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01 February 2009

Languedoc: Les Sabots d'Hélène, Corbières

Les Sabots d'Hélène

Amiable Alban Michel established Les Sabots d’Hélène in 2005. Apart from being his girlfriend's name, this refers to a title of a George Brassens' song, I'm reliably informed from a Google search, the cult French 'folk' singer - songwriter (for want of a better word, his lyrics are often more poetic and cutting than what you might usually refer to as 'folk'). So Alban is now the other new winegrower (along with Geoffroy Marchand at L'Etoile de Matin) in the blink-and-miss-it village of Feuilla, bringing their number to a grand total of two (not much more room there for another cellar anyway). Alban is originally from the northeast, French Mosel country, and landed here after working in the southern Rhone and over the hills in the Roussillon. He talked about "the gold mine" this area represents and how the locals had missed the point, with its inexpensive vineyard land, fine old vines and climate so suitable for organic and biodynamic growing (he does). His domaine comes to a slender 4.5 hectares / 12 acres of (mostly Carignan) vines lying at altitude along the vividly wild southern chunk of the craggy Corbières hills. But he isn't very interested in expanding in size as he can do everything himself this way.

Alban's wines are priced between €9 and €14, I tasted these in Jan/Feb 2009:
2006 La LiberTerre Vin de Pays Coteaux du Littoral Audois (100% Carignan 13.5%) - 1. very cold when I tried it in his cellar: a bit dominated by woody notes at first, lush v aromatic cassis fruit underneath then tight firm length. Needs a year or so in bottle I suspect.
2. Less obvious oak when warmer and aerated a little, although still has light coco spice, texture and flavour; similarly dense and powerful with aromatic cassis & blueberry, turning more liquoricey and meaty after left open for a day; nice dry v sweet texture, chunky pure fruit and spice; beginning to turn savoury, well-balanced and tasty finish. 89+?
2007 L'Abus d'ange heureux Vin de Liqueur de Carignan - delicious raspberry, liquorice and treacle flavours / aromas balanced by spicy intensity (17%) and dry tannins; very nice and unusual too. (60 g/l residual sugar)
2006 La Mauvaise Réputation Vin de Pays Coteaux du Littoral Audois (100% Carignan 14% alc. unfiltered) - quite coconut oaky at first, but when it warmed up plus with a bit of air (in fact it was better after being open for 2 days), it had appealing aromatic cassis, black cherry & blueberry fruit; thick-textured dry tannins, concentrated pure fruit with that oak moving into the background; powerful and firm v lush, pure and tasty. 89+?
2006 Pas de Bla Blah Corbières (Syrah Carignan 13.5%) - quite intense and aromatic showing attractive lush fruit with funky edges, black cherry spice and liquorice; ripe v very dry textured, concentrated rich and spicy although a touch grainy / gritty. Full of character but again there's perhaps something slightly intrusive about those barrels, in terms of texture on the finish? 88(-90)

11510 Feuilla Tel : 04 68 64 94 20 / 06 32 88 44 63, www.sabotshelene.com.

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