As a year of proximity to my wine cellar ended on Christmas morning sitting on the tarmac waiting to escape to Puerto Rico’s northern shoreline, I could not stop thinking about the wine that rocked my palate the night before with the very Italian meal produced by my very Sicilian wife. I recommend wines from time to time here at WineZag, and every once in a while I come across something that I wonder how to convey so that absolutely everyone I know goes out and buys it.
Rene Rostaing‘s Cote Roties from Landonne and Côte Blonde have left that kind of indelible imprint of grace and power on my palate’s memory banks ever since my earliest days of wine appreciation. Rostaing first got going in the Northern Rhone in the early 70’s, quadrupling his Rhone acreage since then, and then made one major “zag” to the Languedoc near Nimes and around the town of Langlade to tend to the Puech Noble site. Here he produces a red wine called Vassal.
The ( $20 ****1/2) 2007 Puech Noble Coteaux du Languedoc Vassal is a wine that walked straight to the center of my wheelhouse as we toasted another Christmas Eve around our kitchen table. It is a style and quality of wine that is just not easy to find for less than $75. People often ask me what my favorite wine is; a broad and unanswerable question as far as I am concerned. But when asked the style of wine I revel in, a lot about this Rostaing Languedoc would weave its way into the description.
The wine immediately transports me to its home in France’s Southwest, tattooed with its authentic iconic regional profile combined with the power and fruit concentration that some of the greatest Cote Roties wrap in packages of irresistible silky elegance. The wine is made from 80% Syrah, 10% Grenache, and 10% Mourvedre. As it unfolds in the glass and on your palate, the wine shows a schizophrenic personality dancing between country wine boastfulness and world class elegance. It is the combination of those two profiles, artistically and symbiotically constructed, that adds to the wine’s complexity and sexiness creating a fully combustible drinking sensation.
Some brett is immediately detectable in its horsey, leathery, and gamey aromatics. This characteristic is apparent, but should not be offensive to most tasters if you think a little brett adds to the wine’s character as I do. Cocoa is as prominent as the streak of barnyard. There are violets, sun drenched earthiness, garrigue, dark rich cherry, pepper, smoke, and charred wood aromatics that have turns taking bows as the wine opens and evolves over the first half hour after opening. On the palate, the wine is rich and elegant all at once with firm but totally tolerable tannins creating a memorable mouthful of wine and a lasting, warm, sweet finish. Late in the game toffee characteristics appear, about an hour after opening. As you can see, the wine is wildly multidimensional, but never veers from a path of impeccable balance, richness, and completely appropriate measures of tannin.
This wine is classy, exotic, and riveting. Its mouth feel and sweet fruit displays restraint and power simultaneously. It offers a peak into Rostaing’s style that is mainly available through his more coveted and much more expensive Northern Rhones. You can decide for yourself whether this is a wine that matches your palate preference. If it does, you can share the same giddy, thrilling sensation that I did savoring this wine on Christmas Eve knowing that one more easy case will be had for less than $250.