The usual trawl of the auction website and a new producer, yet the label looks vaguely familiar. Maybe a memory nudge from times inhabiting those cavistes of baffling choices in Paris. It’s been a while since the last happy browse with data charged mobile google capabilities. There’s some good words about M. Barral. True artisan with old vines in places where they’re happy and no social media. Lots of old vine Carignan here, half the blend with the rest Grenache and Cinsault. It was a bit pongy to open. My first couple of sniffs had me thinking of the sweet earthy smell of well tended farmyard. In one of those lovely moments of shared olfactory recognition, my dearest reckoned, “this smells just like a farmyard but in a really good way”. Much cleaner to taste. High tones of lavender, Mediterranean scrubby bits, and very ripe, squished up berries. Powerful tug of fine limestone tannin. It’s odd how wine brings rocks to mind, it’s a struggle to put it any other way. As it airs, beguiled by cool sweet berries, sweet roast meat, dark but bright with mouthwatering acidity and more of that limestone tannin. A natural wine feel, close to the edge but no wobble, just standing with feet firmly planted in the soil.
14% alcohol. Cork. $47 at auction.
A small organic producer practicing biodynamic agriculture. Looks pretty hipster, low sulphur yeasty when first opened with that distinctive aroma that Alice Feiring wonderfully described as puppy breath. A blend it seems of 30% Syrah, 30% Grenache with the rest split evenly between Mourvèdre and Carignan, it’s the Syrah that shines bright as it settled down the second day. Just medium weight, pure smoky, flowery, red berried and herby with a squeeze of blood orange over a bass of earth and roast juices. Energetic mouthwatering acidity and just a brush of powdery tannin finish it off with aplomb. Thought it too wild and volatile the first day only to be smitten the second. If you can’t hit a natural cave à manger for a carafe and plate for the moment, stay home with this.
14% alcohol. Cork. $32.50 at auction.
92 points but a bonus for a delicious, natural and edgy drink.
Only recently confirmed by the AOC, now AOP, authorities as an appellation without the additional need for Languedoc, whether controlled or protected, Pic Saint Loup it seems is a cooler, wetter and one of the most northerly of the newer Languedoc appellations making it suitable for Syrah dominant bottles in the style of the Northern Rhône some say. This is 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache and comes from a producer who must be the near those ancient Lascaux cave paintings judging from the horse on the label. Looks more warm Languedoc to me with sooty red fruit jam, kirsch and dark blackberries. A bit of dark spice and pepper too. A lift of ethyl acetate berry shrivel stops it feeling leaden with ripeness. The muscle continues with dark rocky tannins adding to the depth and richness of fruit. Starts, middles and ends with spotless hygiene. Hefty but still some poise. Lovely rich glass of red wine on a cold and windy night.
14% alcohol. Cork. $32.30 at auction.
A beautifully complicated French name, something like, “under the stones, there’s crickets”. Seems the vineyards are stoney in a CNdP way and the crickets think it’s a nice spot to sit and make some noise. It also looks like the authorities responsible for naming VdP areas are big Monty Python film fans in the same way as the Catholic Church liked naming Burgundy vineyards. The wine’s back label continues the complications by listing eight or so ingredient varieties, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache, Counoise, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Terrets Red, in the plural meaning perhaps there’s the red and Gris version of this ancient variety? Labels really don’t get much better for those nerds amongst us. Probably a good indication of old vineyards planted promiscuously as of old to hedge bets in ripeness despite the season. Well, the wine itself? Spotlessly clean, bright red fruited and delicious in a drink me now way but the stuffing to keep it delicious over a couple of days. Sweet cherry and spice to commence, a swell of rocks, gravel and almond paste, then Mediterranean scrubby sweetness and roasting pan juices to finish. Bright natural feeling acidity and drying towel of fine tannin. Clos du Gravillas also make an upmarket Carignan, if that’s not an oxymoron, from ancient vines giving great depth of fruit. Praise be to Brian.
13% alcohol. Cork. $24 at auction.
92 or 93 for hard work in amongst the crickets.
Many words in a name, a lot of flavour in the glass. A blend of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache in roughly equal parts. Lovely purple red colour like something from the more technical new world way of making. Smells like Languedoc though, albeit beautifully fresh and clean. Pure flavours of kirsch, soot, dark dried cherries and that Mediterranean scrub they call garrigue. Nice crunch of chalky acidity and tannin. Smatter of mocha oak seasoning. Warmth and brightness at ease with each other. Seems very polished in the technique, sort of Bordeaux gloss meets Languedoc generosity. There’s something in the rich sooty cherry flavours that bring to mind the tension of good Priorat, old vine Carignan? There’s two more bottles on the auction site. Big brave bid.
13.5% alcohol. One of those odd one plus one agglomerate stoppers, sort of Diam maybe? $29 at auction.
Another from this producer’s budget single variety range. Bursts forth immediately with heaps of red summer berries, brown baking spices and pepper, yep, it’s Syrah. Floral perfume adds detail and a whisper of sulphide keeps it savoury. Bouncy fruit of quality above its simple appellation. Crisp natural acidity and a brush of ripe skin tannin. No complications or complaints, just a good whack of deep, drink me now fruit. Again great sourcing and careful making. Winner with your dinner if it’s piggy.
13% alcohol. Screw cap. Bargain $13 introductory special.
From a producer who has made some clean, tasty Languedoc Roussillon bottles, often using deeply flavoured old vine Carignan, now dabbling in a cheaper single variety range. Shy and herby but palpably still Pinot on day one, it opened up well on day two. Strawberries, other red fruits and bramble undergrowth with a whole berry lift. A little washy and dilute but the settled fresh acidity shows a poise above its price point. Another of those cheerful and authentic drinks that would suit that mythical bistro carafe with a crispy confit quacker. Smart sourcing and making Monsieur Delaunay, santé.
13% alcohol. Screw cap. $13 from Oatley Wines imports own invitation web site, The Sippery, as an introductory special offer, amazing value. Email if you want an invitation.
From one of the five newish AOPs in Languedoc recognising special wine places, La Clape’s an area near Narbonne very close to the sea and a theoretical maritime cooling influence. This version is 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre which seems pretty typical of the AOP’s permitted varieties. Starts very Mediterranean with a warm herby shrubiness which becomes recognisably sage, lavender and bay leaf with time. Lots of spiced red fruits and lots of chewy extract with a tail of hot year dark prune, rich and smoothly ripe. Plenty flowery perfume to balance the chunky fruit, maybe violets from Syrah and roses from Grenache. Good drag of drying skin tannin and roast meat add a clean finish. Safely made with a polish but still has real character. Delicious now rather than later perhaps? This La Clape deserves infectious applause.
14% alcohol. Diam. $19.90 direct import from Woolworths.
Started 91, then got better, 92 perhaps.
Second bottle a good six months later and time has been very kind. Without seeing the label, easy to believe this could be a ripe Northern Rhône at twice the price. Really good. 93 points
A quick twiddle with google suggests this is a blend of Carignan, Cinsault and Syrah. Notwithstanding a yeasty, beery edge of the low sulphur, natural wine persuasion, it’s the Carignan that shows the way with savoury, sweet meatiness. The roast goat’s well flavoured with some clean peppery raspberries. Light on its feet for Languedoc as some crisp acid and emery tannin freshen things up. Good balance on the tightrope of low intervention. Lovely unblemished fruit.
13% alcohol. Diam. $30.
Seriously, this is probably the best under $20 Woolies’ import ever. There, bold statement. Probably a love of old vine Carignan from Languedoc Roussillon sways the claim. The blend is Carignan, Grenache and Shiraz but it’s that sweet, caramelised roasting pan juice character that drives this spotlessly clean, softly delicious mouthful. Somehow there’s a ripeness level where the bright red fruit and clunky acidity of Carignan turns dark, mysterious and soft. There’s also dark, dark berries and velvet tannin. If quality is judged by how quickly the bottle empties, two of us were looking for the last drops as we mopped up our pasta sauce, all gone…
13% alcohol. Cork. $14.30 in a six pack.
93 points but more pointedly, delicious
As a post script, I’ve bought and drunk both the 2017 and very recently the 2018 vintages of this. Sadly neither has the life or interest of the 2016. Both looked a bit dead fruited, mostly full of prunes, dry skins and lacking freshness. Maybe very hot weather or just left hanging too long. Really hoped this would be a regular buy, sad. There’s one 2016 left, let’s see.
Post script to the post script. Opened the last of the 2016 and the original note still holds true. Just as delicious, with a core of dark but still sweetly fresh berries. Perhaps more 92 than 93 but relieved to see some consistency in both the wine and an old dodgy palate.
Alas, the 2019 is lacking life and bounce like 2017 and 2018. Think Dan’s should give up. Nonetheless if a 2020 appears, I’ll probably waste another $20 to find out. Once bitten…..by lovely old vine Carignan.