Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Patrick Lesec Costières de Nîmes Vieilles Vignes 2007

West of the Rhône delta in the South of France is discovered the appellation Costières de Nîmes, named after the principal town of the region.  Geographically it's a borderland spanning both the Languedoc (to the East) and the Rhône valley, but as far as wine regions go, it's considered part of the Southern Rhône.

The grapes grown there are typical of the region; Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre (together known as GSM), Carignan, Cinsault and quite a few other varieties of minor importance.  It's the land of blends, where single varietal wines are seldom if ever seen. It's a classic blend giving a sum greater than the parts; bags of fruit, bramble, garrigue (typical bushy scrubland of the South of France, with lavender and thyme amongst other other bushes), ample tannin and plenty of acidity.  All in all a generous and very Mediterranean smell and flavour.  Interestingly the GSM blend of the Southern Rhône has been very successfully taken up by both Australian and Californian producers.  The Aussies with typical directness labelling quite a few wines simply "GSM".

The most prestigious red wine appellations in the Southern Rhone are Châteauneuf-du-Pape followed by Gigondas, Vaqueyras and a couple of other crus (named village wines).  These crus are small sub-zones tied to a particular town or village within the huge regional appellations of Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages, which account for the vast majority of the region's wine. Outside this huge area there are also what are known as the satellite appellations, which surround the region and make similar wines, though they are usually lighter and certainly cheaper.  One of these Rhône satellites and perhaps the most successful is Costières de Nîmes.  For a fraction of the cost of Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas you can get lovely characterful wines that are getting better and better year on year.

A great example of this appellation is the Costières de Nîmes Vieilles Vignes from the producer Patrick Lesec.  Last night I drank the 2007 of this wine, which was a great year in the Southern Rhône.  It was all it should be; generous black fruit with a real sense of place coming from the garrigue nose and flavours.  Already secondary flavours and complexity have developed and it's ready to drink now.  Absolutely perfect with our neighbours' venison and puy lentil casserole, though perhaps slightly perverted in mid-summer.  Fantastic value at around £6.50 from the Wine Society I'm afraid it has now all left the shelves, but it's one to look out for.

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