This past Thursday marked the last In Vino Veritas tasting of the first Semester. Marie-Carmen Benavides, Sales Manager at Domaine Le Sang des Cailloux, presented 5 of her Domaine’s labels, 4 reds and 1 white. I must note that this is the second tasting in a row that began with dry, tannic, full-bodied reds and ended with more acidic whites. This of course is atypical when it comes to the general rules of tasting order, which suggest – white before red, light before full, dry before sweet, complex before simple, or old before new. I am not an advocate of white before red as I think the actual characteristics of the wine are much more important than the color, so I would pay closer attention to the ordering I mentioned just after white before red.
Trying to make some sense of this out-of-ordering, both this week and last week, the wines were from the Rhone Valley, so maybe this is a regional practice or technique. The domaine representative noted that tasting an acidic white, just after a flight of tannic reds, helps stimulate the palate and reawaken your taste buds. I must say that contrary to what I would have thought, in the case of both this week and last week, I considered the ordering appropriate. So maybe in a smaller flight of wines, tannic before acidic can be a new rule. Any thoughts anyone?
Ok back to the Domaine. Le Sang des Cailloux (roughly translated as “the blood of stones”), founded in 1975, is located in the small village of Sarrians in the Southern Rhone Valley. Today the team, run by owner and winemaker Serge Férigoule, includes Marie-Carmen Benavides, Fréderi Férigoule and Philippe Farraud. The domaine strictly produces wine of the Vacqueryas AOC. Vacqueryas has long been seen as a high quality yet much lower price alternative to the neighboring Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC. Vacqueryas comprises 1,200 hectares and is represented by about 200 producers, including the negociants. The total annual production of wine is as much as 40,000 hectoliters. Vacqueryas is predominantly a red wine appellation, noted for peppery and robust wines, focused on the grenache varietal. However, roughly 1-2% of the production is white wine.
Bottles in order of tasting…
2006 Cuvée Azalaïs
Blend : 70% grenache, 20% syrah, 7% mourvedre, 3% cinsault
Tasting Notes : Dark violet in the glass. Fresh earth, spice and pepper aromas, followed by a subtle sourness, very dark berries, and a lasting punch of violets. This wine is dry and a little unbalanced and flat in the mouth. There are flavors of vanilla, sour cherry, and plum, finishing with pepper and dark chocolate.
Rating : 13/20
Price : $20 USD
2004 Cuvée Lopy Vieilles Vignes
Blend : 75% grenache, 25% syrah
Tasting Notes : Beautiful dark purple in the glass. Violets, earth and rocks on the nose, with a slightly more pronounced fruitiness than he 2006. In the mouth the tannins are controlled and the acidity is well pronounced. There are flavors of blueberries.
Rating : 14/20
Price : $33 USD
2006 Cuvée Lopy Cuvée Vieilles Vignes
Blend : 75% grenache, 25% syrah
Tasting Notes : Beautiful dark purple in the glass. A little more subtle bouquet than the 2004 at first, but then it opened up to an explosion of crushed violets, which was very expressive and smooth. This wine definitely had good balance, unlike the Cuvée Azalaïs, and there were flavors of sour cherries and violets on the palate.
Rating : 14/20 (preferred over the 2004)
Price : $32 USD
2000 Cuvée Oumage Vieilles Vignes
Varietal : 100% grenache
Tasting Notes : Dark red marroon in the glass and loaded with sediment. Elegant aromas of earth and floral notes but also fruit forward with cherry coming out on the nose. This is a full-bodied wine with good balance between the acidity and supple tannins. There are flavors of violets, vanilla, black cherries, currants and plum, and a finish that is just slightly too sour, but also accompanied by a pleasant sweet cup of hot cocoa that lingers in the back of the palate. Thanks to Miki San I was able to pick up a very subtle yet definitely present orange note in the midpalate.
Rating : 15/20 (most favorite of the bunch)
Price : unavailable
2007 Un Sang Blanc
Blend : 20% grenache blanc, 20% clairette, 20% viognier, 20% bourboulenc, 20% roussanne
Tasting Notes : Straw yellow in the glass. An immediate attack of effervescance on the nose, followed by overall citruciness, orange, mild spice, and apple. This wine is very light, tight, and unexpressive, albeit just slightly creamy with peach peel and apple flavors. I found it disjointed.
Rating : 11/20 (least favorite of the bunch)
Price : Approx. $33