|Isla and Paul, when I|
met them in Cork
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Sarabande's GSM. Where Syrah dances on a windy hill
And partners well with Grenache and Mourvedre.
The Syrah for the wines below is trellised across the top of a windy hill in the Languedoc that was planted with the aid of dynamite. The earth is completely made up of classic blue/grey schist with practically no topsoil. Therefore the rock had to be blown up so that the vines could find some dirt where they could anchor.
Despite these kind of local obstacles, there are more vines growing in the Languedoc than in Australia. Paul Gordon should know. He is Australian and he and his Carlow wife Isla work (and I mean work) the Sarabande vineyard, about twenty minutes drive from Beziers. The rugby-loving couple’s vineyard is called Domaine la Sarabande.
They met in New Zealand in 2003 and then spent five or six years in wine in Marlborough. In 2009, they settled in France and raised some €40,000 from relations and friends in return for wine in the future. Isla: “There is just the two of us. We are very small; everything is gently worked and done by hand..”
With so many vineyards in the area, there is much competition locally and so the pair export most of their wine, mainly to English speaking countries. And indeed, those same countries (Ireland, US, Australia and New Zealand) are all happy with the Sarabande screw caps but not so the French.
Today, working with some unique terroirs and old vineyards treated organically and by hand, the Gordons, according to their importers O’Brien’s, “produce some stunningly good old world wines but with a modern Oz twang”.
Sarabande “Les Rabasses” Faugeres (AP) 2014, 14.5%, €21.45 (got it for 17.16 in sale) O’Brien’s
The aromas of the Faugeres are dominated by black cherries and plums as is this blend. The Syrah, on its exploded base, is trellised across the top of the windy hill. Unlike the Syrah (the dominant grape - about 50% - in this GSM blend), the Grenache and Mourvedre are grown as bush vines. They sit on a south facing slope which is well drained. This is particularly important for the notoriously late ripening Mourvedre variety.
And so it is from this hilltop vineyard that this Les Rabasses comes with its hard-won flavours. Keep it, they say, or drink it now with “equally flavoursome food”. Suggested are: Cold meats/pâtés, Duck, Hard mature cheese, Roast lamb/beef, Slow cooked shoulder of lamb.
Colour is a mid to dark ruby. There are strong aromas of dark fruit, spicy. Fruit forward and deep, power and finesse in equal measure, that spice too, excellent acidity as well; the finish is pure, long and also balanced. Very Highly Recommended.
Sarabande tell us that “bright cherry flavours are the backbone of this cheeky little number…that will invite itself.” Indeed, it is mainly cherry all the way from the colour to the aromas to the dry finalé. A slash of spice too, fine tannins and well balanced acidity add to the easy-drinking enjoyment. Highly Recommended.
The blend this time is mostly Grenache and Syrah with “a small amount of Mourvedre.” Only the best quality fruit survives the sorting stage.
Sunday, March 5, 2017
Chanson du Vin at Jacques
Languedoc Wine-Makers on Song
|Francoise and Luc|
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”.
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”.
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.