Friday, December 10, 2010

Organic and biodynamic wines from the Languedoc

I went to a tasting of organic and biodynamic wines at the Maison de la Région Languedoc-Roussillon in London this week from organic and biodynamic producers who were looking for an importer into the UK. It illustrated, as these tastings so often do, what a wide range of techniques and styles these terms cover and what a rapidly rolling bandwagon this is.

So great is the demand for organic wines that there seems to me a real danger that winemakers will acquire organic credentials just for marketing purposes without having a coherent winemaking philosophy or vision of what they want to achieve. Not using pesticides or herbicides doesn’t necessarily make you a good winemaker.

Anyway there were a number of producers who stood out for me who I’ll feature over the next few days starting with La Reserve d’O, the winery in the group which seemed to embrace natural winemaking most comprehensively.

Rock’n’roll d’O
Marie and Frédéric Chauffray are based up in on the edge of the Larzac plateau. I learnt later from my colleague Jim Budd who went to the dinner after the tasting that he used to be a guitarist in a rock band (they seem to have bonded over a shared taste in colourful shirts.

The 10 ha estate is certified organic (Ecocert) and biodynamic (Demeter). They use a minimum of sulphur ‘only at bottling’, no enzymes or other additives, natural yeasts and don’t filter or fine.

La Reserve d’O, Coteaux du Languedoc, Terrasses de Larzac
45% Syrah, 45% Grenache, 10% Cinsault
I tasted both the 2008 and 2009 vintages - the latter, not yet bottled, being predictably richer and riper, big, generous and substantial with lots of sweet but not jammy fruit. The 2008 which I preferred - but which also benefited from an extra year’s ageing - and from a couple of hours decanting - had more structure and elegance. A quintessentially southern French red which apparently sells for 11.40€ in France

Le O 2006 Coteaux du Languedoc, Terrasses de Larzac

60% Syrah, 40% Grenache
A more structured red that spends 24 months in used barrels. Rich, opulent, sweet fruit, textured, chewy. Good but I actually preferred the lesser cuvée (I often do). Around 18€.

SanSSoo 2010 Coteaux du Languedoc, St Saturnin

The most intriguing wine of the line-up, the Chaffrays take on a nouveau - only available from January to April. 60% Syrah/40% low yielding Cinsault (25 hl per ha). Bright, pure, vibrant fruit. Limited quantities, most of which goes to New York and Japan. Transported (obviously not all the way) in temperature-controlled trucks. Totally delicious.

Here's a video I found of Frédéric talking (in French) about the SanSSoo, saying you could easily mistake it for a gamay

And a link to a longer one on YouTube which shows him playing his guitar (not at all bad, actually!)

I'm looking forward to going there on our next trip to the Languedoc.

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