As I was tasting the 100-plus bottles in this first Vintages release of the year, I did a sudden double take. What? A zinfandel from France? Impossible!
Yes, Z De L’Arjolle 2011 Zinfandel (#346072, $19.95, rating 91/100) is from the Languedoc region of southern France. It was the brainchild of owner Louis-Marie Teisserenc, hailed as “the bearded wonder of the Languedoc.”
His winery, Domaine de l’Arjolle, has a single hectare of zinfandel grapes, now nearing 17 years old and really hitting their stride.
My tasting notes say: “Lavish bouquet of blackberry, cognac-soaked vanilla pod and cedar. The flavours unfold in rich layers of smokiness, with black cherry, cola, dates, mocha and blackberry juiciness.”
Teisserenc’s idea for growing zinfandel was born during his visit to the Napa, where he encountered California’s signature grape and marvelled at its intensity and ability to maintain acidity even in high heat and sun-stroked days, which meant it might work in the Languedoc.
He had to lobby grape authorities back home to get permission to grow zinfandel. Six years of persistent pleading and arguing with the horrific grape control bureaucracy finally resulted in him planting zinfandel, still the only vineyard of zin in all of France.
Since there is no existing classification for it, it must be labelled as a Vin de France.
It’s gorgeous on the palate. We are lucky Vintages landed a few cases, as it’s mostly sold out in the U.S.
Overall, I find this French zinfandel to be superior to most Cali zins, simply because it is less pruney and stewed and port-like. In fact, it’s downright elegant
Article by Gordon Stimmell