Tucked in among the boutique retail shops of the historic Paramount Building on Palm Beach, one might expect The French Wine Merchant to be full of pricey First Growth Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundy. And while French owner Maurice Amiel’s selection does include some of those high-end, blue chip wines, he prides himself on providing a very affordable selection from lesser-known regions and smaller wineries. I love to visit his shop because I always discover something new, and his monthly wine tastings are a great way to test-drive a number of options at one time.
The tastings are held in a pretty courtyard behind his shop and feature a dozen or so selections with hors d’oeurves. The tastings cost $20 per person with discounts for larger groups and on wines purchased that night.
Here are some of my finds from his first tasting of 2014:
Monsieur Touton Bordeaux blanc 2012 ($19.95)
Made from 100 percent sauvignon blanc, the wine has an aromatic nose of ripe grapefruit and lemon with pronounced earth and green bell pepper notes. On palate, it has a light-to-medium body with ripe citrus fruit and earthy flavors and a balance of crisp acidity. The finish is quick, clean and dry.
L’Opale de la Presqu’île de Saint-Tropez rosé 2012 ($19.95)
This dry rosé wine from the Côtes de Provence region in southern France is a blend of grenache, cinsault and carignan. It has a very pale pink color in the glass and a nose of dried strawberry and cherry with an underlying minerality. On palate, the wine is fresh and crisp with tart red fruit and a clean, dry finish.
Domaine les Hauts de Riquets Diablerie 2011 ($19.95)
This blend of 90 percent merlot and 10 percent malbec was my favorite wine of the evening, due to the ripe, aromatic and utterly sighworthy nose. And it got a few extra points for being from an appellation that was new to me: the Côtes de Duras region is between Bordeaux and Cahors, just to the southwest of Bergerac. (I drove through this region during a trip to France in 2011 and didn’t even know it!)
This wine has a beautiful nose of wet dirt, crushed rose petals and ripe, muddled black plum and black cherry. On palate, it is medium-bodied and soft with ripe fruit and earth flavors and a dry finish.
Vinos de Arganza Lagar de Robla Premium 2008 ($16.95)
From the northern Spanish region of Castilla y Leon comes this red made from 100 percent mencía. The wine has a subtle nose of sweet red and black cherries and berries with floral, vanilla and smoky notes. On palate, it’s medium-bodied and smooth with ripe fruit balanced by good acidity and a dry finish. This is an elegant wine at an excellent price point.