It is perhaps not surprising. You take a talented French woman who has spent years working in the South of France and around the world and give her access to some of the top vineyards of the Okanagan, and she will end up turning out some of Canada’s best wines, particularly syrah. That is exactly what Severine Pinte is doing as viticulturist and winemaker for Le Vieux Pin, killing it with Southern French grape varieties in the hot, dry, northern desert climate around Oliver and Osoyoos.
Le Vieux Pin might seem like a relative newcomer to the British Columbia wine scene, but it has already built a strong reputation and in 2015 celebrates its 10th anniversary. Pinte has been with the winery since 2010. The original plan for Le Vieux Pin was to focus on the pinot family, merlot, striving for an elevated version of the Okanagan’s sweetheart grape, and a little syrah, which would take longer to really mature. But it didn’t take long to see the stunning potential for syrah and white Rhône varieties. By 2008, the conclusion was that pinot noir in the south Okanagan wasn’t ideal. The first syrah was in fact released in 2008, and they haven’t looked back since.
Pinte and her team work with at least five different syrah terroirs in the South Okanagan, all of which end up contributing something different to the three syrah blends: Cuvée Violette, Cuvée Classique, and Equinoxe. Each vineyard is picked, fermented, and aged separately, and then Pinte goes to work tasting every barrel to come up with the three wines. Violette has a softer, elegant style; Classique is a little more muscular and spicy, while Equinoxe strives to achieve the optimum balance between both.
According to Pinte, syrah in B.C. is quite different to what she worked with in France’s Languedoc. “We still get the heat to ripen the grapes well, and ripen the tannins, but the cool nights preserve acidity, making super elegant wines,” she says. “B.C. syrah is all about balance.” Three of Le Vieux Pin’s syrah vineyards are on the west side of the Okanagan Valley, along the Golden Mile near Oliver, which is cooler and makes elegant wines. On the warmer, sun-drenched Black Sage Bench, another two vineyards give more present and bold flavours. This variation in terroir gives Pinte many blending tools to work with.
Le Vieux Pin has also had lots of success with a blend of viognier, roussanne, and marsanne, named Ava. It manages to be rich and lush, yet still retain a vibrant freshness. When Mother Nature allows, the roussanne ripens at the same time as syrah, allowing a small amount to be co-fermented and producing a syrah with a pretty, lifted, floral complexity. This was a success in 2013, and the harvest dates allowed a repeat performance in 2015.
Syrah and the other Rhône varieties in B.C. can be something special, and Le Vieux Pin is helping lead the charge. With every vintage, Pinte and her team gain more experience, and as the vineyards mature, things keep getting better. It will be exciting to see what we will be saying when Le Vieux Pin is celebrating vintage number 20.
Le Vieux Pin 2013 Ava
Beautiful aromas of tropical fruit, white peach, and lemon blossom. The palate has a lovely rich texture with a full body, but still lots of balancing acidity from the South Okanagan’s cool nights. The result is something complex, elegant, and powerful, with a long, crisp, refreshing finish.
Le Vieux Pin 2013 Syrah Cuvée Violette
Both meaty and savoury while also having a good dollop of ripe black fruit. Intense flavours and aromas of raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry along with complex meat, smoke, and some leather make for a very interesting and delicious wine.
Le Vieux Pin 2014 Vaila Rosé
Slightly off-dry on the palate, balanced by nice, crisp acidity. The aromas and flavours are of tart red berry fruits like raspberry, red currant, and red cherry giving, a juicy freshness to the finish.
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