Following up on Wednesday's brief visit with the organic California producer Bonterra, let's devote today's space to a taste of a favorite French organic wine, Mas de Gourgonnier. I've been enjoying this sturdy Provence red in its idiosyncratic squat, square-shouldered bottle for many years, and had the special pleasure of visiting the winery during a tour of Provence in 2002. (Readers of our HTML/graphics edition will see a picture above of the region's familiar white bauxite - aluminum ore - outcroppings, which give the appellation Les Baux de Provence its name.)
Owned by brothers Luc and Fred Cartier, Mas de Gourgonnier ("House of Gourgonnier" in Provencal) is noteworthy for its strong commitment to making all-organic wines from vineyards that never receive chemical fertilizers, weed-killers or artificial insecticides. In addition to its 50 hectares (125 acres) of grapevines, the brothers also own 20 hectares of olive trees from which they produce fine organic oil. The winery tasting room offers for sale a small but interesting selection of specialty foods made by other French organic producers.
Mas de Gourgonnier makes a red, white and rosé as well as somewhat more pricey "reserve" wines. But I keep coming back to the basic red for good value, year in and year out. If you can't necessarily taste "organic" in the bottle, the producer's commitment to careful husbandry of the earth still strikes me as a plus.
Next June, I'll be going back to the same general region again, joining with French Wine Explorers as co-host for a week-long tour of the Northern and Southern Rhone. I hope some of you will join me, as many Wine Advisor readers have done in the past on our tours of the Rhone, Provence, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. For details about the 2005 tour, visit French Wine Explorers' Northern and Southern Rhône tour page,
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Mas de Gourgonnier 2002 Les Baux de Provence ($12.99)
This is a very dark garnet wine, black at the center. Its warm aromas evoke Provence with plums, fragrant white pepper and "chalky" earthy notes. Juicy black-fruit flavors are tart and rather tannic; a textured "chewy" mouthfeel leaves tart plums and pepper lingering in a long finish. It's a blend of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah; the wine destined for U.S. export adds a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon that's not found in the European edition. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Mason, Ohio, and other regional importers. (Nov. 5, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: A hearty chicken pilaf worked well, although rare red meat is always in order with full-bodied, tannic red wines like this.
VALUE: No quibbles with this low-teens price, although we can blame the falling dollar for an increase from $9.99 for the 2001.
WHEN TO DRINK: Drinking well now, but tannins, body and balance will see it improve for several years under good storage conditions.
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To find vendors for Mas de Gourgonnier on Wine-Searcher.com.
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Friday, Nov. 12, 2004