April 6, 2009


This is another in the old/new series of vertical tastings we run occasionally at the Lab during lunch time. Today we poured two red wines from the Languedoc, Clos Marie, Pic Saint Loup, L'Olivette, 2004 and 1998.

Before we get to the notes, I thought it might be instructive to know a little about our procurement process.

In truth, I actually can't remember why I bought this. Probably I read something about the winery on photographer Bertrand Celce's terrific wine blog, Wine Terroirs. The Clos Marie is biodynamic and about 15 miles north of Montpellier, where I lived for a year in the mid 1990s. That combination of approach to viticulture and proximity to my old home was likely enough to spur an interest.

Next I used Wine-Searcher to locate a bottle. And I happily found the 2004 at one of my favorite wine shops, the Woodland Hills Wine Company. I know this because I still have the receipt. Then I went to Winebid.com, searched for the producer, got lucky and found the 1998 at auction for $15. I know this because Winebid.com puts a sticker on the bottle, and it's still there.

The Olivette is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvedre. The 2004 was imported by Beaune Imports in Berkeley. I'm often impressed when buying their wines. The 1998 was brought in by Eric Solomon, another top flight importer.


Nose of black cherry jam and peppery spices with a little volatile alcohol. Very interesting organoleptic quality; the sweet fruit seems to swell on the palate. Flavors are straightforward, cherry and plum. But this is delicate and nimble given the big grapes in the blend. The finish is unusual, there's bitterish green bite and then an overpowering hazelnut flavor.


This really has a beautiful nose. Like dried cherry syrup over warm bread pudding. It has the same, mouth-coating feel. But the fruit is more muscular and sweeter than the younger wine. Some tannic dryness on the finish. This is really delicious.

If you'd asked when I was buying them, I would have said the 2004 is probably ready to drink now, and the 1998 is likely over the hill. I'm wrong on both counts. The older wine is in a prime window. The 2004 might benefit from further age.

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