As we were due to head back to the UK on September 28th and Jeff was heading briefly to Monaco he invited us to taste through the wines from this year’s vintage. He was going to a launch party for our friend Aaron Ayscough’s new book, The World of Natural Wine, of which more in a future post. We were joined by two New York honeymooners, Jenny and Jerry who have become fans of Jeff’s wines. Jeff had given them a tour of some vineyards and we met up at the cellar in late afternoon Jenny and Jerry were en route to a hotel a few miles away but that would have to wait as tastings with Jeff are never brief. Not that I ever complain.
We began upstairs with the white wines. This range has expanded a great deal over the last decade and I believe that some of them are amongst the best wines which Jeff produces. One of the interesting features of this tasting was trying wines from the same parcel but made in different methods, for example in his choice of press or fermenting vessel.
We began with Clairette, a mix of grapes from Segrairals and Sainte Suzanne, I have mentioned before that Jeff likes this grape for the bitterness it brings. He believes that climate chaos means acidity is harder to achieve in the hot Languedoc so bitterness adds freshness to white wines instead. This wine had already completed fermentation and it reminded me so much of the Clairette 21 which I had opened the previous evening and have really enjoyed whenever I have drunk it. More of the Sainte Suzanne Clairette had been blended with the Macabeu from the same parcel, pressed together and producing a good texture and freshness though a little sugar still remained with fermentation continuing.
By contrast Jeff had taken the free run juice of that Macabeu and put it into a concrete egg to ferment and age. The aromas were incredible, rich with coffee and pear and the flavours continued the pleasure, pears again but a nice freshness too. This was a real star at this very early stage. Another fascinating contrast as more Macabeu had been placed into an amphora, the resulting wine was much more closed and tight than the egg-made Macabeu. Tougher to taste at this stage but clean and concentrated. Onto yet another Macabeu based wine, this time with some Grenache Gris grapes I think, blended in to add colour and make an Amphore Métissé. This was lovely, one of my highlights, with good texture showing the influence of the amphora as well as lovely fruit.
Blended whites from small parcels featured prominently amongst the whites too. One was an interesting mix of the Gris grapes, Grenache, Piquepoul and Ribeyrenc with the Grenache Gris making up half of that blend. The grapes were pressed direct from picking and the result was a flavoursome apple fruit profile and another example of the slight bitterness which Jeff likes. Another blend was made from some of the last grapes to be picked, more Grenache Gris this time with Carignan Blanc and Terret Blanc which had been macerated for a few days before pressing. More white fruit profile and one to look forward to. Finally, among the upstairs wines was the orange wine made from Muscat D’Alexandrie, OW. The aromas had a rich, grapey Muscat profile, the wine is dry and clean with the slight texture of skin contact wine. I loved this, it could well develop into the best example of OW I can recall.
The photograph shows the Syrah of La Garrigue in the foreground and the parcel of Clairette/Macabeu (circled red) as well as the Grenache and Syrah of Sainte Suzanne (circled blue)
Time for the red wines downstairs in the main part of the cellar. Cinsault from Segrairals was light, fruity and fresh, a possible cuvée of 5SO with its enjoyable juiciness. More Cinsault next, this time blended with Aramon which is definitely making a comeback in the region. This had good acidity and clean fruit, very enjoyable, ready for a quaffing wine.
Sainte Suzanne is the vineyard planted half and half with Grenache and Syrah, the juice usually going to make Le Vin Des Amis. The Grenache was classic in style, full of red fruits with pleasing roundness. Two more batches of Grenache from the parcel had been vinified separately. One part was made with grappe entière (whole bunch) producing a lighter red with good freshness, the other batch was made in cuve having been destemmed and the result was good acidity and clear red fruit.
The Syrah from Ste. Suzanne was much fuller and weightier in the mouth with 14% alcohol but balanced because of the clear black fruit, a tank destined, in all probability, for the cuvée Classe.
La Garrigue vineyard also grows Grenache and Syrah. The Grenache, again intended for Classe, still had some sugars fermenting but was weighty and full of ripe fruits and already tasted very well. Regular readers know that the Syrah of La Garrigue is my favourite parcel of all Jeff’s wines, making La Vigne Haute in very good vintages. He is unsure whether it will be LVH just yet but the wine is a deep, rich garnet colour and tasted of red fruits with nice soft tannins and a definite minerality. The 12.5% alcohol means that the flavours shone through but will it be enough to support the finished wine?
Couleurs Réunies has become a successful cuvée for Jeff and its distinctive colourful label reflects the vast array of grapes which make up the wine. The reds of the terrace of Peilhan (Morastel, Ribeyrenc, Terret Noir, Piquepoul Noir) are joined by the Cinsault and Grenache of Rome vineyard, the Flower Power vineyard with its twenty varieties and, yes there’s more, Macabeu to add freshness with some more of the Garrigue Grenache and, finally, some whole bunch Carignan from Peilhan (the last grapes we picked). Phew. A lovely nose already, full of fruit matched in flavour too and a lovely clear finish. This is going to be one to watch.
The Mourvedre from Segrairals had a good, deep ruby colour and a lovely depth of dark fruit flavours showing through. The Carignan of Rec D’Oulette was certainly amongst the best of the wines we tasted that day, Jeff said that it reminded him very much of the 2017 version of Flambadou which is the wine made from the grapes. Full in colour, fruit flavours and length, this was really very good. Flambadou doesn’t get the love which it deserves in my opinion, it always ages well and is a wine of real quality. I have no doubt that the 22 will confirm my belief in Flambadou.
A tasting which confirmed the quality of the 2022 vintage which is fortunately matched by good quantity too. Jerry, Jenny, Pat and I all enjoyed it immensely and it was good to see Jeff looking relaxed and happy after the stresses of harvest time. The tasting moved to the solera cellar, vermouth and gin but that’s another story. Much will change with the wines in coming months as they complete fermentation and begin élevage and ageing let along bottling. However, this is a highly promising vintage.