Matthieu Barrett, Côtes du Rhône “Petit Ours Brun”, 2012

IMG_3681.JPGThis “little brown bear” changed my view of the Rhone & syrah. It’s not overbearing, boasting sneeze-worthy levels of pepper or thick, seemingly contaminated fruit (I know this may sound harsh, but it’s my opinion. You’re entitled to yours…) tearing away at my mid palate so I have no chance at discerning fire from grape skin, etc.

Also, for the natural wine haters out there, this was an incredible example of reverse-logic: the natural syrah from Rhone was calmer, better balanced and coiffable than any of the region’s Chateaus I’ve had. The vines are over 40 years old and yield very little, but Matthieu affords them a pretty luxurious ride through production, untampered with and encouraged with no added sulfites and minimal fermentation time. He uses neutral barrels for a small period of ageing, which probably is part of what keeps this syrah so boyuant and fresh tasting. As Lauren Friel, wine director at Oleana described it, this is such a friendly, seamless “thinky wine”.

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