Here are tasting notes on some wines that I've recently sampled and that I recommend, with food suggestions for each.
2000 Meursault, Le Limozin, René Monnier, Burgundy ($27): A white Burgundy with the taste of cooked butter, with extraordinarily high acidity for a Meursault and the typical soft texture, finishing like a Puligny, with a finger snap of lemon. On the lookout for most any simple, straightforward chicken preparation.
2000 Pouilly Vinzelles, Les Quarts, Verget, Burgundy ($18): The wine equivalent of buttermilk—somewhat leesy aromas and flavors (laced with toasty wood) and terrific acidity—all part of clean chardonnay fruit. Try with grilled pork chops this summer.
2001 Bourgogne blanc, Terroirs de Cote d'Or, Verget, Burgundy ($12.50): Like lemon curd—tangy acidity with body—and just slightly woody. Marked by bracing acidity and a hint of yeast in the nose. Could replace that California chardonnay as an aperitif.
2000 Chablis 1er cru, Fourchaumes, Boudin, Burgundy ($21): Perfect Chablis: lean, green, and loaded with crisp acidity and gobs of minerals (especially in the finish). Very clean, with a squeegee-like freshness. Still tightly focused for its few years. If you suck oysters, try some with this. Or go for any shellfish, freshly steamed.
2000 Nuits St. Georges, Les St. Georges, Chicotot, Burgundy ($37): Colored a mix of garnet and ruby—perfect old-style Burgundy —with an effusive aroma of dark red fruits and freshly dried sausage. Silky, quicksilver texture, rich in length and flavor. Duck would do very nicely here.
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2001 La Forge merlot, Vin Pays d'Oc ($8): Fat, grapey flavors—more for your money than most any California merlot would deliver—and a bit of tannin. Also, a French merlot, that is, less opulently textured than stateside versions. A casual wine for casual food: grilled steaks, roast beef sandwiches, lamb chops.
2001 La Forge syrah, Vin Pays d'Oc ($8): You cannot see through this intensely colored, concentrated red. Lots of sweet fruit (no sugar, just super ripe, lavishly rendered fruit). Silky tannins for all its heft. Grilled sausages are what this wine wants to eat.
1999 Chateau St. Germain, Coteaux de Languedoc ($10): A typical grenache-syrah-mourvedre blend from southwestern France. A very spicy nose; cooked compote-like fruit aromas and flavors; super concentration; ample but softly textured tannins; a long, long finish. A good buy in ripe, fruit-packed red. Leg of lamb is getting out of season, but would be a perfect match, as would be grilled butterflied leg.
2001 Sauvageonne Les Ruffes, Coteaux de Languedoc ($8): All you funk lovers, check out the sweaty, barnyard-y aromas the first waft from the glass. Very ripe fruit (stewed prunes; jammy red fruits). Fairly rich texture for the money. Red meat served medium rare would be nice.
2000 Le Calice de St. Pierre, Chateuneuf du Pape ($29): Super soft and delicate, as Rhones go, with telltale cherry, raspberry and kirsch aromas and flavors. A terribly pretty wine, one to linger over rather than gulp. Save some for roast turkey, now or later in the year.
2001 Thomas Hyland cabernet sauvignon, Penfolds, South Australia ($13): A good example of the Australian art with cabernet: a light shade of black, for starters, followed by waves of scents of sweet vanillin oak, plum jam and strawberry fruit leather; with ample but unobtrusive tannin and an overall, arch, high-toned texture, just whispering when it's time to finish. Grilled steak, definitely grilled steak.
2001 Veramonte cabernet sauvignon, Maipo, Chile ($9): Nicely balanced among its parts: a touch of grit from tannin (both from oak and grape skins), lush, dark fruit character (plums, black currants) in both the nose and on the tongue. Try with most any beef preparation.