The Cellar: Fumé Blanc + Saint-Emilion

Friday, August 16, 2013


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Sometimes a solid wine from an iconic California producer is just the thing, such as this week's Mondavi Fumé Blanc.

Those of you who have read my articles for a while know that I like to promote small production, family-owned producers and usually shy away from the big brands. This week, however, I am going to make an exception with a solid wine from an iconic Californian producer. I will then guide myself back on track with an outstanding, small production Bordeaux. Both of these wines are available locally.

If you have a taste for more you should consider signing up for next week’s ‘Evening with Wine’ event at the Providence Wine Academy where the theme is going to be Southern France–i.e. Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon and Southwestern France. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to taste some fantastic wines from some of the region’s best producers, including Cahors’ Chateau de Chambert, Domaine du Gros Nore from Bandol and Languedoc-Roussillon’s Domaine L'oustal Blanc.

2011 Robert Mondavi, Fumé Blanc, Napa Valley, California

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This week’s first wine is an iconic wine from an iconic producer–simply put. It is the Fumé Blanc from the master himself. This style of Sauvignon Blanc was made famous by Robert Mondavi who in the mid 1960’s started experimenting with the varietal, fermenting the wine dry and aging it in oak to add a depth of flavors and body. It was unusual because Sauvignon Blancs at the time were either sweet (desert style) or fermented completely dry in stainless steel (Sancerre style). While the thought of a dry Sauvignon Blanc aged in oak was met with a lot of skepticism, the category has since caught on and is very popular, especially with American wine drinkers who are sensitive to too much acid, but like the subtle flavors of oak in their wines and enjoy a rounder and softer mouthfeel.

Mondavi’s first Fumé Blanc was released in 1968. Today it remains the Estate’s signature wines and one of its most popular releases. The 2011 is the current vintage; a wine that is rich in texture yet light in flavor boasting an array of fresh fruits ranging from melon to pears with a splash of lemon on the lingering finish.

2009 Chateau Saint-Jean, Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

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This week’s second wine is a classic Bordeaux made by small family owned and operated Chateau in Saint-Émilion. Chateau Saint-Jean’s 9.5-acre vineyard is located just west of the town of Saint-Émilion. Like many small farmers in the area Pierre and Alain (the father-son team that purchased the Estate in 2004) can’t afford to build, operate and maintain a modern winery, so they take their grapes to the historic Caste located in Saint-Émilion to make and bottle their wines there.

This Bordeaux blend is a typical ‘Right Bank’ blend with Merlot in the driver’s seat. The 2009 vintage is a great one and reflects the planting in their vineyard as it is a blend of 80% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc and 2 % Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from 6 different parcels and aged in oak for 18 months. Like most young Bordeaux’s this wine is tight and tart up front and needs to aerate for 2 hours. After that you’ll start noticing the wine opening up and softening considerably. This is a well-made, medium-bodied wine displaying ripe dark and red fruits upfront, turning savory with earth and herbs notes on the midpalate. The tannins are soft and refined and the acidity on the finish keeps everything fresh as the wine lingers on and on. These guys only make one wine–this is it. I picked this Monsieur Touton Selection up at East Side Prescription Center on Providence’s Hope St.



Steffen Rasch is a Certified Sommelier and Specialist of Wine. Feel free to email him at [email protected] with any wine-related question or sign up for one of his tastings through the Providence Wine Academy.


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