Telegraph: "French red wine – the benchmark of quality "

The Telegrah emphasized the quality of French Red Wine from different regions of France.  We are very honored that O’Vineyards Trah Lah Lah 2010 is included.

Gaillac; Côte-Rôtie; Gevrey-Chambertin; Pauillac: legendary French red wines that ooze style and quality. Check out these and the rest of this fine French red wine selection.

Saint-Michel 2009, Gaillac AOC £6.99, Majestic

Another great-value wine from south-west France, this blend of syrah, merlot and the local braucol grape packs plenty of punch for little money. It’s a terrifically gluggable wine, with lively notes of earthy cherries and berries, tinged with smoky liquorice and braced by crunchy tannins. Keep this one back for Boxing Day; it will provide a refreshing counterpoint to all those cold cuts of meat and salad.

Château Saint Nicolas 2011, Côtes du Roussillon AOC £7.99, Waitrose

Roussillon, which lies on France’s eastern border with Spain, is a go-to region for wines that deliver on quality and value. This red wine is a real crowd-pleaser, made from a blend of grapes similar to that used in the better-known Côtes du Rhône. Juicy, ripe and approachable, its slightly herby, spicy red fruit would work well with the Christmas turkey – especially if it comes with a dollop of cranberry sauce on the side.

Trah Lah Lah 2010, Domaine O’Vineyards, Cité de Carcassonne IGP £12.99, Naked Wines

Ryan and Joe O’Connell, the father-and-son team behind this delightfully named wine, originally hail from the US. They’ve put down roots in the Languedoc – near the pretty walled city of Carcassonne – and now make a range of heady red wines from grapes grown in the area. This dark, brooding blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot is packed with bold, ripe berry fruit. It would work well with the Christmas turkey; if you’re dining on rib of beef instead, so much the better.

Syrah Les Epices 2009/10, Domaine Les Yeuses, Pays d’Oc IGP£8.99, Majestic

While the syrah heartland is the northern Rhône, this version hails from vineyards within sight of the Mediterranean. The coastal position ensures vines benefit from breezes that keep the grapes from over-ripening – preserving the brightness that’s detectable in this wine. Thoroughly delicious, it has smoky damson and spiced fruit, draped around a framework of ripe tannins, and gives many a Crozes-Hermitage, twice the price, a run for its money.

Domaine Damien Coquelet 2011, Chiroubles AOC £14.04, The Sampler

This is a beaujolais – but if you’ve only ever tasted beaujolais nouveau, the personality and richness of this wine will come as a (very pleasant) surprise. Made from grapes grown on vines approaching their 90th birthday, this is an intense, earthy wine with aromas of summer flowers and red berries. Juicy and bright, it has enough tannin and acidity to provide structure – but not so much as to get in the way of your drinking pleasure. A festive season all-rounder.

La Croix Boissée 2010, Bernard Baudry, Chinon AOC £17.95, Lea & Sandeman

Cabernet franc is one of the parents of the popular cabernet sauvignon grape and shares some of its aromatic characteristics. However, it needs a cooler climate to thrive, which is why it’s most at home on the banks of the Loire. This cuvée – made from grapes grown on chalky soils – is fine-boned and elegant. Black fruit flavours are enlivened with a pronounced seam of smoky, graphite-tinged minerality. The tannins and racy acidity make this a food wine par excellence.

Fortis 2008, Domaine de Monteillet, Côte-Rôtie AOC £31.78, Goedhuis & Co

Côte Rôtie is one of the most prestigious appellations in the northern Rhône, an area that specialises in producing sinewy syrah redolent of cracked black pepper. This cuvée has had its brawn softened with a judicious dose of viognier; a white grape that knocks a few edges off the syrah, lending it a voluptuous, perfumed charm and enhancing its damson fruit. Decant it a couple of hours before your festive lunch and it should go down a treat.

Gevrey-Chambertin 2008, Mark Haisma, Gevrey-Chambertin AOC£32.50, Vinoteca, Bordeaux Index

Mark Haisma made his name in Australia, under legendary Yarra Yering winemaker Bailey Carrodus. More recently, he’s been in Burgundy and is beginning to make a name for his quirky, characterful wines. This gevrey-chambertin takes no prisoners: it is direct, with great purity of red berry fruit, a hint of autumn leaves and a long, perfumed finish. Subtle, precise and poised, this would be a terrific match for turkey or goose.

Les Hauts de Pontet-Canet 2009, Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac AOC £31 to £38, Bordeaux Index, Fine & Rare Wines, Hennings Wine Merchants

A rising star in the firmament of top-class Bordeaux. Its best bottle won’t emerge for a few years yet – and will cost five times the price of this, its second. The Bordeaux blend, dominated by cabernet sauvignon, is accessible, enhanced by the ripeness of the 2009 vintage. A bit of decanting would help bring its plush blackcurrant and cedar fruit to the fore and soften grippy tannins. Match with rare beef.


In September 2011, we did a special harvest and micro vinification with part of the Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah. It was a natural, extended whole cluster carbonic maceration.

The experimental fermentation

Natural means nothing added.  We counted on wild yeasts and used no sulfites.

Extended means that I let the maceration run for about six weeks.  That’s a long time.  Especially for a carbonic.

Whole cluster means I left the grapes on the stems.

Carbonic maceration means the tank was completely sealed throughout the maceration so there was virtually no oxygen.  The chemical reactions during fermentation result in totally different flavors when there is no oxygen in the environment.  Lots of candy like, bubblegummy flavors (often associated with beaujolais nouveau).


I previously posted about harvesting the grapes for this micro vinification experiment.


After the six weeks were up, we opened the tank and checked on the grapes.  I really had no idea what to expect.

It smelled great and looked like most of the grapes had stayed intact.

whole grape clusters on top of fermentation tank

We drained juice from the bottom of the tank and took density measurements to see how much sugar was left.  It turns out that we had almost finished fermentation on the free running juice.  It was at .999 the density of water.  Almost! Tasted great.  This was definitely killer wine.  The grapes also tasted delicious.  I froze some for use in cooking recipes later this winter.

density measurement on o'blivion

Once we drained all the free running juice, it was time to tip the tank over and scoop out all the remaining grapes into a vertical wooden press.  So many of the grapes were still intact, the entire fermentation happening INSIDE the grape.  When I would reach in with the bucket, I would hear lots of popping noises as my fingers pressed into the grapes.  It was like wine-scented bubble wrap. PS somebody should make wine scented bubble wrap.

decuvage into vertical press

I pressed the grapes.  This juice was slightly sweeter/denser.  It’s clear the fermentation stuck.  Such is life.  I guess I’m supposed to restart it with a tete de cuve (when you make a little bit of the juice ferment and then double it in size after a day and double it in size again after another day and so on until you get the whole container).  But the amount of juice we got is pathetically small (maybe 2 hectoliters / not even a barrel).  So a tete de cuve on this would be like a glass of wine.  And then the next day a bottle.  And then maybe a jug.  😀

manual vertical press

We’ll see.

All the photos of our decuvage


In September 2011, we did a special harvest and micro vinification with part of the Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah. Two of the WWOOFers (volunteers learning about farming) staying at O’Vineyards spent a couple days hand-harvesting grapes for a small project of mine.

Harvesting O’Blivion

We brought the harvest in and did a natural, whole-cluster extended carbonic maceration in a small stainless steel tank I have. No sulfites added. No yeast added. No air. No nothing. We just put a bunch of grapes in an airtight container and sealed the lid for six weeks. And the results are impressive!

The codename for the cuve has been O’Blivion because the WWOOFers were Cronenberg fans and we watched Videodrome a couple nights before starting this project. (There’s a character in Videodrome named Brian O’Blivion.)

It was a late harvest and it had its complications. At that point, we were already seeing a lot of shriveling and a bit of rot too so we had to be pretty selective in the hand harvest. Only picking the best grape bunches that seemed least affected by the adverse conditions of late harvesting, we managed to get about 5 hectoliters (500 liters) of grapes.

Photos of harvest

Help and credit

We should give a shout out to Matt and Erica, the WWOOFers who contributed so much to this little tank of wine. And Laurent and Alexandra from Tonton Marcel also helped out on the day they were at O’Vineyards.  A lot of the photos above were taken by them.

I managed to take some pictures yesterday.  Lots of photos of the Syrah and Cabernet finishing veraison.  That’s the period when the plant turns the grapes purple.

I also found some baby birds newly hatched in the Syrah!

For more pictures of grapes turning purple, check out this Love That Languedoc post about veraison in the Languedoc-Roussillon.

Cabernet Day is coming up on September 1, 2011 and O’Vineyards is going to be a French HQ for this International celebration of Cabernet grapes.

Domaine O’Vineyards

885 Ave de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou

Cabernet Day

Entrée libre
1 Septembre
De 18h-24h (pour synchroniser avec les États Unis)
Ambiance amicale
Grignotage, Beaucoup de Vin. 😉

What is Cabernet Day?

It’s an International event that gets people around the world to talk about and taste Cabernet wines.  People will be buzzing on all sorts of Internet forums and in the real world too.  The whole thing is organized by Rick Bakas, an American wine promoter and social media guy.

At O’Vineyards, we’ll be having a big tasting at night.  Hopefully lots of winemakers will show up with their own wines. And it’ll be just as much fun as last year’s event.  We’ll be trying to put as much of the event as possible online.  And we’ll be staying up late to synchronize with the Californians who can’t start drinking until our usual bedtimes here in France.

Why is Cabernet great?

I talked about this last year too.  A lot of people criticize Cabernet, especially in the Languedoc.  After all, it’s not a varietal that’s really from here.  But I stick to my guns!  Particularly in areas like the Cabardes and Malepere where we have a distinctly Atlantic influence on our climates.  We get winter water reserves deep down in our clay soils and we get more surface area of leaves and we have fresher nights during the late summer.  And all that means we can play with Cabernet to make some very interesting wines.  They’re not mere imitations of Bordeaux or California.  They’re unique and delicious expressions of a great grape varietal.

Furthermore, Cabernet has an important part in the contemporary Languedoc scene.  In the 1970s, when nobody believed in the region’s wines, Aimé Guibert came and planted Cabernet in the Terrasses du Larzac.  And since then, many have followed his example in the higher altitude terroirs of the Languedoc.

But do we need a Cabernet Day?

It’s not about needing a Cabernet Day.  Cabernet Day is coming whether you like it or not.   So my choice is to be a part of this fun excuse to party or to stand aside and “save my energy” for another cause.

Well, I’ve got lots of energy!  And I love an excuse to party. 🙂

A lot of people are going to be thinking about Cabernet on September 1st.  It’s my job to make them also think about the Languedoc. 🙂  Let’s not leave this beautiful opportunity to other more ambitious wine regions.  Let’s show the world how much we love Cabernet.

Well it’s past midnight so I can start reminiscing about Cabernet Day.  In part, that means sniffing empty bottles and thinking about opening more.  But the part of me that’s still sober is neurotically over-analyzing the event, and maybe I can bring you some fun conclusions about Cabernet Day and the Languedoc.

Cabernet Day

If you know me, you know I’m a fan of the Languedoc so I was really happy to use Cabernet Day as an opportunity to communicate on some of the wonderful Cabernet made in this region.  A lot of the time, we’re more known for our mass produced lowland Cab, which is a shame, because we have some stellar examples of Super Cabs.

I thought tonight would be a chance to get a few friends together to drink Cab and Internet-users would be able to tune in and see that folks in the Languedoc are drinking Cabernet and loving it.

I was overwhelmed by the support I got.  My neighbors from Chateau Jouclary and Pennautier and Auzias and Rivals and la Cave de Cavanac.  That’s a huge honor because these folks have been making wine longer than me.  A couple of them were even crucial in forming the AOC Cabardes.

dad pours at Cabernet Day

Anyway, it was really great to see them because it’s tough to get locals motivated sometimes.  People often say “never a prophet in his own land” or something like that. I think it’s a biblical proverb.  Anyway, I feel like sometimes my neighbors don’t want to accept that there is a huge opportunity on the Internet.  Well tonight they proved me wrong by demonstrating an exemplary curiosity that can move this whole region forward.

Also, I think it should be noted somewhat humorously how far I missed the mark on planning this event.  I set up a big TV with a feed of all the tweets about Cabernet Day.  But this didn’t really mean anything to about 80% of the people who came because they had no idea what Twitter was.  So we talked a fair amount about social networks and real time media.  It made for fun conversations.  I was blowing their minds.

But probably the biggest mind blowing experience for me was encountering a journalist who told me he remembered the pre-war owners of this vineyard.  PRE WAR? Which war you ask?  The War of ’39.  He actually called it that.  This VERY interesting man told me all sorts of things about my vineyard.  It warrants its own post on a later date.  I thought the guy was going to interview me because he was a journalist.  But in fact, he knew so much about this property, I ended up interviewing him.  It was really great learning some of the back story on this very interesting piece of land.

Anyway, I’m rambling. Because I’m tired. And drunk. But the point is that there were some great exchanges.  I’m really happy with the wonderful night we had around some glasses of Cabernet.  A big thanks to Rick Bakas for organizing this whole thing.  A big thanks to everybody who came.  And the biggest thanks to all those brave souls out there who honestly make the best Cabernet they can.

Tasting notes and more serious stuff including the video of our live party cam can be found at Love That Languedoc’s Cabernet Day article.

For now, good night, good night, sweet Cabernet!

Cabernet Day is tomorrow!  September 2nd.  The wines and last minute RSVPs are filing in.

And you can still come too!  I hope a lot of you swing by Domaine O’Vineyards tomorrow starting around 19h00.  We’ll have some stellar wines open.  You can show up earlier, but we’ll put you to work. ;D

For those of you who cannot come in person, you can still follow along on the live streaming broadcasts.  I’ll have a laptop set up to broadcast a live stream through Live That Languedoc, my ustream channel.

And I’m not the only one. California Wine TV will also be streaming!  I think that their stream will be found on a ustream channel too.

I finally got the flastcreen set up to show cascading tweets all hashtagged with #Cabernet Day.  So you had best be tweeting your little hearts out.  Tweet til the Cab ripens!

Or if you don’t tweet, feel free to leave a comment in this post or in other posts about Cabernet Day.

See you all tomorrow!

How to find us

Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387

Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
Wine Cellar. Winery Visits. Wine Tasting.
Wine & Food Pairing

North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910

  1. Best by GPS.
    Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
  2. Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
  3. Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
  4. At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
  5. After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.