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Purveyor of uncommon wine, spirits & beer.

Filtering by Tag: Languedoc-Roussillon

Not the Sea to Drink

woodlandwinemerchant

The viewpoint behind the wines of Domaine du Possible is immediately apparent upon holding a bottle in your hands. Wine is enjoyment, an expression of culture, a taking pleasure in the vagaries of life. It's apparent in the name of the estate, the names of the wines, and no more clearly than in the wines themselves. Loïc Roure was planning to leave his job with Amnesty International to open a restaurant and wine bar when, in 2003, he decided instead to open his very own organic winery in the Pyrenees of southwestern France. This places him in the camp of the bona fide vigneron-philosopher, further enhanced by an internship in Cornas with the legendary Thierry Allemand. He started with only 2.5 hectares (about 6 acres) and has slowly built to a whopping 10 hectares—still tiny by any commercial standard.

I've been a fan of these wines for several years now, but have really been swept away by the current vintages, which seem to have hit their stride. We have two wines in the shop at the moment, C'est pas la mer à boire and Charivari. The former translates to something like "It's not the sea to drink," meaning basically don't sweat it, it's not such a big deal. The latter, Charivari, is a reference to an old folk tradition wherein villagers would bang pots and pans outside the marriage room on a couple's wedding night. Both names evoke a sense of playfulness truly appropriate for the wines.

Roure makes authentic wines that speak to place and time and that enliven the palate. They have a freshness and a subtle underlying funk that captures a startling energy and presents a paradox of sensations. And they complement each other well. Where the Charivari (carignan) is snappy and crisp and redolent of Christmas spices, the C'est pas la mer à boire (grenache, carignan, syrah) has a touch of dried red fruits and only a hint of peppery spice. Either way, these are wines perfectly made for the long, fun-loving days of June.


 

Domaine du Possible
Charivari ($22) carignan
C'est pas la mer à boire ($22) grenache, carignan, syrah

Domaine Rimbert

scott

From nearly hundred-year-old Carignan vines, Jean-Marie Rimbert makes some of the lightest and most engaging red wine for under $20 from the Languedoc region of France. His reds, especially his Les Travers de Marceau, look nearly Beaujolais-like in the glass. And like the best of Beaujolais, his wines are firmly structured and just a notch funky, making a perfect choice for a summery, but not too simple, red. Jean-Marie grew up in Provence and bought his first tiny parcel of land in the village of Berlou nearly 25 years ago. Berlou is the highest village in the Languedoc-Rousillon appellation of Saint-Chinian. It also happens to be widely planted with hillside Carignan that is, in some places, over 100 years old. Greater vine age typically imparts a greater intensity of fruit, leading to more fragrant and more complex wines. In the case of Domaine Rimbert, Jean-Marie seems to play against the obvious. The intensity shows up in the form of structure, minerality, a sort of textural richness. Not, however, in the form of dark fruit or heavy tannins.

And just when you think you've got a handle on what he's doing up there, then comes the rosé. It's basically just the opposite. Deep apple-skin red in color, sweaty on the nose, firm tannins nearly like a red... A great answer to that summertime question: Hm, red or rosé?

The Wines

Domaine Rimbert "Les Travers de Marceau" Saint-Chinian — $15 (Mourvedre, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault)

Domaine Rimbert "Petit Cochon Bronzé" — $13 (Cinsault, Syrah)

Château d'Oupia

scott

I was 19 the last time I visited Southern France. A kid really, and not an especially world-weary one. I did hop some trains and I struck up conversations with fellow travelers and I read Herman Hesse and tried my best to live in the moment. But in my haste and ignorance I missed out completely on the living history of viticulture that is so rich in that part of the world. I didn't care or know anything about wine. And looking back, it seems prodigal. Today the wines and the culture of Southwest France have become a sort of fascination, and I long to go again knowing now what I did not know then. When I do (hopefully sooner rather than later), I'll be stopping by Château d'Oupia. For me, no other property in the region better embodies all that is great about the wines of the Southwest. It's located in the hillside AOC of Minervois, at the heart of one of the most rapidly improving wine regions in the world.

It's family run, small. The castle is four hundred years old. The man who inherited the land and founded the Oupia estate, André Iché, died in 2007. His daughter Marie-Pierre now runs the winery and Laurent Batlle makes the wines in "Andre's way" as he has since 2008. It's this dedication to the vision that makes these wines so special.

Their combination of quality and price has always left me scratching my head wondering, "How do they do it?" But after a while, and after a few glasses of their Minervois, I find myself relenting to the appeal of the wine and simply accepting the experience as truth. Then I find my mind wandering again to those ancient hillsides and planning my next voyage, this time, hopefully, all the wiser.

Free Tasting Saturday, June 15 | 3-5pm The Wines

Château d'Oupia Les Hérétiques (Carignan) — $10 Château d'Oupia Minervois (Carignan, Syrah, Grenache) — $14 Château d'Oupia Minervois rosé (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault) — $14

From the Tank

scott

Summer is upon us. All those opportunities for outdoor fun are piling up. Folks are making plans for the Fourth. All that. So it's not a moment too soon that our favorite wine in a box just arrived. Perfect for the boat, the canoe, the picnic, the bbq... just generally perfect, really.

From the Tank rosé

A few years back, Francois Ecot (co-owner of Jenny & Francois) got together with natural winemaker Denis Deschamps of Les Vignerons D’ Estézargues (a small, co-cooperative cellar near Avignon) to create a special wine for exclusive distribution by Jenny & Francois. This was a new product line called From the Tank—three handcrafted and quality-driven wines in eco-friendly packaging at very low prices. Since its inception, the production of the white and the rosé has been moved to another producer in the Jenny & Francois family, Domaine de la Patience. This year's rosé is a blend of grenache and syrah from the Languedoc-Roussillon  and it's fresh as ever.

After selling out our allotment last year in a matter of two weeks, this year we doubled our order. Still, it's one of our most popular wines of the year and so it tends to fly out of the shop. We'll be tasting it Saturday if you want to try before you buy.

We're also going to add a sparkling rosé from Bugey-Cerdon into the mix, Renardat Fache.

The Wines

From the Tank rosé (3L) | grenache, syrah | Languedoc-Roussillon, France — $26 Renardat Fache | gamay, poulsard | Bugey-Cerdon, France — $20

Mas Champart

scott

Free Tasting | Saturday, May 18 | 3-5pm

To drink good wine is to be transported. It's about moving beyond the dull and familiar spaces of our lives, physically and otherwise. It's about lifting off. Like with travel, sometimes we explore new horizons and sometimes we simply reminisce about the places we love. And, like with travel, we take the good with the bad, always searching and always hoping that each next corner, each next glass will reveal something memorable.

Between those rare occasions of truly new or truly exquisite wines, there is an everyday sort of beauty that suffices. And for me, no wine quite captures that quality like the wines of southern France.

The word mas in French is something akin to the English terms farmhouse or ranch. But there's a little more to it. It's a dialectical term, a sort of colloquialism that refers not only to a structure or a piece of land, but a bucolic way of life in the South of France. Mas Champart, the eponymous wines of Isabelle and Matthieu Champart, are made with such a spirit.

As the story goes, Isabelle was a geographer living in Paris when she met Matthieu, the son of a long line of farmers in the Champagne region of the north. They married and moved South and took over her family's farm in the Languedoc-Roussillon town of Saint-Chinian in 1976. Knowing next to nothing about making wine, they sold off their grapes for twelve vintages straight. But when they began making and bottling their own wine in 1988, "they won almost instant acclaim, and have become the standard against which other producers in the appellation have been measured ever since," according to the Kermit Lynch website.

They're a dynamic duo (he among the vines, she in the cellar) of the likes that inspire wistful decisions. The kind of story and the kind of wine that makes me want to put down my laptop posthaste and whisk away to their humble doorstep, begging for just a few days under their shining sun. But for now, as the May rains pour down around Nashville, I'll have to settle for a glass of simple Champartian beauty and hope for a tomorrow that is even nearly as good.

The Wines

Mas Champart Saint-Chinian rosé — $17 Mas Champart Pays d'Oc red — $18

PS: Only about 40-50 cases of the red was brought into the U.S. in total. We got eight of them. Similarly, the rosé is not something you'll find everywhere. But for us, it's a perennial favorite.