Home > Tasting Notes and Wine Reviews > The 2013 Bacchus Importers Portfolio Tasting: De Maison Selections

The 2013 Bacchus Importers Portfolio Tasting: De Maison Selections


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When Steven Alexander of DeMaison Selections mentioned tasting the wines of Clos Cibonne and Mencos & Conde de Hervias I just knew I had to attend the Bacchus Importers Portfolio Tasting.  This year’s tasting was held in the Azur restaurant space located in downtown Washington, DC.  Spread over three floors the selection of wines appeared edited to reflect the tight space.  The event certainly became crowded and even hotter as one ascended the levels but everyone was in a great mood.  With spit cup and elbows tucked in, Lou and I tasted through a wide selection of wines.  I took a number of tasting notes which I shall slowly publish over the next several days.

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De Maison Selections

Shane recommended I start upstairs before the crowds arrived and I knew I wanted to taste the De Maison Selections wines while still fresh.  André Tamer’s energy and determination is apparent in person.  It is also reflected in his portfolio with Clos Cibonne and Mencos & Conde de Hervias being discovered gems from well-known regions.

Clos Cibonne

Claude Deforges

Claude Deforges

We would not be drinking the wines of Clos Cibonne if it had not been for an encounter between André Tamer and Eric Texier.  In discussing favorite rosé wines Eric mentioned Clos Cibonne, a domain which André had never heard of.  Thus captivated André set out to visit the domain.  Clos Cibonne is an ancient domain dating back to 1797 when the Roux family purchased it from Jean Baptiste de Cibon.  The name was eventually feminized to Cibonne and the estate began to exclusively produce wine at the beginning of the 20th century.  It was modernized in the 1930s by Andre Roux who ripped up the Mourvedre vines and replaced them with Tibouren.  The estate was revitalized again in the late 1990s when his granddaughter and her husband Claude Deforges took over the estate.  Today 80% of the production is from Tibouren.  These rosé are unique because when they age in the old foudres they are not topped off.  This head space allows a thin layer of yeast or fleurette to form allowing for controlled oxidation.  The vineyards are located in a gentle bowl which receives maritime breezes being located some 800 meters from the coast.  Palm trees dot the vineyards in the photographs I saw in the domain booklet.

Claude comments that he likes to drink an older rosé with a meal but by the poolside he prefers a younger vintage.  When Steven visited the estate he had the chance to taste many vintages of rosé back to 1975.  For him the peak of maturity was reached at 12 years of age.  Inspired by the Vignettes development with age and the general lack of people cellaring these wines, André will start cellaring the Vignettes himself for later release.  It is natural to age a Bandol rosé so an educated customers might start doing so with these wines as well.  I enjoyed all three wines with the traditional rosé more fruity and forward.  The Vignettes showed more nut flavors and complexity along with the potential for future development.  The Rouge is a newer wine designed to highlight Tibouren when vinified as a red wine.  It is a youthful wine to drink outside.

2011 Clos Cibonne, Rosé, Cotes du Provence
This wine is a blend of 90% Tibouren and 10% Grenache sourced from 30+ year old vines on schist soils.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged on the lees for 12 months under fleurette in 100-year-old foudres.  The nose was light with delicate fruits and citrus.  There was lovely fruit in the mouth which was racy and minerally.  There was a long after taste of stones.  The acidity was well-integrated and so was the texture.

2011 Clos Cibonne, Cuvee Speciale des Vignettes Rosé, Cotes du Provence
This wine is 100% Tibouren sourced from 60+ year old vines on schist soils.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged on the lees for 12 months under fleurette in 100 year old foudres.  The light nose bore slightly heavier fruit.  The flavors were a little more nutty was density and complexity.  Tastes young.

2012 Clos Cibonne, Cuvee Speciale Tibouren Rouge, Cotes du Provence
This wine is a blend of 90% Tibouren and 10% Grenache sourced from 40-year-old vines on clay-calcareous soils.  It was aged on the lees for four months.  There was some bright fruit to the nose followed by pungent black cherry.  In the mouth there was a grapey start to the focused flavors which turned to black fruits as it mixed with lots of acidity.  It was a little chewy in the end with fine, citric grapey tannins.

Mencos & Conde de Hervias

Iñigo Manso de Zuñiga Ugartechea

Iñigo Manso de Zuñiga Ugartechea

Though the wines of Conde de Hervias have 21st century origins the vines from which the fruit is sourced from date back to the 19th century.  These wines are produced by Iñigo Manso de Zuñiga Ugartechea.  It was his great-great-grand-uncle Don Nicanor Manso de Zuñiga, The Count of Hervias and his brother Don Victor Cruz who founded the oenology research station at Haro and planted the oldest vineyard. Originally an experimental vineyard the research station documents date the oldest vines back to 1870.  Mildrew and phylloxera spread throughout Europe in the 1860s and 1870s devastating many vineyards.    Iñigo knows of a few other pre-phylloxera vineyards in Rioja Baja but his vineyard is the only documented one in Rioja.  What saved this particularly vineyard is a surrounding belt of sand through which the phylloxera could not get through.  Some of these vines have started to die from age, the trunks are thick and start to form holes.  To maintain the vineyard offshoots from old vines are trained to the ground which form their own roots.

Iñigo attended the University of Bordeaux and began to bottle his own wines in 2004.  He seems to blend the traditional and the new by fermenting in stainless steel with indigenous yeasts then aging in both new and used French and American oak.  In focusing in on specific vineyards Iñigo appears part of a trend of focusing on reflecting specific sites in Rioja as opposed to a house style of Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva.  Check out the De Maison Selection videos on Rioja towards a new place-based perspective.  His Condes de Hervias wines are named after his ancesters the Counts of Hervias who have been located in Torremontalbo since the 11th century.  While the Conde de Hervias is produced only in the best years and the Torre del Conde de Hervias in the other years, Iñigo says there are no hard rules against producing them both in the same year.  The Mencos label was created in 2010 as a complement.  They are pure Tempranillo wines produced from younger vines aged 35-50 years.  I really liked all four of these wines.  They reflect Iñigo deft hand with stainless steel and oak, for the flavor of the wines are the focus.  They deserve to be revisited.

2010 Mencos, Rioja
This wine is 100% Tempranillo sourced from 30+ year old vines on chalky clay soils.  It was fermented in stainless steel then bottled without age.  There was focused black and red fruit on the youthful nose. In the mouth there was good acidity to the black fruit, fine powerful tannins, a clean finish, and the ability to age for the short-term.

2006 Mencos, Reserva, Rioja
This wine is 100% Tempranillo sourced from 50+ year old vines on chalky clay soils.  It was fermented in stainless steel with indigenous yeasts then aged for 16 months in used American oak barrels which had seen Conde de Hervias.  The nose was dark, earthier, pungent, and savory.  In the mouth there was rounder bright red fruit, earth, and mouthfilling flavors.  It was a little racy with a black bit.  There is focus and I particularly like the balance of tannins and acidity.  It becomes even more mouthfilling and flavorful with air before the finish with black minerals and a spicy note.

2006 Torre del Conde de Hervias, Rioja
This wine is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano sourced form 80-140+ year old vines on sandy clay soils.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 14 months in 80% French and 20% American oak.  There was a beautiful complex nose with spices and wood box. The flavors were youthful in the mouth showing red fruit, citric notes, and everything clearly in balance.  The deep, dark fruit made way to fine, grippy tannins which coat the teeth.

2008 Conde de Hervias, Rioja
This wine is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano sourced form 80-140+ year old vines on sandy clay soils.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 16 months in new French oak.  There was a dark, deep, inky nose.  The flavors have gentle depth and expand in the mouth.  There was good acidity, drying tannins, and black minerally, inky flavors in the finish.  There was a spicy note.  This was a lovely wine with a lovely aftertaste.  It is approachable young but will benefit from age.

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