Two from Domaine Courtois

Hello friends. Wow, what an odd combination of sleep-deprived and blissed-out this early fatherhood is. Those of you who have suggested that our offers during this phase of my life may take on a surrealist bent might not be too far off.

Moving along… we have a rouge and a blanc today from a lovely Cotes du Rhone producer that we first worked with almost one year ago:

2010 Domaine Courtois Cotes-du-Rhone Villages “La Grande Vigne”

It is becoming exceedingly rare to see Cotes du Rhone from 2010 on the market, which is a pity, since it is broadly considered the “vintage of the decade”™ in that region. I’m mostly tasting 2012s and 2011s right now, and it will only be a manner of a few months before the first 2013s start landing.

List members with elephantine memories may recall the reason Courtois is a bit behind schedule, a reason that is beautifully, bureaucratically banal: a TTB label-approval holdup. So thanks to the feds, we get the pleasure of a Cotes that has shed some of its baby fat.

It comes from brothers Pascal and Richard Jaume, who have set up shop in Vinsobres (location here). An up-and-coming part of the southern Rhone, Vinsobres was olive country for much of its cultivated life, until a bad freeze in 1956 convinced many growers that perhaps vinifera would be more suitable.

Vinsobres was only granted AOC status in the last decade, and it’s still relatively rare to see wines with the Vinsobres label. The Jaume brothers’ vineyard holdings cross the border into the greater CdR-Villages appellation, so while this comes predominantly from Vinsobres, it gets the more generic label (again, good: that has a dampening effect on prices).

The blend is 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre, from vines averaging 20 years in the clay soils around Vinsobres. No new wood here, allowing the Grenache to completely shine, its strawberry fruit an early promise of spring, and mixed with red cherry and silty minerals. There is that garrigue dried-herb component (lavender, thyme, tarragon) that makes Grenache so uniquely beautiful, and my note, which reads “oh my this is excellent” almost seems surprised, probably at the quality/complexity in relation to the tariff. This is characterful without being blowsy, and it hits all three sides of the Rhone trinity – red fruit and rocks and garrigue – in equal, balanced measure.

Perhaps our final access point to 2010 at a Cotes du Rhone tariff, and if it should be our swan song for that category, it’s an awfully good one.

2011 Domaine Courtois Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc “La Source”

And a bonus, for you squeaky-wheel list members who have been (justifiably) asking for more white wine. This is a typical southern Rhone white, which is to say: it’s a little bit of a lot of things, in this case a near-equal mix of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Clairette.

Again, no new wood; just good honest fruit. The nose is a subtly-fruited mix of melon, honeysuckle, and chalky mineral. The palate is medium-bodied, a balanced mix of richness and freshness. The fruit stays in the melon range of the spectrum (honeydew mostly), with a creamy texture to the mid-palate and terrific nuances of spice and florals. A fine introduction to an under-imported category of white wine.

First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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