Last Sunday was the annual open cellar day at Domaine Ollier-Taillefer in the pretty little village of Fos. It is always an animated occasion, with wines to taste, cheese and charcuterie to nibble, and a singer, who sounded a little like Juliette Greco to enhance the atmosphere on a sunny afternoon.
The big draw this year was a vertical tasting of Castel Fossibus, literally the château of Fos, which is their oak-aged cuvée. I have to admit to a sneaky preference for the unoaked Grand Reserve, but I certainly was not going to pass up the opportunity of a vertical tasting. The blend is approximately 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre, but obviously varies a little from year to year. They include some Carignan in exceptionally hot years like 2003.
1999 - Medium colour; beginning to develop an orange rim. Mature nose, but the oak is not completely integrated. Quite a rounded palate, quite meaty and cedary with a dry finish. And certainly still very much alive for a wine that is 12 years old, and their first élevage in oak.
No 2000 or 2001 left, so straight on to 2002
2002 – Medium colour, with a little development. Delicate spice and a touch of oak on the nose. Medium weight, with some fruit and oak, and quite an elegant finish.
2003 – This was the heat wave year, but the effects were less marked in the Midi than in other parts of France. The nose is firm and structured, with some vanilla notes. And the palate is solid and rounded. with firm tannins; quite a sturdy wine, but not especially hot.
2004 – Deep young colour. Quite firm oak on the nose, but more fondu or integrated on the palate. I felt they were beginning to master the oak better with this vintage. Quite a cedary palate; some elegant spice and nicely balanced tannins. Medium weight with a fresh finish.
2005 – Medium depth, young colour. Quite a firm smoky nose, with an elegant palate. Medium weight; some firm tannins, with youthful fruit, and a touch of spice. Good balance and length. Still has ageing potential though also drinking very well now, with a daube or another winter dish.
2006 – Quite a young colour. Quite firm closed nose. Some ripe cherry fruit on the palate, with some pepper and spice, and a youthful streak of tannin and oak, with a hint of vanilla. Youthful potential.
2007 - Medium colour; quite a rounded closed nose. Elegant fruit on the palate, with subtle tannins and a fine balance. Still very youthful, with a certain vivacity especially on the finish.
2008. Young colour. Quite a hard nose, with a curious balance. Tannin and fruit, but here is an edge to the wine. This is the year of the hail storm and it does show in the wine.
2009 – First I tried a bottle that had already been open for three hours. Youthful colour, with perfumed raspberry fruit and a touch oak. More obvious oak on the palate; ripe, youthful and rounded, with a firm backbone of tannin.
And a second 2009, opened a few minutes earlier, tasted more closed, with fresh cherry fruit, and youthful elegant tannins. Both fine bottles showing the style of Castel Fossibus and how the wine has progressed over the decade.
I have a soft spot for their entry level red, les Collines. The 2010 is back on form, after the hail of 2008. Lovely fresh cherry fruit on the nose, and easy spice on the palate. Light and fresh.
2009 Grande Reserve is rounded and lightly spicy. Medium weight but with more depth than les Collines, as you would expect.