Wine Review: 2005 Andrew Rich “Les Vignes En Face” Syrah

4 07 2011

What a difference a day makes.  I first cracked this wine last night and was sort of ambivalent about it, despite the fact that it represented my current ideal red wine region and grape (Washington State Syrah); as a result, I was fully gearing up to write a “nice try, but…” 85-86 point review tonight.  But then I had the rest of the bottle tonight and everything changed:  the rough and rustic edges had softened, the fruit was better balanced, and every component of the bottle was suddenly in harmony.  How cool is wine, that 24 hours in the fridge can make that transformative a difference?

Ridiculous name, but give it'll grow on you.

Let’s back up.  I was tremendously excited to try this wine because it was simultaneously recommended to me by both my favourite Calgary wine shops (Ferocious Grape and Highlander Wine & Spirits) and because it was a good-quality Washington State Syrah for under $30, not a common combination.  The grapes for Les Vignes En Face came from two of the better Syrah vineyards in all of Washington, Ciel du Cheval (the vineyard that spawned my poor cork-ruined Andrew Will wine a few weeks ago) and Klipsun.  Even better, it was a 2005, so it had already had some time to settle down in the bottle before making its way into my greedy hands.  The only downside was its unfortunately pretentious faux-French name, which as far as I can tell roughly translates to “The Vines In Front” (note to producers:  if you’re not in France, don’t name your wines French names), but questionable nomenclature notwithstanding, I still had high hopes.

On Day 1, the wine wasn’t bad, but it was disjointed:  the fruit was far in the background on the nose, the alcohol was overly prominent on the palate, and while a number of the wine’s building blocks (acid, tannin, alcohol) showed up in full force, nothing really seemed properly integrated.  On Day 2, however, things had settled into place.  The wine was a vivid, transparent, cherry Kool-Aid sort of colour, not as opaque as expected from Syrah; on the nose it was dusty, earthy, but sweet on the edges, with black cherry and blueberry fruit balancing off sawdust and chlorine notes.  On the palate, however, is where this Syrah really started to sing on the second day.  Huge blueberry fruit, hickory and smoke, black pepper, tomato and even a floral note, all contained in a full, lush body and controlled by firm but dusty tannins…it was like a fancy white-tablecloth BBQ wine.  If this was a car commercial I’d be trotting out semi-conflicting descriptors like “casual elegance” all over the place, but I’ll restrain myself.  I had this wine with roast beef (Day 1) and homemade pizza (Day 2), but if you want a heaven-made match for the ’05 Les Vignes En Face, I would say grilled BBQ pork ribs:  there’s enough fruity sweetness in the wine to match up with the corresponding sweetness in the barbecue sauce, enough body and structure to stand up to the richness of the cooking method, and enough smoky/savoury accents in the wine to perfectly complement the flavour additions your grill makes to BBQed food.  I have another bottle left of this wine and will be saving it for exactly this meal.

Stelvin Rating: 5/10 (Black, which is bad, but not blank, which is good.)

If your wine is a little out of joint when you open it and you think it might be capable of more, what are your options?  You can certainly try decanting it to see if the extra air will help soften it up and make it come together, or if you have a wine aerator like this (I have one and it has definitely come in handy with tight or closed-off wines) you can speed up the oxygenation process one glass at a time; or, if you’re particularly patient, you can just wait for time to work its magic.  I am not of the view that wines will usually taste better 24 hours after opening, especially ones at this price point, but I can’t deny that this Andrew Rich really found itself the day after.

90 points

$25 to $30 CDN 



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