March 26, 2010 Domaine Canet-Valette
grenache, syrah, mourvèdre
In Une et Mille Nuits and Maghani, wines of Domaine Canet-Valette, there is mystery, as if evoked by long-worn passageways in an ancient town, a black cat looking on. The name of the latter wine has been taken from the quatrains, the Rubiáyát, of the Persian poet and apostle of wine, Omar Khayyám. The website’s description of the two wines, of the vigneron and his motives, only deepens the intrigue.
It takes a visit with the vigneron himself, Marc Valette, just outside the town of Cessonon-sur-Orb, to shed light on it all. Is the domain really about “sweat, tears and despair?” (Granted, it is also about “joy, passion and sunshine.”) As it turns out, Valette is not nearly as austere, nor his wines as shrouded in the mystic, as his new website would have it appear. One suspects he is a wine-maker with a deft sense of humour.
The wine is his passion, he tells us, but the land from which it comes is his first love. Something passed to him by his grandfather, during the time Marc spent with him when his grandfather worked vines in the Minervois region of Languedoc. As a young man, Marc and his father (a toolmaker by trade) purchased neglected vineyards and revitalized them, selling the grapes to the local co-operative. By 1992 they were making wine on their own, and in 1998, Marc invested heavily in a new and modern facility designed to his own specifications. It seems he has always been a winemaker of great ambition. His wines are proof of just how much he has achieved.
His wines he has termed “authentic and magical.” Agreed. And the man certainly should know of what he speaks. He does, after all, physically immerse himself in them, taking to the vats for the “pigeage”, the breaking up of the cap, the thick mesh of grape skins and pits which collect at the surface.
Sixty-five thousand bottles come through this winery annually. The wine destined for bottling as Maghani is matured for three full years, with half of it spending two of those years in oak. The wine, once bottled, only gets better when left for an extended period in a cellar, perhaps for another dozen years. It depends on the vintage. No two are exactly alike, some differ widely. All are excellent.
Canet-Valette Maghani 1999
This wine has some years behind it. Marc Valette calls it one of his favourite vintages. It’s the one he suggests I try. Its maturity is evident in the glass — crimson, its edges coloured brick. It is less deep in colour than I expected, holding less to the glass. The aromas, while rich with aged fruit, with spiced cassis, require some searching, but bring additional rewards of leather and chocolate. It takes hold in the mouth with mature tannins, with the wisdom of age. There is an elegant pleasure here, strengthening the whole experience. My expectations are preempted by something altogether more interesting, fuller for being given these many years to show itself. $
And it is still not without its mystery.
[The last four photographs by ACM.]