I stopped by yesterday at the VOS Selections portfolio tasting. For those not in the wine business, at various times during the year wholesalers and importers put on comprehensive tastings of their wines for folks in the trade, a concept that sounds pleasant in theory but is often like trying to taste wine in a rush-hour subway station. (Even worse, a subway station where everyone around you keeps spitting out jets of red liquid every few seconds.) Thankfully, VOS's event wasn't too jammed, which afforded me the opportunity to taste some terrific French wines, among others. I probably made it through 60 or 70 wines before the siren-call of the office pulled me back uptown; here are some highlights, all worth looking for. If you have trouble finding them, which you might well, then I'd suggest getting in touch with VOS directly and seeing if they have accounts who stock their wines in your area (in fact they suggest that on their website).
Roger Pouillon Cuvée de Reserve Brut NV (about $48) This grower Champagne comes from organically farmed vineyards. The cuvée is 85% Pinot Noir, which accounts for some of its full-bodied depth; it was toasty but crisp, with rich fruit and notes of honey. Pretty seductive.
2006 Domaine Courbis St Joseph Blanc (about $28) Impressive Rhône white for not too much money, at least given what you pay these days for white Hermitage. The origins of this estate date back to the 16th century (so says the handy tasting book from the event); this wine is a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne from chalky soils. Fragrant white nectarine and crisp pear fruit, with firm acidity that really brings it to life.
2006 Domaine des Schistes Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tradition (about $20) Boy howdy, you want value, this is value. Heaps of sweet black- and blueberry fruit, dense velvety tannins, underlying earthy notes. Forty year old vines, 40% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 40% Carignan. Very impressive.
2003 Domaine de Cabrol Cabardès Vent d'Ouest (about $24) Cabardès, you say, bien sûr. As did I, of course, because I know EVERYTHING ABOUT this tiny Languedoc-Roussillon AOC north of Carcassonne, named for the ancient Lords of Cabaret (a gang of medieval French fellows wearing tights who happened to be very fond of Liza Minelli CDs), which became official only in 1999. OK. I admit to journalistic falsehood: I knew nada about Cabardès before Victor Schwarz of VOS helpfully explained to me that the intriguing aspect of this miniscule region is how it is mutually influenced by both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean; hence the winemaker's two cuvées, Vent d'Ouest (west wind) and Vent d'Est (east wind). Appropriately, the Vent d'Ouest is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) with equal parts Grenache and Syrah. It's also a fascinating wine, with an earthy, dark aroma that reminded me of Bourgeuil more than anything else, but then has an almost Bordeaux-like cedar-and-graphite turn to the flavor, atop cassis and plum fruit. I found it fascinating, which is why I'm subjecting you, patient reader, to this absurdly wandering wine note. But now it's done.
2006 Gilles Morat Pouilly Fuissé Belemnites (about $32) Choosing between Gilles Morat's two superb single-parcel Pouilly Fuissés is pretty much a matter of personal preference, since they're both so impressive. For me, the Belemnites, which comes from 42-year-old vines on limestone-clay soils, had a slight edge this time over the more linear La Roche bottling; I loved its scent of orange zest and earth, and the substantial lime and mineral depths of its fruit.
That's all I've got time for today. I may add some of the pricier Burgundies tomorrow (short note: if you see any of the '06 Dupon-Tisserandots, and you can afford them—not easy—then buy them. Do not pass 'Go', but definitely collect that $200, because you'll need it).