Monday, March 23, 2009
A grenache hater's tale of one '05 Cotes du Rhone
Grenache is hot. It gets too ripe. It's all fruit, no nuance. It's part of the reason why many well informed, particularly astute and, well, particular wine drinkers have all but abandoned Spanish wines.
Personally I detest most Chateauneuf du Pape. Many Cotes du Rhone strike me as all fruit, no acid, occasionally prematurely oxidizing, boring red wines. Garnacha from Spain is occasionally interesting, but you need to be incredibly selective to find a good one.
Well, leave it up to Terroir to serve up one of the brightest, most delicious and fun to drink bottles of southern Rhone wine I have yet to have, the 2005 Eric Texier St Gervais. Eric Texier gets lots of ink (perhaps I should say 'screen play') on wine blogs. He makes wine sourced from the Maconnais, northern Rhone as well as the southern Rhone. As one would expect for a wine of this quality, the vines are grown naturally, with cover crops between rows and occasional tilling to loosen the soil, which consists of decomposed limestone, clay and gravel. Located on a south facing vineyard in the relatively cooler climate of the Rhone village of St Gervais, vines (predominately grenache) average 80 years of age.
While Texier makes a wide range of wines from a number of different vineyards, the wines are each fermented near their respective source vineyard, and then aged in traditional 228 liter wood barrels and larger demi-muids (450 liters) in his cellar outside of Lyon (Beaujolais).
It's quite unusual for wines from the warmer southern Rhone to go through elevage in Beaujolais, where the cellar temperature is cooler and more steady. Just as I imagine it is unusual to transfer grapes immediately after harvesting to refrigerated trucks and then on to the winery. This attention to detail, combined with the excellent vineyards Texier owns and sources, surely are key factors in producing some of the most lively and unique expressions of grenache based wines in the world. If you haven't already, you should try them sometime.