17 August 2006

TN: The old & the ancient

La Vieille Ferme 2005 Côtes du Luberon Blanc (Rhône) – Simple stone fruit and river-washed citrus. It feels heavier than it is. Under close examination it’s completely innocuous, but properly treated as a cocktail wine it’s much more honest and interesting than most. Plus, it’s silly cheap. (8/06)

30% grenache blanc, 30% bourboulenc, 30% ugni blanc, 10% roussanne. This is yet another of the Perrin family’s ventures, along with Beaucastel and Tablas Creek. The Vieille Ferme line is cheap, easy quaffers for everyday drinking, and I highly recommend them as low-key party wines. They don’t bear up to scrutiny, but they’re exactly what cheap wine should be. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Vineyard Brands. Web: http://www.lavieilleferme.com/.

[Château Saint Martin de la Garrigue]Château Saint Martin de la Garrigue 2001 Côteaux du Languedoc “Cuvée Tradition” (Languedoc) – Dark, chewy fruit with horse sweat and herb-studded earth. This is a fairly pure and direct expression of the Languedoc, with better-than-average structure and balance for such an inexpensive wine. (8/06)

Carignan and grenache. The Languedoc is one of Europe’s several “wine lakes,” where the production is much more about quantity than quality. But trust Kermit Lynch to ferret out a wine that expresses what’s best about the region’s terroir and climate, and that exceeds the expectations placed upon it. Languedoc wines will rarely be about finesse or elegance, but sometimes power and impact – without all the winemaking tricks that can create them – are just what’s wanted. Alcohol: 13%. Closure: cork. Importer: Lynch. Web: http://www.stmartingarrigue.com/.

Hummel “Domaine de l’Ancien Monastère” 2001 Rouge de Saint-Léonard “Cuvée des Vigneronnes” (Alsace) – Rough and ready pinot noir in it’s wilder, country-bumpkin form…when chilled. With air, the flaws come out: adhesive tannin, imbalanced acidity, and chewy but ultimately thin fruit. Which just shows that this, like most Alsace pinot noir, is meant to be consumed on the cooler side. (8/06)

This is the rare wine that I don’t know that much about. It’s pinot noir, carrying a village appellation (Saint-Léonard is commonly associated with the town of Boersch) rather than announcing the varietal designation, as many such Alsace reds do. And it’s from the cooler northern reaches of the Bas-Rhin, which – perhaps contrary to expectations – is where the better Alsace pinots come from. But even at its best (which is: light, not more than very slightly wooded, and with much done to manage tannin and acidity), Alsace pinot noir is an acquired taste. This is a wine for conviviality, for fun and friends with rustic French provincial cooking, for those times when you want a red but can’t bear something heavy and palate-deadening. In other words, exactly those times when rosé usually fits the bill. Even though most Alsace pinot noir is decidedly not rosé (though there is some, and it’s often fairly tasty), it helps to think of it as one when deciding what to do with it. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork.

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