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

07 May 2015

Languedoc rosé

Here's another "opinion" blog post on the Languedoc written for Harpers' Wine & Spirit (goes there, published 5th May), this time focusing on rosé. After the words, you'll find over 30 worth-sipping dry rosés I tasted recently on a concentrated trip to the region...
"You wouldn't be surprised to hear that most (over three-quarters) of what the Languedoc produces and sells is red wine – nothing earth-shattering in that statement – but an obvious plus-side to having lots of Mediterranean red varieties planted, is the potential to make increasing amounts of rosé to match a growing thirst for the pink style. Couple this with the right technology and winemaking for producing good (dry) rosé and a different way of thinking at the outset - i.e. preselecting certain vines, plots, picking dates for this style rather than it being a second-choice by-product - and things are looking up. A massive quantity of decent, often varietal, rosé is already being syphoned off into IGP 'category' wines (used to be Vins de Pays - these weren't available for tasting for some reason); and I've already talked about what the catch-all Languedoc AOP has to offer on the red and white front – the same applies to rosé. There are also sometimes high-quality rosés coming from just about all the other Languedoc appellations – rosé now holds a 12% share – some of them better known than others.

Château Borie Neuve Minervois rosé - see below
(apologies for the crap photo).
Corbières, that vast hilly region sitting on the Languedoc's western side snuggling up along the top of the Roussillon, sits in the former camp. And here, good rosé isn't anything new, there just seem to be more and more producers making very nice ones: full-bodied, fruity, dry and crisp and essentially based on Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault with the odd dollop of Mourvèdre or the 'other' Grenache varieties, white and grey. Corbières 2014 rosés from these wineries particularly caught my eye at last week's “Terroirs et Millésimes en Languedoc” showcase held in the region: Château Beauregard-Mirouze, Terre d'Expression, Château Saint-Estève, Château les Palais, Château Ortala and the star Clos Canos (one of the winemakers credited with making the first serious rosés in the region); all of them sitting comfortably in the £5.99 to £7.49 bracket.
Staying out west, lying to the north of Carcassonne, the Cabardès appellation still has something of an identity problem, and the best reds usually come from the same three or four names; but I was nicely surprised by the rosés on offer, all from the fresh and zingy 2014 vintage. Like the reds, these are all variations on a theme of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Syrah, Malbec and Merlot with some Cinsault. These four rosés would hit similar £5-£7.50 price points, except a grander more ambitious part barrel-aged rosé by Vignobles Lorgeril / Château de Pennautier (£8.99): Château Ventenac, Vignerons du Triangle d'Or and Château Jouclary.
Moving east to Minervois, another sweeping red wine heartland with up-and-down quality, where there also appears to be an accelerating trend to making big dry rosés. Quite a few tasty ones to be found here from the just-released 2014 vintage, such as examples from Château du Donjon, Château La Grave (both £6.50-£7), Château Borie Neuve (dearer at £10 although very good and comes in a smart heavy-bottomed bottle: photo above) and Château Sainte Eulalie (£6.29), built on Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah.
Still moving eastwards, the neighbouring sprawling Saint-Chinian region and then more compact Faugères, to the north of Béziers, both home to some of the Languedoc's best red wines, have integrated rosé into their respective appellation make-ups. And many producers in both areas are taking it very seriously, having tried several delicious and altogether more structured examples last week. These tend to be on the slightly dearer side though (approx retail £6.99-£9.99), perhaps because of lower yields or not wanting to have too much of a price disparity between their reds (and now whites), but would suit independent merchants who could hand-sell them. Here are a few names that did it for me. St-Chinian (all 2014): Château Viranel, Château La Dournie, Château Bousquette, Domaine Moulinier, Laurent Miquel / Château Cazal Viel and Château Coujan (one of the few with majority Mourvèdre). Faugères: Domaine des Trinités, Domaine du Météore and Domaine l'Arbusselle among others..."
All rights Richard Mark James for Harpers.

RMJ's pick of Languedoc pinks
€ prices are cellar door - see above in the text for approx UK retail prices.

Corbières rosé all 2014 vintage
Château Beauregard Mirouze Tradition (Syrah, Grenache) - Fairly intense and crisp with floral red fruits and nice bite. €7
Terre d'Expression Fortes Tetes (Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah) - 'Gummy' and zesty, fair depth and length, gets more aromatic on the finish. €4.90
Château Saint-Esteve (Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault) - Yeast lees-y and crisp, again very tight and closed up but has substance for a rosé; a foodie. €5.50
Château les Palais Tradition (Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre) - Very tight and crisp mouth-feel, a bit too fresh perhaps although there's something underneath. Trying be very Provence. €6.50
Château Ortala (Syrah, Grenache) - Juicy with 'boiled sweet' aromas, gummy extract on the palate, fresh but less tart than many of the others with more rose petal and red fruit characters. €7.70
Clos Canos (Grenache noir, Grenache gris, Grenache blanc, Syrah) - Very juicy and tasty, 'gummy' and 'chalky' almost, fresh and zingy yet again has very nice aromatic rose and red fruits. Classy. €7
Château du Roc La Grange (Syrah, Grenache) - Gummy and lively, not bad for the price. €4.70
Château Le Luc - pale Provencesque style, nice and zippy and crisp with it.

Cabardès rosé 2014
Vignobles Alain Maurel Château Ventenac Cuvée Diane (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Syrah, Malbec) - Lively gummy style, crisp and tight mouth-feel with subtle rose petal and redcurrant, zingy finish. €7.50
Vignobles Lorgeril Château de Pennautier 'Terroirs d'Altitude' (Grenache, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault; small portion barrel-aged) - Tight and zesty palate with yeast-lees notes, very crisp; should be quite good. €10.50
Vignerons du Triangle d'Or Notre Dame de la Gardie (Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Cinsault) - More currant-y and fruity with light 'celery' and floral tones plus red fruits too, crisp zingy finish. €4.60
Château Jouclary (Cabernet Franc, Cinsault, Grenache) - Very zesty, 'chalky' zingy texture, elegant and tight mouth-feel; starts to open up a bit on the finish. €5.50

Minervois rosé 2014
Château du Donjon (Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah) - Zingy elegant style, a little closed up and lees-y but should round out nicely. €6
Château La Grave Expression (Syrah, Grenache) - Juicy and elegant, light red fruits and rose petal, 'chalky' zesty finish; stylish. €6.40
Château Borie Neuve Marie (Grenache, Cinsault) - Fragrant rose petal aromas, tight and zingy and tasty, long and elegant vs a touch of weight too. Stylish even if quite expensive: comes in a chunky heavy bottle (photo above). €12.90
Château Sainte-Eulalie (Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah) - Very tight and zingy style with crisp bite, almost like a white but has hints of redcurrant. €5.40

Saint-Chinian rosé 2014
Domaine Marion Pla Petit Bonheur (Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah; organic) - Tight and steely palate vs subtle rose and red fruits, crisp and long style. €6.70
Château Viranel Tradition (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault) - Bigger fruity style, powerful and rounded vs tight and crisp to finish. Good. €8
Château La Dournie (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault) - Sweet berry and quite lush creamy raspberry flavours, chalkier crisper finish; nice foodie rosé. €6.10
Château Bousquette Rosalie (Grenache, Syrah; organic) - Zingy zesty and intense, light rose petal tones, steely bite vs ripe fruit notes underneath. Very nice. €6
Château St Martin des Champs Camille (Syrah, Grenache) - Steely and lean palate at first vs light red fruit notes, has fair depth though with good length and bite. Quite dear: €10.
Domaine Moulinier (Syrah, Grenache) - Very lively and juicy with red fruit and rose aromas, super crisp 'mineral' finish. Yum. €5.80 good value.
Laurent Miquel Château Cazal Viel vieilles vignes (old vines: Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault) - Subtle steely gummy and chalky mouth-feel vs aromatic floral fruit, needs a few months to open up. €8.90
Château Coujan Tradition (Mourvèdre, Syrah; organic) - Lively lees-y start then ripe red berry vs very zesty and crisp, quite big too vs tight steely and long finish. Good stuff. €6.20

Faugères rosé
Domaine des Trinités 2013 (mostly Syrah + Carignan; biodynamic) - fairly rich and fruity with underlying dry 'mineral' side, powerful yet with attractive bite. Good, drinking now. €6.50
Domaine du Météore Les Léonides 2014 - crisp and steely with subtle floral red fruits, lively dry finish; also quite stylish. Probably about £9-£10 in the UK.
Domaine l'Arbussele Envol 2014 (GSM, 13% abv) - lively and aromatic with red fruits and roses, tight and zingy palate with delicate yet long finish. Very nice dry rosé: this was his first vintage.
More from these Faugères producers to follow.

Pic Saint-Loup rosé
These three were my favourites from a small line-up of 2014 rosés tasted outdoors - in the shadow of the Peak so to speak - in a hurry: Château Valcyre (mostly Syrah + Grenache - about €7), Mas Bruguière (Syrah 50%, Mourvèdre 40%, Grenache 10% - €8.50) and Pierre Clavel's Mescladis (60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre; organic - €7-€7.50, UK £9.60).

Other rosés that crossed my path favourably (mostly):
Clos des Nines Pulp 2014 Pays d'Oc (Grenache, Cinsault) - good combo with chorizo type saucisson.
Gérard Bertrand Château La Sauvageonne 2014 Languedoc (Syrah and Grenache mostly; 6 months in barrel) - a tad oaky, but really came into its own with the lobster ravioli in bisque sauce served at Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier (name dropping, moi). Hopelessly expensive though at €39!
L'Emothion d'Encoste 2013 Languedoc - still restrained at first (although very cold), classic dry rosé style which was an admirable match for a variety of charcuterie.

Read on below for my thoughts on Languedoc appellation whites and reds (or click there). Plenty more to come from elsewhere in the Languedoc too...

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