Gone are the days when one could pick up top-notch Chateauneuf-du-Pape for under $30. Even Côtes du Rhônes, what can amount to the bargain-bin category of the region, are fast pushing $20-$25.For those who thrill to the berry and fig-packed flavors, loamy minerality and dried herbs so associated with the wines of this arid rolling landscape, there is relief. Turn up the Quality-to-Price Ratio by turning to one of France's undiscovered and undervalued territories: The Languedoc.
Domaine des Grecaux's 2003 "Terra Solis" drinks like a slender, sleeker, fresher version of the Southern Rhône's great wines...
Selected by guru Becky Wasserman and imported by the brilliant and beautiful Liz Willette, who also brings in the wines of Rhône Wizard Jean-Louis Chave, this bottle represents rigorous winemaking in one of France's most unforgiving territories.
It is nothing less than magical that a vineyard that is rock hard, literally a piece of solid limestone scattered with a bit of parched dirt, can produce something so supple.
This mostly Grenache-based wine is intoxicatingly beautiful, a wine that you will have to try hard not to love. It is brimming with fresh blackberries and fig, intertwined with dried herbs, an almost Burgundian minerality (the limestone shows itself) and floral notes that Managing Partner Bobby Schagrin nailed perfectly as reminiscent of nothing so much as freshly cut tulip stalks.
For me, however, what really puts this wine in a different category is the fresh silky acidity that offers up waves and waves of balance and grace. It is this freshness with fruit, this dance of intensity and calm that makes the bottle irresistible. I would add that the wine's freshness is even more impressive given the notoriously hot 2003 vintage. Imagine the fruit and concentration of 2003 with the balance and finesse of 2001!
We are certainly not the first to offer up a discovery from the Languedoc. The last decade has seen the breakthrough of a few "cult" wines from the Languedoc, like Mas de Daumas Gassac and Grange des Pères. Domaine des Grecaux is, in fact, located in the same "Cru" as these famed producers. They have mined the vast territory of the Languedoc and have found what they believe to be the "Grand Cru" sites of this largely unstudied terroir (see sidebar).
In a way, the Languedoc is doing right now what Bordeaux and Burgundy did many hundreds of years ago: Deciding on the best parcels, and rewarding them justly.
Though the market is just beginning to recognize the value of these wines, the region is still the savvy connoisseur's hunting ground. For the moment, Domaine des Grecaux is a stunning wine that is clearly undervalued.
The market however, will correct itself.
So now's the time. If you enjoy Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the other treasures of the Rhône, not to mention the high-scoring Grenache-based wines of Spain and beyond, you should really try this wine. My guess is that lovers of California Syrah and jammy blackberry-filled wines like Valpolicella and Amarone will also fall hard for this bottle.
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