Outstanding red from Faugères
There's been so much favorable response to the new month's Wine Tasting 101 topic, let's stick with the South of France for another day with a quick tasting report on one of the month's benchmark wines.
This one comes from Faugères, a smallish region in the hills of the Languedoc region, about midway between the port city of Montpellier and the medieval walled village of Carcassonne.
Like many of the more modern wines of the region, the Leon Barral 2001 Faugères "Jadis" adds the Rhone grape varieties Syrah (50 percent) and Grenache (45 percent) to a dash of the Languedoc's workhorse grape Carignan. Although it sees some oak and is a fruit-forward wine, don't let that word "modern" alarm you if you prefer your wines in the Old World style: There's plenty of that deliciously earthy "barnyard" and "animal" character along with an evocative whiff of "garrigues," the appetizing mixed herbal scent that permeates the summer air of the hillsides of Languedoc and Provence.
Although it's not an inexpensive wine, its quality fully justifies the price. It may prove an elusive quarry, but it should be available fairly widely, if in small quantities, in Europe and the U.K. and in U.S. wine shops that carry the imports of Berkeley-based Kermit Lynch.
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Domaine Leon Barral 2001 Faugères Jadis ($19.99)
Blackish-purple, opaque. Ripe plum and black-cherry scents dominate a fruit-forward aroma, but there's plenty of earth to carry an Old World style: Leather and pleasant "barnyard" notes add complexity. Full-bodied, juicy and tart flavors, fresh black fruit and a hint of dark chocolate, nicely structured by crisp acidity; smooth tannins emerge as a cleansing astringency in a long finish, with a distinct whiff of fresh herbs and earthy grace notes that mirror the nose. U.S. importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif. (Jan. 5, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: Although the wine's full body could stand up to grilled red meats, its complexity rewards pairing with more subtle flavors. It was a great match with rollatini de versa e maile, Marcella Hazan's pork-stuffed cabbage rolls in a light tomato-and-onion sauce.
VALUE: Languedoc remains off the beaten path for wine-trends followers, and the payoff comes in relatively modest prices for an ageworthy wine of this quality, which would command at least twice the price if it came from a more sought-after region than the little-known Faugères.
WHEN TO DRINK: The forward fruit and balance makes it a delight to drink now, but I'm in no doubt that it would cellar well for a decade or more; that being said, approach it with caution between, say, 2006 and 2010, when it may fall into the "dumb" stage that often afflicts this varietal blend in its middle age.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
French Wine Explorers:
As we continue the countdown toward our annual French Wine Explorers tour, this year planned for the Northern and Southern Rhone on June 6-12, I'm hearing from quite a few of you who say you're interested but concerned about the weakness of the U.S. dollar against the Euro.
While this seems like something to be concerned about - after all, the dollar is currently worth only about 75 European cents - you can put your mind at rest about taking an exchange-rate bath on this transaction. Here's why: The fixed price of this tour is charged in dollars, not Euros, and your payment covers virtually all costs of the seven-day, six-night tour, including four-star accommodations, most meals, tasting fees and in-country transportation. You'll only need to exchange dollars for Euros for incidental expenses and souvenirs, and of course any rare and unusual wines that you purchase to bring back home.
The tour, our second to the Rhone with French Wine Explorers, will feature an in-depth exploration of the region's beautiful scenery, delicious Provençal cuisine and outstanding wines, with luxury accommodations and meals at some of the Rhône's top tables, plus tastings at top estates in Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Tavel and more. Visits to Roman ruins, gourmet meals on outdoor patios, and a gala dinner dance with the winemakers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape - a rare event that few outsiders are fortunate enough to enjoy - will make this a vacation you'll always remember.
And while we're talking about U.S. dollars today, please be assured that all WineLoversPage.com readers are welcome, whether you live in the States or Canada, Europe or Asia or Down Under. For more information, visit French Wine Exporers' Northern and Southern Rhône tour page,
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Friday, Jan. 7, 2005