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

23 February 2015

Languedoc: Terrasses du Larzac

I've talked about the now officially stand-alone subzone of the Terrasses du Larzac a few times before and reviewed/profiled certain producers here and their hearty, sometimes wild-side wines. I've also gone on about its slight misnomer and implied mountain-vineyards-ness, as some of them do indeed lie on the lower southern edges of Massif Central range, while others are, well, pretty flat really. Inevitably, perhaps, it's the same old problem when trying to create new smaller zones based on initially quite focused criteria; then everybody in the area wants in on it... Anyway, here's a bit of background reading for you then, in handy "click on this link" form:
Terrasses du Larzac and Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert (May 2012) with its neat summary of and opinions on this fledgling appellation, a touch of sightseeing info and tasty wines from these estates: Brunet, la Seranne, Les Conquetes, Familongue/Quinquarlet, La Traversée, Brousses, Alexandrin, Chemins de Carabote, Plan de l'Homme, Chimeres, Cres Ricards, Quernes, Clos du Serre, La Sauvageonne... As well as even more handy links to these producers in the area, and a little beyond its boundaries (this does seem to stretch the imagination a little too far): domaine la croix chaptal - domaine alain chabanon - domaine d'aupilhac - mas conscience - domaine coston - mas de daumas gassac - mas de l'ecriture - domaine virgile joly - domaine de malavieille - domaine saint andrieu - languedoc tasting reports 2009-2008 vintages.

The region must have become even more fashionable, since some of the Languedoc 'big boys' have moved in over the past few years and bought vineyard plots or already high-profile estates. The Gérard Bertrand group is one of them, which acquired Domaine La Sauvageonne three or four years ago (now cunningly repacked as "Château", although I don't remember much of a manor house type building in situ when I went there six years ago) up in the wilds of St-Jean-de-la-Blaquière (with real terraced vineyards) - click HERE, HERE and HERE to find out what I thought of the wines, before and after so to speak.

Jean-Claude Mas obviously got excited about these terraces too, as his expansionist Domaines Paul Mas (links to lots of other stuff about them) family operation snapped up Domaine des Crès Ricards in 2010. Even if "the vineyard is planted at an altitude of 60 metres," (watch out vertigo sufferers) it does lie at the foot of Mount Baudille and is covered in hardy pebbles apparently. This now-extended and varied 42-hectare estate - there's some Cab, Merlot, Chardy, Viognier etc. here in addition to the 'usual Med suspects' - is found near Saint André de Sangonis around the village of Ceyras. They've recently launched a new white called Esprit de Crès Ricards into the range too. More info: www.cresricards.com, London office: www.cotemaslondon.com, US site: www.paulmas.com

Château des Crès Ricards
Alexaume 2012 IGP Mont Baudille (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Carignan; 14.5% abv) - nice ripe liquorice and wild herb nose with spicy cassis, dark berry and roasted red pepper edges; fairly smooth and easy palate with a touch of weight, rounded finish with a hint of richness and grip too. Attractive drink-now red. €8 cellar door, UK £8.50.
Stécia 2013 (“selected” Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, 14.5% abv) – sweet black cherry and liquorice with minty herbal edges, aromatic and powerful nose; lush mouth-feel with earthier tones underneath, enticing sweet/sour cassis/berry fruit vs developing liquorice, a touch of grip yet it's nicely rounded, powerful and fairly concentrated, bitter twist of tannin vs lush and spicy texture. Well balanced in the end, approachable yet has a bit of structure; good with steak pie and roast duck. €12.50 cellar door, UK: Cheers Wine Merchants £9.99.
Oenothera 2012 (“selected old-vine” Syrah and Grenache, 14.5% abv) – had a funny unripe? (doubt it with 14.5) red pepper/herby brambly smell that was still there after two days open – or is it reduced? (also seems unlikely with a barrel aged red). Certainly had an odd 'dirty' character, which was a shame as underneath there was rich black cherry, liquorice, mint and black olive; more concentrated and structured than the Stécia, although that distracting pungent brambly thing lingered... A second bottle was the same: is it reductive for an oak-aged wine and still there after being open for a few days? Or a not very nice unripe note? Would like to try another bottling or the next vintage... €17 cellar door, £13.20.


Sticking with the theme, another fairly hefty bottle came my way recently bearing a similarly hefty and familiar name: the Orliac family, who are well-known pioneers in the Pic Saint-Loup appellation lying a little to the (south)east of the Terrasses du Larzac. Marie Orliac and, paraphrasing her note, her brothers are making a wine in the stunningly set Buèges valley on their elevated (600+ metres, so now we're talking terrasses) property called Clos du Prieur. The family actually bought the vineyards back in 1999 but had to spend considerable time and effort restoring and replanting the hotchpotch of old-vine blocks and a wee cellar in the village. More @ www.closduprieur.fr including some scenic photos - I downloaded the one of Marie above.

Clos du Prieur 2012 Vignobles Orliac (Syrah 75%, Grenache 25%, Cinsault 5%; 13% abv) – attractive soft and elegant with ripe black fruits and pepper, tasty now actually with its sweet currant palate vs a touch of grip; well balanced and quite straightforward, a nice Languedoc red although not sure I'd pay €16 for it (cellar door). These UK importers list wines from Domaine de l'Hortus, the Orliac's PSL winery, but it doesn't look like anyone ships this one yet: Caves de Pyrène, Bancroft Wines, Berry Bros & Rudd; ditto Wines Direct in Ireland. $38.50 Réserve & Sélection Quebec.

By the way, if you happen to be in the area, or Montpeyroux just down the road to be precise, on Sunday 19 April, the village’s twenty-one wineries will be open to all for tasting, chat and sales presumably for their annual "Journée de Toutes Caves Ouvertes." More: montpeyroux-en-languedoc.com or www.montpeyroux-tco.fr

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