Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tasting At Château Mourgues du Grès

We tasted wines with Sophie Laurent, who handles exports at Château Mourgues du Grès. A native of Madiran, Sophie at a young age already has an extensive background in wine marketing, and what sounds like a daunting schedule of international travel ahead of her for the remainder of 2009, including what sounds like a hectic schedule of fairs and tastings in Asia.

Here's what we tasted:

Les Galets Dorés 2008: Grenache blanc and vermentino (80% combined) plus Rousanne, Marsanne, and Bourbolenc, all from young, north-facing vines. On the nose, herbs, light floral character, citrus and a note of honey. On the palate, bright citrus, very refreshing, with a bit of grapefruit pith at the back; then a last note of dried honey on the finish. This would be very good with the local brandade de morue or with a strong cheese.

Terre D’ Argence Vin du Pays du Gard 2007: Among the last bottles of the vintage. 40% Viognier, with roussane and marsanne. 5% of the viognier was barrel aged; the rest was aged seven months in stainless tanks. On the nose, lemon verbena and sweet mint; on the palate peach and apricot, maybe the barest hint of orange. Good acidity cuts the richness. Very appealing. The ’08, unsurprisingly, shows more fresh acidity.

Capitelles Rosé 2008: Barrel-aged for 3-4 months. Mostly mourvdre, with a bit of carignan. Vivid salmon color. Aromas and flavors of red cherry and other red fruits, oak spice, and red licorice.

Galets Rouge Rosé 2008: A little more carignan and more red fruit—bitter cherry, exotic spice, juicy, but with solid structure lent by minerality.

Terre d’Argence 2007: 85% Syrah, 15% Grenache, 5% oak-aged. Oriental spice, black olive, hint of meatiness on the nose. Follows through with deep plum, black fruits, minerals, and a long mineral-driven finish. A big wine, made from vines 40 years old and older. These are the vines below the top of the bluff; they face directly south. The deep color is the result of month-long maceration. The wine is aged up to a year in concrete.

Terre de Feu 2007: This is one that is not exported to the US. Peter Weygandt passed on it, and while I can understand why, it still seems a pity, because this is a unique wine. The “feu” refers to a fire that started near the top of the slope of the lower part of the vineyard in the famously hot, dry summer of 2003. There’s an SNCF track that runs along the crest of the hill, and a spark from a train ignited a fire that burned and slightly damaged some of the oldest Grenache vines. As she opens the bottle, Sophie says, “If you have difficulty breathing, open this wine.” It is spectacularly aromatic, releasing all the fragance of the vineyard—the wild fennel, the sweet mint, the garrigue. In the mouth, sweet tobacco vies with powerful unto jammy red raspberry and earth. The very dry finish is carried by tobacco, earth, and spice. This is an extreme wine, made only in the hottest vintages. The alcohol is labeled at 14.5%, but is almost certainly more like 15.5%. It is a bit hot at the end, just like the summers during which it is made.

Capitelles Rouge 2007: 85% syrah, 15% Grenache. The nose on this is almost like American petite sirah: Strong, rich aromas of blueberry, boysenberry, pepper and chocolate. There is also a distinctly local aroma of rich herbs. The biggest difference between this wine and a big California Petite Sirah is focus: The aromas and flavors do not disperse, but follow straight through to the finish. It's dense, rich stuff, and it is no surprise to learn that Mr. Parker thinks highly of it.

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