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

27 July 2012

Languedoc: Fitou

Fitou (pronounced something like 'fee-too'), possibly the Languedoc's most schizophrenic wine region, has a coastal bit around the town of Fitou and a hilly bit inland around Tuchan and neighbouring villages, which are inconveniently buffered by a fat wedge of the Corbières appellation in between (something to do with history, local politics and this co-op winery that occupies much of the latter territory, allegedly). So, two rather different areas in terms of microclimate and terrain; and, generally speaking, the best wines probably come from the wineries and estates lying inland (but not exclusively) on these higher wilder wine-lands. Fitou is for red only, and you'll find all the usual-suspect grape varieties here with a fair bit of old Carignan still being used side by side with plenty of new plantings of Syrah. And not forgetting lovely Grenache of course.
Touring around this pretty neck of the woods, you could start in Fitou village, which is nicer than the first impression you get just off the dangerously busy main Narbonne to Perpignan road, as you climb up the hill to a more peaceful backdrop. Tuchan and around (Villeneuve, Paziols...) is very much Caves de Mont Tauch country, an amalgamated mega co-op that's become the biggest player and well known in export markets for being reasonably innovative. The Mont Tauch mini-mountain overlooking their silvery winery and surrounding landscape is dramatic in a raw and primeval kinda way; for the best view, approach from the south on the winding road from Roussillon country over the other side...
I've covered a few Fitou estates and wineries on this blog before - here are links with words and recommendations of some of the more interesting reds, and more links below too alongside the relevant winery:
Domaine les Enfants Sauvages (cellar/home in Fitou though their vineyards aren't...)
"Cellar Reserve" FitouChâteau de Montmal and Cave Mont Tauch (all CMT)
Domaine Jones and Domaine Maria Fita.
The wines tasting-noted and tipped here, spanning the 2008 to 2011 vintages, were on the table at this year's epic "Millésimes en Languedoc" week about three months ago. Has to be said it was quite hard work filtering out the best ones to recommend, with a lot of hard tannic and/or clunky oaky wines; and I wasn't the only one who thought this. Anyway, here she blows:


2008

Domaine Grand Guilhem - maturing prune and plum fruit, quite light and crunchy with dark berry vs smoky meaty notes, pretty firm but the tannins are digestible; drink now. Previous DGG here.
Château Lérys - quite rustic and 'inky', fairly rich on the palate though with earthy liquorice fruit vs extracted tannins and a bit of weight. Previous Domaine Lerys.

2009

Vignerons de Cascastel 'F' - spicy berry fruit layered with a fair bit of vanilla oak adding sweeter texture and flavour, pretty firm tannins but softens up on the finish with weight and dark fruit.
Cave Mont Tauch Hautes de Paziols - aromatic black cherry, ripe vs firm backdrop, lacks a bit of character but it's not overblown at least like many here.
Château Abelanet vieilles vignes (old vines) - again a tad extracted and firm vs subtle grainy oak and has substance too, rounder sweet berry finish.
Domaine Bertrand-Bergé Ancestrale - nice perfumed black cherry and blueberry fruit, minty wild floral thing going on too with subtle concentration and solid but not too tannins. Very good. Previous Domaine Bertrand-Bergé.
Château de Nouvelles - perfumed spicy floral black cherry, fruitier softer wine with ripe berry and touch of savoury development, light grip and elegant length. Also one of the better ones.
Château Wiala Sélection - smoky earthy savoury notes vs dark fruit, a bit rustic perhaps but has some substance and attractive coating of softening tannins, tobacco vs liquorice tones on finish.

2010

Domaine de la Grange Via Fonteius - chunky fruity style with minty berry / cherry flavours, firm yet rounder tannins underlined by ripe fruit. Good.
Château de Nouvelles Gabrielle - touches of coconut oak and attractive minty black cherry, pretty solid mouth-feel yet has a lighter touch too and nice grainy texture.
Château Champ des Soeurs Bel Amant - floral minty cherry and cassis, ripe vs dry tannins, fairly elegant finish. Good.
Château Champ des Soeurs La Tina - coco vanilla oak but not too over the top, has fair grip vs sweeter cherry and liquorice fruit then rounds out a little.
Domaine de Mandraou - slightly rustic perhaps with leather and tobacco notes vs pruney liquorice, solid tannins vs some concentration too.
Domaine de la Rochelierre Privilege - 'modern' style with lively blackberry vs a touch of coconut, nice softer palate vs a bit of oomph and grip.
Domaine les Mille Vignes Atsuko - upfront spicy black cherry and minty garrigue aromas (that slightly elusive wild earthy herb/flower thing), a little punch and grip vs ripe dark fruit; probably very Syrah but good with it.
François Lurton cuvée des Ardoises - smoky rustic edges vs raisiny berry and black cherry, again has appealing dry vs softer mouth-feel with 'sweet' perfumed vs earthy fruit.


2011 (probably unfinished samples)


Château de Nouvelles - enticing ripe dark fruit, spicy blackberry/cherry and liquorice, fairly soft tannins vs nice grip and depth. Promising.
Mont Tauch - chunky and quite extracted with vibrant fruit, ripe blueberry and black cherry, again nice textured tannins.
Château Champ des Soeurs La Tina - chocolate oak coating vs ripe and rounded, bit closed up and firm yet has good depth of fruit.

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