07 May 2010

Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Part III

After a delicious lunch at la Mule du Pape, we headed to Domaine Giraud to see what this younger generation of farmers has been up to, and to taste for ourselves whether the influence of Philipp Cambie is as heavy-handed as some claim (and if, in the end, it even matters when the only question we should be asking is, “Does it taste great?”).  Let me be another voice shouting in the desert: Consultant or no, these wines taste good—no, they are better than good, better than great even; they are a new superlative not yet invented.
When I tasted the 2007 ‘Tradition’ I thought to myself, There is no way this can be just their introductory cuvee.  But it is, and it was delicious.  I imagined a Scharffen Berger sandwich, with a layer of plum jam bordered by coils of thyme-studded licorice.  It became clear to me after talking for a while with Francois Giraud, son of Pierre Giraud (after whom their 100% Grenache cuvee is named), that this was an uncompromising and visionary young man filled with age-old wisdom, a boy who grew to manhood through the soil of Chateauneuf like his father, and his father before him.  Not long after we sat down to taste with Francois, his father Pierre, the great and mighty tender of vines (and altogether prolific drinker), joined us for introductions and to inspect what wines we’d tastes so far.  From what I’m told, despite the fact that Francois and Marie, Francois’s sister, have since taken over day-to-day operations at the estate, Pierre still haunts the vines and the winery, apprehending unattended bottles, offering helpful, though perhaps unsolicited criticisms and inspecting the imminent or latest harvest.  He is a formidable figure, and if he told me something had to be a certain way, I’d listen.  If his son and daughter have the sense I think they do, they’ve listened to their father quite a bit, and thus proven him a wise man.
Marie joined us not long after Pierre did, and we tasted wines together in their modest tasting room, made all the more warm and enriching by Pierre’s stories and boisterous, contagious laugh.  You don’t need a fancy wine tasting room when you have wines as good as these and people as wonderful as the Girauds.  I was extremely impressed by the Gallimardes cuvees.  Marie was gracious enough to take us through the dynamics of that hot southern vineyard and their personal harvest culture.  The 2006 was sensational, making the decision whether to buy the stupendous 2005 or the 2006 extremely difficult.  I deferred to the 2006 because it managed to be both weightless and yet one of the heaviest hitters on the table.  Irony?  Hardly.  2006?  Assuredly (refer to aforementioned opinions).  We finished the tasting with a glass of the 2008 ‘Tradition’ (very good considering the challenges of that rainy vintage) as well as a component of the future 2009 ‘Tradition’.  

2009, according to the Girauds, will be yet another sterling vintage for Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Although a month has passed since I tasted the wine, I still recall every indication of its imminent greatness, despite its profound youth.  In an attempt to summarize the culture at Domaine Giraud, and to a greater extent the culture of consulting enologists and the proliferation of super-cuvees or new blends with atypical (read: non-traditional) cepages, let me say that Domaine Giraud need no help from outside sources to make great wine.  They have every asset they need already at their fingertips.  The influence of Philip Cambie, or a Didier Robert, is not felt in the final product, but rather in the processes that lead to a vision fulfilled.  Elements of the younger generation of Chateauneuf seem compelled to translate a new tradition, to foment the (r)evolution and exploit something unexpected, radical.  Lest we forget, the traditions we now hold so near and dear were at one time as new and radical as the vision of this next generation in Chateauneuf.  If there is talent out there—acknowledged, renowned, qualified talent—willing to help this generation realize the dreams of their youth, then you cannot fault these budding stars for reaching out to consultants any more than you can the writer who studies diligently the works of Joyce, James or Cather.  The Rollands and Derenoncourts of our day and age can be as rich a wellspring of inspiration as they can be a boatload of hints and data.  Some say these 'flying winemakers' impart too distinct a signature.  On the other hand, I beg the question: Who says this ‘signature’ isn’t exactly the kind of wine some gasping vigneron had been struggling to make for so long, believing he had the right raw materials, just couldn’t bring it all together?  Is it then the signature of a Chris Ringland?  Or is it some other dreamer’s vision at last fulfilled? 

At Domaine Giraud, these are the wines of Francois and Marie alone.  No one else.  And they are far from gasping.  They are plowing through the pitch at breakneck speed, size 5 in hand, ready to take on the world, and ripe with all the talent and veracity to do so.  Lest we forget about Pierre, he’s probably a grandpa by now, and aside from this newfound joy in his life, he’s a great giver of joy himself.  After the ballyhoo of stories shared and bottles re-tasted (and re-tasted, and…), Pierre kindly escorted us to his dear friend’s estate, Clos du Mont Olivet.

06 May 2010

Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Part II

I fancied myself the luckiest dork in the world when I found out about a week prior to this trip that we’d been offered a scheduled appointment with Jean-Paul Daumen, the owner and winemaker of Domaine Vieille Julienne, a biodynamic estate situated just north of the official border of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC.  Our introduction to the personality and dynamic of Jean-Paul began promptly at 1100, as scheduled.  If there was one thing we weren’t going to do on this trip, it would be to show up late at the doorstep of arguably the greatest farmer in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  

Vieille Julienne is situated in the northern, cooler terraced frontier of Chateauneuf, primarily in the lieux-dit of Cabrieres, as well as Boislauzon and Maucoil.  The tasting began with Jean-Paul’s 2007 Cotes du Rhone ‘Lieux-Dit Clavin’, a wine of such unabashed freshness and potent florality that I could hardly believe it wasn’t actually Chateaneuf-du-Pape.  Ahh, the glories of the little guy.  But keep in mind this parcel sits literally across the road that doubles as the dividing line between the 1933 AOC of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the rest of the Cotes du Rhone.  Clavin essentially surrounds the estate of Vieille Julienne, giving it a solitary feel in the midst of a thousand gnarled vines, like ancient aliens growing through the craggy rocks and shifting sand.  If you ever come across this wine for under $20, you’re putting a case of it in your cart.  If you don’t, you’ll have done yourself a great injustice.  The range of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, primarily from a cuvee perspective, is relatively limited.  Based on Jean-Paul’s philosophy this is a refreshing approach, one rooted in the balance of the land and not in the marketing skills of a newer generation.  Jean-Paul blends vineyard sites into a collective whole, believing the constituent parcels to be of more merit and ultimate complexity than an independent existence in some form of cuvee speciale or varietal bottling.  Even what could be classified as his super-cuvee, the Reserve bottling, remains a blend of parcels that Jean-Paul deems suitable for bottling as a unique and superior blend.  In 2007 Jean-Paul didn’t feel there was a substantial enough difference in the quality of grapes going into the traditional bottling and the grapes going into the Reserve—they were nearly identical in their superlative quality.  So he forewent bottling two distinct wines and made a single 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  And what a wine!  Sensational depth, all the vibrant freshness a Rhone freak could ask for, and even a bit of leesiness still on the nose.  On the palate the wine is pillow-like, weightless and airy but firm enough to rest your head on.  The 2006 is even more ethereal, unctuous in weight but covering the tongue and mouth with a silk throw.  I’ll probably say this a million times, but 2006 remains my favorite vintage of the 2005-2006-2007 trio, its only fault being…well, 2007 (thanks Francois for that perfect quip).  It’s a vintage of impeccable balance, buoyant acidity, lush if not flamboyant fruit, but restrained from going too far into cloying territory by a meaty, yet fine-grained texture that says Prime filet-mignon over and over again.  Jean-Paul captured this vintage’s expression with aplomb, and in a way that allowed his colder mesoclimate to invigorate the wine’s already flashy fruit with racy, uplifting acidity.  And what can I say about 2005?  It’s my least favorite vintage of the 05-06-07 trio, but in the hands of a man who will capture purity at all costs, 2005 remains a masterpiece.  It is a huge wine, without a doubt, but it unfolds like a giant red carpet, fluffy and weighty but soft to the touch.  

There is zero doubt in my mind that Jean-Paul’s biodynamic principles both in the vineyard and in the cellar contributed greatly to the feel of his 2005, as it retains that delicate balance between freshness and compression, purity and power.  When so many 2005s remain hardened monuments of the vintage of a generation, Jean-Paul’s has become a motion picture in progress, with infinite moving pieces, grandiose colors and unstable characters.  It’s complex, majestic and still sexy, something I can say about maybe one other wine from 2005: Domaine Cristia’s Chateuneuf-du-Pape (also, not ironically, a certified organic producer).  Discussing winemaking and personal philosophies with Jean-Paul was probably the richest one-on-one interaction of the trip, and I respect this man immensely for his passion and conviction.  His wines are the seventh level of Heaven and not to be missed.

04 May 2010

Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Part I

Monday, 15 March 2010 - This has been one of the most—if not the most—difficult experiences to translate into some representative succession of letters and words, let alone coherency.  Hence the reason it's taken me nearly two months to figure out how to forge ahead with my collected ramblings.  Not a second goes by that I don’t think the effort pointless, meaningless.  Maybe it’s not even right, my standing at the Exit sign of those two days imagining all the moments, names and faces can be folded tidily into a substantive vinologue as easily at the days unfolded.  Maybe it’s wrong not to speak of this community of farmers, of beating hearts running red with wine and Provencal sunsets; not to share the unforgettable names and personalities of vignerons who ushered us into their lives with open arms and bottles and never flinched when we waxed vinosophical in a language no doubt foreign.  Maybe it’s right and wrong alike to prove I tried the impossible, to translate Chateauneuf-du-Pape into a story about people, and not the latest controversial trend in this constantly evolving physical and philosophical landscape.  Certainly Harry Karis took this village to new heights with the release of his own ‘Mission Impossible’, but what’s lacking in his starkly objective approach—though highly commendable and endearing—is the distinction between who will fold the carpet out in front of you when you arrive unexpected, and—if this is even possible—who will treat you coldly even with a prior appointment.  During our stay a cold reception was apparently not on the agenda, save le Mistral.
I had the greatest of intentions to document our visits at the end of every day, our impressions of the wines, and any other stories or information worth mentioning.  Obviously, I failed; I’m over a month behind.  Trying to capture Chateauneuf, even subjectively, is like trying to capture Michaelangelo’s Pieta on disposable camera.  Somewhere along the line, you’ve missed the mark—perhaps the point even.  Nevertheless, thanks to two extraordinarily generous people—Don, Tom: Thank you from the bottom of my heart—my hands felt the soil of Rasteau, and my feet the galets roules of Chateauneufsans disposable camera.  While this attempt at capturing Chateauneuf will no doubt be lacking in a number of areas, I make no claims to perfection or comprehensiveness.  I was told those two days, Monday and Tuesday, would be mine: I would call the shots, aside from appointments already booked.  So we went to the doorstep of every winemaker I ever dreamed of visiting—in this lifetime and the next.  Through those portals this story begins…

Vieux Telegraphe is a cherished traditional estate crafting fantastic wine under the direction of brothers Daniel and Frederic Brunier.  The same family is also crafting some spectacular juice at La Roquete, a Chateauneuf estate formerly known as La Roquette (two T’s) before the Brunier’s purchased it and began their transformative work in 1998 (?). Two wines are made here: the traditional Chateaneuf-du-Pape blend as well as their homage to old-vine Grenache (and, to some degree, their anti-Cuvee Speciale) known as l’Accent du Roquete (sp?).  Both are fantastic wines that should be on every enthusiast’s Rhone-dar.  Also on the Brunier map since 1998 is the Gigondas estate of Les Pallieres, a joint venture between the Bruniers and world renowned importer Kermit Lynch.  In 2007 the Lynch/Brunier team separated what was normally the blended Gigondas into two separate cuvees.  One cuvee, les Racines, is being produced from the ancient vines surrounding the estate, situated at lower altitudes and thus exuding the characteristics of a much warmer mesoclimate.  Les Racines tastes like a southern Rhone interpretation of Zinfandel, and I mean that in the best possible sense.  Not very endowed in the acidity department, but what it lacks in raciness it makes up for in sheer chuggability.  Moderate alcohol (14,5% abv) allied to creamy fig and plum textures makes for a drink with just enough southern Rhone charm and fat California-like fruit to keep things interesting.  Its stable mate, le Terrasse du Diable (sp?), is sourced from older vineyards at the highest altitudes of the estate, where the vines begin to ascend the imposing Dentelles de Montmirail (sp?), making for a theoretically cooler climate.  To my tastes, this is where the rubber begins to meet the road: Racy acidity, vibrant red fruit characteristics but still packing a subdued black-fruited kick, with lithe structure and velvet tannin rounding out this seductive wine.  The cool-climate raciness is kept even more honest by the expression of the Grenache-heavy cepage; the fruit is anti-blowsy—extremely focused, linear to some degree, but still coating the mouth from front to back, finishing with a long fuse of licorice and bramble.  I foretell the immense success and renown this estate will soon have with these two wines; certainly there is something here for every palate, and I hope they keep things honest by blending the two cuvees together if Nature or necessity demands it.  Our tasting at Vieux Telegraphe ended naturally with the tasting of the namesake Grand Vin, and me oh my, what a wine it is.  The 2007 is a svelte but hugely nuanced wine that insists on keeping your attention all the way from the first sniff to the last dance of the evening.  It is unctuously textured, a quarry of minerality with no calculable depth, a lot-by-lot introduction to the fruit stands at the Monday market.  The 2007 has the structure of 2005 and the enveloping silky sweetness of 2006—no easy feat.  Price-wise, this is hands down the greatest single-vineyard expression I’ve tasted of the famed lieux-dit known as la Crau.  It was an incredible finale to the line-up at Vieux Telegraphe, and still only the beginning of a much longer, even deeper (hard to believe, I know!) tasting journey.

After apparently misunderstandings our requests to simply purchase a bottle of the 2007 l'Accent du Roquete to taste at the domaine, our 'tasting coordinator', essentially Mr. Deeds, disappeared for a few minutes.  A fresh bottle of 2007 l'Accent appeared in the hand of Monsieur Deeds.  He refused to let us pay for it, insisted we swirl the wine violently in our glasses, and assured us with his silence that we'd not only enjoy the wine immensely, but that these silent moments are necessary.  That there would be any number of wines we'd taste in the next few days, opened with no charge but a smile and a glance, that would silence even the birds of spring.  Yes, there is something natural about this place, perhaps even supernatural, spritual.  It is either the connection to the Pope, but most likely it's people like Jean-Paul Daumen, who are changing the face of wine forever in this tiny hamlet, and doing so with spiritual verve.  Part II...tomorrow. 

15 March 2010

Cujo, Django and le Mistral

The 'Mistral', a wind that blows southward through the Rhone valley with such ferocity that even Mother Nature bows to it, equalizes everything, penetrating even the marrow of the soul.  Against all good advice I jogged into the rising sun this morning down the hill outside our Rasteau redoubt.  With the Mistral at your back, the sensation of speed becomes a function of your ability to remain upright and slow your body's natural tendency to jog at Chuck Yeager speeds.  Now, things can get complicated when the wind strikes your flanks, as it did when I first heard Cujo, the hairy black Satan dog, bark at me from a chateau's fence line across the road.  As his loaf turned into trot, and trot into sprint, my legs' compulsion to respond in kind were met with somewhat fierce opposition from le Mistral.  Long story short, I was Usain Bolt for a good 150 yards, rounding the bend towards the St. Didier cathedral full of fake energy, adrenalized only so far as the first one meter worth of incline.  Fortunately, I'd ditched the dog; or Cujo, me.

This was a day of joy, of things beyond the scope of explanation and comprehension, and I wasn't about to let Cujo interrupt my enjoyment of it.  Within an hour or so of my arrival back at the house, we were on the road again toward Avignon and its Palais des Papes and the Pont du Gard further west.  What a ride!  And how the wind owned us!

I can't say enough about the old walled city of Avignon as it progresses deeper toward the Palais.  We couldn't help but stop and peek inside la Vache a Carreaux, a restaurant that at first glance demanded we retreat into its colorful Noveau warmth with a now-ness.  We passed it by en-route to the Palais, but I harbored a secret dream to return to the restaurant one day.  Well, this was a day for dreams to come true, damn the Mistral.

After scouting every inch of beautiful scenery and outcrop of the Palais and its gardens, we returned to la Vache and had the Meal of a Lifetime.  There's no justice in describing just what arrived on my plate this Sunday afternoon.  All I can do is provide the address and pray with an almighty vigor that you do what's required of you to visit this place:  Centre historique: 14, rue de la Peyrolerie.  I washed my farmer's salad down with a VdP Vaucluse blanc from Roger Sabon.  It was spot-on, letting the salad speak for itself.

Yes, not enough can be said of the area around the Palais, so let me detail the rest of the day with a stab at brevity.  The Pont du Gard is a must-see.  It's a nature hike of the highest order, but don't pay the 15 Euro to park in the designated lot.  Park further down past the traffic circle where the locals do.  Oh, I almost forgot: les Halles near the center of Avignon's walled city, an closed-air market open on Sunday.  What a clutch encounter.  With the myriad streets available to us to reach the Palais, how we stumbled on this treasure is beyond me.  Again, this was a day of unspoken yet answered prayers, of dreams come true.  We made our compulsory wine purchases and opted for a plethora of fruits, pasta and plenty of Mediterranean fare.

Needless to say, dinner was special.  But something elevated it, brought it to another galaxy of enjoyment...  Django Reinhardt.  Discovering the music of Django Reinhardt has made the feeling of being in Rasteau and Chateauneuf-du-Pape--exploring their riveting landscape, soaking in the stories and vins of old and new generations alike--singular and celestial.

Soooo, I'm writing this on Monday night when I should be talking about what happened today, not yesterday.  Perhaps the bottle of d'Aqueria's 2006 l'Heritage Lirac, Trio Infernal's 2007 Priorat 'Riu', and Bosquet des Papes' 2000 Chateauneuf-du-Pape got to me.  I got a little sleepy and gave up.  So I'm giving up again with this post, cutting things short, and planning to get to ramming speed on today's events on another post.  And what a day this was...

13 March 2010

Beaujolais 101: En-Route to Rasteau and the Roots of Vintegrity

What a spectacular trip down to Rasteau. Skies clear as glass, valleys full of smoky haze, wind whipping loose the dusty topsoil.  You couldn't ask for more perfect driving conditions, nor a more perfect introduction to the mystifying, undulating waves of Beaujolais terroir.  The drive from St. Amour through the winding narrow paths of Julienas southbound toward Morgon is about as intoxicating as scenery gets for junkies like us.  While it wasn't exactly easy to find our way to Domaine de Thulon, who graciously responded to our request for tasting, it wasn't hard to pinpoint it when we found ourselves in the general area of Lantigne.  Thulon's opposing turrets are formidable, if even a bit intimidating--sentinels standing watch over a treasured landscape rich with the memories of harvests and generations.  Carine Jambon, a sprightly and knowledgeable host, greeted us in the courtyard with smiles and laughter.  This was going to be fun; I could see the dark and brooding Opale in a decanter, dangling precariously from Carine's fingertip.  She's done this before.

We began the tasting with a delicious, linear Beaujolais Blanc (100% Chardonnay).  It was certainly refreshing, its acidity muddled only slightly by the extreme stagnant cold of the barrel room in which we were tasting.  If there were one thing I would have changed about this experience, it would have been tasting in a room indoors.  But that's not me complaining; that's me dreaming.  This was real life, and it's hard not to make due when after Beaujolais Blanc comes a rapid succession of traditionally vinified Cru Beaujolais.  This stuff was great, and showed particularly well in the cold.  My assessment based on this tasting is that Beaujolais really is better slightly chilled.  Moreover, Beaujolais is better when it's Beaujolais, not Gamay with Revlon barrique.

What am I talking about here?  Have I gone mad?  Beaujolais and new oak?  Yes, I am serious.  New oak.  And no, I've not gone mad.  This is for real.  Thulon is producing three different wines that despite certain slights of tongue and hand are emphatically oak influenced, two of which benefit greatly--yes, I said it--from this regimen (one of which is not affected in any way by its new oak treatment).  The names are not important; those who care know these wines already.  My origin of discord here is where tradition and its inherently singular identities collide with the modern world and the irreversible course it's set for itself as it yields to the ubiquitous and uniform tastes of contemporary wine criticism.  I respect that Thulon continues to make exceptional and honest Cru Beaujolais--their Regnie Vieilles Vignes was more revelatory today than it's every been, as was their Morgon--but the question I had no heart to ask was, "Why doctor Gamay?"  Is there a blazing hot need to buy new barrels every year to produce these wines that contextually have nothing to do with the region?  Are there customers knocking at the cellar door demanding this style of anti-Gamay?  It doesn't sound very plausible.  From a Body und Soil perspective, it's downright sacrilege!

But a moment of clarion honesty is due.  If these wines have nothing to Beaujolais, they certainly have everything to do with flavor.  But are the two not inextricably linked?  Be honest: Is Beaujolais really about granite, or is it about tasting the Gamay rainbow?  If Thulon had eschewed all production of traditional Cru Beaujolais and opted instead for this uncharacteristic saturation of color and density of extract, I would have bone upon bone to pick.  I'd have their skeleton at my feet in heartbeats.  As it stands, this is far from the case, as I've detailed above.  The '1947' and the 'Opale', I have to believe (convincing only myself here), are strictly about flavor density, and I harbor zero doubt that customers do in fact come banging on the cellar door demanding wine that tastes great, who care little about what's 'traditional' for Gamay and even less about how much new oak was used during elevage or how much longer the individual berries sat in maceration than the traditional Crus.  These are not questions that sit at the forefront of most consumers' minds, and for that very reason the intelligent and passionate winemaker will occasionally--invariably?--take a stab at making something that's just downright crazy, experimental, even ludicrous, just to see what happens.  It isn't about integrity at that point; it's just a man, his grapes, and his passion for flavor.  And fun.   

Alright, I think I used the word flavor 96 times.  I'm spent.  But I'd be lying if I told you this trip was going to be about anything else.  Tomorrow's a day off, a day to sleep in for an hour or two, and then knock out some hill runs at the feet of the Dentelles de Montmirail.  Then off to the market at Roaix, Avignon, and a particularly famous bridge.  And Monday?  Well, then the tastings begin, so stay tuned for more from the south of France, the Land of Flav--...sorry, couldn't do it.

Off to Chateauneuf...TODAY!

I made some promises a few weeks ago that Strasbourg's tasting notes and a few other 'events' would be catalogued in detail here. That has failed to happen. Life gets in the way sometimes. Sometimes other opportunities trump the necessity to sit in front of a microchip and commemorate the past. So, here's me looking towards the future...as in later today.

Courtesy of D. Stone and Dominique the Donkey, aka Tom, who graciously demanded I accompany them to Rasteau and the greater southern Rhone (yes, that's right--Chateauneuf du Pape!!!), I'm on a mission to peel off the layers of this complicated tapestry of vines and terroirs to see what really lies beneath it all.  Passion?  I hope so.  Tradition?  Goes without saying...I think.  Progress and innovation?  Nothing wrong with that.

So...yet another event coming up, one that I'll be doing my best to document every day during our stay.  Tune in!

04 March 2010

Joe Dourthe

What a sensational gift.  The following wine was brought over to Villa de la Vogel for Christa Francis' Friday night "Wine and Dine Fiestathon" by two kind ladies, Jess and Sarah.  They brought another 2001 Chianti Classico Riserva, the name of which escapes me right now, but should also prove to be extremely interesting, if not equally good.  Though the girls probably didn't realize it, the wines for the dinner had already been preselected, and thus their own wine became ipso facto my mid-week wine # 2, Vignobles Dourthe 'Cour du Roy', Appellation Bordeaux (12,5% abv). 

While there seems to be very little information regarding this operation, lacking even a passing mention on Vins et Vignobles Dourthe's own website, www.dourthe.com , I can tell you there's enough info in the bottle and glass to prompt the questions "Where did you buy this?" and "How much did it run ya?"  At first, however, I found the low-grade composite cork distracting.  It makes the product seems so industrialized.  While I understand Dourthe is a very large--some might even go so far as to say industrialized--company, the wines I've tasted from them are nothing if not inspired.  At first glance the wine displays an opaque profile, a salmon-tinted rim, and a translucent ruby core.  The nose is far from bombastic, as one would hope from Bordeaux, but still puts out blackberry, ripe cherry, cassis and clodded earth with aplomb.   Hints of tarragon reminiscent of the other night's Pinot 'M' meet savory sage notes.  Nothing overtly says OAK, though the label boasts a 12-month √©levage in new oak.  This seems to have the requisite ripeness to stand up to whatever its oak regimen may have been.  There is nothing green about the wine, and there's only the slightest hint of steminess I frequently find in these more generic Bordeaux AOC wines (though in most others, that note is far more pronounced). 

The palate is silky smooth, full of fruity flesh, restrained sweetness, imperceptible tannin, and a pleasantly herbal finish.  Cranberry and pomegranate flood the first sensations, followed closely by notes of fresh blueberry and sugared rhubarb, echoing a plowed earth note that carries stridently through the (dare I say) long-ish finish.  With ample air and swirling, black licorice really starts to take center stage.

This seems to be standard fare for the folks at Dourthe.  I don't know who the talent is behind their viticulture and winemaking team, but this is yet another wine from their large Bordeaux stable that comes free of harsh edges, full of pulpy, vibrant fruit, lacking nothing whatsoever in terms of Bordeaux typicity--acidity, savory but linear fruit, and palatable dirt--and finishing with the freshness that demands gulp after gulp. These are indeed the unifying characteristics of all the great Dourthe wines, the Belgrave's, the le Boscq's:  extreme drinkability, respectable complexity, and very fair pricing for the quality.  If you see this wine or anything else with the name Dourthe on it at the grocery or the wine shop, rest assured you're getting a fair shake at delicious bargain Bordeaux.  They're wines even Joe Dirt--or is it 'Dourthe'?--would be proud of.

Thanks Jess and Sarah!