Posted by: tomciocco | July 19, 2008

UNKNOWN RHONE

It’s not as obscure as Sablet or Cotes du Vivarais to be sure, but the Cotes du Ventoux is not Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas or even Vacqueyras. What certainly is common knowledge is the fact that all of these appellations (and lots more) are all located in the absolutely HUGE wine growing uber-region known as the Southern Rhone in France’s perhaps too well documented Provence region.

At over 7,700 hectares (over 19,000 acres), much of which is in the hands of co-operative associated growers and cellars, Ventoux is LARGE (CdP is less than half that size, and Vacqueyras barely makes it to 1,000 hectares) so even just within this appellation there are readliy identifiable microclimates, but one element – the mountain that bears the appellation’s namesake, Mount Ventoux – makes Cotes du Ventoux what it is.

Mount Ventoux tops out at over 6,500 feet, and though no vineyards are cultivated even CLOSE to that altitude, much of CdV is a bit to a lot higher than many of the flat, sun-lashed and FAR better known Rhone appellations like Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The higher altitudes (as well as all of the other elements that conspire to make a region’s wines what they are) bring more breezes and cooler evenings to Ventoux’s vineyards, lending Ventoux wines a lighter, fresher character than its lower altitude neighbors.

The other critical factor in accurately sketching out Ventoux’s nature is the allowance of up to 30% of the earthy, smokey, brambly Carignan grape in the blend in addition to the Rhone’s usual viney suspects of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault (for the reds of course – the permissable white varieties are Bourbelenc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne). Just to illustrate the point, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Vacqueyras, and Gigondas do not permit ANY Carignan at all in their blends.

And with that little blab about Carignan and Ventoux, in this case I think that you can forget it because I’m not sure that this bottle had any Carignan in it at all – I can’t seem to locate the producer’s website (those responsible are none other than one of the aforemntioned cooperative organizations, in this case one called Vignerons de Beaumes de Venise who as best as I can tell makes this wine for this guest chateau), the back label only mentions Grenache and Syrah, and my own notes don’t include any of Carignan’s common descriptors, but it’s as likely as not that I’m mistaken, so if you can set me straight, have at it… 

The main course with which I paired this little charmer was an improvised Provencal-style pork stew (cubed shoulder, tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, garlic, onions, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, a little glass of brandy, and other things that I can’t recall…) sloshed over orzo pasta. Had the meat been beef or lamb, I think the wine might have come out worse for the meeting, but the sweeter, more delicate flavor of the pork allowed the wine to speak, if not to the pork itself, to me and my Jenny. The notes and the pics:

Chateau Juvenal (Vignerons de Beaumes de Venise) Cotes du Ventoux 2005

Pretty bright purple/garnet color. Tidy nose of kirsch, black soil, dried flowers, and minerals. In the mouth the wine is velvety, chewy,and fairly rich with educated flavors of cocoa, brown spices, and plum. Despite the fair fullness of the wine, it still shows fresh, crunchy fruit, good grip, and it remains remarkably quaffable overall, this despite its 14 percent alcohol .

A Rhone againProvencal-style pork stew with orzo

                      A Rhone again    

 
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