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The Counoise Grape


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About Counoise

(Synonyms: Aubon, Caula, Conese, Connoges, Connoise, Couneso, Counoise noir, Counoiso, Counoueiso, Damas noir, Grosse Rogettaz, Guenoise, Moustardier, Quennoise)

Background

Map showing the Rhone Valley region of France.

Counoise is a red-wine grape originating in the Rhone Valley region of France, which remains its primary source; there are also, however, some plantings in the U.S. (notably in Californian and Washington State).

Counoise is another of the many grapes traditionally used chiefly or wholly as components of blends, but now attracting some attention as an interesting monovarietal. When made with appropriate care, it can produce a red-fruit, medium-bodied wine of some interest and even complexity. It is not unlike a Beaujolais or Gamay, but perhaps somewhat spicier.

Factoid: Counoise is sometimes confused with the Aubun grape, in good part because it was once common to have the two grown together in "field blends"; but Aubun is considered distinctly lower in quality than Counoise.


Some Descriptions of Counoise Wines


Some Counoises to Try

(About this list.)

As with many a once-minor but now-blossoming grape, the monovarietals tend to be chic and priced accordingly. Within our self-imposed upper limit of $20, there are really only three monovarietal bottlings generally available: one French and two American. As you will see, only one is even close to being 100% Counoise: they vary from 90-something down to 75%, but each should represent the grape and its wines well enough. (Note that if one raises the price bar, selection expands greatly: there are something like a dozen and a half more American Counoises in the range of $20 to $40.)

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Steele Wines Writer's Block Counoise
(This wine pushes this site's envelope regarding price and availability, but there are so few Counoises out there….)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

In the glass a clear garnet color is present, similar to the color of the average Pinot Noir. On the nose, bright fruit aromas are what first hits you. Scents of ripe cherry, raspberry, plum, cinnamon and baking spice with a hint of toasty oak. On the palate the wine is silky and round with a substantial mouthfeel. The flavors are pretty high in intensity and quite fruit forward with juicy red cherries, raspberry, currant, baking spices, and oak. The wine ends off nicely with a roasted nuttiness on the end of the finish. It is beautifully drawn out with a great complexity and interesting aftertaste. The wine is well balanced and really enjoyable; especially for this price.

The aromatics abound on this wine. Notes of juniper, jasmine, and lilacs on first sniff. Raspberries dominate the fruit profile, nose, and palate. A lighter bodied mouthfeel and lighter tannins make it stand-alone refreshing, but I can see why this is predominately a blending grape. Another well-crafted wine. (87 pts.)

Colors of deep ruby-garnet radiate when spinning the wine around your glass emitting bright aromatics of cherries, raspberries, and light cinnamon. With the first sip, the medium body of this wine delicately dances across the palate with bright mineral sensation mingled with raspberries and blackberries. At the mid-palate a distinct nuttiness permeates your mouth with the berries becoming slightly more intense and as the flavor profile finishes a nice spiciness of cinnamon and light red pepper prevail.

In the glass the wine was a fairly light ruby color. The nose was nicely aromatic with briary, brambly raspberry and blackberry fruit fruits with some black cherry and leather. On the palate the wine was on the fuller side of medium with fairly high acid and fairly low tannins. There were flavors of black cherry and blackberry fruit with some charcoal, smoke, baking chocolate and cola. There was a bit of wild strawberry and spicy black pepper, but overall, the flavor profile on this wine was a bit darker than the French version, though it still had a wild, berryish kind of appeal. I found this version much more deep and interesting [than the Domaine Monpertuis] and felt that it definitely was worth the extra $5.

The best wine you’ve never tasted: It’s called “Counoise” (coon-wahw) and is used to add pepper and acidity to Rhone wines, including Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Ace winemaker Jed Steele releases it under his Writer’s Block label.

The wine -- from Lake County, north of Napa -- inside the bottle is just as interesting, a medium-to full-bodied aromatic red wine, with soft tannins and notes of toast, cinnamon and cherries.



Domaine Monpertuis Vin de Pays du Gard Cuvee Counoise
(This wine contains a rather small infusion of Alicante, which is probably a synonym for Grenache.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Garnet, clear but dark. An earthy mix of herbaceous and fruit aromas: Black plums and prunes jostle for position with black and white pepper and a "sappy" note as distinct as biting into a fresh stalk of alfalfa hay. Plums and fragrant pepper on the palate, mouth-filling and tart, with substantial but smooth tannins helping to build a sturdy structure.
[T]his Old World counoise is deep amethyst in color and exhibits a "hot" nose and high acidity that mirrors the minerality of its terroir. Dry and earthy, this bottling offers a generous amount of tannins. However, allow it to open up to experience ripe, red fruit that elevates its Old World characteristics to a wine that ideally compliments a fatty and substantial fish like halibut.

The nose is black pepper and ripe fruit. In the mouth it is acidic and alcoholic but in a good way with spice and a peppy finish.

Surprisingly complex wine from a lesser known French varietal (but well-known Châteauneuf-du-Pape producer) struts out black plum flavors layered under oak chips, forest floor and darkly-roasted vegetables. Full, long finish sustains interest long after the first sip; somewhat apparent alcohol and relative lack of finesse are the only signs of its relatively humble origins. Still a steal — how often do you drink 100 percent counoise? Rated 88.

This was much better on the second night. The light nose revealed cherry candy. In the mouth there were hard grapey, red fruit, which were dry. The flavors morphed towards cranberry with a bit more intensity thought still light in aspect. There were almost ripe tannins in balance with the fruit and acidity.

In the glass, it is medium red. The nose shows a simple earthy fruitiness with overripe black fruit. On the palate, the Domaine de Monpertuis Counoise brings the black fruit forward and coats them with light tannins. A slight wash of white over the blackness. Two stars out of five. Better to my mind as part of a blend than as its own varietal.

It displays some spices and tannins and a good finish. The wine can be cellared and enjoyed for 2 to 3 more years. Excellent value for the price.

It's rustic and earthy, a jumble of dark plum, fragrant pepper, "green" herbaceousness and tart, mouth-watering acidity, it's a real wine-geek's wine, good for studying a range of Old World descriptors. . . Garnet, clear but dark. An earthy mix of herbaceous and fruit aromas: Black plums and prunes jostle for position with black and white pepper and a "sappy" note as distinct as biting into a fresh stalk of alfalfa hay. Plums and fragrant pepper on the palate, mouth-filling and tart, with substantial but smooth tannins helping to build a sturdy structure.

Medium red color. Dark chocolate, black currant, grape jam, and black pepper on the nose. Blackberry, black currants, pepper on the palate. Huge plum finish. Tannic and dry. Also hints of metals on the finish and some charred oak. This is pretty complex for a $13 wine. Definitely a hidden treasure in its price category. This often overlooked varietal that makes an appearance in Chateaneuf-du-Pape shines in this bottle. One of the better value wines out there in marketplace. 88 points.

It had a deep garnet-red color and a discreet nose of pepper and black fruits. On the palate, it was rich, spicy and mouthfilling with a lively acidity on the finish.

Deep and "natural" blackish purple color. Open, perfumed, even lightly aromatic nose of black raspberry, plum, brown spice, licorice, slate, and brown leaves. The medium bodied palate opens smooth, supple, and elegant, and with a notable power as well, revealing dark flavors of roasted meat, flowers, strawberry preserves, and blueberries that are very well supported by sweet, polished tannins, and a fresh acidity that seamlessly frames the the pure, sweet "country" fruit. Finishes clean and dry. A wonderful balance of sophistication and rusticity.

The grape makes for a light and bright red, perfect for drinking on any old weeknight throughout the summer. It's peppery and has good acidity--you might even want to drink it slightly chilled.



For a Splurge

It's a relatively modest splurge, and it's only a wee tad better-rated than the listed items above, but there's Broc Cellars "Eaglepoint Ranch" Counoise.

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.

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