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Total Wine's Tour of France; The Reds

Tour of France the Reds
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The Tour of France class held at Total Wine on July 10th included tastings of nine wines. Five of those wines were red, and they were served, not in geographic order, but from light to heavy, as they should be.

The lightest red served was a Beaujolais from the Cru village of Morgon. Made from the Gamay grape, Domaine Mont Chavy had aromas of plum, strawberry and tea. Like all Beaujolais, this was a light wine that shouldn't be taken too seriously, but rather, enjoyed as an accompaniment to casual foods such as grilled hamburgers. The wine retails for $15.99

From the Cote Chalonnaise region of Burgundy, we tasted a Chateau de Chamirey from the sub-region of Mercurey. While the wines from this part of Burgundy are not as concentrated as those from the Cote d'Or, they are elegant, and much more affordable than the wines from the north. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, as are all red Burgundies, Chateau de Chamirey had an earthy, smoky aroma with some tangy black cherry flavors. This wine retails for $29.99, and yes, that is fairly inexpensive for a Burgundy.

From south of Burgundy in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region of the southern Rhone, we tasted a Clos St. Michel. The southern Rhone red wines are blends that can use up to 15 allowed varieties. This wine was made from Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre, the classic blend also known as G-S-M. Rebecca Davidson, the wine manager who led the class, passed around 'Galet' that she had picked up from her recent trip. Galet are very large stones that make up the vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Because of the Galet, the vines really have to struggle to get nutrients. The more a vine struggles, the more intense the flavor of the grape. This wine is very intense with flavors of dark cherries, cassis, graphite and smoked meats. It retails for $49.99

The tasting ended with two samples from Bordeaux, one from the right bank and one from the left bank. Chateau de la Huste is from the region of Fronsac on the right bank of Bordeaux. Typical of the right bank blends, this wine is primarily made from Merlot grapes, but with some Cabernet Franc grapes blended in. The Merlot gives the wine flavors of dark fruits such as plums and figs, while the Cabernet Franc adds aromas of red fruits and a nice acidity. This wine is oaked and takes on some tobacco and vanilla aromas from the oak. 2009 was an excellent year for Bordeaux and Wine Spectator gives this wine 90 points. It retails for $24.99.

From the left bank of Bordeaux we tasted a Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal from the region of Pauillac. This chateau is a fifth growth, which means that it is ranked in the quality classification. Wines that are ranked are quality wines, but they are not inexpensive. As is typical of the left bank Bordeaux, this wine is predominantly made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with some Merlot blended in. It is oaked, partially in new oak, so there are notes of vanilla along with the fruit flavors of blackberry and blueberry. It is a rich and ripe wine, full-bodied, elegant and layered in flavor. Besides being a fifth growth wine, Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal has earned high praise from Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate and Robert Parker. This wine retails for $59.99.

Currently, Total Wine is offering a 15% discount on all regular-priced wines from France.