Tuesday, 11 May 2010

DOMAINE DE CANTEPERDRIX - DOMAINE VERENA WYSS

Since my visit in April, Verena has been obliged to change the name of her estate. When she first named it ten years ago, she was quite unaware that there was another Domaine Canteperdrix in the Cotes du Ventoux. She has decided to use her own name, which confirms the identity of the estate, and the names of the various cuvees, and well as the partridge on the label remain the same.



Verena Wyss is a cheerful Swiss lady who has been making wine at Domaine de Canteperdrix, outside the village of Gabian, for nearly twenty years. She and her architect husband, Jean-Pierre, arrived there by chance, initialy looking for a second home. Friends had told them about an old house that needed restoring - and not only that the vines had all been pulled up, so they had to start from scratch, buying droits de plantation. It was tough at the beginning. Verena has done no formal training but had learnt on the job. Much of the time Jean-Pierre was back in Switzerland running his business, and she was on her own with just the cat for company. Her very first vintage was 1993, when she harvested just 1.76 hectare of Viognier, amounting to two barriques of wine. Graham Chidgey, the genial wine merchant who ran Laytons at the time, turned up at her cellar quite by chance; tasted the Viognier; liked it and bought the lot. Her UK agents these days are Clarion Wines, set up by a former employee of Laytons. And she now has 14 hectares, of which Cabernet Sauvignon is the largest planting. Initially all her wines were Vin de Pays de Cassan, after the nearby priory, but now she is favouring the IGP Oc. And why the name Canterperdrix? Verena explained that there is an association with Rabelais who wrote ‘De Languedoc qui croit a Mirevault (Mireval) Canteperdrix and Frontignant (Frontignan).




Our tasting began with her unoaked Viognier, simply labelled Wyss Vin – this is a play on words as weiss is white in German. This 2009 Wyss Vin is light golden in colour, with delicate peach and apricot notes on the nose. The palate is rounded with spicy, peachy fruit and good acidity, with a fresh finish. It does not have the unctuousness of some Viognier, but is none the worse for that.

2008 Wyss Vin - 8.50€
More rounded on the nose, with light peachy notes, hints of grapefruit, and a fresh herbal finish. Yields are small, averaging 30 hl/ha.

2009 Roussanne les Perdreaux - 8.50€
Verena is very pleased with her Roussanne, and with reason. About a third of it is fermented in wood, in barriques and slightly larger demi-muids, which gives the wine some depth and weight. The palate is rounded and harmonious, with some fleurs blanches on the nose, and nicely textured weight on the palate.

And then she gave me the 2006 to try. I have to admit that it was a touch oxidised on the nose, with some dry honeyed notes on the palate. More intriguing was the 2007, a barrel sample. It had a tannic streak from the oak, but with some textured fruit underneath, with hints of tilleul or lime flower on the palate.

The 2000 les Perdreaux has aged beautifully. It was quite golden in colour, with a rounded nose, with lots of white flowers on the palate, as well as texture and weight, to make a very satisfying mouthful of wine. Comparisons with the northern Rhone would not be out of place.

2004 Cante d’Automne - 9.00€
An oak aged Viognier, which has spent sixteen months in barrel. I found the oak quite heavy, so that it masked the Viognier fruit, and much preferred the unoaked Viognier However the finish was long and dry and honeyed.

2008 Rosé des Roses – 7.00€
From Lledoner Pelut, which is a cousin of Grenache Noir, and made by the saigné method of running juice off from the fermenting tank. Verena doesn’t make it every year. It has an orange pink colour and is ripe and rounded and quite mouthfilling, with a dry finish. This is definitely a food rosé, rather than one for sipping as an aperitif.

2008 Lledoner Pelut – 7.50€
The red version of this grape variety. It has spent eleven months in old wood, which gives the wine some structure. The nose is quite fresh with some dry spicy notes on the palate. It was the last variety that she planted, in 1998.

2006 Merlot Chant de la Terre 10.00€
This has spent sixteen months in barrel and has good ripe fruit, balanced with a firm streak of tannin and oak, and plenty of body. It is given a pigeage or plunging down every morning. It promises well for future development in the bottle.

2006 La Tonga – 8.50€
A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot, given fourteen months in oak. The colour is a deep red, with a dry cassis nose; the palate is fresh and tannic, with youthful fruit and a firm finish. This promises well for future drinking.

2006 Bel Canto – 9.00€
The same blend as La Tonga but with twenty-four months in oak, which to my mind makes for a better wine. It is more elegant and stylish, and is definitely a wine for claret lovers, with its deep colour, and lovely dry cassis notes on the nose and palate. The tannins are elegant, giving a firm backbone which allows for future ageing.

We finished with the Vin de Fête, 14.00€ - a sparkling Viognier, which is lightly honeyed, rounded and peachy. And I didn’t know, when I accepted an invitation to lunch, that Jean-Pierre is a talented chef – his risotto aux petits légumes is worthy of a Michelin star, with the flavours enhanced by a generous splash of Viognier.


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