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Extended tasting note 15
Ch‚teau Grande Cassagne Civette Rouge 2005 CostiŤres de NÓmes, France

Iíve said it before: the world needs good cheap wine. This is an inexpensive red from the South of France, but it has really connected with me this evening. Why? Because it combines joy with seriousness. Let me try to explain.

This is actually not a wine that youíd want to spend too long contemplating. Fruit is the key. Vibrant, slightly sweet, raspberryish, mineral-tinged fruit. But should you choose to dwell a little longer over it, your attention is rewarded. As well as the primary fruit, thereís a mineral, earth and rain-on-pavements sort of aroma, together with a bit of baked fruit/summer pudding. The palate combines this forward sweet fruitiness with a nice grippy tannic savouriness and a hint of pepper. Itís flirting with overextraction, but in the context of a wine with such vibrant sweet fruit, a little too much tannin can be a good thing because it balances the wine out nicely, keeping it savoury and food friendly.

But the real connection this evening has come from that elusive quality we wine geeks tend to bang on about, without ever defining properly: sense of place. As I drink this wine I am transported to the south of France. Itís a warm, balmy evening. The sun set two hours ago, but itís still warm enough to be sitting outside in a T-shirt and shorts. A gentle breeze stirs the air; there are more stars than you could think possible Ė quite startling for a city dweller Ė but the dominant sensory impression is an aural one: the startlingly loud chirp of the cicadas. Itís a brash, rasping sort of noise, but it fits in this context, and by some means the ear seems to filter it out Ė just like the loudness of the dawn chorus, it is unconsciously ignored. In the background, at some distance, thereís music playing, the muffled sound of relaxed chatter, and the percussive thud-then-clink of petanque balls. This wine speaks.

Then suddenly itís a hot summerís day, and Iím walking through the garrigue. The air feels heavy with heat and the aroma of the south; itís not oppressive like the tropics, but itís a strange sort of presence that has to do with the confluence of heat, stillness, the vapours given off by garrigue and the stony ruggedness of the southern landscapes. In a weird sort of way, that Iím quite prepared to concede has more to do with my imagination than reality, this wine communicates this sense of place to me.

I canít think of an occasion where I wouldnít enjoy this wine. Itís fun and fruity enough to be drunk in quantity without too much thought Ė you wouldnít feel bad serving this as a party wine. But should you want to bring it out to play at a more serious occasion, then it would acquit itself well: itís not a tart of a wine that has divulged itself of any seriousness whatsoever. This is still proper wine, and it would work well at the table. The slight jamminess to the fruit and the hint of rusticity to the tannins are entirely forgiveable in this context.

Availability: Grand Cru Wines (www.grandcruwinesltd.net), priced around £7. 

Other ETNs:
; Roc des Anges; Gaillard; Veratina; Arturo; Wynns; Drystone; Foundry and Columella; Meruge; Foillard Morgon; Clonakilla; Latour 1934; Thevenet Bongran

tasted 06/07
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