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Minervois wine-maker Luc Lapeyre may have needed a little help with his spoken English but none at all when it came to singing. Francoise Taillefer, another Languedoc wine-maker, and Luc put on one of the liveliest wine-tastings ever at Jacques last Thursday.
It was Luc’s singing that ended a very entertaining evening, his Fields of Athenry rising over the packed tables and giving stiff competition to the music from the pub across the way. Chanson du Vin.
Fionnuala Harkin of Wines Direct had accompanied the two organic winemakers on their week's trip around Ireland and Thursday was the final day. Their visit to Cork began with an afternoon masterclass in L’Atitude 51.
Francoise, of Domaine Ollier Taillefer, started with her Les Collines. The vineyard, that she runs with her brother (also named Luc), is set in the hills around the picturesque village of Fos. The Taillefer vines are planted in the sloping schist soils of the Faugeres appellation, the smallest appellation in the Languedoc.
The soil is mainly schist, a very poor soil but “easier “for organic”. It gives this wine, a blend of Grenache (50%), Carignan and Syrah “freshness and finesse”. “It is very easy drinking, very fruity… not for long keeping..serve at 16 degrees. All the work is manual and we are the 5th generation.”
Just twenty per cent of the wine is exported and Fionnuala said: “This is kinda special for us. It is not widely available outside of France.” She pointed out too that the same three grapes, planted in a another area of the Languedoc would have a different result. “That’s how we get individual styles from our small producers”.
The Lapeyre family's wine-growing goes back even further; Luc is 8th generation. His first big job there, in 1980, was to “change the cepage”. His first wine in “L’Atitude was his San Bres 2015, “a simple wine”, expressive of the fruit (Syrah 60%, Grenache 40%). “Drink it young”, he advised. “But it will keep a few years”.
“I never learned agronomy or science but think I have a feeling for it. The summers are more and more hot and I prefer sometimes to pick a little early. Wine is made in the vineyard, not the cellar. If you have the best grapes, it is simple to make good wine.”
His pride and joy is the L’Amourier. The name comes from the Occitan and means a lover, not a fighter. “Make love, not war,” he said.
Both he and Fionnuala made the point that these wines are not made to win prizes. The big wines may well stand out at a tasting and are often then abandoned. Luc makes wines to “stay with for the night”.
“L’Amourier,” Francoise told us as she helped Luc out, “takes in all the soil types and grapes that he has, including the oldest vines and the poorest soils. They then spend one year in big barrels to develop complexity, originality, personality, the aim being to keep the aromas and youthfulness of the wine.”
He admitted that his “recipe is flexible", never quite the same from vintage to vintage. This is to allow for the weather, the harvest itself, and other variables. This is where the”feeling” comes in!
By the way, Mourvedre, a small part of this blend (Grenache and Syrah are also included), is raised that bit differently, in smaller barrels “to soften the tannins”.
Every now and then, maybe once in three years, Luc finds the grapes in just one particular parcel “too powerful for L’Amourier”, so he makes “a wine to keep”. “How old is that parcel?” someone queried. “Older than me,” was the jovial reply.
This wine, L’Amourier Les Clots (2010), spends two years in barrel. With its deep dark fruits, this smooth full-bodied beauty is “very versatile… try it with viande rouge”.
We would meet the wines and the winemakers again later in Jacques, as part of their well-loved series of Tapas and Wines. And Eithne Barry and her team kept the Cork end up with some lovely matching dishes.
Francoise: Irish lamb is the best
Their gorgeous chicken paté was paired, and paired well, with Les Collines. “Bon appetite” all round as we enjoyed the matching of Coq au Vin with the San Bres. And then came another magic match: Lamb cassoulet and the L’Amourier before we finished on an exquisite Brie de Meaux.
Except that we weren't exactly finished. The chansons were only beginning.