Osoyoos Larose’s Le Grand Vin gets a little sister
By John Schreiner
July 10, 2007
The winemaking tradition of Bordeaux’s chateaus was turned on its head when Osoyoos Larose launched its first wine in 2001.
Even though that wine was made from three-year-old vines, the Okanagan winery – a Canadian-French joint venture - released the inaugural wine under its first label, Le Grand Vin. Not until this summer did the winery get around to releasing its second label wine, called Pétales d’Osoyoos.
In Bordeaux, all the major chateaus release some wines under a so-called first label and some under a second label. For example, Château Lafite is that winery’s first label while Carraudes de Lafite is its second label.
Second label wines typically sell for a little less, for various reasons. They include the wines made from young vines – vines less than 10 years of age. In Bordeaux, it is generally thought that vines don’t start producing the best quality grapes until they are about 10 years old (give or take a few years). Young vines seldom, if ever, are used for the first label wines.
Logically, one would have expected the same tradition would be followed when Osoyoos Larose opened. The winery is a joint venture between Vincor Canada and Bordeaux’s large Groupe Taillan wine company. Essentially, Vincor invited its French partners to make the major decisions on planting the vineyard. It let its partner recruit a French winemaker, Pascal Madevon. The object was to transfer knowhow from one of the world’s most esteemed wine regions to kick-start winemaking in the Okanagan.
The Osoyoos Larose name combines that of Osoyoos (the nearest town to the vineyard) with that of Gruaud-Larose, the most distinguished French winery owned by Groupe Taillan.
At Osoyoos Larose, Madevon turned French tradition on its head because he
believed that the quality he was getting from the young vines was so good that first-label treatment was justified. Ditto with the 2002 and 2003 vintages.
It was not until the 2004 vintage that a second label was created. The 2004 Le Grand Vin was released last fall at $40, to positive critical acclaim. Production was about 110,000 bottles.
In July, the winery’s second label wine, Pétales d’Osoyoos, was released at $25. The winery made a substantial 21,000 bottles, distributing the wine through the VQA stores and the Liquor Distribution Branch.
Madevon calls Pétales a “great sister” to Le Grand Vin. The vines that produce this wine are farmed exactly like all of the other vines in the vineyard. In fact, I doubt there is a separate block in the vineyard for this wine. Madevon tries to produce the finest grapes from each and every vine and applies the same winemaking to all the grapes.
It is essential to grasp that second label wines are not second quality wines, as you would find if you opened the two side by side. Madevon has hundreds of barrels in the Osoyoos Larose winery. Every barrel is made individually, by hand, with oak from different trees and perhaps different forests. Some barrels are brand new while others are in use a second or third time. As a result, the flavours of the wines will vary from barrel to barrel.
There are subtle blend differences between the two wines, with Pétales reflecting what is left over after the blend is assembled for the first label.
The 2004 Le Grand Vin is 68% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc.
The 2004 Pétales is 60% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Malbec, and 4% each of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.
In 2004, when Madevon had selected the barrels of wine for the Le Grand Vin blend, he had roughly 70 or so barrels of wine left over. Not poor wine but just wine that did not fit into the master blend. Note that there is only two percent Malbec in the master blend but three times as much in Pétales. Obviously, the winemaker had a whack of good Malbec left over that he did not need in the master blend (it would have changed the character) but that was certainly very sound. As well, he had extra Cabernet Sauvignon.
The “leftovers” have been blended into an excellent red at an attractive price. I scored it 88 points, not all that far off the score that Le Grand Vin earned last fall.
“The biggest difference [between the two wines] is that Pétales is more delicate and can be enjoyed immediately,” Madevon says. “Le Grand Vin will benefit from time in the cellar.”