Paroles de vignerons - Vinparleur - Winzer talk

Sweet dreams from Languedoc: An advocacy for Cartagène wines

11 April 2014, by Sebastian Nickel

You may know a different name for this type of wine: Ratafia, Floc de Gascogne, Pineau des Charentes...
What do they all have in common? They are all so-called liquor-wines (vins de liqueur), traditionally called “Mistelles” in France, made from fresh grape must. Different regions, different names but a common tradition: Prevent the must from fermenting by adding brandy or pure alcohol (up to 16 %vol - 22% vol.) to the fresh must.

Thereafter, the fortified must is laid to rest in big glass bottles or in oak barrels for several weeks, months or even years. In fact, these types of wines sometimes show an amazing aging capacity. I had this experience only a few weeks ago, when a friend told me to come over for a tasting of a long-forgotten bottle of his cellar. The label was completely gone, but he knew that it had been there for at least 16 years. Besides the syrupy, golden and amber coloured aspect of the wine, the real surprise came up when I plunged my nose into the complex bouquet of the wine: heaps of fresh mirabelle, delicate fragrances of white flowers, acacia honey, some dried apricots, as well as raisins and rum…

Though, thick and full-bodied on the palate, it showed astonishingly crispy acidity, that carried the well known aromas of the nose, enriched by some sweet oak flavours, towards a very long final. A genuine taste bomb! A wine to savour on its own or together with some noble products, like chocolate, a Tarte Tatin, blue cheese or cigars.

Still having the after-taste of the wine in my mouth, I can only regret the loss of the tradition of making liquor wines in France, as not that long ago, almost every cellar produced these wines as a by-product. So if you are amongst the happy-ones, who still have some old and forgotten Ratafia or Cartagene in your cellar, be sure to plan a tasting with some good wine loving friends soon!



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