Nice is Nice

Quick hits on a plethora of wines drank in Nice this past week.  A few notable highlights–nowhere near all.  All prices are Restaurant prices!


Started the whole trip off with my VERY FIRST English wine: a rose bubbler on the list at Gordon Ramsey Plane Food in Terminal 5 at Heathrow.  Holy wow this is serious quality stuff!  Very impressed.  Whatever your pre-disposed opinion of English wine might be, the quality of this Nyetimber sparkler ranks up there with most of California and deems further research.  Or hey, here’s an article I just stumbled upon: best-english-made-sparkling-wines


First night in Nice at my favorite restaurant in the World: Coté Marais in Vieux Nice.  Planned on drinking exclusively France-sud offerings with an emphasis on Côtes de Provence and Bellet, this 2010 jumped off the menu at me and I could not resist.  Layers of chocolate and velvet cassis, it honestly fell apart over the couple hours of our meal and left me judging it fat and over-stuffed.  This is a first for me with Cornas and plays into the entire marketing scheme of this tiny appellation.  In the 80’s and 90’s these things were $25 and completely UNTOUCHABLE–and unsellable–for 15 years and since then I have noticed them climbing beyond 50-60 dollars and becoming quite trendy with the new somm-crowd.  With this trend I assumed they were acquiring a sort of warranted user-friendliness, and if this bottle is to be used as reference, I am not wrong.  It CLEARLY is plump and soft around the edges, NOTHING like the Cornas’ of yesteryear.


A lovely lunchtime Chablis for 30€ at La Claire Fontaine, clean and crisp with that delicate hammer of *oak & butter* only Chablis seems to be able to get right. Not an earth-mover, but entirely serviceable.  Would love to see things like this on lists at home.


Wall-list at one of my frequented lunch spots, La Claire Fontaine, considered by locals the Denny’s of local restaurants.  I don’t care, I love it.  Their Suppions a’la Nicois can not be duplicated.


At the opposite end of the dining spectrum, here is a page from the list at Keisuke Matsushima.  While here in California we are used to entire pages of Pinot Noir, here is just one shot of the Côte-Rôtie portion.  Where do you start?!?!


Still at Keisuke Matsushima. Here again, an M. Chapoutier jumped off the list at me and proved irresistible–despite my desire to drink local wines.  This 2007 La Sizeranne was churning velvet and dense earth, riddled with acidity and MOUNTAINS of decadent fruit cloaked in perfect Euro barnyard.  Everything the Cornas lowered itself to this Hermitage skipped over, never going slutty.  An absolutely BEAUTIFUL wine.


Back at La Claire Fontaine the next day and hitting up what I REALLY go to Nice for: the Rose.  At a lovely 23€, I think they have been pouring the St. Tropez at Fontaine for well over a decade, and I order it over and over.  The waitress shot is an accidental bonus.


Dinner-time bottle at another resty, I decided to hit up the local Mourvedre.  This bottle was a disappointment.  From the initial sniff, I knew it was something awry of what I go to France to drink.  Fat and bordering on oxidation, it was one of only two Bandols of the trip.  Reeked of Paso Robles.  Are the wines of France changing to reflect a global palate?  Is the Pope Catholic?


Lunchtime again, this time at Cayenne K’e and what shows up on the list but an irresistible Gamay!  This little thing was 20€ and pleased on SO MANY LEVELS.  Wow if only we could get the local restaurants to replace the fat disgusting COMPLETELY un-food-friendly tar, chocolate and extraction-bombs on their lists with these light, refreshing beauties.  Oh well, Umericans drink chubby bullshit wines–this is not an arguable point.


Back to what I come here for–Côtes de Provence–and OMG what a stunner.  I’m not sure if there is any state-side availability, but if there is I will own several cases.  Decadent chalk miserably leathered and dense arriving on waves of dusty floral marinated in tapenade and candied fruit. A Syrah corset over a Cab short-skirt, crushed eucalyptus goodness plowing headstrong into un-imagineable sweaty good times on crisp white linen and candlelight. You NEED this wine in your life. Dense and rich, layers and layers of elegance and earth, never cloying, never bogged down with France-Sud rusticity.


Due to the magic that is Instagram–and people who truly *get it*, I hooked up with the Gallos (yes, their name is Gallo) for a beautiful lunch plage-side at Di Piu.  The food was stunning, the company amazing, and an intense two-hour wine-business/wine-marketing/wine-making conversation took place with nary a breath.  Amazing people with a true focus on producing THE FINEST WINES POSSIBLE, they showcased for me two of their rosés, a Vermentino and their freshly bottled red.


An absolute tour de force, this rosé is free-run, whole-cluster magnificence.  Closed-in and tightly-wound, it opens like a fine red, nascent floral and steely fruit, full and round in the mouth before blossoming into visible tannin.  This wine is available in NYC and L.A. and spreading outside those centers rapidly.  A rosé that leaves you speechless.  Look for it.


Another forgettable Bandol, serviceable but certainly not a stunner, at Lebanese food at Di Yar. As soon as you said GRAND RESERVE I knew I was in for a treat.  Wrackingly acidic and a tannin BOMB, packed with dense stemmy fruit but otherwise quite simple.


Bottle number two at Di Yar, this little Crozes was 2/3 the price of the Bandol and pleased on more levels. Dirty warm loviness, cellar floor and grape arbor wrapped in Coca-Cola and fig through a fog-bank of earth. So much win.  23€


Oh, and the wine shopping!  Any stop to Nice is not complete without a visit to Cave Bianchi 1860, operated by members of the Bunan family.  All the Bunan Bandols are there and also gobs of Latour, Faiveley, Regnard, and anything else you can imagine.  And of course the BEST pastis.  Not the stupid Pernod, 51, or even Ricard, but Henri Bardouin and Louis Roque.  When you’ve had good pastis in the South of France, you’ll never look at Pernod again.


A late night eating Corsican nibbles at Master Home with what else: Vin de Corse.  Very interesting, the wines of Corsica.  The Petra Bianca Figari was tight and acidic, and came off with a touch of sweetness initially–definitely ripe.  Nicely balanced and rife with dense fruit and tannin. A definite plus.  The Fiumicicoli (no, I can’t say it, I have tried many times, and the waitress just rattled it off in a way I would have NEVER pronounced it–I can’t even figure out how many goddamn syllables it has) was a fat mess, gross and cloying with no acid or tannin and sweet.  Reminded me of Paso Robles.  An overwhelming NO.  Quite an unpleasant wine.  This wine halted my Corsican adventure.  Besides, there were Jaboulet’s on the list!


Wine. Of. The Trip.  Holy wow a lunch stop at L’Ecure in Veiux Nice revealed this 45€ resty list GEM.  This thing absolutely STUNNED.  Layers and layers of leather and silk tobacco over ripe cherry and integrated acids so perfectly mouth-filling and balanced you would never dream this is from one of France’s tiniest and least-known appellations.  The owner explained to us the terraced hillsides and the postage-stamp size of everything and the rocks and hand-work and yeah who cares that all sounds great blah blah blah open the bottle and BAM.  There it is.  Holy wow.  This is Côtes de Provence + Bandol + straight crack.  Rustic while miserably elegant, velvet wet wool rockslide petrichor tart cherry brilliance.  I understood this to be Grenache, but a lot got lost in translation.  Whatever it is, it is mind-boggling good.   Just a DREAM wine.

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