Sang des Cailloux, Vacqueyras, Cuvee Floureto 1.5 L Magnum, 2016
Terroir. It means “tastes of a place” – What an odd concept. In the U.S. we hardly ever talk about place. We talk about a wine’s grape varietal, its expression of fruit, or what such-and-such a wine critic said about it.
But in France, terroir is all. Wine without terroir is simple, common, and generic. Wines that express distinct terroir are highly valued. This difference is worth exploring.
It is fairly easy to make a wine taste like ripe cherry fruit with a finish of smooth vanilla richness. If you pick your Cabernet when it’s riper than the next guy’s you get more cherry flavor. If you oak your wine in new oak it will impart the rich, smooth tones of vanilla and chocolate. After 18 months you get the ultimate expression of Cabernet: cherry richness; bold, yet smooth, and a long finish with just a hint of vanilla.
But the taste of terroir is different. It can only be found in the soil of a place, the climate of the terrain, and the aspect of vineyard. Terroir can be so localized, so specific, that the resulting wines become immensely prized. Great French wine is filled with such places: La Romanee, Champagne, Paulliac, and Chateaunuef du Pape. Or, to put it another way, you’ve lived many places, but you were born in only one of them. A wine’s birthplace leaves its imprint sine die.
Vacqueyras, a village in the Cotes du Rhone, expresses terroir fully, completely, and utterly in Sang des Cailloux’s Cuvee Floureto. Sang des Cailloux translates to Blood of the Stones. The wine takes this name for two reasons. The vineyard has no top soil. It is completely covered in granite stones. It is planted mostly with Grenache that soaks up the Provencal sun. The resulting wine is deeply red-colored – the dark red leather of a farmer’s chafed hands.
The wine tastes like it could have only come from one place: Vacqueyras. It smells of wild Rhone herbs – rosemary, garlic chives, lavender, with touches of orange peel. The taste is gamey, sauvage, animal. The polite French word is garrigue. The finish tastes of rain water filtered through granite. It is stony and smells of gunflint. The wine has a pure acidity that pulls you into the bottle.
This is not a wine for everyone. But you were never everyone. You were always someone. And that is the point. This wine, like you, is unique.
For those of you about to eat strong cheese or venison or wild duck; those who love Cotes du Rhone wines; or the individualistic few who need just a bit more animal in your life, heed my call. Come taste the Blood of the Stones– Sang des Cailloux’s Cuvee Floureto.
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