Monday, May 2, 2011

Visiting Le Casot des Mailloles

Having been blown away by the bottle of El Nino I tasted at Hibiscus a couple of months ago I was particularly keen to visit its producers Alain Castex and Ghislaine Magnier of Le Casot des Mailloles when we were down in Collioure last week.

They produce their wine from a tiny chai in the backstreets of Banyuls, just up the road from the natural wine bar El Xadic del Mar and are the real deal. Completely natural. No sulphites.

It made the 2010s we were tasting quite hard to read at this early stage (the current releases tend to be 3-4 years older than this) but there was a live quality about them and an intensity to the underlying fruit that gave you a sense of the experience to come.

The easiest to appreciate was a wonderfully fragrant bottle of El Nino 2010 which had been open 2 days - a blend of Carignan, Grenache Gris and Syrah. We immediately thought of the food we’d like to eat with it - a grilled Gloucester Old Spot pork chop, lamb and beans, veal or Camembert Fermier . . . it's a wine that makes you hungry.

The next three wines were still in tank or cask:

Soula 2010 - 100% Grenache Noir. Still quite funky - almost cheesy - but lovely wild plummy fruit. What Castex described as a microvinification.

Visinum - Syrah, Grenache and Carignan with lipsmacking syrah spiciness. Slightly cidery on the nose but spread out like a peacock’s tail in the glass. Very warming.

Le Poudre d’Escampette - Grenache Noir, Carignan and Mourvèdre (from round Lac Canigou). Very lush and exotic - the Mourvèdre, one of my favourite grapes, dominated.

We also tasted their Blanc du Casot 2009, a rich creamy white with touch of caramelised apple peel, apple pie spices and just a hint of petillance. 60% Grenache Gris, 30% Grenache Blanc and another 10% of assorted varieties like Carignan Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne, which had been planted the traditional way all together.

Having been refused an AOC twice they now don’t bother and simply label their wines vin de table.

We’d been advised to go up to the vineyards if we got the opportunity and fortunately the rainy weather that day broke long enough to drive up there They’re up on vertiginous schistous slopes above the town which they work themselves with a traditional pick called a Xadic.

Everything has to be worked by hand which means they do most of the work themselves. "A lot of people feel that manual work like that is beneath them but for biodynamics you to have contact with the earth" says Castex. “If you drop a cows horn by helicopter there’s not much point, is there?”. Indeed there isn't.

The wines are distributed in the UK by Dynamic Vines.

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