Case of the Month – The Perfect French Country Wine – Every wine lover I know is on a constant quest to find the perfect house wine, table wine, country wine………whatever you want to call it. It’s a wine that delivers great flavor, comfort, and dependability at as low a price as possible. Chateau d’Oupia’s Les Heretiques is a wine that I’ve stocked since I opened the store in 2010, but the new release is the best version I’ve ever tasted.
Chateau d’Oupia is one of the great family estates of France’s Languedoc region, and I’ve been a fan of the wines from the Iché family for many years. André Iché inherited his Minervois-based estate several decades back, and he immediately realized he had some special vineyards. The vines were old and located on rocky hillsides, but they needed a little bit of tender loving care. He nursed these old gnarly vines back to health, and began making wines from these old Carignan, Syrah, and Grenache plantings.
For years, he sold his wines to negociants to blend and bottle, but he always took pride in his work and his wines. Towards the end of the 20th century, a visiting Burgundian winemaker visited André, tasted his wines, and was so enthused that he convinced him to bottle and market his production. The rest, as they say, is history.
Chateau d’Oupia’s wines were met with immediate praise. Famed wine critic Robert Parker said “Château d’Oupia has produced the ideal bistro wine. Bravo to proprietor André Iché!” Good call there Bob! André passed away in 2007, and the estate was passed on to his daughter Marie-Pierre. The wines are still made the same way that André made them, and the estate’s Les Heretiques is 100% old vine Carignan. Half the fruit goes through whole cluster carbonic maceration for pure fruit charm while the other half is fermented in barrel with a 30 day maceration which provides color and extraction.
Long considered an ideal blending variety, but inferior as a stand alone grape, Carignan has experienced a renaissance of sorts in the past ten years. Producers have realized that as long as they work with old vines and keep yields low, the grape can produce lip smackingly delicious red wines. This is one of those wines! Dark in color and boasting a nose of ripe cherry, raspberry, and plum, it opens up on the palate with fresh and juicy flavors of ripe berries, spice, and just a touch of earth. It’s not overly complex, but it is completely charming and joyful to drink.