“Wine is bottled poetry.” ……. Robert Lewis Stevenson
One of my favorite whites, I tried it originally after noticing Michel Gassier’s name on the label, and have been buying it ever since. I first encountered winemaker Michel Gassier when tasting “Cercius”* (the red; a blanc is also made). It’s 85% Grenache and 15% Syrah, 100% delicious and tastes much higher than priced. A Rhone wine, it is consistently well rated, consistently good, and consistently priced budget friendly.
But with weather warming, I tend to drink more whites (and forgive me purists – rose wine too, but that’s another subject). Anyway, names mean things after a while. They become trustworthy. Brands in themselves. Gassier, born in Algeria (when it was part of France), later lived in the U.S., moved to the South of France where his family had land and grew fruit and wine grapes. With his training in agricultural engineering, Gassier began getting practical experience. In time, he began developing confidence in being able to produce a wine reflecting a sense of place and wines made with minimal intervention.
Nostre Pais (my bottle a 2013) is 60% Grenache Blanc, 20% Clairette, 15% Rousanne and 5% Viognier. I mention the year because the percentages may change each year. In 2014, it was 52% Grenache Blanc, 22% Roussanne, 17% Viognier, 7% Clairette and 2% Bourboulenc. Rainfall and the Mistral winds are every winemaker’s partner in the Southern Rhone and Michel understands that wine begins in the vineyard.
He began, in 2007, converting his fields to organic, using indigenous yeasts, reducing the use of Sulphur and fermenting with whole clusters. For Nostre Pais, he picks the Rousanne early, while it still is high acid. But he ferments in old wood, adding texture to what might otherwise be a “thin” wine. New wood gives oakiness, neutral wood gives texture. Picking grapes early is almost counter-intuitive: wines, you’d think, would be herbaceous, not fruity. And Michel believes in making wine with minimal manipulation. But all wine is juice that has been manipulated in some way. It’s just a question of degree, or how.
Fermenting one-third in barrel is how. Aging the juice on its lees for eight months adds texture naturally. Six to eight months in French oak rounds the blend. I enjoyed aromas of honeydew melon, banana, and green grapes along with mineral and floral notes. The wine is lovely - feminine with seamlessly integrated notes of kiwi, creamy lemon-lime, and buttered citrus on the palate. Most impressive is how elegantly all this is all done. Nostre Pais has the texture (body) one expects from Rhone Roussanne, but does not lie flat and lifeless on the palate. It sparkles with freshness and a purity in a balancing act one can only admire. If there was any question attached to Robert Lewis Stevenson’s quote of more than a hundred years ago, one taste of Michel Gassier’s Nostre Pais will dispel it. Well made, it is bottled poetry.
ARP: $18.00, 750ml
Suggested Cellaring: Drink now or within 3 years.
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· Cercius was a joint effort of Michel Gassier, wine maker Philippe Cambie and Eric Solomon.
· Costieres-de-Nimes is an AOC in the Southernmost Rhone. Its soil is rolled pebbles (“galets”), sandy alluvial, red shale and clay.
· Imported by European Cellars, LLC., Charlotte, NC.
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