The next flight of this comprehensive Rhone grape varietal tasting featured 3 white wines from southern France. The first wine, 2013 Clos Ste Magdeleine Cassis comes from a breathtaking vineyard jutting out into the surreal colored Mediterranean Sea in the Cassis appellation of Provence, France. This wine, however, is far from being a romantic notion because of its spectacular vineyard setting. If you look more closely at the soil below the vineyard, one can see it is limetone dominated, which gives this white its vitality, freshness, ethereal lightness on the palate & mesmerizing minerality. For many years, therefore, this iconic white wine was the definitive wine pairing with Bouillabaisse, the world renown fish soup of Provence. The blend is typically 40% Marsanne, 30% Ugni Blanc, 25% Clairette & 5% Bourboulenc, fermented in stainless steel, after which the lees in added back in & then further aged for 14 to 18 months. (I remember a time, when this wine was more Clairette & Ugni Blanc dominated…..& fermented in concrete, so times have changed). Having said that, this is still a wine of the site–soil, the salty air, the generous sunshine & the cooling sea winds. For me, a classic. The 2011 Domaine Vinci “Coyade” is a very unique & interesting southern French white wine which I frequently refer to as “liquid rock”, as it really does smell & taste like sun baked rock, with some wild shrub & herb nuances. Produced from 75% Maccabeu, 15% Carignane Blanc & 10% Grenache Blanc grown in clay limestone soils, foot stomped & wild yeast fermented. 1/2 of the Maccabeu is fermented in stainless steel (with lees) & the other half in old demi muids, where it will age for 16 months. This is a very masculine, mega intense, wild, powerful, stony wine, which makes you rethink your previous perceptions/thoughts with each sip & taste. The 2014 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc is another mega intense, masculine, stony white wine. The reason why we served this after the Vinci “Coyade” is because of its innate pedigree & more layered/nuanced character. It, however, really took me a long time to understand this wine. The 2014 is 40% Clairette, 30% Grenache Blanc, 15% Bourboulenc & 15% Roussanne, 1/2 fermented in cement, 70% malolactic & then aged in foudre/demi muids, 10 to 15% new. Definitely a white wine of the stones.
The final flight of this epic tasting, “In Search of Good Wine” featured 3 pink wines produced from Rhone grape varietals. The first wine, 2014 Domaine Fontsainte Corbieres “Gris de Gris” has grown meteorically in popularity since I first brought this wine to the Islands sometime in the late 80’s/ early 90’s. I would say key factors in its growth include a charming, outgoing personality, deliciousness year in & year out, its incredible food friendliness AND mainly because it really does over deliver for the dollar! The 2014 is 50% Grenache Gris, 20% Grenache Noir, 20% Carignane, 5% Mourvedre & 5% Cinsault, tank fermented with no malolactic. I would also say, that the quality has really improved over the years, without any significant price increases amazingly. In comparison, the next wine, 2014 Chateau D’Esclans “Whispering Angel”, has changed since I first had it. I am sure that has a lot to do with its growth in popularity, as I readily see it on top wine lists across the country. The 2014 is a blend of mainly Grenache, with Cinsault & a smidgeon of Rolle (all from La Motte en Provence), fermented in stainless with twice a week less stirring. The wine is still delicious, light on its feet, ethereal & therefore quite remarkably food friendly. The final wine of this flight & the tasting, 2014 Maxime Magnon Corbieres Rose “Metisse”, is quite a unique & interesting wine, one that took me some time to get a handle on. While there has been a movement to lighter, more ethereal, minerally styled roses, this masculine, heady, minerally one comes along. The 2014 is 40% Carignane, 30% Grenache, 20% Cinsault & 10% Grenache Blanc, direct pressed, whole cluster (the Grenache & Carignane co-fermented) in cement, malolactic, with 6 to 8 month aging in old barrels. My aha moment was when trying this wine with foods, & then realizing it really is more like a red wine in style. Having said that, rest assured there is lots of vineyard character still in the wine (not some fruit bomb) AND it still has wonderful deliciousness & gulpability despite its heady, robust style.