A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Weird Blend Wednesday - Piquepoul Noir, Riveirenc Noir, Morastel Noir a Jus Blanc& Oeillade Noir - Languedoc, France

Piquepoul Noir Grapes
We've taken some looks at some fairly unusual blends here on Weird Blend Wednesday, but we've never tackled anything quite like today's wine.  All four of the grapes in this particular bottle are not just unusual, but extremely rare to boot.  I've done the best that I can trying to tease out exactly what's in this wine, but given the extraordinary scarcity of these grapes, it's hard to say how successful my effort has been.

Clos Centeilles was founded by husband and wife team Daniel and Patrica Boyer-Domergue in the late 1980's in the Minervois region of southern France.  In the mid 1990's, the duo planted a small vineyard with the aim of preserving some of the ancient native varieties that had been almost completely wiped out by phylloxera about a hundred years before.  They make both a white wine and red wine from these extraordinarily rare grapes and we'll eventually take a look at their white, but today I'd like to take a look at their red wine and the four grapes that are used in its creation.

The overwhelming majority of the blend for this wine (78%) is from a grape called Piquepoul (or Picpoul) Noir.  This is the dark berried form of the Picpoul grape used in the production of Picpoul de Pinet, and it is much more difficult to find than its light skinned twin (which is planted on about 2,500 acres of land throughout France).  Both Picpoul Noir and Picpoul Blanc are permitted varieties in Chateaneuf-du-Pape, but together they account for only about 0.15% of the total plantings there.  Picpoul Noir is also permitted in the Coteaux du Languedoc appellation, but is neither widely grown nor utilized there.   Wines made from the Picpoul Noir grape are richly perfumed but lightly colored so the grape tends to be used as a blending grape when it is used at all.  This particular wine is probably about as close as you can come to a varietal Picpoul Noir.

Riveirenc Noir makes up the second largest part of this wine at 15% of the blend, and I can find absolutely no online information about this grape outside of descriptions of this particular wine.  The VIVC database has no listings for a grape called Riveirenc, though there is a listing for a grape called Riveyrenc, which is either officially known as Aspiran Noir (according to the VIVC) or Rivairenc (according to the OCW, though the entry is given under Aspiran).  Riveirenc is not listed as an accepted synonym for Aspiran Noir in the VIVC, so it is unclear whether it is the same grape or not, but it seems likely given that Aspiran is still an accepted variety in the Minervois, where this particular wine is made.  There were only about 7 hectares of Aspiran Noir in France as of 1988, though at one time it accounted for almost a quarter of the plantings in the Hérault region of the Languedoc.  Phylloxera claimed many of the vines in the late 19th Century, and then a severe frost in 1956 claimed most of the rest.  It's not a particularly productive vine, so most growers elected to plant other varieties when their vines were stricken.

Morastel Noir à Jus Blanc is the third largest component of this particular wine, though it makes up only 5% of the blend.  Morastel is, generally speaking, a synonym for Mourvedre, but given that this estate has other vines that they identify as Mourvedre, it's unclear just what this variety might be.  In France, Morastel (sometimes also spelled Morrastel) refers to the Graciano grape, which was once widely planted in the Languedoc.  The "jus blanc" part of the name hints that it may be related to a teinturier variety (a grape with red flesh and thus red juice), as the "jus blanc," or "white juice" description is often used to differentiate white pulped clones from red pulped ones.  In this report on the Paris Exhibition of 1878, the author notes a few "red juice" varieties of grape, three of which have the word "Morastel" in them.  All three of these Morastel grapes were created by Henri Bouschet by crossing Morastel (presumably Graciano in this context), and Petit-Bouschet.  The OCW informs us that Morrastel-Bouschet (which I'm assuming was one of these crossings) eventually came to completely replace plantings of Morrastel/Graciano in southern France, so it is possible that one of these teinturier Morastel crossings mutated at some point into a non-teinturier vine, and that his mutation is now known as Morastel Noir à Jus Blanc.  It is also possible that  Morastel Noir à Jus Blanc was just the local name given to Graciano to differentiate it from the Morastel-Bouschet teinturier varieties after they came to dominate the landscape.  It's difficult to say for sure either way.

Œillade Noir Grapes     
Œillade makes up only 2% of the blend for this wine, and it has the same kind of naming issue as Morastel Noir à Jus Blanc.  Œillade is typically used as a synonym for Cinsaut, but, again, Clos Centeilles grows a lot of Cinsaut and bottles other wines under that particular name, so it doesn't seem likely that what they're calling Œillade is merely Cinsaut.  The VIVC does have a listing for an Oeillade Noire, which seems to be related to another grape called Araignan, which Clos Centeilles uses for the white version of this particular wine, so it's probably a safe bet that that's what we're dealing with here.  Oeillade Noire can sometimes resemble Cinsaut, which is probably where the confusion about the synonyms comes from, though wines from it are lighter in color and, according to some sources, slightly inferior in quality, which probably goes a long way towards explaining why there isn't that much of it around anymore.

I was able to get my hands on a bottle of the 2006 Clos Centeilles C de Ceinteilles Rouge from my friends at the Spirited Gourmet for about $18 (I believe the wine is also available in both Rouge and Blanc from Curtis Liquors as well).  In the glass this wine was a fairly light purple ruby color.  The nose was moderately intense with black cherry, blackberry, charcoal, smoke and black pepper aromas.  On the palate the wine was on the fuller side of medium with medium acidity and medium tannins.  There were flavors of red cherry and crushed red berries, smoke, and black pepper with a distinctively savory, meaty kind of character to it.  It wasn't incredibly complex, but it was very nice and represents a good bargain at under $20.  It's probably the only chance that most people will have to taste a wine made from these particular grape varieties and is worth the cost of the bottle for that fact alone.  Those of you who are a few grapes short on your Wine Century Club applications should track a bottle of this down as it's a sure-fire way to add four more grapes to your tasting resume.

1 comment:

Graham said...

Rybeyrenc seems to be another synonym for Riveirenc and Aspiran. I wrote about a 100% Rybeyrenc wine made by Thierry Navarre on my languedoc wine blog entry