I had not heard of this young winemaker from the Languedoc until very recently when she came to be interviewed on the radio programme dedicated to wine to which I have contributed on a weekly basis since 2004. In case you are interested, the programme is called In Vino; it is in French and is broadcasted currently on Sud Radio, having been so on BFM for the first 12 or so years of its existence. This is just to situate the initial context.
Mylène Bru is young and clearly very energetic, a trained enologist (from Montpellier) and she found the vineyard of her dreams in an isolated spot of garrigue north of the port of Sète that had just 4 hectares planted in 2008 when she acquired the domaine. She may have planted more since then but I am unsure about this. Perhaps she also rents other vines as the range is quite big. Anyway the vineyard is farmed organically and she works in tandem with her companion, Bruno Barwise. The physical contrast between the two is striking as Mylène is short and with very dark hair and Bruno is blond, must measure around 1m95 and could have played lock forward! Complementarity at play here….
I was so impressed with Mylène’s way of speaking about her wines and her site near Sète, all of which was as energetically articulate as it was spontaneous, that I immediately wanted to try the wines, so I bought a mixed case of 6 different wines to try. Yes, I bought them, which I cannot usually do with samples for tasting, but this is a very small producer and why should they give me samples? The affair was clearly started on a shoestring budget and they do everything themselves.
Most of the wines are sold under the Vin de France label. I am not sure why and I didn’t ask, but there must be a reason, possibly to have more freedom in the making and the grape varieties. Curiously these grape varieties are never mentioned, at least on the 6 bottles that I received, with the notable exception of the (white) Lady Chasselas, which incorporates the variety in its name. Chasselas in the Languedoc? I had never heard of that before, but those vines had been in the ground for some time before Mylène bought the property and so she has tried to do something with them. Why not, even if a Swiss friend of mine, Jean-Michel Novelle, only accepted to take over the family estate at Satigny just west of Geneva on the condition that he could rip out all the chasselas vines and plant other varieties? We shall see later how this wine showed up in my tasting.
Mylène Bru’s range is bafflingly wide for a small producer and the wines are also not cheap. Curiously the prices, at least for the 6 different wines that I bought, are positioned very close to each other, and none are what you would call inexpensive for France: the six ranged from 25,5 to 30 euros a bottle, tva included. Some but not all of the wines I tasted are worth these prices, but I also find this pricing strategy hard to understand in commercial terms. Why not have a wine in your range that sells for under, say, 15 euros to allow those who do not have 25 plus euros to spend to try your wines ?
My tasting notes and comments, for what they’re worth
My general or introductory comments preceed the tasting notes and are in italics to avoid confusion.
1). Two white wines
Lady Chasselas 2017, Vin de France (25,5 euros)
My feelings about chasselas as a wine grape are, at best, mixed. I often find these wines a bit flat and lacking in zip or focus. Once I bought a box of 6 chasselas in Switzerland that I had tasted and thought was ok to use for courses as an example, but when I got it back home the wine was totally flat, tired and uninteresting so I poured it away. But I have tasted a few decent ones in the Vaud region, particularly with a bit of age when something seems to emerge. So you can say that I have a rather unfavourable biais, which I will of course attempt to set aside before tasting this wine!
The visual aspect is a bit cloudy, showing a volontary lack of filtration. Why not say so on the label? The nose shows signs of oxydation with its aromas of over-ripe apples and pears, despite the presence of some carbon dioxide gas. This may be due to a lack of sulfites and is probably part of the intended style of the wine. This certainly, as on the palate, gives the wine a rounded and tender character, however there is not much volume there and even less crispness to the flavours. Merely easy-to-drink at the best, but certainly not worth 25 euros. (12/20)
Zingara 2019, Vin de France (25,50 euros)
No idea on the grapes used here as there is no information provided on the label. Of course I could have called the producer to ask, but my position here is that of the consumer and few would think of doing that, or bother, or even care! And, in a sense, I understand since grape variety is merely one of many elements that make up the style of a wine. The label does say « vin de garrigue » which seems to be Mylène’s signature line.
As with the chasselas, the wine is slightly cloudy. That doesn’t bother me but I think that consumers should be warned on the label. It has a far more interesting and pleasant nose than the other white wine, with white stone fruit and, effectively, « garrigue » type notes of wild herbs. It has an interesting liveliness on the palate with good sapid flavours and a firmish touch to the texture. I liked the length also, which was helped by a fine touch of bitterness to the finish that prolonged the flavours. This is good to very good and should interest wine lovers with a bit of experience. The price is clearly justified here. (15/20)
2). Four red wines
I had no idea in what order to taste these, so I chose more or less randomly and then went back to try them again in a different order. The labels are all very different, so it is hard to identify them with the same producer, but this is just a different approach, like that adopted by the excellent Sina Que Non estate in California. Nowt wrong with that if you can make it work.
Far-Ouest 2013, AOP Coteaux du Languedoc (25,50 euros)
Quite surprising to see a seven year-old wine on the market, but also very welcome and a good test of its keeping capacity. Also I notice that this is the only appellation wine among the six that I tasted, not that that matters much to me.
I did find that this oxidised quite fast once opened, tasted, then recorked and kept in a wine cupboard at 10°C for a few days before re-tasting. Probably insufficient sulfite protection is the cause of this. The aromas were also very much on the animal side when the bottle was opened. Some may like this kind of thing, but not me. However, this wine had many qualities, especially on the palate, such as its excellent and juicy fruit flavours and its very enjoyable freshness through good acidity. Quite a smooth texture too. A good wine, although a bit pricey for this style. (14,5/20)
Rita 2017, Vin de France (25,50 euros)
Lovely Rita meter maid anyone? This is from the last Beatles record that I ever bought, which was Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band
Now for the wine. The nose seemed a bit « hollow » initially but it filled out some after a while. I wondered if there was just a hint of barrel ageing in the backgound. On the palate this is far more expressive and shows finely-tuned fruit flavours and a vibrant consistency for a medium-bodied wine. This is very good, with plenty of dynamics showing on the interplay between its acidity, the soft tannins and fine fruit. It also lingers nicely on the tongue and finishes clean and with that lovely vibrant touch. (16/20)
Karm 2013, Vin de France (30 euros)
The most expensive wine of this set, but not the best for me. As with its colleagues, all we can learn about it from the label is that the grapes were hand-picked! It has a definitely stinky, animal-like nose (and this is NOT due to « terroir » by the way, at least one hopes not!). I therefore did the copper thing on it (no policemen in sight but just a 5cts piece to drop in the glass). The bad smell faded a bit but it took quite some time before I got anything reminisencent of fruit coming through on the nose. Also touches of aromatic herbs. Altogether this smelled rather metallic and not very attractive. Firm and with chunky tannins on the palate, this seems very rustic with an acidic and slightly bitter finish and just a hint of some wild berry fruit. Not good at all, especially at that price. (10/20)
Senzo 2019, Vin de Table (25,50 euros)
The colour shows average intensity, not that that gives any useful indication about the wine’s profile! Another definitely animal edge to the aromas, at least to begin with, but the fruit is there in the background. Is this due to reduction, and/or a lack of sulfites? In any event it fades when a copper peice is dropped into the glass. The fruit remains rather elusive and I was left with a slightly dusty/earth-like edge to the bouquet that dampened the fruit expression. I notice that the label shows earthernware jars so maybe these are the fermentation and/or storage vessels for this wine. A firmish touch on the palate gives a slightly austere feel to this wine and there is a slight prensence of CO2. The discreet fruit flavours are clean and pleasant. This is youthful of course but I am unsure as to its capacity to improve if cellared for a bit. Acceptable but over-priced.
As we can see, this set showed great variation, not only in the labels (which show creativity, and I like that) but also in terms of quality, and yet remarkable consistency in prices, which is an unusual combination! In the best wines, the potential shows up very clearly but I feel that there is quite a lot of experimentation going on, with variable results, and perhaps Mylène Bru will gradually refine her range to keep the most successful styles. Or not?
Of course, as always, this is only my opinion here but I did taste a couple of these wines (one white, one red) with my colleague Sébastien Durand-Viel and he was in agreement with me about them. I do think in general that if you are selling wines at prices comfortably above 20 euros the quality should be more consistent.