Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mas de Chimères Oeillade 2010

I was planning to do another post on Alsace this week but you know how it is when it's the kind that requires you to collect your thoughts and plough through extensive tasting notes? And I was in the Languedoc which made it feel odd writing about Alsace. At least that's my excuse. I also had a good book . . .

Anyway here's what we drank one night at Chez Philippe in Marseillan, a restaurant we'd always meant to go to and finally managed this trip*. It's a pure Cinsault called Oeillade from Guilhem Dardé of Mas de Chimères who makes wine round the Lac de Salagou.

It was deliciously mineral, almost stoney with the sort of crunchy but not oversweet wild berry fruit you find in a Cabernet Franc. And a tantalising smell of red rose petals. The soil in that area is apparently rich in iron oxide with blocks of basalt from the (fortunately extinct) volcanoes that surround the valley.

Dardé, who describes himself as a 'paysan vigneron' says on his site that he hasn't used herbicides or pesticides for several years and is currently in organic conversion. Yields are kept at 26 hl per ha. He uses indigenous yeasts and minimal levels of sulphur and no fining or filtering for the reds.

He recommends it should be drunk young (3-4 years) and cool (14°-16°) which is how the restaurant served it, all credit to them. We took the last third of the bottle back home (drink driving laws in France are draconian) and found it even better two nights later.

* And would I recommend Chez Philippe? I would, despite the ridiculous over-elaboration of a couple of the dishes, the flavours were good and authentic Languedoc. And, witness the wine above, the wine list was interesting and fairly priced.


  1. Had a glass of this in a restaurant the other week. Red cinsault taken reasonably seriously is unusual but catching on. The vines can put up with the heat well and the wine is always relatively inexpensive. It's also good at expressing the terroir as the grape has a low key character of its own so doesn't get in the way.
    The red soil is known as Ruffes - image google "ruffes salagou" for some nice pictures.
    Other interesting wines from the same terroir include Domaine de Malavieille (Organic), Clos des Clapisses and Domaine La Sauvageonne.

  2. I like to give away little secrets (MY secrets of course, I can be discrete about others’).
    To the west of Lac du Salagou (some 30 miles) on the D 908, you’ll find the spa village of Lamalou-les-Bains. Drive up the narrow D 180 to the hamlet of Combes and have a meal at L’Auberge de Combes ( Father and son in the kitchen - another son is wine-waiter but works “out” - a wine-list to dream of (with well chosen “low-sulfite wines” as I like to call them) and mum in the dining room. Be careful, the cops are often around (below, at the crossing in Lamalou) and they like you to blow. Only one B&B available, but breathtaking view on the Cévennes from the window.
    To the east of Lac du Salagou (also 30 miles or so), over the D 32 to St Martin de Londres and further above the Pic St Loup, discover the ancient glass-blower county of Ferrières-les-Verrières and its Mas des Baumes ( Chef Eric Tapié (with the help of daddy in high season) runs a splendid harbour of peace and quiet and serves outstanding food. Oh, I forgot, very decent fortified Maury is to be had there as well.

  3. Great tips, Luc. I actually have discovered the Auberge de Combes which is amazing but haven't been to the Mas des Baumes. Will add it to my list.

    And I never knew about the red soil round Salagou being called Ruffes, Graham, so thanks for that!

    Hope to be down again the second half of August.

  4. We don’t like you to be down, Fiona. We’d much rather have you “high”.
    Please, do remember I have a flask of “orange wine” for you to taste.
    Maybe we can arrange an appointment somewhere?
    As my lady-friend is very suspicious, take your husby around as well!

  5. Ruffes: you encounter the same type of soils when you leave the core of the Agly valley around Estagel, heading for Tautavel and Vingrau. My oenologist, who is also agricultural engineer, told me you could find them in large parts of Africa as well, and especially in wine growing regions of South Africa. Of course, “rufus” alludes to the colour of ferric oxydes but, in many languages (Italian, Catalan, Latin, French, yes even English), with single or double “f”, it also has the meaning of “without scruples” (reaching even such pejorative connotations as “pimp”) as for instance in “ruffian”.
    One wonders ....

  6. Luc, your command of English - and encyclopaedic knowledge - never fails to amaze me. Even double entendres - I'm impressed!

  7. Thank you, Fiona, you flatter me.
    It has to do with two things, “skeletons of my past” of some kind.
    One: Freddy Mercury’s legacy as “Inuendo”!
    Second: me spending 3 years of my life with this most delicious of all creatures, Scottish lass Alison. She now makes organic goat cheese in beautiful Quercy, and we still meet every now and again. She turned 40 last week and the party was worth attending: plenty of Laphroaig and Ardbeg around, clearly my favourites.
    Still, never forget the French saying: “La culture, c’est comme la confiture. Moins on en a, plus on l’étale!”. It applies to me.

  8. While we're on Ruffes it's also the soil for Marcillac wines (just west of Rodez, Aveyron).

  9. Ah. That explains a lot. I love Marcillac.

  10. I know of two estates worth drinking in Marcillac – but really worth drinking !:
    Domaine du Cros Teulier et Domaine Matha. Any other hint, Fiona ?
    Mansois variety is great and it’s a disgrace so many growers of fer servadou (pinenc noir, braucol ... you just name it) don’t seem to understand its potential.