City Center Wines Pours 'Basically Impossible'-to-Find French Wine at Guided Tasting 

click to enlarge The star of the night was Domaine Antoine Jobard Bourgogne Aligote, a rare French bottle.

Lex Nelson

The star of the night was Domaine Antoine Jobard Bourgogne Aligote, a rare French bottle.

One of the first things Sommelier Joseph DiGrigoli told the small cluster of people gathered at City Center Wines on Sept. 25 was that usually, their number would be larger. However, two of the wines he'd requested for the four-course French tasting, dubbed Vive la France, were so difficult to source that the wine shop had only been able to secure enough for nine guests, with a few bottles left over to sell. Of those, the standout for rarity was Domaine Antoine Jobard Bourgogne Aligote—a bottle that retails in Boise for just $19.

"It's basically impossible to me that we have this wine here in Boise," DiGrigoli told the group as he poured the white into glasses.

click to enlarge Sommelier Joseph DiGrigoli (center) presided over the Vive la France tasting Sept. 25. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Sommelier Joseph DiGrigoli (center) presided over the Vive la France tasting Sept. 25.
Made in France's Burgundy region with the often-overlooked Aligote grape, the wine hailed from a tiny vineyard with just .2 hectares (less than a half-acre) of vines. Because of its limited run and the fact that it was crafted by skilled winemaker Antoine Jobard, DiGrigoli said the bottle was a wine almost exclusively for "makers and wine geeks."

"This is a wine that's going to continue to talk to you as you drink it," he said, inviting the guests to sip.

Even for a novice wine drinker, Jobard's Aligote was a revelation. It had a mineral, almost smokey smell that DiGrigoli described as redolent of mushrooms and wet ground, and each sip seemed mild and dry at first before opening up like a flower in the mouth with rich, earthy notes. DiGrigoli called it "prismatic," noting that it would be a near-impossible bottle to find in New York City where he once worked; Boise is still a lucky spot for oenophiles, as demand hasn't yet caught up with supply.

click to enlarge The  Domaine Pascal Granger Chenas "Aux Pierres" was a hit with at least one table. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • The Domaine Pascal Granger Chenas "Aux Pierres" was a hit with at least one table.
The other three bottles were also French, a theme that payed homage to City Center Wines' "Spirit of Place" guided tasting series. A yeast-scented, citrusy Domaine Luneau-Papin Muscadet "La Grange" ($15) preceded the Aligote, and it was followed by a smooth, easy-drinking Domaine Pascal Granger Chenas "Aux Pierres" ($19). The tasting wrapped with a pour of another rare wine, Thierry Germain Saumur-Champigny "Terres Chaudes," a red made from Cabernet Franc grapes in France's Loire Valley. It was a big price step above the other three, retailing at $41 per bottle. That price reflected the practices of the biodynamic winery (a certification a step beyond organic, which incorporates the mystical as well as eco-friendly strictures), where the grapes were grown and fermented.

"If you care about the vines enough to say, 'I'm going to bury a ram's horn,' [a biodynamic practice said to enrich the soil], that's a good sign," DiGrigoli said, grinning.

The wine had a definite sour center to each sip, recalling just-the-wrong-side-of-ripe stone fruit, but that somehow made it more interesting than off-putting. Each drink begged another, and before bowing out of the tasting to sell bottles DiGrigoli dropped a final perk of the Franc: It can easily keep 30 years for a special occasion without losing a drop of its character. For a $40-plus bottle, one guest joked, maybe that should be a requirement. 
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