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I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say Galhaud

Galhaud “Collection” 2006 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Viognier-Muscat (Roussillon) – 12% alcohol, which is probably a vague approximation. It’s in a fat, heavy bottle…which is a little unusual for a relatively inexpensive wine (around $10 or so).

The varietal composition – 70% viognier, 30% muscat – pretty much promises a world of perfumed soap in the glass, the deliverance of which I’m not sure is a promise I want kept. And I admit to some surprise at the blend. I’ve had an occasional viognier of quality from around the world – there was a Passage Rock from Waiheke Island in New Zealand that comes to memory, and a few Californian versions from Edmunds St. John, Alban, and Domaine de la Terre Rouge have been worthy – but it’s a grape that really, really seems to need its famous “home ground” of Condrieu to develop any superlatives. And even there, it mostly underachieves, especially given the usual quite-high tariff. Elsewhere, it seems to provide more of a sticky, soapy texture than much complexity or site-reflection…which, I guess, makes it the cilantro of the wine world. If every viognier in the world not made by Christophe Pichon were to disappear tomorrow, I can’t say I’d be overly sad about it, and I actually claim to like Condrieu. Maybe I should revisit that notion.

Then, add to one perennially-underachieving grape some muscat, planted absolutely everywhere to more or less OK-ness (it’s a hard grape to ruin), and rarely enjoyed other than at some level of residual sugar. Its role in blends…well, it tends to dominate them, which is why it’s rarely a good idea to employ as a partner. It’s just too perfumed.

I know nothing about the producer, and the web is no help. That right there is a little unusual, and often indicates layers of ownership, some sort of shadowy négociant, or a cooperative. The wine’s an Alain Blanchon import. I don’t get the sense from the packaging and presentation that there’s much else to know, but I could be mistaken on that score.

As for the place, it’s hard to say what it brings. The Côtes Catalanes are becoming a fairly reliable source of good value, fruit-forward wines. Perhaps there’s not much complexity in most (though I understand that an occasional old-vine carignan can bring the noise), but there’s a lot of drinkability. However, there’s no uniformity to the terroir – it is a vin de pays, after all – and so who knows where or how this was grown? At $10 in the States, I doubt we’re talking viticultural fanaticism at any stage.

It might be my own failing, but I don’t care much about color unless it’s unusual, and this wine’s light, washed-out sun hue seems completely normal. Aromatically, it’s actually not all that muscat-y. In fact, the dominant aroma is that of a soap. Not soap itself, but the sort of semi-anonymous blend of laundering aromas used to aromatize soap. And maybe some banana? It’s vague, if so. The wine’s still a little cold, so we’ll see what happens later, but I’m surprised at the lack of aromatics. It’s not corked, but it’s awfully shy for the grapes used. They definitely weren’t pushed to the limits of concentration before harvest.

A sip, a swirl. Texturally, it’s viognier – that stickiness again – with a sort of soda-like prickle that I often find in muscats, even those without any pétillance. There’s enough acidity, which can be a problem with both grapes. And there’s some alcoholic burn, too…even in the wine’s well-chilled state. That’s likely to be a problem as it warms.

…OK, it’s later, and the wine’s at temperature now. The aromas are a little more pronounced, but I still think they’re viognier-dominated. Such as they are, and they’re still not much. Now there’s a bit of banana-skin bitterness to the finish. The wine’s very wet, even watery, and that heat hasn’t quite gone away, though it’s no more intrusive than it was at the outset.

There’s just not much to be impressed by here. Neither of the grapes are used to potential (and the general lack of muscat character suggests a sort of shocking indifference; I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted a more wan and insignificant muscat), nor is the wine fun or fruity enough for its lack of character to be ignored. It just sort of sits there, growing increasingly bitter and more watery to little purpose. I’d suggest avoidance.