Domaine de Lagoy 2012 Alpilles - Acceptable wine at an acceptable price

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2012 Domaine de Lagoy Alpilles
Vin de Pays des Alpilles, France
Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Merlot, Cab Sauv, Caladoc
13.5% Alcohol
$14
Drinkable

This wine wasn't supposed to be disappointing. It checked off all of the boxes I look for in a high quality, good value bottle: sourced from Garagiste, organic/bio production, and hailing from a little known region but from a high quality, independent winegrower with an intriguing story. Sadly, this wine was either past due or never to be due at all, as it lacked complexity and was generally uninspiring across the board.

Domaine de Lagoy is a producer located in the heart of southern France's Provence region. Their wines are produced from certified organic vineyards on their estate and labeled IGP Alpilles. Wines from IGP Alpilles are rarely exported so it's usually a treat to taste these wines, though most of the wines are humble and few producers set their sights on premium wines. Reds dominate the region, though a healthy amount of rosé and white wines are also produced. The reds are generally fresh and fruity, and while this bottle was more or less aligned with that, it's not a wine I would seek out. 

There was a slight spritz (petillance) when I first tasted. While some view this as an inherent flaw, I often consider it refreshing, especially with a white wine like Vinho Verde, but I didn't think it was complimentary to this red blend. In addition, the wine took more than an hour to open up on the nose and lacked intensity, though pleasant yet mild notes of blackberry and blackcurrant eventually developed. The palate was lacking even further, with little body, no concentration of fruit, and a short finish.

Unfortunately this was a bust, though happily an inexpensive one, and one of the few wines I've received from Garagiste that was not ridiculously interesting and delicious. I think these types of wines are best consumed as fresh as possible and near their origins in Provence, not exported for us wine nerds to fawn over. On to the next bottle!

 

A Bummer of a Vintage? - 2013 Domaine Laroque Cabernet Franc

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2013 Domaine Laroque Cabernet Franc
100% Cabernet Franc
Languedoc Roussillon, France
13% Alcohol
$9
Drinkable

I first came across this bottle from Domaine Laroque several years ago at Binny's when the 2012 vintage was available. The wine was phenomenal; I still remember exactly when and where I was drinking it (bathtub, no joke). Well-balanced, varietally accurate for Cabernet Franc, and structured in a way that would have me guessing it cost twice, if not more, its paltry $9 price tag. The Cellar Tracker community agreed with me too. "A really excellent cabernet franc at a true bargain price," says one of the reviews. Another reviewer added, "This is quality Cab Franc -- on par with a Loire Chinon or St. Nicholas. It has surprising complexity and development for a wine at this price." I only wish I would have bought a few more bottles to stow away for aging. 

So naturally, when I saw the 2013 on the shelves several months ago, I snatched it up and was excited about another blockbuster bottle of sub-$10 Cabernet Franc. But, le sigh... as you may have already guessed, it didn't turn out as planned. The 2013 was completely different, and while not the worst bottle of alcoholic grape juice I've consumed, it was lackluster and uninspiring. I still drank it of course, but it left me wanting the 2012.

There's nothing offensive about the 2013 vintage of this wine but it's painfully mediocre on all fronts. The nose is mild and pleasant with soft berry notes and a hint of vanilla, oak, and spices. The palate reflects much of what I found on the nose, with medium to high acidity and a short to medium length finish. The biggest disappointment was that I didn't register the green bell pepper notes that I love so much in 100% Cabernet Franc. 

Is this the worst $9 wine I've ever had? Not by a long shot, but it shows that, barring any major change in sourcing or handling the grapes, vintage really does matter. Few other fermented beverages in the world are at the whim of mother nature as much as wine. The quality of the vintage greatly influences most wines produced today, from Two Buck Chuck to the most expensive bottles of Bordeaux and Burgundy. While better vineyard and winemaking practices and advanced technology have mitigated vintage variation to some degree, it's impossible to snuff out entirely and, I'd argue, remove a lot of the whimsy and romance of producing and finding good wine. The 2013 may have been a dud, but I'll be buying the 2014 in hopes of finding another gem. Fingers crossed!