Saturday Wine Gathering (Val d'Arenc, Pibarnon)
338 College St., Amherst, MA 01002
A good evening this Friday of Passover and Easter to You All,
Tomorrow we launch our Rose season with a fresh, young 2018 Luberon reminder and then sample two dinner-worthy Roses from Corsica and Bandol. We'll transition to reds with an aromatic Nero di Troia from Puglia before sampling a value-priced Monastrell from Spain's Jumilla region leading to three Bandol Reds which are, of course, based on Mourvedre (Monastrell in Spain). We'll let La Mer-Mar-Mare Mediterranean kiss our memories and world tomorrow.
We begin with a Luberon appellation Rose from Moncigale, a producer of high quality rose based in Aix-en-Provence, that famous Provencial region just south of the Luberon, which itself is the wine region just south of Mount Ventoux. Our starter is named the Mistral Vallee Rose [$9.99] our vintage 2018. The Mistral is that famous wind blowing down the Rhone Valley and out into the Mediterranean off France's coast. Because of it, many of the bell towers in Provence are open metal frames, allowing the Mistral to pass right through. It is also the reason why Provencal Nativity scenes usually include a figure of a shepherd holding his hat, with cloak blowing in the Mistral. This 2018 version is a fresh, aromatic blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.
Next, we'll sample two Roses with some gentle finishing grip: Domaine Maestracci's 2017 E Prove Rose [$19.99] from Corsica and Val d'Arenc's 2016 Bandol Rose [$21.99]. Unlike the newly arrived Mistral 2018, these two have been with us since last summer. They stand as examples of a different order Rose, ones that can take their places alongside whites of the same price for value and appeal. Of course, one would have to be open to Rose's red fruit nuances... Here is a review of the 2016 Vald'Arenc Rose from Josh Raynolds of Vinous, May 2017: Vivid orange-pink. Aromas of ripe red berries, cherry pit and blood orange are joined by a dusty mineral flourish. Sappy and penetrating on the palate, offering juicy raspberry, orange zest and lavender pastille flavors that deepen and spread out slowly with air. Smoothly plays richness off delicacy and finishes very long and subtly sweet, displaying a nervy mineral note and a hint of candied flowers. Drink: 2018-2023, 90 points.
Then to Rivera in the Castel del Monte denominazione of northern Puglia we go to taste their Nero di Troia [$17.99], an indigenous variety with aromatic notes of something like violets and raspberries, and a savory, wild lingering finish. Nero di Troia serves as the base for Rivera's famous Il Falcone bottling as well as their hard-to-find, 100% Nero di Troia Puer Apuliae, and part of their more popular Rupicolo bottling. The Castel del Monte is an imposing structure of repeating octagonal shapes on one of the highest hills in the area built not for defense but as a tribute to the power of emperor Frederik II of Swabia around 1240.
On to a Monastrell (Mourvedre) from Altos de la Hoya 2016 [$11.99; 2/$19.99], from old, dry-farmed, un-grafted vines at 2500 foot elevation, fermented with wild yeasts, and aged for 6 months in used French oak barrels. Monastrell is Jumilla's classic varietal, this a remarkable value.
To Bandol next, east of Marseille and Casis, right on the coast soaking up 220 degrees of Mediterranean reflective warmth, so essential to the special excellence of Mourvedre from this area. We will taste Val d'Arenc's 2015 Bandol Rouge [$24.99] and Chateau Pibarnon's 2015 Restanques de Pibarnon [$29.99]. Both these estates farm organically seeking to make authentic, balanced and complex wines. The Val d'Arenc [80% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache and 10% Cinsault] is from vines of 45 and 25 years of age; the Restanques [70% Mourvedre and 30% Grenache] from Pibarnon's vines 10 to 20 years younger than their top wine. It will be interesting to see how the added amount of Grenache affects Bandol's Mourvedre-based character. Vintage 2015 was a year of equilibrium, finesse and beautiful maturity; hot of course, but blessed with cool nights.
Finally, giving in to an urge to be just a bit more comprehensive (and because we have some, but only in half bottles,) we will taste Chateau Pibarnon's 2012 [$24.99]. Many wine drinkers hold a special affection for Bandol. Tomorrow, perhaps we will see why. Pibarnon's are known to be a more elegant expression. Here is a review from Jeb Dunnuck of the Wine Advocate: While most 2012s from the region are slightly superficial and charming, Pibarnon’s 2012 Bandol Rouge has real depth and density, as well as fabulous notes of garrigue, toasted spices, dried Provencal herbs, and sweet red and black fruits. It has present tannin, yet they’re polished and nicely integrated into the wine, and while this beauty will have 15 years of more of overall longevity, it’s already hard to resist today. The blend of the 2012 is 92% Mourvèdre and 8% Grenache, all of which saw an extended maceration and 18-20 months in larger foudres. This is a fabulous Bandol that readers should seek out! Drink: 2016-2027. 93 points.
Thus, three Roses and five Reds comprise our afternoon, beginning at 2 pm. with cheese, salumi and a baguette accompanying. The paid portion of our tasting will be $4.
Again, thank you so much for your time and interest.