Wednesday, March 19, 2008

2001 in the South of France

Here's a neat exploration of terroir comparing two 2001-vintage wines from southern France. The two bottles, a Côtes du Rhône Villages and a Coteaux du Languedoc, both hail from a pretty good vintage, both use similar Syrah-dominated blends, and both had identical alcohol levels.

Jammy dark berry fruit, vanilla, cocoa powder, and wildflowers on the nose of the 2001 Domaine Clavel Copa Santa (Coteaux du Languedoc), it was a pleasure to ponder in the glass. As telegraphed by the nose the palate was too hot and chocolatey, but showing nice velvety tannins and a long finish. A pretty good package, but I seem to be moving in a different direction these days, away from this very modern-styled effort. I forgot I tasted this a year ago, I marked it down today. Syrah, with some Grenache (and occasionally Mourvedre).
cork. 14.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: C$27 (SAQ)

There was a neat slatey/granite aspect to the nose of the 2001 Chateau Signac "Cuvee Terra Amata" (Cotes du Rhone Villages), some lavender notes, leather and liquorice, and musty/earthy blackberries. While the Clavel was hot and bothered, the Signac showed crisp cherry fruit, and was poised, smooth and elegant. Beautifully textured, "a vinous joy". One of my Top 50 Cellar Picks, same score as last year. Syrah and Grenache.
cork. 14.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$26 (SAQ)

Both were fruitier, more modern-styled wines, so winemaking was not the key to the differences. And while the Signac's higher % of Grenache could be the explanation, I find Syrah hides the high alcohol levels better than Grenache. That leaves terroir: the sandy-clay soil Signac nominally differed from the clay-pebbles at the Clavel site, but I don't think this explains the smoother, more elegant nature of the Signac, which leads me towards weather and temperature variations to explain the difference - I definitely recall better acidity and structure with the Signac.


Edward said...


I see the snow is still falling. . .

How do you explain the difference in sediment / deposit between the two? Was one unfiltered? Wine making choices?

Joe said...

Hi Ed - good question, both were unfiltered and threw a large amount of sediment. The picture makes it look like the Signac had more, but both had substantial sediment. I think it is more than the winemaking...