Monday, January 14, 2008

Cotes du Luberon Chateau la Canorgue, 1999

Located halfway between Avignon and Aix en Provence, Chateau la Canorgue is truly in the heart of Provence. What better place to make the film adaptation of Peter Mayle's A Good Year? If you go to the film, starring Russell Crowe, you'll see the beautiful estate, built on the site of a Roman villa, and get a glimpse of the laid-back life in Provence.

In the not-so-distant past, Luberon wines were frequently simple and weak, made from over-cropped vines. Because of this reputation, the wines are still relatively low-priced, although winemakers such as Jean-Pierre Margan are determined to change the image. Margan farms his vines organically and biodynamically with no chemical pesticides, and he maintains a clean, state-of-the-art wine-making facility from which he crafts wines that are in line with the best traditions of the area. Grapes are picked by hand and carefully selected. New oak is used sparingly, if at all.

From about 1995 to 2000, Canorgue wines were available in my area (southwest Michigan) for $6 to $8 a bottle. I bought them regularly and drank them rather soon after purchase. I kept back a few bottles to see how it would age, and I was not disappointed in this 1999. At nine years of age, the color is still deep and dark--reflecting the high percentage of Syrah (70 percent plus 30 percent Grenache) in the blend. It has a big Syrah nose, similar to a good Crozes Hermitage (with a little less class). Blue plums, animal/brett, dark berries and wild herbs (garrigue). Unfiltered and a bit earthy (doesn't bother me). In the mouth, the Syrah blossoms forth--robust but with pretty floral edges. Softer red berry fruit lingers on the finish.

The 2005 vintage of Canorgue is now available, notably at Village Corner in Ann Arbor, MI and in the Bay Area of California, for about $14.99. The price has gone up, but Canorgue is still worth it for a good taste of southern Syrah. It's always a bit tight when it's young but don't worry about keeping it for a few years.

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