WBW #43 Comfort Wines: Grenache blends like the Château de la Gardine 2004

My first post of March is March's Wine Blogging Wednesday event -- WBW comes early in March! This one clearly snuck up on me, but I was not unprepared.

Thanks to Joel at Wine Life Today for getting me motivated to finally get some of my wine tasting notes up.

Joel's timing for March's event -- called "comfort wines" -- seems perfect. This week I've been popping corks on some very soul-sustaining, get-me-through-the-winter wines. March is usually severe and wintry during this year of La Nina. Comfort wines are exactly what I've been calling for lately, and likely will until some signs of spring arrive.

The definition of a comfort wine may be highly personal. Joel offers guidance as host, but in the most general definition I have in my mind, I would expect that people thinking of their favourite comfort wines would think of red wines that are somewhat rich and substantive -- a bottle that puts meat on your bones so you can settle in for a long winter's nap. When your hibernation's over you'll awake with fond memories of that nourishing and generous wine!

So to recap, my idea of a comfort wine is one this a) red, b) ripe and c) with potentially high extraction. Above all, it is d) not a wine that you would serve with a green salad. It should feature a strong flavour profile and admirable texture, though not necessarily supplied by heavy tannin. It should be lusty, savoury and long in the mouth.

In other words, it should be a classy cuvée that involves some Grenache grapes.


Grenache, or Granacha in Spanish, is the go-to grape for Spain's D.O. Montsant red wines and France's A.O.C. Faugères red blends. I mention them because I sampled one of each this week.

Both the Mas Collet Montsant 2004 and the Les Premières Faugères 2005 satisfy a definition of "comfort wine" I subscribe to.

The Mas Collet brings in an attractive level of oak and Cabernet Sauvignon to the comforting affect this wine has. Overall though this is an exemplary Grenache blend after so-so recent vintages: the 2004 is far from flabby and it possesses a nice, if light structure, for all of $15. See this recent review from a Quebec wine critic and blogger Rémy Charest and click its bottle image above for its descriptive file and local availability.

Jean-Michel Alquier's Faugères, out of the Languedoc region of the Midi, is so beautifully balanced and long in mouth, it's simply remarkable this is an under $25 wine (it's only a shade above $20 not including the tax). It has such a lengthy finish that this is a wine that fully does taste $10 more than the Spaniard. I enjoyed it immensely, to the detriment of my better note-taking. Here instead are notes from a glowing 1855.com review (written in French), complete with a top score from the 1855 people, so much so that I bet they are effectively forgetting the Bordeaux touchstone of their namesake. Click on its bottle image above for more details.

As my grandmother used to say, it's nice to be able to live life comfortably. After grandpa got that job as a foreman steelworker, her idea of comfort was all about being able to spend the extra dollars to occasionally pamper yourself. Like with a $30+ bottle of wine. That's living comfortably!


And for some this comfort wine. It's got that Grenache goodness too.

With that in mind my first and foremost comfort wine is the Château de la Gardine Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2001. This is the wine I celebrated my promotion with last year. We're talking crazy candied orange peels in a classically-styled and hearty wine that approaches the depth and savoriness of vintage port wine. Or at least that is what I recall. (When drinking the best comfort wines, it's best not to talk notes.)

So I only have notes on the current vintage, the Château de la Gardine Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2004, which is less exciting (less comforting too). Still nice though. The 2005 version is already replacing previous stock; it is getting more favourable reviews. (In any case, I tasted the 2004 recently after seeing it discounted to under $30 and I think it was worth it at that kind of price.)

Eyes: Light fuschia with dull red brick tone to it.

Nose: Alcohol aroma overlying meaty and juicy notes. The meat is more charred than fatty. Mineral component too -- could be ash -- but as a non-smoker this is all a strangely alluring bouquet for me.

Mouth: Bright and rasping with creamy notes. Sports a sunniness to it -- there's enough acid to make it a good Grenache in my books. Baked berries with pits. Typical Midi really with its developing fruit. But it's also zesty in both texture and flavour, kind of like a root beer with influences of star anise and sweet spice supported by the savoury edge on the acid and a medium body. Long finish and nice tannins.

Stomach: This style of wine seems to become even more luscious at the dinner table because it's otherwise a young and upfront wine that can use a little time mellowing. Right now, this wine can be great with couscous and garlicky merguez sausage. It's like the best cherry cola you've ever had with dinner.


Kelly said...

Mmmmmmm, you've made me drool. Good review, Marcus!

Dr. Debs said...

First the negrette, now Chateauneuf. Were we separated at birth??

RougeAndBlanc said...

Regarding the Gardine, I thought the label is Chateau de la Gardine.
Their big splash came '99 - '01. Since then, I think their quality is a bit uneven.
Have you every try their Cuvee Generations?

Marcus said...

Ch. de la Gardine is right!

Marcus said...

Kelly and Dr. Debs,

I've been visiting both your sites and clearly you're on to something too. Hope to check in again soon.


Joe said...

I like you comment that it's best not to take notes when drinking a comfort wine - very appropriate. A cool, Joe-styled analysis is about as comforting as a morgue...

Marcus said...

Gee, you know I thought it was pretty poignant at the time I wrote it. Thanks for bringing it up!

But Joe, it's definitely not a slight against you. Morgue-like!? Who ever said that about drinking wines at your place! Au contraire!

Joe said...

My tasting group keeps asking me to "stop being so anal" and just have some fun. If the gods serve me a $100 barolo I can't simply have fun... :)

Marcus said...

Well Joe, tonight's your night so whatever you do, do it in style... Joe-style or whatever!

Have a great time.

Joe said...

going to Bu - if try to write a note my wife will kill me...

Marcus said...

That reminds me I went to BU and took pictures last month. I forgot about it.

And now I think I'm a minimum safe distance to note it without any consternation from your wife! (Though she probably only cares in your case since she was paying for you...)

Either way, hope to hear about your impressions of it, by memory.

Joe said...

I will probably post on Bu. "Paying for me" is a loose term, but she did make the reservation...

Anonymous said...


You wrote in your post " I enjoyed it immensely, to the detriment of my better note-taking. Here instead are notes from a glowing 1885.com review (written in French), complete with a top score from the 1885 people, so much so that I bet they are effectively forgetting the Bordeaux touchstone of their namesake. Click on its bottle image above for more details."

Shouldn't it be the 1855 people, not 1885?

Marcus said...

To the last commenter:

I said these wines were to the detriment of my better note-taking -- and yet you still are expecting me to be precise with names and dates!? THERE! I've gone and fixed it for you!

Are you my tenth grade history teacher? Please bug off, if so.

Otherwise, thanks for writing!