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A little fennel

[vineyard]Soard “Domaine de Fenouillet” 2006 Côtes du Ventoux (Rhône) – There’s some difficulty getting this one started, as might be the case for a partially closed wine. It doesn’t take an enormous amount of coaxing or time to bring forth the aromas, thankfully, though they’re not as expressive as they were in the wine’s youth. Dark and earthy, with the sweet black olive-infused meat aromas of Southern Rhônishness lingering on the borders, it finishes a lot more supple than it begins. Ideally, one would want to let this one rest a while longer. (1/10)

A fine fennel of fish

[vineyards]Soard “Domaine de Fenouillet” 2005 Beaumes-de-Venise “Terres Blanches” (Rhône) – Beaumes-de-Venise is the most ungenerous, unfruity, unyielding appellation in the Southern Rhône; it’s not the tannin (as in Gigondas) or the roasting (as in Rasteau), it’s the quartz-driven, completely mineralistic dominance of the fruit that renders the wines completely impenetrable to fruit-hounds. Here, it’s the essence of the wine, with a little dried-and-hard drapery of the blackest fruit, but without the proper balancing structure; as a result, it’s a little like putting rocks in one’s mouth, rather than drinking a beverage. Time might help, and this is certainly not a wine for youthful quaffing, but I just don’t know if this has a promising future. (5/08)