This French vin de pays is supposed to be a half-and-half. Half Carignan for rustic flavour, half Merlot for plummy smoothness. The combination is greater than the sum of the parts. This is a caramelly, darkly spiced and beautifully fruity wine.
The L'If 2003 by the Mont Tauch co-operative needed to open up a bit. To look at, it was a deep red colour out of the bottle and there was fruit was on the nose. On the palate it began to differentiate itself: All blackberries and violet with a caramel centre that seemed to extend its length in the mouth. A marvellous concoction. Made me think of little pots of lavender-infused crème caramel.
THE GRAPE BREAKDOWN
The Merlot is quite transformed here. That it made up 50% of the blend surprised me. This certainly didn't remind me of any Merlot I've had. As for the Carignan, it strongly conveyed a Spanish style. But what's important is how the two grapes work together to assemble a tremendously successful and distinctive wine. It's that caramelly length buffered by dark spiced fruit that really drives me wild. I rebottled the leftovers and looked forward to it the next night.
On the second evening all the tightness in the wine was thoroughly rounded. Port-like qualities pushed this Mont Tauch bottle further west from Spain into Portugal. A distinctive and awesome bottle. Now I'm on the look-out for similar blends.
WHERE THIS WINE IS COMING FROM
It's the first I've noticed a blend like this, though definitely not the first Mont Tauch bottle I've enjoyed (i.e. See Wine pig). I am quite fond of this area in the South of France that mostly goes by the name Fitou (though this appellation gets dropped for products like L'If, which operate on less restrictive Vin de Pays categories like du Torgan).
This Fitou web page I bookmarked a while ago actually mentions L'If winemaker Michel Marty and his name is certainly one I'll retain for future reference. He is referred to as an oenologue on the bottle label. That's colourful. So is the depiction of an if -- actually a type of tree -- on the bottle label. Apparently a devastating forest in the town of Tuchan in 1885 left one sole if standing on Mont Tauch. That tree, once a symbol of the village, is now the inspiration for this wine.
I don't know if that snippet is going to satisfy my burgeoning interest in the Merlot/Carignan combination Marty has crafted. It's a quaint tale meant to draw to wine buyer in for that first taste. Once you've tasted it, you forget about the trees and want to know more about the story of these grapevines.
Mont Tauch, Tuchan, France. 13%.