- The deeply hued “”Les Hérétiques”
Famille Iché “Les Hérétiques” Vin de Pays Hérault 2010
I first discovered “Les Hérétiques” years ago when I needed wine for a braised beef dish I was making. I headed over to my local packie (package store) and eyed the selections in the French section. A bottle on the lower shelf where the inexpensive wines were displayed caught my eye. The label was a compelling blue with well designed and interesting graphics. The name itself invoked an air of mystery – why would a wine be called “The Heretics”? And why would it have a star map on the label? The label made the sale. A portion of the wine went into the braise; I drank the rest. Since I was then an oenological naïf, I had no appreciation for the wine. Years pass and I’m viewing the selections in the “$9.99 and Under’ section at Whole Foods River St. Again, I’m drawn to the bottle with the compelling blue label – into the basket it goes.
This time around I have have more of a developed palate – and appreciation – for the wine. I pour – rich luscious color. I swirl and sniff – lots of berries – strawberries, black berries, currants – earth, cola, smoke. I taste – the fruit carries through to the finish and the somewhat medium acidity and medium tannins complete the picture. I like it! “Les Hérétiques” becomes my springtime house red.
The wine, made by the Iché family, owners of Chateau d’Oupia, represents a success story of sorts. Languedoc, where Hérault is located, was traditionally the land of French “jug wine”. The wine world changes – Languedoc actually has potential – and younger winemakers up the quality of their wines to compete in the burgeoning world wine market. The region now produces competently made wines noted for being good values.
“Les Hérétiques” is predominately Carignan, a rather unremarkable and even vilified grape (see Jancis Robinson’s scree in The Wine Atlas). To increase this wine’s appeal, the fruit comes from older vines – 40 years – and a portion undergoes carbonic maceration for freshness and bright fruit flavors. As is often the case in the Languedoc, an “improving” grape is use. In this instance, Syrah gives the blend depth and breadth. The result of all these ministrations is a wine that is a good quaff and good value.
As for the name, “Les Hérétiques” references the Cathars, a medieval sect declared heretical by the Catholic Church which sought to eradicate this heresy. Hérault was the location of a massacre of Cathars by Papist forces. As for the star map, I’m still waiting for an answer.
Whole Foods Market 340 River St. Cambridge MA
Close-up of the captivating label