Wednesday, May 16, 2007

WBW #33 - Mid-Priced Midi Wines

Here we are again folks, Wine Blogging Wednesday is upon us once more. Lenn's idea is now almost three years old! This month we must thank the noble Doktor Weingolb for hosting. He has gone above and beyond the call of duty in providing lots of information regarding his chosen theme: wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France that are priced between $15-30. Mid-priced Midi wines, if you will. And I certainly will!

The Languedoc-Roussillon, also known as the Midi, is a huge area west of Provence, south of the Rhone Valley, just northeast of the Spanish Pyrenees, all of it draped around the Mediterranean Sea. This is hot weather France where hardy grapes thrive, like Grenache and Mourvedre, Cinsault and Carignan, and of course, Syrah.

There are many appellations in the Midi. Some folks feel that the area is really too large to be one wine region, that the western part, the Roussillon, is distinct from the Languedoc. And within the Languedoc, for example, that the Coteaux du Languedoc appellation is too large and should be divided up. I do not have the knowledge or experience to add anything to that debate, but I will say that I have felt intimidated when I think about delving into the wines of the Midi. Is St Chinian different from Fitou? From Minervois or Corbieres? And if so, how are they different, aside from being in different places? Do they permit varying percentages of Syrah, for example, or it is an elevation and wind thing? Where would I start?!? I usually give up and walk back to the Loire section.

But Marcus' theme got me thinking...if I am trying to lower my average $ per bottle average, at the same time refusing to sacrifice quality, and while accepting the fact that I am an unabashed lover of French wine, I might need to get to know the Midi a bit more.

For WBW #33 I combined this sense of experimentation with another idea that appeals to me in wine and wine making - natural wines. I noticed that several Midi wines were poured at Dressner's Real Wine Attack tasting a while back, a 2004 Mas de Chimeres Coteaux du Languedoc among them. I liked the wine at the tasting, so why not follow up at home where I can experience it over the course of a few hours with dinner?

Unfined and unfiltered, aged in wooden barrels, in the 2004 vintage the wine is about equal parts Grenache and Syrah, with some Cinsault and Mourvedre for good measure. A southern country wine, a lusty blend, that seemed to call for lusty food. How about the hormone-free, organically fed and raised, free roaming, registered democrat lamb shoulder chops I grabbed at the Farmer's Market? Roasted with herbs, some spring vegetables on the side, sounds like a pairing.

BrooklynLady and I decided on asparagus, as they are perfectly in season and just beautiful right now. Also some pink potatoes roasted with a little garlic. For the lamb, we used the mortar and pestle to grind some aromatic fresh mint into a paste, added a little salt and some good olive oil. Shoulder chops can be a little tough if you just sear and eat, like a loin or rib chop. I like to sear them in a hot pan, and then finish them in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. They are just a bit pink, but a more tender than they are when left rare.

This spring meal worked really well with the wine, both in flavor and in feeling. Holding greasy lamb chops with your hands, garlic on your fingers, picking up an asparagus spear, leaving mint paste fingerprints on your glass...works with this slightly rustic and definitely lusty wine. Here are some notes:

2004 Mas de Chimeres Coteaux du Languedoc, $17.
Incredible vibrant ruby red color, almost electric under the light, yet completely translucent. Warm and inviting aromas of raspberries and dusty earth. I found concentrated and juicy red fruit on the palate, BrooklynLady found intense bloody meat also. Interesting, but a little disjointed. After about 45 minutes when we sat down to dinner the wine was more balanced and complex, the fruit more relaxed, some herbal qualities present, and an interesting finish of what to me was, and get your alliteration meters ready for this one: chocolate covered cherry cordial candies. Very sappy, lots of kirsch. The tannic feel of this wine was very different from that in the Loire reds and Burgundies I am used to. These tannins were exquisitely fine grained, which made the wine feel expansive and lush in the mouth.

I was very much impressed by this wine and would definitely buy it again. A wine of this quality at this price without question has a place in my drinking rotation. My only issue is that it clocks in at 14.5% alcohol, which is about 20% higher than what I'm used to. Hard to have a glass while cooking, and then another and a bit more with dinner at that alcohol level. I mean c'mon folks, I have to be able to change and feed the baby daughter later on, and to do so with nimble, loving, and sure hands. I know that many Rhone reds are high in alcohol too, there must be something about these grape varieties in this climate that leads to higher alcohol wines...not a criticism, just a point of interest. But it might lead me to look elsewhere when deciding what to open for sipping on the deck. This bottle of lushness needs food and at least two other people around, or things can quickly get out of hand. So are there high quality and mid-priced Midi wines out there at lower alcohol levels?

Many thanks to Marcus for being such a gracious and kind host, and for making it so much easier to get a little Midi experience. I'm coning back for more.

9 comments:

Marcus said...

Nice job Neil. I think you picked a popular bottle for the event. Check back at my site for more...

Joe said...

Hey, Brooklyn! I almost pulled a Mas de Chimeres myself...good thing I held off! Nice wine, though...

Brooklynguy said...

Curious to see what others thought of it. Good theme Dok, and generous preperation too. Why a good thing Joe?

RougeAndBlanc said...

'chocolate covered cherry cordial candies'. Interesting connotation.
Didn't remember tasting this wine at Chambers. I shall try one to get my chocolate & cherry fix.
Andrew

Joe said...

If we are going to drink the same wine, it should be shared!

Brooklynguy said...

I haven't checked the postings yet - I bet many people went with the Chimeres - it's widely available.

Dr. Debs said...

I've seen this wine around but never purchased it. I definitely will now. I know what you mean about the alcohol. Maybe it's middle age, maybe its creeping alcohol, but I'm so relieved to see a wine at 13% these days because I (like you) appreciate one glass while cooking, one while eating, and sometimes one while cleaning up!

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Debsie,
I also like a glass while planning the menu and another while shopping.

Anonymous said...

French wine is the best! One reason is the French wine region