Monday, December 30, 2013

Cercius Côtes du Rhône 2011

This Côtes du Rhône bottling was one of the Top 12 wines for the holidays from the folks at Whole Foods Market.  The Cercius Côtes du Rhône 2011 is labeled as Vielles Vignes Red Wine.  If my high school French serves me well, that means old vines.  And old they are - over 80 years and going strong.

The vines bear Grenache (85%) and Syrah (15%) and the wine is a collaboration of winemaker Michel Gassier, Phillippe Cambie and Eric Solomon.  It is imported by Eric Solomon Selections, which stamps the words "Place Over Process" on their labeling, so it is perfect to find them poking around in the Rhône Valley.

The name of the wine tips the hat to one of the features that make the Rhône Valley unique.  "Cercius" is the Latin name for the north by northwest mistral winds that sweep through the region.

The wine looks dark purple in the glass and smells rather heavily of alcohol upon opening.  Aromas of blackberries and cassis do come through, though, and in a clean, fresh way.  The freshness continues on the palate, with a big mouthful of black cherry and licorice.  Alcohol, however, is a bit of a problem.  At 14.5%, it is higher than I would expect from the region, and it gets in the way until the wine has had plenty of time to open up.

Bottled under an artificial cork closure, Cercius has an alcohol content of 14.5% abv and is vinified and aged six months in concrete tanks.  I tried this wine on three successive nights, and it was best on the third night.  The first night it was fruity, but hindered by the heat of the alcohol.  The second night it seemed even hotter, but by the third night it had settled down and taken on a tarry note.

Here is where Cercius really shines: with food.  On the third night, feeling a little disappointed in the wine, I pulled the leftover penne Bolognese from the fridge for a midnight snack.  I had the pasta the night before with a Valpolicella, and it was great.  Now, the dish cold and stiff, the Rhône wine was an even better match for it.  At last, I really enjoyed this wine.

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