Vincent’s enthusiasm and commitment are instantly engaging. He studied commerce and management, going to that most demanding of business schools, INSEAD, and worked for Arthur Anderson. And then it was time for a change, so it was back to school, for oenology in Beaune and Dijon. And why the Languedoc? He has no obvious connections with the Midi. His parents are from Charente and Saumur and he had worked in Paris. The reply was immediate: the quality of life; it’s a magical place; the quality of the different terroirs, at affordable prices. The Languedoc is in the middle of its revolution; Burgundy is too constrained. And it is open to outsiders. He was made president of the new cru Terrasses du Larzac after just three years as a wine grower in the area.
This was a wise move on the part of the growers of the Terrasses du Larzac. Vincent is utterly committed to the cause and fervent about the need for all the wine growers to work together. Languedoc as such has no real image or identity, with so many different areas and terroirs, nor does Vin de Pays d’Oc have a particularly good image, so they need to create one for the Terrasses du Larzac. The collective quality image is essential. Vincent does not lack for words; he is very articulate and there is no doubt that the Terrasses du Larzac is destined for great things under his leadership.
He took us to see his vineyards. He has nine hectares just outside Jonquières, planted with the usual five red varieties of the Languedoc, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir, Carignan and Cinsaut. And there are another two hectares, including white varieties – Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Muscat, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne, not to mention a little Petit Manseng, close to Lagamas. Altogether he has eleven plots of red and five of white, each of which is vinified separately. The Mont Baudile dominates the skyline. And the dominant north wind brings the necessary freshness to the climate, retaining acidity in the wines. Vincent is looking for balance, elegance and ageing ability.
He explained that he rarely invites people into his cellar, so we were privileged, and treated to a tasting of barrels samples of the 2008s. He is very pleased with the vintage and it shows considerable potential, with elegance, finesse and supple tannins. There was a perfumed Grenache, a structured Mourvèdre; a Cinsaut with fruit that simply exploded in the mouth; a Syrah with peppery fruit that could have come from the Rhone Valley. They promise well.
And then onto bottles:
2008 QU'ES AQUO, COTEAUX DU LANGUEDOC - 8.50€
The name translates as qu’est-ce que c’est? or what’s that? A rosé, but with personality. It is very perfumed and very ripe, so very mouth filling. Grenache and Syrah dominate the blend,. 80 per cent is saigné and 20 per cent pressed. Pure saigné can be too powerful; the pressed wine adds some freshness.
2008 L'ETINCELLE BLANC, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault - 14.50€.
This is a vin de pays as most of the grape varieties are not allowed in the appellation. The base is Chenin Blanc, with Viognier, Muscat, Grenache blanc, Roussanne and a drop of Petit Manseng. About one third of it is fermented in oak, but no new barrels, and no oak for the Viognier or the Muscat. It is multi-faceted with many layers of flavour and some lovely fruit. For Vincent there is the freshness of the Chenin Blanc, while the Muscat and Viognier add weight, with some fresh peachy flavours. It is drinking deliciously now but also has ageing potential and is a shining example of the improvement in white wine from the Languedoc.
The red wines were all from 2006. I had tasted the 2005s in Paris about six months ago and enjoyed those more, as 2005 is undoubtedly a better vintage. The 2006s in comparison seemed less elegant.
2006 L'INFIDELE TERRASSES DU LARZAC 13€
A blend of 30 % Syrah, 25% Grenache Noir, 20% Mourvèdre, 15% Carignan and 10% Cinsaut. This is their biggest cuvée, and a blend of their two terroirs, the limestone and clay of Jonquières, and the poor stony soil of Combariolles near Lagamas. The wine is quite firm and structured, and not yet very expressive.
2006 LES COMBARIOLLES, TERRASSES DU LARZAC 20€
A blend of equal parts of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. This is tighter and firmer than L’Infidèle and also richer, with greater depth. A combination of elegance, concentration and youthful freshness.
2006 FEU SACRE, TERRASSES DU LARZAC 35€
This comes from old Grenache, topped up with a drop of l’Infidele, with eighteen months ageing in 500 litre wood.. It is ripe and rich and concentration, with chocolate and coconut. More Roussillon than Languedoc.
In conclusion, this is an estate that will definitely go far.