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2003 Chateau de Montpezat "Palombieres" Coteaux du Languedoc, France

montpezat.palombieres_sm.jpgIt seems like my friends who are serious wine drinkers and even winemakers are strictly divided on Grenache. Some think it's the next big thing, while others could really take it or leave it. Sure, they'll drink a nice Gigondas every once in a while, or a good crisp rose, but they don't understand what all the fuss is about.

If I had to fall into one of those camps, I'm probably in the former, rather than the latter. I happen to like the tart acidity and berry flavors of Grenache, and I especially like it when it's not turned into StrawberryJamInABottle, which is what some winemakers seem to be doing with it these days.

Grenache is a versatile grape, that can be "expressed" in many ways by a winemaker. No one, in my opinion, does it better, though than the winemakers of southern France. In the bottom of the Rhone Valley and down into the Languedoc, families have been growing it for generations, and produce some of best tasting and best value Grenache around.

Chateau de Montpezat is just one of those family run estates. It is currently run by young Christophe Blanc, a the representative of the third generation of his family to farm the estate, which goes back much farther as a winegrowing property. Located in the small town of Pezenas, in the warmest area of the Languedoc, the estate can trace its history as far back as 1646, when it belonged to the ruler of the region, François le Carrion, lord of Nizas. It changed hands several times over the following two centuries, but by the late 1800's records show that it was a well established wine producer. The present chateau dates to 1884, and is still the primary residence and working winery for the Blanc family. Christophe Blanc has lived his whole life on the estate, and wine has always been a part of that life (look carefully on the web site and you can see pictures of young Chris riding barrels).

The estate comprises about 65 acres of gravelly hillside vineyards behind the village of Pezenas. The vines sweep back away from the town up to the foot of the forest, where many palombieres -- small thatch hunting blinds used by local bird hunters -- sit, camouflaged against the hillside. The Blanc family tends Cabernet, Merlot, Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre, most of whose vines were planted in the 1970s, making for mature, complex fruit.

This particular wine is a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Mourvedre. Both grapes are crushed and undergo a very long fermentation (up to 4 weeks). The Grenache and sees no oak, while the Mourvedre is aged for 1 year in new oak before blending. The wine is fined with egg whites and then bottled unfiltered.

Tasting Notes:
A medium garnet color in the glass, this wine explodes with one of the most aromatic bouquets I have had in some time. I got lots of violets and other floral aromas, tart, unripe blackberries, alpine strawberries, and cassis, among other smells. In the mouth it is medium bodied, and tastes of sour cherries, black pepper, and blackberries. At first it seems to have no perceptible tannins, but they slowly, sneakily creep up on the edges of your tongue as the wine lasts to a substantial finish given how light it is in body.

Food Pairing:
This is an excellent food wine, and would even accompany dishes as light as some fish well. However, I think it would be a lovely match to roasted chicken with risotto and caramelized onions.

Overall Score: 9/9.5

How Much?: $15

This wine is available for sale online. it is imported by Robert Kacher Selections.

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