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28 February 2006

Montpellier: Vinisud 2006

Comments and hot tips below from the trade showcase for Mediterranean wines, which took Montpellier by storm, in the most constructive sense of the expression. Unfortunate use of words perhaps, in light of recent isolated desperate acts (opens a story on Decanter.com). It's an event such as Vinisud and participants that successfully demonstrates the future path for wine in the South, not smashing things up (even if difficult not to sympathise with stranded growers asking for more help from a distant Paris): I'll leave further comments on this to Vitisphere.com (goes to related piece). Featured estates below: Daumas Gassac - La Sauvageonne - L’Euzière - Anger - Grézan - Champart - Paul Mas - Matassa - Força Réal - Crus pour Joie (Corbières).

Mas de Daumas Gassac
Still the legend of the south? MDG was one of the first to make top quality Vins de Pays in the Languedoc from a mix of Mediterranean, Rhône and Bordeaux varieties. There are now more growers reaching a similar standard; but their wines remain classy and elegant including a back catalogue of older reds, which few others can match and shows how well they age. As for the high prices they command, well that's a different argument and MDG aren't lacking in customers!
2004 Eraus blanc (mostly Sauvignon Blanc) - quite concentrated with mineral intensity, not very Sauv Blanc but shows nice length and bite. 85

2005 MDG blanc - lively zesty fruit with oily depth v aromatic peachy notes, zingy and long. 89
2004 Guilhem rouge (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache & Carignan) - nice soft youthful black cherry and liquorice fruit with a bit of dry bite to finish. 85
2003 Elise rouge (Syrah & Merlot) - attractive smoky tobacco and dried fruit aromas & flavours, soft mouthfeel v grip of tannin, elegant yet powerful finish. 87-89
2004 MDG rouge (Cabernet Sauvignon + 15 varieties, barrel sample) - tight elegant blackcurrant and cherry fruit, nice tannin texture v fruit concentration on its subtle length. 90+
2003 MDG rouge - more open and rustic, ripe liquorice fruit with wild herb notes; richer than the 04 with attractive tannins, softer texture v weight on the finish. 92
2001 Cuvée Emile Peynaud (Cabernet Sauvignon from selected parcels) - quite oaky nose yet shows developed fruit underneath, grippy powerful palate, the oak's still a little strong but it's also concentrated and richly textured. 90+
Tasted at the estate 13/3/05:
2005 MDG blanc - tight and crisp yet lively and intense: this offers perfumed apricot and peach fruit on a zingy palate, underpinned by a touch of yeast lees and very light toast adding complexity, length and richness. 87-89

2003 MDG rouge - lovely ripe smoky cassis and black cherry fruit with notes of leather, has softness v dry grip in the mouth with light creamy oak coating; quite elegant actually for this hot vintage, complex finish. 90-92
1995 MDG rouge - had been open for a few days so a bit oxidised; however, it displayed complex herbal v figgy flavours and again that perfumed leather edge, still quite firm and lively with maturing fruit on the finish. 92-94
Updated August 2011.

La Sauvageonne
A new range of wines from this estate up in the rugged Coteaux du Languedoc hills purchased in 2001, with a resident English winemaker sourcing from vineyard parcels at different altitudes with very chunky soils.
2005 Sauvignon Blanc (+5% Muscat) - zingy green fruit set against ripe citrus, nice length and intensity. 85+
2005 Rosé - creamy red fruits v crisp long mouthfeel, nice style. 87
2004 Les Ruffes (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault & Carignan) - lovely youthful cherry, liquorice and menthol flavours; fruity v light grip, on the simpler side but nice finish. 85-87
2003 Pica Broca (Syrah & Grenache) - ripe fruit v firm texture, again has that attractive herby black cherry character, with fairly soft tannins on the finish. 87-89
2004 Pica Broca - spicier and more elegant than the 03, with soft tannins on the subtle finish. 89
2004 Puech de Glen (mostly Syrah + Grenache) - rather closed, tight and unrevealing at the moment; however, has attractive fruit underneath and elegant length. 89+

Château L’Euzière
Brother and sister Michel and Marcelle Causse run this scenic property near Fontanès in the Pic Saint-Loup region, north of Montpellier. One to watch...
2005 Grains de Lune
, Coteaux du Languedoc blanc (Roussanne, Vermentino & Grenache blanc) - nice and juicy with complex yeast lees edges, crisp bite and length. 87-89

2004 L'Almandin, Pic St-Loup (Syrah, Grenache & Mourvèdre) - intricate rustic notes mingle with black fruits, nice firm grip yet elegant and spicy; young (just bottled in fact) showing potential. 89+
2004 Les Escarboucles, Pic St-Loup (Syrah, Grenache & Mourvèdre) - closed and oaky on the nose, solid structure with nice texture, fruit and concentration; also needs time to express itself. 89-91

Domaine Anger
Laurent Anger is a leading grower in the Minervois La Livinière subzone.
2001 La Chapelle de Calamiac (100% Syrah) - intriguing flavours of lovely ripe smoky liquorice fruit and leather notes, soft long finish. 92-94
2001 Château Anger la Croix de St-Bénoit - herbier with more aromatic black cherry fruit, again elegant and ripe, smoky and long. 92-94

Château de Grézan
This extraordinary walled-castle estate (think Knights Templar meets Disney) makes a fairly large (perhaps too, given some of the variation here) range of traditional Faugères reds and charming varietal white wines.
2004 Commanderie de St-Jean Chardonnay - nice clean citrus and peach style, soft juicy palate with a little freshness on the finish. 85-87

2005 Commanderie de St-Jean Viognier - subtle yet lively apricot, herb and mineral flavours, weighty extract v quite crisp and fresh. 89+
2004 Commanderie St-Jean barrique Chardonnay - nice creamy, fairly fat fruit set against yeasty bite and intensity; well handled oak. 89
2003 Château de Laurens Faugères (this and below variations on Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre & Cinsault) - ripe spicy developing nose, nice balance of grip and fruit with good length. 87-89
2003 Château de Grézan Cuvée Arnaud Faugères - less open and seductive, mintier too; structured yet round tannins, the fruit's not coming through at the moment but this is designed for ageing. 87-89
2003 Cuvée Vieilles Vignes Faugères (Grenache & Carignan) - firmer and stockier, light oak coating wraps up a concentrated grippy palate; needs a couple of years at least. 88-90
2001 Les Schistes Dorés (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) - richer and more concentrated, mint and chocolate underneath black cherry fruit, very firm and powerful yet shows sweetness and roundness too. 89-91

Mas Champart
Isabelle and Matthieu Champart's lovely reds have long been among my favourite St-Chinian wines, especially their Mourvèdre heavy Clos Simonette.
2004 St-Chinian blanc
(Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache blanc & Bourboulenc) - fresh and exotic fruit then turns zesty and mineral, nice clean elegant finish. 85+

2003 Côte d'Arbo St-Chinian (Syrah, Grenache & Carignan) - wild and spicy with attractive pure fruit, quite elegant with ripe soft-ish finish. 87-89
2003 Causse du Bousquet (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache & Carignan) - more liquorice and black cherry, again shows softness v concentration, grip v elegance. 90
2003 Clos de la Simonette (70% Mourvèdre & Syrah) - firmer structure and style, again displays lovely fruit and rounded tannins. 90-92

Château de Lastours
I tasted cask samples of their promising 2004 vintage reds:
2004 Arnaud de Berre - lots of young spicy fruit, shows nice grip v softness and elegant length. 87+
2004 Simone Descamps - just a touch of wood adds choc and spice, displays intense ripe black fruits, more concentrated than the Berre with attractive soft texture, dry bite and length. 89-91

2004 Château de Lastours - a tad oakier but not much, lovely concentration set against structured mouthfeel, showing similar fruit style and elegance; will be super. 92-94
Mind you, this is what I thought of the above wine over a year later (April 2007):
Château de Lastours Réserve - ripe 'sweet' fruit leads to rather dry chocolate wood. Disappointing considering this was looking really good in barrel: left it too long? €17

Les Crus pour Joie
Fetching name for this recently formed, merry band of mostly young, small estates in wild Corbières country around the town of Lagrasse. Several delicious finds here.
2005 Domaine Baillat rosé (Syrah, Cinsault & Grenache) - very youthful, tight and steely with elegant zippy fruit. 85-87

2005 Clos d'Espinous rosé - juicier style than above, quite concentrated with tight, zesty and youthful finish. 85-87
2005 Château Roquenégade blanc (Roussanne & Grenache blanc) - quite fat and juicy set against mineral and herb edges, nice length and bite. 87+
2003 Domaine la Rune 'Pertho' (mostly Grenache) - lovely ripe Grenache fruit with smoky spicy liquorice notes, then elegant dry finish. 87-89
2003 Château Prieuré Borde-Rouge - ripe and spicy with wild flowers and black & red fruits, powerful finish yet light tannins. 89-90
2003 Château de Roquenégade rouge - also has very ripe fruit, more on the leather and chocolate side, firmer structure and power too. 89
2004 Domaine Baillat rouge - up-front black cherry and liquorice aromas lead to a firm and concentrated palate, young and closed but will be good. 89+
2005 Clos de l'Anhel 'les Terrasses' - concentrated and meaty, lots of depth and style, grippy tannins v ripe fruit; very promising. 90+
2003 Château Cascadais - slightly dusty wood on the nose but this shows nice depth of fruit, more trad and structured style yet good with it. 87

Domaine Força Réal
Jean-Paul Henriquès and his son Cyril have done sterling work restoring this spectacular estate up on a hill between Millas and Estagel, with distant views of Perpignan, the Mediterranean, Corbières hills and the Pyrenees.
2004 Mas de la Garrigue - nice ripe black fruits with earthy notes, soft palate with a touch of grip too. 87
2003 Domaine Força Réal - richer fruit than above, attractive depth and stylish finish. 89-91
2003 Les Hauts de Força Réal - chocolate oak aromas lead to rich wild fruits and lovely textured finish; needs a couple of years. 92-94

Domaine Matassa
Tom Lubbe and Sam Harrop's estate in the northern Roussillon/eastern Fenouillèdes area, where they're making some distinctive whites and an elegant, pure Grenache red.
2005 Matassa blanc (Muscat & Macabeu) - lively aromatic fruit with mineral edges, clean long and zesty palate. 87

2005 Viognier-Muscat - lovely aromatic apricot and white peach fruit, zesty citrus undertones with long bite and power on the finish. 89+
2004 Grenache Gris-Macabeu (white) - toasty and funky with similarly intense and pure length. 89

Domaines Paul Mas
A few new vintages and releases from Jean-Claude Mas and his go-getting team, including some unusual blends and the cross-breed red variety Marselan from recently purchased organic vineyards near Pézenas (Languedoc).
2005 Sauvignon Blanc dA, Limoux - attractive crisp intense gooseberry and citrus fruit, fresh long finish. 85-87

2005 Viognier - lively and zesty showing lovely depth of rich apricot fruit and aromatic class. 89
2005 La Forge Chardonnay - attractive citrus and peach fruit underlined by subtle toast and cream flavours, good bite v weight on the finish. 90+
2005 La Forge Cabernet Sauvignon - tight focused cassis fruit, firm yet rounded mouthfeel; needs 6 months to come together, promising. 89-90?
Paul Mas 1892 (its name rather than vintage!) (Alicante, Carignan, Cinsault Grenache & Merlot) - stonky grippy palate, unusual meaty style, old fashioned chunky blend but good with it. 87-89
2004 Marselan - curranty juicy fruit, has fair depth and firm texture; different. 87
2004 Château Paul Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc - the oak's quite strong at the moment, but this displays beautiful concentration of blackberry and chocolate; tight, fine yet weighty finish. 92+
2003 Château Paul Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc - similar power v finesse with richer wilder more developed fruit. 92+
2003 Les Faisses, Coteaux du Languedoc - lovely drinking now (with rack of lamb) yet concentrated and structured enough to develop much further; full, gamey and 'sweet' with firm rounded tannins. 92-94

Search through the Roussillon winery A to Z (right) to find fuller profiles and updates on most of these producers and their more recent vintages etc.

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