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2001 Borie de Maurel "Esprit d' Automne" red blend, Minervois, France

I first encountered this wine in the "values" section of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. It happened to be stocked by one of my local stores, so I picked up a bottle, and I was really impressed, to the point of thinking that this was probably the best $12 bottle of wine I've ever tasted. That opinion hasn't changed over the years, and I try to have a few of these bottles always lying around because it's a lot of fun to drink with food.

This wine comes to us through the efforts of Robert Kacher, who has a singleminded focus on finding small, mostly undiscovered producers all over France who produce extremely high quality wines at incredible values. In this case, he has discovered a small (25 hectare) estate high in the hills in the Minervois region, northeast of the town of Carcassone in Southern France. Owners Michel and Sylvie Escande keep their yields extremely low (10 grape bunches per vine) and hand harvest the grapes as late as possible to maximize the concentration of flavors in the fruit.

The blend here is mostly Syrah, with some of the other usual suspects that make appearances in the Languedoc/Minervois: Carignan and Grenache. I don't know much about the winemaking, other than it is unoaked and bottled unfiltered and unfined.

Tasting Notes:
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis, smoke, wet leather, earth, and sawdust. On the tongue it displays soft tannins, and flavors of prunes/plums spices, smoke, and figs with a decent finish. This wine gives the overall impression that its name "spirit of autumn" might imply -- an earthy warm wine that feels like fall.

Food Pairing:
Even though this wine might feel like fall, it's a great wine for summer because it perfectly complements rich grilled meats and can stand up to the tangy smoke of BBQ sauces. I've served this several times with ribs, and would recommend it as a pairing for barbecued beef ribs with molasses-bourbon sauce.

Overall Score: 9

How much?: $11-12

I buy mine from various online merchants. Try Wine Searcher.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.