What is the most obscure appellation in the Languedoc? How about Malepère? If you are wondering where it is, try south west of Carcassonne, going towards Limoux. The vineyards are scattered around the Massif de la Malepère. This is one of the two appellations – Cabardès is the other – where the grape varieties of Bordeaux meet those of the Languedoc. You can find Merlot, Cot or Malbec, Cinsaut, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache Noir, Lladoner Pelut and Syrah in varying percentages. Merlot is the most important. And Malepère tends to have more Grenache, while Cabardès favours Syrah. But there is no avoiding the fact that Malepère does tend to get overlooked by bigger and bolder neighbours, so I think life must be pretty tough for a Malepère producer. Part of the problem is that there are only ten producers altogether, and no real leader, not even a successful cooperative. To be blunt, the wines are not selling terribly well at the moment, and the bulk market is hopeless. I felt that they deserved better, especially Château de Cointes. Anne and François Gorostis make the wine; her father planted his first Merlot there in 1977. What follows are my tasting notes from the Paris Salon des Vignerons Independents in December.
2010 Côtes de Prouilhe, which is the local vin de pays. – 5.00€
A Grenache blanc made in vat, with no skin contact. Fresh and lively on nose and palate; fresh and crisp. – and undemanding.
2008 Blanc de Jean, Côtes de Prouilhe – 8.00€
Again a vin de pays; the appellation Malepère is only red or pink, Incidentally it was originally Côtes de Malepère, but the name changed with the awarding of the appellation in 2007. There is a touch of oak on the nose, and much more on the palate, so a rather solid mouthful.
2009 Malepère rosé - 6.00
A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache Noir, Syrah and Cinsaut, made by the saigné method, with the juice run off, after twelve hours of skin contact. Rounded, ripe nose; and rich strawberry fruit on the palate. Ripe and vinous, but with some balancing acidity.
2009 Merlot, Côtes de Prouilhe – 4.50€
Deep colour. Easy fruit on the nose, with a ripe, rounded easy palate. Deliciously easy drinking and great value for money.
2009 Cabernet, Côtes de Prouilhe – 4.50€
Cabernet means both Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, aged in vat. Quite a firm nose, with some ripe cassis fruit. Nicely rounded. Again a jolly nice glass of wine.
2008 Château de Cointes, Malepère. – 6.00€
A blend of 50% Merlot, with 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc and 10% Grenache, aged in vat. Deep colour; rounded nose and palate; quite ripe and mouth filling - a ripe claret. Think a petit château from a good year, but not too warm. Nicely crafted tannins.
2007 Malepère, Cuvée Marie Anne, after a grandmother. – 8.00€
A selection of the best Merlot – 50% - with 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Grenache Noir, and no wood. Deep colour; quite rounded, with ripe fruit. Nicely smoky, and an elegant finish.
2006 Malepère, Cuvée Clémence, after another grandmother. – 10.00€
This wine is aged in wood, and comprises Merlot and Grenache, but with Cabernet Sauvignon rather than Cabernet Franc, with lower yields, 30 hl/ha as opposed to 50 hl/ha for the basic Malepère. The wine is well made but the oak is very present, with a smoky nose and some vanilla on the palate. I preferred Marie Anne.
2008 Rouge de Noëlle, Côtes de Prouilhe – 13.00€
A blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache Noir, aged in new wood for 12 months. Deep colour; solid dense smoky oak on the nose, and more oak on the palate. Nicely made but I simply preferred the unoaked wines for their lovely fruit.