Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Chamarré Wines

Recently we got our hands on a few French wines distributed in the United States by OWS under the Chamarré label. According to their website, “The Other Wine & Spirits CY is a brand-driven organization dedicated to the development of wine and spirits brands. We are the sister company of OVS, the mastermind behind the Chamarré Brand concept and the creator of the unique association of the largest wine cooperative and producers in France's history.”

Made by winemaker, Renaud Rosari, Chamarré wines fall under three product lines: Grande Réserve, AOC, and Duo Varietal. Chamarré Grande Réserve wines are vertical blends of single grape varietals, picked in France’s best-producing regions. The AOC wines are a blend of traditional French AOC with the most prestigious AOC wines. And the Duo Varietal wines are a blend of two varietals typical of a French wine-producing region, in which a second varietal brings complexity, fruit and depth to the main varietal.

We tried three Chamarré wines: the Grand Reserve Pinot Noir, the AOC Jurançon, and the Duo Varietal Grenache-Shiraz. The later is a rosé-styled wine in which the Shiraz brings “freshness and structure” and the Grenache “its Mediterranean body and elegance”. This is a very dry wine, which at first we did not know how to appraise. We had been drinking many fruit forward semi-dry rosé wines and this one was completely different. After drinking one glass for three successive nights we became fascinated with this wine. The initial taste and nose are soft; I guess that is “the elegance”. However, the beauty is the finish; a long lasting, complex sensation of bubbling fruit. The finish stayed with you longer than any wine I’ve tasted.

The Jurançon wine is a blend of Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng, traditional grape varietals grown in the Jurançon region in southwest France. According to many sources, it is said that Jurançon was used to baptize King Henri IV of France. The Chamarré Jurançon is made sweet with, according to my impression, a pineapple-citrus flavor. However, we served the wine to friends, and received several different interpretations. One person compared it to a good mead wine, whereas another said, no, it just has the aroma and taste of honeysuckle. Others tasted mango, some tasted pineapple, whereas only a few tasted my original pineapple-citrus assessment. Regardless all liked the taste and were disappointed when told we only had one bottle.

Our favorite of the three was the Grand Reserve Pinot Noir. This is particularly surprising since our wine cellar is stocked with Zinfandel, Norton, Chambourcin, and high alcohol, full bodied cabs. We never joined the Pinot bandwagon; although I guess, it’s never too late. This Pinot Noir is a vertical blend of Pinot grapes grown throughout France. It is full-bodied, yet soft – not overwhelming; it compliments meals without overpowering them. The wine is aged 6 months in oak which produces a soft, smooth finish. Well done.

In sum, the Chamarré wines we tasted were very good and very different from most of the “New World” wines we had been drinking. If you have a chance we recommend trying a Chamarré wine. Just look for the butterfly.
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