Alain Proteau's 'le Garage' is a lovely expression of the values inherent in our adage "Wines of people, place and time". It is at once the realization of Alain's long-standing dream of producing his own wine and a testament to the long-standing friendship between the Quebecois Alain (former Vice President of the SAQ and currently the head of Trialto Quebec) and the Bordelais Jacques Lurton (of Bordeaux's - and in fact the world's - leading wine family). It is a garage wine in the truest sense, handmade in a tiny quantity each year, simply for the joy of doing it, not for any commercial purpose. It is very much a labour of love, just 250 cases of wine produced by two friends who do it because they can.
The grapes come from Chateau La Martinette, a lovely old property owned by the Lurton family, located in Moulon, on the left bank of the Dordogne, in the region of Entre deux Mers. The vineyard is a 7 hectare property of very densely-planted old merlot vines. The property had been sadly neglected after the Second World War - since 1994 it has been lovingly revived by Jacques Lurton. The clay-limestone soils are remarkably similar to those found on the heights of St Emilion and thus are a natural fit for producing balanced, low yielding merlot.
The wine is delightful, a beautiful example of an old-fashioned style that is dying out, namely traditional 'claret' - understated, elegant, and refined wine made for quiet enjoyment, not point scores from critics. Not many wines can be perfectly described in one word, but this one can: it is 'balanced', with a very satisfying harmony between its fruit, acid, tannin, oak, and alcohol. In the classic manner of old-school claret it quietly proves the principle of less is more. It is light but eminently satisfying, so much so that at the end of the meal you are likely to be taken aback by how much you enjoyed drinking so little.
It all seems too good to be true: Just when most of us had given up the dream of ever again finding the perfect little under-the-radar sleeper Bordeaux, Le Garage appears. It goes to show you never can tell. And the wine has another important aspect. It is a special wine not because of reputation, rarity, or price - but because it is genuinely personifies two special people: soft-spoken, gentlemanly Alain and genteel, affable Jacques. If only there were more wines like it.