Firstly many apologies to my regular readers for neglecting my blog for the last few weeks. Blame concentrated book research for three weeks in Chablis, so it was difficult to think about the Languedoc.. However, I will be back in the south at the end of next week for the month of July, so things should look up, with various cellar visits planned.
Meanwhie here are a couple of La Clape estates which failed to make the cut for Wines of the Languedoc.
Domaine la Combe de St. Paul
I first met Paul Maury on a Sentiers Gourmands walk around the vineyards of Château Rouquette-sur-Mer and greatly enjoyed his very first wine, and then our paths crossed again at a Stars and Découverts tasting in Paris, where Christophe Bousquet had invited him to share a tasting table. He works in the village of Salles d’Aude on the edge of the appellation of La Clape from a cellar that is a hundred years old. It is equipped with enormous concrete vats, one as big as 1200 hectolitres, which now houses Paul’s barrels. The other vats dwarf his more modest-sized tanks. Paul currently has 25 hectares of vines, of which 5.5 hectares are la Clape, on gentle hills between the villages of Salles and Fleury d’Aude. Elsewhere he makes IGP and AOP Languedoc. He first worked at Sylva Plana and Château de Grézan, both Faugères estates, and then made rosé to sell en vrac, so that 2008 was his first serious vintage. His white wine is a Languedoc AOP, a blend of Roussanne and Vermentino, with some fresh white blossom and a touch of residual sugar making for easy drinking. Languedoc les Amandiers rosé is based on Cinsaut and he makes two red La Clape. For the first, Grès Rouge, Syrah is the dominant variety, with 15% each of Grenache and Mourvèdre kept in vat, so that there are some appealing notes of the garrigues, with black fruit and tapenade. It is a lovely elegant glass of wine. L’Insoupçonée is Syrah with 15% Mourvèdre, fermented in open top stainless steel vats and manual pigeage. The grapes are handpicked, sorted and destalked and the wine is aged in 350 litres barrels, which Paul prefers to smaller barriques. There is oak, but also very good fruit on both nose and palate, with elegance, spice and a streak of tannin. Paul comes over as a very thoughtful and measured winemaker with understated talent. He deserves to do well.
Château Mire l’Etang
Château Mire l’Etang is appropriately named for the vineyards outside St. Pierre sur Mer do indeed do just that, look out on the étang. Philippe Chamayrac explained that his father had bought the estate in 1972 and he began working there in 1981, and his daughter, Pauline, is set to follow her father. This is quite a traditional estate with 50 hectares of vine, in about 40 plots, all grouped together so than none is further than about 800 metres from the cellar, including just 7.5 hectares of white grapes. They make twocuvéesof white, one very traditional with élevageon lees and no oak, while Aimée de Cogny is given longer lees ageing. She was the mistress of the local landowner, the Duc de Fleury, whose name is given to a red cuvée. Philippe sees Bourboulenc as the backbone of the appellation, you need the other varieties to fill out the wine, Roussanne for aroma, and Grenache for weight and minerality.
There are also two cuvéesof rosé, a Gris and a Cuvée Corail, with deeper colour and sturdier fruit, and again twocuvéesof red. Tradition is their classic la Clape, made from Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre kept in vat. They have pulled up their Carignan. Duc de Fleury is Syrah with 20% each of Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre, with 12 months in oak, making for some rich black fruit and the Réserve du Château given a longer ageing in new wood and comes from the oldest Syrah vines. Things may change when Pauline arrives.