wine of the week

Wine: Sainte-Croix Syrah-Merlot.

Grape: Syrah (50 percent), Merlot (50 percent)

Region: Vin de Pays D’Oc, France

Vintage: 2011

Price: $4.99

Availability: Trader Joe’s

In the glass: This Sainte-Croix is a fine semitranslucent violet red color in the glass with a firm ruby-red core going out into a fine light pink rim definition with medium viscosity.

On the nose: It exudes bright red peppery fruit with freshly crushed strawberries, cranberries and red currants, followed by phenolically laced red pepper skins, vanilla beans and raspberry sorbet with touches of fresh wood and wet stone.

On the palate: This wine collides with the taste buds in the most dramatic fashion, partly because of its relative youth, but also because it is just a rockin’ little wine full of crushed red fruits, as if you took raspberries, strawberries and cranberries and mashed them up with cracked black pepper and a touch of calcium powder, you’d have the hypothetical equivalent of this wine. Also it has a nice red berry finish with firm dryish tannins, but all goodness in the glass.

Odds and ends: It would be hard to claim that 2011 was a very successful vintage in all areas of France. Bordeaux was mediocre at best on average, while Burgundy appears to have made fairly decent and lovely drinking wines. Champagne was a washout. And then there’s the deep south, where this wine comes from, amidst the sun-kissed vines of the Languedoc region where the grapes ripen more evenly. Syrah is one of the very successful grape varieties grown here and then merlot for the blend, making for a nice concentrated mix of a classic Rhone grape variety and a Bordeaux one. The result in this phenomenally well-priced bottle of wine speaks for itself, because if one is asked to pay less than $5 per bottle for such an easily drinkable wine, there should be nothing to really discuss further. I noticed they were floor-stacking this up front in the Trader Joe’s stores, meaning it’ll sell like hotcakes. So it would be advisable to grab a case before it’s all gone. This wine would make a great companion to prime rib with au jus and potatoes. Drink 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 gil@winevegas.com.

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