I finally managed to squeeze some free time to tell you about one of our recent wine tales. Here is a bottle we picked up from an independent, relatively local purveyor of what looked like a careful selection of boozy poison, a savoir Tiny’s Tipple in Chorlton (the ever popular hipsterland -cum Hardy, South Manchester, that is). Initially we were there for a European beer selection to celebrate what was my first ever Eurovision party (let’s agree my “ignorance” in this area actually adds to my credit). Shopping turned out to be quite successful in the end with a great range of beers from all corners of the quality beer making regions of the world and at a fair price considering what you may have to part with these days for decent brews.
Obviously I couldn’t help myself having a peek at the range of wines… you know, market research… Although wine was not the object of our errand, Miss Mash provided me with a perfect case of standard UK wine buyer approach, the likes of which inspired EverymanWines to start his blog (here): “Oooh, I really like that label, looks so pretty”…and the smile confirming the unsaid: “…no idea if this is good but for £8.95, can we put it in the basket?”
Let’s have a look: Cinsault-Grenache, 2012, Vieilles Vignes, Pays d’Oc. “Pays d’Oc“ on the label means the grapes to make this wine can come from anywhere in the Languedoc-Roussillon region which goes from the west of the Rhone river above Marseille all the way to the Spanish border following the Mediterranean coast. That’s a fairly wide area to pick your grapes from.
But, we have Cinsault as the main grape variety. This grape is generally used for Rosé in the Rhone, Provence and the rest of the South of France or as make-up in red wine blends for the perfume and fruitiness it brings in. But in my very short wine life, I have not come across a wine with Cinsault as the dominant grape variety (75%). That’s one reason to be intrigued.
Grenache, in hot climate like the south of France, and if looked after properly, can bring concentrated spicy fruit and in this case could also bring in some tannins and alcohol. But since this is most likely not a top notch terroir driven beast, it’s possible the Grenache would provide more of the same light red fruit character.
There is however the Vieilles Vignes mention on the label. Whilst this type of wine would be expected to be on the light, aromatic and fruity side, Old Vines fruit might provide a bit of concentration and a needed punch in the blend and that could make this number more interesting. That’s two.
Les Cépages Oubliés name clearly defines a series of wines but not the name of a particular domaine or cooperative. In this case it is often worth looking at the bottom of the label: “Mis en Bouteille pour Boutinot” which means bottled for Boutinot.
You may not know the name Boutinot but you will undoubtedly know Chat-en-Oeuf and Longue-Dog wines commonly found in most supermarkets. It is one of the bigger importers and suppliers of wine in the UK but they also make a lot of their own wines. From a supplier this size there will obviously be a wide range of styles and quality levels available. At this price point however, from a high street shop with high overheads, I am not expecting a terroir-driven wine but rather something simple, fruit-driven and thirst quenching.
Wine… in the basket.
So what did this wine turn out to be like?
Very pale ruby colour (doesn’t bode well already) and a purple rim confirming its youth. Already I’m thinking “Vieilles Vignes… really? How old exactly?” On the nose, it’s not an explosion but you get some fresh, juicy red and black cherries with a little of that bubblegum character you could get from Beaujolais. There is also that volatile character that Miss Mash would coin as “cheap wine smell”; although she didn’t in this instance.
Sounds to me like Carbonic Maceration which involves carefully placing whole bunches of grapes in a steel tank protected from oxygen (anaerobic). This results in a portion of the grapes starting their fermentation inside the unbroken grape and leads to fresher, juicier and fruitier wines that are better consumed young.
On the palate it has a certain watery acidity and consistency with young but not strong tannins. It’s not the highest abv (13%) but you can still feel the mellow alcohol burn along with the red and black cherries. The finish is average, leaving a warm sensation rather than fruity flavours. Still thinking carbonic maceration but I am also not convinced about the old vines element. In Spain, old Grenache vines can really make interesting wines. Here there isn’t much concentration at all and the fruit flavours are not that pronounced.
So overall as you guessed, it’s not the most complex of wines. It is light and easy drinking but it lacks fruit and structure to be more of a pleasure to drink. I’m not a fan of over extraction (jammy, fruit bomb style) but this wine needs more riper fruit. You can always open some of that at a barbecue this summer if it ever comes but you could also find better.