What I love about Pegau….
Perhaps my love is a bit more of a general attraction to traditional Chateauneuf du Pape, but Laurence Feraud arguably has set the benchmark for these wines of late, so swooning over Pegau in particular isn’t much of a stretch. I think the genesis of these thoughts were from some recent commentary by Italian consulting enologist Stefano Chioccioli (most renown for his efforts w/ Brunello producer Fanti, as well as his controversial plantings of Syrah in Tuscan soils). Stefano mentioned, “If you don’t have ripeness, you don’t have sweetness, and it is the sweetness balanced against acidity that puts tension in a wine.” Any aciditic crescendo will ring true w/ Italian wine buffs, but what struck a chord w/ me was the word tension.
You see, wine is a bit like a dramatic performance to me. There are certainly highs and lows, the anticipation of the popping of a cork leading to the inevitable feelings of elation or the utter despairs of disappointment. The cast of villains can be quite cruel and unforgiving, and what’s most malicious about them is their spooky acronym-abbreviated names….TCA, TBA, VA…I’m shuttering in fear already! While I found Skeletor (He-Man’s arch rival) to be one of the most evil entities of my youth, who’d of thought that I’d grow up to be petrified of a guy named Brett?!
Well I suppose the discussion of ‘Brett’ brings me full circle and back on track to my original theme, the southern Rhone. While the hallmark drama of wines made from Sangiovese and Nebbiolo comes from the foundation of their racy backbones, I’ve found a different type of tension from Grenache that is discriminate, but equally compelling. It’s somewhat of a collision between the unbridled rusticity of the terroir and the sheer decadence of the grape, and this clash is one that you can viscerally experience every time you taste a Pegau. The confluence of exotic, earthy Provencal herbs w/ blasts of cocoa covered figs is one of which that scintillates my nerves every time I experience it….much like watching dramatic film over and over, but it striking you intensely each time you view it as if it were the first.
These wines are brilliant because of how they flirt w/ disaster. They could simply be flabby, over-ripe oafish kirsch-balloons, lacking lift, edge or ancillary character…or, contrarily, they could resemble pungent, fruitless strolls through the Belmont stables, w/ an occasional dusting of funky meadow herbs that leaves you feeling…dirty. But that’s the beauty of them. Either aspect alone is a regrettable experience, but their convergence is purely breathtaking bliss. I could find myself ridiculing people like Gary Vaynerchuk on their video blogs for their seemingly ludicrous rants on how Grenach-based wines can taste of ‘a deer carcass, canvassed in decayed leaves w/ peppered strawberries on top,’ but I won’t ridicule. You obviously know why by now…because I get it. It’s so difficult to articulate a harmony achieved between seemingly opposite worlds, but my penchant for wine writing forces me to pen it and I’ll stubbornly continue to do so….simply because I have to.
Pegau has the ability to satiate the ultimate desires of seemingly every enophile out there…whether you be a hedonist, a provocatively wordy geek (I profess to be both) or even a terroir-ist. The latter is satisfied perdominantly through two facets of these wines, the nerdy and the literal.
- Nerdy: Pegau Grenache comes from rocky soils, consisting of rounded stones (galets to be exact) that retain daytime heat and radiate it back to the vines at night, providing the bush trained, gnarly old vines w/ added richness and muscular structures (while the underlying clay sub soils assist in moderating the ripening process by maintaining sound levels of acidity). Classic hallmarks of the area. Terroir baby!
- Literal: Garrigue. Hello! These wines smell of Provencal herbs….uhhhh Provence is where the grapes are grown- terroir! Well, actually it’s the southern Rhone, but that’s close enough to Provence right?!
Needless to say, sweets spots can be hit from so many different angles w/ these cuvees from Pegau, which undoubtedly accounts for their far-reaching popularity. It doesn’t mean you’re a sell-out or a point chaser if you drink Pegau, it just means you get it….