An organic favorite
One of the special joys of wine travel comes when you're browsing through the wine shop and encounter a bottle of wine that you tasted months or years earlier during a visit to the winery. There's no better way to bring happy travel memories flooding back than to pull a cork and experience again the wine that you had enjoyed on the premises.
And that goes double when the wine in question is a perennial favorite, one that you enjoy sampling every year when the latest vintage arrives.
So it was with some delight - and relatively little damage to my wallet - that I noticed the 2001 edition of Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence on sale locally for a penny under 10 bucks.
I've been enjoying this wine since the early '90s, and had the special pleasure of visiting the winery last year in our Rhone and Provence tour with French Wine Explorers. Owned by brothers Luc and Fred Cartier, Mas de Gourgonnier ("Mahss duh Goor-gone-yay") is a lovely property near the historic village of Baux-de-Provence. The winery 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, Mas de Gourgonnier also owns 20 hectares of olive trees from which they produce fine organic oil. The winery also offers retail sales of other specialty foods made by French organic producers.
I'm not convinced that you can taste the organic difference in a wine, but I've found that the producers who choose this more difficult path tend to show the same commitment to quality as they do to treading lightly on the earth with their agricultural practices. This is excellent wine, and one of the best French wine bargains around.
Curiously, the 2001 that we tasted at the winery was not quite the same as the one that reached the U.S. through import channels: During our visit, the producers explained that the U.S. export bottling adds a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon to the blend of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah that's destined for consumers in France and the rest of Europe. For whatever reason, the wine we tasted here last night seemed a bit more tannic and structured, with less "leather" and "barnyard" character than the one at the winery.
To read my tasting report from the winery, see the June 13 page of my Rhone Provence Diary 2002,
Next May, I'll be partnering with French Wine Explorers again to co-host a week-long tour of Burgundy and the Champagne region. For preminary details about this tour, visit
Mas de Gourgonnier 2001 Les Baux de Provence ($9.99)
Inky dark reddish-purple, showing bright garnet glints against the light. Delicious aroma, black cherries and a distinct herbal note that evokes memories of Provence. Full and ripe flavor, juicy tart-cherry fruit well balanced by lemon-squirt acidity, making it an excellent food wine. Distinct tannic astringency appears in the very long finish, suggesting aging potential, but it's nicely cloaked by abundant fruit. U.S. importer: Gourgonnier has several U.S. regional importers, including Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, N.Y.; North Berkeley (Calif.) Imports; Vintner Select, Cincinnati; Stacole Co., Florida; Dionysos Imports, Virginia; and The Wine Company, Minneapolis. (July 31, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Perfect with thin-sliced leftover grilled lamb, but food-friendly enough to serve well also with a simple dish of spaghetti tossed with fresh uncooked tomatoes and basil.
VALUE: Exceptional value.
WHEN TO DRINK: Although this wine is intended for immediate enjoyment, it will keep well for several years under cellar conditions.
WEB LINK: The winery's advertised Web address,
Brentwood Wine Co.:
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Friday, Aug. 1, 2003