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A Minervois epiphany

I opened a bottle of Minervois from Château Mirausse on Saturday night, but just couldn't get into it at all. It was too dense, too rich, too much 'like an Australian wine' as a friend put it. So the cork went back in and we opened something else. Then yesterday, after barbecuing a chicken and some lovely herby pork sausages out in the all-of-a-sudden sunny garden, I poured the Minervois 'Le Rouge de l'Azerolle' again and this time …WOW! I don't know if it was the food, the sun, the effect of the oxygen on the wine or the waning of the moon, but on Sunday evening this previously 'closed' wine was now a powerhouse of sumptuous fruit, smoky depths and tangy, spicy, savoury complexities. Absolutely sublime. This was a real wine moment for me, that magical place where everything (the wine, the food, the company, the setting, etc) collide and focuses your senses. To illustrate where I was taken, here are the notes I scribbled down in unbridled vinous reverie last night: 'Layers of sour cherry, sun-baked mint, poached plum, a bit of hot tar, prune juice, rosemary, tart crunchy berries, asparagus, the smoky, oaky warmth of a good Rioja, the viscous, tamarind sweet earthiness of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape – everything is in this wine! But there's acids too, there's a balancing twist of tannins and a flash of much-needed freshness behind the rich complexity, all combining to give an incredibly broad spectrum.' And they continued… 'Great length, just keeps rolling over and over your tongue, filling your mind with memories of dusky southern French evenings, of shortcuts through lavender fields, sunsets over river valleys, tangy olives, soft rinded cheese and crusty bread shared on a sun-warmed rock. The buzzing of cicadas, insects swarming over the water, local teenagers leaping from the ludicrously high river bridge to impress the tourist girls…' In reflection, I've learnt a few thing: 1. You can't hurry French wine. If your bottle seems closed, unreluctant to express itself, overly dense and impregnable, either pour your glasses and let them breath, or get it in to a decanter and give it some serious swilling. The more air that gets to the wine, the faster it will reveal its full potential. And 2. Yet again the biodynamic wine calendar tied in with a 'wine moment'. I just checked. Saturday was a root day, Sunday was a fruit day. On Saturday the wine was a closed knot of unfriendly intensity, on Sunday it was an enveloping miasma of sunny southern French gorgeousness. So come on, let's hear it for Minervois, a wine that, at its best, sits somewhere between the best Rioja Reservas and Châteauneuf-du-Papes. A big, burly wine, but a smiling, gentle-hearted one. Feel the love.

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