12 Days of Vinebox: Day 4

28 12 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

I’d say we have had an auspicious first quarter of Vinebox. A few surprises, and three rather good wines. We enter the second quarter with heads held high and hearts open, albeit fatigued from all the (self-imposed) indentured servitude that comes along with blogging BOTH Advent and post-Advent calendars. This much wine writing in such a concentrated span of time is invigorating, inspiring, exhausting, and maddening in approximately equal measure. But the wine dudes abide. It is a good sign that I still feel the wine post-Advent love this afternoon. Ask me if this is still the case next Tuesday. As I somewhat hazily recall, this wine was an early draft pick of mine when Peter and I divvied up the vials.

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Corbieres is a smaller appellation within the much larger and obscenely diverse Languedoc. Yes, we are back in the south of France, but across the Golfe du Lion from Provence. Corbieres is one of the Languedoc sub-appellations that has steadfastly forged its own reputation. Corbieres itself is further sub-divided (but of course!) into 11 regions based on climate and soil topography, with basic distinctions drawn between coastal zones that enjoy a Mediterranean influence, a northern strip contiguous with the equally well-known appellation Minervois, relatively cooler western high altitude vineyards that experience some Atlantic influence, and finally an enclave of very rugged lands in the south and centre. Really then, we are looking at a minimum of four distinct wine regions fused into one political entity whose purpose is to provide a reasonably well-known signifier on wine labels. I can nevertheless comment on a few rough constants. Corbieres on the whole is hilly and relatively warm. The heat is conducive to grape ripening yet is tempered by maritime winds and altitude, so that the grapes retain enough acidity to yield fresh aromatic wines as opposed to something purely jammy. This is a classic recipe for oenological success, although now I must attempt to dial in the specific nature of today’s offering. Or should I say “vial in”…thank you, thank you, I’m here for the next four days! Try the (sustainably farmed cruelty-free) veal. 

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Chateau Les Palais has been in the hands of the same family since the 19th century. The winery is housed on an old convent and offers a range of reds under both Corbieres and Corbieres-Boutenac AOCs. It is again difficult to use the producer’s website to pinpoint exactly which of at least four wines is found in the present vial. What I can say is that most of the Corbieres AOCs listed contain Carignan, once the dominant black grape in the region, as the major constituent, which substantial proportions of Grenache and Syrah as well. The most likely suspects, something called “6 Petits Gars” and another labelled “Tradition”, have undergone partial carbonic maceration, an increasingly popular technique with Carignan that yields a uniquely fruity signature. Yup, I think I’m on the right track.

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This is taut, ultra-fresh, and bombastically fruity. I picture myself crushing a carafe of this on a patio, not sipping it slowly while generating a non-stop cascade of wine geek descriptors over the course of an hour or so (yes, I still enjoy doing this and will make no apologies). I detect no real oak presence of which to speak, although something resonantly woody or perhaps stemmy does echo through the medium length finish: fraying strands of liquorice root. The tannins are fine-pleated and dusty. I get a supercharged powdery blitz of bramble fruit (blackberry and raspberry) as well as bilberries, blueberry’s smaller wild cousin. Floral notes of lilac and lavender run front to back, inflorescences and dollops of pine and spruce pitch raining down on blackcurrant Wine Gums, Bic pens, unlit cigarettes, and purple Dimetapp cough syrup. This would be the Platonic ideal of purple if it didn’t also flash some pomegranates. This small serving is gone only too quickly, replaced by thoughts of other zephyr-like reds in my cellar. What shall I crush next? Oh wait, I need to write tomorrow.

89 points

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