Selections for October 2017

Elegant rusticity – or the other way around?

2014 DOMAINE ANNE GROS + JEAN-PAUL TOLLOT ‘La 8’ GRENACHE – Cotes du Brian, France

Burgundy’s vaunted sub-region of Vosne-Romanee is the home of the Gros Freres domaine, from which emerge some of the world’s most elegant Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.  Anne Gros more recently has applied her appreciation for gracefulness and delicacy to a very different French region somewhat unused to such attention:  Minervois, in France’s southwest.  Here she and partner Jean-Paul Tollot work with the place-appropriate varieties of Carignan, Cinsault, and Grenache.  The wines of Minervois are known for their rustic brawn, a very un-Burgundy trait, but the Burgundy perspective confers a bit more balance and refinement to this producer’s examples.

Here is 100% Grenache aged entirely without the use of oak barrels.  We often identify this variety as “The Burgundy of the South” for its charming fragrance, pretty fruit flavors, and delicacy of impact on the palate.  Encourage that idea by pouring this into a Pinot Noir-style wine glass and put your nose to work.  Upon opening this wine your first whiff may be the most questionable; the wine must have a bit of reduction swirled out of it.  That unusual smell is a sign of the careful winemaker’s prevention of too much air contact before bottling.  Reduction can make for a more durable wine, and a little airing out will eliminate that protective aspect and fruit will be revealed.  After your thoughtful swirling you’re sure to find a wealth of spice, smoke, sweet leather, tobacco, and jammy strawberry fruit.  The palate is lush with more of the same, and there’s a finish of gutsy structure requesting a little more cellar time or a food preparation.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate noticed this wine with a 91 point rating and the remarks:

Readers looking for a Burgundian expression of Grenache need look no further than the 2014 IGP Pays d’Herault La Grenache 8. Completely destemmed and aged in tank, it’s purple/blue color is followed by searing minerality, licorice, crushed flowers and lavender, and this beauty continues to open up nicely with time in the glass. Mouth-filling, very young and almost tasting like a barrel sample, it has savory tannin and a clean, focused finish. It should be better in a year and drink well through 2024.   

We’re pleased to bring you this unusually Burgundian Southern French wine experience!


Toro, somewhat tamed. . .

2010 FINCA SOBREÑO ‘Seleccion Especial’ – Toro, Spain

Here is 100% Tempranillo aged for 14 months in French and American oak.  Those facts could represent a wine from more famous Ribera del Duero or Rioja, but we’re taking you instead to lesser-known Toro.  Like Ribera del Duero, this place straddles the Duero River, but closer to Portugal where the that waterway is re-named “Douro” and eventually spills into the Atlantic just past the famous Porto vineyards.

Toro’s weather is a little more extreme than that of its more famous Spanish Tempranillo counterparts, with hotter days inducing a higher alcohol and a more huskily-fruited rendition of the grape.  The name “Toro” (“Bull”) is a good fit for most of the product of the realm.  Not unlike our own Paso Robles region, the local winemaking challenge is not to enhance but to harness and restrain that rambunctious fruit down to a drinkable level.  Few Toro producers succeeded with this historically, but more recently a handful of wineries are managing to tame the bull.  Among these is Finca Sobreño.

Also coaxing this particular wine to a more soothed state is the passage of time; we’re fortunate to be able to access a version over half a decade old.  What certainly was once a more youthfully purple and tannic wine now represents itself with a deep dark cherry red color.   The nose is powerful yet elegant; refined and stylish with ripe berry fruit and spicy complexity with scents of clove, sandalwood, vanilla, and chocolate.  The mouth is muscular yet – once again - elegantly silky smooth, showing fruit preserves, blackberry jam, and chocolate truffle.  The mouth is concentrated and rich but not sweet.  The length:  Significant.  Beautiful.

Wine Spectator and Vinous both applaud with 91 point ratings, but my interest in this wine and its place is otherwise and more meaningful:  I have had the pleasure of visiting this remote wine town three times.  While not huge, Toro is steeped in history which includes an important battle helping to establish Ferdinand and Isabella’s reign.  If you can get to this place less than two hours northwest of Madrid let me know you’re going.  We’ll attempt to get you set up at Finca Sobreño!