The theme of a recent tasting at Le Wine Shop in Pézenas was St. Chinian to Roussillon, with Dom and Colin doing a very congenial double act presenting eight wines that amply illustrated the diverse characteristics of the western appellations of the Languedoc. In fact we did not travel from St. Chinian to Roussillon; our route was more devious as they decided it would be best to taste wines with softer tannins first, and progress to wines with more sturdy tannins. So we kicked off in Roussillon with:
2013 Maury Sec, Domaine La Toupie Sur un Fil – 10.90€
A blend of 70% Grenache Noir, 25% Syrah and 5% Mourvèdre, grown at 300 metres on schist. Aged in vat on the fine lees of the fermentation for eight months. Handpicked with a meagre yield of 18 hl/ha. Medium colour. Ripe soft spice and red fruit on the nose, with some liqueur cherries, and on the palate ripe spice with full, fleshy red fruit, balanced by a light streak of tannin. Very Grenache. Quite an alcoholic finish at 15˚, but also quite long. From a relatively new wine estate, and a new appellation.
2014 Collioure, Domaine la Rectorie, Côté Mer – 17.50€
Carignan with some Grenache Noir aged in wood for eighteen months. Intense deep young colour. Ripe but firm peppery red fruit. And intense young fruit on the palate, peppery with firm tannins. Again quite high in alcohol at 14˚, but with plenty of youthful potential. This is one of my favourite estates from Collioure, with the most spectacular vineyards.
2012 La Clape, Château Camplazens, Reserve – 12.00 €
A blend of 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache Noir and 10% Carignan. Quite a deep young colour, with ripe blackberry fruit on the nose, and some spice and pepper from the high percentage of Syrah. A rounded ripe spicy palate; some tannins giving structure, with lots of black fruit, garrigues and sunshine. 14˚. Long and ripe and drinking well now.
2012 Minervois la Livinière, Domaine Piccinini, Clos l’Angély – 9.50€
From vineyards above the village of La Livinière. 70% Syrah and 15% each of Carignan and Grenache Noir, aged in oak for 12 months. Deep young colour. Pepper with some hints of chocolate on the nose. Some peppery fruit; firm and structured; youthful and tight knit. Nicely integrated tannins. Balanced with a long finish. 13.5˚.
2013 St. Chinian, Mas Champart, Côte Arbo. – 9.00€
A blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache Noir, 5% Mourvèdre, 25% Carignan, grown on the southern clay and limestone vineyards of St. Chinian. Indigenous yeast. Aged in vat for two winters. Quite a deep colour. Intense youthful nose; dry garrigues notes, with leathery notes and some red fruit and spice, and on the palate quite firm tannins with good length and a youthful finish.
2010 Fitou, Château Wiala, Harmonie – 9.45€
A new name for me, from the village of Tuchan, in the high hills of Fitou. 22% Syrah, 39% Grenache Noir and 38% Carignan. 12 months in oak. Deep colour, just beginning to develop on the rim. The Grenache Noir comes out on the nose with some rounded cherry spice and on the palate there is some ripe spicy fruit and quite a fleshy texture, from the ripe Grenache, with a tannic streak. And a rich peppery finish. Quite rounded and long. 14˚. Drinking well now.
2011 Corbières, Domaine Aonghusa, Laval - 7.80€
An Irish owned estate in Fontjoncouse. And a blend of 30% Grenache Noir and 70% Carignan, including some Carignan planted in 1903, on steep south facing slopes. There was some Syrah in the adjoining vineyard, but it simply could not cope with the extreme conditions. An example of why Carignan is so suitable for the Midi. Quite a deep young colour. Quite a firm sturdy nose, with youthful spice, and some mineral notes, and on the palate red fruit and some firm tannins. Good depth and length. A characterful wine that you will either love or hate. And Dom explained how that it changes with the seasons. In the summer heat it was not showing at all well, but with cooler temperatures it makes a wonderfully satisfying and characterful glass of wine.
And last but not least came 2014 Malepère, Château de Cointres, Tradition – 4.75€
It had a hard act to follow, but is so different from all the other wines, that somehow it did perform, proving especially good value for money. Malepère can be pure bordelais varieties, but this in fact is 50% Merlot with 20% each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and just 10% of Grenache Noir. Medium colour, with some plummy Merlot fruit on the palate, and a touch of earthy cherries from the Cabernet Franc. Some structure and fresh fruit. A very drinkable example of an often overlooked appellation.