I really wanted to hate this wine.
The samples arrived from Palm Bay International, which carries a small but high-quality portfolio, and the wines were produced by Labouré-Roi, a well-known Burgundy house. So far, so good.
Then I saw the label. The name of these Vins de Pays d’Oc was “Petit Bistro,”
and the label art was a kitschy French café scene drawn by someone who
probably once saw a Monet in a museum. The back label offered a
two-paragraph romance that would make a Harlequin editor gag. Okay, so
it wasn’t as bad as other marketing-run-amok wines like “Mommy’s Time
Out,” or “French Maid,” or “Old Fart,” but this wasn’t promising. And at
$10 a bottle, could it really be good?
Not so fast, I cautioned. The wine was simple, a bit austere, but it
had nice cherry fruit and good balance and structure. French Pinot Noir,
a tad on the light side.
“Open something else!” my wife demanded. So I pulled the cork on the
Petit Bistro Syrah, also VdP d’Oc, also from the 2006 vintage. “Awful!”
No it isn’t, I replied. It tasted like Syrah. Not a great one, but not a bad one either.
That was last night. Tonight, to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday, I opened a Joseph Drouhin 2006 Beaune Clos des Mouches,
which retails for about $80. It was … austere, with nice cherry fruit
and good balance and structure. More fruit, and more depth than the
Petit Bistro, of course, but very similar in style. I poured some of the
Petit Bistro and compared the two side by side. The cheaper wine was
darker, but the flavors were remarkably similar given the price
difference between the wines.
As I write this four hours later, the last of the Drouhin has opened
in my glass and is offering tremendous aromas of earth, smoke and autumn
leaves. It is stretching, beginning to show what it might have become
if I’d aged it for several years, and making me feel a dunce for not
decanting it several hours before dinner.
The Petit Bistro, opened last night, still tastes like Pinot Noir,
but it pales in comparison. It is simple, austere, with some nice cherry
fruit and good balance and structure. It is what it was, which is all
it will ever be.
And at $10, all we would expect it to be.