Theisn’t your usual bottle of French wine. First, Saint Cosme is the negociant side of Chateau Saint Cosme who produce excellent Estate wines, so these are purchased grapes, mainly from the Southern Rhone Valley. And yes, the grapes are pressed in a Basket Press, which is an old style type of mechanical press, you put the grapes in a large open topped wooden barrel and a metal plate on a lever or a screw applies pressure to the grapes and the juice runs out hole in the bottom of the barrel. It works well but modern presses are more efficient and can press larger volumes of grapes. The grape used in this wine is Grenache (Garnacha in Spain) and here is what sets this Red apart, it is the product of a Solera that was started in 1999. A Solera is a method for producing fortified wine such as Sherry or even Whisky (the Little James Basket Press is not a fortified wine). It takes a couple of years to get going, the first year the barrel is filled with 1999 vintage Grenache, the second year you pull half of the 1999 Grenache out and add in half a barrel of 2000 vintage. The third year, you pull half out of the first barrel (which is 50/50 1999 and 2000) and add in a half barrel of the 2001 vintage and so on and so on until you reach 2012, which is when this edition of Little James Basket Press was bottled. The 2012 edition is a blend 50% 2011 vintage Grenache and 50% of the last 13 years of wine. Every year you get a little less of the 1999 vintage in the bottle, so the wine subtly shifts as time goes by. The Solera method uses far more wine than is bottled every year and is expensive and time consuming to create, but you get a wine that becomes deeper and richer with age, sort of like the wine version of Sourdough bread. And all this for a wine that you can find on store shelves for between $10 and $15. The alcohol content is 13.5%.
The color is raspberry jam red with black highlights. The nose is dark fruit, raisin spice, sweeter oak spice, 85% cocoa chocolate and fig. The 2011 Grenache which is juicy, silky, fresh and alive comes together with the aged, stewed blend of 12 years of Grenache, right smack dab on your palate. You have to concentrate to figure out all that is going on with this wine. The young Grenache is simple and in your face while the Solera wine is subtle with complexity and depth, a swirling stew of flavors and textures. This is a medium bodied wine, it is not big and bold, but for a medium bodied wine, it grabs your attention. Grenache wines usually don’t have much in the way of tannins and here the tannins are soft. The acidity is very well integrated, this would make a wonderful food wine. The finish is blackberries and licorice and lingers for a long time.
It is funny, the Little James Basket Press Rouge is a non vintage, not an AOC wine or a Vin de Pays wine, but a table wine, the lowest French wine designation and it just might be one of the best under $20 French wines on the store shelves. This is a unique wine, what is occurring in your glass does not happen with regular vintage wine. This is a wine that will continue to evolve with each new vintage, the wine bottled in 2013 will be slightly different from the 2012 bottle. The Little James Basket Press Red is definitely a bottle you should place on your list of wines to try.