Wine: Chateau Vaissiere Minervois
Grapes: Syrah (80 percent), grenache (20 percent)
Region: Minervois, Southern France
Availability: Trader Joe’s
In the glass: Chateau Vaissiere wine is a dense purplish-red color with an opaque intensely violet core going out into a fuchsia rim definition with highly painted viscosity.
On the nose: This is what I like to call liquid steak and potatoes in a glass with intense pungent ripe black fruit, meaty and toasted fruit notes, yet pretty underlying sweet blackberries, boysenberries, spice box, chewing tobacco, phenolic compounds, earth and chalky minerals.
On the palate: It is a big, masculine full-bodied attack with loads of concentrated black meaty fruit dominated by blackberries, black cherries and loganberries, then finely layered sloe fruit juice, star anise crush, spice and pepper components through the midpalate, going into a fine yet sturdy finish that is all classic garrigue character and yet more extraction of black fruit.
Odds and ends: Minervois, in the vast Languedoc region of Southern France, is an interesting appellation in that it dictates that all wine made here should be a blend and could contain as much as 40 percent of the native grape variety carignane, while the rest may include syrah, grenache and other indigenous varieties. Thanks to winemaker Olivier Mandeville, this is a pretty classic minervois in terms of the blend, but very modern in style with lots of forward fruit, whereas many wines from here can be a tad rustic around the edges. Chateau Vaissiere is owned by the Mandeville family, in whose hands this estate has been growing vines since 1776. Olivier Mandeville’s father, Paul, was the first to plant syrah in this area in 1971 and they have been on the forefront of producing wines from the so-called Rhone blends ever since. (Syrah gives color and backbone to the wines and then grenache adds depth and flavor.) Although 2011 was a difficult vintage across France, there were sufficient sun days in the south of France for the grapes to be ripe and juicy. This is a killer little everyday drinking red wine with serious pedigree, but good for all meaty and pizza dishes. Drink it now through 2016.
Gil Lempert-Schwarz’s wine column appears Wednesdays. Write him at P.O. Box 50749, Henderson, NV 89106-0749, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.