NV Saint-Cosme “Little James’ Basket Press”

Hello friends. We have the return of a list-member favorite from last November, just in time for the Grenache-starved among us:

This might end up working out well. If Little James can get us through the winters, and Lou Ven Tou can get us through the summers, we’ll be able to get our value Rhone Grenache fix for most of the year.

Now, a reminder of what Little James is all about. Louis Barruol of Saint Cosme has (rightly) built his public reputation on wines from his home base of Gigondas. But among the wine-trade/insider/sommelier set, there may be even more affection for his least expensive wine.

Because it’s one thing to make a quality Grenache that retails for $30-$100; it’s something else to develop a Grenache that brings pleasure for ten bucks. Much more frequently spotted on restaurant glass-pour lists than on retail shelves, this is as perfect an autumn/winter house wine as there is, an easy choice for a drizzly Wednesday night.

Louis began this as a solera project in 1999. It’s a NV (non-vintage) bottling, and each bottle contains about 50% of the most recent vintage (in this case 2012), and 50% from the solera, which at this point contains juice from every vintage from 1999 to 2011. It gets the Vin de France designation, because it contains juice from the Cosme Grenache holdings in the Southern Rhone as well as the Languedoc.

As we all know, there is a surfeit of serious bottles in the wine world. This is not intended to be one of them, as you can glean from the label. What are we to do, then, when a wine intended for playfulness turns out to sneakily contain a little seriousness?

Enjoy it either way. This can be enjoyed for the sheer pleasure it brings, the lovely pure expression of briar-berry Grenache. But there is undeniable complexity here (having a small proportion of juice that is up to 14 years old doesn’t hurt), and if you want to take your time with this bottle and pay attention, you’ll be rewarded handsomely. It begins with a fresh, inviting nose of cherry pastille, peppermint, and garrigue. The palate is full of good honest Grenache notes, with brambly red fruit (raspberry, cherry) and earth notes comingling. It’s successful as ever at its dual role as a glugger with sneaky complexity.

Folks planning holiday parties or winter weddings should consider Little James as a strong option. First come first served up to 72 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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