Languedoc: Banyuls et Coulliere and Coume del Mas
Coume de Mas is located in the southwest of France, not far north of the border with Spain, where the Pyrenees Orientale meet the sparkling Mediterranean sea. Here, steep terraced vineyards of mainly Schist soils bask in the warm southern French sunshine, moderated with mountain air to cool the vineyards. The winery was founded in 2000 by Philippe Gard and his family, who have now put together an estate of about 12 hectares with many parcels of old vines. The steep vineyards have to be worked by hand, a few can be plowed by horse, and the vines are tended organically wherever possible. The vines are literally growing in rock here, struggling for every ounce of essence they can extract to create concentrated, lovely wines. The dry wines are made under the Appellation of Collioure, the sweet wines are appellation Banyuls. To learn more and to see more photos visit the Coume del Mas Website and Blog by clicking here.
Coume del Mas "Schistes" 2006, Collioures - Deep, dark saturated, with spice, black fruits, from 30 Parcels of old vine, 100% Grenache Noir. Hand-sorted, de-stemmed and fermented in stainless steel for about 5 weeks, pressed and then 8-9 months back in tank before bottling. Dark, spicy and deep, with mineral tones from the schist soils, hearty and solid. Lamb and grilled meats come to mind - burgers on the grill wouldn't be out of place here either!! About $32 per bottle.
Coume del Mas Banyuls Galateao 2005 - Deep and dark and saturated with lovely black fruits and sweet plum with a hint of rasiny ripeness. Though it is fortified, it is not as liquorish as a Port, more wine-like and balanced, with lower alcohol, it works with many of the same foods - it's especially good with chocolate! About $40 per 500ml.
Cataluna: Gramona Cava
Gramona Gran Cuvee Cava 2006 - Cava is a traditional sparkling wine made in Cataluna, not far from Barcelona. It's a blend of Xarel.lo, Macebeo and Chardonnay in equal parts and fermented in the traditional method in the bottle. While some of the mass produced brands can sometime be dull and uninspired, there are a number of small growers making lovely, fresh and exciting Cava, Gramona being one of our favorites. Crisp and fine, with lovely small bubbles, fresh and lively on the palate. Great aperitif or with all kinds of seafood, shellfish and appetizers. About $19.50 bottle.
The Pyranees - Madiran
The tour leaves Catluna, goes through Andorra and then into the Basque Country of the western Pyrenees. The region of Madiran has made wine since Roman times, with wine making becoming even more important with the arrival of Benedictine Monks from Cluny who built an Abbey in the 11th century. It is known for gutsy, rustic country reds made from Tannat, blended with Cabernet Franc (locally called Bouchy) and Cabernet Sauvignon , which as the joke goes, is blended in to "soften the Tannat".
Chateau Laffitte-Teston "Reflets du Terroir" Madiran - French country wine at its finest, this rugged blend of 80% Tannat, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc is full of fragrant aromatics and solidly structured fruit. Leather and mixed berries with meaty notes of and spices, coolish and firm, with solid mouth filling tannins. Classic bistro wine for classic bistro fare, enjoy this now and over the next four years. Just add steak or lamb chops on the grill, a tossed green salad, and frites - presto! You're in France! About $18.50.
Monday is a rest day - they'll need it after the Pyrenees - then on to the Loire Valley, Chablis and Alsace! Don't forget to watch the action live on Versus!