“The sea is not for drinking”. A happy days wine from the coast of Roussillon that has all the energy and fruit you’d ever need, staying rugged and real to the end. Makes me want to check out Domaine du Possible and continue scouting the area along the coast.
The name “Abrensis” is a tribute to the Roman general who decided to cultivate this plot of land just off the route to Rome. Fresh, sour, seductive and sumptuous. With Grenache being only 55% of the blend, the Carignan has a chance to add texture and acidity without throwing the wine off-balance, and Syrah adds it’s characteristic backbone of dark spiced fruit and licorice. Great snowstorm companion.
A well known producer in Burgundy, Anne Gros and partner Jean Paul Tollot decided to skip down to Cazelles in Minervois (a small appellation in the Languedoc) and re-cultivate an old vineyard. The diversity of the soil (limestone, clay & sandstone) the age and variety of the old vines (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah & Cinsault) and the identical altitude to her vineyard in Vosne-Romanee, inspired the whole hearted move to the south. Les Fontanilles, their signature wine pictured above, comes from a blend of the aforementioned grapes grown in small plots on a northeast facing slope surrounded by pines, rosemary and thyme. Harvested by hand, matured 50% in oak and 50% in stainless steel, the wine is a seamless combination of mature fruits and freshness, hints of spice and a deep earthy undertone. Unlike other Languedoc reds though, it somehow maintains a delicate nature not unlike a Burgundy, which affirms Anne’s skill and understanding of grape cultivation and terroir.
This “little brown bear” changed my view of the Rhone & Syrah. It’s not overbearing, boasting sneeze-worthy levels of pepper or thick, seemingly contaminated fruit (I know this may sound harsh, but it’s my opinion. You’re entitled to yours…) tearing away at my mid palate so I have no chance at discerning fire from grape skin, etc.
Also, for the natural wine haters out there, this was an incredible example of reverse-logic: the natural syrah from Rhone was calmer, better balanced and coiffable than any of the region’s Chateaus I’ve had. The vines are over 40 years old and yield very little, but Matthieu affords them a pretty luxurious ride through production, untampered with and encouraged with no added sulfites and minimal fermentation time. He uses neutral barrels for a small period of ageing, which probably is part of what keeps this syrah so boyuant and fresh tasting. As Lauren Friel, wine director at Oleana described it, this is such a friendly, seamless “thinky wine”.
Find it if you can. Buy it for the label. Drink it for the mouthmelt.
i guess i like something american.
crispy fall air makes me crave heat; pepper and jam, something lighter bodied but with grip, and bolder tannins. a word to the wise: do not underestimate biodynamic vineyards. they nail seasonal cravings, like this little vineyard in provence has done. lately i’ve been extremely curious about southern france (provence, languedoc-rousillon and south west regions). i was surprised to learn from this wine that in France, syrah is not limited to the Rhone Valley. it turns out that understanding the soil, climate, a grape’s needs, the seasons, how to blend varietals… all really, really, help even the most jaded taster to overcome her fears.