Drinking Off-Piste Wines

Were I a skier, I’d prefer off-piste; a parachutist, it would be freefall; had I the courage, I’d be a ‘Dangerous Sports’ exponent! . . . . When I hear of a winemaker doing something different, something revolutionary, I need to try her/his wine!


On occasion the atmosphere in our Methodist (yep, that’s the one that generally ‘bans’ alcohol!) house when I was growing up was a touch claustrophobic – we lads had to toe the line! I didn’t like it at all.

So, whenever there was a chance to break free, we took it with both hands (I needed them both to hold a pint at that age!). Yet it was exactly that morally correct upbringing that, fortunately, stopped me from doing anything more than simply appreciating from afar the Hippy movement and all its ‘charms’(!) as I became older, rather than taking a hike and joining them!

Yeah man, that ‘armchair wannabe Hippy’ feeling has stayed with me, in as much as I’m naturally drawn to anything slightly off the wall, a little, and more, rebellious. Were I a skier, I’d prefer off-piste; a parachutist, it would be freefall; had I the courage, I’d be a ‘Dangerous Sports’ exponent!

Oddly, you might think, it also applies to my appreciation of wine. When I hear of a winemaker doing something different, something revolutionary, I need to try her/his wine! For example, it’s not exactly passé, but it is now fairly common to find wines that have been fermented and matured, not in traditional 225 litre oak barrels, neither in 3,000 litre foudres, but in ‘concrete eggs’. When I first heard of the phenomenon – guess who was front of the queue at the tastings!

That’s why, when I heard of the Freestyle French Wines from the Pays D’Oc area in southern France, made by the free spirited wine makers of Domaine Gayda (https://www.gaydavineyards.com/en), well, I had to taste some, man!

You can imagine how my interest was heightened even further when I read the following on their website:

Figure Libre Freestyle is the name given to an ambitious range of wines designed to shake up conventions and break new ground for expressing the inherent style of Languedoc and Roussillon. Turning its back on appellation rules, it favours freedom of choice in terms of varietal range, both single varietals and blends. Figure Libre Freestyle reflects a desire to think outside the box and bring together grape varieties that would otherwise never have met in the same bottle.

Right on, man!

Making wine under the auspices of a Denominación de Origen in Spain, and an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée in France can be useful, of course, but it also means certain constraints. Many winemakers are happy to go along with this, believing the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. However, some prefer an alternative. It seems that those at Domaines Gayda fit into this category.

I thought both the wines they kindly sent me were very good and I’d certainly buy them again, looking also for others in their range – if these two are representative, then you can buy with confidence!

It’s a long, long time since I tasted my first wines from the Languedoc area. I was teaching myself about wine – using, although I didn’t know it at the time, the Robert Parker way of learning about wine. Taste, make notes, ask questions, repeat! My interest piqued, I went on to tutored tastings, lessons. exams and I was off on my wine journey!

I was thus introduced to the white wine varieties, Marsanne and Roussanne and I really enjoyed them in those days. I’ve yet to see them here in Spain, so I was pleased when I saw that Figure Libre Freestyle Blanc included these two as well as Grenache Gris, along with the Spanish varieties Macabeo and Garnacha Blanca (Domaine Gayda rests in the foothills of the Pyrenees, quite close to Spain). I really liked the wine.

Part fermented in different sized oak barrels and concrete egg, this rounded wine has a complexity that not so many white wines enjoy. On the nose, and the palate, there’s a combination of blanched almonds, a faint whiff of marzipan, citrusy lemon notes, as well as melon, its palindrome (Python style anyway!), with herbs sorrel and thyme too. Mouth filling with a lengthy finish it also has a contemplative elegance too.

The Freestyle 2018 Vin Rouge also pays homage to a Spanish/French version of Entente Cordiale regarding its blend – Syrah, Carignan, Garnacha and Mourvèdre (aka, Monastrell, as many readers will know). Another very good wine, easy to drink certainly, but with depth of flavour and a little layered complexity.

It’s a bright, attractive wine, whose nine months in barrel (French, no, really?!) add structure and presence on the palate. On the nose a little herbal, with super, forward fruit – dark and light red, plus a touch of liquorice. Syrah plays the leading part in this mix and it’s that typical French Syrah spicy black pepper flavour that contributes significantly to this wine’s ability to pair with meaty dishes, as well as making it a great drink as is, with friends and family!

I loved them both!

Twitter @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness Youtube Colin Harkness On Wine colin@colinharknessonwine.com www.colinharknessonwine.com  

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