Wine Review: Bonfils Sud Sauvage Languedoc 2011

sud sauvage “Flawed or Boring? Pick Your Poison”

When you get right down to it, wine is interesting because wine grapes contain chemical compounds that are also found in other fruits. Fermentation makes these compounds more prominent so the finished product smells like apples, fig, or blackberries, etc. Oak will add spice, a little age will add earth and you end up with something really complex and fascinating.

But there are lots of other compounds, sometimes found in the grapes or produced in the winemaking process, that produce less appealing aromas—rotten eggs, band-aids, wet paper, burnt rubber anyone? Wines that emit these aromas are clearly flawed. But in very small quantities these compounds can be intriguing and add complexity. It all depends on how deftly they are handled.

This blended wine from the South of France (likely Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre) has plenty of dark berry aromas and earthy undertones. But do I like that aroma of cooked cabbage that keeps lapping at the boundaries of sensation?  There is lots of ripe fruit and vibrant acidity. The medium-weight palate has a warm, homey feel; the modest finish has a pleasing bitterness to it although it turns a bit sour as it evolves. But should wine ever remind you of cooked cabbage?

Is this a flaw or does it add interest? It could be just a bad bottle—it is from a highly respected producer. So why write about this wine?

Shortly after sampling the Bonfils, I joined some friends at a restaurant/bar with a small wine list consisting of affordable, readily available, big-name supermarket wines from California—a bar that does not take its wine seriously. Everything I tasted was sweet, fruity, round, soft, easy to drink. The Syrah sort of tasted like a Cab which sort of tasted like a Merlot which could have been a Malbec—in a word, generic and boring.

Give me the funk, the flaw, the blighted over the innocuous. We can skip platitudes about flaws building character. But flaws make you think, spark curiosity, they are always interesting. (The cabbage aroma is likely the product of oxidized mercaptans)

For wine lovers just a little too sated by pablum, Stepford wives, or Justin Beiber I highly recommend this wine.

And if you’re serving a hearty vegetable ragout from the south of France, it is perfect.

Score 83/100

Price: $20

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