A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Merlot, and Marselan may sound like an odd mix of bedfellows, but there is a method to this madness. Hailing from a parcel of co-planted vines adjacent to the family home, these varieties were planted together with the express purpose of making the house rouge, the everyday vibrant and juicy drink you’d bring to the table in a jug and drink out of a cup. While the wine was never meant to be exported, thankfully Kermit convinced the family many years ago to let us share in the experience. Jug and cup are not included, yet highly recommended.
The town of Beaumes-de-Venise, in the heart of the southern Rhône, is best known for its ravishing dessert Muscat, a local specialty famously praised by Pliny the Elder. But this is Grenache territory, and Beaumes-de-Venise also produces delicious reds from these gentle, sunbaked slopes covered with garrigue. Although the town enjoys cru status in the same way as Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas, its red wines are generally softer and more approachable in their youth, with surprising aging potential thanks to the significantly concentrated fruit and structure. Priced far below its prestigious neighbors, Beaumes-de-Venise also represents a fabulous value. At Domaine de Durban, an ancient farm now run by the Leydier family, Grenache is joined by Syrah and a drop of Mourvèdre to create this delightful everyday red scented with herbes de Provence and ripe black cherry. Durban’s specialty is their ability year in and year out to make reds that are dense, full, rustic, and incredibly drinkable all at once. Aged in neutral oak, the 2020 vintage is deep and robust with soft and fuzzy tannins—the perfect companion to pozole, burgers, pizza, or grilled meats.
The high-altitude vineyards at the southern end of the appellation, an unheralded sector, gives this Gigondas finesse and high acid purity. From their impeccably tended grapes and gentle winemaking, Durban does here what they do best, keeping the focus and precision of the terroir as well as loads of fruit and pleasure. Another feather in their cap of rouges, for sure.
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