Hello friends. We have the new vintage today of one of 2015’s surprise import hits, a charming Roussillon rouge from Notre Dame de Laval:
You remember Full Pull’s unofficial motto, right: We Kiss Frogs. We kiss all the slimy, warty, bloated frogs so that you don’t have to. We discard the duds, and we present our list members with the princes. And let me tell you: when you’re looking for red wines at a $10 price point, it is frogs upon frogs, and you kiss and kiss and kiss until your chapped bleeding lips can take no more. And then every once in awhile you find a prince.
So yeah, we’re value hunting today, and we’re doing so in one of the great wine regions in the world to find value: Roussillon. We’ve talked about this region a few times, mostly in the context of Chapoutier’s Bila-Haut project. That, of course, is high-end by Roussillon standards.
While wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux and the Rhone and the Loire get the bulk of the publicity, it’s Languedoc-Roussillon that is the real engine room of French wine. And admittedly: a lot of it is forgettable plonk that should be distilled as soon as possible. But if you dig a little, this is a region where you can fine old-vine gems.
Notre Dame de Laval is a bottle produced by a wonderful little Roussillon co-op called Vignobles d’Agly. It’s a collections of growers and winemakers in this neck of the woods who have banded together to produce wine in one larger cooperative winery. The hilly Agly valley contains all sorts of interesting soils, but Notre Dame de Laval comes predominantly from schist (which looks like this).
It’s a pretty typical blend for this part of the world – 45% Carignan, 30% Grenache, 25% Syrah – but what is atypical, and crazy given the tariff, is the vine age. The Syrah is 15 years old. Okay, no big deal. But the Grenache: 40+ year old vines. And the Carignan? Even older: 50+ years! Thank goodness this region remains so inconsistent and unsexy, because it depresses pricing even for old-vine bottles like this one.
It clocks in at 13.5% listed alc and begins with a nose combining brambly raspberry and blackberry fruit with wonderful earthy/gamey/wild Carignan notes and black-olive subtleties from the Syrah. This is a nose with a fully intact sense of the sauvage. The fruit extract on the palate is just fantastic for a $10 wine. In its inky, palate-staining character, it acts very much texturally like wines that cost two or three times as much. A chewy lick of rustic tannins finishes things off, and the overall impression is that of a wine with charm and personality to spare.
This would make a fine mid-week house wine or wedding wine or summer party wine too, so let’s open it up: first come first served up to 120 bottles, and the wine should arrive next week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.