One of my favorite things to do at the dimming of the day is to go down to my modest wine cellar … I don’t have an extensive wine cellar with a lot of expensive wines, but I do have a place to keep my wine. Yesterday I asked Leona if she would have a glass of wine with me and she said she would. My wine cellar is not impeccably organized, as anyone who knows me would figure. This results in two things: first I often can’t find a wine that I am sure is down there so wine gets lost, and second I sometimes stumble on wine I forgot I had and can’t remember much about – the second was the case yesterday. I found a bottle of Pic Saint-Loup, which is in my opinion an underrated wine-producing sub-region north of Montpellier in the Languedoc. I was first introduced to Pic Saint-Loup by my friend and coffee mentor Kevin Knox in the late 70s. Kevin was on a tight budget but loved wine – particularly wines from the Rhone river valley in the south of France, but he couldn’t afford Chateauneuf-du-Pape. He explained that through careful research he could often find a Pic Saint-Loup that would satisfy him, in his words Chateauneuf-du-Pape on a budget, for a third of the retail price. I can still remember the first Pic Saint-Loup I tried with Kevin, which I remember to be the best Pic Saint-Loup I have ever tried – Domaine de L’Hortus. Amazingly I can still remember the producer!
Back to yesterday, the surprise wine I found was a Mas Bruguiere L’Arbouse 2011 Pic Saint-Loup and I was encouraged by two things, first the composition of the wine 55% Syrah/45% Grenache, and second that the alcohol was less than 14% at 13.5%. The wine is imported by Bruno Arricastres of Wine without Borders, a company based out of Carrboro, NC. The wine was lovely with complex flavors and lightness on the palate. Leona confided that she liked white wine, but on a recent trip to Germany enjoyed the reds there, but often in the States when she orders a glass of red wine it is thick, alcoholic, and a disaster with food. Wine and food together are very much like a dance … a bite of food, a sip of wine … if the wine is fruit-forward and high alcohol it is like dancing with somebody with two left feet that weigh two hundred pounds each. Leona asked me how she would know not to order left-footed monsters in a restaurant – there is not a foolproof way, but there are some hints. Any red wine that has over 14% alcohol (these usually come from new world origins like Australia, Argentina, Chile & California) are pretty much guaranteed to not have much delicacy. Many of these wines have been formatted – a nice word for manufactured or factory-made – to appeal to the American palate, a wine which tastes like a one-dimensional cocktail of black cherry and raspberry juice with lots of alcohol. A couple of glasses of this kind of wine will give you a buzz and a bottle of the stuff will give you a whopping headache in the morning.
Perhaps Bruno will post a comment where you can buy this Pic Saint-Loup locally.