Hello friends. The latest container of Bila-Haut wine is currently dodging the Polar Pioneer and its associated kayaktivists, and it should be hitting the docks in Seattle any moment now. It contains a trio of Chapoutier’s entry-level wines from southwest France, line-priced and ready for summer chugging. These wines a) are extremely popular with our list members; and b) tend to disappear quickly; hence the offer while the boat is still on the water. Fortunately, I was able to snag some air-shipped samples ahead of time, and they’re as delicious as ever.
A few reminders on this project before we dig into the wines: first off, Languedoc-Roussillon is a region that has for some time exported massive quantities of forgettable plonk, but has in recent years begun to develop a reputation as a fine source of French value. At the vanguard of the quality movement: Michel Chapoutier, he of the multiple 100pt (Robert Parker) wines from the northern Rhone. I’ll reprint the excerpt from one of Parker’s introductions to Chapoutier in Wine Advocate: [TEXT WITHHELD]
We offered the 2012 vintage of this, totally missed out on the 2013, and will be competing for the ’14 with Wild Ginger, who I understand has plans to glass-pour this all summer (as usual, the Ginger has impeccable taste). It’s a compelling oddball of a wine, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Vermentino, and Macabeo, the last of which is more frequently seen in Cava production than anyplace else (maybe not so surprising, since the Cotes du Roussillon is only a hop and a skip from Barcelona). Raised in stainless steel, it clocks in at 13% listed alc and offers a nose of honeydew and nectarine fruit paired to terrific chalky minerality (these grapes are grown some on chalky soils, some on granitic). It’s a lovely, dry mid-weight, offering enough phenolic texture and palate-coating quality that I wonder if it spent some extended time on the skins. Regardless, the weight and heft are impressive for a blanc at this tag.
The only bottle of the three not to have a review (I’m not surprised; this is tiny-production juice), and also the most limited of the three, the least likely to be available for reorder. Seattle only ever sees an eensy parcel of this each summer, so let’s get while the gettin’s good. A blend of Cinsault and Grenache, it offers a summery nose of melon, kiwi, and berry fruit. There’s a savory fruit element, too, something akin to rhubarb, that is just lovely here. The palate continues the theme, with a finely-balanced mix of fruit and Grenache garrigue elements. It’s honest, unfussy, well-priced rosé from the south of France, and it’ll be gone before you know it. 13% listed alc.
This is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan, from Chapoutier’s vineyards, sites that combine, in his words, “black and brown schist to give the wine a solar touch, gneiss for minerality and freshness, limestone and chalk for strength and balance.” All of that results in a beautiful nose: deep berry fruit, brothy beefy notes, bacon fat, brambles. Year after year, this wine over-delivers in the aromatic complexity department, offering way more intrigue than we have any right to expect at a sub-$15 price point. Silky and supple (14% listed alc), rich and delicious, this is perhaps most impressive for its balance, with all components playing together happily. This is a bottle that offers visceral thrills and really has no business existing at this price. I agree with Jeb’s assessment that this could easily age for another five years (maybe more), and I see this as a no-brainer house red for summer-into-autumn.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”
First come first served up to 72 bottles total (note: I reserve the right to change my mind and allocate; it may be necessary on the rosé), and the wines should arrive in the next 2-3 weeks, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.