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Colline de L’Hirondelle, “Oiseau” RougeLanguedoc, France 2016 (750mL)

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Colline de L’Hirondelle, “Oiseau” Rouge Languedoc, France 2016 (750mL)

Fruit
Earth
Body
Tannin
Acid
Alcohol

Something big is afoot in the Languedoc. When I was first getting into wine, the place was an afterthought for most sommeliers. Sure, it had iconic estates like Mas de Daumas Gassac and Grange des Péres, but most Languedoc wine was considered good enough for a glass but never truly exciting. But wow, how times have changed: Week in and week out, some of the most exciting wines in our tastings are bottles from the Languedoc. I can think of no better example than Colline de L’Hirondelle's 2016 “Oiseau” Rouge.


Colline de l’Hirondelle is emblematic of a new generation of Languedoc producers—ones who turn out soulful and sustainable blends like this at unbeatable prices. This spicy, earthy, and utterly delicious red blend is the sort of Languedoc bottle an American sommelier could only dream of 10 years ago. It’s organically farmed, brilliantly representative of its terroir, and at 5+ years old, ready to warm your winter night with a pop and a pour. Let’s just say this: The Languedoc has arrived, and if you’re not yet on the bandwagon, now’s the time to climb aboard!



The story of Colline de l’Hirondelle is like something out of a Wes Anderson movie: a Berkeley student of French literature travels abroad, meets a Frenchman from a winemaking family, and settles down with him in the 800-person village where he grew up. Jennifer Buck met Didier Ferrier in 2001, and after traveling together for years, they settled down on Didier’s family property in 2008. They started with just two barrels of wine in a garage, and have since grown their vineyard holdings to around eight hectares. They don’t intend to grow further, as they insist on doing everything in the vineyards and winery themselves. They’re certainly obsessive, only releasing their wines when they feel they’re ready to drink—hence the five years of age on today’s offering. They’ve farmed their property—including an ancient pre-phylloxera vineyard containing some still-unidentified varieties—organically from the very start. Didier handles the farming and Jenn the winemaking, and the two of them prize freshness and energy, without ever sacrificing the generosity and warmth of this Mediterranean zone.


Colline de l’Hirondelle is technically within the Corbières AOC, but Jenn and Didier don’t use it; those unidentifiable varieties, despite being a relic of Corbières’ past, actually disqualify them from it. But their terroir doesn’t care about labels. Their vineyards of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, et al are spread across the garrigue-studded foothills of the Corbières mountain range. They sit atop a combination of limestone and clay at high elevation, meaning that while the vines soak up all that Southern French sun, they nonetheless make it through the vintage with great acidity intact. As mathematical evidence of the area’s turn toward quality over quantity, consider this: Over the past two decades, the Languedoc’s output has actually fallen by over a third, a trend not seen anywhere else in France.


The 2016 “Oiseau” Rouge might best be described as the “new” Languedoc: rich, slightly rustic, but simultaneously full of nerve and complexity. It’s 30% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 20% Carignan, and 20% Mourvèdre fermented separately and aged entirely in vat, no oak. No need to decant here; those five years in the family’s cellar mean it sings right out the bottle. It pours a deep, lush purple. The nose is booming and spicy, full of black plums, blackberries, crushed violets, Mediterranean scrub brush, white pepper, toasted cinnamon, and a hint of nutmeg.  It’s full-bodied and viscous, the purple and black fruits coming to the fore, but with a fantastic lick of acidity and gentle tannins that keep it very refreshing. I can’t think of a more seasonally-appropriate bottle than this, and as I start turning toward heartier dishes like Navarin of Lamb, Colline de L’Hirondelle will be gracing my table very frequently. I suggest it graces yours too!




Colline de L’Hirondelle, “Oiseau” Rouge Languedoc, France 2016 - SommSelect

  • CountryFrance
  • RegionLanguedoc
  • SoilLimestone & Clay
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendGrenache 30%, Syrah 30%, Carignan 20%, Mourvèdre 20%
  • Alcohol15%
  • Service Temp.60-65° F
  • GlasswareBordeaux Stem
  • DrinkNow-2024
  • PairingNavarin of Lamb

  • CountryFrance
  • RegionLanguedoc
  • SoilLimestone & Clay
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendGrenache 30%, Syrah 30%, Carignan 20%, Mourvèdre 20%
  • Alcohol15%
  • Temp.Serve at 60-65° F
  • GlasswareBordeaux Stem
  • DrinkingNow-2024
  • PairingNavarin of Lamb