It's been a busy couple of days for me - lots of emailing and faxing and transferring of money (plenty of new wines to import ready for the busy Christmas period). So to help me wind down I thought I'd try a second sample bottle of a new vintage I am shortly to receive from my friend Guy Vanlancker in La Liviniere.
Domaine La Combe Blanche La Chandeliere 2004 Minervois La Liviniere
75% Syrah, with the remaining 25% made up of Grenache and Carignan. This has a lovely, deep, blood red core, with a 1cm ruby/pink rim. The nose offers aromas of rich black fruits, herbs, spices and Christmas cake, with subtle notes of cedar and leather. After some time in the glass, some attractive undergrowth aromas begin to appear. The palate is packed full of rich, sweet, spicy bramble fruit flavours, earthy but soft tannins and dark chocolate, and is given extra lift by a note of bitter cherry kernel. A backbone of very decent, ever-so-slightly-volatile acidity and a long, tangy, warm finish complete the package. Whilst alcohol levels seem to be inexorably on the rise in the south of France (not to mention most other regions, of course) this wine, even at 14.5%, manages to retain a good degree of balance. Whilst there is a touch of alcohol in Guy Vanlancker's La Liviniere wines (the basic Minervois wines achieve closer to 13.5%) they manage to be both voluptuous and elegant at the same time - warming, rather than overpowering. And the result is a wine which, at 5 years of age, is well out of its first flush of youth, whilst still offering lots of scope for development. My impression is of a wine that is really lovely now, but will evolve nicely for a good few years. Top notch Minervois, with a nod towards Gigondas.
The fact that Guy still finds it hard to shift his wines in an increasingly difficult market (not helped by the prevailing economic climate, of course) means that this is his current release of this particular cuvée - his skills lie in making great wines, rather than in marketing them. And as his flagship wine - at a projected price of around £13 - it is a real bargain.