Monday, May 14, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday #33 - Entry #1

We popped open this bottle of vino specifically for entry into this month's "Wine Blogging Wednesday" (WBW), the 33rd such event since its inception in September of 2004. The idea is that everyone in the wine blogosphere finds a bottle that satisfies that month's theme, then everyone drinks them and we all compare notes!

This month's WBW is being hosted by Marcus over at Doktor Weingolb. The theme is "Midi-priced Wines for the Midi" meaning wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France (often called "the Midi") that cost between $15-$30. For more information on "the rules", check out Doktor Weingolb's explanation of WBW #33. You don't need a wine blog to be able to participate - Marcus will be setting up a comment area where you can post your tasting notes directly to his site, so please join in! As with all things "wine", the more the merrier...

Wines from Languedoc-Roussillon
So this is the part of the post where I'd normally go into too much detail about where the wine comes from, or how its made, that sort of thing. However, since this is a WBW wine, Marcus has already done all of that background research for me! Check out all of the WBW#33 posts on Doktor Weingolb to learn more than you ever wanted to know about wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. Being a wine-geek, I can't let myself off quite that easily though, so I'll recap.

The Languedoc -Roussillon region is in Southern France, stretching along the Mediterranean coast from near the Spanish border to just south of the Rhône. From the geography alone, I'm thinking this would be a fantastic place to visit - wineries and beaches in the same trip!

Within the Languedoc-Roussillon region, there is a mind-boggling number of subregions and appellations - luckily, Marcus has compiled a truly exhaustive list of all L-R regions.

If you actually click on that link, you'll notice that a lot of the names are preceded by "VdP", which stands for "Vin de Pays". This is literally translated as "wines of the country", and is a step or two up from the generic "table wine" designation allowed by France's strict wine labeling laws. Similar to my recent discussion about Super Tuscans, VdP wines are ones that "breaks the rules" of their appellation by creating wines with grapes or techniques not allowed in that region. Recognizing that the end result of many of these wines are quite spectacular, the "Vin de Pays" designation was created to recognize wines superior to simple "table wines" that would otherwise not be allowed under current wine law.

Domaine Le Pas de L'Escalette le 1er Pas Rouge
While I typically seem to be a fan of non-conformist rule-breakers, I apparently didn't end up with a VdP wine for WBW #33 - my 2005 Domaine Le Pas de L'Escalette appears to come under the Appellation d'Origine de Contrôlée (AOC) Coteaux du Languedoc. This wine was purchased at in Gaithersburg, MD directly from the winemaker during their recent French winetasting event. (I also purchased the slightly more expensive Domaine Le Pas de L'Escalette Les Clapas Rouge for $20, which I also hope to taste and submit for WBW#33!)

This wine was 13.5% alcohol, and made from Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault and Syrah - all grapes near and dear to me from my experience with Santa Barbara's Rhone Rangers (predominantly California winemakers, especially from Paso Robles / Santa Barbara, creating wines in the Rhône / Southern France style).

Tasting Notes
The wine was bright, light cherry in color. It had a fruity and spicy nose - so much so that I would have never thought of the wine as French (French wines always seem a little more subdued to me). The spice on the nose continues enthusiastically through to the palate, with smooth tannins and a fair amount of fruit.

Overall Recommendation
I see this wine as a good "transition wine" for white drinkers looking to try out some red. It is very approachable, yet has some depth with its fruit and spice to hold your interest. However, you may have been able to tell by the lack of specificity in my tasting notes that I was not totally digging this wine. It's not that it was bad - it was quite good, in fact - but at $15, I'm looking for more. So I would have to say that this wine has "just OK" QPR (quality-to-price ratio). Thus I would not classify this as one of the "wine bargains" that Doktor Weingolb has convinced me that the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France is capable of producing. Stay tuned for tasting notes from this wine's big brother, the Les Clapas Rouge - at $20, I think it may bump up the QPR rating quite a bit! I also have a "vin doux naturel" from the Banyuls - kind of like a Languedoc-Roussillon version of Port (more on that in a few days!).


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