Monday, 16 October 2017

The Languedoc with les Caves de Pyrène

That excellent wine emporium, Les Caves de Pyrene is always a good source of wines from the south, and their portfolio tasting a couple of weeks ago did not disappoint.   What follows is what they were showing, a nicely eclectic range of delicious things. 

Mas Montel, Pays d’Oc, 2016 La Petite Syrah - £9.40
Light red colour. Soft peppery fruit on nose and palate.  Easy simple Syrah with a fresh finish.

Moulin de Gassac 2016 Pinot Noir - £10.70
You could call this the second label of Mas de Daumas Gassac, from local grapes that they buy, rather than grow.   Pinot Noir is particularly tricky in the south, but this works very nicely, with soft dry, raspberry fruit on the palate.  Medium weight, with no great depth, but elegant with a fresh finish.

NV Crémant de Limoux, Les Hautes Terres, Joséphine - £23.65
Quite a rounded leesy nose with some yeast autolysis, and an underlying nuttiness from a few months ageing in barrel.  Gilles Azam was a pioneer of barrel-aged Creémant, inspired by the champagne producer, André Salosses.   Good depth on the palate with nutty notes.  A Crémant with character from an up-and-coming producer.

2016 Minervois, Arbalète, Domaine Jean-Baptiste Senat - £15.60
A blend of Grenache and Syrah.  Medium colour.  Quite rounded ripe fruit on the nose, and on the palate, supple with a streak of tannin.  Some ripe cherry fruit from the Grenache Noir.

2016 Clos du Gravillas, Emmenez-moi au bout de Terret. - £17.70
As you might surmise from the name, the grape variety is Terret, which is beginning to enjoy something of a revival in the Languedoc.  It has the great advantage of producing good acidity in hot growing conditions.  This wine has a firm stony nose, and on the palate, there is indeed a lot of acidity, with firm stony mineral notes.  Very pure.  

2016 Vin d’Oeillades, Thierry Navarre – £13.35
Thierry Navarre is the leading independent wine grower of the village of Roquebrun, which is one of the crus of St. Chinian.  He is particularly enthusiastic about some of the neglected grape varieties of the Languedoc, such as Oeillade, which is related to Cinsaut.  The colour is light red, with lovely perfumed, fragrant fruit on the nose and more elegant red fruit on the palate, with a stylish finish.

2014 Faugères Tradition, Clos Fantine -£17.60
Corinne Andrieu at Clos Fantine is one of the more natural wine makers of Faugères, and I will say that this wine has a slightly ‘funky’ note.  There is a hint of VA, but here is also some intriguing fruit.  I suspect the bottle probably needed more aeration than it was getting at the tasting.

2015 Pic St Loup, L’Orphée, Mas Foulaquier - £18.15
A youthful Pic St Loup with fragrant elegant fruit on the nose and a rounded supple palate, with less tannin than some.

2015 Languedoc blanc, Domaine d’Aupilhac - £18.35
Sylvain Fadat is one of the leading growers of the small village of Montpeyroux and makes his white wine from a blend of Vermentino. Grenache blanc, Clairette and Ugni blanc.  The colour is quite golden, and the wine is ripe and rounded on the palate with some intriguing leesy notes on the nose.  A fresh elegant finish.

2016 Côtes du Roussillon, Domaine des Foulards Rouges, Frida Rouge - £25.45

From equal parts of Grenache and Carignan.  Quite a rounded spicy nose, with quite a full-bodied palate, in an elegant way.  A refreshing note on the palate.  Surprisingly juicy.  A youthful finish. 

In conclusion, a lovely range of wines.  it was one of those tastings that I really enjoyed.  

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Languedoc in UK wine shops

The Maison du Languedoc, or to give it its full name the Maison de la Région Occitanie/Pyrénées-Méditerranée hosted a brilliant tasting last week, showing an enormous selection of the wines from the Languedoc that are available on UK wine merchants and supermarket shelves.    As you might expect, the likes of Gérard Bertrand, Domaines Paul Mas, the Cave de Roquebrun and Domaine Ste Rose were well-represented, but there was also plenty to discover, from smaller, independent wine growers.   What follows are some highlights among the 154 bottles that were open.    The one disappointment was that very few people attended the tasting – it was one of those busy days when the tasting calendar was crammed.  And may I say that I certainly did not taste all 154 wines, partly as they included a few wines from the Pyrénées-Méditerranée, such as Gaillac and Cahors.

Starting off with a pair of Picpoul that were unfamiliar, and then a favourite:

2016 Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine de Morin-Langaran – Corney & Barrow - £9.50
Light stony nose and quite a fragrant rounded, supple palate.

2016 Picpoul de Pinet, Château Petit Roubie – Vintage Roots - £9.95
Quite a firm salty nose, with some fresh acidity and stony fruit on the palate. 

2016 Picpoul de Pinet Château St Martin de la Garrigue – Laithwaites - £13.99
This is a Picpoul with depth and character, with firm salty notes on both nose and palate.  More weight on the palate than the  preceding two wines. 

And to my surprise I found a couple of Chardonnay that I liked, but from a producer who has links with Chablis

2016 Chardonnay de la Chevalière, Mas de la Chevalière, Pays d’Oc – Liberty Wines - £11.99
Lightly leesy notes and a lightly buttery nose and palate.  Nicely understated, with good acidity. 

2014 Mas de la Chevalière, Vignoble Peyroli, Liberty Wines - £15.99
This comes from some of the most northern and coolest vineyards of the Languedoc, near Lunas, and is rich and leesy after some ageing in an oak barrel.  Nicely textured and very satisfying. 

2016 Domaine d’Aigues Belles, Le Blanc, Chardonnay – Your Sommelier - £17.80
From an estate that was new to me, at Brouzet-les-Quissac, near the Pic St. Loup.  The wine has lovely varietal character, with nicely understated oak and leesy Chardonnay flavours.  Finely crafted. 

2016 Mas Cristine, Côtes du Roussillon – Clark Foyster Wines - £18.00
A blend of Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Macabeo and a little Roussanne.  Quite a firm lemony nose, with a rounded fragrant palate.  Satisfying mouthfeel and textured.   Amply illustrating the success of Grenache Gris and Macabeo for white wine in Roussillon.

2012 Le Soula, Côtes Catalanes – Uncorked, FMW Wines, Justerini & Brooks - £29.00
A blend of Macabeo, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne.  Quite a rich, firm slatey nose and stony.  Firm stony fruit, with good acidity.  Textured, youthful.  Lots of nuances. 

2016 Terret Blanc, Calmel & Joseph, Pays d’Oc – Waitrose Exclusive - £8.49
Good to see that this indigenous Languedoc variety is even attracting supermarket interest.  The flavours are firm and tight, with refreshing acidity and a stony freshness. 

2016 Château de Valflaunès, Pourquoi Pas? – The Wine Society - £10.50
A blend of predominantly Roussanne, with Marsanne and some Vermentino.  A rounded nose with some hints of white blossom, and a  lightly nutty palate, with some well-integrated oak. 

2015 Laurent Miquel, Albariño, Pays d’Aude – Waitrose - £11.49 
Laurent Miquel is the pioneer of Albariño in the Languedoc. You would normally find it in Galicia, but Laurent has planted it in the Corbières hills above Lagrasse.  Lightly peachy fruit on the nose.  A rounded fragrant palate, with convincing varietal character. 

2015 Mas Gabriel, Clos des Papillons, Pays de l’Hérault – The Wine Society - £13.50
From 85% Carignan blanc, another indigenous variety that is becoming more popular, thanks to its high acidity levels and ability to sustain drought, and some Vermentino.  This is fresh and structured with some herbal notes and an elegant palate.  A fresh finish. 

2016 Faugères, Domaine du Météore, les Léonides – Stone Vine & Son - £13.50
A blend, predominantly of Roussanne, with Vermentino and some Clairette.  Quite ripe and rounded white blossom on the nose, with an elegant palate.  Youthful acidity and nicely textured.

Next a pair of rosés :

2016 Piquepoul Rosé, Coteaux d’Ensérune, Vignobles Foncalieu – Ellis of Richmond , Love Wine - £11.85
Another unusual grape variety.  We are all familiar with Piquepoul blanc, but not with Piquepoul Noir.  As a rosé it makes a fresh fragrant wine with good acidity and some hints of raspberry fruit. 

2016 Château de Lascaux, Garrigue Rosé – Your Sommelier - £12.50
A blend of Cinsaut, Grenache Noir and Syrah.  Very pretty delicate colour, lightly fragrant fruit and a delicate palate, with good acidity and an elegant finish.  From a leading Pic St Loup estate. 

And now for some reds:

2016 Corbières, Domaine St Auriol – Waitrose - £6.99
A blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah and Carignan.  Great value for money.  Spicy rugged ripe fruit on both and palate.  

2014 Domaine la Tasque, Carignan, Pays d’Aude – The Wine Society - £14.50
Carignan with a splash of Syrah, made by a fellow MW Juliet Bruce-Jones.  This is her first serious vintage, with just two hectares of vines in the Minervois.   I like Carignan and this is nicely characterful, with a fresh finish. 

2015 The Society’s Corbières – The Wine Society - £7.75
More good value Corbières, from a leading Corbières estate of Château Ollieux-Romanis.  Rounded ripe fruit on the nose and palate, with hints of tapenade.  Nicely mouth filling. 

2015 Minervois, Château Villerambert, les Truffiers – Laithwaites - £12.99
Syrah, Grenache and Carignan.  Rounded ripe spicy fruit on nose and palate, with good mouthfeel.   A lovely glass of wine from a highly reputable estate.

2014 Languedoc, Domaine les Grandes Costes, Musardises – Laithwaites - £14.99
The blend comprises 60% Cinsaut with 20% each of Grenache Noir and Syrah.  The Cinsaut dominates the palate so that the fruit is deliciously elegant and fragrant.  Another lovely glass of wine, from a Pic St. Loup producer.

2013 Château Maris, le Carignan de Maris, Coteaux de Peyriac – Vintage Roots - £10.95
Another characterful Carignan from a leading Minervois producer, outside the village of La Livinière.  Medium weight but quite rounded with some firm fruit.  

2014 Languedoc, Château de Lascaux, Garrigue rouge – Vintage Roots - £11.75
A blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre, with rounded spicy fruit.

2014 Pic St. Loup, Château de Lascaux, Carra – Vintage Roots - £14.75
A blend of 60% Syrah with 40% Grenache Noir.  Elegant spice on both nose and palate, with supple tannins.  Beautifully balanced, with elegance of the cooler climate of the Pic St. Loup.

2015 St Chinian, Mas Champart, Côte d’Arbo – Berry Bros & Rudd - £15.50
From a leading St. Chinian producer.  A blend of 35% Syrah, 30% Grenache, Noir, 25%  Carignan and 10% Mourvèdre.  Elegance is the hallmark of this wine, with supple tannins and youthful spicy fruit.

2014 Corbières, Domaine de la Cendrillon, Classique – Tanners Wines - £12.30
A blend of Grenache and Syrah with 15% Mourvèdre.  Ripe spicy fruit on both nose and palate, with a nicely rounded finish.  Conjures up the warm south, but without being heavy.

2012 Corbières, Domaine de la Cendrillon, Inédite – Tanners Wines - £16.50
From 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache Noir and 20% Mourvèdre.  Rounded spicy fruit, and with more depth than the Classique, and ripe cherry flavours from the Grenache, and attractive development on the palate. 

2016 Collioure, Coume del Mas, Schistes – Clark Foyster Wines  - £25.00
The notes say pure Grenache, which surprises me for a Collioure, but the flavours are redolent of ripe cherries that characterise that grape variety.  It is rich and elegantly rounded on the finish. 

2011 Le Soula Rouge, Côtes Catalanes – Hedonism, Woodwinters, Berry Bros & Rudd - £26.50
60% Carignan, with Syrah and a little Grenache.  Medium colour, with quite a firm structured nose.  A characterful palate; some viandé notes but with a distinct freshness on the palate, as well as a streak of tannin, the result of higher altitude vineyards and biodynamic viticulture. 

2012 Terrasses du Larzac, Mas Jullien, Carlan – Berry Bros & Rudd  - £31.50
A great finale to the tasting, from one of the Languedoc’s most thoughtful winemakers.  Elegantly leathery flavours, developing some attractive mature notes on the palate.   Subtle  and elegant. A delicious glass of wine.  I was beginning to run out of adjectives by this time!      

Monday, 2 October 2017

Ageability in the Languedoc

Many apologies to regular readers of my blog.  I do feel that I have been neglecting it over the past few weeks.  However, my excuse is a good one.  I have a deadline for the end of November to write: The wines of the Languedoc, so am beginning to feel the pressure, but not panicking yet, well only at 4 a.m. rather than 4 p.m.  September has seen me doing some pretty intensive cellar visits, totting up 50 vignerons, and vigneronnes, from Malepère to Sommières.    One of the things that has struck me is the ability of so many wines to age in bottle.   Ageability is an essential prerequisite of any wine with pretensions to quality, and indeed to greatness, and that is something which has not really been much considered in the Languedoc.   However attitudes are gradually changing. For a start, most wine growers now have cellars suitable keeping bottles during the summer heat.

Let me give you a few examples of wines that I have tried over the last month, which for me have aged beautifully and were really worth the wait.    

Mas d’Alezon
Mas d’Alezon is one of the leading estates of Faugères, but only developed by Catherine Roque since 1997.  The 2000 vintage is still a Coteaux du Languedoc, as Catherine lacked the necessary Mourvèdre for a Faugères.      The wine has aged beautifully, with subtlety and nuances, with notes of the garrigues, and some leathery hints, with a long lingering finish.   It has reached cruising altitude, and it is anyone’s guess as to how long it will stay there.        

Roc d’Anglade
From Remy Pedreno at Roc d’Anglade in the village of Langlade.  I happened to visit the day after a good friend who is a rather important sommelier had visited.  And I was lucky as I got to taste even more bottles than I might otherwise have done.   Essentially the blend of Remy’s red wine is 50% Carignan, a grape variety that he really likes, with  25% Mourvèdre, and the balance made up of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsaut.   The 2009 was quite rich and leathery, with a hint of animal, in the nicest possible way, with rounded supple fruit and depth and length, with an elegant finish.  2008 was a late harvest after a cool summer, and the wine had some fresh herbal notes, and a touch of cedar.  The tannins were very silky.  Remy observed: ça pinotte.   The 2004, a blend of 50% Carignan, with 25% each of Syrah and Grenache Noir, was firm and smoky on the nose, with garrigues and herbs on the palate, with some structure, but also a sweeter note.  It was very intriguing.   And our tasting finished with Remy’s white 2006, a pure Chenin Blanc, with dry honey and good acidity, and lovely texture. 

Domaine Dufès
It was the morning for mature bottles, as next we went to see Remy’s neighbour in Langlade, Elisabeth van der Bent, at Domaine Dufès      And here our tasting finished with her 2004, which had a rich, almost Pinot Noir nose, and the palate was riper, but possibly less elegant than Remy’s 2004, but delicious none the less.     Elisabeth observed that it was fermented on its stalks, which possibly had given it more ageing potential.        

Mas Haut Buis
Up in one of the most northern parts of the Terrasses du Larzac, I went to see Olivier Jeantet from Mas Haut Buis, who has vineyards in the village of Lauroux, just below the Pas de l’Escalette.  After tasting his current vintages, Olivier opened his red 2002 Costa Caouda, which was just his fourth vintage, and a simple Coteaux du Languedoc.  It is a blend of 40% each of Carignan and Grenache Noir, with 20% Syrah, and still seemed remarkably youthful, with some silky tannins and balancing fruit.

Domaine la Croix Chaptal
And it is not just the red wines that age.  I had two real surprises with white wines.   Charles-Walter Pacaud at Domaine la Croix Chaptal is just about the only independent producer to take the appellation Clairette du Languedoc seriously, and he treated me to a vertical tasting of his Clairette, from 2015 back to 2007.  The wines had all evolved beautifully, with richness on the palate, with weight and complexity, notes of honey, sustained by a streak of acidity and what seemed like a streak of tannin, or a streak of bitterness.  Charles-Walter treats his grapes like Chardonnay in Burgundy, keeping the wine on the lees in barrel, with some skin contact while filling the press.   Any bitterness is a positive note in Clairette.  The 2008 was elegantly honeyed, with hints of  quince, and a rich finish, while the 2007 was surprisingly fresh and herbal with more acidity.

Domaine de la Rencontre
And the second surprise was in Mireval, with Pierre and Julie Viudes at Domaine de la Rencontre.  They opened the Muscat Sec from their very first vintage of dry Muscat, the 2010.  There was a slightly petrolly note, reminiscent of Riesling, with good acidity and fresh fruit and a slightly toasted note on the finish.  Again, the wine was remarkably fresh for its age.