Another lively, expressive, herbal red from the Mazel cellars. The fruit is all spicy black fruit, with a perfume full of wild fennel and clove. A wine that speaks of this wind-swept Ardèche valley. Find out more.
It's a real pleasure to be able to offer some very old vintages from Le Mazel, dating back to when the domaine was first set up, around 20 years ago in the early 2000s. It's well known (in very specific circles) that Gérald has a very long-form approach in the cellar, and that his wines can age staggeringly well. A fact often celebrated and mused on by the likes of Anders Steen and Aaron Ayscough, but often very hard to track down and very much under the radar. We were lucky enough to ship just a couple of cases of this alchemic wine from the Oustrics after it blew our minds when we tasted it on our last visit to Valvignères.
Viognier from vines that at the time were around 25 years old, planted over a limestone clay mix - the domaine was already certified organic at this point. After being gently pressed into cuve, the wine began its slow fermentation at cellar temperature, before being racked into old 220-litre barrels and raised for an unhurried 18 months of élevage. The wine was bottled in early 2007 with no additions at all.
Over time the wine has gained many layers of richness and complexity. The ripe, textural element of Viognier grown in the Ardèche is present, but with it a struck-match note of reduction has developed that we associate with some of the finest examples of Chenin from somewhere like Layon. It is crystalline and long; the spiky acidity and residual sugars that can be found in Mazel wines in their youth have completely integrated into a wine that feels remarkably complete. A real portal into the mind of Gérald Oustric and his long-game approach.
Gérald Oustric is one of a certain generation of winemakers whom experienced a shared epiphany after meeting with Marcel Lapierre during the 80s. At the time he was working the family vineyards in Valvignères, a village in the south of the Ardèche, alongside his father. Each vintage all of the fruit was sold to the local co-operative. It was after this fateful meeting with Lapierre that Gerald 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 certified organic and, in the wake of the infamous ‘gang of four’ that had inspired him, began 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 farm 19 hectares, with a portion leased out to any number of the other emergent winemakers in the region. Gérald is well-regarded for being the guiding force in helping many of these younger producers get set up by selling them grapes, loaning out vineyards, lending them equipment or letting them make their wine in his cellars. There is a healthy, collaborative spirit in the air around these parts but, ever-humble, Gérald's work is often seen after the likes of Anders Frederik Steen, Sylvain Bock, Daniel Sage and Andrea Calek, all of whom he has lent a helping hand to along the way.
The wines themselves are vital, wild-edged and nourishing, and clearly speak of the mistral-swept valley from which they hail. Mazel are notorious for embracing the annual variations that can occur when making wine without heavy manipulations or additions, and as such his staple of regular cuvées can express themselves completely differently from year to year. Each vintage is a new part of a bigger story.