Some one in the Maison du Languedoc had the bright idea of holding a “worldwide synchronised tasting”, so on a Monday morning in late June half a dozen of us were bidden to Cavendish Square to taste six wines that Dominique Laporte, one of France’s better known (but not to me) sommeliers considers to be amongst the best of the Languedoc. Things got off to a slow start as the direct TV link with Montpellier was proving a bit problematic. We were told that some 90 journalists from 24 countries, from Shanghai to Rio, would also be tasting the same wines, at 11 a.m. local time.
I am always intrigued to see what is suggested for ‘best’. It’s a problematic term, as much depends on your mood, not to mention tasting conditions, weather, place, time. On a grey summer morning in London the following acquitted themselves pretty well.
First off was 2007 Crémant de Limoux, Grande Cuvée 1531, Sieur d’Arques, a blend of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Chenin Blanc and just 10% Mauzac, given 24 months on lees. This is one of the best cuvées of the large Limoux coop, which has been in the press recently for all the wrong reasons. 1531 is the date of the first written mention of sparkling wine in Limoux, and predates Dom Pérignon by several years. The colour was light, with a fine bead. It was delicately creamy on the nose, and more so on the palate, with good acidity and a fresh elegant finish. There was not much evidence of yeast autolysis. There is a lot to be said for sparkling Limoux, Blanquette or Crémant. I would far rather drink it than indifferent champagne. For a start the grapes are much riper than in northern France so you should always get some nice creamy fruit on the palate, while avoiding any sharp edges of acidity. £8.99 from The Wine Company in Colchester.
Onto a white blend. 2008 Cigalus from Gérard Bertrand, a Vin de Pays d’Oc produced from his vineyards in Corbières. He is one of the big, relatively new players in the Languedoc. His father was one of the first to age his wine in barriques in the 1970s, a step that was quite revolutionary at the time. Gérard is a rugby player turned vigneron and now one of the largest vineyard owners of the region, with Château de l’Hospitalet in la Clape outside Narbonne, and other estates scattered throughout the region.
The wine is mainly Chardonnay, with 15 – 20% Viognier, and just 5% of Sauvignon. The nose was quite fresh, with a touch of oak, and more on the palate, which was ripe and rounded, with a dry streak on the finish. Both the Chardonnay and Viognier were aged in oak and spend five or six months on the lees. We were told that the aim was very ripe fruit. We were only given an ex cellar price of 20€, but no retail price. So the wine is not cheap.
Next was a rosé 2009 Fruité Catalan, a Côtes du Roussillon from the Vignerons Catalans in Perpignan. Again there are no retail UK stockists, and the retail price in France would be 4.00€. The blend is 60% Syrah, with Grenache and Carignan and the wine is saigné. The colour was quite deep, as you would expect, with strawberry and raspberry fruit; the palate was quite rounded with some ripe fruit and sufficient balancing acidity. So both refreshing and mouth filling – a food rosé.
I was pleased to see that for the red wine, there was an estate that I had never heard of, namely Domaine Dromadaire, from Aigues Vives, in the Gard, with the postal code of 30670, which the Goellner and Redon families use on their labels. We tasted 30670 Cuvée 2006, Vin de Pays d’Oc, a blend of 60% Syrah and 40 % Grenache, with a retail price in France of 8.60€. And pretty good it was too. I was less convinced by the nose which was a touch viandé, while the palate had some berry fruit, with some firm leathery notes, a touch of minerality and a firm streak of tannin. The finish was warm and sturdy. Not the best red wine I have had from the Languedoc, but a intriguing and original wine from a little known estate.
We finished with a dessert wine, a 2006 Muscat de Frontignan from Mas de Madame, which was also new to me. It was light golden in colour, with an elegant, lemony Muscat nose and the palate was rich, honeyed and intense, with the slightly bitter finish that is characteristic of Muscat. This is a family estate, with 45 hectares of vines, all of them Muscat, which makes them the largest independent producer of the appellation, with a first vintage in bottle as recently as 2006. Apparently they make several different styles of Muscat, a late harvest with noble rot, as well as dry and sparkling Muscat.
In conclusion, a sympa way to spend an hour or so, and it is always good to discover a new producer or two.