Monday, July 6, 2009

Tour de France - Stage Four

Tour de France – Stage 4,
Wednesday July 7, 2009 – Montpelier, Languedoc-Rousillon

Today’s stage from Marseilles to Le Grand Motte, through beautiful Provencal countryside and the villages of Les Baux de Provence and Arles, proved to be much more exciting than anticipated. Windy conditions and smart riding allowed a small group of attentive riders, including none other than seven time winner Lance Armstrong, to join a move by the Columbia team on a sharp turn and ride away from the pack to finish 39 seconds ahead of the next group. With this, the tour leaves Provence (not to return until the killer stage up the infamous Mont Ventoux) and swings to the south and west into the heart of the Languedoc-Rousillon. This is one of the most ancient wine regions in France, with history that begins with the Greeks in the 5th Century BC, continuing with the Romans next, and nearly unabated since.

The hot, dry, sunny Mediterranean climate makes it easy to grow grapes, but it has a mixed history as far as quality goes. Its ease of growing grapes encouraged mass production of wines of lesser quality to be made, and much of the region became sadly known as the home of oceans of plonk. In the last 20-30 years, the shift has been away from the wines of the past with a drive towards higher quality, a change that has not been without some fairly significant social upheaval, but the result has been a bigger focus on quality over quantity.

Wines from this region are mainly grown from heat loving southern Rhone varieties, the major red wine grapes including Grenache Noir, Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, with seemingly omnipresent Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot making the scene too. Whites include Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Chardonnay, Chenin, Mauzac and Clairette Blanche. The main reputation here however is for hearty full-bodied reds that range from rustic and traditional to slightly more modern in their approach. The following are just a couple of suggestions, although there many many fine AOC’s and VDP’s to choose from. The Granges des Pere is one of the greatest in the region, a “neo-Classic” if you will, with a cult following the world over. The next two “Cellar Defenders™ are indicative of all of the improvement in quality the region has seen, creating a wealth of wines that are delicious and affordable without giving up the soul and character of their terroir.

To quote Joe Bembry: “Domaine de la Grange des Peres is famous. - famous for being clearly the best Domaine in the Languedoc-Rousillon? Yes, it’s unquestionable. But also fame comes in the form of the Laurent Vaille, the former physiotherapist turned wine wizard. His tutelage under Gerard Chave and Francois Coche-Dury gave him the tools to become the legendary figure he has now become. Starting in 1992, this winery has gone from “on the map” to “off the charts”, wowing not only the wine press, but all who taste the wines. They are that spectacular…Just last week, the wine press bestowed them with their highest scores yet for the 2005 vintage. But as you know, you can’t drink a score. And because we were able to secure the wine before the rating, we are able to offer these rare, wonderful wines in both 750ml bottles and 1.5L magnums.

2005 Domaine de la Granges des Peres – Granges des Peres – A big rich blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Mourvedre that defies logic with a balancing act of jammy dark berry fruit and savage, meaty, gamy…at the same time. A wine that will age magnificently in a cool cellar, but is truly hard to resist right now. Available in both 750ml and also a few extremely rare magnums. $94/bottle – buy 6 bottles or more pay only $79.50, MAGNUMS - $185 net. *Wine arrives Thursday July 9th.

2005 Domaine Salitis Cabardes Cuvee Premium - Surprisingly regal effort for a wine from the not-so-sexy appellation of Cabardes, this deft blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah & Grenache is really beautifully made. Rustic edges accent the supple flavors laced with red fruits, raspberry, pepper, game and solid length; this is made for red meat with a sturdy framework of tannins and wealth of fruit. Fire up the grill! $18 - $16.20 by the mixed case.

2007 Domaine Sallies Marselan Vin de Pays, Languedoc - Reminiscent of a Cru Beaujolais with a bit more structure, this offering based on the Marselan grape has uncommon origin. A crossing between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, the Sallies has pretty blue fruit tones, plums, minerals and fine tannins. Tasty stuff for chops and big enough for roasts, enjoy this now and over the next year or so to enjoy all the lively fruit. $13

For more information or to purchase these wines visit us online at 56 Degree Wine or call 908.953.0900

Stage Five – Thursday July 8th - Le Cap d'Agde - Perpignan - Watch it on Versus Channel or online at Le Tour De France

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