Thursday, 22 April 2010

My current everyday red - Domaine Pierre Fil

Living as we do smack bang in the middle of the Minervois, there is no shortage of good value wines to supply us with wines for everyday drinking. We don't have to go far for our current favourite. Domaine Pierre Fil's cave is at the other side of the village (a full 500m away) and he has an excellent range of reds for any occasion.

Pierre is a delightful chap and has winemaking in his blood. His family have been vignerons for 7 generations and he owns vineyards around the Minervois village of Mailhac. He has an unusually high percentage of Mourvèdre which ripens well here on the plateau overlooking the plains and La Clape in the distance. Mourvèdre grown just the other side of the hill in Olonzac struggles to ripen, as the microclimate is fractionally cooler. Unusually for the languedoc, most of the grapes are harvested by hand, important as they undergo carbonic maceration which requires that the berries remain intact.

His top-of-the-range wine is Dolium, which is delicious but needs several years in bottle to unfurl. Orebus is a stylish, barrel matured red which is rated by the Guide Hachette. I am a big fan of the 2006 Cuvée Heledus which is made of roughly equal proportions of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan and aged in older French oak for 12 months. It has a vibrant nose of blackcurrants and licquorice and oodles of black, herby fruit on the palate, again with a smack of licquorice. Lots of character and definitely Minervois, this is a super little wine for 6 euros a bottle.

His bag in box red is not half bad either.

Friday, 16 April 2010

O vineyards - a lesson in oak

So, what type of barrel do you want? Size (225 L standard barrique, demi-muid ..), wood (ok mostly oak but ... slovenian chestnut anyone?), type of oak (French, American), which forest (Allier, Vosges, Limousin ....), cooper (Francois Frères, Seguin Moreau, Demptos ....), toast level, heads toasted? New? 2nd or 3rd fill? phew! And that's just a few of the options!

The permutations are endless and, as anyone who has tasted the same wine in different barrels will attest, it does make a difference. But barrel tasting is usual the preserve of professionals. However, thanks to the O'Connells of O vineyards in Cabardès, the humble consumer is able to discover for himself how ageing a wine in French oak, American oak or no oak at all affects the flavour of a wine.

The wine is question is a Vin de Pays de Cité de Carcassonne (the vineyards are a stone's throw from the famous cité) and is a blend of precisely 53% Merlot and 47% Cabernet Sauvignon. It can't be an AOC Cabardès as appellation rules require a blend of Atlantic and Mediterranean (ie syrah, grenache, carignan) varieties.

The unoaked wine had attractive aromas of raspberries and blackcurrants with a hint of leafiness. Pleasant creamy black, brambly fruit on the palate balanced by ripe but not overbearing palate. Fruity, good concentration of flavours but fairly simple.

Aged in new American oak for 8 months, the wine had a forward nose of black fruit, coffee and a slightly resinous oaky aroma. There was plenty of broad, chunky black fruit on the palate with notes of spice and vanilla. The tannins were very firm but the fruit just about balanced it.

Aged in French oak for 12 months, the wine had the most restrained nose of the 3 wines. Hints of black fruit and dill. The palate was also more closed - there was good concentration of fruit there but the flavours were hiding still. Tannins firm but finer grained than in the American oak wine. Acidity more pronounced. Structure finer but needs time in bottle for the fruit to evolve and harmonise with acid and tannins.

In conclusion, the wine aged in oak did have more complexity and richness than the unoaked version which was nice but quite simple. The American oak wine was more approachable now, despite the grippy tannins, as the fruit was more forward and appealing. Needs robust food. The French oak gave fine structure but the fruit is still shy. Worth trying in a year or two to see if the fruit has emerged from its hidey-hole.

Thanks to the O Connells for generously providing the wines.