Sunday, December 13, 2009

Château de la Negly "Cuvée de la Falaise" Côteaux du Languedoc-La Clape 2006



I had the entry level cuvee of this earlier in the year, and liked it quite a bit. I was slightly annoyed that K&L sold out of it soon after, because I would have liked to have another bottle of it. This wine, "Cuvee de la Falaise," is the mid-level wine (Porte du Ciel is the top cuvee), and for whatever reason, it got marked down to 13$ and one of the guys from K&L recommended it to me. It's sort of funny that this got marked down to 13$ from 25$, becuase that makes it cheaper than the "La Cote" by a couple of dollars. I definitely would have preferred another bottle of the "La Cote" to this. Simply put, I didn't look at the alcohol level until I got home and realized that this was a 15% ABV wine. Oops. It's a rare day when I really like one of these wines. (Interestingly, on Friday, I was at my girlfriends office Christmas party (at Cache in Santa Monica) and had a couple glasses of wine. The waiter didn't know much about the wines, but they had a California Chard, a Pinot Gris from Germany, a Napa Cab and Koehler Syrah. The Pinot Gris was actually quite nice, but I kind of wanted a glass of red, so I bailed and got the Koehler Syrah. Took a sniff--smelled all right, with lots of spice, pepper, meat, and blueberry--but then it got in my mouth and I realized that it had the same texture as Coke and that it was hopelessly hot. No suprise, that wine clocks in at 15.5%. Needless to say, for 13$ at TJ's, I won't ever be picking up a bottle of Koehler Syrah.)

The Cuvee de Falaise is a blend of 55% Grenache, with some Syrah, Mouvedre, and maybe one or two other grapes too (couldn't find the percentages). Aged half in 50% new and 50% one year old 300L barrels. Big nose of blackberries, with lavender, lots of spices and smoke. There is also a dusty "candied" blueberry element at the beginning. This has a plush (reminds me of Coke--you can taste the sugar) but polished texture and is fairly rich. Doesn't seem to be badly out of balance, although it is clear to me that this wine is missing some acidic snap, and it's a little bit hot. The finish is tinged with coffee, and is fairly long. This wine is OK, but definitely not my style. It's funny, because I have had 14.5% wines that I liked just fine--they didn't seem out of whack to me--but this is too much. It's only a 4% increase in ABV, but it has a big effect in my opinion. It would be interesting to taste this wine in a 14.5% version (although I'm sure it doesn't exist), just to see the relative effect that the alcohol has on the flavors, texture, and structure of the wine. Anyways, there are undoubtedly people that like this style of wine, and I can't necessarily knock it. You should drink what you like, after all. I do find it interesting that K&L is discounting this and still can't get rid of it, but had no trouble selling out of the "La Cote." Maybe they didn't have as much of it? Or maybe people willing to drink wines from the Languedoc run away from high ABV wines? Who knows, but it is an interesting question to ponder. C

5 comments:

CabFrancoPhile said...

Totally with you on the ABV issue. Usually around 14% is fine, but above 15% it gets noticeable. 16%+ and it pretty much fully defines the wine, though a very few producers know how to balance this sort of wine (and get huge ratings as a result).

I find the huge wines get boring even if balanced, though. From my understanding, high alcohol can mimic sweetness because of its viscosity. So even fully dry wines can at times taste sweet. Plus oak adds some carbs as well, then you get all that bitter extract. Everything turned up to 11, so it's balanced only by extremes.

One thing to note w/ respect to alcohol is for taxing purposes, 11%-14% can have a variance of 1.5% on the label. I think this is why you see 12.5% on many imported wines, because it is always 'correct.' Above 14% a variance of 1% is permitted. Since producers must resubmit their label to the government if they change, they probably don't change it from year to year unless necessary. 14.5% may be anything from 14% to 15.5%.

Jeff said...

Thanks for the info on ABV. I've heard that before, but never in such a succinct way. Interesting, to say the least. That's a big variance. I'm surprised that solely for "health" reasons that governments don't have stricter requirements. Seriously--if this wine was 15.5%, and one drink is at 12.5%, than over the course of a bottle, you're looking at 6.2 drinks per bottle instead of 5. That's got some public health implications, as far as I'm concerned...

CabFrancoPhile said...

I think all they care about is taxing it. Under 14% is considered table wine and taxed at a lower rate. Over 14% is considered dessert or fortified wine and taxed at a higher rate. They're happy as long as they get the tax, regardless of whether alcohol got there from grapes or added liquor.

Jeff said...

Funny, that they don't think about pot that way, isn't it? We spend a whole lot of money locking non-violent drug offenders up and spending money on the prison industrial complex...Furthermore, the government drives the price up by making pot illegal, and encourages drug trafficking precisely because it's so lucrative. Funny that they just don't tax it like crazy and eliminate the underground element to it all, and of course, that would have a beneficial effect on deficit spending as well, since there would be a whole lot less money we'd have to spend on sustaining the prisons...

CabFrancoPhile said...

I'd like to see your average pot grower comply with tax laws! I often get the feeling a lot of people work in a grey market like pot because it's all cash with no paper trail. Then add in the forgetfulness, and we're looking at some ugly audits in the future.

You're totally spot on about how the grey/black market aspect ends up driving Big Crime and filling up prisons. I think the alcohol industry likes keeping its market share of the intoxication industry, though. They pay the tax, so they stay legal.