2017 Oliver Pithon, Cuvee Lais Rouge, Cotes du Languedoc, France.
The old world Pithon Pais red blend from the lower Languedoc-Roussillon area in the Côtes Catalanes zone is made from all organic 40% Carignan, 40% Grenache Noir & 20% Mourvèdre that was grown on schiste, marl & limestone calcarious soils making for an intense meaty natural wine that reminds me of old Beaucastel and or Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneufs from the mid nineties or earlier! Olivier Pithon, originally from Anjou in the Loire Valley, where his family has the famous Pithon-Paillé winery, known for Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, fermented & aged each parcel and varietal separately for this wine and raised it before blending for about 16 mo in mostly large used casks which shows in the lightly bretty nose and the authentic earthy character. The touch of reduction and smoky mineral note blows off with a few swirls and what lies beneath is a beautiful and almost delicate wine, but with a sense of raw power and depth as well showing a medium to full bodied palate with layers of plum, tart cherries, pomegranate and spiced boysenberry fruits along with minty herb, lavender, anise, leather and a flinty stony note, gaining a touch of floral essences, graphite and mineral, finishing nicely with ripe tannins and a refined balance with just 13.5% natural alcohol. This 2017 Lais Cotes du Languedoc Rouge fills out with air, going some flourish and flair, but stays almost Pinot Noir like in satiny form, making it counter to expectations, as this region in recent years has produced more super concentrated and extracted wines that are full blown with a sense of dry port like density, usually with an inky color, which this wine does not possess, it is more lively and has a more ruby/crimson hue. After many years of being a fan of Pithon-Paillé, it was exciting to try Olivier’s wine and I highly recommend that you check them out, with this one being a good starting place, but allow it to get air and enjoy it with rustic, simple country style cuisine choices, it is exceptional with food.
Olivier grew up working in the vineyard, gaining an early application for the results of hard work and the gifts of nature on the wine developing a respect for terroir. Though his importer, Floraison Selections, says Pithon was a rebellious youth, and left the family vineyard, deciding to made his way on his own, he first headed to Bordeaux to continue his studies in winemaking and in 2001 settled in Calce, in the remote Côtes Catalanes, not far from the Spanish border, after being introduced to local legend Gérard Gauby by his brother Jo (Pithon-Paillé). In a rags to riches story, Oilvier came to Calce with his cow Lais and his house and immediately set about to his work, by farming a few hectares organically and biodynamically. After producing some successful wines, he now the has 19 hectares of certified organic and biodynamic vines which Olivier farms with the help of 6 cows. He adds, “I’ve had only one desire: to give everything to my vines so that then they give it back in their grapes and in my wine(s).” He continues, “You must be proud and put your guts, your sweat, your love, your desires, your joy and your dreams into your wine.” Calce is situated at 300 meters above sea level and located between the Mediterranean, the Pyréenees and Corbières with Pithon’s domaine having several distinct parcels of marl, shale, schist and clay, offering an array of influences that make his wines unique. With a nod to tradition he works exclusively with regional varietals, mainly Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre for the reds and with Maccabeu, which is more common in Spain, Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc for the whites. This Lais Rouge is an impressive effort and a wonderful transparent expression of terroir and is very fairly priced for what develops in the glass, if you are a Rhone fan or into the Sierra de Gredos Garnacha(s) this is a producers to discover.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive