Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

MWG May 15th tasting (5/6): Three vintages of Lo Vièlh

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Clos du Gravillas’s flagship red is Lo Vièlh (“the old one” in Occitan), a 100% old-vine Carignan that’s a vin de pays because Minervois AOC wines are not permitted to contain more than 40% of the variety. Planted in 1911, the vineyard was slated to be uprooted when the Bojanowskis convinced the owner to sell it to them in 1999.

The three wines in our vertical were essentially made the same way. The organically farmed grapes were manually harvested, fermented with indigenous yeasts and matured 12 months in French oak demi-muids. As the winemaker explained in a recent comment, the 2009 Lo Vièlh was showing some brettiness (the 2010 was made into the Côté Obscur), so all the barrels were replaced with new ones for the 2011.

Around 2,800 bottles are produced each vintage.

VDP des Côtes du Brian 2011, Lo Vièlh, Clos du Gravillas ($35.38, private import, 6 bottles/case)
14% ABV. Quebec agent: Plan Vin.
Bordeaux-ish nose, the red and black fruit intermixed with graphite, wood, ash and vanilla scents and eventually joined by spice and undergrowth. Dry, smooth and round but also coming across as somewhat primary and unintegrated, with the oak in particular standing out. The finish is long. At least a few of us found the new style disconcerting and not fully convincing – the wine’s high quality was not in doubt but we didn’t understand why the oak was thought necessary. Now we do. I’ll give my remaining bottle at least a couple of years to digest the oak and knit together. (Buy again? Maybe, though I might be tempted to wait for the 2012, in which, in the winemaker’s words, “the oak is down a notch and the pure carignan fruit can completely shine through.”)

VDP des Côtes du Brian 2008, Lo Vièlh, Clos du Gravillas ($34.07, private import, NLA)
14% ABV. Quebec agent: Plan Vin.
Dark fruit, old wood, hints of elderberry, spice, forest floor, distant barnyard. Medium-bodied, silky and balanced, with fine acidity and a soft but persistent tannic undertow. A faint sourness adds dimension to the fruit, which is covered in thin veils of minerals, old leaves, wood. Long. A lovely wine that’s in a good place now and probably for some years to come. Would make a believer out of all but the most confirmed Carignan skeptics. (Buy again? Done!)

VDP des Côtes du Brian 2004, Lo Vièlh, Clos du Gravillas ($36.60, private import, 6 bottles/case)
14% ABV. Quebec agent: Plan Vin.
Leather, slate, black raspberry, smoke and faint meat. Satiny texture. Not much structure or backbone, though with enough acidity to keep the fire burning. Some wondered whether the bottle was off, others thought it was simply a little past peak but still delicious. (Buy again? A bottle for research purposes.)

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Written by carswell

June 12, 2014 at 10:23

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