The Comité des Vins du Languedoc organises a week of tastings of the new vintage, usually, as far as I am concerned, badly timed to coincide with the annual Decanter World Wine Awards. This year things worked out slightly better and I was able to attend the Faugères tasting at the beginning of the week.
It was held at a rather draughty venue, a large marquee at Mas du Cheval, outside Lattes. Not all the producers of Faugères were there, as not everyone was ready to show their 2014s. Some wines were already in bottle, but not all. Altogether I tried the wines from 20 estates, totalling some 109 wines. There is no doubt that the best are absolutely delicious with plenty of potential, from a challenging vintage with complicated weather during the harvest. Highlights included wines from Mas d’Alezon, Ollier Taillefer, Ancienne Mercerie, Cébène and St. Antonin. And the tasting also included three of the four new wine growers of the year, Mas Lou, Mas Nicolas and Domaine de l’Arbussèle. Sadly Domaine de l’Epidaure was missing as Jérôme Vialla was suffering from flu.
However, probably more interesting was a small tasting of Faugères vin de garde, of wines from the very successful 2005 vintage. This, with my very English approach to a wine tasting, was a very French affair. A small core of the audience spent about an hour discussing four wines. I had thought that we would taste far more wines, and did indeed manage to taste the wines shown at an earlier tasting, so altogether a total of eight 2005s. Some were delicious and some had not aged well, or had initial winemaking faults. Ten years less experience of how to use an oak barrel showed. To my mind, the most pertinent comment of the tasting came from Bernard Vidal of Château la Liquière, when he observed: the ability to age may be a characteristic of a wine, but is it necessarily an element of quality? That certainly provoked food for thought.
Those of us brought up on Bordeaux and Burgundy expect fine wine to age – it is definitely a quality that is an essential part of the appreciation of fine red wine, that it will evolve and develop greater nuances, depth and subtly with bottle age. However, in the Languedoc the tradition for ageing red wine in bottle is much less developed. Quite simply it has not been part of the wine culture of the Midi. Climatic conditions did not allow for it, unless you had an insulated cellar. But gradually things are changing. There is a realisation, especially as élevage in oak barrels is much better understood, that ageing can be a quality factor. It does not apply to all wines. Many are those whose youthful charm is their chief virtue, but there are those, with balance and concentration, which will develop with bottle age. The selection of eight wines included some elegant evolution, such as Ancienne Mercerie’s la Couture, Mas d’Alezon’s Montfalette and Ollier Taillefer’s Castel Fossibus. They represent yet another aspect of the myriad of flavours of the Languedoc.