The KLWM tour continues....

Lieu Dit

There are a lot of words on a French wine label seemingly meant to baffle an average wine consumer or give wine geeks something to pontificate while waiting for a young wine made with old vines to open up.

A slight digression.  We were tasting a 2004 Cornas in Thierry Allemand’s cellar and I thought the wine was too cold and closed to fully appreciate.  I passed on the 1996 so I could warm my glass by cupping it with my hands. At the end of the tasting master sommelier Roberto Viernas took a whiff of the newly warmed and aerated 2004 and quickly said, “flowers, lavender, white chocolate, savory.” Notice how a red wine changes as it warms while you swirl it around in your glass and you will be pleasantly surprised.

Thierry Allemand makes well under 1,000 cases of wine per year.  About 300 cases are imported to the U.S. by Kermit Lynch. WW has one case each of the 2009 Cornas Chaillot and Cornas Reynard, at $100 and $120 respectively (suggested retail).  That would be per bottle.  If you would like one oversized bottle grab the jeroboam (3 liter) of Reynard 2009 at $895.00, put it in your cellar for ten years, quit smoking for six months and it will be paid for.

The Caillot is made from vines under 40 years while the Reynard comes from vines up to 100 years old.  Older vines produce fewer berries and are more concentrated.  Older people produce fewer words and string them together to make sentences.  I may be a walking contradiction.  The jeroboam is from very old vines.

OK, what is a LIEU DIT?

Every parcel of vine in France has a lieu dit or place name.  The bureaucrats have the names recorded in an office in Paris.  It may just be a number or, in AOC vineyards, it is more likely to be the name given hundreds of years ago to a particular parcel. Do not confuse lieu dit with the legal name of a classified vineyard within an AOC.

For example; Chateauneuf du Pape (CDP) is a very large AOC to the east of Avignon in the south of France.  It may be 6 miles long and half as wide for all I know.  Within CDP there is a lieu dit named “le crau” a tiny section where Vieux Telegraphe sources its grapes.  The vines grow out of an ancient riverbed filled with rocks the size of pee wee footballs.  The footballs store the afternoon heat and radiate it back helping to ripen the Grenache grape.  By knowing the lieu dit of particular producers in CDP you stand a chance of getting a good wine.  An alternative would be to settle for a great wine and order up the 2010 vintage of Vieux Telegraphe.

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Another way to understand lieu dit and AOC would be to check out your neighborhood.  The legal name for our subdivision is AOC Walton Homestead.  Years ago the parcel we live in was known as Maggie’s Farm.  The downgrade to our lieu dit is that our house overlooks Maggie’s uncle’s trailer park.  Our friends three blocks north have a view of the Bridger Mountains.  Same subdivision but I would trade our lieu dit Maggie’s farm for one overlooking the Bridgers.

Vines planted in the best neighborhoods typically produce better wines.

Cornas (remember Thierry) is a highly regarded AOC in the northern Rhone.  It lies at the foot of a small mountain west of the village named Cornas which curls southwest thereby screening the vines from the wind known as Le Mistral.  The soil is composed of broken up granite with a rocky formation underneath.  Given the steepness of the slope the roots have to dig deep to absorb water and nutrients. The complexity of this wine is a reflection of soil, slope, climate, aspect to the sun and a winemaker who does not get in the way of a good thing.

Reynard and Chaillot are lieu dit within the AOC of Cornas. Allemand’s Syrah grapes come from a proven neighborhood within a great AOC.

Check out the color of the ’09 Reynard.

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Next up – anyone can buy a good bottle of wine with a C note. It takes talent to get change back from a twenty.

Cantina Sociale

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