Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Sparkling Ondenc - Watch Your Mouth

With today being our only full day in Margaret River, there wasn't much opportunity for sleeping in. Thankfully, last night's monsoon was nowhere to be seen - for the moment at least - and I was hoping that it was going to stay that way.

A quick jaunt over to Burnside Organic Farms garden, before breakfast, allowed us to add a little freshness and flavour to the teeming basket of breakfast goodies that our host, Lara, left for us. And, once the smell of coffee brewing started to percolate throughout the bungalow, even sleepy-headed Boo got up to join us.

Knowing that Boo and I still needed to make headway in the bottles we'd managed to amass so far, I decided to pop the cork for a little brunch time bubble - even if it was a tad early for brunch. I figured we were on vacation with hard-core Aussies after all and we'd be tasting wines before noon in any event. Besides, even if it was Sunday morning here in Margaret River, it was still Saturday night back home in Vancouver.

1127. 2008 Langmeil Sparkling Ondenc (Barossa Valley - Australia)

Opening this bottle had been in my game plan all along. I was anxiously looking forward to it as a matter of fact. It's no secret that I have a bit of thing for Langmeil wines. Well, this one rather threw me for a loop. This is not a bottle that makes it across the Pacific to our side of the world. I'd never heard of Ondenc and thought that maybe it was a rather odd choice for a proprietary wine name. Turns out that Ondenc is a grape varietal. Fair dinkum. A rather obscure, little grown, old white French varietal, but an actual grape all the same.

No doubt, the folks at Langmeil realized that 99.9% of their patrons will have never run across the grape either, their label tells you almost as much information as you can find by some healthy Googling. Once a popular grape throughout south-west France in the 19th Century, it is still one of seven white grape varietals that is permitted to be grown within greater Bordeaux borders. As with many lesser known varietals, the grape fell out of favour following the devastating phylloxera epidemic that ravaged France and Europe however. The grape had a history of low yields and susceptibility to grape rot and it simply wasn't replanted when the French wine industry re-grouped.

Indeed, the grape almost disappeared. While there is a bit of an effort to revive the grape's presence in its old home of Gaillac and south-west France, there is very little found elsewhere in the world.

There is a little pocket of it in Australia though. Brought over to Australia prior to the phylloxera outbreak, the grape had been grown as Irvine's White in Victoria state and as Sercial in South Australia. Those plantings were identified as Ondenc in 1976 by a French ampelographer (one who identifies and classifies grapevines) but not even that expanded understanding did much to promote the planting of the grape. It is thought that Langmeil's plot is the last one seeing active production of wine in Oz - a last bastion if you will.

And even that production is very limited. The grape is known for its floral nose and high acidity - the latter attribute thereby lending itself to use as a sparkling wine. Indeed, Langmeil makes the wine using the traditional méthode champenoise but they only make 200 cases or so and the wine is only available for sale at the cellar door as a bit of a unique talking point for wine nerds.

Seeing bottle fermentation for 18 months on its lees, the wine has a classic biscuity aroma and taste to it; however, it didn't feature an overwhelming yeastiness to it - such that even Boo found it agreeable. There was a definite taste of green apple present as well. Even still, I do have to admit that we likely wouldn't have finished off the bottle with breakfast if there hadn't been some orange juice and Mimosa action to follow the initial glasses. It would seem that even Merlot Boy and Margarita believe in a bit of decorum before 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I believe the phrase, "I can't be corked before my mother even gets out of church" was uttered as an extra pour was declined.

As if it weren't enough of a pleasure to enjoy our early morning bubble in a spectacular location with even more spectacular drinking buddies, I get to add another varietal to my Wine Century Club tally as well. And you know how I revel in that.

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