Tuesday, 1 February 2011

La Bastide Blanche 2008

£12.30, Waitrose

Last week I bought a smartphone. And not just any smartphone, the smartest and smuggest of all: an iPhone 4.

I became dribbingly obsessed with it pretty much instantly. I love it all; its tactile ergonomics, the near-constant buzzing and beeping, the million downloadable apps to solve problems that no one has.

This is not to say, of course, that it hasn’t made me profoundly depressed. Not for the most obvious reason, that I now have a small box in my pocket that is quite evidently much cleverer than me, but because I am now the same as everyone else.

The incorrigible plurality of life is what gives people vim. Difference is refreshing and exciting and cuts through the formulaic flabbiness of our working lives. I was close to letting a door shut, something needed to be done…

Grenache is probably the most widely planted red wine grape in the world, with over half a million acres of the earth’s surface given over to it. Its thin skins and long ripening period produce high alcohol and lively red fruit in difficult hot, dry areas. Its nobility can stand up to varietal wines, but mostly it’s blended; with the dozens of other grapes allowed in Rioja or Chateauneuf-du-Pape, or, all over the world, with Syrah and Mouvedre to produce the only blend to seriously challenge Bordeaux-style wines in the global popularity stakes.

This blend is widely produced in the south of France, in the Rhone and Languedoc-Roussillon, in California by the wankily self-styled “Rhone Rangers” and in Australia where it’s so popular that they’ve initialised it to simply GSM.

But always in that order. Proportions vary greatly of course, from vineyard to vineyard and from year to year, but generally you're looking at around 70% Grenache for alcohol and fruit, 25% Syrah for smoke and spice and 5% Mouvedre for a heady farmyard nose and acid structure. The wine is big, fruity, fleshy, food-friendly, easy-drinking, complex, clever and fun… everything really.

Thank god then for the small French appellation of Bandol striking a blow against this homogeneity. The bottle I held in my hands listed those same familiar grapes but in a thrillingly different order: Mouvedre, Grenache, Syrah.

This is immediately apparent on a pleasingly austere nose dominated by animals and herbs. The palate is heavy on the acid, but there’s just enough summer fruit to give the wine life and grippy tannins for a balanced structure, some smokiness but no pepper. Rarely has the drunkeness of things being various felt so good. Almost savoury itself, this is real food wine and could be no happier than next to lamb roast with rosemary. Good stuff.

Unfortunately I had no lamb to realise the wine’s full potential, but perhaps that wasn’t the problem at all. Maybe what I really needed to know was: can I pull a Dom Perignon style trick and Warhol-ise it using a clever app on my lovely new shiny thing?

Yes, I can.

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