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2012 Ch. de Cesseras, Minervois La Livinière
Scores and Reviews
This domaine produces first-class wines at absurdly low prices. Brothers Jean-Yves and Pierre-André are the 6th generation of Ournacs to produce wines here. Like other growers in the area, they have progressively replanted their vineyards over the last 15 years, replacing many traditional varieties with Syrah, Chardonnay and Viognier. The vines are grown on clay-chalk soils and part of the property qualifies for the Minervois appellation where Syrah and Carignan are planted.
Their top red wine, the Château de Cesseras, La Livinière, is made from predominantly Syrah and has great depth, richness and class. Pierre André Ournac was one of the first to realise the potential of La Livinière and makes one of its very best wines. Stylistically this is a polished example, having been partly aged in new wood, but, importantly, a wine which has not lost sight of provenance and which has a real sense of place. The aromatics of herbs and thyme and the rich palate, with its notes of scorched earth and macerated plums, all betray the warm Mediterranean backdrop, evocative of Pagnol, Matisse and a spirit of leisure.
This estate is particularly renowned for the quality of its Viogniers. It is remarkable how well this grape which was traditionally grown in the Northern Rhône appellations of Condrieu and Château Grillet, adapts to the warmer growing conditions of the Languedoc, producing wines of immense charm and finesse at a fraction of the price of their Northern Rhône counterparts.
A noble black grape variety grown particularly in the Northern Rhône where it produces the great red wines of Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and Cornas, and in Australia where it produces wines of startling depth and intensity. Reasonably low yields are a crucial factor for quality as is picking at optimum ripeness. Its heartland, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, consists of 270 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards producing wines that brim with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.
It is now grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Its spiritual home in Australia is the Barossa Valley, where there are plantings dating as far back as 1860. Australian Shiraz tends to be sweeter than its Northern Rhône counterpart and the best examples are redolent of new leather, dark chocolate, liquorice, and prunes and display a blackcurrant lusciousness.
South African producers such as Eben Sadie are now producing world- class Shiraz wines that represent astonishing value for money.
Minervois la Livinière is something of a first in the Languedoc: a commune within a commune, the first step towards a Burgundian-quality pyramid perhaps. Created after extensive campaigning in 1997, Minervois la Livinière covers 200 hectares and is focused on four villages in the foothills of the Montagne Noire, the key trio of which are Siran, Cesseras and La Livinière itself. The percentage of Syrah and Mourvèdre must be at least 40, and several of the wines are treated to generous barrique ageing.
Although the appellation has yet to live up to its early potential, specifically in terms of reputation, it is now producing some of the best wines in the region. Producers such as Pierre-André Ournac at Domaine De Coudoulet and Frantz Venes at Massamier La Mignarde are making very fine wines, with plenty of terroir influence to underwrite the Mediterranean sunshine.
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