Wine column no. 31: American dream alive and well ... in France

They call it the American dream. It's the idea that you really can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, that all your sweat and toil will get you everything you want in life — or, if not everything, then at least something you can be proud of.
But when Gerard Bru started out with nothing, he wasn't an American believing that hard work was the key. He's French, and what he's done with Chateau Puech-Haut in Languedoc, France, is proof that the American dream isn't just taking place in America.
Take, for example, the 2010 Le Prestige from Saint-Drezery, a small town in southern France that sits just 12 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. This blend of 55 percent Grenache, 35 percent Syrah and 10 percent Carignan is subtlety in a bottle, velvet in a glass. And Bru, who made his fortune as an industrialist, built the vineyard from scratch, according to Chateau Puech-Haut's website, after purchasing about 60 acres in the 1980s.
We searched high and low for wine information about the Languedoc region of France, and we'll be honest: This is not Bordeaux. Neither is it Burgundy. If you're looking to impress people who base their opinions of wine solely on labels or regions, then don't waste this wine on them. Because Le Prestige is a wine for wine lovers, not label lovers. We say this because Chateau Puech-Haut isn't well known.
You can peruse the website at www.puech-haut.com, and the winery has a Facebook profile. Languedoc is an up-and-coming wine region of France, and as a result, you'll find a wide range of qualities of wine there.
"Central to the Languedoc is the huge Coteaux du Languedoc appellation, a nursery for potential appellations of the future," said Chris Kissack, also known as The Wine Doctor. "This is a region in flux."
He went on to say that while, at present, the region is a seeming hodgepodge "of terroirs, crus and subregions, it is becoming clear with time which regions have true potential. On the back of this knowledge, it is likely that the Coteaux du Languedoc will eventually develop a tiered classification system like Burgundy or Bordeaux."
Kissack has a lot of other useful information at www.thewinedoctor.com.
But one thing he does point to is how Bru is really making a name for himself. Or, if you don't believe Kissack (or us, for that matter), then consider the weighty words of Robert Parker, who gave the 2009 vintage of Le Prestige a rating of 94 out of 100.
"Michel Rolland was their first consultant, and then Claude Gros," Parker said. "As of 2009, it is Philippe Cambie. So three of the most talented oenologists in France have worked (at Chateau Puech-Haut) ... just amazing what is available from this region."
Now keep in mind that Parker was talking about the 2009 vintage, which was a blend of 55 percent Grenache and 45 percent syrah. We've only had the 2010 vintage (which is 10 percent less Syrah and 10 percent more Carignan), so we can't compare how the two differ. But what we can tell you is that the 2010 has a black cherry nose and flavor, with some elements of earthiness. But remember, this isn't a Californian creation, so this wine won't shock you with flavor. If you want a subdued glass to go with braised beef, for instance, especially a dish that teems with a richly flavored red wine sauce, then the 2010 Le Prestige with 15 percent alcohol will definitely fit the bill.
In fact, that's essentially the pairing we had when my father prepared a delicious meal of beef cheeks with carrots. Beef cheeks are a muscular cut of meat from a cow's facial cheeks, and because they are so tough, they have to be braised for hours. What you end up with is a very rich, soft and tender dish that you'll likely just gush over. And what made it even better, for us, anyway, was that this 2010 Le Prestige was the perfect pairing.
This blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignon didn't go as well with rotisseried chicken, however. We think it was the salt in the seasoning, and maybe the fact that the chicken wasn't nearly as fatty as the beef cheeks, that made Le Prestige seem a bit rough. But then, we tried it with a bit of creamy St. Andre cheese, which is very similar to a Brie, and that brought back the wine's softness.
In any event, if we've piqued your interest in this up-and-coming vineyard, then Vecchio's Italian Market and Delicatessen in Newburgh is expecting a case of the 2010 vintage soon. It should retail for $22 to $25.
And finally, if you're interested in learning more about the Languedoc region, you're not alone. In fact, one of the United Kingdom's most well-known wine writers, Master of Wine Rosemary George, has moved to the Languedoc-Roussillon region to explore more of what it has to offer.
"Why the Languedoc?" she asks in her blog at http://tastelanguedoc.blogspot.com. "Quite simply, it is without doubt the most exciting and innovative wine region of France. Everything is possible."
And when everything is possible, that's more than just an American dream.
Victoria and Greg Grabner live in Evansville and have been writing a blog (growingthegrabners.blogspot.com) for three years.

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