Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mas Amiel Maury Cuvée Speciale 10 ans d'âge

It was the last day of a wonderful vacation. We had flown from the United States to Nice, where we rented a car. Then we went to Cinqueterre in Italy, where we met our dear friend, Mr. W. After about a week of wandering around Cinqueterre, we spent a few days touring Tuscany. We spent a couple of days in Florence, and then headed back to Nice.

I spent the last day of the vacation with my younger daughter, H, who was about 14 wandering around Nice. We spent the last night at the wonderful Hotel Atlantic. In Nice, we discovered a great wine shop, where I explained to the owner the wine I wanted to take back home to America. The wine should not be too expensive; it had to be interesting; and it had to be something that was not easy to find in the United States. At the time, I was interested in discovering sweet wines, but I was not especially interested in Sauternes because that is easily found at my local liquor store in Maryland.

The owner of the shop was a wonderful man and obviously passionate about wine. He seemed impressed that I liked some of the less famous but wonderful wines from France like Bonnezeaux. But his main concern seemed to surround H's eating habits.

I know you live in America, he said, but I hope you do not feed this child at McDonald's. I assured him that I did not, and he asked H what kind of food she liked, and when she admitted that she was partial to seared
foie gras, he roared in approval.

I will never forget this man because he really educated me by selling me a bottle of the Mas Amiel Maury Cuvée Speciale 10 ans d'âge, which I kept carefully stashed away until last Saturday.

Eat this with a very good chocolate cake, my new friend instructed. It is not often that there is a good chocolate cake on the table, a group of people interested in trying something completely different, and enough people to consume a full bottle of a fairly strong dessert wine. (Mas Amiel is 16.5% alcohol.) But all those stars were in alignment of Saturday, and we opened the bottle.

This wine is very different from almost anything I have ever had although if I were forced to compare it with anything, it would be Port. The wine comes from Maury, which is not far from Perpignan. Fermentation is arrested through the addition of grape spirit, which accounts for the high alcohol content. The grapes used are about 80% Grenache, and the balance is Mourvedre and Syrah. It starts life with a year in large glass demijohns, called bonbonnes, and then it goes into barrels for nine years. There is no vintage date on the bottle.

It had a mahogany color, a thick texture, and very luscious cherry flavors. There were also subtle cocoa, coffee, caramel, spice, and wood flavors, and you could still taste the tannins in this wine. It had a good long finish and the tast lingered on.

I have not seen this wine in America, but I believe that it can be found, and it costs around $22.00, which is a bargain for such a good and interesting wine. If you see it, buy it and then go and find the chocolate cake!

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