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Moulin de Gassac, Pays d’Hérault (France) "Guilhem” Rosé 2017 ($11, Roanoke Valley Wine Company)
 Very pale pink, with light floral facets and mineral overtones, this is a very delicate, dry wine.  The finish is not complex, but its distinct and cleansing acidity makes this a good wine to enjoy with the sort of Provencale foods one might find in Moulin de Gassac’s backyard, Salade Niçoise, for example, grilled fish, eggplant, and just about anything accompanied by aioli. 
90 Marguerite Thomas


Posted by Michael Apstein on September 19, 2018 at 10:18 AM

The Conundrum of Assigning Points

 Maison Louis Latour’s 2015 Domaine de Valmoissine Pinot Noir (IGP Var, $14) epitomizes the difficulty of assessing wines by assigning a number to them.  Do you judge them among their peers or on an absolute scale? And how does value--ratio of enjoyment to price--figure in the final number? 

Maison Louis Latour, unquestionably one of Burgundy’s top producers, startled the traditionally-focused and conservative Burgundy establishment by expanding outside of Burgundy while still using a traditional Burgundy grape, Pinot Noir in this case. In 1989, they purchased land in the Var area of Provence in the south of France, betting that Pinot Noir, a grape with which they had vast experience and success, would do well there. 

They were correct.  The 2015 Domaine de Valmoissine, a superb Pinot Noir, is likely their best ever.  It could be a perfect storm of vine age, 25-plus years of experience with the area, and a near-perfect growing season that explains the resounding success of this wine. More fruit-focused than a typical red Burgundy, but without the weight or sweetness that characterize many California Pinot Noirs, it still manages to capture the all-to-elusive savory quality often lacking in Pinot Noir-based wines from outside of Burgundy.  Although not a red Burgundy, despite being made from the grape of that region, it does have what I consider a hallmark of red Burgundy--flavor without weight.  The tannins are suave, which allows for immediate enjoyment. 

So how to score it?  On an absolute scale where the fine Chambertins of the world would score in the high 90s, this one might muster somewhere in the low to mid-80s.  But, I’m not a fan of an absolute scale since I don’t think it’s fair to compare, for example, wines from Beaujolais with wines from Burgundy, or wines from Muscadet, which can be delightful, with Corton-Charlemagne.  I am an advocate for judging among peers, which of course requires the reader to have an idea of the composition of the group.  So, using the group of all non-Burgundy Pinot Noir, Louis Latour’s 2015 Domaine de Valmoissine would score in the high 80s or low 90s. 

Now, once we consider price (and who among us does not?), we have an entirely different story.  Pinot Noir with real character less than $15 a bottle is rare.  At this price, this wine is a steal--the kind you buy by the case and drink slightly chilled in the summer with burgers or with grilled salmon, or in the winter, with roast chicken and mushrooms.  In the end, I think Robert Whitley, my colleague here at WRO, defines the numerical rating extremely succinctly and accurately--it’s an “applause meter.”  It’s how much I like the wine, everything, including price, considered.  Using that scale, Louis Latour’s 2015 Domaine de Valmoissine gets 95 Points (I can see my editor cringing, already).

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Recognizing the Wine World's Fastest-Rising Star, with 25 Years of Retrospect
Michael Franz

I began writing about wine in 1993, first for The Washington Times and then, eight months later, for The Washington Post, where I stayed for 11 years before leaving to help establish Wine Review Online. I note this with a bit of a shudder at the rapid passage of time, but hitting the 25-year mark offers an opportunity for reflection, which is always a good thing. From the outset, I've been especially interested in reporting on the world's most rapidly-rising and hence most 'newsworthy' wines and regions, even at the cost of minimizing coverage of the most 'enviable' wines. I love Bordeaux, for example, but Bordeaux makes great wine whenever the weather is good, and I'm simply keener on documenting breakthroughs than doing weather reporting. And after a quarter century of observations, including more than 100 trips to Europe and another 27 to the Southern Hemisphere, I'm certain that the most impressive breakthrough has been achieved in…South Africa.
Santorini Assyrtiko: Terroir-Driven Whites Impress Even the French
Panos Kakaviatos

The high-speed ferry from Athens cuts the time it takes to get to the Cycladic island of Santorini by over half, faster than when I first visited the sun-drenched volcanic island 30 years ago. Boats now have WiFi, too. Another major difference from the past is that Santorini includes Greece's top white wines, which are sold increasingly in markets worldwide. And the star variety is Assyrtiko. In the late 1980s, I recall one or two wineries. Today, the island has a wine route for 18 estates, says George Skopelitis, who lives and works on Santorini for the Greek Agriculture Ministry. Just five years ago, there were only thirteen. Assyrtiko takes its roots from Santorini, encompassing well over half of its vineyard area. While the grape is planted in other parts of Greece -- and increasingly in wine regions outside the country -- the windswept island permits roots to dig deep into black ash-rich soil, lending distinctive wet stone aspects to the bone dry style which, at its best, is like fine white Burgundy.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Corn Chowder with Sausage

What's the difference between soup and chowder? One way to put it is that all chowder is soup, but not all soup is chowder. In other words, chowder is a very specific sort of soup. It is almost always thick and chunky (bisque, another type of soup, is generally smooth). Chowder is usually either corn based or seafood based, or both (as in our recipe for Salmon and Corn Chowder, which appeared in this space in early July). Chowder almost always includes cream, with the one notable exception being tomato-based Manhattan clam chowder, which many critics don't even think should be included in the classification. With summer on the wane we wanted this corn chowder to be a presage of autumn, heartier than our midsummer corn and salmon chowder. Discs of sausage add substance and abundant flavor to the dish, but ham or even crumbled bacon would work equally well. We further livened the chowder up with cumin and other spices, and we encourage you to spice it up to your taste with chili powder, cayenne, Aleppo pepper, or whatever appeals to you.
On My Table
Miles Away from Pinot Grigio
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Some grape varieties are easy to categorize: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, and Viognier, for example, are aromatic varieties whose flavor is so irrepressible that their wines express those flavors vividly. Chardonnay occupies the opposite end of the spectrum with flavor subtle enough that its wines can easily reflect winemaking technique more than grape character. Some experts might place Pinot Gris in the aromatic-grape category, but the neutral flavor of most Pinot Grigio wines argues against that. In fact, the Pinot Gris grape makes a wide variety of wine styles, from the most innocuous mass-market Pinot Grigios to more flavorful, somewhat richer Pinot Grigio wines from areas such as Alto Adige, and Alsace Pinot Gris wines that are almost exotic in comparison. This Pinot Gris from Chile falls toward the more intense, expressive end of the Pinot Gris spectrum. Its style is flavorful -- miles away from your standard Pinot Grigio -- although it has less body than many an Alsace version. The closest comparison, in my experience, is an unoaked Pinot Gris from New Zealand.