Tag Archives: Grenache

A Wine that’s Almost Classic!

Tessellae Old Vines, Cotes du Roussillon, 2013Tessellae

A beautiful and richly balanced aroma of dark fruits and wood tones, highly appealing; almost perfect balance on the palate and in the mouthfeel; a little too crisp for the garnering of a higher score in the classic range; the finish is long and lasting, coating the mouth with no indication of unripe tannins or bitterness; full and satisfying — right from the start, you can see this is a wine that is rating over 90 and is in the outstanding range of scores. 

There’s a blend of grapes here: Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.  What gives this wine an added appeal is the harmonious blend of its grapes.  Not all winemakers can blend and make a synchronous marriage of grape varieties that have their own characteristics, which want to express themselves and be somehow noticed but yield to each other in this way.  Yes, you could guess the grapes used in this wine, but individuality has been obscured as much as possible to provide a unity, and this wine has succeeded. 

There are notes of black tea, raspberry and loads of blackberry to keep it mellow, and hints of dried strawberry.  From the world of oak come dark chocolate, clove and a background of leather (faint but present).  It is a GSM on which to model your taste and idea of this classic blend.  Keep it a few years, as it is still young with promise. 

Rating:  94

Emotional rating:  the pleasures of harmony are outstanding and it is highly pleasing

Available:  widely

A Biodynamic, French, Granache with a Lush Texture and Full Body

A Notable Producer to Watch: Chateau Maris 2012 La Liviniere

2012 Chateau Maris Cru La Livinière

2012 Chateau Maris Cru La Livinière

As I have said in other blogs the wineries of Southern France, in this case the Western Languedoc, need close watching.  Biodynamic farming and winemaking is becoming more popular and although the system may raise some eyebrows, the wines are usually good and worthy of examination, too.  The winery at Chateau Maris is gravity fed and allows the fermentation to take place with native yeasts, meaning the winemaker has little control over what happens in the fermentation.  Nature takes its course.  It is thought that the resultant wines are more complex and layered, but only the tasting will tell.

Grenache is a hot grape and runs the alcohol up if left alone.  At 14.5%, this is a warm wine with many of the expected Grenache characteristics.  Full flavors, red fruit, black tea, leather and toast are predominant.  This is a wine where all of the flavors have married, making it a good wine to test your ability to differentiate the flavors and find flavors around the edges, as I like to envision them.  So, go ahead and try it.  The acids are notably refreshing and the wine has a long, long, finish.

As we might also expect, the texture is lush and full bodied.  It would be hard to distinguish this wine from some of the New World regions that show a little minerality.  Watch not just this producer but the region, La Livinière.  It has all the qualities to produce great wine and attract international attention.

Rating:  88

Emotional rating: for a winter’s day the warmth and lush texture would be just right.

Availability: Widely available in well stocked stores.

This Wine Is One Powerful Grenache!

Orin Swift’s selection for a French Grenache: D66

We move from a discussion of a delicate wine (Roussanne) in my previous post to a surprisinglyDepartment 66 Grenache powerful one: a bold expression of Grenache from importer Orin Swift.  The volume and intensity of the music of wine increases dramatically with this one!

This grape loves a sauna and if you are not careful, it will run the alcoholic strength into port territory.  The wine’s name — D 66, declares its origin — Department 66.  The Languedoc/Roussillon region.

On the nose, I get a plum (perhaps a little prune) as well as deep dark fruit.  Would you say prune or grilled plum?  Licorice and leather are abundant, too.  A distant touch of rosemary may be detected.  An underlay of blackberry tries its best to support the weight of all the other flavors.  Depth, power, flavor, length — these are the words that describe this wine.  Strong perhaps, except for tannins, which are not super strong.  Thirty percent new oak barrels soften its grip.

With such high alcohol (15.2%), you would expect a wine that is out of balance, but not this one.  The depth of the fruit stands up strong and tall against the alcohol.  The reason for the prune is this wine’s home in a warmer climate compared its other notable home: Chateaunerf de Pape.  The warmer the climate, the more the plum flavors dominate.

Let’s run a profile on this wine where 1 is mild and 10 is strong.  Here are my ratings:

Alcohol: about an 8-9, very strong; but not a 10 because it does not dominate.

Fruit: about a 9 or 10.

Tannin: about a 5.

Acidity: about a 4.

Balance: about an 7, because the fruit is so dominant and some features overpower others.

Body: about a 9, you may lose patience before the legs appear!

Big wines are for big bold meals and even then, they can dominate.   Are you a lover of big wines?  Then try this version of Grenache and lose yourself in its power.

Rating: 90

Emotional rating:  for the big and bold wine lovers, very high.

From Gigondas, France to Rotie Cellars in Washington State

Autumn Grape Vines, Red Mountain, Benton City, Washington

Autumn Grape Vines, Red Mountain, Benton City, Washington

Compare Rotie Cellars 2012, Southern Blend, Washington State 

With 65% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah this is a blend of the grapes similar to the  Southern Rhone that will approximate Guigal’s Gigondas Rouge.

It  would appear at first impressions that more new oak has been used on the Rotie wine.  Oak

Rotie Cellars 2012 Southern Blend

Rotie Cellars 2012 Southern Blend

aromas and ripe dark fruit dominate on the nose.  Prune (for some noses, plum) with coffee and smoke create a solid aromatic foundation.  The expected effects of Mourvedre are easily detected.  This is a much darker wine than the Gigondas and although the individual flavors are not so apparent on the nose, a soft attack (which this dark wine does not forecast) is however what we find on the palate.  The synchronism of the elements make for a harmonious experience in the mouth.  This is a soft monster.

A New World wine often shows these characteristics: fullness and softness.  Riper fruit, deeper tones, application of noticeable oak and the overall attempt by the winemaker clearly stated by this wine that “I am something.”  Both wines stimulate our emotional responses.  The Rotie also asks the question, “Do you really think I come from the New World and am crafted for New World palates?  And have I succeeded?”  Answer: Yes, if this is your style.

What about Old World mineralogy?  Any of that here?  Hardly!  One might strain to notice it, but the design is fruit at its fullest with character added for distinctiveness.  Personally the prune/plum character is not my favorite and the grapes were a little too ripe at harvesting for me, but that’s a style issue.

Make your analysis.  Which do you like best and why?  What are the similarities and dissimilarities?  Does the comparison advance your knowledge of what is happening in France these days?

Rating:  89

Wine from the Heart of the Southern Rhone: Gigondas

Grapes growing in Cotes du Rhone vineyards in Gigondas, Vaucluse Provence south of France.

Grapes growing in Cotes du Rhone vineyards in Gigondas, Vaucluse Provence south of France.

Following the advances of vineyard management in the New World, winemakers in Gigondas are vinifying small lots within a vineyard and trying to discover the important variations in quality that their vineyards offer.  New oak is being used and wines of longevity and great depth are being fashioned.  Grenache is still the dominant grape and the use of Syrah is lessening.

A popular wine is Guigal’s Gigondas Rouge 2011, which is very much in keeping with the style of a New World wine.  Rich, smooth and full of flavor, this superbly balanced wine borders on not being characterful enough to give it a distinctive expression of place.  Balance often brings to the fore the description of finesse and this wine is an expression of fine harmony, if not of distinctive character.

Light aromatics due to such a perfect blend of flavors still offers a raspberry lift on the edges.  Touches of redcurrant, peach and apricot (Grenache flavors) on a licorice base with hints of undergrowth are present.  It is a powerful, full-bodied wine with soft tannins and a smooth attack.

France is (in some of its wine regions) beginning to show us wines that reflect the style of New World wines, as this one does.

We’ll compare Rotie Cellars 2012, Southern Blend, Washington State in our next article.

Rating 89