“All taste is personal and every palate correct for the person owning it.” .... James McMillan

The season’s evening chill and early loss of sun makes me want a red wine that is stout and bolder than my summer preferences. Today, it is a Cote du Roussillon (appellation Cotes Catalanes) blend of Syrah and old vine Grenache by Domaine Lafage Bastide Miraflores: 70% Syrah and 30% (old vine) Grenache. The average age of vines is 55 years in this practicing organic vineyard on soil of alluvial gravel and schist.  And in this far south and sunny area of France, the berries are quite happy. They’re also hand-harvested with the Grenache traditionally brought up in concrete tanks and the Syrah in demi-muids (600-liter oak barrels, equal to just over 158 gallons).  

A lot is going on inside this bottle that has an ARP of just $14.  It’s fruity blackberry and black raspberry notes, and the wine’s structure, lend themselves to pairing with grilled sausage, braised lamb, beef, venison and duck, stew and (surprisingly) even chicken glazed with Asian barbecue.  On the nose, blackberry preserve is dominant and with a brandied note. A gentle note of eucalyptus makes for interest.  And the wine develops in the glass: notes of chocolate and smoked meat announce themselves.  The texture is pure and surprisingly glycerin: smooth, silky and medium bodied, it is luscious with fruit from its nose and joined by plum.  Ripe, rich, deep – all appropriately descriptive, especially for a wine only medium bodied and that glides itself so easily across the palate.  A little warming heat on the mid-finish balances the fruit with a contrasting rustic quality that (for me) adds to its charm and seasonal suitability.

Writing reviews can be unnerving by their challenge to the writer sometimes needing to admit having a bias.   How do you compare a Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre to that from New Zealand when, clearly, you will have a bias toward one style?   It can be done and most often is but requires the critic evaluate and compare wines from the same region -- not just the varietal -- when assessing the wine.  The same must be said about price points.  While it’s a fact that a high-priced wine is not necessarily (or even frequently) a higher rated wine, comparisons should be “like to like” or at least within a range of price.

But if “All taste is personal and every palate correct for the person owning it” who needs to read reviews anyway?   Hopefully, you do because I’ll continue to admit having a bias when I do. And when I encounter lapses in fairness, I’ll be able to alert you to them so that you can better “read” reviews (even “between” the lines).  Once such presented itself recently when another person compared this wine to another blend from the Cotes-du-Rhone, one that was considerably more expensive.   What’s inside the bottle is what matters, but what it is sold for also must be considered.  And reasons for price differences run the length of one’s imagination, from initial acquisition cost, to length of ownership, to basic management effectiveness and to various less than noble considerations.  Suffice to say that at $14 (often less), you will be hard pressed to find a better value.   

………………… Jim

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Domaine LaFage:    
Imported By:                     European Cellars, an Eric Solomon Selection
Winemakers:                     Jean-Marc and Elaine Lafage
Maceration (in tank)         42 Days
Ageing:                             12 Months, Tank and Barrel
ALC:                                 14.5%  
Ratings:                             94 Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

A custom cuvée for European Cellars and a joint project between Eric Solomon and Jean-Marc Lafage, Bastide Miraflors is a cuvée created from Grenache grown on rocky, alluvial clay soils resembling those of the Rhône Valley combined with Syrah grown on schist in the village of Maury.

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