Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

Exordium for a welterweight

with 6 comments

It had been a long day for the Pork Futures guys but they’d managed to sell their umpteen kilos of sausage, cured duck breast, beef jerky, headcheese and other goodies. The hordes had departed, only to be replaced by a crushing wave of fatigue.

A last bottle was opened, glasses filled. The guys took a sip and sat up straight, eyes open wide. “Wow!” “This is fun!” “What is this?”

What is this? A wine that can revive the dead, apparently.

The label reads:

Vin de France
Mise en bouteille par David Caer
Clos Mathélisse

Later that evening I searched the Web, trying various combinations of the wine’s name, estate and producer. Not a single hit. How often does that happen?

The bottle was a straggler picked up at La QV’s organic market event last fall. The next day I gave Mr. La QV, Cyril Kérébel, a call. Here’s what he told me:

Clos Mathélisse is a new estate – a couple of vineyards actually – owned by David Caer. 2009 is its second vintage. Its wines are made by Régis Pichon of Domaine Ribiera, whose Grenache-Carignan blend La Vista impressed me in October. Both Clos Mathélisse and Domaine Ribiera are located in Aspiran, a commune in the Hérault département of the Languedoc. (Aspiran is also the name of a once popular but now rapidly disappearing local red grape variety still permitted in Minervois wines.)

Pichon makes natural wines from organically farmed grapes and indigenous yeasts. He destems his red wine grapes before pressing. Whether to punch down, pump over or sit tight is decided on a day-to-day basis. Fermentation and maceration typically last 15 to 25 days. The wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined. Very little sulphur is added, so the winemaker recommends that the bottles be stored at 15ºC (60ºF) or less.

Clos Mathélisse’s Exorde is 100% Cinsault. Pichon says his aim for the variety is “matière veloutée et arômes” (velvety substance and aromas), both of which Exorde has in spades. That said, it’s a vin plaisir, an easy drinker, not a vin de contemplation or a keeper for that matter.

None of us was taking notes the evening we opened the bottle. My initial memory is one of delight. I also recall the wine as being slightly cloudy to the eye and extrovertedly funky-fruity to the nose. The fruit had a wild flavour, like elderberry or wild cherry, while the tannins were raspy and light. There was also a je ne sais quoi quality quite unlike anything I’ve ever encountered in a wine, including other Cinsaults from the Languedoc.

A few days later I asked the Pork Futures boys for their impressions. “Ripe fruit with a note higher up on the palate, something mineral or medicinal but not green (fennel? mint?), and a silky texture,” said one. “Light-bodied, like a Pinot, maybe with some Beaujolais hints. Not overly ripe. A super-fun wine that puts a smile on your face,” said the other.

The bad news was that La QV had sold out of the wine when I inquired in November. The good news is that a small second shipment is slated to arrive on a private-import basis in early February. Price should be $20.50 a bottle, 12 bottles per case. Carpe diem.

Written by carswell

January 25, 2011 at 23:48

6 Responses

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  1. […] Clos Mathélisse (Languedoc) […]

  2. Interesting about the Clos Mathélisse as the 2009 La Vista from Ribiera is 100% Cinsault and the Grenache/Carignan blend of 2008 is no longer made. The 2009 also has no added sulphur (a little is added to his white Les Canilles). I will ask Regis about Clos Mathélisse when I next see him – he lives a few doors down our street.


    April 10, 2011 at 03:23

    • Loved the 2009 La Vista when I tasted it last February, Graham. It struck me as somewhat more substantial and serious than the Exorde but every bit as delicious. Do you know why Pichon made such a drastic switch in the 2009 La Vista’s constituent grapes? And is the change permanent?

      Any info you can provide about Clos Mathélisse would be welcome. As a web search will show, there’s not much around.

      Your blog has long been one of my bookmarked sites, by the way. Well written and useful for learning about new (to me) wines and winemakers and as a source of info about obscure bottles that sometimes make it into our tastings.


      April 11, 2011 at 09:19

      • Thank you for your kind comments.
        Régis has been buying and selling vineyard parcels in the village since 2005. Back then he made Carignan but has concluded it isn’t the future for the area in his view. He showed us one of his Carignan vineyards where the vines have been dug up and it’s for sale. With Grenache he is making late harvest Maury style (delicious). He’s also going to stop using Clairette – too difficult. Cinsault he feel brings freshness, copes with the heat and expresses the terroir.

        Realise this isn’t a full answer – much is lost in understanding and translation, but I hope to build up a fuller picture over time.


        April 12, 2011 at 02:52

  3. […] (14.5% abv) is more felt than tasted. A more conventional wine than, say, Clos Mathelisse’s Exorde (which Pichon also makes) but standing out due to its purity, fluid savour and appealing […]

  4. […] and raspy tannins, with earthy herbal overtones and a pomegranate-like tang – the proverbial “wine that puts a smile on your face.” Surprisingly, three or four hours after being uncorked, the tail-end of the first bottle had […]

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