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25th August 2014

Borie de Maurel Cuvée Sylla 1994

An aged Languedoc classic

Firstly, as I hope you may have noticed, we have fixed a date for the first RWA one day Wine Course and it promises to be a special day. In conjunction with the beautiful and conveniently situated Château de Bégude in Valbonne – one of the Riviera’s most noted golf courses and hotels. Their meeting rooms are delightful and we will use the one most appropriate for the number of attendees (minimum 6, maximum 25), and if the weather allows even outside on the terrace. I simply had to research the food, and can confirm that the chef knows what he is doing!

So, please if you know of any suitable people in the Riviera area who might like to attend, please let them know!

I recently had the pleasure of a tasting at Borie de Maurel, one of Languedoc’s most celebrated producers, owned and made by the charismatic Michel Escande. I was welcomed by Michel’s son Maxime, and we tasted the range. The last time I had been here there were lots of visitors and tourists, but I managed to pick an hour when the cave was empty of other people.

They had a function going on that evening which was being set up when I arrived. Part of this was a blackboard announcing that they were selling some museum bottles of their top wine, Cuvée Sylla, from the 1994 vintage for €30 (the current release is €26). Something of a bargain. So, after my tasting and purchase of the current vintages I asked Maxime if I could buy a bottle. This was how I discovered that the few bottles they had left were available for purchase by the guests that night and not in general, but he offered to sell me one anyway.

I was staying with some friends for the weekend, and I decided to open it with them.

Cuvée Sylla is a pure Syrah the very ripe grapes for which are fermented by a process called carbonic maceration – an intra-cellular initial fermentation process than most commonly occurs in Beaujolais. Syrah has rather more tannin and substance than the grape for Beaujolais (Gamay) and so Cuvée Sylla acquires a greater degree of flavour as well as a tannic structure and waves of deep fruit. After the carbonic maceration has raised the alcohol (without yeast) to a few percent a normal fermentation follows. The characters that are produced are of bright vibrant fruit (and sometimes in the case of Beaujolais, banana and bubblegum). Cuvée Sylla is not aged in oak, and bottled young.

So, how had this wine coped with 20 years’ ageing (Borie de Maurel’s own website suggests the wine is good for “15 years”)?
It had the oxidised notes of age: caramel and nuts, but still lots of deep rich fruit, like the warm centre of an autumn fruit pie, pastry and all. In the mouth the wine was velvet smooth and soft with wonderful aged flavours, and a varnish finish. Possibly the wine was over-mature, but to my taste a gentle hint of oxidation can really complement in an old wine, provided the fruit is still alive.


I will write up the full tasting of excellent current vintages soon.


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