Posted by: tomciocco | February 17, 2013


As the result of too many glossy magazine ads and billboards, the phrase “wine region” has become almost synonymous with images of castles gripping steep, verdant hills set in front of snow-capped mountains. And indeed, there are quite a few such blessed places all across the globe, but there are just as many that are frankly quite plain…and some famous names too…

The Southern Rhone is one such area. It is in places quite flat and arid, with soils full of large stones, and with all of the Mediterranean sun it takes, it gets infernally hot. Which is what makes the Ventoux appellation pleasantly peculiar. Mont Ventoux in the department of Vaucluse rises dramatically from the flat hills surrounding it to nearly 6,300 feet (1912 meters) above sea level. Completely protected since 1990, and still undergoing a long re-forestation process (the mountain’s timbers were cut without regard since the middle ages for ship building) the lower ranges of the less pitched southern and western slopes play host to the vineyards that make up the Ventoux appellation.

As the name of the mountain and the zone implies, this monstrous rise of rock is famous for its wind, with a shape that perfectly funnels the famous Mistral in the Spring and Winter, and catches winds from the sea in the other two seasons. The elevation and the ample ventilation of this zone in conjunction with its finer limestone and clay soils, make for lighter, fresher wines than the powerhouse reds made in the hotter, sunnier zones below. This particular blend is made from 75% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 5% Carignan, though Cinsault and Mourvedre can also be included. None of these varieties are known for their exceptional delicacy or  elegance, but the elevated swath of vineyards in Ventoux consistently produce fresher and more delineated wines than any other “Rhone-blend” appellation.

This relaxed but still multi-faceted wine paired very well with the tuna, chick pea, herb and garlic puree` on toasts I pulled together for an appetizer, and was bright and but still brawny enough foil to the classic and supremely deep, dark, and complex beef stew, Daube Provencal that I served with creamy mashed potatoes.













Domaine de Fenouillet Ventoux Rouge 2011

Deep, rich magenta color. Toasted aromas of plum, black raspberry, and currant fruit, with clear and pretty notes of lavender, licorice, new leather, sea air, forest mushrooms, and a touch of barnyard. The palate is medium-full, with a light-footed, crunchy, clean, and round texture, and smoothly polished tannins that support defined and natural  flavors of blackberry, black cherry, strawberry preserves,  pine tar, and mocha. Freshly dry and minerally prune and juniper finish.


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