Domaine de L’Oustal Blanc, La Liviniere
The story of L’Oustal Blanc is largely that of its owner, Isabel Cardoso-Fonquerle, a woman of undoubted character and determination. A native of Guinea-Bissau in West Africa, she had never seen a grape before she moved to Paris as a young woman. There, a summer job at Lafayette Gourmet introduced her to the world of wine, she was offered a full-time position and she developed both considerable knowledge and a true passion for all things vinous. So, in 2002, she took the next step and, together with Claude Fonquerle, purchased 8 hectares of vines and created a winery in the La Livinière region of Minervois, a property that she now manages on her own.
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