I relish the opportunity to open more than one bottle. This is not a drunken quest - Lamb's Navy Rum is cheaper and more efficient - but to REALLY learn about wine you need to have "context". So when my my brother-in-law bought over a French grenache, I decided an impromptu head-to-head tasting of the three classic Rhone red varietals was in order. The theme set, I chose the following wines to taste. The wines were decanted approx. 45 minutes before dinner, served "blind", and enjoyed (very much) over the rest of the evening.
2002 D'Arenberg "The Twenty-Eight Road" (McLaren Vale)
2004 Chateau Coupe Roses "Granaxa" (Minervois)
2003 E. Guigal (Crozes-Hermitage)
On my left was the 2002 D'Arenberg "The Twenty-Eight Road", made from 100% mourvedre. Pure mourvedre is a rather rare find, especially outside of France and Spain, so I just "had to have it". The darkest of the three wines, it was a deep purple with some brick red at the edge. It started pruney and leathery, with dense black cherry fruit, some vanilla. Very aromatic, but perhaps a touch less complex on the nose than the other two. Rich, with beautiful mouthfeel, nice velvety tannins, ample acidity and terrific balance, it was not a "boorish" mourvedre like the Cline or the Terre Rouge. I loved the juicy fruitiness, but it was not overdone - the tannin and acidity gave it nice structure.
cork. 14.5% alcohol
Price: C$38.75 (SAQ)
In the middle was a glass of the 2004 Chateau Coupe Roses Granaxa, a 100% grenache from the Minervois region in the south of France. A pale ruby red, the lightest of the three, it was very aromatic, revealing smoke and oaky notes, followed by roses, grendine, mint, truffle and wet fur. The alcohol was noticeable on the nose and palate, with dry, peppery, tannins in the mouth, but surprisingly "un-fruity" for a grenache. Well made, interesting, but a bit less polished than the other two wines. Some length. I would drink this now after a modest decant.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Price: $21 (SAQ)
On my right was a glass of the 2003 Guigal Crozes-Hermitage. A nice cherry red, it was very meaty and woodsy on the nose, followed by violet, raspberry, liquorice, tobacco and almonds - very attractive. Bone dry with velvety tannins, this medium-bodied red showed tremendous poise, with everything in balance. This will keep, but it is ready now. Yes, you have seen this wine before, but I gave it an extra half point this time - a longer decant? a better pairing? The best thing about this bottle - I have four more in my cellar. Note the low alcohol...
cork. 12.5% alcohol
Price: $26 (LCBO)
All three wines were beautiful, and paired very well with the butterflied leg of lamb marinated in olive oil, fresh rosemary and garlic. I would not be disappointed to have any of these again, although I have to give the value prize to the Guigal, which coincidentally was the first decanter empty. Life is good.
PS - It was not that easy to pick out the three varietals blind, but one taster got it right... :)