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15 May 2007

Roussillon: Vignobles Bernard Magrez, Montner

Winery & vineyard mogul (cum-brand-collector) Magrez owns or is a partner (with larger than life actor Gérard Dépardieu in the Languedoc) in 35 vineyards around the world, including this relatively recent foothold in the Roussillon (I visited in May 2007). He bought and tastefully refurbished (despite his gigantic signature across the front) the old co-op cellar in the sleepy village of Montner, located between Estagel and Millas, across the road from the worth-checking-out Auberge du Cellier restaurant/chambres d'hôte. Their first vintage was 2002, when they only had eight ha / 20 acres to play with; they now have 43 ha planted with mostly red varieties (as you might expect in ascending order: Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre) and five ha of white grapes (Muscat à petits grains, Macabeu and Grenache Blanc). “We acquired producing vineyards and grafted most of the white varieties over to Syrah,” Jean-Marc Raynal (Magrez's production director in southern France and Spain) explained. Making VDN sweet wines doesn't appeal, as it's “not group policy,” and reds are clearly their focus, although Jean-Marc believes in the potential for interesting dry white blends, like many other leading estate owners.
“Bernard Magrez is very attached to the Languedoc and Roussillon,” he added, “the wines fit in with his global range... And Roussillon perhaps has a better quality image than the Languedoc (which is an unusual point of view, often the other way round except for those in the know!), it has very different terroirs and varieties.” Nevertheless, they decided to take a clearer simpler approach by dropping the 'Villages AOC' and opting to label merely as Côtes du Roussillon, plus the 'Sud de France/South of France' generic term (which you'll be seeing more of) that features on their whole Languedoc and Roussillon range. I guess it also helps to have the governor's name on the label, as well as the backing of his distribution network. The BM Group is dabbling in various wine tourism ventures in Bordeaux but not in the Roussillon for the moment (shame), although they won't turn you away if you make an appointment!
2006 white (fermented in 'demi-muids', 400-600 litre capacity barrels) – lightly toasty v exotic apricot and honey notes, creamy yeasty mouth-feel showing weight and crisp length. Nice wine. 87-89
2004 'Si mon père savait', Côtes du Roussillon red (14.5%) - 'If my father knew': lovely pure fragrant black cherry and liquorice fruit, peppery and rustic undertones with vibrant blackcurrant edges; juicy fruit layered with background coco and choc oak, well balanced with tight fresh grip. Again nice style. 87-89
2004 'La Passion d'une vie' (15%) - richer colour and aromas with white pepper tones, similar fruit profile to above but more intense liquorice and berry notes; delicious palate of fruit, spice and a finer silky texture; power v elegance (despite high alcohol), juicy fruit v finesse, good length. 90-92

Grande Rue, 66720 Montner. Tel: 04 68 80 24 81,

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