The Syrah grape is, and has always been, one of the most adaptable varietals around. It is the flagship grape of the Northern Rhone, where it is blended with the white varietal Viognier to make the famous Cote Rotie wines. Further South, it is the dominant grape in the world-famous wines of Chateau neuf du Pape.
Even further South, and to the East, are the Cotes du Ventoux. These are composed of steeply terraced vineyards along the foothills of Mount Ventoux, made up of about 1,500 winegrowers from the surrounding 51 small towns. It is here that you will find Chateau Pesquie. This estate has long been one of the jewels of the region, and is held in high esteem in an area that lacks much of an international wine identity.
Syrah flourishes here, as well, and the 30-year-old vines provide about 30 percent of the blend, with Syrah’s usual stablemate Grenache providing the balance.
The 2009 Chateau Pesquie Terrases is ripe, with a generous dollop of red plums, anise seed and black cherry. The flavor profile is also streaked with minerality, giving it a sense of place and partnering up with the lively tannins to keep the whole thing in balance. This last little bit of terroir lets you know it’s French, but the alcohol levels — 14 percent — and the redolent fruit hints at a nod to the export market and the American palate.
More than 8,000 miles away, Syrah pops up again — this time, in the very capable hands of world-class winemaker Susana Balbo. The 2008 bottling of Crios Syrah & Bonarda blend at first struck me in an odd but pleasant way. My first thought was France, not Argentina.
This wine, for less than $15, just took me straight to the Rhone Valley. The nose was shy at first, but after some time, the notes of crushed dried flowers and roasted meats led to hints of allspice and macerated berries … wow. The entry on the palate at first is intense and angular, but relents with time to reveal its many facets.
Never heard of Bonarda? Never fear, as of late, it has been determined to be Charbono, and if you have ever had a glass from a jug of burgundy produced in California, you most likely have tasted Charbono.
But don’t let that put you off. In capable hands, it makes tremendous wines, and Balbo certainly has done her homework here.
So there you have it. Two wines made worlds apart, highly rated and ready for your picnic basket or dinner table at less than $15 a bottle.
An Argentinian wine tastes French, and a French wine tastes like it could be from Argentina. Crazy! The only thing I am really sure of anymore is that it is a great time to be a wine lover. Keep pulling those corks!
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