I am a regular contributor to Men’s Journal—I write mostly on nonwine topics, but occasionally on wine as well. It was partly in that capacity that I had a drink recently with Herve Gantier, part owner of Domaine Sainte-Eugénie, in Corbières.
Corbières is a region in southern France an hour or so from the Spanish border, 10 or 15 miles from the Mediterranean. The wines are mostly about Carignane, with Grenache and Syrah as blending elements. I’d enjoyed this man’s wine before, in a recommendation from a good salesman at a shop I trust. In our conversation, I hoped he could help me characterize it, give me some way to firm it up in my mind, give it an identity that would stick.
He began by saying it was all about the Carignane grape, which he considers the structure of the wine. “Grenache is the sugar and the aroma,” he added, “and the Syrah is the color and the finesse, because our Syrah is not the same as in the Rhône valley.”
Gantier lives in Puligny-Montrachet, in Burgundy. So why the interest in Corbières? “I like a lot the Corbières with the situation,” he said. “The South of France, the good weather, et J’aime beaucoup la nature. C’est tres sauvage et vierge.” Pressing further, I got the sense that he and a friend had been looking to go into business, vineyard land in Burgundy is too expensive, and Corbières struck their fancy. It’s not an ancient AOC, but that apparently appealed to Gantier. “I believe that it is a region of France where the nature is the most beautiful, la plus belle: You have the vines and the garrigues and that is it.”
I had already tried and loved his basic red wine, so he opened a rosé that had a clear, light watermelon color, much like the watermelon my daughter had eaten that very morning, at a café near our home. While I drank, Gantier laughed. He was looking at me, apparently wondering who I was and thinking about Men’s Journal; the title is commonly mistaken for Men’s Health, the magazine that often has a man with six-pack abs on every cover. I believe he was wondering how exactly he fit into the picture of my work. Then he broke into a laugh and patted his very ample stomach and said, quite happily, “I am the model Bourgogne!”
Indeed he was, and he seemed happy enough to make it look beautiful.
2004 Domaine Sainte-Eugénie Corbières Rouge
Grapes: 60 percent Carignane, 20 percent Grenache, 20 percent Syrah
Wood: 40 percent of the wine is put in smallish casks for up to a year, a move that sounds to me like a fairly light touch in terms of oak flavoring, and also in terms of expense
Alcohol: 13.5 percent
Price: $11.49 from the Wine House
My Tasting Notes: I think this wine’s a terrific value, rustic and layered and medium bodied. It’s not an overly big fruit bomb at all, but it’s got power.
Domaine Sainte-Eugénie Corbières Rosé
Grapes: 75 percent Cinsault, 15 percent Syrah, 10 percent Grenache
Alcohol: 12.5 percent (which appeals to me; I like to drink, but I don’t like to get too drunk)
My Tasting Notes: See above, although the upshot is that I thought the wine was beautiful, and I’ll be scrambling to score more when it’s released, which should be in a few months.