Making top-notch wine certainly isn’t child’s play. The labels on bottles, however, are a different matter. Hippolyte Bories was eight years old when he produced the design that adorns some of the great products at Château Ollieux-Romanis.
The vineyard is in the Corbières region of France, between the abbeys of Fontfroide and Lagrasse. The land it sits on has been used for various purposes, but since the 18th century has been best known for wine. Back then, a long-running dispute over ownership ended with the owners being indebted and unable to capitalise on their success of winning the conflict. The result was that the vineyard was divided into two parts – Ollieux-Romanis, managed by the Huc family, and Château les Ollieux, owned by the Lignon family.
Both families enjoyed bumper harvests and winemaking in the area benefited from the misfortune of producers elsewhere whose vines were hit by the phylloxera bug. The vineyards prospered separately, although Ollieux-Romanis was slower to embrace mechanisation.
That reliance on tradition remained in place after the Bories family took over the ownership in 1978. The new proprietors worked hard to maintain the high standards their predecessors had put in place. Then, in 2006, they bought the neighbouring land to reunify the two original vineyards after 134 years and create Château Ollieux-Romanis.
Under the guidance of Pierre Bories (pictured) the estate continues to produce wines in a traditional manner. Reds use the typical local black grape varieties; Carignan, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, while whites are made from Roussanne and Marsanne.
We are particularly impressed by the Atal Sia – local dialect for ‘so be it’. This is made from well-irrigated vines whose roots extend to 7 metres below the ground, allowing them to draw on essential minerals. The wine, aged for around 15 months, is a superb accompaniment to beef or coq au vin.
Then we come to young Hippolyte’s handiwork. Lo Petit Fantet translates from Occitan as ‘the little wine that is the little child of the little child Hippolyte.’ The red is a blend of old vines Carignan with Syrah and Grenache grown on limestone-clay and is an intense mix of raspberry and cherry. Unusually for a red, it’s great when chilled.
The white Lo Petit Fantet is a combination of Roussanne and Marsanne, the two local white grapes. The fruit character is full and ripe, with flavours of apricot, papaya and banana. A delightful, rich white that is full of sunshine. And it comes in a bottle with a unique label.