Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Jun 25, 2016

Sara’s Take on Provence and Southern France
by Sara d’Amato with notes from John Szabo, MS

Sara's New Pic Med

Sara d’Amato

It has been a week of Provence for me as Southern French wines rise to popularity here in Ontario due to summer’s fast approach. This is especially apparent in the rosé category where the palest of pink hues line the shelves in the stylish category of Provençal rosés. In anticipation of a lineup of Southern French releases next week and the general excitement in Ontario for these southern belles, representatives from the Vins de Provence were in town as well as legendary oenologist and flying winemaker Philippe Cambie whose work in the Southern Rhône, and now worldwide, has met with great critical acclaim. Thomas Perrin also made a visit to Toronto and afforded me a taste of Perrin’s new lineup of pink.

Although the Provence Wine Council or CIVP represents a large swath of Provence with 582 producers from three major appellations including Côtes de Provence, Côteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and Côteaux Varois en Provence, the region of Provence is far more expansive encompassing much of the Southern Rhône including that most famous region of rosé, Tavel, as well as the Camargue and Costières de Nîmes. More than that, Provence can be felt and smelled, it is a visceral experience that travelers to the region won’t soon forget. Provence is where the aromas of lavender, rosemary, juniper, thyme, dusty earth and salty air are ever-present — this is “garrigue”.

Some of the best value and most consistent rosés to hit the LCBO fall under the envelope of the Famille Perrin. The 2015 Miraval Rosé (22.95), which will be released in VINTAGES July 9th, is a consumer favourite and for good reason. This collaboration between the Perrins and celebs Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt is delicately perfumed and coloured with an elegant vein of acidity. The grapes of Chateau Miraval are planted on the valley slopes at 350 meters of altitude and benefit from a great shift in temperature from day to night thus preserving all of those delicate flavours. Not new to star-powered culture, Chateau Miraval used to house a recording studio popular with bands such as Pink Floyd, Sting, ACDC and The Cure). Yet still no Pink Floyd rosé! From a more humble price point, the Vielle Ferme 2015 Rosé Ventoux ($10.95) is a terrific value and is in abundant supply on the general list side of the LCBO.

Thomas Perrin breathing in the aromas of Provence

Thomas Perrin breathing in the aromas of Provence

Philippe Cambie is a formidable figure with a prodigious winemaking experience and influence both in the Southern Rhône and the Languedoc, most notably in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and surrounding appellations. A former rugby player, Cambie is known for his gutsy wines, his belief in teamwork and the idea that people are the most important component of terroir. A recent project is in collaboration with Michel Gassier of Costières de Nîmes producing a line-up of grenache-based blends from various southern appellations called “Les Halos de Jupiter”. The reference to Jupiter, the god of gods, is likened to grenache – the leader of the southern grape varieties. The “halos” are the unique expression of grenache in various appellations. The Halos series Côtes du Rhone and Costieres de Nîmes have been available in Ontario through VINTAGES since the inaugural 2009 vintage. The Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape expressions of Halos are available through private order, in small quantities but are worth seeking out.

John and I share our top French picks below. Next week John will be back to lead a Canada Day tribute, along with picks from David and Michael to help ring in our nation’s birthday in high style.

Buyers’ Guide to June 25th: Southern France

Claude Vialade Le Carla Special Reserve Colombard Sauvignon 2014

Domaine De La Baume Elisabeth Viognier 2014

Gérard Bertrand Gris Blanc Rosé 2015Gérard Bertrand 2015 Gris Blanc Rosé, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – As pale as pink can be, this stylish rosé is an ethereal blend of grenache gris and grenache noir. Light, elegant, delicately perfumed and a perfect match for summer. (Also available is party size 1500 mL)

Domaine de la Baume 2014 Elisabeth Viognier, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – A generous, fresh and surprisingly complex viognier for the price from Domaine de la Baume’s varietal series of wine.  Notes of white tea, dried lemon, lavender, honey, sweet pea and sage with some added viscosity due to several months ageing on its lees.

Claude Vialade 2014 Le Carla Special Reserve Colombard Sauvignon Blanc, IGP Côtes de Gascogne Blanc France ($15.95)
John Szabo – Among the Midi whites in the release, this snappy colombard-sauvignon blanc is the most appealing, a fresh, crisp, crunchy, green fruit-scented white, simple but enjoyable. Serve well chilled.

Domaine Des Terrisses 2012 Grande Tradition, Gaillac, France ($17.95)
John Szabo – This was one of the great discoveries of the release. Duras and braucol may not be household names, but they’re authentic southwestern French grapes to which syrah is added to create this nicely balanced, firm and authentic country red made by 7th generation winemakers. Acids and tannins find harmony, and everything is nicely pitched. All in all, it’s a really fine, complex and lengthy red wine punching far above its price category, for fans of old world balance and firmness. Also ageworthy.
Sara d’Amato – The southwestern AOC of Gaillac is located just north of Toulouse, bridging a gap between the Languedoc and southern Bordeaux and offers grapes common to both of these appellations. This particular blend is made from syrah, duras and braucol (fer servadou) with a great deal of character such as smoky, dusty herbs and sundried tomato alongside the ripe fruit on the palate.

Domaine Les Yeuses 2013 Les Épices Syrah, Pays d’Oc France ($15.95)
John Szabo – I don’t think this wine has ever not made my best buys list – it has always been, and remains, one of the best values in French syrah that has come through the LCBO. It has all of the radical cold cream and black pepper that one hopes for from old world style syrah, with fine density and weight, balanced acids, and lots of red and black berry fruit. Length is impressive, too. To buy by the case for summer BBQs.

Domaine Des Terrisses Grande Tradition Gaillac 2012Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah 2013 Mas Des Bressades Les Vignes De Mon Père Cabernet Syrah 2013 Cuvée Du Vatican Châteauneuf Du Pape 2012

Mas des Bressades 2013 Les Vignes de Mon Père Cabernet Syrah, Vin de Pays du Gard, France ($21.95)
John Szabo – For a more modern take on southern French red, here’s an impressive Provence-inspired Cabernet-Syrah blend, deeply coloured, deeply fruity, dark and satisfying. Tannins are ripe and firm, and length is excellent. Best 2016-2023.

Cuvée du Vatican 2012 Manus Dei Châteauneuf du Pape, Rhône, France ($38.95)
Sara d’Amato – The Manus Dei is the second label of Cuvée du Vatican now called Chateau Sixtine and is a blend of 60% grenache, 25% syrah and 15% mourvèdre. A refined expression of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with great ageing potential at a steal of a price.


Sara d’Amato

From VINTAGES June 25, 2016

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Michael’s Mix
All June 25 Reviews

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012