I Love Fine Wine – A French Red Vacqueryas

I really don’t make a habit of following Robert Parker, perhaps the world’s most influential wine reviewer. But when I had a chance to pick up a bottle that he evaluated at 91 for about $20 I figured why not. Today’s wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Cinsault, and 5% Mourvedre and holds the not particularly prestigious Vacqueyras AOC appellation, which was Cotes du Rhone Villages until 1990. The producer’s family has been in the wine business since 1826, starting with Chateauneuf du Pape. Some of their 170 acres (about 70 hectares) of vineyards are organic and they use a lot of manual labor including hand picking the harvest, cluster by cluster. Today’s companion wine is a basic red Cotes du Rhone at less than half the price.

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review were purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Alain Jaume Grande Garrigue Vacqueyras AOC 2009 15 % alcohol about $20.

Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials. “Tasting Note: The 2009 Alain Jaume Vacqueyras Grande Garrigue is much more backward, displaying a denser blue/purple color, thicker, richer blue and black fruits, and hints of kirsch, lavender, and garrigue. Still grapy and unformed, but loaded with potential given its depth of concentration and richness, it will benefit from another 2-3 months of bottle age, and keep for 5-8 years. Score – 91. (Robert Parker Jr., at his website, Aug. 2010).” And now for my review.

At the first sips this wine was quite mouth filling and long. The meal started off with Japanese Wasabi crackers that increased its intensity. The centerpiece was a no cheese lasagna made with beef and spinach noodles. In response the wine had great length and offered dark fruits. But its acidity should have been rounder. The fruit juice candy dessert rounded the wine’s acidity but muted its fruit.

My next meal involved a breaded chicken cutlet from a box. Now the Vacqueyras came out round and powerful. It presented oak and acidity, and was slightly metallic. In the presence of the caponata side dish made from tomatoes, eggplant, onion, celery, green olives, and tomato paste, the libation’s acidity perked up and I tasted some chocolate. On the other hand, when paired with fresh strawberries the chocolate was weakened.

My final meal consisted of a baked Ziti Siciliano that I doused with grated Parmesan cheese. Now the wine was mouth filling and had great length. It provided an excellent balance of acidity, tannins, and dark fruits. Dessert consisted of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream that didn’t leave this wine with much to say for itself.

The first cheese was a provolone. Now this Vacqueyras offered olives, dark cherries, and good, refreshing acidity. When paired with a goat’s milk cheese containing figs it was both chewy and chocolaty. I then tasted it alongside a frozen high-quality French-style custard pie with a buttery crust and strawberries. The libation was sweet, fruity, and long.

Final verdict. I might buy this wine again. The pairings were fairly good. But if you ask me, it does not deserve a 91, whatever that means. I am glad that I don’t have to distinguish between a 90 and a 91 after spending four months with a student in the classroom and labs. So after tasting one bottle? But that’s just me. Next time I find a 91 at $20 I’ll probably buy it and let you know. But a 90???

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