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04 July 2012

Languedoc: Minervois, red white rosé 2010 and 2011

It was perhaps reassuring to see some familiar names cropping up among my favourites at this year's Minervois tasting and over lunch afterwards, such as Château La Grave, Sainte Eulalie, Borie de Maurel, Domaine Cavaillès and Gérard Bertrand. These sprawling and mostly picturesque wine-lands stretch from St-Chinian country to the east across to Carcassonne in the west and towards Narbonne to the south, signed and sealed by the Canal du Midi flowing along its substantial bottom (roughly speaking) on its ambling way out into the Mediterranean.
To find your way around this vast wine region more easily, pockets of quality are found here and there around Minerve or St. Jean de Minervois, for example, or in the Montagne Noire foothills in villages like Trausse-Minervois and Caunes-Minervois, and around La Livinière. However, I didn't include many from the latter trendy sub-appellation this time, especially 2009s, as I just found too many of these reds were over-extracted or swamped in new oak (helps justify those high prices perhaps!). Generally, the reds (and rosés) featured here major on Syrah with Grenache, Carignan and occasionally some of the other Languedoc varieties (I chucked away the tech sheets, as my bag was just too heavy...). Whites tend to be based on Grenache blanc and/or varieties such as Roussanne, Marsanne or Muscat even.
I sat next to Michel Escande from Borie de Maurel at lunchtime and had a good chat with him about his philosophy, wines, food (his substantial rosé went well with blue cheese even actually) etc. Which was great, as I've known and liked their wines for some time (wife Sylvie and son Gabriel are very much involved in the vineyard and winery too, by the way) - see this mini-profile for a snippet about them (there is more lurking around, just can't seem to find the notes on the blog...) - but haven't yet been there or hadn't met the personality behind the bottles until now. This amicable down-to-earth kinda guy has a playful sense of humour and believes in keeping things as simple and natural as possible, putting in a lot of work in the field and cellar to make it all happen. These Minervois wines were sampled and savoured a couple of months ago on the annual "Millésimes in the Languedoc" bash...
"The windmill" from boriedemaurel.fr
Rosé 2011

Vignobles de Pouzols Mailhac Florilège - nice zingy zesty underbelly vs gentle red fruits and perfumed roses, lively juicy finish.
Château Villerambert Moureau - nice 'tight' Provence style, lighter and zestier vs aromatic fruit and crisp bite.
Château La Grave Expression - quite delicate and zesty with lees tones, crisp palate with crunchy red fruits then rounder oilier finish.
Château Sainte Eulalie Printemps d'Eulalie - bit tight and closed up but I like that elegant crisp style.
Borie de Maurel - chunky full-bodied style, rounded and fruity, quite powerful 14% alc. vs nice 'winey' texture then a touch of freshness on the finish; a foodie rosé, good with different cheeses.

White 2011

Tour Saint Martin - not bad, lightly chalky vs bit of zest and aromatic floral fruit.
Le Clos des Suds Elegie - touches of vanilla and coconut but not overdone, hints of banana with fennel edges, lightly creamy vs bit of freshness too. Good in the end.
Château Villerambert Julien - aromatic with peachy apricot notes, quite concentrated and full vs crisp and steely, leesy creamy texture then mineral bite. Very good.
Château La Grave Expression - lovely complex nose, pungent celery vs oily exotic characters, crisp 'chalky' palate with very fresh long finish. Delicious.
Borie de Maurel La Belle Aude - closed up to start with, subtle yeast lees intensity and concentration reveal themselves, crisp and tight, should round out a little. Good.
Alliance Minervois La Capricieuse - aromatic grapey nose with citrus peel in a Muscat-y style, zesty 'chalky' palate with lingering floral notes. A bit different.

Red - 2010

Château du Donjon Grande Tradition - nice dark spicy fruit, vibrant and tasty with a little grip vs roundness. Straightforward but good with it.
Vignobles BonfilsChâteau Millegrand Aurore - quite dense and closed up, hints of black plum with savoury edges, again grippy vs quite rich and rounded. Good.
Borie de Maurel Sylla - 'reductive' nose (was an unfinished vat sample) but has concentrated dark berry and plum fruit, attractive savoury vs sweet profile, firm vs rounded texture. Promising assuming that pong goes away.
Château Mignan Pech Quisou - the tannins are pretty full-on, but it has good depth of fruit and substance, spicy vs sweet blackberry fruit, grip vs rounded mouth-feel. Good.
Domaine des Tourels Les Terres Rouges - quite dense and extracted vs underlying attractive spicy/minty black cherry fruit, fairly lush and concentrated vs that dry grip. Should be good after a few months in bottle.
Château Sainte Eulalie Plaisir d'Eulalie - ripe yet savoury dark fruit, nice fruity spicy chunky style with a little grip vs lingering black fruits. Attractive now.
Anne Gros et Jean Paul Tollot Les Fontanilles - touches of coco oak but nicely done adding dry grainy vs rounded texture, subtle black fruit finish and  good weight.
Domaine Cavaillès Cuvée Jeannot - enticing vibrant black cherry and cassis aromas, lightly minty too and savoury edges; fairly firm tannin but has enough fruit and weight to balance it out.
Domaine Cavaillès - purer fruit character and spicy too, black cherry/berry flavours layered with attractive grip and texture, lingering spicy fruit and oomph. Good stuff.
Domaine Saint Jacques d'Albas - quite straightforward with nice chunky mouth-feel and spicy fruit, a bit short but with attractive dry/rounded texture.

2011 (mostly unfinished wines)

Château Villegly Moureau - upfront lively black cherry fruit vs chunky tannins although reasonably soft already, ripe vs dry finish.
Château La Villatade Noma - similar fruit and style, grippier though and more closed up, could be good further down the line.
Château La Villatade Sanguine - chunkier still yet has more depth of fruit, a bit firm and closed up at the moment but has appealing spicy berry fruit underneath. Good.
Château de Sérame Réserve - again quite dense and grippy vs attractive upfront dark vs spicy fruit, reasonable substance and a tad of character too. Pretty good.


MINERVOIS LA LIVINIERE

2010


Gérard Bertrand Château Laville Bertrou - enticing upfront blackberry/cherry aromas with subtle coconut oak notes and grainy texture, firm vs rounded palate, coco choc texture underpinned by lively spicy fruit. Good.
Borie de Maurel La Féline - closed up but its attractive black cherry and spice character comes through, dark meaty palate with concentrated vs grippy mix, tight long finish yet a rounder side too. Needs time but will be very good.


2009


Alliance Minervois Grand Terroir - appealing upfront Syrah fruit style, herby minty black cherry, quite soft and tasty now yet has a bit of grip and length.
Gérard Bertrand Le Viala - complex herby minty tones vs richer black cherry liquorice and black pepper; grippy and concentrated mouth-feel vs rounder 'sweeter' texture to finish, powerful and long. Promising.
Château Sainte Eulalie La Cantilène - subtle grainy coconut oaky vs spicy berry fruit, more elegant less heavy handed style. Good.
Oustal de Cazes - light grainy coco touches and texture vs subtle concentration and ripe dark berry vs savoury development; well made with bit of character too, better and perhaps less Bordeaux / more interesting than previously!


Other recent bits and pieces on Minervois:
La Rouviole Feb 2012
Muscat & Minervois June 2011 (a Muscat and cheese post from this year's trip will follow at some point soon...)
Domaine Sénat Sept 2011
Clos du Gravillas Aug 2011, update to follow.


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