Having missed Alain Rotier of Domaine Rotier at Gaillac on Saturday, I was curious to see how his wines would stack up against those I did taste at the fair. The estate has been "in conversion" since the start of the year so will obtain organic status from the start of 2012. This seems to be a common theme amongst the better estates of the region: we came across this at Haut-Monplaisir last week, for example.
After a tour of the winery (which as Alain said, is fairly standard except for his use of 400 litre barrels - the standard is 225 litres), we got down to the wines starting with the "entry level" white "Initiales". This is 40% each Mauzac and Loin de l'Oeil with the balance Sauvignon and is one of the most acidic whites I have tasted for a while but it is pitched perfectly for salty seafood.
The oak-fermented "Renaissance" white is very different, made from older vines with good Loin de l'Oeil character on the nose (the Sauvignon Blanc seems to give more to the structure than to the flavour), a touch of wood and very good length. Well restrained, refined wine. Quite different from all those Chardonnays, Sauvignons etc; a welcome change.
The only rose is part of the "Initiales" range and is made from 70% Duras, the balance Syrah. It has a sweet palate like those candy cigarettes that must surely be banned these days. Red fruits (Grenadine) flavours. Not very long but easy and enjoyable.
Three reds: the "Initiales" has a young, fruity nose and pleasant, easy-drinking palate. 80% peppery, black fruited Duras and 20% cassis-flavoured Braucol. Fermentation at 25 degrees to extract fruit rather than tannins. Decent grip and medium length.
"Gravels" followed with deeper colour and some vegetation on the nose. Very Cabernet in style - 55% Duras, 30% Braucol and 15% Syrah - with black fruit and good length. No oak.
"Renaissance" Rouge is a vin de garde needing a minimum of five years to loosen up those tannins. Made from older vines (50% Braucol, 30% Syrah, 20% Duras) and aged in oak, there is lots of black fruit/cassis on the nose but the palate is almost impenetrable now.
A new red, as yet unnamed was much easier. Made using 80% Duras and 20% Braucol with the fermentation in barrel, it offers more red fruit on the nose and a much softer palate (even more so later that day when we polished off the rest of the bottle).
The sweet wines came as something of a relief after those tannins. The first is "Gravels" which has a lovely honeyed nose with stoned fruits, good freshness and length, helped along by good acidity. 90 grams/litre residual sugar makes this well pitched as an aperitif, for example. 65% Loin de l'Oeil, 35% Sauvignon.
One of my old favourites is the "Renaissance" Doux which I first came across when Ciaran from Domaine des Anges gave me a case insisting I would love it - he was right. This is 100% Loin de l'Oeil, much richer and sweeter (150g/l) than the "Gravels" with great length. The 2006 vintage deservedly won a Gold Medal and will easily keep for 15 years although I can't see my case lasting that long.
My only concern about these wines from a business perspective is their commercial value. I don't know how well known Gaillac wines are so the simple question is, would they sell in the UK?