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Osborne & Lynch Minervois 'Renegade' 2004

It is a blend of Britain. Ireland, Australia and France that brings us this week's wine, a delightful example of what can be achieved in the frequently disregarded appellations of the Languedoc, in this case Minervois. Here Australian Richard Osborne and Ciaran Lynch, who is of Irish descent, make up the négociant business of Osborne & Lynch; they work with Graham Nutter and Marc Bonnevanc of Château St Jacques d'Albas, a successful Languedoc estate the wines of which I have looked at before, most recently in a tasting of wines from the Joseph Barnes portfolio.

Minervois is one of the those huge southern wine regions, granted appellation status by the INAO aeons ago (1985, actually), and long since forgotten firstly by today's wine drinkers who all seem more interested in fruity Australian flavours (especially when accompanied by a price promotion), and secondly by the seasoned wine drinkers who are all more fascinated by Bordeaux and Burgundy. It is regions such as Minervois that can make huge contributions to the French wine crisis, the wines unable to hold the interest of the haughty and unable to attract that of the drinker who trusts New World brands for the consistency and safety that they offer. The solution, of course, seems simple; develop a wine from Minervois, with the intrinsic character of southern French Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, but in the quantities where it too can be recognised as a brand. Ensure the quality is high, that the wine has a sense of style and drinks well with food, unlike the jammy, oaky-chippy, oily-sweet but supposedly dry New World wines, and then we will have a success story on our hands. Enter Osborne and Lynch, and the Renegade.

Osborne & Lynch Minervois 'Renegade' 2004The 2004 is the fourth vintage of Renegade, a branded Minervois which the team hope will be making frequent appearances in the baskets of British shoppers this year. Having originally been predominantly Syrah, this variety accounting for 50% of previous vintages, it is now a Grenache-dominated wine, a fact that did not surprise me having first experienced the melange of cherry fruit and herby garrigue character that typifies the Grenache of Southern France. Syrah is reduced to just 12% of the blend, with Grenache (55%) and Carignan (33%) accounting for the bulk of the wine. After destemming the fruit was fermented in stainless steel with some pumping over for the Grenache, pigeage for the Syrah. A small proportion went into pre-used oak for twelve months, so I'm glad to report that this isn't an oak-dominated cuvée. The Osborne & Lynch Minervois 'Renegade' 2004 has an appealing cherry red hue, with a moderate but appropriate density. At first the nose has lots of aromas that to me signify the presence of Grenache, such as cherry fruit and a little herby garrigue around a mineral core, but then the wine opens out showing a little more of the Syrah, a minor component in the blend, with some sweet, dark, slightly brooding and dusty fruit becoming more apparent. It certainly has plenty of appeal, clean and yet interesting. A attractive, medium body on entry, developing a little flesh through the midpalate, and here also showing a backbone of firm, slightly sooty but really rather charismatic tannins. Sweet, slightly herby, cherry fruit to the fore, so the Grenache is dominating again. Fresh acidity, very approachable, and yet with a reserved texture and tannic structure that make the wine perfect for the dinner table. It has a rather short but nicely rounded-off finish, and overall this is very impressive for what it is. Very good; this is an admirable wine, which I enjoyed drinking, and I hope it brings Osborne & Lynch great success. 16.5/20 (13/11/06)

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