Clavel 1999 Coteaux du Languedoc Gres de Montpellier “Le Mas” (Languedoc) – Maturing nicely for a $7 wine, showing an extremely dusty, old sofa-in-the-attic aroma reminiscent of earthy complexities of decades ago. A gentle pleasure for drinking nowish. (1/08)
Bonfils “La Chapelle de la Bastide” 2006 Coteaux du Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet (Languedoc) – Sharp, crisp lime and green apple, with touches of ultra-ripe gooseberry and a sweet-tart edge. Clean and absolutely lip-smackingly bright. Given the quality and the low cost, I can’t understand why these wines aren’t more popular. (12/07)
BeauThorey 2001 Côteaux du Languedoc “Bella Parra” (Languedoc) – It’s bretty, to be sure, but the stank is part of an overall impression of aging Northern Rhône, perhaps Crozes-Hermitage. There’s hard, masculine black fruit enveloped and dominated by leathery meatwhips, some barnyard, a little dusting of black pepper, and a firm, long, complex finish. If this sounds a little more like a strange ad for an S/M club than a wine note, I suppose that’s intentional, because that’s rather the impression created by this wine. Despite periods of doubt, I quite like it, and were it not for the worry that brett will eventually overwhelm all else, I’d consider aging some…though in a way, it already shows everything that some fully mature wines take years to achieve. Impressive, to a degree. (2/07)
Cavalier “Château de Lascaux” 2004 Côteaux du Languedoc (Languedoc) – Good, basic Languedoc flavors – fire-roasted dark berry, earth, mushroom and herb – muted and somewhat indistinct, but pleasurable and direct nonetheless. Think of it as really high-quality cooperative wine, though of course it’s not. More relevantly, this is a fairly large step down from the much better Pic Saint-Loup, and I’m not sure the reduced cost is proportional enough to warrant the downgrade. There’s nothing wrong here, but… (12/06)
Cavalier “Château de Lascaux” 2001 Pic Saint-Loup “Les Nobles Pierres” (Languedoc) – A lip-smacking blend of southern Frenchness – ripe, slightly roasted black fruit, black-earth mushroom, wind-dried herbs, underbrush and dustings of peppercorn. Structured, balanced and delicious. (12/06)
Muga 2005 Rioja Rosado (Center-North) – Light, almost seductive pale orange and red fruit with dried earth tones and little hints of baking spice. Very, very pretty. (10/06)
Grape(s): 60% garnacha, 30% viura, 10% tempranillo. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Ordoñez. Web: http://www.bodegasmuga.com/.
Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2004 Touraine “Cuvée Gamay” (Loire) – A little funky and grating when first opened, though this eventually steps back in favor of rose hip, cranberry and zingy acidity. There’s a stale chalk note that battles a bit with the otherwise sweet-natured aromatics, but this should integrate with time. (10/06)
Grape(s): gamay. Alcohol: 12%. Closure: extruded synthetic. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.
Marquis Philips 2005 “Holly’s Blend” (South Australia) – Sweet JuicyFruit™ cocktail mixer. Acid-deficient and incredibly obvious. (10/06)
Grape(s): verdelho. Alcohol: 14%. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Grateful Palate.
San Alejandro “Las Rocas” 2003 Garnacha (Calatayud) – Thick, dense strawberry jam and toasted creosote. It’s “coming together” in its own HGH-enhanced way, and is now almost drinkable. (10/06)
Grape(s): grenache. Importer: Solomon/European Cellars. Web: http://www.san-alejandro.com/.
Michel Tête “Domaine du Clos du Fief” 1999 Juliénas “Cuvée Prestige” (Beaujolais) – Spectacular. Darkness and light in the same package. Dusty berries and misty dried flower aromas are bound in a leathery, enveloping structure, firm yet gentle. The wine writhes and expands, filling the available space with beautiful sensation. Not yet fully mature, but it would be hard to argue against current consumption. (10/06)
Grape(s): gamay. Alcohol: 13%. Closure: cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.
Tablas Creek 2003 Rosé (Paso Robles) – Red cherry and strawberry with a mildly tinny note, and starting to fade under the onslaught of its alcohol, but still showing enough boisterous, summery fun to be pleasurable. After all, it was never really meant to age this long. (10/06)
Grape(s): 64% mourvèdre, 28% grenache, 8% counoise. Alcohol: 14.5%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.tablascreek.com/.
Ollivier “Domaine de la Pépière” 2005 Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France Marches de Bretagne “Cuvée Granit” (Loire) – Unlike previous vintages of this wine, which have been exotically exciting but rather angular, this one shows up with most of the corners already filled in. There’s strapping, herbal-earthy black fruit and a good deal of acid, and the wine’s incredibly easy to drink…as long as there’s food to go with it. (10/06)
Alcohol: 12%. Closure: cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.
Harrington 2003 Pinot Noir Birkmyer (Wild Horse Valley) – Big, juicy and a little goofy, yet there’s complexity and a New World-defined balance as well. Bright, somewhat overdriven red fruit is supported by sands and silts, with a white pepper texture and a fairly hefty palate impact. I don’t know that it will age, but that’s probably not the point. (10/06)
Grape(s): pinot noir. Alcohol: 14%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.harringtonwine.com/.
Aurelia “Corte Marzago” 2005 Bardolino Vigna La Morara (Veneto) – Grapey and very wine-like, with a fresh berry component dominating, and a thirst-enhancing vivacity enhanced by acid and the wine’s overall lightness. Which is not to say that the flavors are reticent – rather, they’re sharp and clear – only that the wine is not overwhelmed with alcohol or weight. Yummy stuff. (11/06)
Grape(s): corvina veronese, rondinella, molinara & sangiovese. Alcohol: 11.5%. Closure: molded synthetic. Importer: Violette. Web: http://www.cortemarzago.com/.
Château Saint Martin de la Garrigue 2002 Côteaux du Languedoc Bronzinelle (Languedoc) – Thoroughly of the soil, showing the wild southern French underbrush still clinging to rich, dark, sun-baked earth. A few dusky blackberries work their way into the mix, but mostly this wine is a primal expression of the land. And it’s really good, too. (11/06)
Grape(s): syrah, grenache, mourvèdre & carignan. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Lynch.
La Vieille Ferme 2005 Côtes du Luberon Blanc (Rhône) – Simple stone fruit and river-washed citrus. It feels heavier than it is. Under close examination it’s completely innocuous, but properly treated as a cocktail wine it’s much more honest and interesting than most. Plus, it’s silly cheap. (8/06)
30% grenache blanc, 30% bourboulenc, 30% ugni blanc, 10% roussanne. This is yet another of the Perrin family’s ventures, along with Beaucastel and Tablas Creek. The Vieille Ferme line is cheap, easy quaffers for everyday drinking, and I highly recommend them as low-key party wines. They don’t bear up to scrutiny, but they’re exactly what cheap wine should be. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Vineyard Brands. Web: http://www.lavieilleferme.com/.
Château Saint Martin de la Garrigue 2001 Côteaux du Languedoc “Cuvée Tradition” (Languedoc) – Dark, chewy fruit with horse sweat and herb-studded earth. This is a fairly pure and direct expression of the Languedoc, with better-than-average structure and balance for such an inexpensive wine. (8/06)
Carignan and grenache. The Languedoc is one of Europe’s several “wine lakes,” where the production is much more about quantity than quality. But trust Kermit Lynch to ferret out a wine that expresses what’s best about the region’s terroir and climate, and that exceeds the expectations placed upon it. Languedoc wines will rarely be about finesse or elegance, but sometimes power and impact – without all the winemaking tricks that can create them – are just what’s wanted. Alcohol: 13%. Closure: cork. Importer: Lynch. Web: http://www.stmartingarrigue.com/.
Hummel “Domaine de l’Ancien Monastère” 2001 Rouge de Saint-Léonard “Cuvée des Vigneronnes” (Alsace) – Rough and ready pinot noir in it’s wilder, country-bumpkin form…when chilled. With air, the flaws come out: adhesive tannin, imbalanced acidity, and chewy but ultimately thin fruit. Which just shows that this, like most Alsace pinot noir, is meant to be consumed on the cooler side. (8/06)
This is the rare wine that I don’t know that much about. It’s pinot noir, carrying a village appellation (Saint-Léonard is commonly associated with the town of Boersch) rather than announcing the varietal designation, as many such Alsace reds do. And it’s from the cooler northern reaches of the Bas-Rhin, which – perhaps contrary to expectations – is where the better Alsace pinots come from. But even at its best (which is: light, not more than very slightly wooded, and with much done to manage tannin and acidity), Alsace pinot noir is an acquired taste. This is a wine for conviviality, for fun and friends with rustic French provincial cooking, for those times when you want a red but can’t bear something heavy and palate-deadening. In other words, exactly those times when rosé usually fits the bill. Even though most Alsace pinot noir is decidedly not rosé (though there is some, and it’s often fairly tasty), it helps to think of it as one when deciding what to do with it. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork.
Mas de Périé “Domaine Clavel” 2004 Côteaux du Languedoc Terroir de la Mejanelle “Mescladis” (Languedoc) – This, since it’s not apparent from the name, is a rosé. Slurpy red fruit with lavender-scented aromatics. The nose promises much, but the palate fails to deliver.