Clos Ouvert, Primavera 2010 Maule

11 Apr 2014 by Jancis Robinson

Later that same day - I have just added some more UK stockists.

Today's wine of the week is dedicated to the memory of Michael Cox, who represented Chilean wine in the UK with such verve and whose life was celebrated by about 700 of us yesterday in Southwark Cathedral (standing room only) and afterwards at Vinopolis.

From $19, €15.10, £22

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I am not by any means a total convert to natural wines. I like some and I loathe others. This is one I really like. It comes from one of the most exciting regions in Chile, Maule, whose treasure trove of old vines has been championed on this site. See, for example, Chile's new wine from the earth, Vignadores de Carignan, Maule - slow recuperation (with beautifully evocative photographs, including the one on the left), Chile - what the little guys do and MOVI - Chile's new compact.

As I explained yesterday in Clos Ouvert and Envinate flying light, I first came across Clos Ouvert, Primavera 2010 Maule in Hibiscus restaurant in London, thanks to the sommelier there who was, in enterprising fashion, serving it by the glass. I loved the combination of complexity of flavours and lightness of touch on the palate.

It's not surprising that it delivers such a wide array of aromatic components because it's a blend of four very different grape varieties: 40% Carignan, 30% Pais, 20% Cinsault and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. I must say I was not consciously aware of the Cabernet component, even though this is usually so dominant. Carignan is the characteristic old vine of Maule, as described in Vignadores de Carignan, and some of the vines are exceptionally old. Pais was almost certainly the first Vitis vinifera variety to reach the Americas, having been brought over, consciously or not, by the Spanish conquistadores. It's the vine known as Criolla Chica in Argentina and as Mission in California (see Truly angelic? for details of what one winemaker has made of her Mission), and good old DNA profiling has shown us that it is identical to the Spanish variety known as Listán Prieto and still grown to a limited extent in the Canary Islands. Fruity, rather delicate Cinsault is an old favourite of mine - as you can see by looking at old wines of the week.

The Burgundian behind Clos Ouvert, Louis-Antoine Luyt, has apparently sought out growers and plots of particularly old vines in Maule, typically dry-farmed (unusual for Chile) and organically grown (these farmers can't afford agrochemicals). Presumably with an eye on the French market for natural wines, Luyt practises minimal winemaking intervention. The 'natural pioneer', the late Marcel Lapierre, apparently advised him to mitigate the tough tannins of Carignan and Pais by using the old Beaujolais technique of carbonic maceration on them. The Cinsault and Cabernet are destemmed and vinified conventionally. The blend was then aged in old oak for eight months. Here's my tasting note on the result (which I gave 16.5 points and suggested drinking any time between 2012 and 2015):

Mid crimson. Complex, evolved blend with lots of grip and interest. Bright ruby fruit with just a hint of farmyard. I'd drink sooner rather than later. I'd say part of this wine's charm is in what it is not (Central Valley Cabernet/Merlot). Really exciting texture and lift though it tastes as though it is not the most stable of wines. Keep cool but lap up the novelty value! 14%

This was my strong favourite among the four Clos Ouvert wines I tasted from the portfolio of natural wines specialists Dynamic Vines described in this tasting article. Dynamic suggest a recommended retail price of £22 although I see that the one British retailer cited by wine-searcher.com is asking rather more than that. The wine seems to be relatively easy to find in the US and France.

Here are some UK stockists suggested by Dynamic Vines, with website:

- Buon Vino
- Victualler wine shop
- La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels wine shop 
- Androuet
- and Dynamic Vines can also sell to private customers

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Tags:  Chile
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