Stunningly good value and scrumptiousness in red and white from the Languedoc.
Red from €9.99, £10.97, $19.99, HK$135, 19.90 Swiss francs, SG$59
White from €9.99, £11.64 (per bottle in a case of 12), $19.99
Anthony Record (South African, MBE, entrepreneur) and Tim Ford (British, rose grower and exporter in Zimbabwe until he was kicked out by Mugabe) met Vincent Chansault (French, winemaker) while he was working for Marc Kent at Boekenhoutskloof in Franschhoek, South Africa. Serendipity threw together a businessman who could make money, a wine lover who could grow things and sell things, the expertise of a pioneering, creative wine producer (Kent), and a young, talented, creative winemaker who wanted to come home. Anthony Record’s holiday home in the Languedoc became Domaine Gayda.
They started from scratch. ‘Freestyle’, says Ford, ‘No Plan B.’ Even Plan A was a little haphazard. Vincent was from the Loire and homesick, so he insisted on planting Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc (in Malepère – Merlot country). They’ve planted Macabeu, made no-added-sulphur wine before it was trendy, ferment in eggs, barrels, tanks and anything else that comes to mind. Julia recently wrote about their nine-way Syrah experiment.
Vincent fizzes with ideas – there’s always something new. Ford describes their modus operandi as ‘experimental, quirky’. Their wines are certainly quirky – crazy blends that shouldn’t work but somehow do. Chansault seems to have a chef’s gift for throwing together bits of this and that and coming out with something so damn delicious it’s impossible to put your metaphorical fork down.
Today the estate in Malepère is 15 ha (37 acres), but they also own vineyards in La Livinière and Roussillon. They buy grapes from growers (many of whom they’ve had relationships with for 16 years) and they’ve been organic right from the start.
Figure Libre Freestyle is different every year (hence the name) and they do a white and a red version. Both wines are certified organic.
The white is usually a blend of varying proportions of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Macabeu from seaside and mountain vineyards. It goes through spontaneous fermentation and is then matured in a mix of 500-litre barrels and concrete eggs. They pretty much leave the wine to do it’s own thing and about 70% goes through malo. It’s a perfumed, textured, bright wine with whistle-clean, shimmering acidity, creamy despite a mouth-watering citrus saltiness, and packed with deep fruit. Alcohol is a refined 12.5%.
The red is a blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre and Carignan, all from La Livinière in Roussillon. In the case of the 2018: 55% Syrah, 25% Grenache Noir, 10% Mourvèdre, 10% Carignan. The grapes are destemmed and fermented in tank without added sulphites. It’s then aged for nine months on lees in older barrels followed by two months in vat. Unfined, lightly filtered, with alcohol clocking in at 14%, total sulphites 63 mg/l and pH 3.68.
It is a gorgeous black-cherry, peppery wine, streaked with chocolate and vividly bright orange-citrus acidity and layers of slate dust and crushed rocks. It has an elegant, refined verticality on the palate and seems to reverberate long in the mouth, with a grace note of violets drifting across the nose and on the finish. Deeply appetising and satisfying. And extraordinarily good value.
The 2017 and 2018 vintages of both red and white Freestyle wines are both absolutely scrumptious.
In the UK the wines can be bought from Vinatis, J N Wine, Cambridge Wine Merchants and Grand Cru Co. In the USA, national distribution is through Ascent Wines and they are sold through Johnson Brothers in Florida, the Carolinas and Minnesota. Wine-Searcher doesn't pick this up but they retail for $19.99. The wines are also sold in France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Singapore and Hong Kong.