Le Mazel Cuvée Larmande 2018

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Valvignères, Ardèche, France
Fermented with native yeasts, unfiltered & unfined, no additional sulphites
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A wonderful vintage for this vital, energetic Syrah, that seems to change its incarnation with each passing year. Made with the usual Mazel technique of whole-bunch carbonic maceration to give the wine a dialled-back tannic structure and plenty of vivid fruit to the fore. Unlike the older vintage of Larmande we also carry, this wine is left to slowly ferment in tank only, no barrel-ageing, so a certain freshness prevails. There are tart black berries and salty black olive; the acidity carrying a mouthwatering lick of balsamic. The 2018, whilst still displaying the typical Mazel rusticity, definitely has a certain charm and elegance; the tannins slighly soften and the wine itself more open.

Gérald Oustric is one of a distinct group of winemakers that experienced a shared epiphany after meeting Marcel Lapierre during the 80s. At the time he was working the family vineyards in Valvignères, a village in the southern half of the Ardèche, alongside his father. All the resulting fruit was sold to the local co-operative. It was after this fateful meeting with Lapierre that Gérald realised there was another way to tend the vines and turn the resulting grapes into wine, and by the late 90s he had pulled out of the co-op, converted the domaine to organic and started to realise his vision of making wine with no additions at all. He joined forces with his sister Jocelyne, and Le Mazel was born. Over 20 years later they now own 19 hectares, with some of the fruit sold on other producers, and a good percentage leased out to friends and emergent winemakers such as Anders Frederik Steen and Sylvain Bock, whom Gerald and Jocelyne have enjoyed a collaborative working relationship with since they started to make wine in the area. Le Mazel wines are a literal translation of the mistral-swept valley in which the vines sit over clay and limestone soils. They also embrace the vintage variations that can occur when making wine in this way rather than fighting against them; the resulting wines are vital, nourishing and a new surprise each year.

*Vintage note - despite being bottled with a crown cap, a sign of Mazel wines which still hold some residual sugar, the 2018 has actually fermented totally dry and would ordinarily have a cork closure. Sadly Covid-based delays on bottling day meant the usual bottles weren't to hand, so Gérald improvised!