Tuesday, November 3, 2009

La Cave des Arceaux

Yesterday, we were at the Place de la Comédie and dropped into the city’s tourism office. I don’t often go into these places. Most of the guides are just puff advertising brochures that restaurants and attractions pay to get into. But I did find a pamphlet for La Cave des Arceaux, a wine store about a kilometre from our apartment, on the other side of the old city centre. Today, I have some free time (we’re having Bob, Nathalie, and Sacha over for dinner and Michèle is busy preparing) so I check out La Cave des Arceaux.

When I arrive, it’s crowded with bottles but not customers. When it comes to shopping, it’s like that line from Linus in Peanuts, “I love humanity, it’s people I can’t stand.” Lucky for me, today is the weekly “Meet the Producer Day”, when a local winemaker shows up to show off the wines. It’s afternoon, and the winemaker is now gone, but there’s still his wine available to taste. The owner (Frédéric) and one of his cavistes are very hospitable. Frédéric has the Midi accent and I can barely make out what he’s telling me. He tells me that I speak with a Québec accent (which makes my wife just shake her head when I tell her this later). But the other caviste has an accent that I can understand and, amazingly, he can understand me as well! Also incredible, he once spent 3 weeks on a school trip to Québec, playing hockey!  Not quite what you expect to find in the south of France. 

The featured wines are from Mas d’Espanet, produced by Denys Armand, in St. Mamert-du-Gard, about 50 kilometres northeast of Montpellier. I tasted four of his wines:
  • Freesia Blanc 2008, made from 90% Viognier and 10% Grenache Blanc. It’s medium-bodied with apricot and floral aromas (They tell me that freesia is a flower, so there you go.) It’s got good fresh acidity. The winemaker’s intention is that this wine is great as an aperitif. Can’t argue with that.
  • Freesia Rouge 2008, made from 90% Syrah and 10% Grenache Noir. Also medium-bodied with aromas of blackberry and some notes of violet…or is that now the power of suggestion from the name?
  • Eolienne 2007, made from 60% Grenache Noir, 20% Syrah and 20% Carignan. Aromas of black cherry, blackberries and dried herbs like rosemary and thyme. Soft tannins. Would be great with grilled meat like lamb.
  • Bois du Roi 2002, made from 60% Syrah, 30% Carignan, and 10% Grenache Noir. More barrel aging here, with aromas of sweet spices along with black raspberries, candied fruit and dried herbs. Tannins are bigger.
Mas d’Espanet is using some biodynamic practices and natural yeasts, and is certified by ECOCERT.

I pick up a bottle of the Freesia Blanc (6 euros!) to serve as the aperitif for our guests that evening. I also take a bottle of white from the town of Aspiran (bottle of Aspiran!) and splurge on a bottle of Domaine Peyre Rose Syrah Leone 2002. Jancis Robinson says that Domaine Peyre Rose is one of the best producers in Languedoc, so let’s find out.

If you make it to Montpellier, make the time to visit La Cave des Arceaux. Good selection, very hospitable, and they know their stuff.

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