Featured Wine: Domane Chante Cigale, “Les Vignes d’Alexandre,” Vins de Pays de Méderiterranée 2007
One reason I love the Roberts and Speight store in the East Yorkshire town of Beverley is that it has lots of wines that circle around my favorite wines. By this I mean they sell not just Domaine La Soumade’s full range of Rasteaus but also its Vins de Pays Cabernet Sauvignon; not just Chateau Musar’s flagship red wine but also its rosé and whites and entry-level reds; and not just some of the better Châteauneuf du Papes, like that of Domane Chante Cigale, but also the same winery’s relatively new Les Vignes d’Alexandre, from the (equally new?) Vins de Pays de Méderiterranée appellation. “This is as close as you’ll get to a white Châteauneuf du Pape without paying for Châteauneuf du Pape,” said Paul, one of the store’s owners, when I picked it up, and you know what? He was right.
White Châteauneuf du Pape is not so much over-rated, as it is simply over-priced; on the other hand, you can’t charge too much for a Vins de Pays; this one from the celebrated 2007 vintage pushes it to the £9 mark and that’s testing customer knowledge of its background. Regardless, it was worth every British penny. A truly golden color in the glass, with a very honeyed, floral nose, the wine was extremely full and rich, with wonderful flavors of pear and melon and touches of silky stone if such a thing exists, complete with a creamy, lemon zest finish. There was oodles of fruit here, power and concentration alike, but surprisingly restraint at the same time and considerable complexity. Apparently made from a blend of the elegant Roussanne (50%) supported by the less celebrated Clairette and Grenache Blanc, and unoaked as is often the case with southern French whites, this is a splendid example of a Vins de Pays masquerading as something so much more.
Domaine Chante Cigale is a relatively large-scale Châteauneuf du Pape property, which may (or indeed, may not) explain why winemaker Christian Faver has passed the duties over to his son, Alexandre – after whom, we can safely assume, this wine is named. Alexandre is only in his twenties and if this is anything to go by, Chante Cigale may become not just one of the biggest, but one of the best Châteauneuf du Pape estates of the coming years. In the meantime, bargain hunters – in the UK, at least, this wine sadly not showing up on any searches for American availability – can pick up a white wine of serious depth and quality for a recession-friendly price. Bring me a bottle if you’re visiting.