Monthly Archives: October 2019

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 21, 2019

2016 Domaine Marchand-Tawse, Gamay, Coteaux Bourguignons, France -photo grapelive

2016 Domaine Marchand-Tawse, Gamay, Coteaux Bourguignons, France.
This wonderfully textural and pretty Marchand-Tawse 100% Gamay Coteaux Bourguignons is made from grapes sourced from two sustainably grown clay and limestone soil vineyards located mainly in the village of Flagey-Echézaux with a smaller portion coming from the village of Vosne- Romanée, which give this unique Cote de Nuits Gamay a real sense of terroir, clearly drinking with the soul of a Burgundy with a Pinot Noir like character, while unmistakably dark fruited Gamay at heart. This is a stunning value, from a region not known for bargains, with sensational transparency and purity, once again proving the commitment and passion for quality at this domaine under the direction of Pascal Marchand, the French Canadian, ex Comte Armand winemaker, who along with his partner Moray Tawse created this label and purchased the famed Domaine Maume in 2012, along the talents Mark Fincham (who I have tasted with a few times over the years) and Thomas Dinel in the cellar, gaining access to some of the regions best plots and are making an incredible collection of wines. Part of the new wave of vignerons and micro-négociants who, with their partner-growers, embrace organic and biodynamic farming practices while rejecting dogma, Marchand and team work hard to maintain traditions, but also embrace modern techniques as long as they don’t take from being as natural as possible in line with the mission and passion here. This is really good stuff, and while I have focused on Marchand-Tawse’s outstanding set of red and white Burgundies many, many times over the years here on, this was my first time trying their little Gamay, and I can tell you, I won’t forget this one, it easily fits in with their set Nuits-Saint-George reds, their awesome Meursault and my personal favorite their Morey-Saint-Denis, Rue de Vergy, which is one of the best kept secrets in Burgundy.

The 2016 Gamay Coteaux Bourguignons unfolds quickly in the glass, starting with tiny hint of earthy reduction before revealing a delicate spicy and floral bouquet with violets, rose oil and dried herbs leading to a smooth tannin structured medium bodied palate of blackberry, blueberry, sweet cherry and tangy plum fruits as well as racy acidity, mineral tones, a light sense of walnut, truffle, minty anise and just the right amount of peppery stemmy bite. Tasting this Marchand-Tawse Gamay with winemaker Russell Joyce, who does a very limited all carbonic bottling of true Gamay Noir here on the central coast, which is one of the best I’ve tasted in the state, it as mentioned above by both of us, how Pinot (or Burgundy) like this wine drinks, leaving us impressed, this is a wine that transcends its varietal make up. Marchand, Fincham and Dinel used 100% whole-cluster here with a traditional (semi-carbonic) fermentation with natural or indigenous yeasts in steel vats with daily punchdowns to ensure extraction, which heightens the dark purple/garnet color and gives this wine spine, then after primary the Gamay was rested in used French oak with a combination of barrique and larger demi-muids (casks) for close to a year with another couple of months in vat (with two rackings) before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. All the vineyard and cellar work were done to the lunar calendar in keeping with biodynamic principles, all to showcase the complexity of its Echézaux and Vosne-Romanée terroirs. I would bet this 2016 will last a surprisingly long time, but serious I can’t imagine waiting on this one, I just want to pop every bottle I have, drink this brilliant Gamay anytime you can, it is really worth searching out and stocking up on.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 20, 2019

nv Parusso, Rosé Langhe Nebbiolo Spumante, Metodo Classico, Piedmonte, Italy -photo grapelive

nv Parusso, Rosé Langhe Nebbiolo Spumante, Metodo Classico, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Armando Parusso sparkling Nebbiolo, made in the Champagne method, is a handcrafted beauty by winemaker Marco Parusso, who’s winery in Barolo is famous for their powerful red wines from native varietals and especially their Nebbiolo(s) from from top sites like Rocche, where they got their start plus Mosconi and Bussia. Parusso, founded back in 1901 by Gaspare Parusso, didn’t start bottling estate wines until Marco’s dad, Armando started the family label in 1971 to pursue quality and a personal expression in the wines and his son Marco, who became involved at a very young age, has taken these wines to an exceptional level, and his wonderful dry, very Brut like and elegant Langhe Rosé Nebbiolo Spumante is a thrill in the glass, it’s a grower fizz that is a unique bubbly that shows class and terroir. This Rosé bubbly is vibrant and vivid with pretty copper/pinkish hue along with a delicate and caressing feel, but vigorous mousse that delivers riveting complexity on the palate showing mixed citrus, dried apricot, tart cherry and strawberry fruits as well as spice, rose petals, a touch of earth, tannin and leesy notes.

This exciting bubbly really needs rustic and robust cuisine to display its true nature, it deserves a matching meal and can without question became a centerpiece of an event, it easily handled a family style dinner when I sampled it, going wonderfully with an array of food choices, including everything from meyer lemon pizza to steamed mussels in garlic and wine broth, plus French fries and a burger! Marco employed classic techniques to make this Rosé Langhe Nebbiolo Spumante, which is listed as non-vintage and comes from Barolo hillside sites on sandy marl and clay soils, using a combination of stainless steel vats and large wood casks with a short maceration to extract that perfect color and then with a long cool ferment, which lasted close to a month before resting on the lees for about three years. There’s a lot of buzz about Italian sparkling wine, some is pure hype, but I must agree there is some magical stuff out there with a whole new generation dedicating themselves to quality, which is lifting everything to the next level, and the Piedmonte region has emerged as a hot spot with many intriguing surprises to discover like this rare one.
($49 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 19, 2019

2015 Chateau Pegau, Cotes du Rhone Rouge “Maclura” Rhone Valley, France -photo grapelive

2015 Chateau Pegau, Cotes du Rhone Rouge “Maclura” Rhone Valley, France.
The richly flavored and complex Maclura Cotes du Rhone Rouge by Laurence Feraud of Chateau Pegau and Domaine de Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape fame is made up of about 60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre and 5% Cinsault, it’s a wine that shows vintage and terroir to beautiful effect with warm ripe fruit, spice and earthy charms. This wine comes from estate vines that average between 35 and 60 years old set on classic Chateauneuf like terroir with deep, stony, clay soils marked by round galets in the Sorgues area, all within 4 miles of the much more famous Chateauneuf du Pape AOC. The “Maclura”, which is named after a type of Osage Orange tree (also known by the name Hedge Apple) by Feraud by for the many of these trees that line the Chateau’s grounds, hence inspiring the name of this cuvée, shows, especially in this 2015 vintage, deep color and loads of black and red fruits including boysenberry, sweet plums, pomegranate and strawberry compote along with a hint of stems, a fleshy textural feel, as well as peppery spices, lavender, anise, creme de cassis, leather and dusty stones. This ready to go stuff is sultry and is hedonism in the glass, not overtly so, but with top notch quality and it is performing well right now.

This wine was produced with traditional methods, whole cluster and fermented using indigenous yeasts, all in epoxy lined tanks without any oak all to promote purity of form and to allow the place to shine through on the full bodied palate. Pegau, since Laurence took over here, has become one of the Rhone’s great estates and her wines are exceptional and world class, in particular her Chateauneuf(s) of course, but wine lovers, especially Grenache fans should really look for this Maclura Cotes du Rhone, with its pretty character and smooth tannins it really is easy to love, while still being rather serious in style. Feraud, while admitting these Cotes du Rhone(s) are not Chateauneuf(s), she keeps yields absurdly low, using only limits permitted in Chateauneuf noting that the wines have all of the density and hedonism of their big brother(s) from the fabled region. Pegau’s current lineup is full of stars and value, also of note is the Cotes du Rhone “Lone” Blanc made from 40% Clairette, 30% Bourboulenc, 20% Grenache Blanc and 10% Ugni Blanc, which is also delicious. This 2015 Cotes du Rhone Rouge, all organic, is a savvy crowd pleaser and great with a variety of cuisine, I highly recommend it with these cool Fall evenings and simple, but robust meals, drink now and often.
($23 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Happy #ChampagneDay Special

nv Vilmart & Cie. Grand Cellier, Premier Cru Brut Champagne, a Rilly la Montagne, France -photo grapelive

nv Vilmart & Cie. Grand Cellier, Premier Cru Brut Champagne, a Rilly la Montagne, France.
Laurent Champs’ grower producer Vilmart Champagne’s are some of the greatest wines in the world and they seem to get better and more elegant with each vintage and collection he reveals and I especially love the latest disgorgement of his Premier Cru Brut Grand Cellier that comes from his organic estate vines in Rilly la Montagne 1er Cru “Hautes Grèves” with its precision and vinous sex appeal. This Champers at this price is outrageously good and incredibly well crafted in the house style, which is luxurious, but structured with delicacy and wonderful detail throughout on the medium bodied palate with layers of white flowers, mineral, crushed stones, lemon, peach and hazelnut all flowing seamlessly and caressingly in the mouth, finishing with lovely leesy/yeasty brioche, while staying invigorating and taught, this is fabulous bubbly in the same class as Krug, but maybe less obvious in form. The majority of Vilmart’s 11 hectares of vines, as noted by his famous importer Terry Theise, who was one of first to recognize the quality in site expression Champagnes, lie in Rilly-la-Montagne, although there are a few plots just over the border in the neighboring village of Villers-Allerand. Vilmart, Theise adds, is a member of Ampelos, an organization that promotes organic and sustainable viticulture in the region, and Champs has never used any herbicides or chemical fertilizers since taking over the helm heree.

The latest Vilmart Grand Cellier 1er Cru is a cepage blend of about 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir with the Assemblage being from 2012-2013-2014 vintages with a minimum of 10 months in used French oak cask, which adds that voluptuous feel, while still having that zest acidity and core grip of tension that makes this beauty stand out. The Grand Cellier can almost stand up to decanting as it is ever changing in the glass with creamy mousse that seduces and it certainly can and should be paired with cuisine, such is the grace and complexity found here, like all the Vilmart offerings it is something exotic and special to enjoy. Champagne Vilmart, which dates back to 1890 when it was founded by Desire Vilmart and it has always been focused on grower fizz, being a récoltant-manipulant, making champagne exclusively from estate-owned vines since the very beginning. Since 1989 the estate has been in the hands of Laurent Champs, one of France’s great winegrowers and cellar master, he is the fifth generation of his family to lead this exceptional and prized estate. Champs, who declares he is a vintner first and a Champagne maker second says he does wine first, then afterward we do Champagne, and these age amazingly well changing with dramatic effect in bottle after 3 to 5 years, even the non-vintage bubbly like this one, and especially the Rubis Cuvee Brut Rosé, which is like drink sparkling Grand Cru Burgundy! Happy #ChampagneDay
($60 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 18, 2019

2013 Jim Barry Wines, Shiraz “The Armagh” Clare Valley, South Australia -photo grapelive

2013 Jim Barry Wines, Shiraz “The Armagh” Clare Valley, South Australia.
The beautiful Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz is really showing well at the moment with impressive restraint and layering, while still having a seriously dense (rich) and powerful presence in the glass with an inky purple/black and crimson hue and a dark berry coulis and spice laced full bodied palate, it is a wine to be taken seriously and enjoyed for another decade or more. Coming off old vine parcels in the Mounty Lofty Ranges zone of South Australia’s Clare Valley, with the Armagh vineyard, named for the original Irish settlers that came here back in 1849, was planted by Jim Barry in back in 1968 and yields less than two tonnes per acre. The soil here in this more mild and cool site is on sandy-gravel soils with a north-west facing slope that acts as a sun basket making sure these special vines get perfectly ripe. This vintage was warm and the tannins are strikingly silky allowing for early drinking on a wine known for its stellar age worthy structure, though this vintage still has plenty of guts under the hood showing blackberry, crushed flowers, blueberry compote, toast notes and creme de cassis along with hints of loam, cedar, peppery spice and a touch of loam, mineral and mole. Swirling and air bring further dimension with anise, embers, elderflower/violet and plum fruit, in a Syrah that should thrill the enthusiast, it’s a wine that stands proudly with the world’s best versions of this grape, be it other Aussie champs or wines like Guigal’s cru Cote-Rotie, La La bottlings. Australia is going through a big change and re-birth in many ways, with an export market looking to China and young winemakers going for a lighter style and elegance, which is to be admired, and while Aussie wines sometimes are, if not often overlooked in the states, classics like this wine are a reminder of this country’s greatness in this ever tightening niche of collector wines.

Peter Barry is the second generation winemaker here at Jim Barry Wines, named after his late father, and has been the managing director and winemaker since 1985, with his son Tom Barry, who is a young winemaker to watch getting a lot of attention at home, he is the third generation here following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps, after graduating with an oenology degree in 2010 and stints at Yalumba, Australia’s oldest winery and Shaw + Smith, a boutique label that make great Aussie Riesling as well as the famed Dr. Loosen (Mosel) and even part of harvest at Donnhoff (Nahe) in Germany. This makes sense as Jim Barry has some exceptional Riesling vines and make a tasty version too, with Tom showing a real touch with this grape as well as with the famous Shiraz, and he has been helping his father keep the Jim Barry winery at the top echelon of Australian wine. The Armagh was traditional fermented with great care done in the sorting with de-stemmed berries and then aged a full 20 months in 60% French and 40% American oak barrels, which gives this Shiraz its Aussie character, but at 14% natural alcohol it is a wonderfully purring beast with a refined sense of balance and it should continue to develop for years and years, while not cheap, it is almost half the price of comparable wines like Penfolds Grange, Hill of Grace by Henschke and the mentioned Guigal La La’s. The current set of wines at Jim Barry are all worthy of checking out, especially the lower end stuff, including as noted the Riesling, the rare Assyrtiko (geek grape), along with the Cabernet Sauvignon(s), though of course the Shiraz collection stands out and this Armagh, an Aussie first growth, is a treat indeed.
($250 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 17, 2019

2016 Luigi Ferrando, Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG “La Torrazza” Northern Piedmonte, Italy -photo grapelive

2016 Luigi Ferrando, Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG “La Torrazza” Northern Piedmonte, Italy.
One of the coolest and best value Italian whites from the Alto Piedmonte, the Ferrando Erbaluce di Caluso La Torrazza is full of energy, depth and dry extract, gaining texture and richness (body) with air and time in the glass, making for a remarkable wine from a little know varietal that was close to extinction less than a generation ago. In recent years, Ferrando and Favaro have really shown the quality in this grape and have brought this DOCG into the spotlight and onto the world’s stage, making dry and elegant wines that has a serious nature and mouth feel that rivals some much more expensive regional white wines including some famous places like Burgundy and the Loire Valley. The Erbaluce, an ancient grape that little is know about, but once was thought of as the noble varietal in this northwest part of Italy, finds its home high up in the Canavese district, the lake country in the Alpine foothills north of Torino, it’s a place that has gained attention for Nebbiolo wines lately with wines that are now thought of in the same breath as the fabled Alba and Asti zones, with Ferrando crafting a fine expression of Nebbiolo as well. The La Torrazza is 100% stainless steel fermented and aged to preserve purity and freshness, which shows clearly in this 2016 vintage with its brisk lemony tones and underlying natural acidity delivering layers of peach (like Chenin in some ways), mixed citrus and lime blossoms, minty mountain herbs, acacia honey and steely crispness.

Here in the Canavese, according to Ferrando’s importer, Rosenthal, that northwesterly most area of Piedmont that sits on the western flank of the Alto Piemonte before the transition to the Vallé d’Aosta, Erbaluce produces the sole white wines of this region granted DOCG status, Erbaluce di Caluso, Erbaluce di Caluso Spumante, Erbaluce di Caluso Passito. Adding also that, Historical records show that Erbaluce’s virtues were touted as early as 1606. The name reflects the grassy, hay-like qualities of its flavors and aromas (Erbe … meaning grass or herbs) and its ability to capture and thrive on the light (Luce) from the sun that sweeps across these terraced hillsides in abundance throughout the growing season. The soils here were formed by glaciers (moraine) and are mineral rich, which transmits itself in the wines. Ferrando crafts this wine without malolactic fermentation, and its bottled after eight months on the fine lees, that adds the textural finesse without the use of oak. After time in the glass this light golden Erbaluce adds savory tones, quince tanginess, crushed stones and spicy jasmine. This wine is fabulous with food and especially sea food and soft cheeses and as well as being a fine choice with oysters. There’s a ton of interest in the Piedmonte whites and this Erbaluce is really worth discovering and Ferrando is a great starting point, and this vintage should drink well for another 3 to 5 years easy.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 16, 2019

2017 Domaine Camille et Mathieu Lapierre, Juliénas, Cru Beaujolais, France -photo grapelive

2017 Domaine Camille et Mathieu Lapierre, Juliénas, Cru Beaujolais, France.
The Lapierre Juliénas is beautifully ripe, perfumed and almost exotic in nature with its unique volcanic and schist soil giving loads of floral tones, spicy contrast and mineral highlights. Coming from a single lieu-dit known as Côte de Bessay this Juliénas Cru Beaujolais is a pure Gamay wine that, again like the more well known Morgon bottlings from Lapierre is crafted with traditional whole cluster fermentation à l’ancienne and using 100% native yeasts and was aged on the fine lees in used ex Burgundy barrels. The palate is full and packed with blackberry, strawberry and cherry fruits along with hints of black walnut, anise, tangy herb, all spice and dried violets showing the vintage to perfection and allowing the Gamay’s true nature to shine with an underlying freshness and purity of form, creating a sexy balance of juicy fruit and lively acidity that is impossible to resist.

Mathieu and his sister Camille Lapierre confidently continue the great work that their late father Marcel pioneered with this domaine based in Morgon, and now having introduced all biodynamic vineyard practices and ensuring that Marcel’s legacy of Jules Chauvet influenced traditional wine growing lives on. The viticulture and vinification, as noted by importer Kermit Lynch, of their Juliénas is the same as the estate’s more famous Morgon offerings, starting with old vines, in this case over 60 years old, never using synthetic herbicides or pesticides, harvesting late for deep flavor development, rigorously sorting to remove all but the healthiest grapes, and adding the absolute minimal doses of sulfur (as this one has) or none at all, everything is done here to adhere to Chauvet and their fathers belief in natural wine. That said, Mathieu and Camille have made this label a reflection of the past and future, carving out their own niche and making exceptional wines, like this one.
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 15, 2019

2018 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Trocken “Alte Reben” Mosel Germany -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Trocken “Alte Reben” Mosel Germany.
These 2018s by Christopher Loewen are something very special and maybe even a step up on the last few outstanding vintages produced here at Weingut Carl Loewen with exceptional wines throughout the lineup, especially the top Feinherb and GG bottlings, but his entry level wines are stunning too and, at the price, are Rieslings to stock up on, in particular look for this gorgeous and seriously bone dry Old Vine “Alte Reben” Trocken. It was great seeing Christopher again and taste his latest finished bottlings, like this one as well as his amazing barrel samples of the top wines, like his monumental 1896 Feinherb from the Maximin Herrenberg and the mighty Ritsch Riesling Trocken “GG”, both wines I’ve fallen in love with in recent years and written about. As Loewen’s famous Riesling guru and evangelist Terry Theise notes, this is a cuvée from old ungrafted parcels in Loewen’s collection of steep plots which are on this part of the Mosel’s classic grey slate soils, though Loewen says there are veins of red volcanic deposits here too, that are now being worked only using organic methods and harvested by hand. Loewen farms mostly in three VDP Grosse Lage sites, Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg, Thörnicher Ritsch and Leiwener Laurentiuslay and is now considered one of the region’s superstars, the rise from solid to stellar has come recently with the generational shift from father to son, as has happened all over the world, and the praise here is incredibly well deserved.

Like all the wines Christopher makes, the grapes are all pressed whole cluster and pomace is never moved as to not break the stems, which, as Loewen notes, leads to phenolic flavors and bitterness that he wants to avoid. The juice, he adds, is “browned” or oxidized pre- fermentation, a practice common in Burgundy, and his ferments are completely natural without addition of yeast known here as Sponti, plus absolutely no enzymes or nutrition is used. This wine, one step up from the entry level estate, is an all stainless wine and while severely dry it manages to be complex and textural, it is a serious Riesling for those that want pure minerallity and racy acidity above all else. This 2018 shows a bit more fullness of form without losing any energy with exciting layers of zesty citrus and orchard stone fruits along with a hint of tropical essences and flinty/stony spiciness with lime, green melon, white peach, tart apricot and tangerine as well as crystalized ginger, wet shale, salty sea shore, white lavender/rose, chamomile and crisp apple skin. Tart and mouth watering, this Alte Reben is still concentrated and has loads of structural extract, making for a complete Riesling that is zippy and refreshing, but one that can deliver a world class performance with food, it is a sleeper in the latest set from the talented Loewen, but one well worth seeking out! If wine is a story of people and place, it’s wines like this that are a celebration of that image and it is a joy to drink.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 14, 2019

2017 Domaine Vincent Paris, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, Northern Rhone, France -photo grapelive

2017 Domaine Vincent Paris, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, Northern Rhone, France.
Vincent Paris, whose first vintage was 1997, is a native of Cornas and one of the Northern Rhone’s brightest young stars with an amazing set of Syrah wines, in particular look for his Granit 30 and Granit 60 bottlings, though his other village wines are killer too including some regional offerings that are spectacular values, like this brilliant dark purple 2017 vintage Crozes-Hermitage Rouge and his Saint-Joseph. Paris, who inherited most of his vines (some of which are 100 years old) from his grandfather has made quite a name for himself, plus he also rents vines from his uncle, the legendary Cornas vigneron Robert Michel, who’s influence and mentoring is evident in Vicent’s lovely wines. The Domaine wines are all biodynamically farmed vines, which are located in various parcels along the southeast facing Cornas slope, while the Vincent Paris Selection bottlings, like this one, come from various leased plots within quality terroirs, with this Crozes coming a long-time organic grower in Crozes with Syrah vines that average 30 years of age set on mostly alluvial soils and with “galet roulets” (large heat storing rocks) with a thin top soil.

This 2017 Crozes-Hermitage shows the vintage’s strength within the Northern Rhone with wonderful depth and ripe classic flavors and spicy detail, it was 100% de-stemmed and fermented without any oak at all, with it getting 9 months in tank only for absolute terroir and varietal purity. The bouquet is seductive with crushed violets, red and black fruits, graphite and a meaty element that is truly typical of the region along with a smooth tannin medium bodied palate that delivers boysenberry, damson plum, blueberry and kirsch fruits as well as peppercorns, minty herb, camphor, earth, bitter coco, creme de cassis and black licorice accents. This wine has been on run of great vintages with 2015, 2016 and this 2017 all being fantastic, each having subtle differing nuances, but overall similarly easy to love with exceptional quality, though I must say right away this one seems a touch more expressive and it really opens up quickly, this is a good year to stock up on, especially at this price it is hard to beat! Nice stuff to just quaff without any guilt and super with food, drink this pretty little thing over the next 3 to 5 years. Vincent Paris should without question, should be on your list of vignerons to follow, especially for the savvy/bargain buyer(s) and Syrah lovers, which I consider myself a full member of both.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 13, 2019

2017 Oliver Pithon,Cuvee Lais Rouge, Cotes du Languedoc, France -photo grapelive

2017 Oliver Pithon, Cuvee Lais Rouge, Cotes du Languedoc, France.
The old world Pithon Pais red blend from the lower Languedoc-Roussillon area in the Côtes Catalanes zone is made from all organic 40% Carignan, 40% Grenache Noir & 20% Mourvèdre that was grown on schiste, marl & limestone calcarious soils making for an intense meaty natural wine that reminds me of old Beaucastel and or Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneufs from the mid nineties or earlier! Olivier Pithon, originally from Anjou in the Loire Valley, where his family has the famous Pithon-Paillé winery, known for Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, fermented & aged each parcel and varietal separately for this wine and raised it before blending for about 16 mo in mostly large used casks which shows in the lightly bretty nose and the authentic earthy character​. The touch of reduction and smoky mineral note blows off with a few swirls and what lies beneath is a beautiful and almost delicate wine, but with a sense of raw power and depth as well showing a medium to full bodied palate with layers of plum, tart cherries, pomegranate and spiced boysenberry fruits along with minty herb, lavender, anise, leather and a flinty stony note, gaining a touch of floral essences, graphite and mineral, finishing nicely with ripe tannins and a refined balance with just 13.5% natural alcohol. This 2017 Lais Cotes du Languedoc Rouge fills out with air, going some flourish and flair, but stays almost Pinot Noir like in satiny form, making it counter to expectations, as this region in recent years has produced more super concentrated and extracted wines that are full blown with a sense of dry port like density, usually with an inky color, which this wine does not possess, it is more lively and has a more ruby/crimson hue. After many years of being a fan of Pithon-Paillé, it was exciting to try Olivier’s wine and I highly recommend that you check them out, with this one being a good starting place, but allow it to get air and enjoy it with rustic, simple country style cuisine choices, it is exceptional with food.

Olivier grew up working in the vineyard, gaining an early application for the results of hard work and the gifts of nature on the wine developing a respect for terroir. Though his importer, Floraison Selections, says Pithon was a rebellious youth, and left the family vineyard, deciding to made his way on his own, he first headed to Bordeaux to continue his studies in winemaking and in 2001 settled in Calce, in the remote Côtes Catalanes, not far from the Spanish border, after being introduced to local legend Gérard Gauby by his brother Jo (Pithon-Paillé). In a rags to riches story, Oilvier came to Calce with his cow Lais and his house and immediately set about to his work, by farming a few hectares organically and biodynamically. After producing some successful wines, he now the has 19 hectares of certified organic and biodynamic vines which Olivier farms with the help of 6 cows. He adds, “I’ve had only one desire: to give everything to my vines so that then they give it back in their grapes and in my wine(s).” He continues, “You must be proud and put your guts, your sweat, your love, your desires, your joy and your dreams into your wine.”​ Calce is situated at 300 meters above sea level and located between the Mediterranean, the Pyréenees and Corbières with Pithon’s domaine having several distinct parcels of marl, shale, schist and clay, offering an array of influences that make his wines unique. With a nod to tradition he works exclusively with regional varietals, mainly Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre for the reds and with Maccabeu, which is more common in Spain, Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc for the whites. This Lais Rouge is an impressive effort and a wonderful transparent expression of terroir and is very fairly priced for what develops in the glass, if you are a Rhone fan or into the Sierra de Gredos Garnacha(s) this is a producers to discover.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive