Jean-Marc Lafage is one of the most talented and ambitious winemakers in Southern France, and his 2014 Chateau Saint-Roch Kerbuccio Maury Sec is one of his best efforts of the year! It is a somewhat mysterious blend of Southern French grapes, as importer Eric Solomon’s website lists the wine as being primarily Grenache with smaller amounts of Carignan and Mourvedre while Jeb Dunnuck of The Wine Advocate says it is 50% Syrah, 30% Carignan and 20% Syrah. Whatever the case, this is a wine that could easily pass for a top flight Priorat or Chateauneuf du Pape, and it is one of the best under-$20 wines I’ve tasted this year.
So what is this stuff Josh? Kerbuccio? Maury Sec? Huh? It’s really not that difficult but it does require further explanation. Maury is a village and an appellation in the Roussillon zone of Southwestern France, and the AOC has long been heralded for sweet, fortified, Grenache-based wines. For years, top producers have been making dry (in French, dry is “sec”) red wines from old vineyards in Maury, but these wines were relegated to the somewhat generic Cotes du Roussillon-Villages status as there was no recognized zone for dry wines. After years of lobbying the INAO (the organization charged with regulating French agricultural products) by top producers and personalities of the region, Maury Sec gained it’s own AOC in 2011. Finally, “Kerbuccio” is the Latin translation for the castle of Queribus, built by the Cathars, which sits at the top of the Corbieres Mountain overlooking the vineyards from the north.
So there you go, technical information out of the way. What’s the wine like? As Master of Wine Andrew Jeffords of Decanter Magazine said, “I would say that this extraordinary zone in the central Agly valley has the potential to be one of the rare ‘grands crus’ of the South of France. Or, if you prefer, to produce the greatest red wines of Northern Catalonia, wines which deserve to be tasted and judged alongside those of the ‘grand cru’ of Southern Catalonia: Priorat.” After tasting the new vintage of the Kerbuccio, I would say I have to agree with Mr. Jeffords. Much like great Priorat and Chateauneuf du Pape, the wine possesses a complex mineral nuance that comes forth in the form of hot rock and soil. This non-fruity characteristic is what wine lovers pay the big bucks for, and it comes no doubt as a result of the black schist soils of the region. Combine this with a sexy and supple nose and palate of “black raspberry, cassis, licorice, wilder herbs and violet-like” notes according to Mr. Dunnuck, and you have a wine that smells, drinks, and reads like Chateauneuf du Pape and Priorat but costs a fraction of the price.
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