The wine shop at Domaine de Saporta hides its light under a bushel. It is run by the Comité des Vins du Languedoc, and consequently does not advertise itself, but depends on the snowball effect to make itself known – and it is most certainly worth the detour, as M. Michelin would say, for any amateur of Languedoc wines. It probably has one of the best selections of Languedoc wines in the region, well laid out by appellation, with spacious bins and shelving, but it concentrates solely on the appellations of the region. There are no vins de pays here; no wines from the neighbouring department of the Gard either, and you might find the odd bottle from Roussillon.
I had met Bernard Bardou, the genial caviste, at a friend’s lunch table the other day and accepted an invitation to visit. What do you want to taste? What’s new? was my reply, so he put on a small tasting of some of their new discoveries. He explained how they select their wines. Anyone producing appellation wine in the region may submit wines for their tastings, with a small panel of local experts. They taste not by appellation but by price, with the key criterion of value for money. A wine that may be good at 8€ may also be deemed too expensive, and if your wine is selected one year, it does not automatically mean that your wine will be on their list the following year. The prices are the same as at the cellar door.
2009 Carignena, Corbières, from Peyriac-sur-Mer. 5.00€
From old Carignan vines, vinified by carbonic maceration with the aim of a fruity wine for easy summer drinking. And that was just what was achieved. Good colour. Some spicy fruit, with a rugged edge on the nose – what you might call typical Carignan. There was ripe fruit on the palate, with an attractive freshness on the finish. And great value at 5€
2010 L’Insolent, la Grange Léon, St. Chinian.
This is a new estate (2009 was the first vintage) in St. Chinian, with vineyards on the schist of Berlou. A blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah. Young colour. The classic flavours of schist, neither too sauvage, nor too animal, with a touch of minerality. The fruit leaped out of the glass. On the palate there was spicy red fruit, a streak of minerality and quite a long finish. Again there was a fresh finish to the medium weight palate. Another great summer red – for 6.30€
2010 Domaine du Temple, Cuvée Jacques de Molay. – 5.00€
Domaine du Temple is one of the few independent producers of Cabrières, a village that is dominated by its successful coop. This is a blend of predominantly Grenache and Syrah with a little Mourvèdre and a drop of Carignan. Again you have the effect of the schist, so the fruit is fresh, with hints of raspberry, some acidity and a streak of tannin and a fresh appealing finish. Again another bargain at 5,00€ I had been less than enamoured when I last visited Domaine du Temple about three years ago, and on the strength of this wine, it would certainly warrant another visit.
2010 le Clos Riveral, les Fontanilles, Languedoc – the vineyards are in the Terrasses du Larzac near St. Jean de la Blaquière - 8.10€
A blend of 60% Grenache, with 30% Syrah and 10% old Carignan. Part of the wine is aged in oak for a few months. Good colour; lovely fresh fruit, very gourmand with lots of red fruit. I couldn’t detect the oak at all. And on the palate nicely rounded fruit, medium weight, with a touch of tannin and a fresh finish. I blogged about Olivier Bellet, the young vigneron who made this wine, a while ago, and it was good to see that he continues to do well.
2008 Domaine Reine Juliette, Grange de Fredol - 9.50€
This estate is at Pomerols and the name has an association with a certain queen who travelled along the nearby Via Domitia, the Roman road that links Spain and Italy. A blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache, with some oak ageing. The wine was very perfumed, with a leathery note on the nose, with rounded perfumed fruit and a touch of leather on the palate and rather an alcoholic finish, with notes of liqueur cherry that I associate with Grenache Noir. Bernard and I both agreed that from the taste we would have expected the blend to be the other way round, with Grenache, not Syrah, the dominant variety.
2009 Cuvée l’Infernale, Corbières, from les Celliers d’Orfée, other wise known as the coop at Ornaisons. 7.90€
A blend of Syrah and Grenache. This was a bit sweet and sour on the nose, and quite alcoholic on the finish. It had some of the gutsiness that I associate with Corbières, but also some quite supple fruit and a warm finish.
2009 Domaine des Anges de Bacchus, Angélique, 8.00€
A new estate at Montarnaud, owned by David Mouysset. A blend of Syrah and Grenache. Deep colour; quite a perfumed nose, with a touch of garrigues, with supple ripe cherry fruit and a tannic streak on the palate. Quite a warm finish.
Then Bernard gave me a blind bottle and said what do you think this is? My tasting notes mentioned spice and fruit on the nose, a touch of garrigues. Medium weight, quite gouleyant, rounded and ripe. And it turned out to be 2010 Carline, Pic St. Loup made by Quentin Leenhardt, who is Andre Leenhardt’s son at Domaine de Cazeneuve, one of the leading estates of Pic St. Loup. We both agreed that although the wine is delicious, it was too supple for a Pic St. Loup and that we expected a bit more tannin and structure.
2009 Les Yeuses, les Epices – 6.90€
A pure Syrah. Les Epices mean spices, and the wine was just that. Ripe, with supple fruit and a rounded finish and eminently easy to drink, with notes of tapenade and sufficient balancing tannin.
Domaine de Saporta is a large complex on a country lane between exits 31 and 30 on the A9, at Lattes, just outside Montpellier. At one stage the road takes you parallel to the busy motorway. And it is well signed-posted. There is also a restaurant with a reasonable list of Languedoc wines. And they give visitors a warm welcome, so do drop in. And there is always something available for tasting.