Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Notes From A French Winemaker
While at the International Malbec Days event in Cahors, France, we had plenty of activities to keep us busy and sipping. We had morning seminars and guided wine tastings, but I really wanted to see the vineyards, where the grapes are grown, feel the soil. Luckily I was able to have that opportunity. One of the guys that was on the trip with me, Fred Minnick spoke with Phillipe Vincens of Chateau Vincens and he agreed to take us to his vineyard to give us the grand tour and maybe even sample a few.
As we rode to the vineyard with Philippe, Fred was interviewing him in the front seat. Clearly I was able to hear what he was saying and I was able to learn quite a bit about Chateau Vincens and their winemaking process. One thing of note is that there seemed to be a new generation taking over the vineyards of Cahors. The parents are passing down the winery operations to their children, which is infusing the wine and also the region with newer winemaking techniques and innovative labeling and marketing ideas. Chateau Vincens is right on with that trend, Philippe Vincens is 29 yrs old and has only been in the wine business for 2 years. He studied business and finance at a school in Paris and learned winemaking in Bordeaux. Him and his brother now run the vineyard that they inherited from their father, who inherited it from his father. And although some of the winemaking techniques are new things that Philippe is trying, most of the techniques that he is using come from his grandfather.
Chateau Vincens makes 4 wines using mostly Malbec grapes, Le Prestige is 20% Merlot. The vineyard is in St-Vincent Rive d'Olt and sits on 36 hectares of land. The vineyard is settled on a hillside on a 300 meter plateau which allows for better water drainage and sun exposure. The ground between the vines alternates between grass and soil (ie, grass, vine, soil/rocks, vine) because too much grass makes the vines suffer by taking minerals and nutrients away from the vines. But, the vines and the ground still need the grass for water retention and heat hence the alternating. Chateau Vincens is not a certified organic vineyard but minimal pesticides are used for grape growing. Grapes are picked by mechanical harvest but sorted by hand. Grapes are then fermented in stainless steel tanks and put into new and old oak barrels for aging. The oak comes from different makers and also different barrels in order to impart a distinctly different flavor into each style and vintage of Chateau Vincens wines.
After the tour of the vineyard, winemaking facility, cellar, and bottling area, Phillipe gave us a barrel sample from the 2009 simple Malbec. This particular wine was meant to be young and sees no oak. Very earthy and leathery on the nose with a strong fruit flavor of dark cherry. Strong gripping tannins and full body melt into a great fruit flavor. This is a great expression of Malbec and I can't wait to import this to DC!
Philippe walked us into a room that overlooks the cellar to taste a few of the wines he currently has on the market.
If this were in the states right now, it would sell like hotcakes. More malbec producers should push their roses into the market more to get Americans to buy into their heavier tannic malbecs. This is a great one to start with! Salmon pink in the glass, crisp and refreshing to the taste. Not fermented to dryness, this wine has a bit of residual sugar which lends to a sweeter more honeyed peachy flavor.
2007 Le Prestige
Truffle, earth, dark berry fruit on the nose balanced by medium acidity and dark berry fruit on the palate. May need another year or 2 for this wine to fully develop into complete magnificence, but you can drink it now if you can't wait.
Light tobacco notes on the nose with ripe cherry and black currant on the palate. Such a strong fresh fruit flavor that was not overpowered by the oak aging.
2002 Les Graves de Paul
A little tight at first, but after a few minutes in the glass a few swirls...this malbec opened right up. Fresh fruit and licorice met strong tannins to finish in a perfectly round and well balanced wine
I had an amazing afternoon touring the vineyard, learning about winemaking techinques, and sipping wine with new friends. I can't wait to import Chateau Vincens wines to DC. Look out for them in a store near you soon!!