Monday, September 3, 2018

Department 66: Dave Phinney's Côtes Catalanes Brand

Languedoc-Roussillon, the wine region in southeast France lies adjacent to the Mediterranean coastline and runs from the Spanish border to Provence. According to Karen MacNeil's The Wine Bible, this region is considered the single largest wine producing region in the world and accounts for a third of total French wine production. Roussillon refers to the French part of historic Catalonia corresponding to the administrative Department 66 Pyrénées Orientales. Côtes Catalanes is a sub-region or IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) in Roussillon snuggled next to Spain with vineyards covering the eastern foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. The Mediterranean provides a hot and dry clinate with generous sunshine: 320 days of per year. The soil is driven by the mountains and consists of "black schist, with small deposits of granite and limestone in red, rocky soils known as angile". And with its ties to Catalonia -- Grenache, Carignan, and Mourvedre grapes are major players.

Dave Phinney discovered the region about a decade ago while visiting friends near Maury and immediately purchased a plot of vines. A year later he started constructing a winery and enlarging his holdings to 120 hectares (300 acres) where Department 66 Wine now calls home. I recently received samples of three of their releases which were all well made and delicious. Cheers to Department 66.

2017 Fragile ($18) - a blend of Grenache with small percentages of Syrah and Carignan. Simply delicious. Strawberries and grapefruit are positioned within a nutty depth and persistent acids. The bottle was gone in a blink of an eye. 

2015 Others ($25) - a blend of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes harvested from 10 to 65+ year old vines. The fermented wine was aged in 30% new French oak for 18 months and aged five months in the bottle before release. A deep wine with dark fruit; herbaceous and spicy too. Finishes with lingering acids and tannins.

2014 D66 ($38) - a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan grapes harvested from 10 to 65+ year old vines. The fermented wine was also aged in 30% new French oak for 18 months and aged five months in the bottle before release. A brilliant wine. As deep and dark as the Others, but more velvety and creamy texture with silky smooth tannins.


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