Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Famille Perrin; Vinsobres and Rasteau

Many of you know of my recent attempt to achieve something few chefs ever do: the certificate of French Wine Scholar. I unfortunately failed this prestigious program by 1%, and so cannot add the post-nominal FWS... not yet!

And so here we find ourselves, you and I, on this my 200th article! I am not only writing for pleasure tonight, but gearing up (once again) for a renewed and vigerous attack on the FWS program in a few weeks. Wish me luck!

   Famille Perrin is known for a great many accomplishments over their span of 5 generations, but perhaps their greatest achievement would be the Chateau de Beaucastel ( ). I had only just started scribing about wine when first I met this cheeky little rascal, and instantly fell in love.

   Well lucky for me, and my bank account, the Famille Perrin ( ) produce significantly less expensive ventures as well, including a diverse portfolio that runs the length and breadth of the Southern Rhone. Tonight I've chosen two examples; Vinsobres and Rasteau.

   Vinsobres is an AOC situated surrounding the parish by the same name, and is one of the newest AOC in France... receiving it's status in 2006. Previously the region was known by most French more for it's olive trees then it's viticulture. But then, the Perrins have always been forward-thinkers. No, Vinsobres is a steep and rocky place where the Mistral brings it's forceful winds to tormet farmers year-round. Here we find a new breed of winemaker, exploring what Syrah and grenache can do in the most northerly area of the Southern Rhone.
the view in Rasteau

   Rasteau is an AOC with a much older history... the recognition of Rasteau comes at about the same time as it's more famous cousin: ChateauNeuf du Pape in 1934. But the little oddity is that, for the most part, Rasteau was known as much if not more for it's fortified wines as it was for it's still wines. In fact, it was only in 2009 that Rasteau could officially use it's AOC designation for still red wines. Previously they had to be labeled as "Cotes  du Rhone Village Rasteau" which, could be considered by some to be a remark of inferred inferiority. But this area has a very similar soil composition to it's more infamous cousin, and in fact culivates and utilizes all of the same varietals as ChateauNeuf as well. Yes, all 13 red varietals that go into the remarkable Beaucastel can be found right here. For about a quarter the price.

So why then spend $100 Canadian on a new vintage of Beaucastel (minimum) when one can purchase a Rasteau for about $25? Well my friends, just because I said that Rasteau is similar - that doesn't mean that it's the same. But for $25... the value is in the glass!

2009 Famille Perrin Les Cornuds, Vinsobres
$25 CAD    90 Points


60 Hectares, single vineyard
altitude 300 metres+
50% Syrah, 50% grenache
35% aging in French oak, the rest in foudres
  • visual:   clean; fully intense purple/garnet core with the barest whisper of a cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; this is a fully intense and youthful wine, shouting to the rafters about it's home! Layers of brambly blackberry, tangy black currants (cassis), a definite dark floral note and hints of spice behind the fruit
  • palate:   clean; dry, fully intense (red currant) acids, medium+ chewy tannins, medium body, medium+ alcohol (14.5%), fully intense and youthful flavors that mimick well the nose... fruit is still the driving force in this young and vibrant vintage. Very good structure and balance, medium length
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   a cheeky young wine like this either needs a fat cut of beef to side up to, or else should go back into your winerack for a few years. We'll be savoring the next bottle with Syrah braised boneless Alberta beef shortribs on truffled parsnip and potato mash, steamed Swiss chard on the side
**Further reading for the French speaking audience **
 2009 Perrin et Fils, Rasteau-Cotes du Rhone Villages
$20+ CAD    89-90 points

south facing parcel
mostly Grenache (80%) with a slight amount of Syrah
  • visual:   clear; deep and medium+ intense garnet core with slightest cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; youthful and medium+ intense aromas of warm earth, raisins, red currants, slight savory herbs
  • palate:   clean; dry, medium+ red currant acids, medium grippy tannins, medium body, medium+ to full alcohol (13.5% seems hot), medium+ intense and youthful flavors mimicking the nose with emphasis on fresh young red berries and warm earth, background of savory herbs, dark floral and dark cocoa. Very good structure and balance, medium length
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   consider using this like a fresh Malbec from Argentina; this wine wants a fresh grilled premium steak, topped with a hint of Kosher sea salt and nothing else! These acids crave a little beef, but the medium tannins require a fairly sophisticated cut of meat
  • conclusion:   much as the above wine, this vintage craves a few more years in a dark and cool corner to cultivate a deeper understanding of itself. Enjoy 2013-2017

    Both of these wines are splendid examples of Southern Rhone valley terroir; that otherworldly mixture of soil, wind, sun and man. Here are value-priced wines that can actually start to educate the consumer on what this part of the valley is capable of. That in and of itself makes the wines an excellent value in the "Under $30" market. But to add the depth and dimension of flavor, the true craftsmanship with which they are made, these wines should be a welcome addition to almost any cellar.

   Anyone can fill their shelves (and their glass) with 90-point wines. Not everyone can do so at prices like this.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

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