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01 June 2009

Languedoc 2008 vintage 'en primeur' tasting report

Jumping the gun on the Bordeaux lot, Languedoc winemakers had the bright idea of showcasing their 2008 vintage wines (or 'representative samples' of) en primeur in March 2009 to, well, make a point really. The world's wine media has become so obsessed with everything Bordeaux, and maybe Burgundy too, that the whole vintage in France seems to be judged, and either written off or glorified, depending on the weather etc. in Bordeaux alone.
It was the case in 2007, a good vintage around the Med having tried lots of very nice wines (and all styles), some of them available now. And 2008, perhaps a touch better in certain regions across the south than elsewhere in France, according to a broad diversity of palates, growers and opinions, yet mediocre in Bordeaux - although reports coming through after the recent en primeur tastings there have confirmed the wines are better than expected, much in certain cases - therefore all of France tarred with the same brush.
So, this year the Languedoc gang decided to shout a bit louder about it and held an entire week of tastings area by area. I could only go for one day - covering reds from the Languedoc appellation as a whole: Sommières (nice fruit and style), between Montpellier and Nimes; Pic Saint-Loup (very consistent with some high scores); Grès de Montpellier (more subdued but a few very good ones here); Pézénas (well-balanced with a touch of class); Terrasses du Larzac (also pretty consistent, superior quality); La Clape (several impressive wines although some too marked by toasted wood) and Picpoul de Pinet whites (generally high standard, very enjoyable).
I've also already tasted quite a few 2008 vat and barrel samples from e.g. Corbières, Saint-Chinian and the Roussillon with their winemakers, let alone some rosés and whites now on sale. All showing 08 is worth talking about - although less immediately charming than 07 - let alone drinking. Many of the reds have the lively attractive fruit of the 2007s, yet with the structure and bite of a more "classic" vintage such as 2006 (beginning to look rather good too actually). Anyway, these were my favourites - all tasted blind then cross-referred to a crib sheet - although I didn't try the entire daunting line-up! Some might have been overlooked as, being unfinished samples, weren't showing well; or quite simply as there wasn't time to taste everything...
ED with crystal ball (2015): changed my mind a bit about 2008, having retried many of them since I wrote this (as you'll see from all my Languedoc reports since then). Only the best ones are still showing really well, otherwise a drink up quick vintage.

Languedoc AOC rouge

Domaine de la Reynardière - perfumed, juicy and spicy black cherry fruit; quite rich v dry texture, nice elegant style. 87
Abbotts "Boreas" - spicy lively raspberry and cassis fruit; has a bit of a kick then firmer finish, closing up but quite long. 87+

Languedoc Sommières

Domaine des Sauvaire - quite rich and perfumed on the nose; concentrated / extracted mouth-feel showing fair grip but has nice fruit and weight too. 87
Château Langlade "Prestige" - more structured with an attractive mouthful of spicy v ripe fruit, promising finish. 88(+)
Mas Granier - peppery perfumed aromas, chunky concentrated palate with good depth of vibrant fruit. 89+

Pic Saint-Loup

Les Domaines Bru "Le Loup du Pic" - seductive Syrah fruit (?) with classic spicy black cherry notes/ flavours; nice intensity v subtle tannins. 87+
Domaine Haut Lirou - again has that sexy "Syrah" perfume and spice combined with delicious depth of fruit and big structure. 90+
Mas Thélème "Carpe Diem" - offers real depth and intense fruit; firm and powerful with peppery lush mouth-feel then tight finish. 88+
Château de Lancyre "Vieilles Vignes" - commanding very concentrated wine with seductive spicy black fruits; very firm and long finish. 92+
Le Chemin des Reves "Gueule de Loup" - solid and extracted but also shows very nice spicy v 'sweet' fruit. 87+
Domaine Zumbaum Tomasi "Clos Maginiai" - straight and clean, subtle peppery v ripe fruit; tight closed finish, could be good. 87+
Clos des Augustins "Sourire d'Odile" - enticing and classy, 'sweet' fruit with a tad of oak, chunky and structured then rich v tight finish. 90-92
Château Laroque "Cupa Numisae" - lovely fruit and aromas; taut and textured palate / length, promising. 90 More La Roque here
Château de Lascaux "Tradition" - lively spicy black cherry nose; quite lush v firm and long, delicious actually. 92

Terrasses du Larzac

Le Clos du Serres "Le Clos" - spicy minty aromas with black forest gateau notes; fresh bite and grip, very attractive style. 89
Domaine L'Aiguelière "Cote Dorée" - rich v tangy cassis with wild herb edges; tight refreshing finish. 87+
La Bastide aux Oliviers - crunchy and tense palate showing wild fruits, liquorice and tobacco; fiery and firm on the finish. 88+
Renée Marie Giner "Vallongue" - ripe and liquoricey, delicious 'sweet' v savoury flavours v subtle dry texture. 90+ More here
Mas du Pountil "Le Mas" - concentrated and chunky with meaty edges yet 'sweet' fruit, powerful and solid. 90+
Mas de la Séranne "Les Immortelles" - not displaying much on the nose but has big meaty fruit and tannins; quite high alcohol but finished with complex tobacco notes. 89+
Domaine du Causse d'Arboras "Les Grazes" - structured, fleshy and also quite punchy; attractive oily v tobacco fruit and texture though. 87+
Mas des Brousses - spicy and focused, 'sweet' v savoury fruit with floral cherry undertones; well-balanced finish. 87+
Domaine Alain Chabanon "L'Esprit de Font Caude" - a bit closed and unrevealing although it has fair depth of spicy floral v riper fruit then firm texture. 87+ More here.
Château St-Jean d'Aumières "A" - enticing ripe blueberry aromas and flavours; chunky v peppery palate with rounded tannins. 89


Domaine de Fabregous "Le Coeur" - seductive and lush with spicy black fruit cocktail; solid mouth-feel but not hard, nice 'sweetness' and oomph on the finish. 88+
Domaines Paul Mas "Les Faisses" - oaky although lush v firm textured, powerful tight length; promising. 89+ More Mas.
Prieuré de St-Jean de Bébian - similar style showing perhaps richer & spicier fruit, firm v chocolate mouth-feel; nice texture in the end. 90

La Clape

Domaine Ferri-Arnaud "Tradition" - lush 'tar' aroma and texture, spicy and chunky mouth-feel finishing more 'sweet' & savoury. 90
Mas du Soleilla "Les Chailles" - aromatic floral plummy nose; oily v firm palate showing attractive ripe wild fruits and spices, then big finish. 90
Château Pech Redon "L'Epervier" - concentrated and extracted 'tar' fruit v black pepper and fresh counterbalance; wow. 90-92
Château Ricardelle "Clos Sablières" - again has that wilder spicy side v 'tar' and tobacco; very ripe with chocolate texture, in line with others stylistically and nicely done. 88-90

Grès de Montpellier

Saint Jean du Noviciat "Novi" - delicious ripe 'tar' v wild herbs on the nose, perfumed yet 'fat' fruit then soft-ish tannins. 87+
Château de l'Engarran "Grenache Majeur" - spicy liquorice "Grenache" style, punchy and powerful with quite firm tannins yet 'sweet' fruit lingering on the finish. 89
Clos des Nines "L'Orée" - ripe v peppery nose; very firm and solid with underlying 'sweet' fruit and pepper notes, tight long finish. 90
Château de Flaugergues "Colbert" - "vinous" 'sweet' nose; chewy tannins v vibrant lush fruit, solid finish. 88+
Abbaye de Valmagne "Turenne" - lively "Syrah" style (?) with floral spicy aromas; nice dry v 'sweet' finish. 87+

Picpoul de Pinet

La Croix Gratiot - pretty classic lively gummy style; oily v crisp and mineral palate, nice length. 87
Domaine des Lauriers "Prestige" - peachier and richer v subtle lemon and sherbet zest in the mouth, wow finish. 89+
Domaine de Belle Mare - pretty intense and gummy nose; elegant palate showing waxy texture v very fresh acidity, long clean finish. 88
Domaine Félines Jourdan - oilier and more honeyed "Riesling" style; "chalky" and incisive mouth-feel v exotic apricot flavours. 90+
La Grangette Ste-Rose "L'Enfant Terrible" - closed up on the nose; zippy v honeyed, subtle intensity and less seductive now, although should round out nicely in a few months. 87+

Over dinner at Le Bar à Vin in Pézenas (20 Cours Jean Jaurès, tel: 04 67 31 71 98) with lots of porky produce, the focus of their menu. The relaxed yet lively atmosphere led to me dropping those tiresome scores for a change:
2004 "Les Myrthes" Mas Mouries (Syrah Grenache Cinsault) - nice smoky development, rich cassis and liquorice v fresher herbier side; good balance and style, with tighter structured mouth-feel v underlying lushness.
More Mouries wines and profile.
2001 Château Paul Mas - smoky maturing fruit and texture, turning savoury but still has plenty of life. Quietly, a bit of a Languedoc classic: the wine and the vintage. 
More Mas vintages.

"L'Hospitalitas" La Clape Gérard Bertrand - tried four vintages:
2003 - delicious smoky 'tar' and fig with herbal cassis intricacy and lots of other stuff too; complex, rich and firm although quite mature now, not too powerful for a 2003; good foodie.
2002 - meatier and more savoury with enticing light tobacco / leather tones; elegant and mature, very nice now.
2004 - smoky leather aromas but still more structured and firm-textured; subtle finish, closes up but very promising.
2005 - attractive ripe spicy wild fruits / herbs v dried fruit edges; solid tight mouth-feel, not very revealing although some nice savoury fruit underneath its concentrated core. Needs 2 to 3 years. More GB wines and report.
2006 "Polaris" Pézenas Stella-Nova - stonky ripe dried fruit style with roast parsnip edges; very tight although slightly extracted framework, attractive but already turning old despite those gripping tannins. More Stella Nova.
2000 Pic St-Loup Château de Lascours - lovely complex mature nose continuing onto the palate, although it quickly got "very mature" in the glass so drink up now!

All rights Richard Mark James, posted June 2009.

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