Vinexpo, the massive wine fair held every other year in Bordeaux, provides an international audience for wineries to showcase their new vintages and new products. Now that the dust has settled on the event, here are a few notable highlights that will arrive in the United States this fall and early next year.
The Champagne house of Philipponnat unveiled a new prestige cuvée in a drier, more elegant style than its single-vineyard flagship wine, Clos des Goisses. Called "1522" to commemorate the arrival of the Philipponnat family in Champagne, the new wine bears a label featuring a 15th century rendering of the village of Ay. Made from 60 percent Pinot Noir and 40 percent Chardonnay (the grapes were all estate-grown and came primarily from the 1996 vintage), the Extra Brut "1522" shows hazelnut and mineral flavors on a racy, firm structure. "We want the power without the weight of the Clos des Goisses," explained manager Charles Philipponnat. The "1522," which should retail for about $65 per bottle, will be released in September.
Also from Champagne, Nicolas Feuillatte expects to release its debut Brut Rosé Cuvée Palmes d'Or, from the 1996 vintage, in early 2002. The wine is made entirely from Pinot Noir, using grape-skin contact to give it color. (Many sparkling rosés are made by adding a small percentage of still red wine to white.) The cuvée tastes like Pinot Noir with bubbles, offering berry and spice aromas and flavors on a round, yet firm, structure. Winemaker Jean-Pierre Vincent first experimented with a vintage rosé in 1989, using fruit solely from the village of Les Riceys, but was not convinced of the quality. In 1996, which was a great vintage with good ripeness, he added fruit from Bouzy, a village which has an official quality rating of 100 percent for its Pinor Noir, and voilà -- a prestige rosé that should sell for $130 per bottle.
Rhône-based Domaines Perrin is expanding its line of négociant wines, adding bottlings from more appellations from the Southern Rhône. Its Rasteau L'Andéol 2000, a blend of 80 percent Grenache and 20 percent Mourvèdre, comes from 7.5 acres of calcareous soil; the limestone provides structure for the concentrated chocolaty flavors. The Vinsobres La Gille 2000 matches Grenache with Syrah in equal proportions, delivering prominent blackberry notes on a full-bodied frame. Both wines will arrive in U.S. stores early next year and will cost about $14 a bottle.
Perrin has also released a new organic, single-vineyard 1999 Côtes du Rhône, made from Grenache, for $14 under the Perrin Nature label. The wine has been certified as organic by the French organization Ecocert. Pierre Perrin expressed a desire to increase the number of organic wines in the range. "I think my grandfather was one of [modern viticulture's] pioneers of organic culture in Côtes du Rhône and maybe in France, beginning in 1964 at Château de Beaucastel. It is a little homage to him to allow us to discover the benefit of the natural culture of the vines."
Montes Winery in Chile poured several new releases, with emphasis on its Apalta vineyard in the Santa Cruz district of Colchagua. The Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Apalta Montes Alpha 1999 revealed plenty of lush, ripe black cherry and toasty oak flavors, while Montes' top wine, the Cabernet Sauvignon Alpha M 1999, added extra dimensions of density and elegance. The latter, now the fourth vintage of this luxury Chilean red wine, is scheduled for a August 2001 release in the United States for about $72 per bottle.
Winemaker Aurelio Montes has also been experimenting with Syrah. He already has one bottling out, and the 2000 vintage of his Syrah Santa Cruz Alpha Apalta Vineyard offers bold, rich blackberry and chocolate notes, with more aggressive tannins than the Cabernet. Now, he has a new project from Apalta, a "super Syrah" called Folly. The grapes for Folly are harvested from the upper slope of Montes' Syrah plantings, where the berries and clusters are smaller than in the lower portion of the vineyard. As a result, they deliver more color, tannins and a low yield of less than two tons per acre. This full-bodied red, of which only 500 cases were made, is ripe and lush, with velvety tannins. It will also be released in January 2002 for about $70.
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