I didn't know whether to entitle this one varietally to conform with this summer's theme or to call it "Little James' Basket Press White" which is actually what we're writing about here. Little James is a negotiant wine from Chateau de Saint Cosme, one of the great Cotes du Rhone houses of Gigondas. At their website they delineate the ownership of their vineyards beginning with its planting in 109 AD through its 1590 purchase by Barruol ancestors unto the 1992 advent of the Louis Barruol era, the fourteenth generation of family ownership. Saint Cosme markets fourteen different Rhone reds and whites with Gigondas being their only actual estate wine. In addition to their Rhone wines they make red and white versions of Little James from grapes grown in the western Languedoc in Minervois.
Sometimes it's hard to tell how seriously negotiant wines are taken by their owners. Obviously the focus of Saint Cosme is Rhone fruit and, of course, Gigondas fruit in particular. But if a second label is good, finds an audience, and sells well, then there is money to be made exploiting that product too. Louis Barruol is all about terroir both in the Rhone and apparently in cool climate mountainous Minervois where he feels his Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier were meant to be.
Barruol thinks Sauvignon Blanc in particular is terroir-driven and Minervois facilitates the light fresh raciness along with acidity that Sauvignon Blanc needs. The wine also features tropical fruit and citrus fruit aromas and flavors, grassiness, and minerality. He thinks Viognier is rather predictable by comparison and will always deliver apricot and other stone fruit aromas and flavors along with body and an oily texture. That said, Barruol's Viognier is a "selection massale", an ancient version from Condrieu rootstocks and cuttings planted in Minervois in 1982.
The 2013 St. James in the store is 55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Viognier. It sees no time in oak which enhances it's aromatically intense raciness and is intended to be drunk young. One review cites its "orange peel, grapefruit, ripe citrus, and fennel" character. The wine works well as an apertif and pairs well with all white meats, Asian foods, veggies, and also for your summer picnics.
As we said above, negotiant wines can be tricky, either they are just a commodity for exploitation or they may represent something more. Given all that we have set forth here, taking a chance on Barruol's Little James makes all the sense in the world.
Please join us this Friday the 31st of July after 5pm as David Rimmer once again de-mystifies European wines for us here at the store. The lineup will include French and Italian reds and whites that 40 year wine veteran David will carefully guide us through leaving no pertinent questions unanswered. There might be a few cheeses and crackers too!