau Doisey Daene 2011 from the Barsac area of Bordeaux. I might have been guilty of hyperbole here but my notes say: “OMG I haven’t lived before now.” In all fairness to my tendency to exaggerate though, this blend of 92% Semillon and 8% Sauvignon Blanc (10 months oak and an additional 9+ in the bottle before release) was like liquid gold. Honeycomb, dried apricot and pineapple, a little nutmeg was thick and sweet without being cloying or saccharine. A stunning way to end our Bordeaux tasting.

If you’re in Istanbul, look up Şarap Atölyesi and get on Murat’s mailing list for events!