I should have been driving to Chablis today, but given the stories about barricaded power stations; lengthy queues at petrol stations and operations escargot by lorry drivers, we decided that prudence should prevail and that we would remain this side of the Channel. Instead I got to go to a tasting at the Maison du Languedoc of award winning wines, that is to say, some from the Top 100 Vins de Pays; as well trophies and gold and silver medals from the International Wine Challenge and Decanter’s World Wine Awards. This year I helped chair Italy for Decanter, and in the past have chaired New Zealand, without a taste of the Languedoc, so I was intrigued to see just what had been chosen. And I did help with the Top 100 Vins de Pays. It has to be said that they were a mixed bunch; some I loved and some I had difficulty in discerning their award winning characteristics.
A note about prices, we were given an ex cellar price, which I have doubled to give a French retail price. The UK agents generally seemed to be rather lackadaisical about supplying a retail price here.
My white highlights:
2009 Les Salices Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Pays d’Oc, Domaine François Lurton – 4.88€ Top 100
Quite rounded leesy fruit on the nose; a characterful palate, packing a punch of flavour with good acidity and a mouth filling finish.
2009 Muscat Sec, Vin de Pays des Coteaux d’Ensérune. Enseduna Grand Réserve, Les Vignobles Foncalieu – 6.10€ Silver IWC
Pale colour. Fresh pithy Muscat nose, with a fresh grapiness, and on the palate you really taste the grape; very juicy and full-flavoured.
2009 Domaine St. Roch, Viognier Vin de Pays d’Oc – 5.90€ Top 100
A little colour. A touch of peachy Viognier on the palate, and quite a pungent, fresh peachy palate, with some texture and mouth feel. Very appealing. Good varietal character and nicely balanced.
2009 Château Camplazens, Viognier, Vin de Pays d’Oc. – 9.00€ Decanter Silver
Camplazens is an estate on the Massif of la Clape owned by Peter and Susan Close. They have developed a successful range of vins de pays as well La Clape over the past few years. This Viognier contrasts with the previous wine, with some lightly toasted oaky notes on the palate, with some peachy toasted fruit and an oaky streak on the finish. There were more wines from Camplazens in the red line up.
2009 Collioure, L’Abbé Rous (the Banyuls coop). Decanter Gold £9.90 at Marks & Spencer. A blend of Grenache gris and Grenache blanc. Rounded white blossom and herbal notes on the nose and palate. Sufficient acidity and a rounded palate. Some depth of flavour.
There were three rosés, of which the best was:
2009 Isa, Les Chemins de Bassac, Côtes de Thongue – 6.00€ Top 100
A delicate orange pink colour, with a touch of raspberry fruit on nose and palate, and fresh acidity on the finish.
And now for reds
2008 Château de Sérame, Vin de Pays d’Oc - Recommended retail price £6.99. IWC Silver
Medium young colour. Attractive leathery notes on nose and palate; quite a ripe rounded palate, with soft tannins. Medium weight and very accessible. Easy drinking.
Domaine de Familongue in Saint André de Sangonis seemed to be on a winning streak, with four wines in the line up..
2009 Mas des Vignals, Vin de Pays de Mont Baudile, Cinsaut – 4.60€ - Top 100
This is lovely and fresh, with ripe cherry fruit, with some acidity as well as tannin. Perfect summer drinking if lightly chilled. I like this a lot.
There was also 2009 Puech Cremat, a Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot blend, which was well made, but not my favourite grape varieties from the Languedoc. Top 100 5.30€
2008 Domaine de Familongue, l’Envol de Familongue, Coteaux du Languedoc, 6.36€ is a blend of Grenache Noir and Carignan with quite a sweet nose, with a rounded palate and a little warm spice on the finish. Silver Decanter.
2008 L’Ame de Familongue, Terrasses du Larzac, Grenache noir and Carignan – 8.30€ - Silver Decanter.
Medium colour; quite dense and leathery, some firm fruit with a rounded palate. Supple with a balancing edge of tannin.
2009 Les Garrigues Grande Réserve Grenache Noir, Vin de Pays de la Vallée du Paradis – who can resist a name like that ? 5.50€ Decanter Silver
Medium colour; fresh cherry fruit on nose and palate, with some acidity and a little tannin. A light refreshing rendition of Grenache, rather than a warm version, and none the worse for that.
2008 La Grange des Combes, St. Chinian Roquebrun, Cave de Roquebrun. – 6.62€ A blend of Syrah and Grenache. Some leathery spicy fruit on the nose ; black olive tapenade on the palate, rich and mouth filling with a warm finish. Trophy IWC
The Roquebrun coop also managed some other awards:
2009 Col de la Serre, St. Chinian.- 6.82€ Decanter Silver
Mourvèdre and Grenache Noir, Young colour, a rounded nose with rounded easy spice on the palate, with a streak of tannin to provide some backbone.
2008 Les Fiefs d’Aupenac, St. Chinian Roquebrun, also from the Roquebrun coop achieved a silver from Decanter.. A blend of Syrah and Grenache Noir – 10.64€
Medium colour; quite a solid tapenade nose; quite rounded fleshy ripe fruit; easy spicy; rich and dense. A bit alcoholic on the finish, but with some lovely southern fruit.
Château Camplazens also featured in the Top 100 for their 2009 Grenache, - 6.40€ Easy sweet spicy fruit with a warm finish. And I was less enthusiastic about their 2008 Garrigue la Clape. 8.00€ There was an edgy streak of tannins so that it did not seem very harmonious. Decanter however gave it a silver. I preferred Camplazens 2008 Premium la Clape, 11.00€ with a Silver from both the IWC and Decanter, which was more sturdy with some oak ageing. The oak was nicely integrated giving the wine some body and weight, with a ripe finish.
2008 Château L'Hospitalet, La Clape, La Réserve £10.99 won a Decanter Trophy, and deservedly so. This is serious, with a rounded oaky nose, and quite dense fruit on the palate, with a peppery lift and a youthful tannic structure. A wine to develop in bottle. A blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre. This was my favourite of the various Gérard Bertrand wines in the line up.
Another la Clape estate won an IWC Trophy, Château Rouquette sur Mer, for their 2009 L’Esprit Terroir – 8.80€ This was rich and perfumed on the nose; with lovely rounded supple fruit and also most succulent spice, but not too heavy.
And it was certainly rather better value than 2008 L’Absolu de Château Rouquette, a blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre. The owner, Jacques Boscary, gives this lots of TLC, and the fruit is delicious, with perfumed spicy, some weight. It is rounded, but lacks depth, and with an ex cellar price of 38€ will be a hard sell, despite a IWC Gold and a Decanter Silver.
2008 Pica Broca, Domaine la Sauvageonne, Terrasses du Larzac - £11.99 Decanter Silver
A blend of Syrah and Grenache. Medium colour with some stony mineral fruit on the nose. The palate has the freshness of the Larzac, combined with the warmth of the vineyards site, in the hills outside the village of St. Jean de la Blaquière. A combination of dry warmth and supple fruit.
It’s always good when some of the newer names come out well, so I was pleased to see
2008 Cuvée Dondona from Villa Dondona in Montpeyroux, made by my friends Jo Lynch and Andre Suquet. She is also a talented artist. 10.50€ Decanter Silver
Quite a perfumed nose, with perfumed spicy ripe fruit on the palate. Supple and easy and nicely mouth filling and satisfying.
2008 Domaine de Cebène, les Bancèls – 13.00€ From a relatively new Faugères estate created by Brigitte Chevalier. Medium colour. Quite an appealing perfumed nose, with some ripe fruit and balancing body and weight. Nicely balanced and harmonious. IWC Silver
2008 Domaine du Petit Causse, Griotte de Ventajou, Minervois was new to me. 15.00€ IWC Gold A blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Carignan, with quite a stony mineral nose, and rounded supple fruit, with a firm mineral streak.
Also from the Minervois was Château St. Jacques d’Albas, La Chapelle St. Jacques 2006, which was firm and sturdy, some dense oak on both nose and palate, with underlying fruit, but at the moment intense and tannic. It should develop in bottle. Decanter Silver 20.00€
2008 Château le Bouis, Cuvée Roméo, Corbières. An estate in Gruissan, just on the edge of the Massif of La Clape, but for bureaucratic reasons Corbières rather than la Clape. Rounded peppery nose, with some spicy fruit on the palate. A firm tannic streak within some supple fruit. Quite full-bodied, nicely balanced and harmonious. Decanter Gold 30.00€
And we finished with three Vins Doux Naturel
2008 Domaine de Blanes, Maury, 16.00€ Silver medal from both IWC and Decanter
Pure Grenache noir, a vintage style with ripe berry fruit, a sweet rounded palate with a streak of tannin. Think good ruby port.
1982 Rivesaltes Hors d’Age from the Rivesaltes coop, under their Arnaud de Villeneuve label. – 26.50€ IWC Silver
Made from Muscat d’Alexandrie and Grenache blanc. Amber colour, wonderfully rich walnut nose, with liquid prunes on the palate. Quite sweet and absolutely delicious. I like prunes! Have you ever tried prune and port ice cream?
1998 Castell des Hospices, Banyuls Grand cru, from L’Abbé Rous, the coop in Banyuls. Decanter Gold. Grand cru these days does not mean much in the context of the quality of Banyuls – it denotes 75% Greanche Noir and a minimum of 30 months ageing. This has had significantly more. Medium colour, with an amber edge, walnut and fruitcake fruit on nose and palate, with a refreshing streak of acidity. A long nutty liquorice finish. Decanter Gold. 56€