Full Pull Bila-Haut

Hello friends. Time for an annual early-summer tradition: an offer of Chapoutier’s trio (white, pink, red) of entry-level wines from southwest France. Two quick notes: 1) For the Blanc, the winery is still on the 2014 vintage we offered last year, so that one is a reoffer. 2) I’m also going to append a reoffer for Bila-Haut’s higher-end Occultum Lapidem at the bottom of today’s offer. It’s last call for what has been a VERY popular vintage among our list members.

And then a few reminders on the Bila-Haut 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:


2014 Bila-Haut (Chapoutier) Cotes du Roussillon Blanc
Originally offered May 25, 2015. Excerpts from the original: 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 (50%), Marsanne (20%), Vermentino (10%), and Macabeo (20%), 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.

2015 Bila-Haut (Chapoutier) Rose Pays d’Oc
This is always the most limited of the trio, the least likely to be available for reorder. It’s honest, unfussy, well-priced rosé from the south of France, and Seattle only ever sees a tiny parcel each summer. This will be gone before we know it. A Provencal-style blend of Cinsault and Grenache (13% listed alc), it offers a summery nose of green strawberry and kiwi, rose petals and wild grasses. This rosé always contains a savory fruit element, too, something akin to rhubarb: just lovely. The palate offers a finely-balanced mix of fleshy fruit and zesty acidity. A charming, delicious rosé, this put me in the mind to barbeque a chicken as soon as possible.

2014 Bila-Haut (Chapoutier) Cotes du Roussillon Villages Rouge
This is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan, from Chapoutier’s vineyard, a site in the Agly hills comprising, according to Bila-Haut’s importer, 75 hectares of land cultivated under bio-dynamic farming techniques and is characterized by steep pebbly slopes rising from almost 150 meters above sea level. The soil has 3 components – Schiste, Gneiss and Clay – and the Grape varieties are Grenache, Carignan, and of course Syrah. The cool winters and very hot summers combined with little rain, and the drying Mistral breeze during the growing season is perfection for these varietals; in some respects better than in the Rhone Valley. The Domaine is located in the commune of Latour-de-France, just about as close as you can be to Spain, but still be located in France.

Raised in cement and clocking in at 14% listed alc, this 2014 vintage offers a deep savory nose, with loads of olive and caper-berry and earth notes to go with a core of brambly blackberry fruit. There’s a wildness to the nose, a sense of the sauvage, as the French would say, that is really appealing. All told, this is one complex, killer nose for a sub-$15 tag. The palate, too, is very impressive for the price. Especially the texture, which is pillowy, offering a seamless glide-path for all that briny/meaty goodness. It’s polished, classy juice, pretty much the furthest thing from the rustic Carignan bombs that built much of Roussillon’s (dicey) reputation.

Wine Spectator (Gillian Sciaretta): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 90pts.” [Note: this wine has only ever earned 90pt reviews in two other vintages – 2008 and 2010 – and both went on to places in Wine Spectator’s year-end Top 100 list. Just sayin’.]

2013 Bila-Haut (Chapoutier) Occultum Lapidem
Originally offered January 25, 2015, and it’s last-call time for this beauty. First, here is Jeb Dunnuck’s review out of bottle. Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

And here are excerpts from the original: Chapoutier makes a series of wines from the Roussillon, and Occultum Lapidem is essentially a reserve wine, coming from his best Roussillon vineyards, on gneiss and schist and Kimmeridgian limestone. The blend is typically about 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache, and 20% Carignan, and this vintage presents a wow nose wild in its complexity, with flowers and red raspberry fruit, sea salt and smoked sausage. The aromas go on and on, and they do so right on pop-and-pour. No need to age or decant endlessly; this beauty is ready right now. The pillowy soft texture, the mix of wild fruit and savories, the lingering salinity and sanguine minerality on the finish: this really delivers the goods, and I’m not surprised at all that Dunnuck was so gaga for it.

First come first served up to 36 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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