Sunday, 18 March 2012

Vinisud Part 1 - Domaine Gayda

Our first port of call at Vinisud was the Sud de France tasting area, which was designed to showcase 500 or so of the best wines of the region. There were some really excellent wines here (and so many that it paid to be selective) but what struck me was how they were presented. Apart from a few "icon" wines which were lined-up in mini wine fridges, the majority of bottles were housed in plastic wine "coolers"..... with nothing to actually keep them cool under the bright lighting. The result was that they were all pretty tepid - hardly ideal, even for the reds, but the whites had absolutely no chance of showing their best. Thankfully, we tasted them in the morning, whilst most were at least relatively fresh, but I can imagine many would have suffered rather badly by the end of the day. Given that Sud de France had produced a comprehensive 500-page "booklet" (presumably at great expense, but available free to every visitor to the stand) with a page devoted to each wine, it seemed a very poor way to showcase the region's best wines.

After that, we made our way to the Domaine Gayda stand. TLD and I had a most enjoyable visit to the Gayda estate in June last year, and I have been waiting for the opportunity to add some of their wines to the Leon Stolarski Fine Wines list ever since. So Vinisud offered the ideal opportunity meet up again with winemaker Vincent Chansault (pictured left) and co-owner Tim Ford - and, of course, to taste the latest vintages. We were treated to an extensive and very informative tasting of the whole range and I can honestly say there was not one single "average" wine - in fact, I have rarely, if ever, tasted a range of wines from a single producer of such a consistently high standard. So much so that it was difficult to decide which ones to leave out, when placing my order. Once my decision was made, though, I got back in touch immediately, and through a combination of great work from Gayda and my transport company, my wonderful new Domaine Gayda wines arrived in stock last week - and I'm very excited! Here are my tasting notes, some of which are based on the notes I took at Vinisud, others from sitting down with a bottle at home. The wines with links are the ones we now have in stock, and I can honestly say they collectively provide the best quality-price ratio on our list.

T'Air d'Oc Sauvignon Blanc 2011
The grapes are grown on limestone soils in the Minervois. A riot of elderflower, pea pod and zesty aromas and flavours, this is a classy Sauvignon for the money. Intensely fruity and generous, with excellent acidity and structure, this puts many a £10-plus New Zealand Sauvignon to shame, though it is one of the entry-level wines. In most circumstances, I would list it without hesitation, but instead I went for the following couple of wines.....
85% Grenache Blanc and 15% Viognier. Fresh, intensely floral, yet very fruity - apple blossom and lemon aromas give way to peach, orange and all manner of tropical fruit nuances, leading to an intense grapiness on the palate. This really is packed with flavour, combining a touch of richness with gorgeous acidity and a subtle herbiness. A beautifully made wine of real elegance - and brilliant value for money. £7.75
From grapes grown locally in Brugairolles et Malviès, fermented in stainless steel and aged for several months on its lees before bottling. A very structured wine, bordering on serious, with lime/lemon and mineral aromas and subtle hints of pea pod and elderflower. Vibrant and full of tangy fruits, like a halfway house between Sancerre and New Zealand (though perhaps closer to the former, rather than the latter). This is a beautifully crafted wine. £8.75

The grapes for this wine are sourced from no less than 4 different areas - limestone in Limoux and La Liviniere, slate in Roussillon and basalt in Pézenas. 10% of the blend is fermented and aged for 6 months on its lees in new oak barrels, the remainder in stainless steel.The nose begins a touch muted, but opens out after a while, whilst the palate is a riot of soft citrus and peach, with a nice hint of bitterness on the finish. Another delicious wine. £8.75

The grapes are grown on limestone in Minervois and sandstone in nearby Malpere. 25% is fermented and aged for 6 months on its lees in new oak barrels, the remainder in stainless steel. A nose of cut lemon and clove, with subtle herby/herbaceous notes. Although the palate shows plenty of stoney minerality, it is relatively rich and full of soft citrus and tree fruits, with a very long, spicy finish. A good ringer for a more than decent Maconnais Chardonnay. £8.75

A blend of 43% Grenache Blanc, 20% Maccabeu, 20% Marsanne, 14% Chenin Blanc, 3% Roussanne. The majority of the grapes are sourced from different vineyards around St. Martin de Fenouillet in Roussillon's Agly Valley, apart from the Chenin, which is grown on the Gayda estate in Brugairolles. Each variety is fermented and aged in 1 and 2 year-old barrels for 9 months, before being blended and aged for a further 3 months in vat. This is a complex wine, with really quite subtle oak, which allows the fruit to shine. Aromas and flavours of lemon, apple, honeysuckle and spice, quite full-bodied and rich, with a touch of savoury/saline. Classy wine. £11.95

Figure Libre Maccabeu 2010
Aged for 10 months in a selection of new and used iak barrels, this is 100% Maccabeu (a.k.a Vieura) from the Fenouilledes in the Agly Valley of Roussillon. Citrus/grapefruit zest aromas and flavours, with some attractive apple pie and raisin notes, and a strong mineral streak. This is a good wine, but when push came to shove, I preferred the extra richness and complexity of the Freestyle.

T'Air d'Oc Syrah 2011
A beautiful deep purple colour, with crystallised red and black fruit aromas which burst out if the glass. A core of rich bramble and cherry fruit, complemented by soft, ripe tannins and lovely acidity. A really vibrant wine. As with it's T'Air d'Oc Sauvignon counterpart, this would normally be a shoe-in for my list, but the following 3 wines had all the bases covered....

70% Grenache and 30% Syrah. Delightfully fragrant aromas of red and black summer fruits, freshly-baked bread, herbs and spices. The palate is full of summer fruit and orange flavours, with juicy acidity and soft, ripe tannins. Medium weight and very easy to drink, rather like a good Beaujolais, but with deeper fruit flavours. A really delicious, fruity wine - and a great all-rounder. £7.75

Syrah 2010
From vineyards based on limestone soil in La Liviniere and sandstone on the Gayda estate. 10% is aged in 1, 2 and 3 year-old barrels, the remainder in stainless steel. Stating the obvious, I know, but this simply reeks of Syrah - perfumed, floral, peppery and full of red and black fruits. The palate is medium-rich, with a combination of bramble, cherry and cassis fruit, mouth-watering acidity and strong minerality. With shades of cool-climate Languedoc or even northern Rhone Syrah, this is a substantial wine for the money, which is already delicious, but has the capacity to age and evolve for a good 3 or 4 years. An absolute bargain at £8.95.
From limestone in La Liviniere and schiste in Maury, the grapes are cold-soaked for a week, before a cool (20c) fermentation. The grapes are pressed before the fermentation has finished, giving a rounded wine with no hard edges. An abundance of raspberry, soft citrus and tar on the nose and in the mouth, with excellent acidity and velvety tannins. A far from simple wine, this could evolve further, but is already delicious to drink. £8.75

60% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 9% Mourvedre, 6% Carignan and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from a variety of vineyards in Roussillon, Minervois/La Liviniere and Gayda's own estate vines. Fermented in stainless steel, then aged for 9 months in a variety of oak barrels. This has a reassuringly bright, semi-transluscent purple core, leading to a wide raspberry rim. This wine offers a gloriously complex array of aromas and flavours - black cherry, bramble, raspberry and mandarin fruit, with additional notes of tar, incense, polished wood and forest floor. With time (even a day or two later), those aromas and flavours meld together beautifully, combining all manner of red, black and citrus fruits, garrigue herbs, an increasingly intense combination of spice/incense/wood and the merest hint of eau de vie. And yet, with so much going on, it remains beautifully subtle and harmonious - a nigh-on perfect marriage of concentrated, elegant fruit,  ripe tannins, ample acidity and great persistence. I'm often banging on about how so many Languedoc wines are so utterly drinkable in their youth, yet possess all of the qualities necessary for long ageing, and this is a wonderful example - you can drink it now, or age it for another 5 to 10 years. Either way, it is a generous, hugely complex and very lovely wine, at an almost laughable price of £11.95.
From Gayda's own Cabernet Franc vines surrounding the property, planted in 2004 and in the 3rd year of conversion to official Organic certification. Aged for 15 months in 1 year-old oak barrels, with regular batonnage and racking/bottling according to the phases of the moon. A classic Cabernet Franc nose of dark fruits, pepper, cedar/pencil, just a hint of red capsicum and a touch of toasty oak. A delicious core of ripe red and black fruits (cherry, cassis, bramble) with rich, ripe, chocolatey tannins. Savoury, spicy, complex and long, with an excellent capacity for ageing. I have never been a great fan of Cabernet Franc (too often green, tannic, charmless monsters) but I actually love this! A real cracker. £14.95

The "tech-spec" for this wine fully illustrates the care and attention to detail which goes into making it. 82% Syrah, 14% Grenache and 4% Cinsault, sourced from no less than 6 different areas of Languedoc and Roussillon. Aged for a total of 21 months in French oak: The Syrah in new oak for 9 months, the Grenache and Cinsault in 2 and 3 year-old oak for 9 months, followed by blending of the best barrels of each variety and a further 12 months maturation of the final blend in the same barrels. The nose is a touch reductive to begin with, but lurking beneath is a wine of real class. After a while, it reveals complex notes of flowers, incense, bread, beef, raspberry and bramble. The palate is young, tight and gently tannic, but already showing layers of complexity, with immense (but definitely not soupy) concentration and length of flavour. This is a magnificent wine, which is already quite approachable, but has a full 10 years of evolution ahead of it. Another Languedoc classic. £19.99



Leon - So pleased you like Dom Gayda. I was mightily impressed when I visited a while back, not least with Vincent's vibrating table de tri!! Chemin de Moscou is wonderful.
Like you, I thought the Pavillon tasting area at Vinsud was crazily over-hot for the wines. Such a shame, because the staff had worked hard to lay it out by varietal, and table-label the wines up nicely.
Good to see you and TLD there. Peter G.

Stewart Travers said...

Great write up Leon. Such an impressive, focussed range from a group of extremely talented and hard-working people doing good things in and for the Languedoc-Roussillon. I hope you and your customers have fun with these lovely wines.

Leon Stolarski said...

Thanks for posting, Peter, and it was great to see you too - albeit rather briefly. And thanks to Stewart Travers, who first suggested I seek out Domaine Gayda. We actually spent that first morning at Vinisud with Stew, tasting at the Sud de France area and then Gayda. I remember there being similar problems with the Sud de France wines a couple of years ago, so I was a bit surprised they hadn't found a solution to the problem - i.e. some ice for the white wine buckets!

Vinogirl said...

The SB, Viognier and Grenache sound delicious.

Jem said...


The Grenache/Syrah is a steal at £7.75. Sublime could do with a bit more depth and length but for under £8....I am not complaining