2015 L'Atelier du Sud Red Blend
This week's wine is from my most recent Winc box. It's a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan from Costieres de Nimes in Southern France. L'Atelier du Sud directly translates to The Southern Workshop, but in France an atelier usually refers to an artist's or fashion designer's studio. So my using the word atelier is the name of the wine, the winemakers are telling us that they view winemaking as an art, rather than a science or a technical skill. I would agree with the characterization of winemaking as an art for non big-box winemakers. A lot of cheaper wines that you see at the grocery store are science, not art. They are made in a way designed to make them taste the same year after year, no matter where exactly the grapes are coming from. They often are pumped with additives in order to maintain a consistent taste each year. In this way, big-box winemaking is a technical skill, the goal is uniformity instead of allowing the grapes to speak for themselves.
Smaller estate winemakers, and large winemakers who value the subtle differences in wine based on terroir (region, climate, soil etc.) and vintage make art. They let the grapes tell them how the wine should taste instead of forcing the wine into some pre-set flavor profile. They make wine that can speak to the drinker, that can tell the drinker it's story. Wine can tell you what kind of soil the grapes were grown in, how much sun they got, if it was an early or late harvest, and so much more if winemakers treat making wine as an art and let the grapes make the decisions. This isn't to say that there's not a lot of science and technical skill that goes into winemaking, the processes are still just chemistry at some level, but when winemakers move beyond that level, the wine can become art.
This wine was earthier than I expected when I opened it. When I sniffed it, I got fewer fruit notes than I anticipated. There was a subtle dark cherry note, but stronger notes of violet, mushrooms, and the smell of dirt after it rains. This wine smelled rugged and a little rough around the edges, in a good way. The taste was similar to the smell. When I tasted it I got a slight fig note along with the dark cherry, and I also got notes of thyme and rosemary along with the mushroom, violet, an dirt notes. There was also a subtle oakiness to the wine, and it had lovely mild tannins.
I paired this wine with a chicken sausage wrapped in a puff pastry like dough. I think I could have paired it with something more robust and meatier. This wine would be great with lamb, pork chop, or a rich mushroom risotto. If you're looking for a wine that will make you feel like you're drinking it in a rustic barn in the French countryside, then this wine is for you.