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Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

13 October 2007

Languedoc: Château La Roque, Pic-Saint-Loup

Updated Dec 2012 - see below.

The elegantly imposing country château is the first thing that hits you coming up the dusty gravelly drive: it is indeed made from rock, although the estate's actually named after an eponymous 13th Century noble family. Old rock too: the tasting cellar vault is part of a restored, former Medieval post-house, I'm told. La Roque is a long-standing ambassador for the Pic-Saint-Loup appellation, which is found not far north of Montpellier scattered around its namesake peak (650 metres/2000 feet high), although the Languedoc capital feels a long way off given how quickly the terrain transforms into untamed scrub-land and pointy cliff-faces.

La Roque's specialities include their often superb Cuvée Mourvèdre, a challenging variety in this area but rewarding in certain sites in the right hands*; Syrah-based Cupa Numismae and Clos des Bénédictins, an unusual barrel fermented white. The property was taken over by Jacques and Marion Figuette in late 2006 (I didn't have the cheek to ask them how much €...), who sensibly appear happy not to make any major changes and have kept prices fairly reasonable, for such a sought-after name: €7 to €13 a bottle across the range.
*Previous owner Jack Boutin planted 9 ha/22 acres (out of 42) of Mourvèdre, which faces due south on steep pebbly terraces at approx. 200 m/650 ft altitude. Another local Mourvèdre fan is Jean Orliac at Domaine de l’Hortus (Valflaunès), who has 11 ha ("and increasing" as he told me back in 2005) in one similarly elevated vineyard sitting smack-bang between Pic St-Loup and Mont de l’Hortus.*

I tasted these Ch. La Roque wines with Marion Figuette in October 2007:
2005 Tradition blanc (Rolle Roussanne Marsanne) – oily honeysuckle tones, nice texture and maturing fruit v lightly crisp elegant finish. 85-87
2006 Clos des Bénédictins blanc (Rolle Roussanne Marsanne) – toastier and creamier yet very floral with exotic white peach tones; zingy v fat with attractive balance and style. 87-89
2004 Tradition rouge (Syrah Mourvèdre Grenache) – tangy cassis and cherry fruit, lightly creamy palate with firm fresh bite, drinking well now in fact. 85-87
2005 – a touch richer and more concentrated than above with attractive cherry and liquorice fruit, followed by dry grip and good length. 87-89
2003 Cupa Numismae (60% Syrah 40% Mourvèdre) – smoky and slightly animal showing lush dark cherry and blackberry/olive notes, a bit of spicy oak adds texture to a solid firm palate; good balance of ripe v structured and maturing v a few years ahead of it. 89-91
2004 – more fragrant floral and spicy (the Syrah comes out more), more delicate mouth-feel yet still juicy lush and firm with elegant length. 89-91
2005 – closed and chunky, attractive concentration and rounded fruit, powerful tannins at the moment which should unfurl nicely.89-91
2003 Cuvée Mourvèdre (90% plus 10% Grenache) – 'sweet' herbs liquorice and black olive, ripe with resiny development, quite delicate actually (considering the hot vintage) v dry tannins and lovely length. 90-92
2005 – smokier and a tad toastier yet still 'sweet' herbal and liquoricey, delicious fruit concentration and fine tannins on a commanding, mouth-coating finish; yum, give it a couple of years to really shine. 92-94

UPDATE: latest La Roque wines here (PSL report April 2011). 

UPDATE 2012

34 ha (85 acres) of vineyards are now certified organic since vintage 2011, hence these wines below are their first 'official' samples aired and tasted earlier this year at Millésime Bio wine show in Montpellier.

Languedoc Pic Saint Loup
2011 white - nice creamy yeasty edges with exotic fruit notes, aromatic and floral too then crisp fresh finish. Good.
2011 rosé - rose petal aromas with creamy red fruits, quite full and rounded with oily notes and nice fruity vs crisp finish.
2011 red (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) - enticing aromatic spicy minty fruit, fairly rich and fruity with a meatier side too, concentrated vs softer mouth-feel. Should be good.

Older vintages in this post including 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003 Cuvée Mourvèdre; from a visit in 2005.

Château La Roque, 34270 Fontanès. Tel: 04 67 55 34 47, contact@chateau-laroque.eu, www.chateau-laroque.fr

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