2011 is a better vintage in Southern France than most people thought it would be. But really, on the heels of the stellar '09s and '10s, pretty much any kind of 2011 vintage would suffer in comparison. Despite a very cool summer, the weather turned warmer in September and the change allowed producers to let the fruit hang long enough to ripen fully.
The 2011 Tessellae Old Vines is a joint venture of Domaine Lafage and Eric Solomon's European Cellars, one of my favorite importers. This wonderful Cotes du Roussillon blend consists of 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. The Grenache is from 60 year old vines. This rustic, rocky region inhabits the extreme southern end of France, right on the Mediterranean. It's warm here and the soils frequently lend a distinct mineral edge to the wines. My favorite wines from southern France usually have a higher percentage of Grenache in them but this beauty delivers a lot of enjoyment for the $11.99 I paid for it. The Syrah lends this blend a dark, dense color and it's plummy fruit, with supporting notes of black cherry, coffee and spices. There's a definite dusty minerality in the aromas also. It's fairly large scaled in the mouth with the darker fruits dominating. It finishes long with some licorice notes and and some drying tannins. We recently tried a $30 Syrah from one of California's hot young winemakers, and I have to say that it was good but at the same time it was completely underwhelming. I'd much rather drink the Tessellae - especially considering the price. Cheers.