The O’Vineyards UK tour was a blast. Thanks to everybody who participated, organized, drank, or just wished they could be there.
There were two parts:
- The Languedoc Outsiders (scroll down for press coverage and reviews)
- Naked Wine Villages (click for a full post about the UK Villages Tour with amateur reviews)
- French Radio London interview
For now I’ll talk about the Languedoc Outsiders. Updates on the Naked Wine Villages Tour will come later.
The Languedoc Outsiders tasting took place at the Maison du Languedoc Roussillon on Cavendish Square where Louise Hurren united 12 winemakers from all walks of life who have come to the Languedoc Roussillon to make wine with a different perspective. The event went very well with something like 70 tasters over the course of the day. They were all engaged, enthusiastic and appreciative. And when I ran around at the end of the day to taste the wines myself, I understood why everybody had so much fun. Killer wines. Very happy with the whole event. Can’t wait for a version in the Languedoc!
Here is some of the press coverage O’Vineyards received from the Outsiders event so far:
“Each producer has its own interesting story to tell about how they came to the south of France — and having them all under one roof proved an inspirational way to demonstrate that good winemaking is an achievable feat for anyone, anywhere and at any time in their lives.”
“O’Vineyards Proprietor’s Reserve: A blend of Old World and Californian styles, it has a nose of damson and deep-red fruits, with a hint of orange and cloves. The palate is juicy and dry, well-balanced with good length and a bright future. O’Vineyards wine is made by 20-something American Ryan O’Connell who came to Carcassonne in 2005 and is founder of blogging site love-that-languedoc.com”
—Harpers, Carol Emmas
“Ryan O’Connell, his American father Joe and French/Vietnamese mother Liz arrived France in 2005, having traded the family business building luxury homes in Florida for a more rural existence making wine in the Cabardès region. Ryan is full of infectious enthusiasm and, as well as making some very good wines, works tirelessly in promoting the wines of southern France as a whole. His favourite toy is his flip video camera, which he uses to good effect, creating an ever-increasing number of informative and enthusiastic (and occasionally very funny) short videos, featuring visits to different growers the length and breadth of Languedoc and Roussillon, which he posts regularly on his Love That Languedoc blog. In fact, Ryan leaves no stone un-turned in using the power of the Internet to get the message across about the joys of wine as a whole, and about Languedoc and Roussillon in particular. Long may he keep blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting and generally bigging-up his adopted region!”
O’Vineyards O’Syrah 2005 Vin de Pays de La Cité de Carcassone
100% Syrah. Cassis, plums and bramble, beef and spice aromas – lots of fruit, but savoury too, with notes of garrigue herbs. The palate is rich and very spicy, but the Syrah character still comes through, and it is surprisingly elegant, for such a big wine.? At 5 years old, it is good to drink, but there is absolutely no hurry.
O’Vineyards Trah Lah Lah 2005 Vin de Pays de La Cité de Carcassone
65% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep, dark colour, with a tiny rim. Again, a savoury, meaty nose, like a fruity gravy, with hints of new leather. The palate is rich with sweet fruit, still quite tannic, but with good underlying acidity. The finish is bitter-sweet. Another keeper. For me, not quite as enjoyable as the Syrah, but a good wine nonetheless.
O’Vineyards Proprietor’s Reserve 2005 Cabardès
Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s oak, but it is nicely integrated, with plenty of rich cassis and plum fruit, leather, polished wood and spice. The palate is loaded with rich, sweet fruit flavours, but with excellent balancing acidity, something akin to a new world Claret blend. In fact, if I somebody told me it was from California, I might believe them – and that would be no mean compliment. Very nice wine!
I like the way Ryan and his father are pushing the boundaries in the somewhat unfashionable (by which I mean relatively unknown) region of Cabardès, immersing themselves totally in the French culture, whilst bringing fresh ideas and new world innovation to the winemaking process. They deserve to succeed.
Brett the Wine Maestro:
Ryan O’Connell, the cheeky chappy, together with his parents, Joe (American) and Liz (French Vietnamese) moved from Florida in 2005 to set up the O’Vineyards in Cabardes, within view of Carcassonne. They now produce a range of five robust, rich red wines made with Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Ryan is a great ambassador for the Languedoc, the Outsiders and la joie de vivre.
—Brett the Wine Maestro
O’Vineyards must be as well known for Ryan O’Connell and his extrovert Languedoc wine videos as it is for wine. Being near Carcassonne the Mediterranean influence is relatively feeble which is why Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are more suited. One word that summarises the three 2005s, their first full vintage, is oomph – but these wines are certainly not out of control and are not trying to be Bordeaux. O’Syrah 2005 is nice and chewy and I got pine, mint and dried plums. Trah Lah Lah 2005 (Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) had spice and plenty of classic Merlot fruit cake and plum. Proprietor’s Reserve 2005 (Syrah with Merlot and Cabernet) combines the elements of the first two but racks up the fruit concentration while keeping everything in balance – it will go on for years.
—Graham Tiggs, Languedoc Wine
Juliet Bruce Jones:
Passion is an overused word when it comes to wine but it’s difficult to see what else could justify giving up a well-paid desk job to scrape by making wine in rural France. Any romantic dreams vanish after weeks of pruning in January’s biting winds. So they have made a conscious decision to move country and careers, as opposed to inheriting a domaine. Starting from scratch means having to learn quickly, not be afraid to ask lots of questions and to ask for advice. And just, well, give it a go.
—Juliet Bruce Jones, MW
Attending the tasting of the “Outsiders”, a group of Languedoc-Roussillon producers, in London this week made me think about what might have been. They’ve all done what I briefly considered, investing in vineyard and winery projects in the south of France, in many cases giving up successful careers to do so. The dozen members come from the UK, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Sweden, the USA and Bordeaux. If the last location sounds less exotic, it shouldn’t do. To most Bordelais, the Languedoc might as well be Tahiti.
—Tim Atkin, MW
Early Bird Wine
Along with F.O. shoes and F.O. money, there is F.O. wine.
—Early Bird Wine News
The Mediterranean south is France’s biggest vineyard area, and one of the country’s most exciting wine-producing regions. So much so that over the past couple of decades folk from all over the world have been relocating to the south and following their vinous dreams, a move that invariably involves a change of career, from teaching, the law, advertising, finance, sales and marketing etc.
At a tasting this month in London a number of these so-monikered, (for the purposes of creative PR, one imagines), ‘Languedoc Outsiders’ presented some of their wines.
—Sally Easton, MW
As you probably know, the O’Podium gift box features one wine aged three different ways. It’s a unique way to learn the difference between different aging processes because the wine is exactly the same except for the three aging processes:
- 8 months in new American oak
- 12 months in new French oak
The difference between unoaked wines and oaked wines are pretty well-known. Oak affects the flavor and complexity of the wine, adding aromatic qualities like toast, vanilla, etc. while also imparting certain structural changes that can add to the aging potential of the wine.
The difference between American oak and French oak is less well-known. Wine nerds will talk about it frequently, but it’s a rare opportunity to smell and taste the difference for yourself.
American oak is much denser than French oak. The difference in grain means that American oak can be sawed while French oak is traditionally axed. Axes follow the grain of the wood, but saws cut against the grain and open up the wood to create a larger surface area that is a lot more porous. The American oak has an immediate and somewhat superficial effect on the wine. French oak is a little tighter, adding a subtler flavor and giving more of the nuanced structural qualities for aging.
Anyway, Juliet Bruce Jones, Master of Wine, just did a great write up of how the O’Podium 2005 wines are tasting and compares the three wines in her conclusion:
The wine aged in oak did have more complexity and richness than the unoaked version which was nice but quite simple. The American oak wine was more approachable now, despite the grippy tannins, as the fruit was more forward and appealing. Needs robust food. The French oak gave fine structure but the fruit is still shy. Worth trying in a year or two to see if the fruit has emerged from its hidey-hole.