In Victoria Finlay’s fine book, ‘Colour’, she devotes several pages to the story of the “first” pigment used for painting, Ochre. Along the way, Finlay relates Ochre’s importance to Australian Aboriginal culture; entire thousand-mile round-trip peregrinations devoted to obtaining and bringing back the red clay. Considered most sacred was the red ochre mined from quarries located in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, hence the sometimes two-month long treks. Thus, Ochre, the Iron Oxide-rich material used by Aboriginals to pass their stories on in rituals and cave paintings, Ms Finlay writes, “…is not only from the land, it is the land.” [Italics, mine.]
In an allegorical sense, the same could be said for Le Cigare Volant. The wine is informed and transformed by a profound connection to the vineyard. (The winemaker is a self-declared “terroir-ist”.) New World wines are generally fined, filtered and spruced up. Too often wineries seek to produce cleanly fruited, bright, polished wines, perhaps not unlike the strategies used in producing music top-10 hits. ( A marketing strategy tragically being imitated over there, in the Old World). This results in wines bereft of anything that might be interpreted as individualistic, let alone “musty”, “earthy”, “barnyard” or other such descriptives. I, however, submit that beauty lies in the must, for here in my glass of Le Cigare 2006 was the ever elusive ‘gout de terroir’, providing a rush of sensory experiences—most especially the sensation of being transported to a place. The terroir connection is right up front when you first dip your nose into the liquid’s ionosphere. Randall is a big believer in reductive élevage and the outer rim of this wine’s opulent bouquet is endowed with sweet earthen forest floor/truffle scents, after which the dark fruited and floral-spiced notes wash over you. As the earth tones fade, the bounty and beauty of what this wine has to offer begins to emerge, and continues long after you’ve swallowed.
Whereas the early vintages of Cigare Volant were principally composed of Grenache, the 2006 Cigare Volant is now a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault with splashes of Mourvèdre and Carignane. The result is a majestic sensory weave, a kind of vinous fine tweed of flavours—fruited, flowery but given gravitas and in a sense, grounded by earthy spice. This makes for a wine of fine volume, luscious complexity, power and tremendous depth. Wondrously evocative of very fine Rhone, Le Cigare Volant would pass for an Old World wine in many a blind tasting. The stunning length of the 2006 leads me to the inexorable impression on the palate of a wine that is quite full, albeit not round per se, rather, more elongated, a wine shaped somewhat like a…Zeppelin.
THE BACK STORY:
Randall Grahm, winemaker and founder of Bonny Doon Vineyards, toured Australia in 2012. I should include that Randall and I have been close friends for over 30 years and also, as of 2020, he is discontinuing the production of this wine. No words.
THE LABEL STORY:
In 1954 the village council of Châtauneuf-du-Pape was quite perturbed and apprehensive that flying saucers or ‘flying cigars’ might do damage to their vineyards were they to land therein. So, right-thinking men all, they passed an ordinance prohibiting the landing of flying saucers or flying cigars in their vineyards. (This ordinance has worked very well in discouraging such landings.) The ordinance further states that any object that did alight was to be immediately impounded. —R.G.