12 Days of Vinebox: Day 11

4 01 2019

By Peter Vetsch

It’s the penultimate day of the Vinebox 12 Days of Christmas calendar, and while Christmas feels like a long time ago, there’s never a bad time to use the word “penultimate” when you have an occasion in need of its natural meaning.  Thanks to the outcome of the one-by-one Vinebox vial draft that I had with Ray, I ended up with the last two days of this miniature vinous adventure, and I certainly sat up and took notice when I pulled a 100 mL test tube of Chateauneuf-du-freaking-Pape out of the box and knew that it had to be mine.  When Vinebox says that they quality-control like crazy and look to represent the best in their sets, it’s not just marketing talk; the level of the wines across this dozen tastes has been consistently legit.

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Where I might give Vinebox a bit of constructive feedback is in the relatively slim amount of information that comes along with each vial.  The Vinebox reveal website for this calendar (which I might as well give you now that it’s the penultimate day of our countdown — see how useful and awesome that word is??) tells me only that tonight’s wine is the “Graveirette Chateauneuf de Pape”; the label of the tube adds that this is the 2014 rendition of this wine.  As the current vintage of this Chateauneuf is the 2015, and as it is not a widely known producer or wine in this market, it is next to impossible to track down any information about this specific bottle, which can be exceedingly frustrating when you’re the Type A kind of person who wants to know these things but can’t find them.  If future reveal sites could at least include the vintage, blend, vineyard details and winemaking and aging regime for the wines, it would be of tremendous assistance in bringing crucial context to the sensory impressions that this wine has in spades.

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Here’s what I can tell you:  Domaine de la Graveirette was founded in 2005 by Julien Mus, a native of the small southern Rhone village of Bédarrides, located in between Orange and Avignon in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation, immediately east of the famed new castle of the Pope itself.  Mus was a relative rarity in that he left home to pursue a formal wine education in Beaune, Burgundy, and was perhaps even more rare in that, after said certified advancement of his profession, he came back to his very same tiny hometown to work, first growing grapes which he sold to the local cooperative, but then in 2005 founding his own estate that would allow him to forge his own winemaking path.  This estate, Graveirette, has been organically farmed since 2012 and Demeter-certified biodynamic since 2015.  Under the Graveirette name, Mus makes everything from prestige-cuvee CNDP to experimental micro-vat offerings (100% Marselan, anyone? I’m in) that are intentionally downgraded to the Vin de France designation to allow for creativity and flexibility in how the finished product comes about, freed from restrictive appellation legalities. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 8

8 12 2017

I feel like I was slightly prescient yesterday when I said that most of the bottle picks in the first week of Bricks Half-Bottle Wine Advent were straight out of a Classic Wine Regions textbook, as today we hit probably the 2nd most likely remaining appellation in France to get the call in a Wine Primer All-Stars competition:  Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  (If Bordeaux shows up anytime in the next 3 days, we will definitely have cracked the code.)  Chateauneuf is the jewel of the Southern Rhone, spiritual birthplace of the GSM (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre) blend, and purveyor of bold, brash, rich yet layered wines that are an Old World gateway drug for many a Cali Cab or Aussie Shiraz lover.  The area’s regal approachability arises out of a combination of extensive sunlight, scorching summer temperatures (over 30 degrees Celsius on average) and a whipping northern wind so famous that it has its own name (the mistral), which cools the grapes, prevents rot and allows for longer hang times and prolonged ripening.

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Tonight’s Chateauneuf representative is the 2012 Domaine Chante Cigale, a 100+ year-old winery that recently turned its winemaking duties over to someone barely out of his teens.  In 2002, with his father suffering from health problems, Alexandre Favier, freshly graduated from viticultural studies at the age of 20 (he started wine school when he was 15) took the reins and hasn’t looked back since.  The Domaine owns 40 hectares of vineyards, but they’re not in an orderly square surrounding the winery, instead plastered and scattered throughout FORTY-FIVE different plots all across Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Favier relies only on ambient native yeasts present in the cellar for fermentation and ages his wines in an oddly endearing array of almost every type and size of oak barrel possible (foudres, demi-muids, barriques, mostly pre-used) as well as concrete tanks.

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This cork deserves its own picture.  See below.

This particular Chante Cigale is the Domaine’s entry-level CNDP (if there is such a thing), keeping with the classic varietal mix of the region at 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and 5% Cinsault.  It is a deep ruby colour and immediately smells like something that has been preserved:  beef jerky, molasses, date, sunbaked earth, hickory and Sultana crackers, if these had been cooked down in an Instant Pot and then set on fire.  The wine’s hefty 15% alcohol is well-contained, but everything in its profile is stewed or baked, leaving it begging for a touch of primary freshness that never comes.  Malty, Port-y, fruitcake-y, it is neither thick nor heavy in body but constantly feels that way due to a dense sluggishness in its flavours.  Like a Wagyu beef burger left too long under the heat lamp before being served, the pedigree is there, but in execution it just hung on a bit too long.  As fellow PnP Advent author Ray Lamontagne puts it, “it’s like an old venison milkshake”.  There are no kind similes.

86+ points

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Cork Rating: 9/10 (What a monster. Coat of arms, complete with cicadas [singing grasshoppers, aka Chante Cigales – nice], killer intricacy and coverage; glorious.)





Wine Review: 2009 Jeannine Boutin Crozes-Hermitage “Les Hauts Granites”

22 08 2011

Just ignore the Baby Rainforest Bouncer in the background.

After pounding out 1500+ words about five German Rieslings in my last post, I’m going to try to be a little (OK, a lot) more concise tonight.  While Riesling has always been my favourite white grape, my current favourite red has got to be Syrah, a full-bodied, powerful grape capable of many different expressions and often melding fruity and savoury notes in a way that no other varietal can.  Most of the Syrahs that have found their way onto PnP so far have been New World examples, mainly from Washington State or California with the occasional Aussie Shiraz (same grape, different name) thrown in.  Tonight, however, I’m going back to the grape’s roots in the northern Rhone Valley in France, Syrah’s ancestral homeland and (maybe moreso 20 years ago than now, but still) home to its most famous and expensive bottlings.  Some of the most lauded and pricy Syrah in the world is grown in a small appellation called Hermitage, a single hill hovering over the Rhone River containing barely over 300 acres of vines.  If I worked five of my current jobs, I could drink Hermitage every now and then.  Instead, I’m settling for its little brother, Crozes-Hermitage, a much larger region spanning the flatlands surrounding Hermitage Hill on the Rhone’s east bank.  A Crozes may not light your world on fire like an Hermitage can, but it won’t cost you $400 either…this one was a shade over $30. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2006 Domaine Les Pallieres Gigondas

10 04 2011

All the CNDP quality, half the price.

There hasn’t been a lot of French wine so far on PnP, not because I’m not a fan, but because I haven’t had a lot of it lately.  But tonight that all changes with authority, as this Gigondas put on quite a show at Sunday night dinner.  Gigondas is a wine region that’s a good bet for killer value wines:  it’s located in the Southern Rhone in the southeast corner of France, very near the much more famous Chateauneuf-de-Pape, and it makes wines that closely resemble those of its more exclusive neighbour.  It has a very similar climate (warm and Mediterranean) as CNDP and uses very similar grapes in its wines (in its reds, predominantly Grenache  with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault the main others in the blend) as CNDP, but since it’s not called “Chateauneuf-de-Pape”, its wines (many of which rival CNDP in quality) are much, much cheaper.  Once you stop paying for the region name on the label, more of your buying dollar goes to pay for the quality of the wine itself.  Case in point:  this Gigondas was only slightly more expensive than this horrible train wreck of a CDNP, but was about a zillion times better made. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: Pere Anselme “La Fiole du Pape” Chateauneuf-de-Pape (NV)

23 03 2011

I basically paid $35 for this lovely glass bottle.

I admit the obvious: I bought this because it looked like a bottle of buried-treasure pirate wine.  I knew I was being taken in by pretty packaging, but I figured that this was from Chateauneuf-de-Pape, one of France’s most heralded wine regions, so it couldn’t be THAT bad…right?  I forgot that top wine regions are like luxury cars:  they don’t sell with gimmicks.  If you walk into a Lexus dealership, the salesman probably isn’t going to bother offering you purchase rebates or free gas for a year; his sales pitch is going to be “It’s a Lexus.”  Chateauneuf-de-Pape, located in the Rhone Valley in the southeast of France, is a Lexus wine region: it doesn’t need anything other than its name on the bottle to draw people in.  So when a Chateauneuf producer starts messing with the bottle itself to draw in sales, it’s probably not a good sign. Read the rest of this entry »








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