Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Domaine d'Aupilhac



The village of Montpeyroux provides a typical example of the development of the Languedoc over the last twenty years or so.   The first time I visited Montpeyroux, back in 1987, there was just one wine producer that was worth the journey, and that was the village cooperative.  Eight years on I met a small group of five independent growers, who were working hard on their quality and reputation.  And today, as well as the cooperative, which accounts for at least half of the village’s wine production, Montpeyroux has eighteen private cellars, several of whom have an international reputation.  One of the stars is indisputably Sylvain Fadat at Domaine d’Aupilhac.  

Montpeyroux itself is an attractive little village.  There is a square with the old market hall, which is used by the village restaurant, les Terrasses de Mimosa, which boasts a comprehensive local wine list.  The village really comes to life at the bi-annual wine fair, usually held in April, when the wine growers open up their cellars, providing tastings and opportunities for new discoveries.   Montpeyroux is almost the last wine village before the Massif Central, with some of the most northerly vineyards of the region, so the skyline is dominated by mountains.  Mont St. Baudile, which gives its name to the local wine de pays, rises to 847 feet and in the distance you can see the extinct volcano of the Pic de Vissou.

The wines of Montpeyroux have always enjoyed a certain reputation for the village could never produce the enormous quantities achieved by the vineyards of the coastal plain.  Consequently Montpeyroux became a VDQS in 1958, thus singling out as an island of quality in a mass of vin de table, and then with the creation of the appellation of Coteaux du Languedoc in 1985, it was incorporated into that appellation.  Today it would come within the new cru of the Terrasses du Larzac, which covers the whole of the northern Languedoc.  However, the wine growers of the village prefer to maintain their own identity and independence.   They would like Montpeyroux as the pinnacle of the pyramid above Terrasses du Larzac, with stricter regulations.   However,  all that is still up for discussion.

Sylvain Fadat’s vines came from his grandfather, who had some land in Montpeyroux and some in nearby Aniane, but all the grapes went to the village cooperative. Sylvain’s father had shown no interest in viticulture and Sylvain himself was the only one five children who wished to take over the family holding.  His father had said to him, ‘if you don’t work at school, you will have to work in the vineyards.  But that was just what he  wanted to do.  He went to the agricultural college in Montpellier and worked a vintage at Mas de Daumas Gassac in 1983, when that estate was one of the real pacesetters of the Languedoc.  Sylvain remembers that they had stainless steel vats, which you simply did not see in the average Languedoc cellars at that time.  He also worked in Burgundy, and much prefers Burgundy to Bordeaux.  His studies may have stretched his horizons, but he also observed that ‘pure oenology is not the friend of good wine.  It can help you, but it also makes for standardisation.   If you have got good grapes, you don’t need an oenologist.’ He made his first wines in 1989 – the cellar was makeshift and the tanks were outside in the yard.   Over the years he has gradually built a cellar, under the old family house in the centre of the village and he has bought more vineyards, so that he now has 29 hectares.  

Aupilhac is the lieu-dit, the spot outside the village, where most of his vineyards are situated.   The altitude is 100 metres and the soil is a mixture of clay and limestone, with blue marnes, a type of clay that is the same clay that you find at Pétrus.  The vineyards here are south-facing and planted mainly with Carignan and Mourvèdre, as well as a little Grenache Noir.  Then about twelve years ago he bought more land in the hills outside the village, a plot of about eight hectares in the form of an amphitheatre, which  faces north at an altitude of 310- 400 metres.  It is called les Cocalières. Sylvain was looking for somewhere cooler than Aupilhac for Syrah and for some white grapes.  The soil at les Cocalières is volcanic in origin, free-draining limestone and basalt. The two vineyards complement each other perfectly.  They are organic, certified with Ecocert since 2006. 

We wandered though the cellar tasting from barrel to barrel, and Sylvain expounded his ideas.  He is bright and articulate, open-minded and welcoming.  He makes two white wines.  The Aupilhac vineyards produce Ugni Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Chardonnay.  This is the land that had belonged to his grandfather and where his aunt had planted the Chardonnay and he keeps it for sentimental reasons. It goes into a simple vin de pays for easy drinking.  In contrast the white wine from les Cocalières comes from Marsanne, Roussanne and Rolle.  For the moment there is no white appellation for Montpeyroux; this is Coteaux du Languedoc, and will be plain Languedoc when Coteaux du Languedoc finally disappears – if indeed it does disappear.   White les Cocalières is fermented in 600 litres barrels; the oak is well integrated with white flowers and a touch of minerality on the palate, and layers of flavour, with beautifully balanced acidity.

Sylvain makes a pure Cinsaut, les Servières, from some very old vines    Part of the vineyard was planted in 1900 and the rest about 40 years ago.  The wine spends nine months in 35 hectolitre foudres.   And the flavour is wonderful, an explosion of fresh raspberry fruit leaps out of the bottle. It shows the real potential of this somewhat overlooked grape variety.  People accept that it is ideal for rosé, but an increasing number of wine growers are proving its suitability for red wine too. 



Sylvain also favours another once despised grape variety, Carignan and was one of the first to make it as a pure varietal, as a Vin de Pays du Mont Baudile.   He has always had Carignan in his vineyards and at the beginning could not afford to replant it, even if he had wanted too.  Everyone said that Carignan was worthless, but on the contrary he claims, ‘it was badly treated.  The yields were too high and the thick skins made for unripe tannins’.  It is a late ripener, and it must be fully ripe, and only then the tannins will be ripe.   Sylvain treats it seriously, ageing it in 600 litres demi-muids for almost two years.  The result is very successful, ripe brambly fruit with a touch of elegant rusticity, which for me is the hallmark of good Carignan. 
Sylvain makes red wine from both Aupilhac and les Cocalières.  Both plots are vinified in the same way, with an élevage in demi-muids for the first year and then the wine goes into foudres after blending for a second winter.  But first we tried the pure Syrah from each vineyard.  The Aupilhac was riper, with some peppery fruit, while les Cocalières was firmer and fresher, again with good fruit but different texture, thus illustrating the difference between the two vineyards.   The base of les Cocalières is 65% Syrah with 25% Grenache and a little Mourvèdre, making for some fresh spicy fruit and nicely balanced tannins.  In contract the Aupilhac vineyard consists of Syrah with Mourvèdre and Carignan; this is warmer, denser and riper and altogether more substantial in the mouth. 



And the final red wine is la Boda, made from Syrah from les Cocalières and Mourvèdre from Aupilhac so a blend of two terroirs.  Whole bunches are fermented in demi-muids and the élevage is in new oak.  He makes just three to four hundred bottles..  It was solid and dense, with chocolaty oak and leathery notes, combining concentration and weight.  It certainly makes an impact but for my taste buds simply did not have the charm of the other red wines.  And Sylvain agreed; ruefully observing that ‘the least good is the most expensive’.   The impact of new oak does fade, but even so, for the next vintage he is planning to ferment in foudres and will not buy any barriques.  It was a great example of the approach of a vigneron who is open-minded, willing to experiment and continually pushing the boundaries in his search for excellence.  

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Talking about the Languedoc with The French Wine Society

There is an organisation based in the USA, but run by Julien Camus from Alsace,  called The French Wine Society,  that organises lectures and seminars, or rather webinars,  over the net, and they have invited me to take part in a course on Languedoc-Roussillon.   A friend and fellow M.W. Matthew Stubbs, who runs a wine school, Vinecole, near Carcassonne, has put the syllabus together and is covering the essential elements of the Languedoc and then there are various other speakers, such as my friend and colleague, Andrew Jefford, covering other aspects of the region.   I've been asked to talk about Tradition and Transition in the Languedoc  which is a good subject to get one's teeth into, but I should not say more about the ground I will cover until 11th April, the date of my webinar.

Meanwhile both Matthew and I were interviewed by Lynn Kriewlow Chamberlain  for an East Coast  radio show, iWineRadio,  that concentrates on wine.   Here are the links to our interviews:

for Matthew:

http://www.winefairy.com/iWineRadio973a.mp3  

and for me: 

http://www.winefairy.com/iWineRadio974b.mp3  

And for more information about the course on the Languedoc, and the various other courses that the French Wine Society runs, go to:

www.frenchwinesociety.org 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Les Trois Terres




I am a great believer in higgledy piggledy in the cellar.  It means that there is always an element of surprise in the search for a bottle.   But don’t get me wrong – part of our cellar – my husband’s part – is very organised, but I look after two wine racks where single bottles can sometimes get lost.  So yesterday evening  I was looking for something to go with some pork with juniper and alighted up on  a lone bottle of 2004 Les Trois Terres that had been sitting in the rack since, I am not quite sure when.   You could think that 2004 is getting on for a bit for the Languedoc, but no; this was fresh and lively and drinking beautifully with some ripe southern warmth and balancing tannins.  It was deliciously harmonious and like all the best bottles, not quite big enough.

2004 was the first vintage of a young doctor, Graeme Angus, and he made just 2000 bottles   Despite his name, he does not come from Scotland, but from south of the border.   He gave up the hectic working life of a large London hospital and moved out to the Languedoc and settled in the village of Octon.  His next door neighbour is Guilhem Dardé from Mas des Chimères.   I first met Graeme by chance when I was visiting Guilhem and asked about other wine growers in the village.  Come and meet my next door neighbour he said.    That was back in 2006 when Graeme had just two hectares of vines, three different plots in three different villages on three different terroirs, hence the name of his wine. There is Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, from St. Jean de Blaquière, Cabrières and Octon, with the soil variations of schist, ruffe and grès.   After last night’s bottle, it is definitely time for another cellar visit, so watch this space. 




Friday, 8 March 2013

Domaine Gauby


Freelancing wine writing can be precarious.  A magazine gives you a commission, and then decides to close down, and so you are left with articles that have no publisher.   This is what happened to me last summer, so since there is a Languedoc or Roussillon link with each of the four beleaguered articles, I am at least going to post them on my blog.    First up is a profile of Domaine Gauby.


 Gerard Gauby; unfortunately I failed to photograph his son, Lionel

The first time I met Gérard Gauby, back in 1999, I asked him about the history of his estate, to which he replied, with apologies to Louis XIV,’ l’histoire, c’est moi’.   And twelve years on, that confident comment is even more appropriate, for Domaine Gauby has proved to be one of the true pioneers of Roussillon. Gérard’s first bottling was as recent as 1985.  Until 1983 his grandfather had delivered grapes from the family vineyards to the local cooperative, and the estate really only took off at the beginning of the 1990s.   Now it is firmly established as one of the leading estates, not only of Roussillon, but the whole of the Mediterranean. 

Back in the 1980s, viticulture in Roussillon was dominated by the village cooperatives.  There were very few independent wine growers, but over the years their number has soared, as the cooperatives have largely paled into insignificance.   As the cooperative members have retired, they have sold off their vineyards of old vines, which the newcomers have eagerly sought to purchase.  The village of Calce, where Gérard Gauby is based, has become the focus of a particularly creative group of young wine growers, mostly influenced and inspired by Gérard and his wines.



On my most recent visit to the estate, I met Lionel, Gérard’s son, who is gradually taking over the wine-making, while his father concentrates on their vines.   They have left the cramped cellar in the village, and built a new cellar hidden in the hills outside Calce. You take a narrow dirt track, hoping that you will not meet anyone coming in the opposite direction, and the occasional sign post provides reassurance that you are indeed on the right dirt track.   Most their vineyards are in the same valley.   Altogether they have 40 hectares, 25 hectares around the cellar, and fifteen hectares in an adjoining valley, Coume Gineste.  And as well as vines they have fifty hectares of garrigues, slopes covered with the shrubs and herbs of the Mediterranean.  The scenery is wild and rugged, with hillsides of garrigues interspersed with vines.  Both Lionel and his father are passionate about planting trees, to enhance their environment.  The vineyards have been organic since 1996, and fully biodynamic since 2001.  Lionel has his own very precise ideas about the treatments they give the vines, using some 25 different plants.  They do not aim for especially low yields; they give their vines plenty of organic compost and the vines find their own balance.  The valley is a nature reserve, and hunters are not allowed. 



The village of Calce, close to the Agly river valley, lies between the Pyrenees and the hills of Corbières.  Nor is it far from the sea, so there is a contrast of sea and mountain, with both affecting the climate.   Wind have an important impact, and can at times be very violent.    The soil is varied too, with limestone to the north – the name of the village of Calce derives from the presence of limestone or calcaire– and to the south there is schist.  The formation of the Pyrenees upset the geological strata – you can the results in their cellar, with the bare rock revealing vertical lines of limestone.     For Gérard the character of Calce is determined by the old vines, with their deep roots, and by what he calls fraicheur or freshness, coming from a climate that is influenced by both the sea and the mountains.
  
The last time I met Gérard, a couple of years ago, he explained that his wines had evolved to equate to the Burgundian classification system, so that you have the village level, a premier cru and a grand cru.  But whether they are vin de pays , or IGP,  as vins de pays are now called, or appellation is pretty irrelevant.   The white wines tend to be IGP, as they use grape varieties not permitted in the appellation, while the reds are usually Côtes du Roussillon Villages.   Our tasting with Lionel began with their ‘village’ wine, Les Calcinaires white, a Côtes Catalanes and an intriguing blend of Muscat, Macabeo, Vermentino and Chardonnay.   Gérard’s wife, Ghislaine, has inherited the Chardonnay vineyard a while ago, but it is not normally a grape variety that you would usually expect to find in Roussillon.   The wine was aged in old barrels. And Lionel enthused; ‘this is our best Calcinaires ever’.  2010 had been a dry year, but not an especially hot year.   There was a satisfying note of minerality, a refreshing saltiness, with wonderful freshness, texture and length. The various grape varieties are blended during vinification, and then the assemblage is fine-tuned before bottling.  The white wines always undergo a malo-lactic fermentation, and they no longer use sulphur during the vinification, just the tiniest amount at bottling.  ‘The less you move a wine, the more it speaks to you’ observed Lionel. 



The Cuvée Vieilles Vignes equates to a premier cru.  The white comes from Macabeo, Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc that are anything between 45 and 85 years old.  The minerality is explosive.  ‘That’s what interests me: living wines,  vins vivants - that reflect their soil’ Lionel commented.   And the red Vieilles Vignes is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and a little Mourvèdre.  They have Carignan vines that are over 100 years old, which were planted before phylloxera arrived in the area in the 1880s.  And some of their Grenache is nearly a hundred years old too.   And for the red wines they have stopped destalking – ‘removing the stalks takes away too much muscle’, said Lionel.

The grand cru is represented by Muntada, which comes from two or three plots of old Grenache and old Carignan, with a little Syrah and Mourvèdre, grown on limestone, with an élevage in larger barrels, rather than small barriques.   The wines are beautifully crafted – my early memory of Gérard’s wines, a decade or so ago, was of solid, structured oaky, even overly extracted, wines.   Today there may be intensity, but there is also elegance, freshness and length.  The wines have good tannin structure, balanced with some wonderful fruit, and enormous ageing ability. 



Although Lionel has been working with his father since 2002, 2008 was ‘his first real vintage’ when he was able to do what he really wanted to do.  And consequently he has begun to develop the range, adding other grands crus to Muntada.  Now there is a Coume Gineste red, as well as white, mainly from old Carignan; La Foun, which means a fountain in Catalan, is mainly Carignan, including some pre-phylloxera vines.  Lionel described the 2010 as the best Carignan he had ever made.  Carignan can de difficult, but this shows real potential, for a grape variety that was often despised.   La Roque comes from 100 years old Grenache, grown on the hill across the valley from the cellar; the wine is given eighteen months of ageing in barrel, and they made just 1000 bottles.   La Jasse is mainly Mourvèdre with a little Carignan.  Lionel reminded us that Mourvèdre is Catalan in origin.   And Combe de Llooups comes from Grenache Gris that has been given a week or more’s skin contact with a whole bunch fermentation.  The taste from barrel was very intriguing.  Lionel is also trying a vin de voile from Grenache Gris – we were allowed to peer into the barrel to see the flor.  He may not make the same mono-terroirs, as he called these small cuvées, each year.  It will depend on vintage conditions.

Then I asked Lionel if he had done any studies.   He was quite evidently not suited to the class room or lecture hall.  ‘I asked too many questions’, he replied, and was obviously the enfant terrible who drove his lecturers to despair.  In the cellar he is in his element, but he likes to live dangerously.  ‘You have to dare to make mistakes; I love danger – that’s how you progress’.

And on Lionel’s recommendation, we finished our visit to Calce in the local village restaurant, le Presbytère.  It was perfect for the occasion, with a simple menu du jour and friendly service.   And the wine list was on a blackboard, with the wines from all the other growers of the village, a small band of friends, with Domaine Padié, Olivier Pithon, Thomas Teifert from Domaine de l’Horizon, Thomas Lubbe at Domaine Matassa, and the newest, Château la Forgue, several of whom first came to Calce to work at Domaine Gauby, and stayed, thus demonstrating the impact that one enlightened and talented wine grower can have on his village. 



Tasting notes: 
2010  les Calcinaires white, Côtes Catalanes :
A bright, light golden colour. Elegant nutty nose, with hints of white blossom and some citrus fruit.  On the palate lovely texture with good fresh acidity.  A salty, mineral note, a peachy hint of Muscat.  Very complex and intriguing.  Delicious.

2010 les Calcinaires red, Côtes du Roussillon Villages
A blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan – no Grenache in the 2010.  Deep colour.  Quite ripe and rounded, with some spicy fruit on the nose.   Quite closed peppery fruit on the palate.  A youthful freshness. 

2009 Vielles Vignes red, Côtes du Roussillon Villages
Deep young colour.  Quite a concentrated, ripe nose, and on the palate a wonderful explosion of fruit.  Balancing tannins with spicy fruit.  A long finish.  A blend of Grenache  Carignan, Syrah and a little Mourvèdre.

2009 Muntada
Very deep colour; quite a solid firm nose.  Wonderful ripe spicy fruit on the palate.  Very balanced, finely textured tannins, with some freshness.  More depth and more intensity than the Vieilles Vignes while retaining its characteristic elegance. 





Tuesday, 5 March 2013

St. Chinian at the Maison du Languedoc




A tasting of St.. Chinian at the Maison du Languedoc  seems to be becoming an annual event, but with a slightly different cast list each year. 

First I tasted some prize winners from an annual competition, which did indeed show St. Chinian at its best, with one or two exceptions.   It is an appellation that I enjoy enormously.  The best wines are supple and spicy, with ripe fruit and some tannin, but not too much. 

2011 Mas Champart. Blanc
A lone white wine.  Quite a delicate nose.  Rounded white blossom on the nose.  A touch of oak and quite a solid mouth filling palate



2009 Mas Cynanque, Acutum
Deep young colour.  Quite rounded, ripe and oaky on the nose, and on the palate a satisfying balance of rich fruit



2008 Château Milhau Lacugue, les Curées
Ripe spicy fruit.  Medium weight palate.  Quite supple and ripe, with an elegant finish.

2009 Domaine du Tabatau, les Titous
Medium colour.  A touch of brett on the nose.  And more austere than most of the others on the palate, Quite a structured palate, with drier fruit.

2009 Domaine Galtier,  L’Accompli
Quite a deep colour.  Quite a firm leathery nose, and on the palate a rather curious balance; a touch green and a tad sweet and sour.  I was less enamoured of this.

2010 Comte de Lorgeril, les Pins
Deep colour.  Ripe spice on the nose.  And on the palate quite ripe and rounded with some spice and a touch of oak. 

2010 Borie la Vitarèle, Midi Rouge
Quite a deep colour; quite firm and leathery on the nose, with ripe, rounded fruit on the palate.  Satisfyingly mouth filling.  This was one of my favourites

2009 Domaine Moulinier, les Terrasses Grillées
Good colour. Quite a firm oaky nose.  Quite a solid palate, with quite a tannic edge and just a hint hollow in the middle.



2010 Domaine la Liquière, la Sentinelle 
Quite a deep colour.  Quite ripe and rounded with some leathery tapenade fruit on the palate and some lovely spice.  Another favourite.

2010 Château Viranel
Medium colour.  Some dry spice on nose and palate.  Medium weight and easy drinking.

2009 Domaine du Sacré Coeur, Jean Madoré.
This cuvée is named after a grandfather.  Medium colour. A rounded nose.  And on the palate, ripe with some leathery notes and a dry finish.

2008 Laurent Miquel, Bardou
Medium colour.  Quite firm and leathery on the nose.  Good structure on the palate, with youthful fruit.

2009 Cave de St. Chinian, Esprit Renaud de Valon
Medium colour.  Quite ripe and spicy on the nose.   And on the palate; rounded ripe fruit, with oak and tannin. 

And then there were various wine growers showing their wines.    I selected a highlight from each estate whose wines I enjoyed. 

2010 Clos Bagatelle, Donnadieu, Mathieu Marie
A blend of 50% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre, 15% each of Grenache and Carignan.  Medium colour.  Quite a firm leathery nose.  Medium weight palate, with dry spice and a youthful finish.  Promises well.

2009 Chateau Bousquette, Prestige,  with Isabelle Perret
90% Syrah, with 10% Grenache.  Quite deep colour; quite rounded tapenade notes on the nose.  Medium weight palate, with a smoky note.

2011 Château de Combebelle, with Catherine Wallace
60% Syrah and 40% Grenache.
Soft ripe and easy; no great depth; youthful Midi sunshine in a glass.  Catherine observed that it had been a difficult vintage for her.

2011 Château la Dournie, with Véronique Etienne  - 6.60€
A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan.  Quite light colour.  Light fruit on nose and palate.  Medium weight.  Lovely immediate appeal for easy drinking – and more Midi sunshine in a glass, which is what you need on a grey day in London.  I enjoyed Véronique’s other cuvées as well, but have promised to visit, so more anon.

2009 Domaine la Madura, Grand Vin, with Cyril Bourgne
This is one of my favourite St. Chinian. A very precise blend of 38% Mourvèdre, 43% Syrah, 12%  Carignan and 7% Grenache.  This is serious St. Chinian.  The nose is quite solid and stony and on the palate you detect the oak ageing and the fruit is dense and youthful.  It is finely crafted and will age beautifully.



2010 Domaine du Maurine Rouge, les Galopins, with Carole and Sébastien Collot
50% each of Grenache and Carignan; the Grenache is 40 years old and the Carignan an octogenarian.  Medium colour; quite firm nose, with a dry leathery note on the palate, with some attractive fruit, balanced with a streak of tannin, and quite a firm finish.  Medium weight.   This is a new estate to me; they also make Viognier and other cuvées of St. Chinian.

2003 Domaine de Pech Ménel with Elisabeth Poux
50%  Carignan vinified by carbonic maceration with 35% Syrah and 15% Grenache.  It was a treat to have a wine that was almost ten years old and which amply illustrated the ageing potential of St. Chinian.  Elisabeth explained that the yields were small, 15 hl/ha, and the nose was quite solid and rounded, with ripe fruit and the intense flavours of the herbs of the garrigues on the palate.  It clocked up 14º which is not that excessive, especially in view of the hot summer, but there was a touch of alcohol on the finish, and also the sense of warm sunshine.   Elisabeth has offered a vertical tasting, which is an invitation that I cannot refuse, so more on Pech Ménel in due course.

2008 Château du Prieuré des Mourgues,  – with Jérôme Roger
35% Syrah with 30% Grenache and 35% Mourvèdre.  Medium colour. Quite a firm peppery nose.  And on the palate some rounded, ripe fruit and appealing spice.  Lovely balance and a great example of St. Chinian.

Domaine Rimbert should have been there, but sadly pulled out at the last minute.  I was disappointed as it has been a long while since I tasted his wines and I was looking forward to catching up.  I’ll just have to go over to Berlou instead.

And the tasting finished with wines from the Cave de Roquebrun, which is generally considered to be the best coop of the appellation. The wine that stood out on the day was
2010 St. Chinian Roquebrun, Roches Noires
A blend of 60% Syrah, 20% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre.  Roquebrun is one of the two crus of St. Chinian, with vineyards on schist.  Quite rounded and ripe, medium weight with spice on the palate and a touch of tannin. 


Friday, 1 March 2013

Highlights amongst the medal winnners at Millesime Bio 2013



I spent a couple of days at Millésime Bio last month.  This organic wine fair in Montpellier has grown enormously since my last visit three years ago, when it filled just one hall.  This year it covered two enormous halls.   And some figures to illustrate just how organic viticulture has grown in the Languedoc:  In 2001 there were 279 organic wine estates cultivating 3764 hectares; in 2011 there were 1199 estates with 19,907 hectares, and I encountered several people for whom 2012 was their first organic vintage, so the numbers are growing.  The formula is still the same: everyone has a table, a white table cloth and glasses.  It is all very egalitarian and refreshingly devoid of fancy stands.  It is very easy to wander round saying hallo to friends, and I have to admit that is just what I did for quite a lot of the time, as it is a great way of catching up with a lot of people, and their wines, in a relatively short space of time.

However, I did taste all the Languedoc Roussillon medal winners, with an occasional deviation into Provence, from a competition held in the autumn and what follows are my highlights, in no particular order.  And I realised afterwards that not every medal winner was available for tasting. 

2011 Figure Libre, Domaine Gayda, Cabernet Franc, Pays d’Oc    Gold
Lovely ripe fruit on the nose, and on the palate more rounded red fruit with a hint of vanilla and oak.  Very gouleyant, with a tannic streak.

2011 Domaine de la Fourmi, Gris de Gris, Sables du Golfe du Lion - Gold
A rich orange pink colour.  Quite a rounded, soft fruity nose, and on the palate ripe and supple.  This is a new (to me) estate from the Sables du Golfe du Lion, or Sable de Camargue, as that area has just been renamed, which is dominated by the enormous producer, Listel

2008 Blanquette de Limoux, Cuvée Tradition, Domaine Delmas  - Bronze
A Blanquette with character.  Rounded and ripe, with some yeast autolysis and satisfying leesy notes and a full rich palate.

2011 Les Tannes, Chardonnay, Pays d’Oc,  Domaines Paul Mas – 6.50€  Silver
Light golden colour.  Quite a rounded nose, with ripe, leesy Chardonnay fruit on the nose and palate.  Some oak ageing.  Nicely balanced.

2010 Faugères, Domaine de Cébène, Felgaria. – Gold
Medium colour.  Dry spice on the nose, and some fresh peppery fruit on the palate.  Very good balance with lovely elegance.  Mourvèdre is the main grape variety, with some Syrah and Grenache.

2011 Domaine Fond Cyprès,  Lo Syrah de la Pinède, Vin de France. – Gold
Quite a firm nose, with a touch of reduction, but a very expressive palate, rich and peppery with some lovely fruit.  From Escales, a village in the Aude.   Might be worth a visit.

2011 Mas de la Rime, Coteaux du Languedoc. – Gold
Quite a perfumed nose; a ripe palate with some oak.  Quite rich flavours.  This is a new estate:  M. Sala bought some vines from his neighbour, at Domaine de la Prose and enjoyed Bertrand de Mortillet’s expertise for his first vintage.  This promises well.

2011 Mas Gabriel, Trois Terrasses – Gold
Firm closed nose, with a solid ripe palate, with some spice.  Medium weight and youthful.  Needs time.

2010 Chateau de l’Ou, Côtes du Roussillon – Bronze 
Quite a firm nose, with a rounded, ripe palate, rich and southern, with some tannin.  Mouth filling.

2010 Domaine de Gabelas, St. Chinian, Terres Rouges – 8.50€  Bronze
Good colour.  Ripe spicy palate and nose.  Rounded and ripe and very gouleyant.

2011 Domaine de la Patience, Costières de Nîmes, Nemousa – 5.10€  - Bronze
Medium colour.  Rounded spice on the nose, and lovely ripe fruit and spice on the palate.  Very gouleyant.

2009 Mas de Gourgonnier, les Baux de Provence, Clés du Paradis – 16.60€  Silver
Quite a firm streak of oak, and a structured palate.  The notes attached to the bottles said nine months élevage in demi-muids.  Quite smoky with youthful fruit and plenty of promise.

2007 Chateau Miraval, Cotes de Provence.  Play Bach  - 13.20€  - Silver
Medium colour. Quite rounded nose, with a meaty, viandé note on the palate, with supple tannins.  Quite a ripe finish.

2011 Domaine Costes-Cirques, St Cyr.  in the Gard – 11.00€ - Silver
Quite a rounded ripe nose, with perfumed fruit on the palate.  Very gouleyant but with some body and substance.

2009 Domaine Baillat, Cuvée Emilien Baillat, Corbières – Silver
Good colour.  A rounded nose, with ripe spice on the palate, and a tannic edge.  Mouth filling and youthful.

2011 Faugères, Domaine de Cébène, Felgaria - Silver
Quite a firm nose.  Rounded ripe fruit on the palate, with richness and spice.  Medium weight.  Promises well.

2011 Domaine Coston, Terrasses du Larzac,  les Garrigoles  - Gold
Quite rounded, ripe spicy and a deliciously gouleyant palate

2011 Domaine de l’Attilon, IGP Méditerranée, Merlot. – 5.20€   Gold
I don’t usually like Merlot from the Midi, but this was an exception, with some ripe plummy fruit and sufficient backbone. Easy drinking. .