Johnny Goedhuis always holds his annual Rhône and Midi en primeur tasting in the splendid surroundings of the Saatchi Gallery. Word has obviously got out that this is a tasting not to be missed – there was a long queue of eager customers snaking out of the gallery waiting to gain access on a chilly autumn evening. The quantity of people did make tasting conditions pretty difficult, not to mention the odd whiff of an excess of perfume, or aftershave, and even some cigar smoke found its way back into the gallery. But I was not deterred.
Prices are those of Goedhuis & Co. And where there is no price, the wine was brought for interest alone.
First stop was Château St. Jacques d’Albas with Graham Nutter. Graham had a successful career in the City and bought St. Jacques in the Minervois as a second career and is making an enormous success of it.
2008 Château St. Jacques d’Albas £85 per case duty paid ex VAT
65% Syrah, with some Grenache Noir and Carignan. Young colour; firm fresh peppery fruit, ripe and quite oaky on the palate, nicely structured with firm fruit and tannin, and plenty of potential.
And in contrast Graham had brought along the 2003 Château. Medium colour, showing some development. Some lovely ripe mature fruit on the palate. Supple tannins and very harmonious. Nicely rounded. £91 ex VAT
His Minervois la Chapelle has a higher proportion of Syrah, 95%, with just 5% Grenache Noir. The 2008 is just bottled, and has some dense young red fruit on both nose and palate. The palate is firm and tannic, and still a bit adolescent with youthful edges, but with good depth of flavour. It promises well. £165 In Bond
2007 Minervois la Chapelle is dense and peppery on the nose, with youthful fresh fruit on the palate, nicely balanced, with good depth of flavour. £159 duty paid, ex VAT
And then again to show how well his wines age, the 2003. Quite a ripe mature nose, with some rich mature leathery fruit. Some warm fruit, but not obviously from a hot year.
Domaine de Trévallon in Les Baux. OK it’s outside the Languedoc, but Trévallon is one of the great estates of the south, and a treat to taste. A blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is well known that Eloi Durrbach refuses to plant the mandatory Grenache Noir in his vineyards, so his wine is condemned to be IGP Bouches du Rhône, but is certainly none the worse for that. It is indisputably the best wine of Les Baux. Eloi was showing:
2009 Young colour; quite deep. Firm youthful nose and a leathery note on the palate, with an appealing freshness that gave a lift on the finish. Very elegant. £145.00 per 6 bottles In Bond. There are also magnums and jeroboams available.
2007 Quite a firm nose, with firm leathery notes. The palate was quite ripe and rounded, with the benchmark freshness. Youthful and elegant. Very harmonious. Mme. Durrbach suggested a slightly minty, menthol note. I could see it once she had mentioned it, but it didn’t immediately strike me.
2003. This was a warm year and it was quite solid and dense and less elegant than the two younger vintages.
Domaine Tempier. Bandol. Apologies for another deviation from the Languedoc, but irresistibly so. This is one of the great estates of Bandol, with a reputation that was created by Lucien Peyraud.
2008 Bandol Cuvée Classique. Medium colour. Quite a dry firm closed nose. The palate is youthful and elegant, and quite discreet, but then you suddenly realise that it has enormous length as it lingers in the mouth. Very elegant. £175 in bond
2008 Bandol la Migoua. Medium young colour. More depth on the nose, and more richness on the palate. Very stylish with some elegant fruit. £135 per 6 bottles In Bond
And then a fabulous treat. 1975 Bandol Cuvée Classique.
The colour was light tawny, almost ethereal. And the nose elegantly leathery, some lovely subtle mature notes. And the palate was surprisingly powerful, with length, elegance and concentration, and lovely leathery notes.
James Kinglake from Domaine Bégude in Limoux was pouring his Chardonnay, a gentle lightly buttery unoaked, Vin de Pays d’Oc, Cuvée Especial £72.00 duty paid, ex VAT. It has the acidity of Limoux with some fresh fruit.
2007 Etoile de Bégude AC Limoux £89 duty paid ex VAT was quite solidly buttery and oaky, for my taste buds. And there was a cheerful 2009 Pinot Noir Rosé, with a delicate colour and fresh acidity. James has another white in the pipeline, and I promised to visit before too long.
Mas de Daumas Gassac was offering its latest vintages, both red and white. Here I have to admit to considerable disappointment. I’ve always admired Aimé Guibert, the proprietor of Mas de Daumas Gassac for his pioneering role in the Midi. In recent years I tended to prefer the whites to the reds, simply because I prefer Syrah to Cabernet in the south, and Cabernet is the dominant variety of Mas de Daumas Gassac. This time the wines were not showing at all well.
The 2010 Vin de Pays de l’Hérault white was admittedly very young and unfinished, rather leesy on the nose, with some peachy fruit and not much acidity. The 2009 was also quite soft and peachy on the nose, and rather broad and biscuity on the palate and lacked its usual charm. £110 per 6 bottles In Bond for 2010 and £120 per 6 duty paid ex VAT
The reds were the chief disappointment. The 2009 was lean and stalky, £110 per 6 In Bond. while the 2008 had a disconcerting whiff of brett on both nose and palate, and did not excite. £120 per 6 In Bond.
But to finish there was a cheerful Faugères, Domaine Saint Antonin. Cuvée Magnoux 2009 £115 In Bond Very youthful and peppery on the nose. Fresh fruit with an appealing touch of spice. Just what the Languedoc should be.