Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pledging Allegiance To Roussillon

It is a commonplace among people who write about wine and food--especially Old World (France, Italy, Spain, Germany, etc.) wine and food--to recommend drinking the local wine with the local cuisine. I know for a fact that in certain areas of France, it is not only recommended, it is, as a practical matter, the only available course of action. When you're in the Perigord, you might find a Rhone or two on a wine list, but then again, you might not. Chianti? Forget it! Come to think of it, I can recall a time when it wasn't all that easy to find a bottle from Bergerac or Cahors in the Napa Valley, either.

Where I live in western North Carolina, the wine industry is too small and too new to have integrated itself into the local food culture. Perhaps one day Sean McRitchie's awesome "Ring of Fire" cabernet franc will pierce the consciousness of the region's chefs, but apparently Fate does not want McRitchie to become famous too soon.

So, unlike basketball (30 years a Celtics fan, no matter where I live), I get to choose my wine allegiance. I suppose Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne are obvious choices, and the Loire and Piemonte can be dazzling. But after a life-altering visit a few years ago to Maury and the surrounding area, my heart belongs to the French side of Catalonia. So I pledge allegiance to Roussillon, and to the crazy-quilt of soils for which it stands. One nation, under Carignan, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Muscat and Maccabeu, with vin doux naturel for all.

The gentleman who symbolizes Roussillon's transformation from backwater to avant-garde is Gérard Gauby of Domaine Gauby, who recognized the potential in his father's ancient, low-yielding vines. Read Rosemary George's appreciation of him here. Among other things, he has brought up a generation of disciples to carry on his concept of "more bio than bio" grape-growing and winemaking. One of the best is Jean-Louis Tribouley.

Click here to read Tribouley's story in his own words (and those of David Schildknecht). 

Jean-Louis Tribouley "Orchis" Vin du Pays des Cotes Catalanes
This was made from fruit grown in his Coume du Roi vineyard, planted with about 75% Grenache and 25% Carignan. As has always been the practice in most Roussillon vineyards, grapes were hand-harvested. Unlike most, the  grapes were also hand-destemmed. As you'll have read in the link above, yields are ridiculously low. The wine opens with aromas of cinnamon stick, chocolate malt, sweet herbs, and orange rind. In the mouth, assertive flavors of black and red cooked raspberry and cherry. Very full mouthfeel, slightly grainy texture: Rich but not unctuous. There is a bit of alcoholic heat. The overall impression is of a wine that is deep, juicy, exotic, sensual, and to me completely addictive.  Tribouley's wines are usually available in Asheville at The Asheville Wine Market and at Table Wine. Orchis is usually priced in the mid-$30s.

If you think my notes on this wine are over the top, take a gander at David Schildknecht's for the 2010 vintage. (What does "an ineffable sense of crystalline mineral impingement" mean, anyway?)

1 comment:

michele colline said...

Sign me up! I'm ready to go back in a heartbeat.