Exploring European Cellars with Matthew

June 23, 2017 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Crystal City Wine Shop
220 20th St S
Arlington, VA 22202

We’ve had Matthew in previously and pulled several cool, unique, and fun wines out of European Cellars’ portfolio. The wines from European Cellars are about “place over process” and are wines borne of struggle because hardship produces purity. Fruit comes easy in wine, it is the result of sunny days and plenty of water. Purity comes from a vine’s struggle to survive, its fight against the rocks it is planted on, its fight against the plants that surround it, and its fight against the conditions of its vineyard. Many of these wines are organic, practicing organic, or biodynamic, they harvest by hand, and ferment using indigenous yeast. Vinifying with minimal intervention, they are farmers as much as they are winemakers.

Today’s Wines:

  • Jean–François Mérieau “L’Arpent des Vaudons” Touraine 2015: Based in the tiny village of Saint-Julien-de-Chédon, Jean–François’ property stretches to almost 35 hectares planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cot, Pineau d’Aunis, Gamay and Chardonnay. Unlike most Touraine producers, the vineyards are plowed and the property is in conversion to organic certification. Vineyard work is all manual and no commercial yeasts are used in the vinification of a dizzying array of wines – in typical fashion for the Touraine. The wines, however, are anything but old-fashioned. This 100% Sauvignon Blanc benefits from the rich clay and limestone soils and is exotic and rich with underlying brightness and acidity. If you are a Sancerre fan, give Touraine a chance! Pair with white fish cooked en papillote, in court-bouillon, or, since it is summer, grilled salmon.
  • Château Pesquié Les Terrasses Rosé 2016: The Chaudière family has been part of European Cellars since its founding in 1990 when the Rhône Valley wasn’t really on anyone’s radar let alone the backwaters such as Ventoux. How things have changed! Paul and Edith have turned things over to their sons Alex and Fred, and the Ventoux is no longer viewed at an insignificant satellite of the Rhône Valley but an important appellation in its own right. Fred and Alex farm their 100 hectares of vines organically and manually. Only organic treatments and composts are used in the vineyard. Weed control is done by turning over the soil, and harvesting is done by hand. The Pesquie Terraces Rosé showcases the wonderful aromatics and funkiness of Cinsault tempered by the fruitiness of Grenache and the acidity of Syrah. While there is always plenty of delicate, sweet-tart, red-fruit flavor the healthy portion of Cinsault gives a compelling and savory edge to this summer sipper.
  • Castaño Monastrell Rosado 2016: The Castaño family are the original pioneers of the DO Yecla. Starting in the 1950s Ramón Cantaño Santa, with an extensive family history of viticulture, built the first modern winery in the region and over the successive decades he added to his family’s holdings so now the estate encompasses 450 hectares of primarily old, bush vine Monastrell. With such extensive holdings its remarkable that harvest is still done entirely by hand with the grapes being transported quickly to the winery for fermentation. The wines selected by European Cellars are primarily sourced from the northern part of the DO where the soils are poorer, rockier and the elevation is higher. The vine age ranges from 30 to over a hundred years old. The Monastell is aged entirely in tank to retain the fresh crunchy characteristics of the variety. This lovely fresh rosado is a perfect patio sipper or would pair wonderfully with grilled foods.
  • Domaine la Garrigue Côtes-du-Rhône Cuvée Romaine 2015: The domaine was founded in 1850 by the same family that runs the property today, Famille Bernard. Brothers Maxime and Pierre Bernard, of the 5th generation, are at the helm of the estate with Maxime acting as chef while Pierre focuses on the family’s restaurant nestled in the hills below the Dentelles, Les Florets. The whole family has roles at the domaine and there is plenty of work, as it is the largest domaine in the appellation covering 83 hectares. They farm vines of Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache Blanc and Clairette on the three primary terroirs of Vacqueyras. The average age of their vines is about 50 years old with some vines well over a century. The reticent but very talented Virginie Combe, a member of the 6th generation, is in charge of the winemaking with guidance from Philippe Cambie. The Cuvée Romaine is a Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah blend made from the more precocious tanks at Domaine la Garrigue. As such, it is in fact a declassified Vacqueyras not needing additional time in concrete. Therefore it can be viewed as a really easy-going “Vacqueyras” or an amazingly complex and serious Côtes-du-Rhône.
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