Friends from Alsace came to stay. They worked in wine, first in Burgundy and then in Alsace, and are now happily retired in Colmar. This was their very first visit to the Languedoc, so they provided a great excuse to open a few bottles. The dilemma was; what to choose, to give them a good overview of the region.
The first evening we kicked off with a bottle of Domaine de Clovallon, les Aires, Viognier. It was beautifully textured and peachy, just what good Viognier should be, with a very satisfying mouth feel.
2009 Allegro, Domaine Ollier Taillefer’s white Faugères, was quite mature and rich. Probably just beginning to slide off its plateau.
And then we tackled a trio of Carignan.
First off was 2010 le Carignan from Domaine Aupilhac. Sylvain Fadat makes his Carignan with a view to some ageing potential. This was young in colour, with a fresh berry nose and some firm tannin and acidity on the palate. There was a rustic youthful edge that will soften with some bottle age.
Next was 2009 Mas d’Amile, which spends some time in old oak. It had a pleasing freshness, with some berry fruit and an elegant finish, combining tannin and acidity. It was a touch more refined than Sylvain’s
And the third wine 2009 Domaine de Nizas, which had some satisfyingly, rounded berry fruit and supple tannins. It was ripe and rounded with supple tannins and good length and depth, and our favoruite of the three.
The next day saw us visiting two contrasting estates, Mas des Chimères in Octon with Guilhem Dardé, and then Domaine du Pas de l’Escalette, with Delphine Rousseau. More on those anon.
And for dinner we went to our favourite local restaurant, le Presbytère in Vailhan. But first we enjoyed a glass of refreshing Vermentino from Domaine St. Hilaire. It had that lovely sappy freshness of Vermentino, with a good balance of acidity. Our white wine at Le Presbytère was Mas d’Agalis Grand Carré, a blend of Terret, Clairette, Vermentino and Chenin Blanc. This is a natural wine – I realised afterwards that I had tasted it before, at the natural wine fair in Bédarieux earlier in the year, and it was quite edgy on the palate. Maybe it needed to breathe. And our red choice took us into Roussillon with 2011 les Calcinaires from Domaine Gauby. It was rich and textured, with some leathery notes and red fruit, and still very youthful with plenty of potential.
For dinner the next day we were at home, with no wine visits during the day. White Carignan had come up in conversation, so Mas Gabriel’s Carignan Blanc was an obvious choice to illustrate the grape variety. It was rounded and ripe with some herbal notes, and nicely mouthfilling.
And after our visit to Domaine du Pas de l’Escalette it seemed appropriate to try a mature version of Delphine and Julien’s white wine. 2007 Les Clapas is a blend of Carignan Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Terret, aged in barrel. It was rounded and buttery, combining elegance and weight, with a hint of nuttiness and a note of maturity on the finish. A wonderful example of just how well the white wines of the Languedoc can age. I wondered where I would have put it, given it blind. I don’t think the Languedoc would have immediately come to mind. There was almost a Burgundian note about it.
And for reds, we tried Domaine de la Croix Belle’s 2007 Cascaillou, their predominantly Grenache blend. There was some lovely ripe liqueur cherry fruit on both nose and palate, with soft tannins and good length.
2002 Prieuré de St. Jean de Bébian amply demonstrated just how well the red wines of the region can age. The colour was still deep red, with some rich leathery notes on the nose and palate, combined with some red fruit. Again there was length and depth making a satisfying and harmonious mouthful. A really lovely glass of wine.
Bertrand had expressed an interest in Clairette du Languedoc. This is an old appellation which tends to be overlooked. I’ve not had any dry wines recently that I can really enthuse about, but the sweet wines are more much intriguing, so we opened Domaine de Clovallon’s, 1995 Clairette du Languedoc Rancio, which has been aged in an old barrel. It has been sitting in our cellar for a while, waiting for the right moment. The colour was amber orange and the nose redolent of dry orange marmalade. On the palate there is good acidity, with rich honeyed fruit and a refreshing finish. It was delicious with the figs straight from our tree.
And the finale at lunch the next day, before our friends caught their train, was Château Moyau, La Clape rosé, a refreshing pink, with raspberry fruit and hints of garrigues, and the sunshine of the south.