The success of Vinisud and its size has spawned lots of off, as the French so elegantly call fringe events. Hugo Stewart from les Clos Perdus in the Corbières suggested that I attend the tasting organised by Caves 41. This is one of Montpellier’s best wine shops and they had virtually all their Midi producers on hand, pouring their wines, so it was very definitely worth the detour to the Château de la Blanquière in Mauguio. There were some of the great names of the Languedoc, as well as some new names, to me. It was a slightly unnerving tasting in that each grower had a table with a couple of chairs, so you found yourself playing musical chairs. Was it etiquette to ask to taste if somebody else was already tasting? Would there always be a chair free, or was it like the party game? Whatever, it was a great morning and here are some of the highlights. In fact, as you will realise, there were a lot of highlights.
I kicked off with Jean-Baptiste Granier and 2012 les Vignes OubliéesLovely deep colour, a rich young nose, ripe with red berry fruit, and some firm tannins and acidity, but with that benchmark freshness of the Terrasses du Larzac. A long finish and very good balance, with some body and youthful structure. This is going to be a lovely glass of wine. The blend is 60% Grenache, with 20% each of Syrah and Carignan. Jean-Baptiste is very pleased with his 2012s; they have a little less alcohol than the 2011. And in 2013 he is planning a new cuvée based on Cinsaut.
Pierre Quinonero from Domaine de la Garance had a pair of wines –2012 Claviers Blanc, from 80% Ugni Blanc, which he preferred to call Trebbiano, with 20% Grenache Gris, from vines planted in 1907. The wine was fermented in oak, with natural yeast, with 11 months on the lees. It was very rich, with very good acidity, an intriguing combination of honey and freshness.
2011 les Armières, from 90% Carignan and 10% Syrah, was deep in colour, with quite a solid firm nose. The palate was dense, with fury tannins. The Carignan was not destemmed and the malo had taken place on the skins. Just 10% of the wine went into wood; the rest was aged in concrete vats. It was solid and stocky, rather like Pierre.
Alain Caujolle has sold his estate in Montpeyroux and taken over some vines at le Pas de l‘Escalette. As well as Syrah, Carignan and Grenache, he has Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I thought his 2013 Pinot Noir was absolutely delicious. This is the first vintage and a great start, with a perfumed nose and some fresh elegant raspberry fruit balanced with a streak of tannin and acidity.
2013 Rosé from Merlot was fresh and crisp; a white 2013 Orfran was half Grenache half Chardonnay and rounded and fresh. Coulée Douce from 80% Merlot, Syrah and Carignan, had ripe fruit and some Midi spice, with some youthful tannins and fresh finish.
Gerard Gauby’s daughters were pouring the wines from this stellar estate from Roussillon.
2012 Calcinaires.Medium colour, with a firm nose, a hint viandé, and on the palate some dry leathery spice with elegant tannins, and a fresh finish and un bel longeur.
2012 Vieilles VignesFrom the oldest Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. Quite firm dry spice on the nose. Lovely perfumed fruit on the palate, with very good acidity and tannin. A certain structure, with a youthful balance. The wine has been aged in vat, foudres and barriques.
2011 La MuntadaThe best plots of Grenache, Syrah and a little Carignan. Medium colour. An intriguing perfumed nose and a wonderfully elegant palate. Some perfumed red fruit, mainly raspberries, and an elegant tannic streak. Very stylish.
2012 Muntada which has just been bottled, from Grenache and old Carignan. Youthful and fresh with some leathery notes on the nose, and fresh fruit, and good balance, and great potential on the palate
2012 la Roque blanc.From Muscat à petits grains and Muscat d’Alexandrie grown on schist. Made like a red wine, with a fermentation on the skins, and then an élevage in new foudres. Quite golden in colour, with perfumed dry spice on the nose. Lovely texture and body, with very good acidity. Very intriguing with a lovely long finish.
Mas d’EspanetThis was a name I knew, but I can’t remember tasting the wines before. Denys Armand introduced his wines, explaining that he has 20 hectares. L’Eolienne blanc is AC Languedoc, a blend of Grenache blanc with a little Picpoul and Viognier vinified in old barrels. It was lightly peachy, with good texture and fresh acidity.
A pure Chenin blanc, 2012, Chacun son Chenin, Pays d’Oc had some refreshing dry honey, with good balancing acidity and some ripe fruit.
2012 L’Eolienne red, with Carignan and 5% Syrah and 25% Grenache with eight months in old wood. The Carignan and Grenache are both from 60 year old vines. Rounded nose; some leathery, slightly viandé fruit. Quite mineral with certain freshness on the finish.
And then another delicious Pinot Noir. From the 2013 vintage, with medium colour. It was very perfumed, with raspberry freshness, very elegant and fine. From vines planted in 2008.
Marlene Soria from Domaine Peyre Rose has just bottled her 2005s. She says that 2005 is a good vintage, She really does believe in a long élevage, and her wines have a stylish originality of their own.
2005 CistesMedium colour. Ripe spicy Syrah, with a perfumed nose and a ripe rounded palate. Ready, but also with ageing potential.
2005 LeoneSyrah with less than 10% Mourvèdre. Quite rich and leathery on the nose and on the palate rounded and powerful with rich leathery fruit, and quite a dense texture.
2005 No 3Syrah with about 25 – 30% Grenache. An attractive perfumed nose, with a rounded rich palate. Quite intense and powerful, but also with an elegant note.
2003 LeoneQuite perfumed, and a touch viandé on the nose. A solid youthful palate, rich and dense, with plenty of potential to develop. It has the concentration of the vintage.
Françoise Julien was pouring the wines of Clos Marie in the Pic St. Loup. She wanted to practice her English, which was already pretty good, so I obliged.
2012 Manon, a blend of Roussanne, Clairette, Grenache blanc, Grenache gris and Macabeu fermented in barrel, foudres from Stockinger, the classy Austrian cooper, that keeps coming to my notice. The nose was closed and the palate fresh and tight knit, almost austere and very mineral. You could say almost Chablisesque!
2012 Olivette is Grenache dominant, with Syrah and a touch of Cinsaut. Élevage half in tank and half in foudres. The nose was rather closed, but in contrast the palate was ripe and opulent, with a firm tannic streak and a long finish.
2011 Métairies du Clos Vieilles Vignes. 40% each of Carignan and Grenache, with some Syrah, and élevage in foudres. All quite restrained, on nose and palate, with dry spice and some red fruit. Quite tannic and youthful, with potential.
2011 Glorieuse.Half Grenache and half Syrah, with two to three years élevage in foudres. Firm peppery fruit on the nose, and on the palate even more fresh peppery fruit. Medium weight; youthful, and the streak of freshness typical of a cooler region.
Domaine de Gournier was a new name to me. The estate is in Ste Anastasie, between Nimes and Alès and makes IGP Cevennes. The Sauvignon was fresh and pithy with good varietal fruit; the Chardonnay was lightly buttery with 30% fermented in wood. A Merlot Cabernet Syrah blend was rounded and ripe with gouleyant fruit and a tannic streak and les Templiers, again from Cabernet Merlot and Syrah, was firmer with some élevage in oak.
I jumped at the chance to taste Geraldine Laval’s wines from Clos Maïa. This is a relatively new estate and she has nearly four hectares at the Pas de l ‘Escalette, but sadly was not there to pour her wines.
2012 Vin de Pays de l’Hérault Blanc. A vat sampleRoussanne with a little Terret. Fermented and aged in wood, with minimal use of sulphur. There was fresh lemony fruit on the nose and palate, but it was also still a bit adolescent, which is entirely understandable given that it was not yet in bottle.
2012 Le Petit Clos Maïa, Pays de l’HéraultGrenache and Syrah, and about to be bottled. Élevage in concrete vats. Medium colour. Lovely perfumed fruit on both nose and palate. Medium weight, fresh and rounded with a nice balance of tannin. Promises to be a delicious bottle.
2012 Clos MaïaAlmost all Grenache, with a little Carignan. Fermented in concrete and then aged in 20 hls Stockinger foudres. Quite a deep colour. Very elegant spicy nose. Perfumed fruit with more weight on the palate. A lovely balance of fruit and tannin.
And I was delighted to catch up with Alain Chabanon from Montpeyroux. It is always a pleasure to taste his wines.
2009 Trelans, Pays d‘OcA blend of Vermentino (about 55%) with Chenin blanc, with three years élevage, one in foudres and two in vat. Lightly golden colour. Quite a firm dry nutty nose. Quite rounded, and ripe with the dry honey of the Chenin. Very satisfying texture and mouth feel.
2012 Campredon50% Syrah with Grenache and Mourvèdre, and an élevage in vat. A modest 12⁰ - how refreshing. Medium colour. Very fresh perfumed nose, and on the palate fresh red fruit balanced with some tannin. Very appealing.
2009 Esprit de Font Caude55% Mourvèdre with some Syrah. Quite a solid dense nose, and on the palate rounded with good fruit and balancing tannins. A more serious wine.
2010 Saut du Côte, Coteaux du LanguedocMainly Mourvèdre with a touch of Syrah, grown on one plot near Lagamas. 2008 was the first vintage of this wine, and it spends three years in concrete eggs. Firm fruit on the nose; quite sturdy and rounded on the palate, with ripe fruit and a firm tannic streak. Still very youthful, and promising.
Chateau de Jonquières
Charlotte de Béarn, with her husband Clément, has taken over responsibility for the wine estate from her parents, François and Isabelle de Cabissole. She explained that they have rationalised the range of wines, Lansade for three wines in vat, and la Baronnie for two barrel aged wines.
2013 Lansade blanc from 70% Chenin blanc and 30% Grenache blanc is fresh with good acidity, and some dry honey, while la Baronnie from equal parts of Grenache blanc and Chenin blanc is nicely buttery, rounded with good mouth feel.
Lansade rosé is Pays de l’Herault, as the plot of Cinsaut with 10% Carignan is not classified in the appellation. It was fresh with some dry raspberry fruit.
Both their red wines are Terrasses du Larzac. 2013 Lansade from equal parts of Carignan, Cinsaut and Syrah was quite closed with some underlying fruit. In contrast 2011 la Baronnie from Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, with 18 months élevage was quite solidly sturdy and needs time.
I always enjoy the wines of Chateau Mourgues du Grès so was delighted to have the chance of an update, as it had been a while since my last visit.
2012 Galets Dorés, from Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, a little Viognier and a touch of Clairette was lightly herbal with a fresh finish.
2011 Terre d’Argence is given a longer élevage with 25% in wood. It is a blend of Viognier Petit Manseng and Roussanne, and was rounded and ripe with some leesy notes , with balancing acidity and some dry honey on the finish. An intriguing blend.
2011 Galets Rouges, from 60% Syrah, with 30% Grenache and a touch of Marselan and Mourvèdre. Deep colour. Very ripe red fruit on the nose, and rounded supple ripe fruit on the palate. Very gouleyant.
2011 Terre d’Argence. 80% Syrah with Grenache and Carignan. Part aged in cement, part in small barrel and part in large wooden casks. Quite firm and sturdy, rounded and rich with good mouth feel and texture, and also ageing potential.
My tasting with Robert Creus from Terre Inconnue was a bit curtailed, as my taxi was very punctual. His vineyards are at St. Séries, between Lunel and Sommières, four hectares of Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo and Merlot. All his wines are Vin de France.
We kicked off with Guilhem 2011 a blend of 40% each of Grenache and Merlot, and 10% each of Carignan and Tempranillo. The wine has spent two months in old wood and had some attractive smoky notes.
2011 Los Abuelos. Robert’s family came from Barcelona, so in memory of his grandparents. 100% Grenache aged in vat. There were some spicy notes, and also a slight acetate note, which Robert assured me will disappear as the wine develops. He uses virtually no sulphur.
Leone 2011 comes from 70 year old vines, and was quite solid and dense, again with a slight acetate note, and quite a sweet edge. Intriguing.
And the final wine was 2010 Sylvie, half Syrah and half Serine, which he told me was an old form of Syrah. I consulted Jancis, Julia and José’s tome Wine Grapes, which indicates that it is a synonym for Syrah, but there are other associations as well, including Durif and a variety or two in Albania. As for the wine, it has spent two years in old wood, and had some nicely rounded red fruit, and was more harmonious than the previous two. I hope I can manage a cellar visit before too long.
And then it was back to Vinisud.
And although I did not taste the wines from les Clos Perdus that morning, I did taste them at Millésime Bio, and so it only seems fair to include them in this line up, as it was thanks to Hugo that I was there in the first place.
2012 L’Extrème, Côtes Catalanes blanc
Mainly Grenache gris with 30% Macabeo. Partly fermented in wood, and partly in tank. Quite rounded, ripe and oaky on nose and palate, with a hint of sweetness. It was a very cold winter, and a trace of residual sugar remained in the Grenache Gris, but the Macabeo balances things out.
2011 Cuvée 91 Corbières
50% Carignan with some Grenache and Mourvèdre. Mainly in stainless steel, and also some old wood. A touch of brett, I thought, but nicely so. With leathery notes on the nose and palate and some good fruit and an intriguing edge on the finish.
2011 Prioundo, Corbières
70% Grenache, with some Cinsaut. Élevage in tank. I wasn’t sure about the nose of this, but here was some lovely ripe fruit on the palate. A rounded supple subtle palate, with a good balance of fruit and tannin.
2011 Mire la Mer, Corbières
Mainly Mourvèdre, with some 100 year old Carignan and some Grenache. Part fomented in new 500 litre barrels, and the rest fermented in tank, and then aged in wood. Quite a deep colour with a firm meaty nose. Quite solid red fruit on the palate, with a firm backbone. Tight knit, structured and youthful.
2010 L’Extrème Côtes Catalanes, 75% Lledoner Pelut and 25% Syrah. Part fermented in wood, and part in stainless steel tanks. Ripe and rounded, the cherry liqueur notes of the Lledoner Pelut and the peppery fruit and tannin of the Syrah. Good structure. Very youthful. Needs time.