Saturday, 25 July 2015

La Grange de Bouys

It has to be said that my home village of Roujan is really not known for the quality of its wines.  The neighbouring villages of Caux and Gabian are so much more successful, while Roujan is dominated by its cooperative.  But that may all be about to change.  I spent last Thursday morning tasting with Florence and Stéphane Monmousseau from La Grange de Bouys.  They are newcomers to the village; Stéphane has escaped from the rat race of the financial world  in Paris and as well as buying a house, they have bought vineyards and last year made their very first wines, with the help of a local oenologist, Jean Natoli.  

They made two wines from just two hectares, and in 2015 they will make three wines from three hectares, which are all farmed organically.   Their property still retains the wonderful old-fashioned cellar of the Languedoc, with enormous awe-inspiring oak foudres.  Stephane’s stainless steel vats are dwarfed beside them.  This year they used a small basket press; next year they are buying a pneumatic press.  Tasting with Stéphane, you sense his excitement about his new career, and at supper recently, with some young local vignerons, he was very chuffed to be the oldest jeune vigneron at the table.  This is an established category in France, depending not only on your age, but also on your harvest tally.    

2014 Carignan Vieilles Vignes, Pays de l’Hérault – 10.00€
This includes 6% Grenache Noir, and the Carignan is 40 years old.  That is not especially old for Carignan, but there are no specific rules about the age of old vines.   Élevage in stainless steel.  Medium colour.  Some lightly peppery red fruit, cherries, with some fresh tannins.  Quite firm rustic fruit; very Carignan.  Youthful and elegant.   And I would never have thought it was 15˚.  For this 2014 Stéphane destalked the grapes and the wine spent ten days on the skins; in 2015 he plans to try a carbonic maceration.  And the yield was a miserly 5 hl/ha.   He made just 750 cases. 

2014 Cuvée St. Andrieu, Pays de l’Hérault – 15.00€
Mainly Syrah, with some Cinsaut, Carignan and Grenache.  It could be an appellation, but Stéphane did not get his head round the paper work in time.   Élevage in stainless steel tank.  Blended on 12th February and bottled on 13th May.  15˚.  Good colour.  Firm dry cherry fruit, a peppery note and a certain freshness.  Vibrant with rich spiciness and intensive flavours.  Quite firm tannins, so it will age well.   A long finish with depth and complexity and lots of potential.  If you can make that the first time you try your hand at wine making, you will go far.  Watch this space!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Virgile’s Vineyard, A year in the Languedoc Wine Country

Virgile’s Vineyard was first published in 2003, and it has stood the test of time, providing a very accessible introduction to the wine culture of the Languedoc.  Patrick Moon relates a year in the life of a young wine grower, Virgile Joly, who after working elsewhere in France and overseas, has bought a vineyard and is intent on creating his own wine estate.   And Patrick, newly arrived in the Languedoc, is keen to learn about the region’s wines, and so he shadows Virgile’s work for the year, from pruning to harvesting to bottling, and everything else in-between, including covering one of the big issues for any new wine grower in the Languedoc, how and where to sell your wine.    He sympathetically relates the trials and tribulations of a new wine grower, when things go well and not so well.  

Humour is provided by Patrick’s encounters with his neighbour, Manu, a caricature of the archetypal French paysan, who enjoys consuming vast quantities of wine, in sharp contrast to his extremely abstemious wife – I am not sure that we ever learn her name.    Manu is game to be Patrick’s guide for any cellar visits further afield, so appellations other than the immediate surroundings of St. Saturnin are covered, with visits to wine growers who are still important in the region.  And a sense of the long history of the Languedoc is provided by Krystina, an ex-history teacher and  owner of the local château and another caricature, to provide some more humour.   
Since 2003 things have moved on, and the book has been republished, with an Afterword to bring the story of Virgile Joly fully up to date.   And in between Patrick wrote a second book that focused on the food of Languedoc, Arrazat’s Aubergines, Inside a Languedoc Kitchen, about a young chef who started a restaurant near his home village, in which the continuing story of Virgile is also covered.  Sadly Arrazat’s restaurant did not last for long, but the book considers some of the gastronomy of the Languedoc.   And Virgile has now successfully established an international reputation for his wines, most recently with the help of Naked Wines.  

Friday, 17 July 2015

Plan de l'Homme

Rémi Duchemin made his reputation as a wine grower as one of two partners who created Mas Mortiès in the Pic St. Loup.  Between 1993 and 2008 he worked with his brother-in-law, Michel Jorcin, and then it was time to move on, and Mas Mortiès was sold.  Initially Rémi had doubts about staying in wine, and indeed in the Languedoc, as he comes from Grenoble, but circumstances combined and he heard that Plan de l’Om was for sale.  And he made his first wine there in 2009, changing the name from Plan de l’Om to Plan de l'Homme.  For those who know about such things, OM has associations with football.  

The estate consists of 14 hectares at St. Jean de la Blaquière, on a variety of soils, schist, ruffe and grès, with lots of different plots making for interesting blending possibilities.   The altitude is 250 metres and the cooling effect of the Larzac is very noticeable.     The vines are at average age of 50 years old.  There is no Mourvèdre, and for white wine there is Roussanne, with just a little Grenache Blanc.  Rémi observed that it is easier to buy vines rather than replant an unsatisfactory vineyard – the previous owner had neglected the Grenache Blanc.   And he lives in an old maison de vigneron in St. Felix de Lodez, which provides a perfect cellar on the ground floor.  And that is where we tasted.

2013 Omega, Florès Blanc, Coteaux du Languedoc – 9.00€
Roussanne with 10% Grenache Blanc, kept in vat.  Light golden colour.  Nicely understated nose.  Herbal white blossom fruit.  Some attractive freshness with some body, and acidity on the finish.   Rémi has a large plot of Roussanne and realised after a couple of vintages that he obtained better results if he divided the vineyard.  The lower part near the river is quite vigorous with richer soil and more vegetal in character, whereas the higher vines are less productive on poor soil.  So for Florès he picks before full maturity to give freshness to the wine, and the higher part of the vineyard is picked ten days later, making for more body and weight.  Roussanne can be exotic; here it is spicier.

2011 Alpha Blanc, Coteaux du Languedoc - 21.00€
Roussanne with some Grenache Blanc; a little more than in Florès.  Part of the Roussanne is vinified in wood, with a further two to three months ageing in barrel, with a little bâtonnage, and the élevage is finished in vat.  Lovely texture.  Elegant.  Oak very well integrated.  Acidity on the finish.  Satisfying structure.  Will continue to age.  A lovely glass of white wine.  Rémi observed that he is not keen on wines that are aged in wood, and he uses acacia, which is less powerful than oak.  Roussanne stays young for a number of years and then quickly fades.

2012 Carignan.  Khi, Vin de France  - 13.00€
The name is a play on words, Khi or Qui?  Carignan is sometimes not as well-known as it should be, though in some quarters it is becoming quite fashionable.   Rémi is a member of the Carignan Renaissance group – apparently they are considering launching a Carignan Day- and he has three hectares of Carignan.    Deep colour.  Rounded supple tannins, with ripe fruit, but not heavy.  Very good balance, long and characterful.   Part carbonic maceration and part égrappé.  No élevage in wood, with the last few months before bottling spent in a cement egg.    Originally all the Carignan was vinified traditionally but it lacked elegance, so in 2012 he made two vats – one of carbonic maceration and one with a traditional vinification.  The carbonic maceration worked particularly well. 

2013 Omega, Florès rouge, Coteaux du Languedoc – 9.00€
60% Cinsaut – 50 year old vines.  It may in fact be Oeillade.  25% Syrah and 15% Grenache.  Good colour.  Lovely fresh fruit, with ripe spicy cherries.  Fresh with supple tannins.  Medium weight.  Aged in vat.  Syrah gives structure and Grenache rounds out the palate.   It is not Terrasses du Larzac, as at 9.00€ it is considered a little too cheap – 10.00€ should be the entry level price.  And in any case there is too much Cinsaut.  2014 in contrast was a more difficult vintage  as it was less sunny.

2012 Omega  Habilis, Terrasses du Larzac – 14.00€
This won a gold medal in Decanter’s World Wine Awards.  Made from 50 year old Grenache, an isolated vineyard surrounded by garrigues.   Access is difficult and production is tiny, 20 hl/ha in a good year.  It was farmed conventionally, whereas Rémi works organically, and it is impossible to use a tractor so he leaves it enherbé with the grass.  Initially production dropped for the first two years, but has now increased again as the vines have found their balance with the grass.

20% Syrah, 20% Carignan, 60% Grenache, including some younger Grenache.  Kept in vat for 18 months.  Rémi no longer uses cultured yeast, now that his cellar is established.

Deep colour.  Lovely texture, with silky tannins.  Mouth filling but not heavy.  Ripe red and black fruit. A lovely glass of wine, and fully justifying its gold medal.

2012 Omega Sapiens, Terrasses du Larzac – 18.00€
Mainly Syrah 70-80%.  With Grenache and a little Carignan.   Uses barrels but not new ones, whereas in contrast Alpha Rouge, although the blend is similar, but from different plots, has some carbonic maceration, with more new wood.

Deep colour. Quite a rounded rich nose and palate.  Ripe black fruit and spice.  Quite alcoholic on the finish at 14.5˚.  Quite solid, firm fruit.  Quite rich.  Very Syrah.  The terroir is complicated for Syrah.  It can be too dry, and there is quite a high mortality rate because of grafting which does not work well in some soils.

2011 Alpha Rouge, Terrasses du Larzac – 24€
None made in 2012, but produced again in 2013.  Deep colour.  Ripe rounded nose and palate, with silky tannins.  Youthful and fresh, with good fruit.    Another lovely glass of wine.

And projects for the future?  ‘To obtain the best from my vines’, with lots of attention to detail.  Plan de l'Homme should go far.  

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Cave d’Embrès et Castelmaure

I remember visiting this Corbières coop about 20 years ago, and enjoying a vertical tasting of their best wine at the time, Cuvée Pompadour, with the director, Bernard Pueyo.   He still runs the coop, and very successfully too, and their range of wines has moved with the times.    It was high time for an update.

The coop now has 400 hectares, mainly round the village in the heart of the Corbières hills.  There are 65 members, of whom 18 earn their living from their vines and account for 85% of the production of the coop.  They make Corbières, and a little Vin de France, but no vin de pays, and no Fitou.  When the appellation of Fitou was first suggested, the village was not interested.    The coop dates back to 1921 and they still have the original solid concrete vats, which are excellent for fermentation.   

Bernard Pueyo has been there since 1983.  It was his first job, after studies in Toulouse, Montpellier and Bordeaux.   As a student he did stages with the Vignerons Val d’Orbieu and with the oenologist Marc Dubernet, but he has never been tempted to move on.  There has been so much to retain his interest at Embrès.  He quickly realised that their natural handicaps of low yields and a multitude of steep vineyard sites, making mechanisation difficult, could be put to their advantage.  And that they needed to develop their sales in bottle.    The development of the technique of carbonic maceration, a method much favoured by Marc Dubernet, had a fundamental impact on quality.   Back in 1983, Carignan accounted for 90% of the vineyards, but the creation of the appellation led to the planting of more of the so called cépages améliorateurs.  However, for Bernard Pueyo, Carignan is the cépage roi ici, even if it can only account for a maximum of 50% of a blend.   He is an ardent defender of Carignan, and practices carbonic maceration for virtually all his Carignan.    He feels that the technique really improves the variety, but he is not so sure about Syrah, half of which is fermented by carbonic maceration, and the rest is destalked.  Grenache Noir is all destalked: the stalks are too woody and too thick.  It is a complicated variety.  And they have very little Mourvèdre.  It is not a good spot for that tricky grape variety.  Mechanical harvesters are impractical on this terrain, and in any case for carbonic maceration, the bunches must be handpicked.  

Bernard looked back on the development of the cooperative.  In the 1980s they improved their winemaking facilities, and then in the 1990s they looked at their vineyards, examining the terroir.  They have schist towards Fitou, and hard limestone going toward Tautavel, both of which limit yields naturally.  Then in between the two there are the grandes terrasses which are free draining, with cooler soils, making for higher yields.      They practice lutte raisonnée but will never be organic; it is too complicated for a cooperative, but they try to reduce the chemical treatments and encourage their members to till instead.  From 2001 they developed a system of vineyard selection, linking a specific vineyard to a particular wine.  And unusually for a cooperative, their  members are paid by hectare, rather than by weight, so that they are guaranteed their remuneration.  This means that they wait until the grapes are all fully ripe, and resist the temptation to pick too early. And now they are looking again at their facilities, investing in new cooling equipment and in some foudres for élevage, which are especially suitable for Grenache Noir, as well as a new warehouse cellar for storage and élevage with a cooling system that creates evaporation, so that the air is not dry, which is all important in the summer temperatures of the Corbières.   They have 800 barriques, of which a quarter are replaced each year, and they are also trying a couple of eggs, also for élevage, but as yet have reached  no positive conclusions.  They are also realsiing the importance of enotourisme with the quai de reception being turned into a restaurant on weekend evenings during the summer months, with an opportunity for visitors and villagers to enjoy the local wines.

We adjourned to their tasting room which is equipped with an enomatic, to ensure that the wines are served in the best conditions, and at the appropriate temperature.

2014 Blanc Paysan, Corbières – 5.40€
Mainly Grenache Blanc (and Gris) plus Vermentino and Macabeo, with a cheerful  4L, the classic car of the vigneron in the 1980s, on the label.  Very fresh with good acidity, quite crisp and rounded.  Vermentino lightens the Grenache, while Macabeo is relatively neutral.  Grenache can sometimes be too heavy, though this is a light 13.5˚.  Apparently there are moves a foot for recognise Grenache Gris for rosé.

2014 Rosé Agricole – 5.40€
Mainly Grenache, 80%, with a little Carignan, and Cinsaut and a splash of Syrah.  However, Bernard doesn’t really like Syrah for rosé, the aroma doesn’t work.  He also makes a Carignan rosé.  This as some rounded raspberry fruit with a fresh finish. 

They makes about 200 – 300hls of white Corbières and about 500 hls. of rosé, out of a total annual production of 15,000 hectolitres.

2014 was a very late harvest, with rain causing some problems, so the wines are crisper and more aromatic than usual.  And Bernard is generally pleased with them.

La Buvette, Vin de France – 4.10€
The aim here is a fresh fruity red that is easy to drink.  It is based on Grenache with a little Carignan, to give some structure.   The juice is run off the skins after two or three days and then pressed and then left to slowly finish the fermentation.  Medium colour.  Cherry fruit and acidity rather than tannin.  Easy drinking.

2014 Rouge Vigneron – 5.40€
50% Carignan, carbonic maceration and 30% destalked Grenache Noir and 20% Syrah, with an élevage in vat.  Quite firm red fruit with a tannic streak, and a rustic streak.  Medium weight.  Fruit and garrigues.  Easy to drink.

For the last three years they have been working with INRA and the chamber of commerce on the conservation of old vine varieties, creating an inventory of grape varieties, of which there are about 50, including two which are completely unknown.  They are increasing the planting with cuttings, ten cuttings of each.  Carignan has thrown up some 100 different variations, out of which they have selected 20, which are they multiplying, with a view to future development, to consider what to plant in ten years’ time or so.  

2013 la Pompadour, Corbières.  9.00€
This is not named after Mme de Pompadour, but after a family in the village called Pompadour who was there for some 300 years.  The first vintage was made by Bernard’s predecessor in 1978.  It is classic Corbières, with 50%  Carignan, as well as Grenache Noir and Syrah.   They first began experimenting withy carbonic maceration in 1976, to produce Pompadour in 1978.  It comes from some of the best vineyards.  They now produce 170,000 bottles and Bernard observed that it had lost its concentrated extracted quality to become more drinkable and less powerful.  I liked this 2013.  The Carignan gives a fresh drinkability, even though it is 14˚.  It is ripe and rounded with red fruit and tannic streak ,with some supple tannins.  70% of the blend spends 11 months in barrel, and it is bottled in January.

2013 Grande Cuvée – 11.70€
First produced in 1995.  A blend of Syrah and Grenache, and no Carignan.  All destalked, and the ageing includes some new wood.  2013 was a very good year.  The Grenache suffered from coulure, but what remained, ripened beautifully.   Good colour; ripe fruit some tannins and some oak, and a rounded mouthfeel.  Warmer and more supple than Pompadour.

2013 No 3 – 21.00€
Why No 3? The third cuvée, after Pompadour and the Grand Cuvée; made from three grape varieties , and by three people, the coop and Dominique Laurent and Michel Tardieu, two Burgundians, who used to advise them.   40% Syrah with no sulphur; 25% Carignan, destalked rather than carbonic maceration, and 35% Grenache Noir.  The Syrah goes into barrel of which 50% are new, while the Carignan and Grenache goes into older wood, and future vintages will include ageing in foudres. The blending is done after élevage. The wine is firm and structured, quite ripe and rich with a tannic streak and quite a warm powerful finish, at 14.5˚, but nonetheless, it remains harmonious.

We talked about the position of the cooperative in the village.  It has a very important economic role in the fabric of village life.  They now employ ten people as well as  providing an income for the members. Bernard is optimistic for the future.  They sell all the wine they produce, and even run out.  He talked about climate warming, and how that has improved the quality of Carignan.  In 1983 it was difficult to get properly ripe Carignan, even at 12.5˚.  These days it is more likely to be 14.5˚ with the same vintage date, and the flavours benefit from being fully ripened.  And I asked about the cru of Durban.  The INAO has agreed in principle but they need  tom come and look at the vineyards.  The profile of the cru would be Pompadour, with the emphasis on Carignan.  The coops of Cascastel and Tuchan are also involved and some independent producers.

And our tasting finished with 2004, No 3 to show just how well their wines can age.  At 25€ it is a bargain.  Deep colour.  Quite a rich nose, maturing nicely. Lightly leathery, quite rich and concentrated, at 14.5˚ but not heavy.  The label said  No fining or filtered.   And you sense that they are proud to be a cooperative.  It says so on the label: Cooperative since 1921.  

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Domaine Ste Croix – an English estate in the Corbières.


I keep seeing Liz and Jon Bowen from Domaine Ste Croix at various wine fairs, notably Millésime Bio, and on the last occasion at RAW, when I said, I am not going to taste your wines today.  We’ll make a plan for me to visit you in the Corbières, which will be much more rewarding, and fun, And indeed it was. 

First of all Liz explained how an English couple land up making wine in the Corbières.   She did a degree in agriculture and agricultural economics, but nothing particularly related to wine, and that led her to work in finance.  Jon read History and worked in various wine shops, and realised that it was what was in the bottle and how it got there that interested him, rather than selling the stuff.  So in 1996 he did the first full time wine making course at Plumpton College in Sussex  and then went on to spend a number of years dong contract winemaking, in France with various organic wine producers, and also in California and Australia, and after working with Pierre Clavel near Montpellier for a couple of years, they decided the time had come to buy something for themselves.

So they looked for old vines, namely Grenache Noir and Carignan, and limestone, and in the Languedoc as vineyards there are affordable.  The Minervois was a possibility, and also Roussillon, and then someone suggested the Corbières and that is where they found limestone with volcanic outcrops in the village of Fraisses des Corbières.  They bought a going concern.  The previous owner had delivered his grapes to the village coop and then to nearby Durban until that cooperative closed down in 1999.  His son helped him to build a winery, but was not interested in working with his father, so after four years it was time to sell.  So in 2004 Liz and Jon bought 15 hectares of vineyards, which they have reduced to 12, as well as a functioning cellar.   Liz explained that they have been organic right from the beginning, but that can be complicated if your neighbours are not, and no one else is in the village, so over the years they have managed to create about six islands of vines where there are no neighbours, by buying, swopping and selling  vineyards.   Jon is the winemaker, but Liz helps with blending and in the vineyards, and also does the paperwork.

Half their vineyards are old Carignan planted in 1900 and 1905, and they also have some Grenache Noir and Syrah, as well as Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris, from the 1940s, mixed up together, on two distinct vineyards, one of limestone and one of schist.    Illogically Grenache Gris is not recognised in the Corbières; it is deemed to be a mutation of Grenache Blanc, and so not considered a separate variety in the appellation regulations.  Five kilometres further south in Roussillon it is deemed to be a different variety.  Such are the intricacies of French wine legislation. 

Liz enthused about Carignan, which is still very much the grape variety of Corbières, even though the maximum percentage is fixed at 50%.  I also asked her about the putative cru of Durban.  It is really only the cooperatives, Embrès et Castelmaure and Cascastel that are interested in it.   There are not enough independent producers to give it any weight – and they don’t really need it.  And we talked about the market.  Liz observed that curiously it is difficult to sell to the UK – it is almost as though the buyers prefer to deal with French when they are buying French wine.  Happily, however,  Cambridge Wine have just taken them on.  The US market is much more lively, and willing to pay higher prices. 

We talked about organic and natural wine.   They have gradually moved to minimal SO2 for some wines, and no SO2 for another.  They began using cultured yeast as it was safer at the beginning, and then in 2007 tried out natural yeast, and from 2009 everything has been fermented with natural yeast.  They practice minimum intervention in both winery and vineyard.  This entails spending a lot of time in the vineyards checking to see if they need to treat, but not necessarily doing so.  Again in the cellar they are continuously tasting to check the evolution of their wines, and to see what needs to be done.  They may use a little sulphur at harvest, depending on the condition of the grapes and the weather, and maybe a little at bottling, especially for the export market, with uncertain transport conditions.  Liz does not really see a big difference  between organic and natural wines.   You chose and judge a wine by its flavour, not by the principle.  White wine should not look like lemonade, she laughingly observed.  And they are not biodynamic in the vineyard.  She is interested, but there is a lot to learn, and it needs to be done properly and it is very time consuming, with several constraints.    Sulphur dust is one of the cheapest way to treat the vines, used by most people in the village.  Weed control is the most difficult thing; they leave the grass to grow, which encourages the  bees, and they cut it when it is dying down anyway.    And then we did some tasting:

2014 La Serre, Vin de France – 12.00€  
The name comes from a hill in the village.  Grenache Blanc – 54%; Grenache Gris 40% Terret Gris 6% - planted in 1960.  Grown on schist and on limestone.  The wine is fermented ins stainless steel; they picked the grapes before 9 a.m. and keep them cool with dry ice, and then crush and press whole bunches, and the juice goes straight into the vat.  The fermentation temperature is maintained at 17˚ - 18˚C and the wine is left on its lees, and kept in stainless steel vats until it is bottled.  The Terret is made in the same way but kept separately.

Light colour.  The nose initially seemed rather closed, but  evolved beautifully during our tasting with some lovely herbal notes.   Terret adds acidity, proving that you can retain acidity in the white wines éof the area.   They pick one plot relatively early, and the second plot a week later, which adds more complexity.   I loved the firm mineral notes, and the nicely structure palate, with some herbal notes that developed in the glass, making for a long finish.  A lovely glass of wine.

2013 Pourboire Nature, Vin de France – 12.00€
Série électron Libre – their name for describing something a  bit different.  73% Carignan with 27% Syrah.   There is too much Carignan for it to be Corbières and  anyway it is atypical, and contains no sulphur.  They pick quite early to keep the freshness, and the acidity makes the addition of sulphur less necessary.  The grapes are destemmed and fermented in fibre glass vats, and the wine is bottled within 12 months.   It is a very vibrant colour, with a fresh red fruit nose, with some acidity and a streak of tannin on the palate.  It was very appealing, especially lightly chilled, with fresh fruit, and not at all wild or funky!  Liz observed that is no legal definition of natural wine.  It is up to each individual producer.

2012 Le Fournas, Corbières. – 9.00€
A lieu dit in the village relating to the old lime kilns.   45% Carignan with 28% Grenache Noir and 27% Syrah.   This wine accounts for half their production.   Aged in vat.  Quite a deep colour .  Youthful fruit.  Ripe red fruit, especially cherries.  Some tannin, but medium with fresh and rounded.

2012 Magneric, Corbières – 12.00€
After a lieu dit. 42% Carignan, 29% Grenache, 29% Syrah.  The percentages are on their back labels.  This wine is vinified in the same way as Le Fournas, but comes from older vines, so the grapes are destemmed and fermented, and then half of the juice is put into barrel, larger barrels, as they shift toward demi muids, but none are new.  They have a good source of second hand barrels, from Domaine Bertrand Bergé, whose wine they also enjoy drinking!  Firm spice on the palate,with a touch of oak, but nicely integrated, with body and weight, but not heavy.  A rounded finish.

I liked their back labels, with bullet points, to convey the essentials:  living soils – limestone – Carignan – Grenache – terroir – full tannins –elegance – delicious dark fruit – Syrah – 100 year vines – passion – wild herbs

2013 Carignan, Vin de France – 16.00€
92% Carignan, from 1905 with 8% Grenache from 1968.  14.5˚. Destemmed; fermented in tank, and then into wood for 18 months.  Liz explained that the Grenache fills in a couple of holes in the palate.  Deep young colour.  Quite a firm nose.  On the palate red fruit with some rustic tannins and some acidity.  A refreshing appeal. Carignan retains it acidity.  Medium weight.  Youthful and fresh.   A lovely example of the rustic elegance of Carignan.

2011 Celestre, Vin de France  -20€
Mainly Grenache Noir with 20% Mourvèdre.  They have just one plot of Mourvèdre.  20 months élevage.  14.5˚   Deep vibrant colour.  Rich liqueur cherries but with a tannic streak.  Structured and rounded, with youthful  potential.    

La Part des Anges Late Harvest 2010. Vin de France Série électron libre  – 20.00€
Carignan dominant, and not made every year.  it all depends on the weather.  75% Carignan with Syrah.  Picked two or three weeks later than the main harvest.   Half is crushed and fermented immediately, and half dried inside in a ventilated space and then crushed.  The fermentation starts and the two are put together and then spend two years in wood, making just one barrel – 800 bottles of 50 cls.  The juice stays on the skins for some time, but the wine  is not muté; the fermentation is stopped at 15˚ by adding so2 and then filtered, leaving about 90 gms/l of residual sugar. 

On the nose some oak and a touch of volatility.  And on the palate some tannins and some acidity and some ripe red fruit.   Carignan raisins better than Grenache and retains acidity.  They made it first just to see what they do with Carignan.  And suggested drinking it an apéro or with chocolate.  I favour the chocolate.  Liz mentioned that in this area traditionally everyone made a late harvest wine.  
And there were some large glass bonbons in  a corner which prompted the question: Aare you making a rancio.  Yes we are working on it.    That will be fun to try in due course.