© Andy Abramson
Today was a lot of fun, though the wine tasting was limited to three wines at lunch, with most of the afternoon was spent with Sylvain Fadat, the owner and winemaker of Domaine d'Aupilhac in Montpeyroux.
I've had the pleasure of meeting Sylvain twice before, and even more the good fortune to taste and own numerous bottles since his first vintage, just ten short years go. His Syrah vines, now 15 years old, are some of the youngest he has planted. His Carignan is almost 100 years old and resides 300 meters up high on Mount Baudile, a plot where he is one of four winemakers who owns part of the mountain top vineyard land.
As intrigued as I am about his wines, of which we tasted new, old, unreleased and barrel samples, he is intrigued by my new cell phone and the Internet, so the afternoon evolved into a combination of wine and 'Net talk, ending with my helping Sylvain register www.aupilhac.com, and agreeing to return on Monday to help him move his web site to his true domain, establish a web server in he USA and set up his new e-mail accounts.
Now his wines are not made, despite pressures from sommeliers, importers and fans, to be drunk young. They are as he says "vin du garde," or wine to age and live long. We actually popped a 1990 as well as tasted the super limited 1996 Le Clos, along with his 1998 upcoming releases some of which are not really bottled and the sensational 1999 wines right from the tank.
The 1998 vintage was very small in crop size, but produced highly concentrated grapes throughout most of the Languedoc. Fadat was no exception, and the opportunity to own his own vineyard land proved to be a benefit.
The white is sensational. Having drunk his whites as far back as the 1996 vintage, this is by far his most fruit forward release, but has the depth, structure and balance to go a long way. An equalized blend of Ugni Blanc, Chardonnay and Grenache Blanc, Fadat admits he has planted and is growing Rolle, Rousanne and Marsanne for future releases. This future release is very pale gold in color. It mineral like nose teases you before the chalky; limestone base of fruit comes at you with total disregard for your senses. It has, like so many of Fadat's wines, perfect balance and acidity. The flavors of lemon, lime, orange peel, grapefruit, apples pears, spearmint, papaya and apricot are so forward that this wine, which Fadat thinks needs two years to mature, is sure to be a wine stewards favorite anywhere it appears.
His Rose will be reappearing in the USA this coming year. YES, for I love the ageability and character that the blend of Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault seems to produce. Fadat calls it a winter Rose, because even with its dryness, it has depth, body and flavors that don't require the summer heat to encourage its consumption.
1998 Coteaux du Languedoc is a very fruit forward wine. Possessing a sweet nose, this bottle is his early release for restaurants in France who want it sooner, rather than later. The USA release, still in the tank, will be different, but the quality, originality and craftsmanship will be there without fail. It is loaded with black stone fruits, berries, plums and Syrah inspired blueberries. The blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvedre continues to be one of my favorite wines. Fadat's wines are truly an undervalued commodity; so get them while you can.
The 1998 Le Carignan, Vin d'Pay du Mont Baudile, is made from vines almost 100 years old. Fadat thinks his Carignan can age for at least 20 years and admits, now with has 10 vintage under his belt, that making the wine to age is easier now than it was 10 years ago. It's already developing, with an amazingly spicy nose, with a full throttle delivery of berries and spice.
After going through his four wines we wander to the cave and try the 1999 wines along with a few other choice offerings. The white is just finishing malolactic fermentation, but it really is loaded with fruit and I suspect, as does Fadat that it will be better than the 1998.
The unassembled parts of the Coteaux du Languedoc are intense and already drinkable. The Grenache may be some of the darkest seen this side of Rayas. The Mourvedre is already drinkable and the Syrah is showing so much blueberry fruit that you'll easily understand why all the vintners think 98 is such an exceptional year.
Fadat also tells me about two other wines, one of which I have promised to not discuss, but I will say it is mind-blowing, and I get to taste two releases of his "le Clos" a blend of Mourvedre (40%), Carignan (40%) and Syrah (20%). This wine is super-concentrated, and perhaps his best wine ever. Both tasted from cask it still needs time to age, but from its initial impression, all I can say is WOW. The 1996 spent 30 months in small oak barrels called foudres and the benefit is amazing. Deep color, super extraction, spectacular fruit, perfect balance...and 1996 was only a "so-so" vintage.
We end our tasting with his 1990 Coteaux du Languedoc. Fadat says three years ago he thought this wine was done. Now he admits it must have been a bad bottle or just in a dumb phase for this wine is not close to being at peak. The color is inky black, and despite its almost ten year life, it looks almost current release like. The flavors of the Syrah are similar to this year's wine. It has a smokey, gamey, animal like scent, but all flavorful and robust. On the palate you get honey, sweet cherries, plums, black currants, coffee, tar, tobacco and berries. Still with a soft tannic shell, the wine is easy to drink and will go for a very long time. Even Fadat is happy, promising to drink it all tonight.
Fadat's wines are available from Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants in Berkeley, CA. 1.510.524.1524.
To contact Andy Abramson, write him at email@example.com.