As a kid, one of my heroes was Muhammed Ali. His combination of grace, power, and speed were mesmerizing and, of course, he was not short of telling you, ‘I am the greatest.’
Well, the wines we have for you this week remind me of this great boxer. Both made by Chateau La Bouissier from two different but neighboring appellations in the Southern Rhone: Vacqueyras and Gigondas. Both wines have grace, but also awesome power-- a combination that is always a winner.
Chateau La Bouissiere is a second-generation family winery, originally started by Antonin who planted vines on family land near Gigondas, up in the mountains aptly called the Dentelles ("teeth") de Montmirail. These limestone spikes dominate the landscape in a spectacular fashion. Antonin married Genevieve, whose family had land in Vacqueyras, and now their three children run every aspect of the winery, which straddles the two regions. Tasting their wines, I was transported to the rugged landscapes from which they are born.
This is a beautiful wine, with notes of wild sage and herbs, figs and black raspberries that brood in your mouth for ages. I also love the earthy, rustic nature -- a feature of Vacqueyras in general that is present but not out of balance. The vineyards are lower and flatter than in Gigondas, and filled with alluvial and glacial soils with ‘galets roules’, or large round quartz stones, throughout. This gives the wine a clean, clear quality, much like a stream running over pebbles. The blend is basically 50:50 Grenache to Syrah with a tiny amount of Mouvedre. It has me lusting after some sizzling rich sausages with a ratatouille or roast vegetables.
While you can feel the familial resemblance to the Vacqueyras, the Gigondas is rounder and so balanced it almost hides the power and depth of the wine.The vineyards are some of the highest in Gigondas and are planted on limestone rubble from the Dentelles, with roots that reach through to a layer of clay. The clay provides vital moisture for the vines during the later summer months, and this, along with the cooler northwest aspect of the vineyard, prevents over ripeness and helps create wines that are graceful and precise. This wine is 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah and, vintage permitting, up to 100% whole cluster fermentation, which also fosters elegance. It has ripe black cherry fruits and red apples with white peppery notes. It immediately makes me think of pork chops with a wonderful creamy sauce.
Finally, in case you missed it last week, Kolfok Intra! The Wild 'orange wine' is wonderful for this late summer weather. If you have not sampled it yet, definitely give it a whirl.