Wines From A Trip to France (March 9 – March 13, 2016)

  • Chateau Gardiole, Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape, 2012
  • Domaine Benedetti, Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape, 2010
  • Domaine Eyverine, Cairanne, Cotes-du-Rhone Villages, 2012

BBC Good Food has an excellent recipe for a greek lamb bake. The dish calls for lasagna-esque layering of aubergines, potatos, and tomatoes. Garlic, minute but potent Kalamata olives, and an oregano dusting serve as buffers between the layers. Of course, feta is also bountifully involved. The lamb sits atop, princess of the pea to the potato mattresses, (there are no peas involved – thank god). Two hours in the oven blends the flavors together. The outcome is delicious, full of vegetable flavors and the meatiness of the lamb’s juices, scored with the sharpness of the olives and garlic.

The strength of the flavors in this dish call for a pairing with wines of strong personality. It is always nice to pair a dish with wines that match in one’s mind as well as on one’s palate. If we play by these rules, we need wines that both buy into the rustic feel of the dish, whilst staying true to the Mediterranean basin vibe. Enter the Southern Rhone.

Unlike its colleagues from the Northern Rhone, which tend towards being mono-varietal Syrah wines, the Southern Rhone is a land of blends. Grenache, Carrigan, and Syrah share the honors – mixed in with varietals that are lesser known (except in the Languedoc where some are heavily used in the Corbieres and the Coteaux du Languedoc – often to great effect).

When done right, the blending allows for smoothness and fruit to hang like silky cloth on the muscular body of the underlying Syrah. If left bank Bordeaux is fine Merlot drapery on a beautiful – but slightly underfed – model called Cabarnet, Rhone wines involve the buttocks of an Olympic rower.

Centerpiece Wine: Chateau de la Grande Gardiole, 2012

Robe: A light slightly ochre red, clearer than expected. An elegant and sensitive color that trends towards rose petal pinkness. Very large and clear rim.

Nez: Not hugely developed but, when caught, the wine reveals pleasant flavors of sweet red fruit. The strawberry note was particularly striking – no vegetable scent at all.

Bouche: Light tannins balance out a pleasant sweetness. The wine has a lovely roundness to it, which it manages to maintain for an astounding duration. Each sip demands long moments of attention. The balance feels great – no excessive acidity or strong tannin intercede to tamper the initial, pleasant sweetness.

Superb CdP for the price range. 92/100


The “We Need More Wine” wine: Domaine Eyverine, Cairanne, 2012

Robe: Much darker than the Gardiole. The color is several hues closer to pourpre.

Nez: The vegetable that was noticeably absent from the Gardiole is back with a vengeance.   Accompanying it are forest fruit, but whereas with the Gardiole fresh strawberries were honored, the fruit in the Cairanne seem ripe or even over-ripe. The scent carries no promise of youthful sweetness.

Bouche: For a relatively inexpensive wine, Cairanne provides supple smoothness. The tannic profile is slightly higher than on the CdP but still inoffensive. As in the nose, the Gardiole’s sweetness is mostly gone. Replacing it are deeper and darker flavors. This is a stronger wine – what it gains in forcefulness it looses in elegance and intricacy. But based on the pairing it might actually be a better choice overall on the day.

Excellent for the price. 91/100;  Cairanne is considered one of the very best among the named CdR Villages appellations and this take on it was excellent (especially for six euros).


Domaine Benedetti, 2010

A few days later, a re-organization of my wine fridge revealed four 2010 Domaine Benedetti CdP. The Domaine seems to belong to a smaller producer and boasts of coming third in the Concours des Vignerons Independants, in which smaller producers compete for a prize whose attribution is decided by trained, yet still amateur, wine tasters.

Robe: A strong purple hue. This looked more a like a young Syrah rather than a six year old CdP. From sight alone, it would have been impossible to suspect that this wine and the Grande Gardiole were from the same region. The contrast was all the more surprising as the Domaine Benedetti was from 2010, making it the Gardiole’s senior by two years.

Nez: Strong notes of red fruit – principally cherry – underscored by vanilla. The fruity smells had a slight hint of artificiality.

Bouche: The cherry, recognizable in the wine’s hue and smell, showed up again on the palate. So, unfortunately, did the slight hint of artificiality. This was particularly noticeable here as this CdP comes across very fruit heavy. Despite this sour note, the wine had some very pleasant characteristics on the mouth. Most notably, it displayed a velvety thickness underscored by a lovely long chewy finish and nicely developed tannins.

Nice CdP on the cheaper end of the range. Very interesting contrasts between this Domaine and the Cht Gardiole, perhaps reflecting a difference in vintages? 89/100. Would score higher but for the slightly artificial notes.

Some other wines:

  • Moulin de Citran, Haut Medoc, 2009 (second wine of the Chateau de Citran; excellent Bordeaux for the price range. Lovely structure – drink now / next year)
  • Chateau LeVivier, Medoc, 2005 (starting to taste tired – drink now. Already lost much of the elegance and lustre from when first tasted in the summer of 2015).
  • Intermarché’s Sancerre offering “Whose name I forget (but will update)”, Classic Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc. Very fresh and powerful nose with a strong smell of green apples and well tended lawns. Lovely fresh palate – good minerality and structure with a real sense of freshness. Eaten with Sole mariniere, for which it was a good pairing.
  • La Batisse Rouge, Cairanne, Cote-du-Rhone Villages, 2014, White (Grenache blanc, Roussane). Strong floral notes with a hint of vanilla. Very pleasant wine (which may even have suffered from having been open for a while when I got to it). Both the nose and the palate evoked the wild flowers and long wheat like grass of prairie fields. Was this contrast with the fresh grassiness of the Sancerre due to the varietals or the temperature of the wine?




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