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Contents of this issue of
The Poor Man's Guide to Fine Wine
- Importer Focus Continued: Current Kermit Lynch Releases
(Part 3 of 3)
Importer Focus: Current Kermit Lynch Releases - Provence, the Rhône and the South
A couple issues ago I started a brief series of special edition issues that focus on the current releases imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. To read the introduction and the other wines already reviewed (which includes Champagne, Sparkling wines, Alsace, Beaujolais, Burgundy and the Loire Valley), be sure to check out Issue 28 and Issue 29 of the Poor Man's Guide online.
In this issue I'll be finishing up with some selections from Provence, the Rhône Valley and other wines from the South of France. Next month we will be back to a random selection of wines from around the world.
Current Kermit Lynch Selections Part III
Provence, the Rhône and the South
To start, I tasted a handful of various wines from Provence in the south of France.
If you haven't visited the picturesque port town of Cassis on the Mediterranean coast, I urge you to do so. The little port and beach are as pretty as they come and the adjacent cliffs are topped with one of the most beautiful vineyards in the world. The site of Clos Ste Magdeleine is almost too perfect to believe, with a property that Club Med would probably give billions to get their hands on! A perennial winner, the Cassis Blanc 2009 (★★) is a big, ripe Cassis with a round, Marsanne-influenced body but lots of the typical zingy acidity and minerality for balance. Just a lovely wine that happens to be a bit riper in this vintage but still fresh and vibrant. Of note, for those who haven't had Cassis wines before, they have nothing to do with the black currant flavored liqueur of the same name!
A few wines from Domaine du Gros 'Noré followed. An ex-pugilist, the owner and winemaker at Gros 'Noré makes wines that are like him, burly and tough. I like their wild, sauvage character, but the reds can tend toward the astringent in some vintages. The Bandol Rosé 2010 (★+) is a lovely rosé with a wild brightness and brambly quality that evokes wild herbs and a saline, sea air savory component. The Bandol Blanc 2009 (★+), which is made from 70% Ugni Blanc, is also lovely with a fresh, creamy and lively body to it that is refreshing and pure. Surprisingly I preferred the Bandol Rouge 2008 (★★) to the Bandol Rouge 2007 (★). Both are rich, heady Bandols with a rustic and animal influenced character. But the 08 seems a bit more deftly done and better balanced. The 07 is quite tannic and edges towards the astringent side on the finish. It may improve some with age, but I suspect the tannins will always be a bit rough.
The Dupéré Barrera Côtes de Provence "En Caractère" 2008 (0) didn't come off well today. It was rather non-distinct and all I got was a meaty tannic wine that didn't strike me as having much character or complexity. Perhaps it suffered in the company of the full of character Gros 'Noré and Tempier wines that surrounded it.
Unfortunately the only Domaine Tempier I was able to taste at this time was the Bandol Rouge 2008 (★★), sometimes referred to as the Cuveé Classique (although it doesn't say it anywhere on the label). Not unfortunately because I didn't like this wine, I did, but because I didn't get to taste any of the single vineyard wines as well. I have reviewed this wine before and my assessment remains the same, although I believe the wine has started to open up a bit from the last time I tried it. On first tasting some months ago, it was a hesitant, wound up wine that too a long time in a decanter to start to flesh out and open up. At this tasting it was showing a bit more of its earthy and meaty soul. These wines just have a lovely velvety texture to them that are the epitome of the passionate soul of Provence. This is coming along quite nicely.
The Domaine de la Tour du Bon makes Bandols that also tend toward the powerful, rustic side of the appellation, more in line with Gros 'Noré than with Tempier and Terrebrune. Thats not to say there is anything wrong with that, they are just different expressions of the terroir of Bandol. The Bandol Rosé 2010 (★+) is very saline with an aroma not unlike fresh sea breeze. OK, there are a few strawberries thrown in but this definitely made me picture the sea. A very nice rosé. The Bandol Blanc 2010 (★) was nice but struck me as bit simplistic. It is pretty though, with a pure, waxy fruit that while simple is perfectly refreshing. The Bandol Rouge 2007 (★+), made from approximately 55% Mourvedre, is a meaty and rustic wine suffused with an iron, blood-like minerality to it. The Bandol Rouge "Saint Ferréol" 2005 (★★) has more Mourvedre in the blend (about 85%) and it shows with a more animal character. It is riper than the regular Bandol. It is again a meaty, rustic wine that could use even a few more years to mellow out a bit and integrate.
I've been a fan of the style of Domaine de Terrebrune for some time now, since Kermit started importing their wines. While the rosé and blanc have not been wines that blow me away, their rouge has a refined elegance to them that is quite seductive. The Bandol Rosé 2010 (★) seems to have a lot in common with the Gros 'Noré rosé but has less of the brambly, plant-like aromas. A pure and fresh rosé:. The Bandol Blanc 2010 (★) is nice, but not very distinctive. Like the Tour du Bon it is simple and refreshing. I did really like the reds, starting out with the Bandol Rouge 2007 (★★). It is refined and silky in texture, even more so than the Tempier. Whereas I'd describe the Tempier texture as velvety and leathery, this is more silk and lace, at least as much as Bandol Rouge can be. I quite like it and think it has an excellent future. The Bandol Rouge 2001 (★★) is similar but is more lush and feels like it has opened up, showing off its ripe fruits and some earthy, mushroom complexity that is quite nice! Finally, the Bandol Rouge 1999 (★+) was even more opened and ready for business, but given the vintage was not as complete a wine. In comparison the fruity seemed a bit less serious and the midpalate disappoints a bit. Really, this is a very nice wine at a good place right now and if you can find any in the market, buy it. But backed up against two outstanding vintages you could see its slight shortcomings.
The Rhône Valley:
Of course, I had to try Kermit's own project in the Rhone, Domaine Les Pallières. He purchased the domaine with the Brunier brothers (of Vieux Télégraphe fame) some years ago and the wines they have been producing are excellent. Compared to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the wines of Gigondas, particularly those of Les Pallières, tend to have a supple elegance to them. Whereas they rarely have the size and power of a Chateauneuf, they have a refined texture and character to them. I had not had the Rosé "au petit bonheur" 2010 (★) before and it was a simple but pretty rosé. But the magic here really starts with the reds. Up until recently Les Pallières blended all their best grapes together to make a single wine. However, in recent vintages they have begun keeping two main plots apart to emphasize the differences in the terroirs. The Gigondas "Les Racines" 2008 (★★) comes from old vines on the flatter portion of the vineyard. It is a lovely wine with a very refined and silky texture that lingers beautifully on the palate. In contrast, the Gigondas "Terrasses du Diable" 2008 (★★) comes from the upper, terraced, steep part of the vineyard. In many respects the wine is similar but has a more sauvage, wild character and more bite. It seems to grab your palate a bit firmer with a nice mineral grip and tannin. Both are lovely and both are refined, they just speak in slightly different voices that each have their own personality.
Of course, when tasting Les Pallières, the wines of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe (from Châteauneuf-du-Pape) cannot be far behind! Always interesting to taste, the white wine from VT is a treat. The Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc "La Crau" 2009 (★★) is quite complex and interesting. As white CdP often does, it has a nutty, rich and round feel with some piney accents that make it interesting. My notes said "yummy" and that about says it all. If you haven't had a white Chateauneuf, its quite a different beast, try one. The Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge "Télégramme" 2008 (★+) is a younger vines selection of fruit that didn't make the cut for the domaine wine. The bottom line is that it is fruity, fun and gulpable. A great picnic wine or a wine to serve slightly chilled on a hot summer afternoon while grilling up some sausages. Of course, their pièce de résistance is their Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge "La Crau" 2008 (★★+) which I quite liked in this vintage. Compared to the powerhouse of the 2007 vintage, the 08 is more traditional with a perfectly balanced blend of bright, cherry Grenache fruit blended with meaty, leathery Mourvedre. This is young and needs time but seems to have all it needs for a long, happy evolution.
The Domaine La Roquète Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007 (★) is a newer project of the Bruniers and doesn't hold a candle to the VT. However, taken on its own merits, it is a pretty, juicy Chateauneuf with less grip and structure that seems like it will drink nicely young and over the next several years.
I've always liked the powerful and distinctive wines of Olivier Clape. I tasted his white for the first time, the Saint-Péray Blanc 2010 (★). This Marsanne-based wine has a round and honeyed nose and a young, pure but simple mouthful of Marsanne fruit. Cornas is of course a Syrah based wine and makes some of the blackest, most iron and earth filled wines of which Syrah is capable. The Cornas "Renaissance" 2009 (★+) is a younger vines blend which is often an excellent value since his regular Cornas has crept up in price as more and more converts have realized that Clape is the king of Cornas. Despite being younger vines, the 09 is very dark, tannic and intense. Frankly, this is super young and needs time. If you think that wine is dark and foreboding, just try the Cornas 2009 (★★+?) which is clearly deeper, with a more mature and sophisticated midpalate but is just as young, wound up and hard to approach. Frankly, this one was a bit hard to judge fairly because it is so young. I think it is an outstanding Cornas but definitely needs some time to settle down. I am giving it the benefit of the doubt but it may always be a bit on the tough side. On the other hand, the 2008s are already open enough to see their beauty clearly. The Cornas "Renaissance" 2008 (★★) shows off that classic dark Cornas minerality and black fruit. Despite the young vines this is serious, dark stuff and taken on its own you would have no feeling this was a "lesser" Cornas in any way. But backed up against the Cornas 2008 (★★+) it does pale just a bit in comparison. The regular Cornas is at least a few notches up in refinement, complexity and completeness. Here you really see the regal stature that Cornas is capable of, with its dark black fruit that is at once powerful and refined with a strong iron grip of minerality underlying it all.
The Domaine Faury Saint Joseph Blanc 2009 (★) is a blend of 60% Marsanne and 40% Roussanne. It has an interesting blend of honey and nuts on the nose and a round but balanced texture. I was a bit disappointed by the Condrieu 2009 (0), which is of course 100% Viognier. I found it rather simple for this appellation. A waxy texture but other than notes of the typical Viognier fruit there was nothing too memorable here. I did, however, enjoy the Saint Joseph Rouge 2009 (★+) which was dark and spicy with a bit of igneous-like minerality.
The island of Corsica is not even on most people's mental maps of the world let alone their wine maps. Yet the wines from this little island off the west coast of Italy and southeast of France (it is technically part of France even though it is detached from the mainland) are capable of a great degree of character. I only tasted Kermit's wines from Antoine Arena who is one of the outstanding producers from this appellation.
The Patrimonio Rosé 2010 (★★) was strikingly good! It is a rich volcanic rosé, delivering minerality and smokey nuances to the fruit that you don't find in many rosés. In the mouth it is not a simple, fruity wine, it is intense and singular. I quite liked this. Next up was the Patrimonio Blanc "Carco" 2009 (★). Patrimonio Blanc is 100% Vermentino. This one had an interesting vegetal complexity to the fruit with hints of marjoram and asparagus but with a round, seductive mouthful of fruit. Patrimonio Rouge, like the Patrimonio Rouge "Morta Maio" 2008 (★+), are made from the Niellucciu grape which is the same genetically as Sangiovese from Italy's region of Tuscany. However, the unique terroir of Corsica gives you a different wine than you might expect by knowing that. This wine is from younger vines but the wine has a meaty character to it that is distinctive. The fruit is juicy, bright, tasty and very satisfying. The Patrimonio Rouge "Carco" 2008 (★★) has a somewhat similar character but is at once darker and more refined. Finally, the Muscat du Cap Corse 2009 (★★) is only a mildly sweet Muscat. It has a very pretty, fragrant classic Muscat character but with hints of the smokey and meaty character that you find in the other wines.
To round things out, I tasted a handful of wines from the southern French region of Languedoc. If you haven't explored the wines of the Languedoc you should, particularly if you are looking for good French wine bargains. The large region has come lightyears in only a few decades and there are now a slew of quality producers dedicated to producing wines that well represent their appellations. While you can generalize and say that the wines are often at least cousins of Rhône wines in their character (many of the grapes grown here are the same as in the Rhône after all), there are a lot of unique areas and wines and a good deal of variety.
The wines of Domaine d'Aupilhac are always very nice and good values. Their white Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc "Les Cocalières" 2009 (★) is a blend of Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Vermentino but it really shows its Marsanne with an almost oxidatively-styled round and rich character. The Coteaux du Languedoc Rouge "Les Cocalières" 2009 (★★) is a blend of 40% Syrah and equal parts of Grenache and Mourvedre. I really like it this year for its velvety and deep red fruits that really speak of the warm south. The Coteaux du Languedoc Rouge "Montpeyroux" 2008 (★+) seems to be a more Mourvedre wine. It is still deep and rich, but with a more tannic and rustic bite to it. Carignan is not a grape that is often bottled as a sole variety, being used more often as one grape in a blend of many in the south of France. Old vines produce a unique wine that is able to shine on its own. The Vin de Pays du Mont Baudile Rouge "Les Carignan" 2008 (★+) is a richly flavored Carignan with a ripe, velvety fruit but it is cool and bright in character with a pineyness that adds lift and zip to the wine. The 2007 (★★) of the same wine seems more refined as it is maybe a bit silkier but it also has an even brighter, cooler feel to it with lively zip and energy to it.
Finally, I finished up with a handful of assorted Languedoc wines. The Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières Rosé "Gris de Gris" 2010 (★+) is a tasty wine as it usually is. It doesn't have quite the singular character of the Arena rosé above but it is clearly a Provençal wine with its strawberry fruit accented by scents of the garrigue. The Château La Roque Pic Saint Loup "Cupa Numismae" 2007 (★+) is a blend of 65% Syrah and the balance Mourvedre. It is clearly from sun drenched soils, a rich dark wine with a southern character. The Domaine de la Grange des Pères Vin de Pays de l'Hérault Rouge 2006 (★+) disappointed me a bit for what it is. After all, this is not a cheap wine and previous vintages I've had can be quite stunning. This blend of 40% Mourvedre, 40% Syrah and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in Burgundy barrels did not lack for power. This is a big wine full of dark fruit and some interesting complexity starting to come out of the nose that recalls an older Tempier with its mushroomy, meaty complexity. However, I was left feeling it was a bit disjointed and unbalanced, preventing me from really loving the experience. The same nose and fruit with a bit more suavité and balance would be quite a stunner. Château Saint Martin de La Garrigue makes many excellent wines that are great values. In fact, the 2001 Bronzinelle Rouge was one of the wines at my wedding some years ago! However, the couple wines I tasted were just good, they didn't blow me away. However, they still represent excellent value. The Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc "Bronzinelle" 2010 (★) is a blend of 6 grape varieties with Marsanne being the most dominant variety. However, in terms of aroma, the small splash of Viognier accents the nose quite nicely, giving a flowery, honeyed note to the rich Marsanne. The Coteaux du Languedoc Rouge "Bronzinelle" 2008 (★) was good but not quite up to the quality that Bronzinelle usually hits. For example, I really liked the 2007 but this 2008 seems a bit more diffuse. Its structure is a bit lacking and doesn't give the balance and "ooompf" to the midpalate that I like in the best vintages. It is fruity and ripe, but a bit flabby.
Finally, I tasted the yummy Domaine La Tour Vieille Banyuls "Reserva" (★★), a non-vintage blend of Banyuls that is ready to drink. For those of you who don't know, Banyuls is a small appellation in the south of France that makes a fortified wine that has some similarities to Porto. However, these are generally made from Grenache and have that southern French Mediterranean sun and herb complexity to them that make them unique. This one is raisined and rich with a warming, lingering finish that is suitable for deep contemplation while sitting in your study next to a warm fire.
That wraps it all up. I hope you enjoyed my overview of many of the current and soon to be released wines of Kermit Lynch's portfolio.
Wine Ratings Explained:
||A wine I don't particularly recommend.
|Well made, simple and tasty wines that I recommend.
|Excellent quality. Worth an extra effort to search out and enjoy.
|Outstanding wine of the highest caliber.
|Either a wine that is close to deserving a higher score or a wine that may not be showing that much but with the potential to move up in quality with further aging. A young wine that may be closed up or shows potential for significant improvement. Assuming it opens and improves with additional age, it may merit a higher rating.
||Flawed bottles or wines that are difficult to assess for any number of reasons. Judgement reserved.
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