Sunday, October 01, 2006

The wines of Chateau Maurel Fonsalade

We arrived on a hot afternoon during the harvest, to be met by locked doors and a sign which told us that we needed to ring in advance to book for a tasting, however not to be deterred we rang the bell anyway. A short while later a man, probably in his late fifties came hurrying out of the vineyard nearby looking hot and extremely sweaty.
"Could we have a tasting?"
"Yes of course, please wait here"
At which point he disappeared through a garage door, and we, being the Englishmen we are followed.
After we had been shooed back out of the garage door, he then opened a door right next to the garage door and beckoned us in to a room full of large barrels (500 litre demi-muids which are favoured by many in the region for not adding quite as much to an already dense and tannic wine) with a professional tasting counter at one end.
We had never really planned to be here, we’d set out for Domaine Canet-Valette nearby, drank a great deal of Marc Valette’s wines, got slightly tipsy (except of course Jon our driver for the day) and headed off in search of Borie La Vitarele but found there to be no one home. So here we were, with a man, who told us he used to be a dentist and that we really ought to spit the wine out to be kind to our teeth, tasting wines. Up to this point we’d often stuck to red wines, really as a way to maintain some level of sobriety and keep our taste buds reasonably intact, however M. Fonsalade insisted we try his white "Lyre 2004" and very pleasant it was too, far fresher and crisper than I had feared many whites may be under the baking Med sun. It was a deep yellow colour with floral and honey aromas, balanced out brilliantly with acidity. Next we moved onto his two "Cuvee Tradition" a Rose and a Red, the former a simple salmon coloured little number with raspberry flavours that flirted outrageously on the tongue and a simple red aged in stainless steel vats with red fruits and a touch of wild thyme. So far so good, but nothing to write home about. But this is all about to change – "Now" we are told "For our serious wines!"
"We start with the 8 Euro "Cuvee Frederic" 2003 a wonderful smooth velvety wine with sweet cassis fruit, toasted almonds and just a hint of decadence. "Can we buy your wines in the UK?" We ask at this point as the Renault Clio seems far too small a car at this very moment in time – "Alas no – I cannot compete with wines from Australia – they are all too cheap!" At which point we hear a ten minute monologue on the problems facing French wines in the UK market and St. Chinian wines in particular. M. Fonsalade is a passionate man, and I wanting to empathise with him go into some discussions further on the subject of Australian wines, and terroir and other such complaints that one hears on the subject. It would appear I have found a friend – for we taste his top Cuvee next, simple called "Vielle Vignes" this is a wine at just 12 Euros made from 50 year vines, harvested at around 18hl/h of great depth and complexity – here it is – the Holy Grail of wine – something wonderful, that costs less that £9 a bottle, that frankly will give anything else I’ve ever tasted in that price range a run for it’s money and it’s not available in the UK – if only I was in the wine business! And afterwards M. Fonsalade insists that despite buying just 4 bottles between us we should leave with a bottle of his two cuvees to drink with our meal this evening. We leave, with a firm handshake and knowledge that somehow, somewhere we will return to the region if only to drink the wonderful wines that M. Fonsalade produces!

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