The first thing that hit us when we walked into the tasting room was the smell. It was as if someone had filled the room with caramel and nuts, and the smell was so thick it felt almost solid. We darted into our seats, surrounded by glasses that looked like arcs of amber, anxiously awaiting the chance to try something truly special.
Gerard Bertrand is a cheerleader for Southern France. Despite the fact that the region, sharing the border with Spain, is the largest wine producer in France, it sees far less press and prestige than some of the country's other regions. The award winning winemaker is doing his part to showcase the unique potential of Southern France, so when a local winemaker stumbled across a lost cache of Port style wines, he jumped at the chance to distribute them as yet another way to show exactly what the region is capable of.
The region produces a rich dessert wine in the style of Port, crafted from the three styles of the Grenache grape: Noir (black), Blanc (white), and Gris (grey) Granache. The grapes are blended to achieve a desired flavor profile, and during the fermentation process alcohol is added to stop the fermentation process before the yeast consumes all the sugars, leaving a sweet, highly alcoholic wine that can stand decades of aging. Left to age in barrels and then forgotten, these wines have been aging for decades in wood, only transferred to bottles 18 months ago. To say that they were rich in flavor doesn't begin to do them justice.
Our host eschewed the usual tasting banter, the comparing of smells and flavors, to instead let us sip each wine while he regaled us with pop trivia tidbits from each vintage. As we delved into the a world of powerful smells and flavors, we were reminded of the world that each vintage grew in. The 1969 grapes were harvested the year of Woodstock and the first man on the moon. The 1945 vintage captured the end of World War II. The wine from 1929 survived through the Great Depression. Each liquid jewel captured a moment of time, from moments in history that most of us have only ever read about. It was such a treat to sample these wines, an experience that would be almost impossible to replicate anywhere. And it didn't hurt that they were amazing wines as well.