Does the word “Château” as part of a wine name impress you or leave you indifferent? Here are a couple of excellent Château-monikered wines from regions which are not synonymous with that word on the label:
Château de Sancerre 2016 (13.0%, RRP ~ €28 at independent wine merchants)
The Loire Valley is probably home to the most celebrated châteaux in the country, if not Europe as a succession of French kings tried to outdo each other in their weekend retreats. To my shame I became very bored of the them and didn’t even try the local wine on my last holiday there – but in fairness I was only ten years old.
As experienced wine drinkers we try to discipline ourselves not to judge books by their covers, but we can at least admire beautiful covers like this one. Thankfully, the contents live up to the label’s promise. it has typical Sauvignon Blanc freshness, but isn’t hollow, like some Sancerres. It has a touch of richness and body which elevate it above the hoi polloi – to be honest you would expect refinement in this price bracket but you don’t always get it. Regular readers will know that cheese isn’t my thang, but the classical match of Sancerre with goat’s cheese would work well, or alternatively a lightly spiced stir fry.
Château d’Orschwihr Alsace Pinot Gris Bollenberg 2010 (14.6%, 9 g/L RS, RRP €20.95 (2014 vintage) at Karwig Wines)
A quick flick at any tourist guide will tell you that there are lots of châteaux in Alsace. However, unlike the palaces of the Loire, many were functioning fortified castles – and bear the scars of countless battles. This is the only one I know of which is a wine producing entity in Alsace – and it’s a beauty. The Château d’Orschwihr make some excellent Grand Cru wines (watch this space) but this particular bottle is from the lieu-dit of Bollenberg – perhaps a future Alsace Premier Cru?
Both the 2010 and 2014 were tried at a DNS Wineclub tasting earlier this year and the differences were an excellent illustration of how wines can change from year to year – vintage variation. Age itself is a factor, of course, but the particularities of each vintage and how the producer adapts to them in the vineyard and the winery are part of what makes wine so interesting. 2010 was a very warm year and so the grapes had lots of sugar at harvest time – much was turned into alcohol (14.6%!) but a little was left as residual sugar (9 g/L). The resulting wine is rich but not flabby – the alcohol doesn’t stand out and the slightly off dry finish is the perfect compliment to the ginger, pear and honey notes. Cries out for Thai!