The best values in France tend to come from the vast, Mediterranean region known as Languedoc-Roussillon, which has always produced vast quantities of wine – one-third of France’s entire output – but only in the last decade or two have vintners there been focusing on quality over quantity.
Like the Cave de Roquebrun Coteaux du Languedoc Chemin des Olivettes 2009 spotlighted earlier this week, Col des Vents Corbières 2009, is produced by a cooperative in a smaller sub-region of the Languedoc, in this case the Castelmaure coop in Corbières. And like most Languedoc reds, it’s made from a blend of grapes widely used in France’s Rhone Valley, most famously grenache and syrah. Yet Corbières is known for featuring what is a bit player in the Rhone, the carignan grape, and Col des Vents is no exception.
Castelmaure Col des Vents is consistently pleasing year in and year out. We noted critical acclaim for the 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintage in this one column, and the average scores for the community tasting notes on cellartracker.com range from 86 points to nearly 90 points for every vintage between 2003 and 2008. We fully expect this wine to land on the Wine for the Rest of Us Top 5 French Value Reds list.
Washington Post wine columnist Dave McIntyre apparently agrees, having praised the 2007 vintage two years ago as “so beautifully aromatic and floral that it triggered my spring allergies. In January.” Nine months later he recommended the 2008 Col des Vents.
“This is one of my favorites, year in, year out, because of its bright fruit and acidity, its floral aromas and its impeccable balance,” he wrote in November 2010. “The Languedoc produces an ocean of wine, and this one is regularly a standout value.”
Despite the rave reviews, prices of Col des Vents stayed affordable over the years, and it’s still widely available for less than $10 a bottle, including at Ace Beverages on New Mexico Ave., NW, for $7.99 and Mongtomery County Liquor stores, which has the next best deal in the area at $8.95. (Total Wine in Virginia and Corridor Wine & Spirits in Laurel, for comparison’s sake, are out of stock but have it priced at $12.99 when the 2009 vintage arrives.) See slideshow for representative sample of prices and availability.
An even richer, step-up wine from the Castelmaure coop is well worth a few extra dollars for a special occasion or as a gift for dinner party hosts – if for no other reason than its impressively ornate label. It costs about $15 around town, including at Montgomery County stores, Ace Beverages, Total Wine in Virginia and both Corridor and Beltway Fine Wine in Maryland.
This is a more Rhone-style blend of syrah and grenache with just a 10 percent splash of carignan, making it “An easy drinker, but with a bit of a dark side,” according to the latter being vinified by the technique of carbonic maceration a la Beaujolais Nouveau, but the other parts of the old vine mix are vinified traditionally.
“It does have a forward, creamy fruit lift on the nose, but hints of the aniseed and floral garrigue of the south,” according to Tom Cannavan's wine-pages.com out of the UK, who made Castelmaure Corbières 2009 his Wine of the Week a back in early October.
“Forward, creamy fruit lift on the nose, but hints of the aniseed and floral garrigue of the south,” he wrote. “On the palate there is a bit of grip and liquoricy, endive-like edge that adds lots of savoury structure and interest to the creamy, quite plush berry fruit with that soft approachability.” (See this video for more detailed tasting notes and food-matching suggestions.)
Today’s lovely weather may have you popping a chardonnay cork this evening. But with more cold rain, threatening to turn to snow on Sunday, these are just the type of wines perfect for pouring by the fire.
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