Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Saperavi in the Languedoc

One of the things I love about the Languedoc is the element of the unexpected.  You never quite know what you might encounter.   After the Masters of Wine trip to Georgia in 2016, I was interviewed by the Georgian wine magazine Hvino News, and commented that I had yet to meet a wine grower from the Languedoc who wanted to try Saperavi, which is the main grape variety of Georgia, but why not?  

So imagine my surprise last Tuesday when I attended the annual Hallgarten Druitt tasting whose portfolio, without exaggeration, covers the whole world, and there was a Saperavi from the Languedoc.  Hallgarten are the agents for Château de Campuget, one of the long-established producers of the Costières de Nimes and Frank-Lin Dalle was pouring their range of IGP and Costières de Nimes.  And then he produced a Saperavi.  It completely took me by surprise.  Why Saperavi?  ‘It’s for fun; we were looking for something different and we are learning about it’.  They planted two hectares in 2013, on an experimental basis.  It is not yet authorised and is labelled Vin de France.  There are apparently only about 15 hectares altogether in the Languedoc.  Frank-Lin didn't know who else has it, and surfing the net failed to produce any answers.   Can anyone out there help?

So, what did it taste like?  I have enjoyed the peppery flavours of Saperavi on a couple of visits to Georgia, and I was not disappointed by this example.  It is fermented and vinified in tank, so does not see any oak and the flavours were very fresh.  The colour is bright and deep, with some solid perfumed fruit on the nose, with ripe berry fruit and a firm streak of tannin on the palate, and a fresh finish.   I thought it a very convincing start.  For this first vintage, they made just 3000 bottles and it is not yet commercially available, but well worth a mention for curiosity’s sake. 

Friday, 12 January 2018

Pays d’Oc Collection 2017

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. 

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Abbotts & Delaunay at Domaine de la Métairie in Limoux

Badet Clément, with their Languedoc arm, Abbotts & Delaunay, recently acquired the Domaine de la Métairie d’Alon in Limoux from Jean-Louis Denois.  This is a 25 hectare estate in about 25 different plots, situated around the village of Magrie in the Haute Vallée of the Aude.  So Laurent Delaunay was showing his first wines in London last month, and very good they are too.  

There is a Village range and a single Vineyard Range

2016 Pinot Noir Rosé Le Village Pays d’Oc
Very pale Provençal colour, with fresh dry raspberry fruit on the nose and more fresh acidity on the palate.   Crisp and fresh.

2016  Chardonnay Le Village, Pays d’Oc
Elegantly buttery fruit on the nose.  Quite rounded and leesy with fresh acidity. Nicely textured.  Youthful   The grapes are not destemmed, and there is a careful selection of the juice, which is given a 24 hour débourbage, and then 70% of it is fermented in tank and 30% in one to four year old barrels, followed by ageing in both tank and barrel.  The malo is blocked and the wine bottled in June

2015 Chardonnay Le Palajo, Limoux
Quite rounded nose, with an elegant palate.  Nicely crafted, rounded fruit, with good balancing acidity.  It comes from a single one hectare vineyard.  The grapes are riper than for Le Village, and generally given more TLC.  For Limoux all the wine must be fermented and aged in barrel of which 10 – 15% are new.  Some barrels will undergo a malo-lactic fermentation, but not all, and there may be a little bâtonnage, if needed, but not systematically.  The wine is bottled early, usually in early June, before the heat of the summer, to retain the freshness.  

2015 Pinot Noir Le Village, Pays d’Oc
Medium colour.  Fresh dry raspberry fruit on the nose, with more raspberry fruit on the palate.  Medium weight; tight knit and youthful.  This comes from vineyards that are not chosen to be a single vineyard.  About 15% whole bunch pressing and vinification in concrete tanks.  A little remontage.  Ageing mainly in tank, with 25% in one to four year old barrels for about six months.  Bottling in early June.

2014 Pinot Noir Solaire, Haute Vallée de l’Aude
Medium colour. Quite a firm oak nose, balanced by a sweeter palate, with some vanilla notes and youthful tannins, and an elegant finish.  The two single vineyards are picked a little later than the village wine.  About 60% destemmed.  Fermented in 50 hl tronconic vats. A four to five days pre-fermentation cold maceration at about 15-16C and the temperature is allowed to increase slowly allowing the fermentation to start.   Minimal intervention during fermentation, a bit of remontage and two or three pigeages.  Once the fermentation is finished, the wine is kept at about 27-30C for about four or five days before pressing.  Ageing for about nine months in barrels that are one to four years old.  

2015 Pinot Noir, la Métairie, Pays d’Oc
Good colour, Ripe refreshing raspberry fruit, with some oak, and on the palate ripe fruit, with some acidity and a streak of tannin.  Nicely integrated oak, with fresh juicy fruit.   Good balance. A lovely example of Pinot Noir from Limoux.  Tthe winemaking is the same as for Solaire.   And it is a Pays d’Oc rather than Haute Vallée de l’Aude for bureaucratic reasons of French wine legislation, a question of where the wine was actually made.

The obvious question to ask Laurent was: what do you do that your Languedoc colleagues might not to, or vice versa.  He considers that his Burgundian experience helps a lot,  but the most important thing is to adapt to the local conditions.  But at the same time ‘we are very lucky in having a good knowledge of what good Pinot Noir is.  We know from experience that Pinot Noir expresses the best of its personality on specific terroir, namely calcareous limestone, with grapes that are not over-ripe, with a good level of acidity and without too much extraction, with an elegant subtle structure.  It is totally different from Burgundy, where people reduce the yield to facilitate the ripening and to obtain better concentration’.

‘In the Languedoc, we have the sun, the colour, the concentration.  Concentration and extraction have to be limited in the Languedoc.  You do not need to reduce the yield too much, otherwise we would have too much concentration.  It is also important to harvest quite early,  so that the typical aromas of the red fruit of the Pinot Noir express themselves.   In Burgundy we would be tempted to wait; in the Languedoc not.  A smooth extraction is important too, with gentle pump overs and very little pigeage, with a fairly cool fermentation and not too long a maceration’. Laurent also works without adding any sulphur until the end of the fermentation, after the malolactic fermentation, and again a little just before bottling.

And a sparkling wine is in the pipe line, due for release next spring, a blend of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay, and a blend of the 2015 and 2016 vintages, vinified without any sulphur and aged partly in old barrels.  However it will not be a Limoux, as there will be no Mauzac in the blend.  I can’t wait to try it.