For those readers new to our magazine it is important to fill you in on the background to this project. After one or two false starts I finally agreed to rent a vineyard from a friend of mine who is a fruit farmer and owns property just off the road between Carcassonne and Béziers. After a series of meetings with Australian wine consultant Dave Morrison and his French colleague Raphael Genot we decided to make a quality wine from some 55 year old Carignan grapes that had, in previous years, just been sold to the local co-op. No expense was spared in attempting to make a quality wine from the decision to hand pick the grapes to ageing them in top quality oak barrels. The wine was blended in the spring and bottled in the early summer.
As most of you know the wine has finally arrived and has been offered out at an introductory price of £8.99 before going on the shelf at the normal price of £9.99 for Christmas. We have had a lot of interest and stocks are limited but it seems that the wine has gone down well with most of you and certainly been well received by the trade press. I do not expect to please everybody. The wine has a certain spicy richness that suggests it is more a food wine and this is very typical of the style from this region. Theo's tasting note on our website reads as follows:
"Medium red with pinkish rim, bright in the glass with soft berry and juicy raspberry fruit with a suggestion of herbs and spice plus a touch of creamy oak. Nice weight on the palate with fresh acidity and enough tannins to provide good drinking over the next 2/3 years. A clean fruit driven style with integrated oak - more French then New World".
This wine will change and develop over time and it will be interesting to monitor its progress.
Meanwhile we have set to work on the next stage of the project which is to produce a lighter styled and fruity Merlot which will sell at a cheaper price than the Carignan. As there was no rot on the grapes it was more economic to pick by machine as we did not need to cut out bad grapes which is a laborious and time consuming job. However the new vintage of Carignan was hand picked on Sept 29th, a week earlier than last year due to the long hot summer and the yield was again low being 30 hectolitres per hectare compared with 60 hectolitres per hectare for the Merlot.
The Merlot was gently pressed although much of it was free run juice, and put into tank with some oak staves (the first vintage for which this particular method has been allowed in France). This will help the wine have balance and structure and is a great deal cheaper than the traditional method that we use to make the Carignan where new barrels cost £500 each!!! The fermentation has just finished as I write (early October) and so I intend to taste the wine in November before deciding when to bottle. Again there will be a nervous wait to see if the finished product lives up to expectations. Meanwhile the Carignan will rest and mature until the spring when we will blend again before bottling. It will follow a very similar pattern to last year, the main difference being that I am quadrupling production for this vintage so next time you come to the warehouse please don't go away empty handed!