2019 Domaine Notre Dame des Pallieres Cotes du Rhone
There are grapes, and then there are better grapes. You know this from purchasing grocery-store grapes – you go for the big, plump, ripe ones and they taste sweet and luscious with the juice nearly bursting through their skins. And then there are always those shot berries, ones that never really got quite ripe, but you eat them anyway just to try and yep – they’re sour, tart and bitter.
The same taste profiles apply to wine. When a full, ripe berry is turned into wine the result is a full-bodied, bold and luscious wine. Turning an underripe berry into wine creates vapid, sometimes tart, sometimes bitter wine.
Which of course begs the question – why would someone ever harvest underripe berries? Why not have perfectly ripe berries all the time?
The answer is Nature (and a little vineyard management skill).
In farming, place matters. With vineyards it’s about sunlight exposure, greater warmth, higher slope, and better aspect. You and I know this from our tomato gardens – yours is planted in nitrogen-rich soils with full daylight exposure (you even do a little leaf-pulling to extra ripen the fruit), while mine is a hanging in a pot every year getting barely enough afternoon sun. You get a bumper crop of bright red, juicy tomatoes and I eat a lot of fried green tomatoes (with hollandaise sauce of course).
While we here in the U.S. are still matching the best vineyard sites to grapes, in France they’ve been doing it centuries. They’ve even developed a complex hierarchy to label, on the bottles, which vineyard areas are better than others.
Which brings us to Domaine de Notre Dame des Pallieres Cotes du Rhone. Cotes du Rhone is one of the largest vineyard areas in all of France. As such, it includes some good vineyards, and maybe some lesser vineyards, too. In contrast, the top of charts in this area is Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Most people know these wines, but what they don’t know is what falls in between Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Cotes du Rhone – and that is other high-quality but lesser known regions such as Lirac and Oranges.
And what you get in this bottle is exclusively fruit coming from those better vineyard sites – Claude Roux (along with his children Isabelle and Julien) are growing some of the best fruit in the southern Rhone. However, because he has two tiny vineyards from different areas that he blends together to make this wine he can’t legally state the higher quality region on the label. And in the bottle, the quality shows:
A bold perfume of ripe raspberries, touches of brambly spice character, Bing cherries, touches of graphite and a pretty hint of savory herbs. These are great fruit sources and on the palate that is fully revealed – a wave of succulent rich fruit characteristics cascades into the glass with plums, strawberry and blackcurrant all layering together to give a richly rewarding drinking experience. For all of that fruit character this wine is not hugely alcoholic or glycerol on the tongue. It remains juicy and fresh, a perfect match for cocktails or the table.
In farming, higher quality grapes does translate into higher quality wine. Usually, that also means more expensive wine. But in the case of Domaine de Notre Dame Cotes du Rhone, we got a heck of a deal. Cheers!