Usually, I’m all about complexity in wines — the various layers that make wine interesting and take it beyond just alcoholic fruit juice. How does oak aging factor in? Can you detect minerals that reflect a wine’s terroir? How about spice or floral notes? Saline or earth? The list goes on.
Students of wine live for this. But every once in a while, I want to stop being a student. I want to stop analyzing and just enjoy a glass or two of cold, refreshing, easy-drinking white wine.
The other night, I was about to leave one of my favorite wine stores with a box of mostly small-production bottles I thought would be “interesting” when the owner pointed to one more wine sitting on the counter. He urged me to try it.
Domaine Lafage’s Côté Est 2016 turned out to be exactly that kind of quaffable wine I’m talking about, a delightful white blend from the Côtes Catalanes area of Roussillon in the south of France. This is Mediterranean wine, and two of the three grapes in the blend — Grenache Blanc and Roussanne — are mainstays of the region. Chardonnay rounds out the mix.
I can imagine the French drinking this wine in the heat of summer, washing down seafood at outdoor restaurants along the Catalan coast. At 12.5 percent alcohol, ordering another bottle is easy. I can see it as well at beach and backyard parties here.
“Ah, that’s nice,” I said to myself on first sip, just the kind of simple reaction I want with this type of wine. Nice in that it’s light, fresh, and thirst-quenching, showing mostly lemon and orange notes and touches of white peach and flowers. A few months of aging on the lees in stainless steel tanks smooths any rough edges.
As for temperature, I don’t usually suggest drinking white wines too cold because the flavors can be obscured. But for this one I make an exception; its delightful simplicity is accentuated by a good chill.
Oh, and did I mention that you’ll find it for around $11 or so?