A chance to taste this year’s selection at the London Wine Fair last week. As always it was a challenging, interesting and eclectic tasting, with wines I loved and others that were less exciting. What follows are some of my highlights. But first a couple of statistics. There were 780 entries, split between 25% white, 6% rosé, which is an increase on last year, and so 69% red. 83% of the wines retail for over £10 and 4% of them for over £15.
The tasting started with a couple of sparkling Limoux. Antech Cuvée Eugenie, Crémant de Limoux a blend of Chardonnay, Chenin and Mauzac with some rounded creamy fruit and herbal notes, and Sieur d’Arques, Première Bulle Rosé, which was a pretty pink with delicate rounded fruit and fresh acidity.
Now onto whites:
2015 Mas des Dames, Le Blanc, Pays d’Oc
An oaked Grenache blanc. The oak is still quite present but will tone down with some bottle age. There is fruit behind it and some attractive leesy characters with a satisfying mouthfeel.
2016 Vignoble Jeanjean, Mas Neuf, Muscat Sec, Pays d’Oc
A fresh pity Muscat, with grapey fruit on the nose and palate; ripe flavours with a slightly bitter note on the finish, that is characteristic of Muscat.
There were three Picpoul de Pinet. The first came from les Costières de Pomerols, Beauvignac, in other words one of the leading coops of the appellation, a classic example with fresh saline fruit. Truly Irresistible Picpoul from Domaines Paul Mas was fresh and lemony and 2016 Château St. Martin de la Garrigue had more depth with some fresh salty fruit, and some texture and weight on the palate.
Les Vins Philippe Nusswitz, 2016 Duché d’Uzès. This new appellation is technically part of the Rhône valley for administrative purposes, though to me it feels like the Languedoc. The blend is Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, unoaked, and with some peachiness on the nose and texture on the palate, with the intriguing nuances of the blend. Other white appellations included a Minervois from an estate that is new to me, Château Canet. It was a blend of Bourboulenc and Roussanne, with no oak and some rich leesy fruit, balanced by herbal notes and good balancing acidity.
2014 Limoux from Domaine Delmas, Terroir Haute Vallée was a satisfying Chardonnay, with a firm nose and a lightly buttery palate with good acidity and a fresh finish. It needs to develop a little more in bottle. And there were examples from la Clape, Corbières and St. Drézery and St. Chinian.
There were five rosés in the line-up, including an IGP Côtes du Lot, in recognition of the extension of the region, so that Languedoc is now part of the much larger Occitanie/Pyrénées/Méditerannée. However, the Trophy rosé came from the Cave de l’Ormarine, the other coop of Picpoul de Pinet for 2016 Languedoc Préambule. It was a cheerful blend of Grenache Noir and Syrah, with some rounded fruit and a fresh elegant finish.
With 68 red wines in the line-up, it is difficult to know where to begin. First came various IGP. I liked a Syrah Grenache from Les Domaines Auriol, with some spicy garrigue fruit. Château Spencer la Pujade had a very satisfying Carignan Vieilles Vignes with some firm peppery fruit. Domaine de Nizas also had an old Carignan, with more structure than Spencer la Pujade, but both amply demonstrated how well that grape variety performs in the Languedoc. Domaine Jones Grenache Noir Côtes Catalanes had some perfumed cherry fruit, with a touch of alcohol on the finish, at 14.5°.
And then onto the appellations. I was pleased to see the relatively new estate of Château La Font des Ormes in the line-up with their 2013 Languedoc. This is a blend of Grenache Noir Syrah and Mourvèdre, partly oaked with a satisfying depth of spice and fruit and a streak of tannin. Château St. Martin de la Garrigue’s Bronzinelle was riper and more rounded, while Bergerie du Capucin, Dame Jeanne, 2015 Pic St. Loup, an unoaked blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre, was nicely perfumed with fresh spice and garrigue fruit and the elegance of the appellation. Their oaked Cuvée Larmanela was also in the line-up. The oak was nicely integrated with good fruit and a fresh finish. Two lovely wines from a relatively new producer. And the Grande Cuvée of Domaine de l’Hortus is an old favourite from the Pic St. Loup. The 2014 was showing very well, with ripe perfumed spice and fruit and considerable depth on the palate.
Villa Dondona represented Montpeyroux with the 2013 vintage, an unoaked blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache Noir with quite a solid ripe dense palate that should age well. La Bastide aux Oliviers, Cuvée Pierre et Bastien is a Terrasses du Larzac from Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre, with well integrated oak and some spicy fruit and depth on the palate. Then there was the new Pézenas estate, Domaine de l’Aster, with their Cuvée Le Hussard Noir with nicely balanced fruit and spice and a streak of tannin.
Faugères was represented by Château des Estanilles, and the once innovative Cuvée Clos du Fou, with ripe spice and oak, and two wines from Mas Gabinèle, Classique with easy spice and a streak of tannin and the more serious Rarissime, with firmer tannins and a richer, riper palate of red fruit.
St. Chinian fared well, with wines from Château Viranel, Château la Dournie and two from Vignoble Belot, Mouleyres and Best of Belot. Mouleyres was ripe and spicy and Best of Belot quite solidly oaky, but with some good fruit. There were also three wines from the consistent award winner, the coop at Roquebrun, with les Haut de St. Martin, which I preferred with fresher fruit and peppery notes, while la Grange des Combes and Roches Noires Maceration were both richer with more tapenade. Laurent Miquel’s Larmes des Fées was redolent of olive tapenade with rich concentration. Chateau de la Négly La Falaise was a lone La Clape. It was intense and rich with 15°.
Minervois fared well, with eight wines, including two from Château de l’Herbe Sainte, both Tradition and Prestige, along with Château Coupe-Roses, Granaxa and Domaine Hegarty Chamans, No 3 la Piboule. There was an easy drinking example from Gérard Bertrand and Cuvée Arthur from Château Cabezac was quite dense and alcoholic at 15° My vote went for Château l’Herbe Sainte’s Tradition, which was an unoaked blend of Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre with spice and garrigues fruit.
Corbières was also well represented with eight wines, some familiar names and some new to me. There was an elegant wine from the Rothschild estate, Blason d’Aussières and Domaine Serres Mazard, Cuvée Henri Serres was my favourite with some rounded fruit on nose and palate, beautifully drinkable with a satisfying finish. It won the trophy for the best red.
Domaine Jones Fitou, a blend of Carignan, Grenache Noir and Syrah, showed well with some fresh spicy fruit, and was all the better for being lighter than some Fitou. Domaine de la Rochelierre’s two wines, Cuvée Privilege and Noblesse du Temps favoured the more intense, richer style of wine.
There was a lone Cabardès, Les Années Folles, la Délicatesse from Maison Ventenac, a pure Cabernet Franc, and only 13° which made a refreshing change of register after the more opulent truly southern flavours. I also liked the lone Malepère, from Domaine la Louvière, la Séductrice, made by the talented Australian wine maker, Jem Harris. It is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec with some appealing fresh fruit. It was wine number 94, so there is no doubt that my palate is beginning to flag at this stage.
And the last six wines also came from Côtes du Roussillon and Côtes du Roussillon Villages, but as it happened, none from any estates that I have ever visited. Bernard Magrez accounted for two, Si mon pere savait and Domaine de la Franchise. And sadly there was no sweet wine on which to finish.