Fresh from its success at this year’s Mundus Vini Biofach international organic wine fair, where it picked up the Best Organic Red Wine of France gong for its flagship wine Chemin de Moscou, Domaine Gayda is launching its Figure Libre range of wines in the UK with fresh distribution deals in place. Peter Dean picks up the story and tastes through the new wines.
“Lovely tension between the acidity and the weight from the lees ageing. There are only 2800 bottles of this produced and it’s well worth seeking out.” Grenache Gris Vineyard’s Selection.
Domaine Gayda is an estate situated 25 kms south of Carcassonne in the foothills of the Pyrenees, with a new winery built in 2004. Owners Tim Ford and Anthony Record MBE appointed Loire-born Vincent Chansault as their winemaker who has been with them ever since and produces 21 different wines using the freedom that the Pays d’Oc IGP allows winemakers – where almost anything goes.
This is a masterstroke of a decision as it plays totally into the hands of the winemaker, allowing Chansault to choose from 58 different grape varieties, across a patchwork of terroirs (estate-owned fruit and bought-in fruit), and allows him to use a variety of vinification and ageing vessels. If they had stuck to the regime of AOC Malepère, in which the winery is actually physically located, they could only have used 6 grapes with the reds having to be 50% Merlot (the dominant red grape in the Languedoc by far). Gayda doesn’t use any Merlot in its wines.
Gayda’s winery is certified organic, with the four-wine Figure Libre range, Chemin de Moscou and the premium one-offs also organic with some biodynamic principles used.
The total wine range starts at £7 entry level through to the £40 Villa Mon Rêve 100% Syrah, although the £25 Chemin de Moscou is Gayda’s flagship – a huge hit in the French on-trade and internationally, and the winner of the Best Organic Red Wine in France gong at this year’s Mundus Vini Biofach organic wine fair. Although Gayda’s medium-priced blends En Passant have been selling well in the UK, for the purposes of this tasting we concentrated on the four Figure Libre wines, Chemin de Moscou and one of the three Vineyard Selection ‘one-offs’ – a fascinating Grenache Gris.
Figure Libre Chenin Blanc, 2018, Gayda
Figure Libre (Freestyle) is a reflection of the hands-off approach of the winemaking – letting the fruit and the sandstone terroir speak for itself – but it is also a reflection of the Pays d’Oc, in that there is a lot of freedom here for winemakers to follow their instincts. Winemaker Vincent Chansault planted Cabernet Franc and Chenin here (amongst other varieties) after time spent in South Africa.
The Chenin Blanc is a happy mix of both styles really, well balanced with firm acidity and a meltingly ripe fruit profile – tarte au pommes and ripe Golden Delicious – floral aromas, pear. The wine’s vinification and ageing includes 10% of noble rot, in concrete egg and 500l barrels, adding complexity and enhancing the textural element. Touch of tannin, tidy finish, delicious. (£14.58, Cambridge Wine Merchants)
Figure Libre Cabernet Franc, 2018, Gayda
Terrific new 2018 vintage of this solid banker, a 100% Cabernet Franc that is broody, spicy, with a complex nose of pink peppercorns, bell pepper, strawberry, bay leaf, violets; the palate, however, is medium weight, well-judged given the intensity of the wine, fresh as you like, with a delicious fresh black cherry juice quality (almost like biting into a fresh black cherry), and unmistakeable Cab Franc presence in the mouth – dry stone texture, bit of crunch – the balance is spot on.
Highly recommended – drinking so well now and wonderfully precise in its execution. Good to have this clock in at 13.5% ABV with so much intensity. Some biodynamic principles are observed during the winemaking process. (£14.52, Cambridge Wine Merchants)
Figure Libre, Freestyle Blanc, 2018, Gayda
Individual and complex expression of Languedoc Roussillon grape varieties and terroir – Gayda’s ‘take’ on making a typical Languedoc white with all the freedom that the Pays d’Oc ‘anything goes’ regulations allow. A blend of 50% Grenache Blanc, 25% Maccabeu, 15% Marsanne, 10% Roussanne, the fruit is hand picked, given a 24-72 hour cold soak, has a wild ferment in concrete egg and various oak barrel formats, where the wine ages on full lees with regular punch downs.
Tasting-wise, the wine is mid-green/gold in colour, has a complex nose of ripe stone fruit, blossom, with a fresh herbal element; on the palate there’s lots going on – it is mid-weight, textured, rich and concentrated but also fresh at the same time – pure fruit notes of orchard and stone fruit, touch of oak, lovely bone-dry finish and just 13% ABV. Considerable value for money but try to age a few bottles (if you can!) – it puts on a lot of character. (£11.64, Cambridge Wine Merchants)
Figure Libre, Freestyle Rouge, 2018, Gayda
Partner wine to the Freestyle Blanc – 55% Syrah, 25% Grenache Noir, 10% Mourvèdre, 10% Carignan, all the fruit coming from La Livinière which is one of the top spots in the region. Hand-picked fruit, de-stemmed, vinified in steel then aged in used oak for nine months, no fining with light filtration. Won a gold medal at Mundus Vini Biofach, the international organic wine fair.
Taste-wise this is everything you want from a Languedoc blended red – bags of character and intensity of fruit, but with a lovely fresh acidity and texture, which is in balance and harmonious. Some reds from the region feel like some acidification has occurred to keep the fruit concentration in place but not here. The wine is deep ruby-red with a bit of purple on the edges; the nose and palate are complex with red and black fruit, damson, liquorice, iodine, garrigue herbs. 14% ABV but doesn’t feel overweight or flabby. Great value for money. (£13.12, Cambridge Wine Merchants)
Chemin de Moscou, 2017, Gayda
Gayda’s flagship wine and winner of this year’s Best Organic Wine of France trophy at Mundus Vini Biofach, the international organic wine fair. This is a blend of 70% Syrah/ 26% Grenache/ and 4% Cinsault. The fruit is from a number of sites in the Languedoc Roussillon, hand-picked, de-stemmed, and then aged in a variety of different sized new and used oak vessels
Deep purple with an opaque core; intense, heady nose, black fruit, pepper, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, cured meat, a touch of smoke; The palate is superbly judged, fresh, plenty of blackberry & cassis fruit but not overly-concentrated, iodine, blue plum, blueberries, red cherry, with a vibrant, mineral core. The wine has great power, but with a spine of acidity and framed by ripe tannins.
Better in 6 months perhaps but drinking very well now. (£25, Cambridge Wine Merchants)
Grenache Gris, Vineyard’s Selection 2017, Gayda
Grenache Gris is still relatively rare as a 100% varietal but examples like this should hopefully change that. This thrilling wine is from the 2017 harvest and bottled a year later. It is tense and nervy wine at its core, complex with a fresh almond, saline, slightly smoky aroma and a twist of pink grapefruit zest with a substantial mineral mouthfeel – coming from pure Roussillon schist I imagine. The fruit comes from specific parcels, the fruit is whole bunch-pressed, wild fermented in concrete egg and aged on full lees for nine months. Lovely tension between the acidity and the weight from the lees ageing. There are only 2800 bottles of this produced and it’s well worth seeking out as it represents considerable value for money. (£23.58, Cambridge Wine Merchants)