For those who invest extraordinary emotions into wine, the selection of a bottle(s) at a Michelin star establishment can provoke anxiety mixed with pleasure, the reason why for wine enthusiasts the carte des vins gets a first look before the dinner menu.
A glance at wine bottles cradled on nearby tables invokes a covetous and almost prurient envy. Placing your order, the pleasure forms initially in the anticipation; some childlike brain part is reawakened as if by instinct at first sight of the uncorked bottle and you re-experience an instantaneous joy like the first time your lips touched a chocolate ice cream cone.
For those determined to avoid the stare of a sommelier and the feeling of being ‘on the clock’ to make a selection, there is the meditative remedy of inspecting wine lists online before arrival. (A more aggravating habit is to consult wine guides on a smart phone at your table).
What a disappointment then to discover so few Michelin star restaurants in the Vaucluse that allow a pre-screening of their carte des vins online – only 5 out of 16. Incroyable!
Viewing wine lists online would have avoided mild surprises at various Vaucluse Michelin star restaurants, such as: Discovering that a local wine was no longer available as a new sommelier judged it “foutu”; a flummoxed staff unable to inform guests which local reds were Syrah-dominate; the abject absence of AOC Ventoux reds on the wine list; the over-stocking of Alsatian wines, the passion of a sommelier recently made redundant.
A shout out to these establishments with their cave des vins online:
Restaurant Le Saule Pleureur: Chef Laurent Azoulay, 145, Chemin de Beauregard – 84170 Monteux, Tél. 04 90 62 01 35, (photo above) Closed Monday and Tuesday. Website
Superb selection of Southern Rhones includes many good bottles for under 50€ such as AOC Ventoux, Domaine de Fondrèche, “Persia” 2009 at 38 €. Splurge: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château La Nerthe, Cuvée des Cadettes, 2005, 144 €
Le Vivier: 800 Cours Fernande Peyre, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Tel 04 90 38 52 80, Website
Patrick and Céline Fischnaller have great passion for wine; their cave is rich with pleasure. Vindemio Amadeua by Jean Marot, 2006 at 50€. Splurge: Laurent Tardieu, 2006 Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes at 96€. New arrival is a 2011 CDR Rasteau of George Perrot dubbed “hedonistic and medium to full-bodied” by the Wine Advocate.
Auberge La Fenière Route de Lourmarin, 84160 Cadenet, Tél. 04 90 68 11 79, Website
Reine and Guy Sammut are your hosts at this elegant hotel restaurant near Lourmarin. AOC Luberon Château La Verrerie Grand Deffand 2009 at 60€; Splurge: Châteauneuf-du-Pape Château Gigognan Cardinalice 2005 at 130€.
La Petite Maison: Place Etang, 84160 Cucuron, Tel 04 90 68 21 99, Email: email@example.com, Website
The ebullient chef Eric Sapet has mastered the art of marrying fine cuisine with great wines. A 2011 rosé from AOC Côtes de Provence Domaine Miraval at 30€ (yes, the precursor to the overpriced 2012 rosé in the ostentatious bottle of Joile / Pitt); AOC Luberon Bastide du Claux 2010 Malacare at 30€; AOC Gigondas, Santa Roc 2009 at 60€.
Le Moulin à Huile: Quai Maréchal-Foch, Route de Malaucène, 84110 Vaison-la-Romaine – Tél. 04 90 36 20 67, Website
Esteemed chef is Robert Bardot. Note: No prices indicated. Côtes du Rhône 2010 Domaine Trapadis (Bio), Splurge: 2005 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe – Vignobles Brunier
Southern Rhone Reds to Quaff: Hold off on 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape
A stupendous vintage in 2010 in the Southern Rhone yielded great vintages at the top properties in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, such as the 2010 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape that had Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate in a delirious state, saying that it “is one of the all-time great Vieux Telegraphes I have tasted in the last 3+ decades…incredible concentration.. Forget it for 3-4 years, and drink it over the following 25-30 years.
So what was Parker colleague Jed Dunnuck thinking when he popped into the Mistral Kitchen for a hearty repast and cracked open the 2010 Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape, informing readers in a minatory tone in the Hedonist Gazette of the Wine Advocate that the bottle had not closed down (not yet so he says, but risky business to open).
Closing down denotes a period when a rich superb wine loses its sharpness and fragrance a year to 18 months after bottling, and requires several years – depending upon the vintage – to regain its full potential.
It is disquieting to think that no other purpose was served except the drinker’s vanity in not leaving this bottle in the cellar where it could achieve its full potential. A 2007 Vieux Télégraphe would have been a good choice. Curious that the 2010 is not listed on the Mistral Kitchen’s wine list. Could have the establishment pulled the bottle out of storage just to suck up to their fringe wine celeb guest? Whatever, when in the Rhone this summer, take a pass on the 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Papes produced by the appellation’s great estates.
For quaffing red wine this summer at an upscale restaurant, balance price with quality by perusing the wine list for the following vintages:
Châteauneuf du Pape: 2005, 2006, 2007
Gigondas: 2006, 2007, 2009
Vacqueryas: 2007, 2009, 2010
Cotes du Rhône Villages: 2007 and 2009 (favor Cairanne and Rasteau)
Côtes du Rhône, AOC Ventoux, AOC Luberon: 2009, 2010