March's Wine of the Month--A Favorite for Over Two Decades
Encountering French wine can be a mystery for wine lovers raised on the varietal system of “Grenache”, “Syrah”, “Mourvedre” identifiers. This is understandable, because the place of origin—Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Willamette Valley—is often a guide to general characteristics of a wine, but not specific taste profiles. In the French system, grape varieties are particularly controlled in each growing region so a consumer must learn the unique tastes of the place rather than the varieties in the bottle. That’s why they are identified by where they are grown: Chablis, Bordeaux, Sancerre and in the case of our March Wine of the Month, Côtes du Rhône (hills of the Rhone Valley).
In the Southern Rhone Valley, the permissible grape varieties for producing Côtes du Rhône are similar to that of the region’s mightiest wine Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsaut, Carignan and a few others. (You may be familiar with the abbreviation GSM in flavorful California blends—now you know where the inspiration comes from.)
La Cabotte has been a popular offering at The Wine Country for over two decades. In the best years, the wine offers an appealing juiciness that makes the wine likable. Over the years, the estate has moved to biodynamic farming (über-organic, if you will), sometimes with mixed results. It’s really hard to control winemaking when you leave all the control to nature! But I’m happy to report that the 2019 vintage has been very, very good to La Cabotte, a satisfying red at an unbelievably friendly price.
You would expect to pay a lot more for a wine made with such dedication. In 1980 Burgundian winemaker Gabriel d’Ardhuy fell in love with this property on a bicycle trip with his grandchildren. He was so taken by the beauty of this 45-hectae property near Mondragon he bought it. Blessed with old-vine Grenache, (later planted to Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignan) and lanes lined with mature olive trees, it is a little slice of Provençal paradise. Gabriel’s daughter, Marie-Pierre d’Ardhuy-Plumet and her husband Eric Plumet have run the domaine ever since, bringing the once-abandoned property back to life. Since 2007 they began to convert their farming to organic and biodynamic methods, using the lunar calendar as a guidepost, and keeping their yields low, a rarity for Côtes du Rhône in this area.
When I first sampled the 2019, I was happy the old juiciness and clean-tasting fruit had returned. There is almost a sweetness to the character of the dark-berried taste, but it is not a sweet wine. Plush and generous, yet contained within a classic wine structure. It is bottled unfiltered, retaining all its complexity and irresistible charm.
Yes, La Cabotte is back!