Domaine de L’Oustal Blanc, La Liviniere
Isabel makes no secret of her taste for powerful wines. These are deep, rich and concentrated, and exciting, the product of ripe fruit grown in the hot summers of the Midi, but the greatest care is taken to ensure that they are nevertheless complex, refined and precise. Viticulture follows biodynamic principles which, as Isabel points out, are simply the method followed by West African peasants. Grass is allowed to grow between the vines to conserve water and organic matter, and yields from the old vines are very low. The grapes are picked manually, cooled and destemmed before being fermented in custom-built cement and sand vats, which have a high thermal mass so eliminating the need for cooling.
2019 Naïck, Vin de France (very, very limited)
95% Grenache Gris, 5% Macabeu, producing only 25 hl per hectare (inexpensive wines are picked at 60 hl hectare). Fermented and aged in 500 litre acacia barrels for one year, without malolactic fermentation. A full-bodied wine with aromas of white flowers, citrus and almonds. Stands up to richly sauced fish, lobster, spicy chicken and pork dishes.
2017 Cuvée “K”, Vin de France – £89.70
The ‘basic’ cuvée, a wine that is aged in cement vats for nine months before bottling. Perfect with grilled meats, stews and cheeses, and anything else that cries out for a red wine.
2017 Giocoso, AOP Minervois – £119.70
70% Grenache Noir, 20% Syrah, 10% Carignan. The Grenache is aged for 18 months in cement vats, but the Syrah and Carignan receive 12 months in three- and four-year old barrels. This has immense power but is beautifully structured with ripe, velvety tannins, and refined aromas of herbs and spices complement the fruit. For a special occasion; perfect with game or a rib of beef.
Presented as a prospective blend of 45% tank-aged Grenache, 45% Syrah and 10% Carignan (both aged in older barrels), the 2017 Minervois Giocoso offers big, mixed-berry flavors. It’s full-bodied, concentrated and rich, with a firm core of tannins, but still finishes on a velvety note. Promising stuff. Rating 90–92. Drink date 2019–24. Reviewed by Joe Czerwinski, issue 236, The Wine Advocate
2015 Giocoso, AOP Minervois (very limited) – £119.70
70% Grenache Noir, 20% Syrah, 10% Carignan. The Grenache is aged for 18 months in cement vats, but the Syrah and Carignan receive 12 months in three- and four-year old barrels. Initially quite closed, but after half an hour or so it started to show its colours. Black fruits, earthy spice, herbs. In the mouth this offers good concentration and depth, lovely tannins balance the mature and evolving fruit flavours, good acidity keeps this nice a clean tasting – more elegance than expected. The finish is balanced and medium long. It’s a big wine but not over-powering. Great with game, casseroles, beef.
Domaine de L’Oustal Blanc Tasting Case – £115 (includes delivery within England)
3 Bottles of 2017 Cuvee K, 3 Bottles 2017 Giocoso
Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Suolo 2016 Tre Bicchieri, Argiano
Finally, the best of the best are again tasted blind to decide the award of Wine of the Year. To achieve this, the wine has to be beyond exceptional! And,
Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Suolo 2016 Tre Bicchieri, Argiano
Dating back to at least 1500, the historic and visually stunning Argiano estate covers some 100 hectares of prime Brunello-shire, sharing its land between vineyards, olive groves and meadows, and with Mount Amiata in the background it is an estate that would be well worth visiting even if they made nothing better than cooking wine. Fortunately for us, it is a top-class winery. In 1992, the estate was acquired by Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano, and the philosophy changed from quantity to quality; Sebastiano Rosa, whose experience included a two-year tenure at Chateau Lafite Rothschild and three years at Sassicaia, was appointed as General Manager and the great oenologist, Giacomo Tachis (Sassicaia, Tignanello and Solaia, to name a few), was to oversee the viticulture and winemaking – not a bad team. In 2013, the estate was purchased by Andre Esteves, who only added to the efforts to continue the long-standing tradition of Argiano: the world-renowned Chilean terroir consultant, Pedro Parra, was added to the winemaking team in 2015, the cellars and villa have recently been renovated and under Bernadino Sani, CEO and winemaker, things have never looked better at this famous estate.
2019 Non Confunditur – £107.70 per 6 x 75cl
Non Confunditur is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 30% Syrah and Sangiovese Grosso, vinified separately and grown at 280 – 310 metres on mostly clay and limestone high-density, organically managed vineyards using spurred cordons. Before blending, the wines are aged for 6 months in one-year-old French barriques or two-year-old tonneaux. After blending, they are aged in stainless steel.
A little more serious than the price reflects. Lovely ripe black and red fruits combine with a fleshy palate, ripe tannins and good acidity to make a really attractive, youthful, wine to go with a huge variety of foods.
2019 Rosso di Montalcino – £119.70 per 6 x 75cl
100% Sangiovese grown at 280 – 310 metres on mostly clay and limestone, high-density, organic vineyards using spurred cordons. Cold soaked prior to spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled stainless steel, with 10 days on the skins. Argiano’s Rosso is always one of the best and leans more squarely towards Brunello than most.
This has a lovely bright ruby colour; fragrant nose – red and black cherry, plum with hints of spice. Youthful palate, energetic, cherry, ripe red fruits, fine tannins with good acidity and medium long finish. Really very good now and over the next few years.
2016 Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Suolo, Gambero Rosso Wine of the Year 2021 (very limited) – £399 per 3 x 75cl (or £645 per 6 x 75cl under bond)
This vineyard is on the southwestern side of Montalcino, on a spur of rock overlooking the Val d’Orcia, the Sangiovese Grosso vines are 55 years old and lie 320 meters above sea level, on a soil of clayey-limestone marl, rich in fossils from when this area was a seabed. Only the best parcels of vines are selected for the del Suolo. Fermentation was natural and spontaneous, and maturation was for 30 months in 10-15 hectolitre Allier oak barrels from Garbelletto, including some ovoid (egg-shaped) – after bottling in April, during the most beneficial phases of the moon (Bernardino’s attention to detail is key to the quality of Argiano’s wines) the wine rested for 10 months.
Gambero Rosso note
The wine is announced with a deep ruby colour, and opens with a seductive bouquet with ripe cherries and small fruits turning to more complex notes of tobacco, floral and scrub, and then fade into spice and citrus peel. The mouth is wide, deep, clear, supported by a rich acidic structure that supports an intact and pulpy fruit and tannins of spectacular finesse. Rich but not dense, it is assertive, deep, very elegant, with an extraordinary vitality that predicts glorious aging. We will talk about it for a long time…
The 2016 Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Suolo from Argiano lifts up with a minty freshness which gives way to peppery herbs and florals. Medicinal cherry, hints of clove and licorice come forward over time. It is dense and textural, leaning toward black fruits, with a complex web of salty minerals and tannins that penetrate the senses. The 2016 Vigna del Suolo shows remarkable length, yet is currently folded in upon itself, creating what feels like a black hole of structure through the finale, which nearly masks an array of residual spices and perfumes. That said, it’s a long-distance runner that is packed full of potential. Vinous 96+ pts Drinking window: 2026 – 2040 Eric Guido. Tasting date: November 2020