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(NOTE: Chambers Street Wines is extremely proud to present another article by our good friend and neighbor at Racines NY, Pascaline Lepeltier. In 2014, Pascaline passed the Master Sommelier Diploma, and in 2018, she won 2 more major titles in her homeland: she is now a laureate of “Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France - Sommellerie” and Best French Sommelier 2018. In January 2019, the famous French magazine La Revue du Vin de France awarded her “Personality of the Year 2019”, the first woman to be given this prestigious recognition. As a Managing Partner at Racines NY, Ms Lepeltier, in collaboration with the brilliant chef Diego Moya and Sommelier Arnaud Tronche, has established Racines as one of the premier cuisine and wine destinations of the US. While the restaurant is closed, Ms. Lepeltier will be a regular contributor to these pages, presenting some of her favorite wines and winemakers from France and beyond. Stay tuned!)
Any self-respecting wine lover becomes passionate over time about the research and discovery of bottles, winemakers, associations of terroirs and grape varieties which will prove to be remarkable, maybe wines to drink every day or great bottles for aging. There is still one region in France which allows such discoveries, in any color and any style except sparkling: the Southwest.
The Southwest is a superb region that only the throes of history have removed from the spotlight. Wars, commercial competition, political fragmentations and terrible frosts have prevented this region from building a strong reputation. How to be recognized then? Work ten times harder, and sell at a reasonable price. This is what some exemplary winemakers have done - lovers of their region, they have stubbornly rehabilitated their unique terroirs and grape varieties, and they have nothing to envy to Burgundy or Bordeaux.
If the region seems complicated to understand with so many different indigenous varieties and appellations, scattered like isolated constellations, tell yourself one thing: if these wines and AOCs have not disappeared, it is due to the fact that they possess an intrinsic quality which had allowed them to endure. So let’s (re) discover them. In this first email, we will focus solely on the red wines of Cahors and Côtes-du-Marmandais, with a nod to the spicy Fer Servadou of Marcillac in the Aveyron.
Cahors & Domaine Cosse-Maisonneuve, when Chambertin meets Pomerol.
Cahors should be a paradise for any Burgundy or Loire lover, and for Pomerol aficionados, but sadly, the appellation is still stuck in a false and caricatured image: that of black wine, made from ultra-extracted tannic Malbec without any nuance. But the region, with its long wine history dating back to the Romans, its historic renown and its terroirs, deserves to be rehabilitated. Equidistant from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, developed on both banks of the Lot which curves its path like a snake, this region of polyculture has a remarkable geology with two main terroirs (which could be subdivided in 9 categories): the younger terraces (3) of siliceous alluvium deposited by the river, and the kimmeridgian limestone plateau called “causse” at 900 feet in elevation. This should ring a bell for Chablis or Aube lovers! There are also a few pockets of ferruginous clays not unlike the “boutonnière” of Petrus scattered on the plateau. Out of a potential 21,000 ha, only 4,600 ha are planted, in a very heterogeneous way: Cahors can offer real agronomic and wine diversity.
If the decree authorizes only red wines with Merlot and Tannat up to 30%, Cahors has a remarkable and totally misunderstood grape: Malbec, locally named Auxerrois but scientifically called Côt, as it is the founding grape of the Côtoide family, a variety originating from Quercy and not from Bordeaux nor Argentina. Neither rustic nor a fruit or green pepper bomb, it is a grape of intense color which can be remarkably velvety, subtly floral with nuances of violets when coming from high quality massale selection vines and good sites. It is without doubt a grape defined by the quality of its tanins, yet when well-made, it reachs a superb and rare combination of density and elegance! The phylloxera, then the 1956 frost, unfortunately delayed the replanting of Cahors' best plots with qualitative clones and rootstocks: the grafts did not take well, and the active limestone of the soil was a problem. The vineyard therefore was slowly rebuilt, on the less demanding flat areas with a selection of clones of poor quality. Then Bordeaux oenology settled in from wealthy properties to body-build simple juices with extraction and toasted barrels. Cahors became the “French Malbec”, known for its aging-potential thanks to non-refinable tannins. Fortunately today, a new generation of winemakers is revealing the true potential of Cahors in all its diversity of style: Château Combel-La-Serre, Le Clos d'un Jour, Mas del Périé and the figureheads of the renewal, Domaine Cosse-Maisonneuve.
For me, Catherine Maisonneuve and Matthieu Cosse are among the great vignerons of France. After meeting during their oenology studies, they decided to make Cahors wines and took over 10 ha in 1999 on the left bank of the Lot, renting then buying. Today the domaine farms 32 ha in Cahors (and owns 28 more hectares), mostly on the third terrace in Mauroux and Lacapelle-Cabanac (where you find also some calcareous grèzes). The only plot on the Lot right bank is in Marcouly, a 2.5 ha isolated vineyard on siderolithic ferrous clays dedicated to their cuvée Marguerite. The third terrace is often considered to be the most interesting terroir of the area, but it is partially due to the fact the most demanding plots on slope have not been replanted. 20 years of exemplary biodynamic approach and reflection on biodiversities (inspired by George Oxley) is at the origin of the quality of the wines: Malbec can only express its complexity on living soils. It is a complicated variety which does not like excessively rich soils, has a small picking window, does not support either over-extraction or over-maturity. You have to be extremely precise with this finicky grape otherwise it is either too tannic and astringent or overripe. All their Cahors cuvées are 100% from Malbec. All the vinifications are carried out by indigenous yeasts with a homeopathic use of sulfur. The extractions are extremely gentle, the grapes are de-stemmed, and macerations are long. Press juices are always vinified separately and rarely blended. The result is a superb range, where each cuvée is worked with the highest standards, adapting in the smallest details the vinification and aging to the soil and the plant material of the plot. If Catherine is the one living on site all year long, as Matthieu (one of the most exceptional blind-tasters I know) consults in Provence, the decisions are always made together.
2018 is an extra-ordinary experience - biodynamic farming and trust (in your vineyards) were needed not to freak out about the oenological figures. Cahors' elegance and freshness paradoxically come when the right polyphenols are ripe, not before not after. In that vintage, it was easy to make a good wine, but extremely complicated to make an outstanding wine (even though it was a vintage for it): one had to wait for the skins and the pips to be absolutely ripe, despite the rising alcool as they allow the true expression of terroirs in a red wines. One needed to take a calculated risk, only possible by a real, humble, observant farming. Catherine Maisonneuve & Matthieu Cosse, with their painstaking care and thoroughness, achieved it.
Elian & Sandrine Da Ros, the Côtes-du-Marmandais finally in the spotlight
Even in France, the Marmandais region is quite obscure unless you are a rugby or a tomato aficionado. Upstream along the Garonne in the Lot-et-Garonne, barely 45 min drive from Sauternes, this softly rolling, peaceful area is historically a polycultural land of tobacco, grains, and tomatoes whose fame is due to early 19th century Italian immigration bringing with them seeds and agricultural know-how. The vineyards appear on the best hillsides but until recently their potential was ignored: before 1936 and the AOCs, they were blended with Bordeaux wines and afterwards, the two cooperatives vinified them as entry-level wines for supermarkets. It is only in the last 20 years and the creation of the Domaine Elian Da Ros that the Côtes-du-Marmandais has been known as a real, serious wine region. A third generation of farmers of Italian origins, he knew, when spending time in the small home vineyard with his Venetian grandmother and drinking her house-made sweet white sous-voile wines, that he would be a vigneron one day. Without any historical reference of the regional style, he just knew the importance of local Abouriou, a grape variety preserved during the creation of the appellation in 1989 in order to avoid making a pale copy of Bordeaux. But Elian also knew he had to discover the expression of Cabernets, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, Sauvignon on these soils of limestone clays, boulbenes and gravels specific to the Marmandais. Inspired by the few years he spent at the Zind-Humbrecht estate, where he helped Olivier to set up biodynamics, he carefully chose his plots, converting them to organic then biodynamic, uprooting, replanting with high quality masssle selections, creating a wine cellar and a barrel cellar. He grew at his own pace to reach today 22 hectares, divided into two main islands around the winery in Cocumont on the left bank of the Garonne. With the exception of Abouriou, which is 100% dedicated to this indigenous grape variety, all the wines are blends created with the greatest precision, from vin de soif to vin de garde. The sulfur doses are minimal, the wines are carefully raised on their fine lees. Today, the titanic work pays off, and the whole range radiates like a superb expression of a unique personality. They are to be discovered absolutely for any lover of true great Bordeaux or Loire Cabernet Franc on tuffeau.
And a nod to the beautiful vineyards of Aveyron with Nicolas Carmarans (Estaing) and Domaine du Cros (Marcillac), and their fight for Fer Servadou.
As a treat, you will also find in this offer 2 delicious cuvées from one of our favorite underdog, Fer Servadou, a little cousin of Cabernet Franc (think Cabernet Franc meets Pineau d'Aunis!). You find Fer a little bit all over the Southwest under different names : Braucol in Gaillac, Pinenc in Madiran, Servadou in Côtes-du-Marmandais, and Mansois in Aveyron where the cuvées below are from. And it fact, its best expression is on the granitic slopes or the iron-rich limestone veins (locally called rougiers) of the western part of the Massif Central, where it is celebrated on its own by rare vignerons that decided to fight for the rebirth of this historic vineyard. Domaine du Cros and Nicolas Carmarans, each with their style and their terroir, are fantastic ambassadors of Fer Servadou: their wines are also perfect to be enjoyed now that Spring is in full bloom! The lovely crunchy pomegranate, red currant, paprika and medicinal notes fit very well the greens we start to see late April. Acid driven, both wines offer well-handled tannins bringing just enough structure to ask for fatty fish or poultry, or lean red meat. Pascaline Lepeltier.
In her previous life, Sandrine worked for a Japanese company, discovering and exporting natural wines to Japan. Then she met Elian, and in 2008 moved from Paris to Cocumont. Over the years, she helped him more and more in the vineyard and the cellar until she decided in 2012 to start her own wine project. Today she takes care of 4 ha of Sauvignon, Sémillon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Abouriou, etc.. But in 2017 one of her plots was badly hit by hail. As she could not think about what to do with the saved, clean fruit from the damaged vines, Elian suggested just to do a direct press and see… One of Sandrine’s dream cuvées was to do one day a wine like L’Anglore’s reds, with an immediate juiciness yet with layers - something very complicated to achieve with the local Marmandais grapes and climate… So when Elian gave her the fermenting must to taste from her hailed vines, she jumped. It was the wine she wanted to make! To give it a little bit more body and fruit, Elian added some of his Clos Baquey young Merlot vinified in carbonic maceration, aged in cement tank and here it was, “Histoire de Boire” was created with their 4 hands. A happy accident, the wine was originally presented only to friends who requested the wines to be bottled in magnums only, as the 750 format was too small… 2018 is the second vintage, and we are really happy to be able to offer this wine, which really tastes like L’Anglore with an Atlantic touch: a little saltier, crunchier with fresh medicinal herbs, chill it and enjoy it with any spring dish, or keep it a little to share when the time will come with friends around a barbecue. 70% Merlot, 30% Abouriou (in 2018). Pascaline Lepeltier.
Produced from a 10 ha plot in the commune of Mauroux from the lightest part of this terrace of gravel and alluvials, Solis is the “vin de copain” cuvée, showing ripe but never jammy delicious fruit. De-stemmed and vinified in vats to preserve its velvety character, it is a very well built entry-level wine with notes of blueberry and violet, silky tannins, and refreshing herbal finish typical of high quality Malbec. 2018 is a great vintage of power and concentration, so Solis comes out even more as a bargain for its quality! To be enjoyed in a large glass with tasty charcuterie like bigorre or ibérico ham, or a beef carpaccio. Can be kept for 2-3 years without a problem. 100% Malbec. Pascaline Lepeltier.
La Fage is a cuvée produced opposite to the winery in Lacapelle-Cabanac, also on alluvial clay-siliceous soils. Contiguous to the plot of Les Laquets which is located on grèzes (limestone scree), it is the paragon of the expression of Malbec on the third terrace: a combination of luscious flesh and velvety tannins with notes of fresh wild black fruits. This 2015, a classic vintage without climatic extremes, is today extremely fine and precise. Aged for 14 months in used barrels, this wine displays an aromatic palette full of nuances with subtle secondary notes: burlat cherries, rose with a hint of licorice and fern, with a very appetizing finish. It is dense with no heaviness. Delicious to drink now, perfect with a duck breast and candied onion. You can enjoy it for the next 8 to 10 years. Do not decant, large glasses will suffice. 100% Malbec. Pascaline Lepeltier.
The Domaine du Cros vines lie at elevations as high as 450 meters on a few different hillsides that surround the village of Clairvaux, in the western Auvergne. Much of the vineyard is terraced and the soil is an iron rich clay known locally as “rougier” with outcroppings of limestone. The 2018 shows a deep red/purple color with vivid aromas of black fruits - cassis, black plum - with pepper, floral and mineral notes. The palate is bursting with fruit, supple and round, but remarkably fresh and bright as well, finishing with a deep and long melange of bright peppery black fruits and minerals. Serve this rather astonishing wine quite cool with grilled pork and lamb, charcuterie and full-flavored cheeses.
Le Vin est une Fête is a signature cuvée by Elian, a tribute to the delicacy of Abouriou (its local nickname is “early gamay” even if it has nothing to do with the gamay grape) and the elegance of Cabernet Franc which he considers the "Pinot Noir from the South West", supplemented with Merlot. Coming from richer and loamy soils on gray marl, the Merlots and Cabernets are de-stemmed to keep their juicy fruit expression while the Abourious are vinified in semi-carbonic fermentation, all in concrete tank. Thanks to a short maceration (10 days), a very gentle extraction and a precise aging in old Provençal foudres for 10 months, the wine has a real gulpability without being simple. 2017, a fresh and delicate vintage, has always been open: the wine shows crunchy and ripe wild berries, a peppery touch, with slightly salivating round tannins. Its appetizing freshness just makes you want to open a second bottle! A perfect aperitif wine, Vin est une Fête can also hold on to richer dishes such as moussakas or mushroom risottos. Keep 3 to 5 years without a problem. 40% abouriou, 40% cabernet franc, 20% merlot. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Outre-rouge is the new name for the Chante-Coucou rosé cuvée (Chante-Coucou is one of Elian's flagship cuvées, historically available in 3 colors). Elian does not like insipid rosés but loves those of L’Anglore (Eric Pfifferling is a close friend) or Olivier Jullien. So he made his rosé with these references in mind… As a result, this cuvée was often denied the AOC because it had too much color and gas. Never mind, in 2011, the cuvée became a red claret, and got even more inspired by the crisp and slightly frizzy Italian reds like the Grignolino Elian enjoys so much. The name, found by a blogger friend, is a tribute to Pierre Soulages - the painter called his exploration of the black color “outrenoir” - in the same way Elian looked for and created his red. Thanks to a common friend, he asked Soulages to use the neologism “Outre Rouge” : the artist gladly agreed, and got the first case of the newly named cuvée. Predominantly made from younger, early or vigorous vines of Abouriou, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah, the musts are worked 3 ways (direct press, semi-carbonic and saignée). They are then aged 18 months in large casks, blended and bottled with a little lees to allow a light frizzante in bottle. 2017 is an open, delicious and delicate vintage: the notes of wild strawberries and licorice typical of the Abouriou dominate (its local nickname is “early Gamay” even if it has nothing to do with the Gamay grape). The other grape varieties discreetly bring acidity and crunchy tannins. It is a serious wine and a wine of pure pleasure, which is a rare combination! Perfect slightly chilled, serve it with spring salads, rock fish and fresh goat cheese. Drink it over the next 3 years. 85% Abouriou, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot, 5% Syrah. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Le Vignoble d’Elian is the entry into the cuvées de garde of the estate, and in this case for me it is where Chinon meets Crozes-Hermitage. Grown on white clay soils with sandy deposits of iron and manganese, the 40-year-old Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah bring some volume, giving a firm yet sleek tannic structure. The addition of young vines from Clos Baquey (a superb plot on limestone scree) brings a sweetness to the mid-palate. De-stemmed, the grapes are macerated for 2 to 3 weeks in concrete vat with very soft extractions, then aged separately for a minimum of 18 months in old Provençal foudres. Blended 3 months before bottling, the wine is not fined but is loosely filtered in this vintage. 2016 has a real elegance, and it is a very beautiful vintage to discover a blend that is probably new for many: the Syrah brings a typical Rhône bouquet (elderberry, violet, oregano, leather and crunchy tension), the Cabernet Franc gives a forest floor dimension with a grain of salty tannin, and the Merlot gifts its roundness. Do not hesitate to decant this wine for an hour to blow off the slight reduction, and marry it with milk-fed lamb shank. Keep it 5 to 8 years. 50% cabernet franc, 30% merlot, 20% syrah. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Chante-Coucou is the emblematic cuvée of the domain, and the one I would open to any Bordeaux lover in order to convince them of Elian's talent. More opulent and juicy due to its dominant Merlot, it still retains the unique personality of its terroir and its vigneron. Supplemented with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah from clay-gravelly soils on gray and blue marly sedimentary conglomerates (called “molasse” in French) the different terroirs allow Elian to play with the different tannic expressions of these four grape varieties. He vinifies them separately: Syrah and Malbec are macerated whole-clustered in open foudres, the Merlot and the Cabernet Sauvignon are de-stemmed. Macerations last two to three weeks. Aged 20 months in used barrels the wines are blended together en masse 6 months before bottling. 2016 is a fine and elegant vintage, allowing Chante Coucou to retain its profile of elderberry, fresh tobacco, violet and oolong tea. The tannins are remarkable and silky, the whole cluster bringing notes of herbal tea that stretch the finish. Enjoy the wine decanted for an hour or so with Provencal herb rubbed lamb shoulder with vine shoots or a pan-fried foie gras with cranberry and spring carrot. 50% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec, 10% Syrah. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Clos Baquey is the grande cuvée of the domain. It is a wine I love serving instead of Saint-Emilion or Pessac grands crus as its quality and its value for money are remarkable. On a 5 ha plot of clay and limestone on sedimentary conglomerates (called “molasse” in French) facing south, Elian isolates the best part, 2 ha with the best vines of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot and Abouriou, the latter bringing an originality of red and licorice berries with a more traditional Bordeaux blend from the other three varieties. Everything is de-stemmed except the Abouriou (macerated whole cluster but not using carbonic). The limestone enhancing the acidity and the acidity enhancing the tannin, Elian imposes on this cuvée a precise and meticulous aging where the components are blended only at the end of 22 months minimum in barrels. The final blend is then aged for a year in a concrete tank then a year in bottle before being released. It’s a big investment for a domain of this size and in a little-known appellation - neither the Burgundians nor the Bordelais usually go through such length! This gives a superb wine which just starts to open, especially in 2015, a sunny and juicy vintage. The attack is silky, the ripe berries respond to oriental herbs, the aging process can hardly be guessed. We can only note how dense the juice is without any heaviness, a tangy and crystalline finish delineating expressive and sleek tannins. This cuvée reveals the potential of Marmandais as an alternative to Bordeaux, and is made also for aging. If you want to drink it today, decant for two hours and serve in a large glass. Superb with roast duck and truffled juice. 35% cabernet franc, 35% merlot, 15% abouriou, 15% cabernet sauvignon. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Produced on the best part of a 10 ha plot in the town of Mauroux (where Solis also comes from), Le Combal, while maintaining an easy-drinking character thanks to the gravelly clay, asserts a firmer tannin yet is extremely silky. 12 months of aging in barrels of 2 to 3 wines are applied to silken the texture without giving any oak taste or aromatic. Burgundy begins to invite itself into the glass! The palate is dense yet sleek, with notes of blackberry, fennel and iris. This 2018, an extraordinary vintage with superb aging potential, was bottled earlier for the American market: it requires rapid decanting to be appreciated at its fair value as it may have a little CO2 left. Serve it with a steak tartare or a morille fricassée. It is still a baby from a superb vintage that can be appreciated over 5 years. A very good value for the money. 100% Malbec. Pascaline Lepeltier.
The Cosse-Maisonneuve estate has two top cuvées produced on radically different terroirs, Les Laquets on Kimmeridgian scree (locally called grèzes), and Marguerite on ferruginous clays. The lover of Chambertin will be attracted by the first, the lover of Pomerol by the second, but both will equally satisfy the lover of finesse and complexity! With Les Laquets, the Malbec “pinotes” in its aromas and its texture. The limestone is expressed of course through a saline acidity, but also through the tannins: a precise, careful and long aging chisels them (they see almost 2 years of aging in new and used barrels). The attack is discreet and the wine is built on a fresh backbone with remarkable length. 2014 is an elegant vintage: more floral than fruity, the violet, iris roots and oolong respond to the subtle empyreumatic notes of aging. Its original austerity has softened in the bottle, offering a remarkable velvety texture. A wine to savor today on a beautiful piece of mature beef or noble poultry, but do not hesitate to taste it over the next 15-20 years, the Burgundian touch will only become more obvious. 100% Malbec. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Marguerite is a rare expression of Cahors. In the middle of the limestones you can find some mounds of ferruginous red clays called siderolithic. Their potential is still underrated but Catherine and Matthieu definitely started a trend with it (and their use of “Sid” for siderolithic!). After much research they found a plot of this very specific terroir in the middle of the woods, and replanted it in 2001 with a massale selection coming partly from hundred year old Côt vines from the Loire. The first vintage released in 2011 immediately confirmed their intuition: the presence of a great terroir that Malbec could reveal. This 2015 is still a very young baby with a remarkable concentration which never falls into heaviness. It recalls the pure and best expressions of Pomerol, unfortunately too rare today. The 24 months élevage tames a phenomenal raw material to defined nuance - violet, elderflower, licorice, truffle. One of the great red wines of France in this vintage without a doubt if you are a Bordeaux lover, and for a fraction of the price! Decant for a good hour if you want to enjoy it now or keep it for 30 years or more. A suckling lamb will be a perfect companion for this bottle. 100% Malbec. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Cahors native Julien Ilbert took over the family mixed-use farm in 1998, including about 20 hectares of vines on the limestone cause, at 320 - 350 meters in altitude, which had been farmed without chemicals for decades. Julien sold grapes to Matthieu Cosse for many years, then began his own production in 2005. Full of energy and enthusiasm, Julien has been determined to make fresh, vibrant wines that naturally express the high elevation limestone vineyards. Minimal SO2 is used and extraction is light so that even the top cuvees remain bright and lively, though they are deep, dark and complex expressions of Malbec at its best. The Combel la Serre "Pur Fruit" is 100% Malbec from seven different sites around their home village of Cournou, which lies on the Causse, a limestone plateau in Cahors at 320m elevation. Planted on clay-limestone soils, the vines are certified organic and average 35 years old. The grapes are hand-harvested and crushed with 20% whole clusters; the juice ferments at cool temperatures with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks with a 10-day skin maceration. The wine is aged on its lees in cement through the winter and bottled in the spring. The 2018 is a vibrant fruit-bomb showing a deep red/black color with aromas of ripe blackberry liqueur with violet and citrus hints. The palate is supple and sappy with dense blackberry and black raspberry fruit, lifted by bright acidity - quite lush and ripe but at only 12.5% alcohol it's refreshing and balanced. The cool, sappy fruits continue in the bright finish. Perfect with a steak or stew or just gulped by itself - serve cool and enjoy! David Lillie
Cahors native Julien Ilbert took over the family mixed-use farm in 1998, including about 20 hectares of vines on the limestone cause, at 320 - 350 meters in altitude, which had been farmed without chemicals for decades. Julien sold grapes to Matthieu Cosse for many years, then began his own production in 2005. Full of energy and enthusiasm, Julien has been determined to make fresh, vibrant wines that naturally express the high elevation limestone vineyards. Minimal SO2 is used and extraction is light so that even the top cuvees remain bright and lively, though they are deep, dark and complex expressions of Malbec at its best.
The Combel la Serre "Pur Fruit" is 100% Malbec from seven different sites around their home village of Cournou, which lies on the Causse, a limestone plateau in Cahors at 320m elevation. Planted on clay-limestone soils, the vines are certified organic and average 35 years old. The grapes are hand-harvested and crushed with 20% whole clusters; the juice ferments at cool temperatures with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks with a 10-day skin maceration. The wine is aged on its lees in cement through the winter and bottled in the spring. The 2018 is a vibrant fruit-bomb showing a deep red/black color with aromas of ripe blackberry liqueur with violet and citrus hints. The palate is supple and sappy with dense blackberry and black raspberry fruit, lifted by bright acidity - quite lush and ripe but at only 12.5% alcohol it's refreshing and balanced. The cool, sappy fruits continue in the bright finish. Perfect with a steak or stew or just gulped by itself - serve cool and enjoy! David Lillie
100% Malbec. Combel's Château Cuvée comes from estate plots totalling 3 hectares around their home village of Cournou on the limestone plateau known as the Causse at about 320m altitude. The soils for this bottling are mainly red clay with some limestone rock. The organically farmed vines average 40 years old and are kept to a yield of 40 hl/ha. Because of the clay-heavy terroir and winemaking and aging choices, the Château Cuvée marks a signficant step up in body, tannin and complexity compared to the lighter, softer Pur Fruit bottling. This is a beautiful Cahors showing elegant ripe blackberry aromas with a bit of earth, musk, cocoa citrus and violet - the palate is pure and focused with good acidity and ripe, sapid blackberry and cassis fruit, floral, chalky and long. Delicious now, this will develop nicely over the next five years or more. Enjoy with pork chops, a grilled steak, a hearty stew and full-flavored cheeses. David Lillie.
After running one of the most important wine restaurants in Paris (Le Café de la Nouvelle Mairie), Nicolas Carmarans decided to sell off his business to go back to his roots and revive the vineyards of his grand-parents in Le Bruel, a little hamlet lost in Aveyron. 5th largest department in France, Aveyron is one of the most isolated, mostly populated by sheep and pasture. Yet in the medieval time this was one of the most important vineyard in the country, on the path to Santiago-di-Compostella. Starting in 2002 and rehabilitating slowly but surely the terraces and the vineyards, Nicolas put back the Pays d'Entraygues on the map! His wines are just soulful and delicious. Maximus is an invigorating expression of Fer Servadou from high altitude vineyard on granitic slope. Vinified in whole-cluster and semi-carbonic maceration in stainless steel with a short aging (8 months), the wine bursts with pomegranate, wild strawberry and blood orange zest, without loosing its medicinal undertones (gentiane, thai basil and pepper). 2018 being a drier vintage, the wine is a little bigger than the previous years, yet keeps its vibrating tension and slight grippy tannins making it so drinkable! It is a very versatile wine : pop it up with pizzas, tacos, soy-marinated tuna, or enjoy it by itself! 100% Fer Servadou. Pascaline Lepeltier.