To dinner with friends who have lived and worked in the Languedoc for over thirty years, and during that time built up a rather fine regional wine cellar. David is generous with his bottles and we were in for a treat.
First off was a couple of white 2010s from the two extremes of France, Chablis and the Languedoc. I would never have thought of that as an obvious pairing, but it worked remarkably well. The Chablis was a premier cru Forêts from Vincent Dauvissat and the Languedoc came from Olivier Jullien. I loved them both. The Chablis had firm mineral fruit and tight acidity, with a satisfyingly textured palate, and a long persistent finish. Oliver’s Jullien’s wine was richer, with leafy notes, and again some lovely mouthfeel and good balancing acidity. I had fun trying to decide which I preferred and completely failed to come to any firm conclusion before we had finished the bottles!
Next came 2008 Domaine Tempier Migoua. I’ve had a soft spot for this Bandol estate, ever since I visited them back in 1986 and met Lucien Peyraud who did so much to revive the fortunes of Bandol and establish Mourvèdre as the essential grape variety of the appellation. I remember being taken for a hair-rising drive through the terraced vineyards by Lucien in his rather elderly 2CV! The wine was still remarkably youthful with some spicy fruit and the elegance of Mourvèdre, with great depth on the palate.
And then we were treated to some Languedoc history, a pair of 1989s from two venerable estates, namely Mas de Daumas Gassac and the Prieuré de St. Jean de Bébian. At that time, Alain Roux, the maverick winemaker who put his estate firmly on the wine map of the Languedoc, was still making the wine at Bébian. He had a healthy disrespect for any appellation regulations, boasting that he had all 13 grape varieties of Châteauneuf du Pape, as the soil at Bébian was the same as at Châteauneuf, the characteristic galets roullées, and when I tentatively suggested that most of those grape varieties were not allowed in the appellation of the Coteaux du Languedoc, he robustly retorted: ‘ça n’a pas d ’importance!’ 1991 was Alain’s last vintage at Bébian before he sold to Chantal Lecouty, and now the estate is owned by Russians, with the talented Karen Turner making the wine. This 1989 was simply lovely, with some spicy black fruit on the nose and a beautifully rounded harmonious palate, with a streak of tannin and some richness and concentration, but it was not heavy, just long and satisfying.
The Mas de Daumas Gassac had more obvious cassis fruit, with its large Cabernet Sauvignon component and the wine had more acidity with a fresher note, and some underlying elegance. This of course is the estate that helped put the Languedoc on the international wine map, and raised the bar on price expectation in the 1980s, thanks to the energy and tenacity of Aimé Guibert.
And by way of a finale, David produce Domaine de la Rectorie, Cuvée Parcé Frères Banyuls, which was rich and rounded, with soft red fruit and spice, making a delicious end to a delicious evening.