Saturday, 5 October 2013

A special oenologue and wine not for sale

Most write ups on growers, at least in English including those in this blog, rarely mention the œnologue. A bit odd perhaps given that œnologues are the doctors of the wine world and often have a massive influence on the end result. In France they are professional wine production science and technologists. Almost all independents will subscribe to their services with the œnologue making frequent cave visits at key times. Some, especially those starting up, will rely heavily on their advice while for old hands a sounding board and second opinion suffices. For all they provide lab analysis services, especially critical during early fermentation. Helping ease the completion of legal paperwork needed before wine can go on sale is another role.

Hervé Chabert is a bit of a super œnologue. He specialises in vins naturels, although the majority of his clients I am aware of are pretty conventional. Everyone has nothing but superlatives for his guidance. He is also a negociant and sources wine in cuvées from his clients. Oh, and Hervé's hobby is making wine.

Hervé is the œnologue at Domaine Ribiera and I was invited to help finish off the picking last year (2012) on the first weekend of October. The vines, several rows each of mainly Rousanne, Marsanne, Picpoul and Clarette, are on the La Clape massif between Narbonne and the sea. Instructions were to bring a change of clothes. It turned out I also needed a toothbrush.

Le Clos des Cyprès (sunshine version)
The vineyard has a postcard setting under the peak of Pech Redon and is the wildest I've been in with brambles hiding everywhere to lash legs and arms. The bunches from these old vines are mainly small, low down and numerous. Nevertheless, things were going well until the forecast storm arrived - first lightening and then a torrent. As a cyclist and mountain walker I'm used to a soaking, but the big obstacle to picking in the rain (I discovered) is mud. It clings to footwear and seriously inhibits movement. After perhaps an hour of this we abandoned picking and retired to the chai of the nearby Domaine Pech Redon where Hervé makes his wine.

Here we were treated to a mini-vertical of Hervé's Le Clos des Cyprès. These are complex wines with significant variation in style from ripe and luscious through to minerals and citrus, all understandable for a wine picked on weekends when the diary permits. Some years the earlier ripening Rousanne and Marsanne are picked first as they were this vintage.
The tasting was followed by the finest bread, charcuterie and cheeses Les Halles in Narbonne had to offer plus a couple of interesting vin naturel reds. By now the storm had passed but persistent rain had set in. We retreated chez Hervé's and finished picking the next morning.

Roll forward to 2013 and what a contrast. With a bigger team of family and friends the whole vineyard was picked in less than 5 hours of glorious autumn sunshine. With the press on its last cycle and the cleaning done we retreated to the shady lawn for wine, a picnic and grillade.

Nearly (late) lunch time

Christophe Bousquet joined us briefly with a generous selection of very grillade friendly Pech Redon reds back to 2004. I particularly liked the unoaked 2012 from an unlabelled bottle - crunchy with plenty of those supple lavender notes characteristic of La Clape reds. Back in the late 1980s Pech Redon was one of the Languedocs that got us hooked on the region's wines. It's fair to say that today the estate is in need of a bit of updating and given the quality of the terrior arguably under performs.

No comments:

Post a Comment