This month readers we are going deep. Deep into the heart of the Languedoc and more precisely to the Coteaux du Languedoc vineyards surrounding the town of Pezenas. Here, in one of the warmest areas of the Languedoc, sanguine reds are often found that characteristically exude unabashed black fruits and vibrant violet undertones. The best wines are not only bold, they are also beautiful, as they mange to retain a modicum of acidity and finesse. Enter Christophe Blanc, the young vigneron at Château de Montpezat whose wines fall under this two-fold description. Christophe manages approximately 65 acres of vineyard up and behind the village of Pezenas. The family-owned vineyards, most of which were planted in the 1970s, are devoted to merlot, carignan, syrah, grenache and mourvèdre, and lie on a belt of predominantly schistous soil. In fact, vines are planted all the way up to the forest edge, where many palombieres (small thatched hunting blinds) are used by bird hunters. In fact, these blinds are the inspiration for the 2003 Château de Montpezat Coteaux du Languedoc, “Palombieres” ($13.99). This is truly a great opportunity to try a terrific example of what the South of France has to offer! Composed of 80% grenache and 20% mourvèdre, the “Palombieres” offers bold flavors of blackberries, pepper and spice, with hints of toast, earth and kirsch. This Languedociene red is complete and expressive, with complex structured flavors. Crack open a bottle and, depending on how ambitious you are, enjoy with grilled sausage or spit roasted leg of lamb! —Mulan Chan
This month I have two Rhone selections that I believe are sure to please. The next time you are in the Rhone Valley and traveling on the D975, I strongly suggest that you make a stop at Roaix, a charming village within the Côtes du Rhône appellation that is often times overlooked. This totally picturesque village offers up some lovely views as well as a more quiet Côtes du Rhône experience, as most folks have no idea where or what a “roaix” is. If you don’t have any immediate travel plans then I recommend that you pick up a bottle of the 2004 Domaine Auzières Côtes du Rhône-Villages Roaix (ORGANIC) ($12.99). Cool, bright and silky is how I would describe this red beauty from Roaix... with enough matiere to handle heartier Provencal fare, but pretty enough to sip on its own. This is truly a wine to “go deep” on, and at this price you’ll save a few pennies too. Perhaps for your next trip to Roaix! Now here is a gentle reminder: One cannot live on red wine alone. How about a nice white like the 2004 Château Grande Cassagne Costières de Nîmes Blanc ($9.99)? Grenache blanc and roussanne are behind this crisp and rich white from the South of France. The very floral nose will set you squarely in the Southern Rhone, at a village market, say, where lavender and white flowers mingle with green olives and citrus. All these, and more, you can taste in this excellent value wine. A tingle of oak on the finish adds complexity and remains a backnote. Open a bottle of the Grande Cassage Blanc and prepare to be transported to the South of France! —Mulan Chan
The following article contains excerpts from our 2005 Bordeaux Report. If you want a hard copy, just ask us or you can find it online at our website. After two very easy and quick flights from San Francisco to Bordeaux, we should have figured that this year would be different than years past. What we found out after nine days of tasting through some 400 wines from 2005 vintage was that this was one of the easiest vintages to taste-no mouth searing tannins or green fruit or acid finishes here. Though the tannins were very high (one of highest on record) and the acids were high and the alcohols were high, the fruit was so ripe and round in most wines that the young harsh qualities of a new vintage were masked by the enormous fruit content. “If it could, Bordeaux would settle for a 2005-type vintage every year. It was a truly extraordinary year, easy to manage, without complications and the almost permanently fine weather ended up by providing a wine of most unusual concentration. And the owners are all wearing the kind of smile that suggests they have something very special in the cellar.”-Bill Blatch 2005 Report Also those smiles are partly due to the $$$ each one sees with this futures campaign-Clyde Beffa Jr-K&L No need to go into the weather conditions for this vintage as everything went perfectly well through the whole growing season—perhaps just lacking a little in precipitation. The long warm days and cool evenings in the summer made for a wine of rich, ripe fruit, high acidity, high sugar (giving wines more alcohol), and high tannins. I really think Bill Blatch’s comments below hit the nail on the head. “So ended a text-book harvest period for all of Bordeaux. The sun shone almost permanently and the showers came exactly when and where required to add the final touch, and all this after a dry hot season, during which what little rain there was fell just before all the vital sequences of the vine’s cycle. What more could we have asked for? Although some had cursed the drought, it had been the most perfect year we could expect. And if any growers have made a sub-par wine, they only have themselves to blame. And if any have made a vegetal wine, they should be lined up and shot at dawn.”-Bill Blatch 2005 Report It is interesting to note that there are many comparisons being made between the 1982 and 2005 vintages. As far as yield is concerned, the 1982 vintage came in at around 80 hectoliters/hectare (stated) almost double the size (and therefore less concentration) than 2005. Another fact is that vineyard and winery procedures and practices are much better now than they were 23 years ago. And now with second and third wines (which few properties had in 1982), there is more selection being made for the Grand Vin. There is no doubt that 2005 is a great Bordeaux vintage and among the best in the last 40 years. Is it the best? Hard to say, but we did find exceptionally good wines throughout all the regions and types of Bordeaux wine (ala 2000, except whites and stickies are better in 2005). What we also found was that many of the second wines of the great properties were fantastic—probably due to the health of all of the grapes of the vintage. The Big Easy may end with the prospective prices of the vintage-the smiles of the owners were too big for us to think otherwise. The top 30 or 40 will be expensive (very expensive I would think). There were just too many people in Bordeaux telling negociants and owners alike that they would pay almost anything for a good allocation. On the other hand, there may be some great finds and values from the lesser wines. Since the quantities are not big, I am sure that we and all other retailers will not get enough of the stars to satisfy our customers’ demands. Getting on our waiting lists is imperative this year, and the folks who bought 2004s from us are probably feeling a bit more secure right now. —Clyde Beffa jr
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