The relationships between wine grape varieties has advanced well beyond the early taxonomic demi-science of ampelography (classifying grapes by the shapes and physical characteristics of their leaves) into some pretty sophisticated genetic testing methods, and these methods have revealed some pretty interesting and surprising results since it has been brought to bear in the world of viticulture, and Mondeuse’s lineage surely one of these fascinating stories.
Mondeuse is a red grape variety that has been growing in the southern French Alpine that is now called Savoie for what many scholars believe to be better than two millennia. And for the longest time, due to some uncanny similarities in the glass with another ancient red variety from northeastern Italy called Refosco, for decades these two varieties were thought to be more or less identical. Enter genetic analysis to put this long-held belief to the test. To cut a long story short, when the dust cleared in the lab, much to the chagrin of many smug oenologists, the unequivocal proof came out that despite their great similarities in terms of color, flavor, and aroma, these two varieties were not at all closely related. But, when the data retrieved from this test was compared with the data collected from other such tests on other vine varieties, it became clear, again much to many grape scientists great surprise, that not only was Mondeuse fairly closely related to the celebrated Syrah, it seemed likely that Mondeuse was an ancestor rather than an offspring.
Mondeuse, despite being a pretty obscure variety when compared to some others, can be found growing in neighboring Switzerland, in Sicily, and in the New World in such places as California, Argentina, and even Australia. But despite this grape’s great diffusion around the world, all Mondeuses are not of equal quality. Mondeuse is a variety that, in order to really thrive, must be planted at fairly high altitudes, in an overall cool climate, and on very poor and rocky soils. When Mondeuse is raised in rich soils, on flat topography and on warm sites however, the resulting wines are typically flat, flabby and dull. But, when cultivated in its terroir wheelhouse, Mondeuse produces refined, deeply-colored, intriguingly aromatic and spicy wines with a vivacious and snappy acidic structure, and deep and dark sweet-and-sour fruit profile, and that is precisely what we got tonight from this wine. I’ve had more than a few wines made from Mondeuse over the years, and I’ve got to say that this is the best one I’ve ever had, going away.
I put this graceful but still very animated wine out with an appetizer of smoked salmon slices rolled with a smooth spread of potato, goat cheese, chives and tarragon, followed by a main course of pork sausages with green lentils cooked with aromatic vegetables, mustard, bay leaf, parsley and thyme.
Domaine de l’Idylle Savoie Mondeuse 2011
Pinkish purple/garnet color. Pretty, elegant nose of smokey black cherry and plum fruit backed up by clean aromas of cloves, gingerbread, toasted nuts, dried red flowers, and dark honey. In the mouth the wine has a velvety-textured, medium-weight body with smooth round tannins, and a very bright but discreet acidity and flavors of sweet and smooth strawberry jam and blackberry and blackcurrant fruit beautifully supported by flavors of sap, hibiscus, fennel seeds, white truffle and a stony earthiness. Finishes with slightly peppery, leathery flavors. Very nice stuff.