I have long been a lover of French wines. So I was devastated when I heard that my favorite wine importer had let his license expire in Minnesota.
A couple months later, I rejoiced when I heard he had a change of heart. He was simply toying with my emotions. I quickly pounced to get my hands on my favorites once again.
Steven Gaucher got his start in the wine business, not the traditional way of working in retail or a restaurant and slowly working up the ranks. In the early 1990s, living in the East Coast, Steven enjoyed drinking the vast array of French wines readily available in his neighborhood.
After spending numerous summers vacationing in the south of France, his appreciation for French wines increased and he had developed many friends and contacts in the process.
Suddenly, in the late 1990s, he was forced to move to Iowa, the 45th-ranked state in wine consumption. Shortly after moving to Des Moines, he was thirsty for some white Burgundy and was dismayed that there was none to be had.
Steven was not the type to take this sitting down. After several conversations with his friends in France, he had suddenly become a wine importer of French wines into the U.S.!
The reason his company is among my favorites is not because he has a huge portfolio or possesses rights to several of the top French wines out there. I can’t afford those, anyway! His philosophy has always been to bring affordable, tasty wines that are readily available in southern France to the U.S. He selects his wine the fun way — he tastes them.
He doesn’t really care about ratings or press or reputation. He simply drinks the wine. If he likes the wine and it is in a price range that he feels is a bargain, he searches out the producer and works out a deal to bring small quantities to the U.S. Oftentimes, these producers are simply farmers that supply grapes to the larger firms but always set aside small amounts for themselves and a bit extra to sell in the local markets.
By using this method, he has a knack for finding delicious, affordable wines that I always trust when I am looking for something myself. Here are a couple of my favorites that just came back in stock.
Chateau Beauchene Premiere Terroir Cotes du Rhone Rouge ($18)
This wine is owned by the Bernard family, which has been farming in the region since the 17th century as tenant farmers. Like many farmers, they benefited from the French Revolution and shortly after were able to buy some choice landholdings.
This land, which has been farmed continuously by the same family, was considered part of the best red wine region in southern Rhone called Chateau Neuf du Pape.
Unfortunately for the Bernard family, French politics reared its ugly head. In 1936, the government moved the borders of Chateau Neuf du Pape and his vineyards, with a stroke of a pen, became the much more humble Cotes du Rhone.
The Bernard family’s loss is our gain! An average-priced Chateau Neuf is around $50-70, but an average priced Cotes du Rhone is around $15.
The Chateau Beauchene Premiere Terroir CDR is literally separated from Chateau Neuf du Pape by a small gravel road. This wine is, in essence, a Chateau Neuf du Pape, but your wallet simply knows it as a Cote du Rhone.
Produced at the Bernard estate, this wine is juicy, full bodied with a layer of finesse. A stunning value.
Tour Boisee Minervois ($15)
Minervois is a region a touch southwest of the Rhone. This region’s wine laws are much less restrictive than most other regions in France.
Because of this, innovators have flocked here to make wine. Unencumbered by strict traditions and laws, they are able to make wines the way they feel they should be made. Jean Louis Poudou is the innovator of Tour Boisee, who combines modernization with the traditional belief that land needs to express itself in the wine.
Tour Boisee Minervois is a blend of the famous Languedoc trio of Grenache, Carignan, and Cinsault. The blend conspires to make a juicy, spicy blend with soft and round corners. Notes of blackberry, blue berry, liquorice and just enough tannins to pair beautifully with meats fresh off the grill.
Steven Gaucher eloquently said, “Jean Louis Poudou and his fabulous wines from Minervois are the best expression of the Languedoc terroir I have come across in my 23 years of traveling in that region of France.”