It has been a while since I did a cellar visit with Bruno Lafon of Domaine Magellan. Things have moved on; his sister-in-law Sylvie, with whom he ran Domaine Magellan, has sadly died and now he has a lot less vineyards. He has recently remarried, to Sharon, who he met at a wine fair in Hong Kong, and they are now working together, with Bruno’s daughter, Alice, to develop the label, Maison Lafon.
Bruno now runs nine hectares and he also buys grapes from a neighbour, Jean Couderc of Domaine des Trois Puechs in Fouzilhon. First, we tasted a few 2020s, my first of the year. See an earlier post for Bruno’s view of the harvest. All Bruno’s vineyards are farmed organically, and he is working on biodynamics.
Our tasting started off in the cellar, with a vat sample of one third Roussanne to two thirds Grenache Blanc was the colour and density of grapefruit juice. Part of the cuvée is in barrel and Bruno also has some Grenache Gris and Piquepoul in barrel. The wine will do a malo; as a Burgundian, he likes a malolactic fermentation, and all his white wines have undergone a malo since 2011. I am not very experienced at tasting very young wine from vat, but this struck me as nicely textured with some refreshing acidity.
A blend of Syrah and Grenache followed, a future AOP Pézenas, with a deep colour and ripe cassis fruit. It was very intense, with some peppery tannins, and the yield from 2.5 hectares was just 63 hectolitres. Too small a yield can be problematic economically. Bruno thinks the area around Magellas is getting drier; it can rain heavily in Montpeyroux when there is hardly a drop here. We talked about the mortality rate of Syrah with vines of 20 years old dying before their time. It may be linked to the type of graft, but nobody really knows. Vers de la grappe is another problem that is becoming more common.
Next came a blend of Syrah, Cinsault and Grenache, from grapes bought from M. Couderc, which they harvest themselves, thus controlling the harvest date. A deep colour, with ripe fruit, firm tannins and a juicy finish. Buying grapes gives them flexibility. However, Bruno would like to find some Cinsault vines to buy. Twenty years ago, Cinsault had a bad reputation and Bruno replanted five hectares of Cinsault, for which he had paid just the price of the land, without the vines. But he now thinks that Cinsault is a grape for the future, like Piquepoul. Cinsault grows slowly and is more resistant to climatic difficulties.
Then we adjourned to the shade of large plane tree in the courtyard and considered some bottles. Bruno explained that the label Maison Lafon began in 2016, but it only really got going in 2019.
2016 Cuvée Reserve, AOP Languedoc - 18.00€
A blend of a high amount of Grenache grown on sandstone, with some Carignan and a little Syrah. Sandstone makes for less powerful Syrah. About a 15 months élevage in barrels and then in cement vat, and bottled late, in the summer of 2019. Medium colour. Rounded, perfumed fruit on nose and palate, with an elegant streak of tannin. Elegant red fruit. Still very youthful. Bruno enthused about 2016; it has the richness of 2017, but the balance of 2014.
2017 Grenache, Vieilles Vignes - 18€
From 60 year old vines, grown on sandstone. Medium colour. Very elegant fruit on the nose, with a tannic streak. Fresh and youthful. Some mineral stony notes. Grenache at its best. Bruno observed that you can find aromas in Grenache that you would normally find in white wine, such as the mineral stoniness.
2018 Syrah, Les Temps Changent
Inspired by the Bob Dylan song, Times, They are a-changin’. The last vintage from this particular vineyard, that faces NW, with a terroir of villefranchien clay and limestone. Deep colour with firm youthful peppery fruit on the nose. Very fresh with a streak of tannin. A more northern style of Syrah with some restraint.
2018 Deja Vu
A blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Carignan vinified together. Both varieties are in the same vineyard. Quite a deep colour. Elegant red fruit and spice. Grenache makes for quite soft fruit while Carignan provides a firm streak of tannin. Very nicely balanced, with an underlying ripeness. Aged in Burgundian barrels for 12 months.
2019 Syrah, a barrel sample, with some firm spicy fruit, and blackcurrant gums on the nose. Quite a rounded palate. Quite intense with some cassis fruit. Promises well.
2019 Mourvèdre 80% / Carignan 20% blend
The two varieties are aged separately. Firm youthful nose, and firm red fruit on the palate. The Carignan gives freshness, with red fruit and tight tannins, and a ripe finish. Aged in Burgundian pièces, but Bruno is considering demi-muids, and even small 20 hectolitres foudres. He is not into eggs or amphora, Terracotta is too porous; though he might consider a ceramic amphora. And he prefers barrels that have been used in Puligny rather than Meursault, observing that in Puligny they bottle before the harvest, whereas in Meursault they keep their wine in barrel for longer, so that there is a moment in the year when the barrels are empty, and Bruno does not like that. He also laughingly observed that his brother’s barrels were much too expensive! You don’t need the support of wood; it is the micro-oxygenation that is beneficial and gives stability to the wine.
Next came 2013 Coteaux du Languedoc, Pézenas. A blend of Syrah and Grenache - 50/50 in the vineyard but not necessarily in the wine. Rounded maturing nose and palate, with supple ripe fruit and a firm finish. Some leathery notes, and the intriguing nuances of a maturing wine. with a long finish.
The next treat of the day was a vertical tasting of Domaine de Magellan Blanc. We began with 2008. The wine is a blend of 2/3 Grenache Blanc to 1/3 Roussanne. Half of the Grenache and all the Roussanne was aged in barrel, and the rest of the Grenache in vat. A little malo, but not 100%. The wine was kept in barrel until February and then racked and returned to vat, and bottled about a month later. The only difference in the wine making over the years is the malo-lactic fermentation. Bruno likes 2008 as a vintage and the wine had rounded fruit with good texture and a certain note of maturity, with layers of flavour.
2013 - Some coulure in 2013 so the proportions of Grenache and Roussanne were 50 /50. Some reductive notes so quite a tight nose and palate, with some elegant fruit. Very complete and harmonious.
2014 - Quite a resinous nose, with some notes of maturity. Rounded, ripe and rich on the palate, with subtle fruit.
2015 - Rounded and concentrated, rich and rounded, with some balancing acidity.
Bruno has planted more white varieties, Grenache Gris, and a little Grenache Blanc, Vermentino and Piquepoul.
2018 - I really enjoyed the more youthful 2018, with round floral fruit, with texture and mouthful and a youthful finish. It was drinking very nicely.
Next came a couple more reds: 2016 Pézenas with fresh fruit on the nose, and more red fruit on the palate, with a streak of tannin. Nicely youthful and it was tasted alongside a more mature 2012, a vintage that Bruno really likes. It was nicely elegant, again with fresh fruit. There is more Grenache and Carignan than Syrah in the blend. Youthful tannin and nicely balanced, and young for its years.
In short, a great tasting, showing what a Burgundian approach can achieve in the south of France.