You may think Terret is unfamiliar, but if you've ever drunk a cheap white from the Languedoc, especially from Hérault, you've probably had it. In its most common incarnation, it's a cheap blender, light, crisp, and inoffensive. Blended with Clairette and Picpoul, it is a common ingredient in French white vemouth. But there's always somebody who is willing to show how an also-ran can turn into a winner, given enough loving care. Which brings us to Nicole Bojanowski, vigneronne, who, along with her American husband John (and daughter Sacha) grows Terret Gris in St. Jean de Minervois. She grows Terret organically on what she calls “white, blinding phonolithic calcium carbonate rocks,” at an altitude of just over 900 feet. The wine is fermented naturally and aged on its lees for a year in a 500 liter barrel. She's quite a character, and her Ivy-educated husband writes well. The website is absolutely worth a visit.
Clos du Gravillas “Emmenez moi au bout de la Terret” 2009: Ms. Bojanowski is not much for hewing to appellation disciplines; she's entitled to use “Minervois” on her labels but prefers the lesser “Vin de Pays Côtes de Brian.” This vintage is made from Terret gris, aka Terret Bourret. This is quite yellow in the glass; I thought for a moment it was oxidized. Upon opening, it has a vigorously aromatic nose of clove, allspice, and cardamom. On the palate, yellow fruit, tropical fruit, a note of black licorice, and a minerally, gunflinty finish. After a few minutes in the glass, and served along side tilefish with tomato and capers, it became lemony and not quite so out-there. The wine is imported by Bruno Arricastres at Wine Without Borders; we got this at 3Cups; it cost $22.
Oh yeah: The name is a play on the lyrics to a very romantic Charles Aznavour song. The original line is “Emmenez moi au bout de la Terre” which translates as "take me till the end of the world."
[Be sure to read John's comments below--he says this is the wine that has made some locals tear up, it so reminded them of wines grandaddy made!]
PS: Has anyone noticed how many women winemakers there are in Minervois? In addition to Nicole Bojanowski, there are Patricia Boyer-Domergue at Clos Centeilles; Françoise Frissant at Chateau Coupe-Roses; Josiane Orosquette at Chateau La Grave; Isabelle Coustal at Chateau Sainte-Eulalie; Emilie Faussie at Chateau de Violet; Mireille Meyzonnier at Domaine Meyzonnier; and Viviane Bellido at Domaine des Murettes.