4th of JULY:
More South-of-France Offerings
- If I tell you this is made due east of the Cahors region, you might have a
slight clue as to where in the world I'm talking about.
If I add it's a tad north of
the region of Gaillac (and Toulouse), that might help. Slightly.
appellation is "Marcillac" and it covers a mere 140 hectares of vines. The
area used to be more thickly carpeted with vines, having 28 times the area in vineyards (a
hundred years ago) as it does today!
We have a lovely wine of this appellation, made by a guy who is a real character!
He was studying for the priesthood when he said, "Oh God! No!!!"
I understand Jean-Luc Matha also learned how to be a clown (there are many of us
practicing this 'art' who are, coincidentally, in the wine business). Now he's a
famous, leading producer of a French wine even most French haven't heard of.
The grape variety in this region is Mansois.
You might know this variety under another name, that of "Fer Servadou."
I'd be surprised if you did!
Matha makes two wines of Mansois. We have a delicious offering which
is bright, raspberryish and with a hint of a spicy, peppery note. The locals
describe it as red pepper, not black.
Matha has been a leader in reducing yields in an effort to obtain more fragrance and
flavor. He also de-stems the grapes, wanting to avoid bitter tannins. The
2006 vintage, though youthful, is delicious now. It may be the best
we've tasted from Jean-Luc. We like this served at cool cellar temperature and it pairs well with
grilled sausages enhanced by a fiery mustard (I like the French "Amora"
brand or Colman's English...both are nuclear mustards!).
Mrs. and Mr. Jean-Luc Matha...
- Currently in stock: 2006 Jean-Luc Matha Marcillac Sold
modest-sized estate is east of Marseille and west of Toulon near the town of
La Cadière d'Azur. The property has been owned by the Boyer family
for 16 generations, so they've had a few years to think about grape growing
The property encompasses some 40 hectares of vines, predominantly, of
course, Mourvèdre. Half of their production is in rosé, 45% red and
5% white wine.
We have a 2004 Bandol Rouge which is remarkably elegant and nicely
balanced. The wine has a small percentage of Grenache...just enough to
contribute a note of complexity to the aromatics and round out the tannins a
bit. The wine spent about a year and a half in wood and now it's had
a bit of time in bottle to develop...it's exceptional presently with Provençal
cuisine, so a leg of lamb studded with garlic and rosemary would be ideal.
Currently in stock: 2004 CHÂTEAU SALETTES Bandol Rouge $37.99
- The Tempier
name has been associated with Bandol wines since the 1830s. The
property was a viable vineyard into the late 1920s when it was replanted
with with fruit trees.
In the 1930s, Lucie Tempier married Lucien Peyraud. Her father, aside
from owning the orchards, was in the leather goods business. His
grandfather was a gunsmith, while his father sold silk, but Lucien had been
bitten by the wine 'bug' and studied agriculture in Provence. The
couple settled on the Tempier estate by 1940 and in 1943 the first wine, a
Rosé, was bottled. The rest, as they say, is history.
A California wine importer did a fabulous job in promoting their wines and
here in the San Francisco Bay Area, the name Tempier is synonymous with
We'd read about the great Bandols from Tempier during the 1980s and 1990s,
but we recall the wines were often a bit odd, sometimes fizzy and
strange. It was claimed by some that the wine's instability may have
been due to the bottling demands made by the local importer (who also is allergic
to wines which have been filtered).
Now in the 21st century, the wines we've tasted of Tempier have been
uniformly good and of sound quality.
Of course, Bandol wines are based on the Mourvèdre grape. This is a
variety which tends to make hearty, robust and fairly tannic red
wines. And that's the nature of Tempier's Bandol.
We have their Classic bottling in stock. This is roughly 75% Mourvèdre,
with a bit of Grenache, Cinsault and a dollop of Carignan. The wine
strikes us as being better balanced than the rustic wines of Bandol from
years ago. The 2013 will pair handsomely with braised lamb shanks,
hearty stews or roasts or perhaps duck.
The Rosé has been a delight, though we understand the importer is hoarding
this vintage and not interested in parting with some bottles. We found
another Bandol Rosé, though, and it's quite good and about half the price
Currently in stock: 2014 TEMPIER BANDOL ROUGE $46.99
2015 TEMPIER BANDOL ROSE $38.99
a lot of history to this property and the family that owns it.
Jean-Étienne-Marie Portalis was born in Provence in the 1700s and was a
big-wig in the Napoleon "administration." Portalis was a
major author of France's "Code Civil," and he put his
"John Hancock" on the deed purchasing a special piece of property
in what is today the appellation of Bandol.
The Portalis family still owns the estate and they are amongst the elite
within the Bandol appellation, producing a textbook example of that vaunted
The vineyards were largely replanted following World War II when the
Baroness Portalis and her daughter, the Countess, decided to cultivate
Mourvedre extensively. The Countess (Arlette) was also a
mover-and-shaker in establishing the Bandol appellation and its
Today Cyrille Portalis and his wife Magali run the estate, which comprises
21 hectares of vineyards. Mourvedre dominates the plantings, but they
have a bit of Grenache and Cinsaut as well. No chemical fertilizers
are employed, though they do use sulphur and copper sulfate.
Their vineyards are close to 40 years of age and the wines are made not for
those seeking instant gratification. The laws for Bandol require a
minimum of 18 months aging, but Pradeaux's wine typically spends close to 4
years in large wood casks. No new oak, either, so if you're searching
for a cedary, oaky wine, this is not for you. The wines are bottled
without being fined or filtered, the sole 'clarification' being the sediment
dropping out during its time in wood.
We have the 2004 Bandol...a wine with great intensity and structure.
If you don't mind some tannic 'bite,' this is quite an interesting wine at
present when paired with food (think of a leg of lamb or roasted duck,
braised lamb shanks, etc.). There are some leathery notes, a bit of an
earthy streak, hints of olive, underbrush and perhaps a note of anise.
This can be cellared, too, for a decade, or more. But it's not a wine
I'd offer to someone who's just starting to appreciate red wines or who has
taste for Rombauer Zinfandel.
Currently in stock: 2004 CHATEAU PRADEAUX Bandol $39.99
DOMAINES OTT, etc.
- The Ott name
originates in Alsace, but today it is one of the most famed in
Provence. Marcel Ott's little foray to sunnier climes in the south of
France have been bearing fruit for several generations.
We have carried their wines for a number of years as they are rather a
benchmark for this region. Tourists immediately identify the wines
which come in distinctive bottles, as they have consumed these during their
memorable vacation to France.
The reason the firm is "Domaines Ott" is that there are several
properties, not merely one.
From the Château de Selle we have what many people feel is the leading rosé
in France, the famed Coeur de Grain. This is a blend of Cabernet
Sauvignon, Grenache and Cinsault. It is even matured in wood, though
you will be hard-pressed to find a note of oak in the wine. I have
tasted it numerous times and can tell you it never made "sense" to
me paying so much for a rosé until Bob served it with his magnificent Bouillabaisse.
It suddenly took on much more depth and character. I can only imagine
what this must taste like on its home turf! (No wonder people will pay
serious money for this wine!)
- Château Romassan is their Bandol estate. The 2001 was available, a medium-full bodied red with some meaty notes on the
nose and palate. It shows best when partnered with lamb or duck.
Mourvèdre, of course, is the main grape. It is long sold out.
Currently in stock: Ott 2015 (Château de Selle) Rosé
(List $55) SALE $49.99
Ott 2001 (Château Romassan) Bandol $46.99 (Sold Out)
- CLOS LA COUTALE
wines of the Cahors region should be better known. Given that so many
people buy Malbec wines from Argentina, it's probably a good idea to know
the wines from what is the "reference point."
Such is the competition in the wine market, the vignerons of Cahors demanded
the law change to allow them to identify the wines on the label as
"Malbec." You may know the wines of Cahors are made of
Malbec predominantly, but the average wine-drinker is unaware of the
association between the Cahors appellation and the Malbec grape.
Clos La Coutale is a 45 hectare estate just a few miles west of the town of
Cahors. Owned by Valmy Bernède & his son Philippe, their vines
average about 25 years of age. The vineyard is comprised of about 70%
Malbec, with the balance split between Merlot and Tannat.
Their 2014 Cahors is a nice expression of Malbec. The wine is
medium-bodied, but not especially tannic or harsh. Although
there are Cahors wines which are lavishly oaked to the point you can't
distinguish what sort of wine you're drinking, this isn't one of them!
You'll find some dark fruit notes on the nose and palate. The wine is
smooth enough to pair with a savory chicken dish, but big enough to stand up
to lamb, duck or beef dishes, too.
By the way, you may see the Coutale name on a line of cork-pullers.
Same guy. He was annoyed, years ago, when trying to use a plain old
corkscrew and it was a challenge removing the cork from the bottle.
Shortly thereafter, the fellow sat down at a drawing table and designed
one...and today he sells thousands of dollars' worth of corkscrews or, as the
kids say these days, "wine keys."
Currently in stock: 2013 CLOS LA COUTALE CAHORS $14.99
CHÂTEAU LA GRAVE
- This little estate comprises some 15 hectares of vineyards, we're told
and it's owned by the same fellow who owns La Coutale (see above).
Philippe Bernède acquired this nearby domain and he's making a rather
different styled Cahors.
The Château La Grave wine is an unblended Malbec and it's a slightly more
rustic version of Cahors. The grapes have a longer period of skin
contact, spending as long as 5 weeks before they're pressed. It's
then aged for about a year in large wood tanks and bottled without fining
We have the 2013 vintage in stock presently. It's a good bottle of
wine, perfect when paired with a steak, duck or lamb. You may find
this to be a more satisfying wine than similarly-priced bottles of
Cabernet or Merlot from California or Bordeaux.
Currently in stock: CHÂTEAU LA GRAVE 2013 CAHORS $14.99
DOMAINE DE PELLEHAUT
have had wine from the Pellehaut domaine for well more than a
decade. Off and on, though.
The wine was first brought to us by a top, small, local importer whose
wife's family has lived in the same area.
These days this comes through a slightly different channel and the wine
remains good quality and carries a small price tag.
Pellehaut's "Harmonie" White wine carries the Côtes de Gascogne
appellation. It's made with an eye towards economy, so the fruit is
machine-harvested. The blend features Chardonnay, Ugni Blanc, Folle
Blanche, Colombard, Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng.
No oak. Just good, fresh fruit notes. We find hints
of peach or apricot, along with a touch of lemon, ripe pear, etc. This is
a wonderful cocktail white and it's ideal paired with seafood.
In addition to making some nice little table wines, the estate
produces very good Armagnac. We have one of their brandy bottlings in the
shop and it's our best buy for a good quality Armagnac.
Also they raise cattle. Blonde d’Aquitaine, to be specific.
Yes, it's not every winery one visits that has cattle feeding
just outside the cellar door!
Cows with discriminating taste-buds!
We also suggest trying the whites from Pellehaut's neighbors:
Chiroulet and Domaine Duffour.
Currently in stock: 2015 PELLEHAUT
"Harmonie" Côtes de Gascogne BLANC $8.99
Pellehaut Blanc served in Gascony with some sort of stuffed peppers...