2011 Eric Texier Cotes-du-Rhone

Hello friends. Well, this is a first for us: a former member of the Misfits graduating to the big leagues. But after many a reorder request since our original offer in October, and after a recent re-tasting revealed a wine that just keeps getting better and better with each passing month, this wine deserves its spot on the main stage:

Cotes du Rhone is one of the truly magnificent value categories for wine, but my oh my is it a minefield too. Because of the breadth of vineyard land that falls under the appellation, and the breadth of producers working with the fruit, there’s simply no substitute for tasting every last bottle.

It’s one of those categories where a curated model really shines, not only because we can choose the best examples, but we can also explain the style in detail so that you know exactly what you’re getting. Style is yet another place where CdR has serious breadth. There are CdRs pushing 15-16% alcohol that are perfect autumn/winter wines (just add roaring fireplace and bubbling stew). And then there are completely different CdR’s like today’s beauty, which is about as perfect a spring/summer red as I can think of.

It begins as many CdRs do: with a whole lot of Grenache. 80% to be exact. But Texier is Burgundy-trained and a fan of 1970s-era Cote Rotie, so do you think he is going to make 16%-alc Grenache? No he is not.

This clocks in at a brisk/lively 12.5%-alc, and that brisk/lively Grenache is not blended with its expected partner Syrah, but instead with a full 20% white Rhone varieties. And no, not your everyday white Rhone varieties (Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne). That would be way too pedestrian. Think geekier. Grenache Blanc! Clairette! Bourboulenc!

The thing is, though: this is not some mad scientist just throwing things into a cauldron and seeing how it turns out. Texier has a house style, and it shines through across a huge portfolio (more than 30 wines) from the Maconnais, the Northern Rhone, and the Southern Rhone. He wants to exhibit the kind of earthy and floral and mineral subtleties that simply disappear at higher ripeness levels, and he succeeds, even with his entry level $15 glugger.

And yes, you can treat this like a glugger if you wish. It’s one of those wines that can play dual roles, with enough sheer joyful quaffability to please your friends who don’t care about wine, and enough intellectual thrill and complexity to make your friends who do care about wine swoon with pleasure. Throw a little chill on it (30 minutes in the fridge will do) and crack a bottle on the porch mid-summer. Glasses will be optional. Or let it keep evolving, and toss it onto the Thanksgiving table later this year. Or maybe both. It’s a versatile delight that seems to only keep getting more compelling.

Here were my original notes from back in October: “A wine with soaring aromatics: white flowers, fresh summer strawberries, ripe red brambly raspberries, I could smell it all day long. The palate is juicy, refreshing, and above all, balanced. It’s CdR as a vin de soif.”

Tasting it last week, it still has that fresh/floral/red-fruited character, but with the added time in bottle a funky earthiness is emerging too. The aromatics have only become more pronounced: fresh summer strawberry and kiwi and green papaya fruit, bright floral notes from the white varieties, and crushed-rock minerality. The mix of fruit and rock is pinpoint, as is the precise balance of the texture, which is nervy without being shrill. It’s a tightrope walk, a mouthful of joyful energy, a stylistic mashup of Cotes du Rhone and Burgundian Pinot Noir. Color me smitten.

First come first served up to 36 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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