Most Cotes du Rhone reds do little to offend, and even less to impress. Typically made in pond-level quantities for quick sales to help pay the bills, CdR trades in a warm, but only basic “complexity” derived primarily from the multiple grapes that make it up. Despite all of the wine’s friendly reliability, all too much of it tastes like the rest of it if you know what I mean…
The next level up in terms of quality from straight CdR is Cotes du Rhone Villages which restricts the produce to, as the name indicates, a selected single town or village. There are less than a couple of dozen extant CdRVs and it is even possible via some long, arcane, and thoroughly Gallic process, to graduate to full A.O.C. status as zones like Vacqueyras, Gigondas, and others have done. For me Cairanne is next in line, and in fact is overdue, for elevation into this top tier.
In my experience, Cairanne frequently posseses a velvety and smooth richness and depth that even the best Chateauneuf-du-Papes can’t match. This particular wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre, and 5% Cinsault, with 30% of the wine aged in 3-4 year old barrels (the balance is aged in stainless steel vats) for 10 months. The the fairly high percentages of the darker and smoother grapes like Syrah and Mourvedre employed in this cuvee`, along with the kiss of the subtler, tamed oak, combine to beautifully emphasize Cairanne’s natural opulence.
This wine went out to the table with a traditional cream of (3) mushroom soup, and then a main course of herbed and spiced lamb brochettes sauced with a marchand du vin, and a side of shredded and partially carmelized Brussels sprouts.
Domaine Brusset Cairanne Cotes du Rhone Villages “Les Travers” 2009
Completely opaque and saturated blackish purple color. Clearly focused nose of black pepper, vivid black cherry and blackberry fruit, cola, toasty, savory notes, and coal smoke. The palate is concentrated and intense, but beautifully well balanced, with tight and polished tannins framing layered flavors of fennel seed, fresh vanilla bean, maple and pecan brittle, chewy blackcurrant fruit, eucalyptus, and a touch of burnt orange zest. The finish is clean and complex. A really expressive fusion of terroir and clean modernity.