Sunday, July 20, 2008
Not rosé. Rosé.
Believe it or not, the bottle in this picture is clear.
This is Gérard Eyraud's rosé. To ward off any wild nay-sayers, he simply labels it with the question one might reasonably spout: "That's rosé?"
We were in Nîmes a few days ago, and one obligatory destination was to taste his wines. So we headed out of the city in the heat to the Domaine de Rapatel. What followed was a protracted afternoon of discussion, tasting, and generally fascinating discovery.
This producer of Costières de Nîmes is atypical, to say the least. The first time I met him, I said, "I've had one of your wines... It must have been the 2004." He laughed and said, "Then it wasn't my wine."
It turns out, he only made Costières de Nîmes in 2000, and not again until 2005. All the rest gets bottled as Vin de Pays du Gard. Ah ha.
But as idiosyncratic as he is, Eyraud makes remarkable wines. Before a marathon vat-tasting session, with numerous exciting surprises, including a heartbreaking 2006 Grenache I wish he would bottle alone (but he prefers the alchemy of assemblage), we tasted a bottled 2004 Domaine de Rapatel "Petite Signature" white, a 2005 Domaine de Rapatel Costières de Nîmes "Grande Signature" white and then a series of reds (a superb 2006 Domaine de Rapatel Vin de Pays du Gard and the legendary 2005 Domaine de Rapatel Costières de Nîmes, as well as the 1997 Domaine de Rapatel Costières de Nîmes, which was expressively aged, with some autumn leaves and tobacco and lots of dark fruit). But the intermezzo was memorable.
He asked me, "What do you think of rosé?"
I shrugged. (Here I'll admit: rosé can be fine drinking, but great wine? Ha.) I said, "I like robust rosés, ones that have character. I can't stand the sugary, girly Cabernet d'Anjou, for example."
He smiled, nodded. "You're going to buy me out, then."
After heading to a different part of the chai, he came back with a bottle and started opening it. He poured some in our glasses.
Red, the color of Gamay de Touraine or Pinot Noir d'Alsace. Dark. I smelled it, swirled and smelled again. Exuberant raspberry and violet and blackberry notes, incredibly expressive.
I sipped it as he poured the rest of the bottle into a decanter, swirling vigorously. "It has a bit of carbon dioxide in it still."
Yes, the drink was carbonic, but lord, it was tasty. Fleshy and ripe, with red and black fruits, a well-constructed structure: I loved this.
After a few minutes of swirling, all the bubbles subsided on the sea-foam that had formed as he agitated the decanter. A still, dark wine lay there. We poured out the previous incarnation and tasted again.
A wine of a different character, now. More polished, more elegant. It lacked the wild, unclassifiable nature of its previous incarnation. Fascinating, too.
A new look at rosé, for me.