Monday, January 21, 2008

Cotes du Rhone Domaine du Vieux Chene Cuvee des Capucines, 2005

The Plan de Dieu--or Plain of God--in the Southern Rhone consists of vineyards planted in the Middle Ages to serve religious communities and chapels in the area. The vines have always had a reputation for producing good wine and average yields are a relatively low 39 hl/hectare. But only in 2005 was the area recognized as a special appellation; so prices have remained low considering the quality of the wines.

Domaine du Vieux Chene wines are produced by Beatrice and Jean Claude Bouche, who are deeply committed to organic farming and traditional winemaking. Although their cellar holds up-to-date temperature control and bottling equipment, they have resisted the urge to go "modern" and "international" with new oak barrels. Whole grape fermentation (at a natural fermentation temperature with pumping up of the fermenting juice) is used to preserve fruit tannins. Wine is aged in stainless steel tanks. Vieux Chene produces several cuvees--each with a unique personality.

Cuvee des Capucines 2005 is a deep crimson, with good saturated color. It's very aromatic with smells of spicy red berries, tart cherries and a hint of dark minerals and licorice. Ripe, ripe cherry/berry with just the right touch of tart acidity to keep you coming back for more. It's hard to believe this wine could get any better, but my experience tells me that it will. I usually prefer Cuvee Haie aux Grives, which has a higher perecentage of Syrah, but the Capucines (100 percent Grenache) is very good in this vintage, and I'll be going back for more.

This wine is available at Sam's or Binney's in Chicago for about $10 a bottle. In Michigan, the price is about two to three dollars higher, but it's worth every cent. With the new appellation status and recognition of the quality, prices for this and other Plan de Dieu wines may soon go up in price.

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