WineWriting.com & French Mediterranean Wine
Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

12 June 2012

Languedoc: Cabardès

First off, you'll find what I attempted to say about Cabardès last year immediately below, more or less, as that original post disappeared into the lost land of curious Blogger memory blackouts (not repeated since it has to be said). So, I've dug up these notes again and, just for the thrill of it, decided to pitch them against this year's incisive ramblings on Cabardès gleaned from a trip to the Languedoc just a few weeks ago (notes and thoughts from that one are below below). "Confused? You will be..."
"...Cabardès' trademark is a slightly wacky mix of Mediterranean, Rhone and Southwest grape varieties, which has a certain logic being out there in the wild west of the Languedoc... These weren't all the reds on tasting, as I’ve excluded quite a few 2008s that just weren’t that good: I suspect it’s a bit of a lean & mean vintage in the area and certainly not one to push the oak and/or extraction, as many winemakers did. From what I’ve tried so far of the 2009s and 2010s (the latter mostly unfinished samples on that occasion) though, things are looking much better in Cabardès country..." Discover it on a map and in situ lying discreetly to the north of Carcassonne, by the way.


Syrah budding from flickr.com/photos/mroconnell
aka Ryan @ ovineyards.com
Château de Jouclary tradition 2008 – enticing herbal minty vs maturing savoury aromas, leafy edges vs sweeter side, elegant and quite tasty now.
Château de Jouclary tradition 2010 – leafy tones vs darker plummy side, quite grippy yet has vibrant fruit, closes up on the finish but looks promising.

Domaine O’Vineyards Proprietor’s Reserve 2008 (40% Merlot 40% Syrah  20% Cabernet Sauvignon) – lots of choc and vanilla, grainy texture and tannins, some nice fruit vs leafy/cedary edges but it’s a bit swamped in oak; maybe its true nature will emerge, as it's quite good, but the winemaking seems a touch 'pushed'.
O’Vineyards Trah Lah Lah 2008 (2/3 Merlot 1/3 Cabernet) - again quite vanilla-y although also has appealing maturing berry fruit with savoury edges, attractive soft tannins too.
O’Vineyards Proprietor’s Reserve 2006 (as above) - better, enticing savoury notes with dark vs cedary fruit and complex herbal berry flavours, still quite firmly structured with that oak nicely melted in. Very good.
Château de Pennautier Terroirs d’Altitude 2008 – cedary/leafy vs nice cassis and cherry fruit, lightly creamy edges vs currant and cassis, quite firm and fresh but it works.
Château de Pennautier 2009 - smokier ripe side vs leafy edges, quite lush and tasty with full-on tannins, a tad extracted but that smoky vs tangy fruit does linger along with fair oomph. Good.
Château de Pennautier 2010 – quite closed up, more concentrated with vibrant blackberry/cherry, big mouthful of tannins vs sweet fruit, dark vs tangier side, should be very good.
Château de Pennautier L’Esprit Grand Vin 2008 – showing more cedary oak vs richer and more intense profile, cassis and light liquorice, spicy and punchy with firmer tighter mouth-feel, closes up with solid dry finish. Very good.
Château de Caumette Hauts-Lorgeril Collection d’Altitude 2008 – a bit richer and meatier than their “Mont Peyroux” 2008, fair concentration with solid tannins but this time rounder, tight and fresh with lusher fruit. Good.
Château de Caumette Guillaume de J… 2008 – minty herby cassis and black cherry, maturing edges; much richer and sweeter on the palate, power vs grip vs nice fruit. Good stuff.
Vignerons du Triangle d’Or Amethyste 2008 – cedary/leafy nose vs plum and blackcurrant, fruity vs chunky mouth-feel, quite nice although straightforward.
Domaine de Cazaban-Mengus Demoiselle Claire 2009 – leafy vs smoky, chunky fruity and initially impressive, tightens up; maybe lacks a little substance in the end.
Domaine de Cazaban-Mengus Les Petites Rangées 2009 – similar nose, more intricate perhaps, richer palate with attractive ripe vs smoky and plummy cassis fruit, firm but round tannins, tight dry finish with underlying sweeter/punchy side.
Domaine de Cazaban-Mengus Domaine de Cazaban 2009 – richer still, more oak but it's nicely lush and smoky, concentrated with spicy tobacco and savoury edges vs chunky tannins and sweet fruit, power and length. Lovely.
Domaine de Cazaban-Mengus 2010 – not giving much away, has that 'sweet vs savoury' thing with big yet rounded tannins, power and tight firm finish. Again very good.
Mas Ventenac 2010 – minty and cassis/cherry, quite solid and rich with firm vs rounded finish, tannins are still a bit hard but again has nice vibrant fruit.

Moving swiftly back to 2012 and the most recent/older vintages scrutinized plus a few Cabardès wine folk encountered over tasting and lunch (late April): Wenny Tari of Château de Brau, Anne Marandon-Maurel of Château Salitis and Ryan O'Connell from Domaine O'Vineyards...
Interesting to note perhaps, following on from what I said above about those 2008s, that there weren't any from this vintage on the Cab tasting table this time. Meaning: all sold or producers weren't chuffed enough to put them on show? Nothing wrong with a little idle speculation at least. But the 09s and 10s (now bottled) sampled here do confirm what I felt last year (although the tannins on some 09s also now seem rather dry, across the region). I was among those who praised 2008 initially, in general, as two or three years ago the wines were looking OK. Now I've changed my mind a little - again generally as there are some good 08 wines out there of course, as featured above and elsewhere on this blog - despite people constantly defending the vintage applying the obsessive tag of "freshness" to the wines, translating literally (fraicheur, trendy word nowadays referring to more elegant reds). Well, fine: nobody likes overly heavy or un-elegant reds, but I'm not sure we should be looking in the Languedoc ad nauseum for "fresh" light red wines? Especially if that really means unripe, lean and charmless... Anyway, these Cabardès reds, rosés and whites range from nice to very good+ :

Rosé - all 2011

Lorgeril/Château de Pennautier - nice enough rosé, lacks a bit of zing maybe.
Sesquières - better, quirky red pepper type aromas (Cabernet Franc?) moving on to a creamier palate vs crisp red fruits and fresh bite. Good.
Château Jouclary - clean crisp and tighter in the 'Provence' style, showing nice bite and zing.
Château de Brau (Syrah, Cabernet Franc) - 'winey' (sounds meaningless in English when talking about wine, but the French do refer to fuller fruitier rosé styles as vineux) oily and rounded with ripe red fruits vs fresher crisper finish. Good although already turning a bit old?

White - 2011

Château Salitis Viognier - odd almost 'botrytised' character, ripe and aromatic with exotic vs green fruit flavours, tasty enough in the end especially with food.

Red

2007

Château de Brau Le Suc - red pepper hints vs smoky maturing notes, coconut grain texture vs red/black fruits, quite firm still yet developing savoury flavours, attractive bitter twist vs plummy fruit.
Cave La Malepère Révolution - rather oak soaked but there's some attractive chunky fruit underneath.
O’Vineyards Stranger (Merlot) - resiny oaky nose with lush plummy fruit, a bit too much vanilla although has attractive savoury development too, grainy vs sweet textured; kinda ripe Pomerol style, although I'd prefer less oak.

2009

Château du Donjon L'Autre - sweet cherry and liquorice, grippy vs ripe mouth-feel, attractive style.
Château de Pennautier Terroirs d'Altitude - lush and smoky start with fair depth, tannins are a little bitter although it has good fruit.
Château Jouclary Guillaume de Jouclary - cedary oak touches vs nice ripe dark cherry and cassis, lush vs grippy palate, structured and powerful finish. Very good.
Château Jouclary Les Amandiers - more closed up, concentrated with grainy texture showing red pepper vs darker fruit, again extracted but not too much, long and tasty in the end. Very good.
Sesquières cuvée du chene - quirky mix of sweet fruit and herby red pepper, maturing oily palate with liquorice vs firmer and fresher side. Good.
Château de Brau Cuvée Exquise - rustic and 'soupy' vs crunchier fruit too, grippy and concentrated, quite rustic but has good depth.

2010

Foncalieu - Château Saint Agel - modern fruity / oaky combo, not bad depth in the end.
Château de Pennautier - quite rich and smoky, solid and grippy vs attractive ripe fruit, closes up on a structured finish; promising.
Château de Brau - pretty grippy and tight on the palate, structured and concentrated with nice fruit underneath. Good.
Sesquières cuvée Prestige - again offers that mix of red peppery and dark cherry fruit, firm and extracted mouth-feel yet rounded and ripe underneath. Good.
Château Salitis Equinoxe (Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Grenache) - attractive lush fruity style with good depth and grip, tasty finish with dark smoky flavours. €8.50 cellar door.
Château Salitis Cuvée des Dieux (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache) - enticing ripe dark fruit, concentrated vs grippy vs rounded, smoky tobacco edges vs black plum fruit. Good stuff. €9.50

Finally, more in-depth profiles on a few leading Cabardès wineries (some of them featured above) with notes on previous vintages can be found here:
Profile on O'Vineyards will follow soon-ish (honest)...

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