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Rhone trip

I stepped into Le Chai, Galerie du Vin, with Cotes du Rhone on my mind -and already tasting its rich earthiness.

I knew shop proprietor Christian Depken would get it. When it comes to Old World wines, Christian is da man. No one follows the flavor trends of French and Italian winemakers as closely - and can tell you what's remained true - and which wines are sadly shifting to American-favored fruit forward styles.

And, as usual, the visit was an education. And I left with not a Cotes du Rhone, an amazingly similar styled wine, true to the gaminess of Cotes du Rhone, from the far Southern extremes of the Rhone.

The appellation, Costiéres des Nimes, was once part of Languedoc, but officially became part of Rhone in 2004. And, rightfully so. If I blind tasted this wine, I would immediately place it in the Rhone.

Enough geeking out, let's get to the wine, Costiéres des Nimes 2009 Marginal. The juice is 90 percent Syrah, 10 percent grenache, produced by the Chardon family on a rocky 22-acre estate. When it's time to pick, the grapes are hand chosen into small wooden baskets and destemmed - but not crushed.

Crushing comes after a 20-30 day maceration, then the juice is aged in cement tanks, where it rests for the nine months prior to bottling.

This formerly organic farm is now all bio-dynamic. No additional sulfites are added and the wine is unfiltered.

It presents deep and dark in the class, the result of wonderfully tactile craftsmanship; it seems a shame to drink it.

Give this one an hour's worth of breathing time. On first opening, its Rhone-like nose of fresh olive is pronounced. After a rest, the olive subsides and your palate will be thrilled with the earthiness, herbaceous traits and wonderful body of this wine.

About $24, and worth it.

I'm yet to fine a lesser priced Rhone-style wine that drinks with the region's well-defined character. If I'm looking for a smaller price tag, I wold tend toward a small producer domestic Syrah.

Fun backstory: Nimes is the birthplace of what we know today as denim, the fabric that makes up our favorite blue jeans. It doesn't take much Googling to lay your hands on the full story!