A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.
Monday, February 6, 2012
Counoise - Vin de Pays du Gard, France and Lake County, California
Exactly where the grape ultimately came from isn't known, but there is a story that the grape may have come come into France via Spain. The story goes that a papal office made an offering of the grape to Pope Urban V during the period of time (the 14th Century) that the papacy was located in Avignon (whence Châteuneuf-du-Pape, or "the Pope's new castle," gets its name). The grape was spread throughout the region and used primarily as a blending grape until the late 19th Century when the Château la Nerthe estate began to use it more heavily. Their example wasn't followed by other producers, though, until Beaucastel decided to increase its presence in their blend.
It has never been a star in Châteauneuf-du-Pape (or anywhere, really), for a variety of reasons. The main reason is that it is only an average yielder so it never really caught on in the more productive regions of southern France in the way that Carignan did. Further, wine made from the grape oxidizes easily and lacks tannic structure, so it isn't really well suited to lengthy bottle aging. Since many Chateauneuf-du-Pape bottlings are made to undergo serious cellar time, extensive reliance on high doses of Counoise isn't really feasible. It does, however, provide nice acidity and a peppery kind of flavor that blends well with Grenache and Syrah, which has probably helped to keep it around in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards.
Mencia grape from Spain. To go a little more mainstream, it was somewhere between a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc and a light Oregon Pinot Noir. Those looking for solid, red-berry fruit dominant red wines would be well-served checking this out as it represents a very nice value for only $12.
here. In the glass the wine was a fairly light ruby color. The nose was nicely aromatic with briary, brambly raspberry and blackberry fruit fruits with some black cherry and leather. On the palate the wine was on the fuller side of medium with fairly high acid and fairly low tannins. There were flavors of black cherry and blackberry fruit with some charcoal, smoke, baking chocolate and cola. There was a bit of wild strawberry and spicy black pepper, but overall, the flavor profile on this wine was a bit darker than the French version, though it still had a wild, berryish kind of appeal. I found this version much more deep and interesting and felt that it definitely was worth the extra $5.