Photo: Osoyoos Larose winemaker Mathieu Mercier
Three vintages of Osoyoos Larose Winery’s flagship Le Grand
Vin were released during the past 12 months.
The latest release, from the 2012 vintage, is one of the
finest ever since the first vintage was made in 2001.
Multiple releases in such a short period are unusual,
especially for a wine like this which benefits so obviously from bottle age.
What Osoyoos Larose did was in response to its unusually low production volumes
in 2010 and 2011.
The winery was able to keep some Grand Vin in the market by
early releases. That retained Osoyoos Larose’s place on wine lists and among
allocated customers. These days, consumers have a lot of fine British Columbia wines to choose from.
Nature abhors a vacuum and so do restaurant wine lists.
The 2010 and 2011 vintages in the Okanagan were cooler than
normal. Pascal Madevon, who was then the winemaker, took early defensive
action. He dropped a lot of grapes in mid-season to make sure the remaining
crop ripened properly.
In every vintage from 2003 to 2009, Osoyoos Larose produced
between 8,000 and 10,000 cases a year. But in 2010 and again in 2011, the
annual production was just 3,000 cases.
Production rebounded to 6,500 cases in 2012, a year in which
growing conditions were favourable from flowering through harvest.
None of those figures include the production of the winery’s
second label, Pétales D’Osoyoos, which has been produced every year since 2005.
The current winemaker is Mathieu Mercier, who took over from
Pascal in 2013. He arrived in time to blend the 2010, 2011 and 2012 wines,
since the five components in the Le Grand Vin blend spend 18 to 20 months aging
separately in barrel before being combined.
Born in Cognac in 1988,
Mathieu has degrees in viticulture and enology, along with a winemaking résumé
that includes several distinguished Bordeaux
producers as well as vintages in Chile
His recruitment to Osoyoos Larose more or less coincided
with the consolidation of the winery’s ownership. Initially, it was a joint
venture between Vincor International and Bordeaux’s
Groupe Taillan. A few years ago, the Bordeaux
partners bought the 50% interest held by Vincor’s successor, Constellation
Osoyoos Larose continues to make and cellar its wine in the
Jackson-Triggs winery at Oliver. However, plans are underway for a tasting room
and a new production facility somewhere near Osoyoos.
There are indications that Mathieu may tweak the Osoyoos
Larose style, making the wine a little more accessible when young without
sacrificing its longevity. In the past three vintages, he has done trial lots
of barrel-fermented red varietals. The barrel samples I have been able to taste
have been impressive. I don’t know where those trial lots have ended; very
likely into Pétales for the time being.
Mathieu has had better vintages to work with since arriving
in the Okanagan. During a recent visit and tasting at the winery, I was quite
impressed with barrel samples of the five component varietals that will make up
the 2014 blend. That is a wine we should anticipate eagerly.
Here are notes on this year’s releases.
Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2012 ($40). Merlot 50%, Cabernet
Sauvignon 24%, Petit Verdot 13%, Cabernet Franc 9%, Malbec 4%. Production 6,500
cases. The wine begins with aromas of
vanilla and cassis and continues with flavours of black cherry and black
currants, along with hints of espresso and dark chocolate on the finish. The
wine has great elegance and polish. 94.
Osoyoos Larose Le
Grand Vin 2011 ($40) Merlot 48%, Cabernet Sauvignon 33%, Petit Verdot 10%,
Cabernet Franc 6%, Malbec 3%. Production
3,000 cases. The wine begins with aromas of cassis and spice, leading to
flavours of black currant, mulberry, espresso and dark chocolate. The tannins
are polished but firm. There is a hint of cedar on the finish. 92.
Pétales D’Osoyoos 2012 ($24.49). This is a blend of 67% Merlot, 16%
Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Franc and one percent each of Petit Verdot and
Malbec. This wine is made to be consumed
earlier that Le Grand Vin, which is one reason for the high Merlot percentage
in the blend. The wine begins with aromas of cassis and black cherry. It is
juicy in texture and full-bodied, with ample red fruit flavours and ripe
tannins. Aging this wine in used French oak, not in new barrels, contributes to
the accessibility and the bright fruit. 91.