Good value is not a term often linked to pinot noir, but the 2012 Domaine La Forge Estate Pinot Noir earns the label.
Pinot noir was the fiefdom of Burgundy, followed by a coterie of collectors and worshippers of its delicate, translucent red wine. Their response to the exquisite aromas and flavors of the region’s pinot noirs was to idolize its vineyards and canonize the winemakers. For the followers, securing the wine was the challenge, regardless of cost. But the insularity of that world was shattered by a seismic wave a decade ago.
In 2004, the Academy Award-winning movie “Sideways” brought the pleasure of pinot noir to the consciousness of the average wine consumer. American wineries began producing an ocean of pinot noir. Some of it was terrible; lots of it was acceptable. If all you wanted was a glass of a cherry-strawberry fruit-flavored wine while you waited at the bar; a small number offered quality. Gradually the pinot noir fever broke, and what survived was better quality at above average wine prices. But the idea that you could drink inexpensive, well-made, flavorful pinot noir was oxymoronic. Or so it was thought.
The Languedoc region in the south of France is both beautiful and the largest vineyard area in the country. Great chateaux and domaines from Bordeaux and Burgundy own vineyards there, alongside local winemaking families such as Jean-Claude Mas. The vastness offers inexpensive land compared to the famous French wine regions, and much more reliable weather for growing grapes. This combination of winemaking expertise, low vineyard costs, and quality grapes translates to good value wines.
Jean-Claude Mas was born and raised in the Languedoc; he retains childhood memories of the grape harvest, and watching his grandfather making wine in the cellar. After moving between the worlds of auto racing and the wine business, he took control of the Domaines Paul Mas Company in 2000. Applying his business skills, he expanded the company from the family’s 86-acre Chateau de Conas to seven estates producing more than a million-plus-cases of wine a year.
Domaine La Forge lies near the ancient city of Carcassonne. From its vineyards and purchased grapes, Mas produces a variety of flavorful wines. The 2012 Domaine La Forge Estate Pinot Noir delivers a bright strawberry hue with a fragrant floral and cranberry aroma. The intense sunshine of southern France is captured in the ripe strawberry, cherry and cranberry flavors, packed in a medium body carved with mild tannins and refreshing acidity.
I brought the 2012 La Forge Estate Pinot Noir to Hoboken’s excellent Cuban BYOB La Isla restaurant. It was superb with my seafood empanada appetizer filled with salmon, mahi mahi and shrimp, and an equally creative main course of black bean risotto with salmon and spinach.
The delicate texture, ripe red berry flavor and balancing acidity of the 2012 La Forge Estate Pinot Noir made it ideal with La Isla’s delicious fish presentations. And you’ll have the catch-of-the-day at the checkout counter with its under $10 price tag.