Domaine Verena Wyss
Verena’s wines get better and better. I first visited her about six years ago, and returned a couple of years ago – see my earlier blog – and this time I just want to enthuse as I came away with a great impression of elegance and finesse.
2011 les Perdreaux – 10.00€
This is Verena’s Roussanne cuvée that used to be fermented and aged in oak, but in 2008 Verena decided to tone down the oak, and each year she reduced the amount of oak, so that with 2011 there was none. You can’t go from oak to no oak in just one vintage, she observed. Your customers might not like it, if the wine changes dramatically from one year to the next. There is a little colour, with some ripe fruit on the nose, lots of white blossom, and on the palate lots of nuances with weight, depth and length.
2010 Wyss Wine, Viognier, Pays d’Oc – 10.00€
Again, no oak. The wine is ripe and peachy with subtle nuances, and a herbal note. It is quite elegant, for a Viognier, with lightly peachy notes on the palate, and a herbal streak. Quite intriguing.
2010 Viognier Tradition – 11.00€
Seven months in wood, with bâtonnage. Some depth of colour. Quite rounded and peachy, but with a drier finish, with oak providing a streak of tannin. I preferred the unoaked version.
And then Verena gave us a treat, 2000 Roussanne. Lit was light golden in colour, with a mature buttery nose, but quite a different butteriness than that of Chardonnay. Fifty per cent of the wine had been fermented and aged in oak. On the palate, there were lots of nuances, with a hint of maturity, and quite soft acidity and great length. It was hard to believe that it was a white wine from the Midi that was almost twelve years old.
2011 Rosé Lladoner Pelut – 7.50€
Lladoner Pelut is a cousin of Grenache. The colour is a pink orange, with quite a delicate nose. It is saigné, with the juice run off very quickly. The plate is nicely vinous, dry and rounded with a refreshing finish.
2009 Lladoner Pelut Vin de France – 8.50€
With 11 months in oak. Verena has 1.20 hectares of Lladoner Pelut, in the hottest part of her vineyards. The wine is aged in oak, in barrels of several fills. Used oak, she insisted, not old oak. Medium colour with some liqueur cherry fruit and a tannic edge on the nose. Medium weigh with ˚quite a firm dry tannic streak, and some cherry fruit and a fresh finish. This would be a lovely summer red, served lightly chilled.
2008 Merlot Chant de la terre -14.00€
The colour has developed a little. Quite cedary with some vegetal notes on the nose. And on the palate ripe cedary fruit with supple tannins. Quite fleshy and nicely rounded with an elegant finish. The wine spends 126 months in nearly new oak. Verena buys a new 600 litre barrel ever year and asks for light toasting. We joked that this was the St. Emilion of Gabian.
2008 La Tonga – Tonga being Thongue, the nearby river in Occitan.
40% Petit Verdot with Cabernet Sauvignon. Élevage in oak and blended together a month before bottling. Deep colour. Lovely depth with ripe cassis and a grip on the nose. Very good fruit, with youthful freshness. Medium weight. Elegant tannins. Maybe the Graves of Gabian?
And to what did she attribute the improvement in her wines? Temperature control; she keeps the fermentations cooler; if they are long and cool, the aromatics are retained, and you must not over extract. Also she in the process of converting to organic viticulture and maybe that helps too.
2008 Bel Canto - 12.00€
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. The Cabernet was planted in 1992, the Merlot in 1996 and the petit Verdot in 1998. Deep colour; smoky cedary nose and palate. Richer with more depth; some lovely cedary notes, smoky, rich and elegant with great length. The St. Julien of Gabian, without a doubt!
And then Verena opened a bottle of a cuvee called l’Art Brut, which had been made on demand for a group of German customers, who had dictated what they wanted in the wine, and helped make it. In Verena’s hands it would have been Bel Canto. Instead it came from the New World, without the regional characteristics of the Languedoc, with intense ripe confit fruit and sweet oak, and an alcohol level of 15˚. The blend was half and half Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The contrast was quite dramatic and I had no doubt which I preferred. But fascinating to taste the difference in the glass.