The former Vin de Pays d’Oc, now just called Pays d’Oc, has clocked up thirty years and the initial offering of 24 grape varieties (9 red and 15 white) has grown to an extraordinary 58, which illustrate the rich diversity of the south of France. Pay d’Oc also accounts for half the production of the entire Languedoc. Among the grape varieties, there are the classics of the Languedoc, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre. Surprisingly perhaps, Carignan has only recently been accepted as a single variety, illustrating that it was once despised and is now enjoying a huge revival in its fortunes. There are of course the varieties of Bordeaux, Cabernets, Merlot, a growing amount of Petit Verdot, as well as previously spurned varieties like Aramon and Alicante. For whites, Sauvignon and Chardonnay are important, as well as ever growing amount of Viognier; Terret Blanc and Carignan Blanc are making a comeback, and the latest newcomer is Albariño.
Each summer the annual Collection is chosen to represent the Pays d'Oc and illustrate its quality for the ensuring 12 months. In 2017, 28 wines were chosen, and what follows are some of the highlights.
2016 Domaine la Fadèze, Terret Blanc.
Light colour; a light fresh pithy nose and on the palate lightly rounded with some stony fruit. A fresh finish. No great depth, but an eminently drinkable glass of wine.
2016 Sauvignon, Famille Guilhem-Malviès
This comes from the Malepère, one of the cooler regions of the Languedoc. Light colour, and a light stony nose, and on the palate very good varietal character, with firm acidity and stony mineral fruit. For a southern Sauvignon, it is not too ripe
2016 Premier Rolle, Domaine d’Aigues-Belles
A Rolle or Vermentino from the eastern Languedoc, close to the Pic St. Loup. A rounded nose, with texture and weight on the palate, balanced with acidity. A touch of oak slightly flattens the finish, but nonetheless a sound example of the grape variety.
2016 les Jamelles Gewürztraminer
Light colour. Very perfumed Nivea cream nose and on the palate opulent perfumed fruit, with the benchmark Gewürztraminer spice, balanced by good acidity, and a hint of sweetness on the finish. Classic varietal character.
2016 Domaine Ventenac, Cuvée de Marie, Colombard Chenin
Light colour and a fresh nose. A fresh pithy palate with a hint of honey, good acidity and a rounded finish. From Cabardès, so a cooler area where Colombard performs well. You more commonly find it in Côtes de Gascogne.
2016 Le Versant Viognier
This was my favourite of the various Viognier, with some peachy fruit balanced, with good acidity. Medium weight
2016 Solas, Albariño, Laurent Miquel
Laurent Miquel is successfully pioneering Albariño in the Languedoc, at Domaine les Auxines in the hills up above the village of Lagrasse. This has some understated but convincing varietal character on both nose and palate, with distinctive peachy notes.
2016 Domaine Rives-Blanques, 90% Chardonnay - 10% Chenin blanc.
Light colour, A delicate nose and a rounded palate, with balanced acidity. Nicely crafted and understated. Easy drinking
2016 Villa Blanche, Chardonnay, Calmel and Joseph
This was the best of the Chardonnays, with a light colour, a lightly buttery nose and a rounded palate, with mouthfeel and texture and some leesy notes. Very satisfying.
Sadly, my bottle of Domaine Gayda’s Chenin blanc Figure Libre was corked, but the Cabernet Franc Figure Libre from Domaine Gayda was delicious. Cabernet Franc performs really well in the south, and this had some ripe cherry fruit on nose and palate, with supple tannins. A wonderful explosion of fruit that leapt out of the glass, balanced by a restraining streak of tannin.
There were a pair of Pinot Noir, showing that in certain parts of the Languedoc, Pinot Noir can be very successful. Laurent Miquel’s 2016 Solas was light in colour, with fresh perfumed fruit on the nose and palate, with some acidity and tannin. It made a refreshing drink without any great depth.
2016 Pinot Noir, Anne de Joyeuse
This is from the smaller of the two Limoux cooperatives, a wine with more structure, deeper in colour with ripe fruit and some oak on the palate, with more tannin and depth.
2016 Les Yeuses, Marselan and Cabernet Franc
Deep young colour, with some rounded spice. Very supple, with soft tannins, for easy drinking. Goes a hint jammy on the finish.
Among the Bordeaux blends, I like Anne de Joyeuse, 2016 Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon, with rounded fruit, and a firm tannin streak. Nicely balanced.
There were a pair of Petit Verdot, of which I preferred Domaine de Valensac, 2015, Entre Nous, with a deep colour, some spice on the nose and a structured palate. It was elegant and fresh.
And best of the Syrah was Domaine les Yeuses, 2015, with some peppery fruit on the nose and medium weight with accessible uncomplicated fruit on the palate. A cheerful glass of the warm south.