I picked up the Château Sainte-Eulalie La Cantilène 2000 for two reasons. One: It was from a producer named Sainte-Eulalie that I really enjoy, especially for their affordable Cuvée Tradition. And two: It was not just a Minervois -- from that dependable wine-growing region from the south of France -- it was in fact a Minervois La Livinière, a more specific appellation signalling both higher quality and care in output, and prestigious yields and select vineyards in input.
I have three words to sum up this seemingly no-risk venture of mine. More is less. Instead I'll stick with a run-of-the-mill Minervois at a fraction of the price if this particular bottle is any indication. It was just too much of a gamble. Shockingly, I found that La Cantilène lacked structure. Maybe this was partially caused from my anticipations, which were centred around my fondness of their basic cuvée. I did sense the wine had more matter, but it was less integrated. So there you have it once again. More is less.
I'll try to take this adage as advice for myself and defer most of the remainder of this post to the experts (who quite admired what I'm casting aside). Michel Phaneuf gave La Cantilène one of his rare golden grape ratings in his 2005 wine guide, calling it exquisite and solidly built, among the most complete Minervois he'd tasted for the year (a third reason why I purchased this bottle and thought that it would be a wise investment).
Wine Spectator Managing Editor Kim Marcus also raved about it, but for a much more recent vintage. This creates some suspicions that the vintage Phaneuf endorsed to his readers was already starting to fall off by the time his book went to press. After all, five years in Midi cellars is like dog years in Bordeaux caves. Regardless, lots of valuable reporting is in Marcus's article and its PDF'ed tasting companion.
Do check them out, but I will sign off with my own notes, which though clearly not negative, seem to me to make for one of the most disappointing uncorkings in my recent memory.
Day of opening: Garrigue and other savoury tones well present, as were bay leaf, spice box, and candied cinnamon with hints of deep red berries. Tannins tame and supple and produce a nice finish. Plenty of acidity gives the wine length. Day after opening: More lavender the second night -- more suited to my first evening's delicious pairing (slice of lamb leg with garlic mashed potatoes) than it was to the second's (rib-eye steak in Salisbury sauce with baby carrots and wilted parsley). At a couple bucks over the twenty dollar mark, this wine is overpriced. Definitely would not go out of my way for this again.
I. Coustal, La Livinière, France. 13.5%.