On The Road – Found In Faugères: Stunning Organic Mourvedre, 96RAS

You might not know Faugères and I could not have found this patch of the Languedoc without help. So I’m thrilled that Kermit Lynch showed the way to this special place and a very special winemaker, Didier Barral, and his beautifully pure wines at the Domaine of Leon Barral. As lush and earthy as any in Chateauneuf or Priorat at a fraction of the price.

Let me tell you about the place, Faugères is about 50 miles west of Montpellier and maybe 30 from the sea, sort of near St. Chinian and Minervois. High altitude vineyards up in hills with so much schist that some people say the grapes ripen at night from the heat of the stones. Faugères has grown grapes for centuries. Barral is one big reason Faugères is now on the wine route. Some of the wood and slate buildings have been there for ages and some it hand-built yesterday. Small and old-fashioned, certainly. Barral and his wines are famous across France and a beacon around the world for the biodynamic winemaking of the future.

On my visit a Japanese activist was spending a year with Barral to see how he does it. The answer? With cattle, pigs and sheep in the vineyards, ladybugs and earthworms in the soil and natural yeast and an antique wine press. I tasted the luscious 2009s and feasted on Didier’s food in their ancient barn. He then set out two boudins he had made, a roast haunch of pork and a two foot wheel of Franche-Comte.

A unique experience, wines like few others can make from syrah, carignan and mourvedre. Each wine is marvelous; even the “basic” cuvee from 40 year old vines is a huge helping of Faugères‘ rich, wild terroir. I know you’ll want more, and at B-21’s prices, you can have them all. This is the best of the very old way of France.

2009 Domaine Leon Barral Faugères
2009 Domaine Leon Barral Faugères

2009 Domaine Leon Barral Faugères Jadis
2009 Domaine Leon Barral Faugères Jadis

2009 Domaine Leon Barral Faugères Valiniere
2009 Domaine Leon Barral Faugères Valiniere

Spend an endless summer in Provence with Gassier’s 91-pointers, under $15.

Hope you met our friend Michel Gassier when he was at B-21 this winter, you know he’s as sunny as Provence itself. If not you’ll love meeting him in the wines I’m offering to you French buyers who look beyond Burgundy and Bordeaux. They certainly make Parker smile. Gassier puts all the sun and rocky terroir of Provence into his wines. And on them too with names like Nostre Pais (“our land” in the Provencal dialect) and playful pictures of the Provencal and their symbols like the icon of Nimes, the crocodile. More important Gassier and his wines have serious roots in the Costieres de Nimes and the Cotes du Rhone. When we met him at his place in Nimes this year, he was eager to show us all around, from the seaview vineyards to the old Roman amphitheatre in the city. He loves Grenache, red and white, and thinks the grapes are as noble as they are indigenous. For him and his consultant, Philippe Cambie (I hope you met him too) Grenache is the soul of the south. That really shows in his Cericus wines, where Grenache Blanc makes very distinct full bodied whites, flavored with flowers, ripe pears and cinnamon and a bright mineral tang. I have ’09 and ’10 of Cercius blanc; get both and you’ll see that the wine gods smiled on the Rhone back to back. His richest blanc is the ’09 Nostre Pais, which he ferments carefully, half in barrel and half in cement. A coupla dollars more but a honey of a wine. If you’d rather red, Gassier’s show off big CdR Grenache rouge from Visan is a deep dark red with black fruit, spice and fresh minerality. Wish I had a lamb sandwich or a bowl of bouillabaisse right now. Have them priced at $15 or less so you can be as carefree as a day in Provence. You’re gonna want that.

2009 Cercius Blanc Costieres de Nimes

“Light straw-colored with a greenish hue, it exhibits attractive freshness along with plenty of melony fruit intermixed with honeyed citrus, white currants, and flowers. Medium-bodied and long, with some underlying minerality intertwined with its delightful fruit character…” 90 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

2010 Cercius Blanc Costieres de Nimes

2009 Cercius Cotes du Rhone Villages Visan

“This medium to full-bodied wine possesses a deep ruby/purple color in addition to copious black currant and black cherry fruit interwoven with graphite, crushed rocks, and spice, excellent fruit intensity, a full-bodied mouthfeel, good acidity, and light tannins…” 91 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

2009 Michel Gassier Nostre Pais Blanc Costieres de Nimes

“a more honeyed, richer, fuller-bodied effort with plenty of texture as well as beautifully pure notes of quince, white currants, flowers, and an unmistakable minerality. Half of the wine is barrel fermented and the other half is aged in concrete. This fresh, textured beauty exhibits structure, purity, and length…”  91 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

Kermit’s Pick of the ’08s: Gorgeous French Values Under $15

Kermit Lynch

Few wine lovers know the south of France like Kermit Lynch. He eats, drinks, and even sleeps the Midi (he has a second home in Provence). These are two of his absolute favorites, from Cahors and the Languedoc. Very different in terroir and flavor, the same in quality and bang for the buck. Clos La Coutale is a grand old estate that has grown the local black wine, a.k.a. Malbec, on clay and limestone slopes for over 100 years. In fact the 1959, opened just recently, is on Lynch’s private wall of fame. The 2008 is full of blackberry and raspberry backed with cedar and spice, “impeccable” says our Rhett Beiletti. Chateau Lascaux built of northern Rhone grapes won me over immediately well before the Wine Spectator smartly put it on its Top 100 list. This has all the right berries and spice plus a luscious texture, great with a steak and meaty enough to do without one. These are prices you can buy by the dozen and make your cellar and your wallet smile at the same time. You’re gonna want that.

2008 Clos La Coutale

2008 Clos La Coutale (Cahors)

“Fresh, lithe and bursting with black raspberry and blackberry fruits initially, both dark and lively, Coutale then shows more complexity, touches of cedar and spice, fine tannins and a polished finishing flavor. Impeccable. I simply never tire of this wine.…”  90 Points, Rhett Beiletti

Reserve the Must-Have Chateauneuf: 2009 Beaucastel (92-95) Plus Stunning Blancs!

Chateau Beaucastel Rouge, Chateauneuf-du-PapeThe beautiful sites of Ch. de Beaucastel, the wisdom of our friends the Perrins and the amazing vintage of 2009. Powerful magic from Grenache and Mourvedre, a punch of Counoise and full range of CdP varieties. This is rich, earthy, and nearly eternal; you’ll need to wait a little before opening but this Châteauneuf has the gumption to last you decades. To make sure everyone gets some I corralled every format possible, half bottles, 750s, magnums and double mags. You’d better secure yours now before they arrive in December and the frenzy starts. Be sure to sign up for the Beaucastel whites. In 2009 they are as good as the legendary CdP rouge. Parker says even better, both the Châteauneuf white and the opulent old-vine Roussanne. No Rhône cellar will be complete without them. You’re gonna want that.

Parker Said He Would Buy Several Cases: ’09 Puech-Haut Prestige 94 pts Last Call‏

puech-huat-prestige-lYou know I consider Puech-Haut one of the bright stars in the south of France. As Gerard Bru made clear when he was here this winter that he’s determined to get the Languedoc the respect it deserves for great traditional wines not copycat Merlots. He’s built a beautiful winery and vineyard above Montpelier (a great place to visit, you gotta stop in… I can help). He also brought in the brightest minds in France, Michel Rolland, Claude Gros and two years ago Philippe Cambie. Plus he has the help of our trusted palate Eric Solomon. But the guts of the Prestige cuvee is great local grapes and dirt, Grenache and Syrah from limestone plots. And boy is it a stunner, lots of red fruits in the nose and luscious in the mouth. The 2009 knocked everyone over, here and at the Wine Advocate. Parker called it a 94, remarkable stuff. Only one flaw: this is the last of it (we won’t get anymore until next vintage). Btw, that 2010 is great stuff but you’ll have to wait ’til 2012, so lay in enough ’09 to get by. You’re gonna want that.

Last Chance at Eddie Feraud’s Best Chateauneuf: Voluptuous ’07

feraud-cdp-lYou’re convinced 2007 was great in the Rhône, like the gloriously sexy Châteauneuf-du-Pape of Domaine Eddie Feraud (which you have wiped out our stocks twice). I’ve always loved Eddie’s work, the smart critics do too; this year Tanzer says 93 pts, Parker says 92! This classic old-vine CdP has never been more voluptuous. You get an amazing sprectum of flavors, juicy fruits from cherry to blackberry, plus meaty, smoky tastes, herbs, and peppers. Together the Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre they are velvety on the tongue, strong backbone and long on the finish. Final lot arriving in weeks. You’re gonna want that.

Kermit’s Favorite Bandol Rose, Domaine Tempier, Has Landed. Get 2010 Now

2010 Domaine Tempier Rosé, Bandol (750ml)Rosé at the top of the class comes from Domaine Tempier, the famous home of great wine and Lulu’s great Provencal cooking. But not much of it comes in and we’re not getting a bottle more than we got last year. It just arrived in time for this summer’s refreshment. The Tempiers have made wine in Bandol since 1834 and my friend Kermit Lynch put rosé on the map long ago. Now it’s a must on every sidewalk table on the Riviera, rosé at its artisanal best. Importer Kermit likes it so much he has a home almost next door. The Tempiers farm naturally, grow rich Mourvedre, and make roses as proudly as their reds. A great early taste of 2010, which was as rich as 2009. The sun and fun of the south of France plus the spice of the Rhône. You’re gonna want that.