It's not every day that you can discover you have a real family connection to a bottle of wine. Assas is a small village 10 kilometers north of Montpellier in Hérault, in southwestern France. The Château d'Assas is the manor house of the village, and the current house dates from the 18th century. Simone Demangel, who bought the house with her husband, Robert, in the 1930s, spent the last few years of World War II making false identity papers for Jewish people who needed to escape from southern France (including Tom's father and grandparents). Her daughter, Marie-Claire, now lives in the house, and told Tom stories of Simone riding her bicycle many kilometers at night to avoid detection and deliver the papers. After the war, she was decorated by General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny
for her resistance work.
Marie-Claire and her sisters agreed to lease the name and image of the château to the local cooperative winery, which now produces a line of wines called Château d'Assas -- some from grapes grown on land that was part of the château in previous centuries. The cooperative produces a few different lines of wines with appellations of Pic St. Loup, Grès de Montpellier, AOC Languedoc, and IGP Pays d'OC. We've picked two of the Château d'Assas wines to import, and they're both in the Grès de Montpellier appellation. This region is close enough to the Mediterranean to get some of the humidity and winds from the Mediterranean (and cooler nights as well), but far enough inland to experience the Tramontane winds (also known as the Mistral) that dry off the leaves of the vines, ensuring their health.
Château d'Assas Réserve is a full-bodied blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Mourvèdre. The wine is aged in Frech oak for 11 months, softening the tannins enough to let the fruit and spice of the Syrah shine through. The Mourvèdre adds a note of clove and rich color to the wine. While it's meant for big, hearty meals, it's also great on its own or with strong cheeses.
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||Bold Red Wine
||Languedoc Grès de Montpellier Red
||Les Vignerons du Pic, Assas (Languedoc)
90 points, Wine and Spirits (June 2014). "This is dark and savory, the black raspberry and plum skin flavors quiet and even. A saline minerality picks up on the finish, like a sprinkle of fleur de sel on a steak."
Red meats, strong cheeses, wild game