AUGUST THIRST–FAILLENC STE. MARIE CORBIERES 2017
Full-bodied reds with notes of wild herbs and smoked meats may not be your first thought in the heat of summer, but I propose something a bit unusual to you. This burly Corbières, from the mountains of the Languedoc may be a bit of a brute, but it’s also the perfect wine to pair up with grilled or BBQ’ed meats and to drink with a bit of a chill. Light reds like Beaujolais get most of the play this time of year, but there’s no reason not to drink big reds like this with a chill. It’s what they do in Southern France, and it’s what I do myself. Faillenc Saint Marie is an old estate dating back to Roman times in Corbières, and they farm 8 hectares near Mount Alaric. I’d like to mention that Corbières is one of the most wild, rugged terroirs in all of France. It may be relegated as a region that produces only ‘value wines’, but to work the vine well here is no easy feat.
Corbières is a particularly large appellation, covering over 37 miles at its largest. The Alaric corridor where we find Faillenc Ste. Marie is at the northernmost limits. The region in its entirety enjoys a warm, Mediterranean climate with tempering winds coming from the North. Though some iterations of Corbières focus on Carignan, many–like Faillenc’s–represent a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Cinsault. These varieties will be familiar to Côtes du Rhône lovers, yet Corbières is always a bit more feral and herbal than most Rhône reds. At Faillenc, they destem only partially, and opt to ferment and age without wood, preserving the freshness of their otherwise ripe and wild fruit. Try it with our favorite, very herby recipe for Braised Lamb Shanks.
Though it drinks beautifully young, you’ll notice a fair bit of earthy funk on the nose upon opening. This is a tightly-wound red that was just bottled and shipped to us. It can use a bit of time in the decanter (or mason jar, if you prefer). Or simply open it a bit in advance and stick it in the fridge as you prepare to enjoy it. You’ll notice hints of Mediterranean garrigue on the nose–thyme, lavender, rosemary–and deep, dark fruits on the palate–black currant, plum, and blueberry. Its tannins are significant, yet well-integrated. Try it chilled for about 45 minutes with pork ribs or brisket for a real treat.