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Elin’s Wine Pick: A Dry White to Sip With Friends

Elin McCoy's Wine Pick, Domaine Cazes

At a recent tasting of rare sweet wines at New York’s The Modern restaurant, the producer also poured his $12 dry aromatic white as an aperitif. This fresh, lively, easy-sipping 2011 Domaine Cazes Le Canon du Maréchal has intense aromas of apricots and orange blossom, and soft, round tropical fruit and peachy flavors with attractive herbal notes. It was lovely for sipping without food while just standing around and chatting, but is also one of the few wines that would go with asparagus. So I wasn’t surprised to hear that it has been a by-the-glass pour for asparagus dishes at Alain Ducasse’s restaurants in France.

Elin McCoy's Wine of the Week

2011 Domaine Cazes Le Canon du Maréchal

Price: $12

Region: Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Grapes: 60% Muscat of Alexandria, 20% Muscat Petits Grains, 20% Viognier

Alcohol: 13%

Serve with: Spicy Thai shrimp, asparagus, garlic soup

More of Elin's wine picks:

» Beyond Bordeaux stereotypes: 2010 Château Saintongey Vieilles Vignes

» Sting's 2010 When We Dance Chianti

» A velvety bargain from France: 2010 Orca Vieilles Vignes Ventoux

» A filmmaker's chardonnay: 2009 Seresin Estate Reserve

» A vibrant value from Montelciano

Domaine Cazes, which has no connection with the Cazes family of Bordeaux’s Château Lynch-Bages, is in the heart of the small, somewhat obscure Roussillon region between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean in southern France on the Spanish border. The area is part of the historic principality of Catalonia, which is mostly around Barcelona. General manager Lionel Lavail showed off a few phrases of Catalan and said, “We’re more Spanish than French. The flag on my house is the gold and red Catalan flag.”

Founded in 1895, Domaine Cazes now has 220 hectares (544 acres) and is the largest certified biodynamic estate in France. The soil is limestone and clay and the weather is windy and hot, with 325 days of sun and only about 16 inches of rain a year.  The winemaker, Emmanuel Cazes, keeps freshness in the wines by picking grapes at night to preserve acidity.

Roussillon produces about 90% of the fortified sweet wines made in France under three appellations — Rivesaltes, Banyuls and Maury. But as sweet wines became less popular, Domaine Cazes also focused on a line of dry wines; they now make 13 different wines from 14 grape varieties.

Dry white wine to sip with friends

This dry white is one of their entry-level wines, labeled Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes. The wine’s name comes from a French slang expression, “Let’s drink a canon,” or have a glass of wine with friends. The Maréchal refers to the famous general Maréchal Joffre, a Rivesaltes native and World War I hero, who sold his vineyards to the Cazes family.

Lavail, determined to bring more people to Roussillon, opened a cozy restaurant next to the winery. They serve Le Canon du Maréchal Blanc with garlic soup, oyster mushrooms and white asparagus. The recipes are on the restaurant’s Facebook page, easily accessed from the website, I plan to try them all.

Top photo composite:

2011 Domaine Cazes Le Canon du Maréchal bottle and vineyard. Credit: Courtesy of Domaine Cazes