It was a relief to turn our backs on the freezing conditions in London, but today I am not sure that things are that much better in the Languedoc. True, it is warmer, and Easter Sunday was simply glorious, but today the rain is coming down, as it only can in the Languedoc, unremittingly and relentlessly. I can usually see a clear outline of the Pic de Vissou from our bedroom window when I open the shutters; this morning it was shrouded in cloud. And if you believe the local paper, Midi Libre, the Hérault has had the wettest March since 1960, with 168 mm. You have to go back to 1946 for the next highest rainfall, with 215mm. And the water table is at its highest level for 13 years, so there should be no problems with stressed vines this summer. But for the moment the vines are distinctly dormant – usually the end of March they are bursting into leaf, but not this year. And the reason is quite simply lack of sunshine – a local website, www.heraultwhatson showed the comparative hours of sunshine between this year and last year in mid-March. Last year the Hérault had clocked up 239 hours, while this year the figure is just 82.
So what did we open on our first evening to make ourselves at home? First up for an apéro was 2011 Muscat Sec, Pays d’Oc from the Chartreuse de Mougères. Muscat is the one grape variety that really smells of grapes, and this did. It was fresh and grapey, on both nose and palate, with a hint of sweetness and that typical slightly bitter finish. And was just the thing to whet the palate for a glass or two of red wine.
I have a soft spot for old Carignan. The one from Château de Nizas used to be my favourite, but sadly they have pulled up their old Carignan vines, so I have transferred my allegiance to Mas Gabriel and Les Trois Terrasses. Andrew Jefford this morning was writing about old Carignan from Chile on www.decanter.com and mentioned how the Carignan of the Languedoc has an ascerbic spikiness; I know what he means but I wouldn’t go as far as that. For me old Carignan can have an elegant rusticity. 2009 Les Trois Terrasses has a deep colour colour, and ripe black cherry and confit fruit on the nose, and more so on the palate. It is ripe and concentrated, with rich fruit, but with a rustic edge of acidity as well as tannin, with a youthful but balanced finish. In short a lovely example of the grape variety.
And the following evening we treated ourselves to a la Clape from Château Rouquette sur Mer, their Cuvée le clos de la Tour, 2005. It was quite a deep colour, with some tapenade and red fruit on the nose. And on the palate it was beautifully mouth filling, but not too heavy, at a modest 13˚. There were layers of flavour, with some lovely black fruit and supple tannins and an elegant lift on the finish. It was drinking beautifully.
The Midi Libre can usually be relied on for an April Fool or poisson d’avril, and this year was no exception, at least I don’t think so. There was a convincing article entitled Du vin en poudre servi à la prochaine Feria, which enthused about une petite revolution which would save enormous quantities of empty bottles, and describing the quality of the resulting wine, a blend of equal parts of water and powder, as being as not far from that of the best crus of the region ……