I jump at any chance to broaden my experience with French wines, particularly those from small growers. That's exactly what I got when I sat down last week with Vintage 59's Debra Lewis for a tasting.
Vintage 59 is an importer and distributor that represents a fairly narrow portfolio of wines form France, Portugal and America. The company's emphasis has been on cutting edge juice - whether it be from big producers or emerging young producers. The entire portfolio represents highly drinkable, largely organic or bio-dynamic wines.
In all, we tasted nine wines, these were my favorites:
Chateau Coupe Rose, Minervois Cuvee Vignals, 2007: This blend of Syrah, Grenache and a splash of clearly discernible Carignan is a true representation of its terroir. Even though it is made entirely in tank - no oak influence - this wine is fresh, spicy and lingering. Its earthiness comes from the region's rocky soil and garrigue - a type of low, soft-leaved scrubland found on limestone soils around the Mediterranean Basin. The vines have a good, long growing season, but spend that time scrambling for water on the rocky soil. You've no doubt had inexpensive vin de pays from this region - Languedoc-Rousillon - but none will compare to this small batch, hand-crafted wine. About $20.
Montitius, Vacqueyras Garrigues, 2007: There's that word again, garrique - so you should be primed for the results - earthiness, bright acidity and a lingering finish. The wine is a blend of Grenache and Syrah - the combination is virtually the reverse of the previously mentioned Minervois Cuvee Vignals, This time, the brilliant character of the Grenache grape is allowed to be the star. My cryptic shorthand notes surrendered a personal score of 5+ for this wine - my highest honor, and once I deciphered the scratching, I indicated Vacqueyras Garrigues to be "rich and luxurious." The gamey, erh, Provencal, nose is characteristic of Rhone Valley. Again, no oak touched this wine, which is finished in large cement vats - it is truly an example of what grapes can do without the influence of outside ingredients. The vineyards are organic and have been certified bio-dynamic since 1999. About $24.
Chateau Haut-La Pereyre, Bordeaux Rouge, 2007: This is the wine for fans of bold American Cabernet Sauvignon - or those looking for a French wine to pair with hearty beef dishes. With a touch more Merlot in the blend that Cabernet Sauvignon, this Bordeaux Rouge is stunningly well balanced and brings more minerality to the palate than its typical American counterparts. Still, the fruit is the star. All of that beautiful character lingers lovingly on the palate.
This delicious wine hails from vineyard parcels in the small appellation of Haut-Benauge. Under strict oversight, this appellation is reserved for whites but the zone is one of the best in Entre-deux-Mers for both red and white varieties. About $15.