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20 July 2009

Languedoc: Vignerons du Mont Tauch, Fitou

The Mont Tauch
A serene daytrip back in late September 2006 (read on for 2009 and 2011 updates), taking in the wine villages of western Fitou country, set the scene ruggedly for discovering three wineries, one big (below) and two small (Dom. Bertrand-Bergé here & Domaine Lerys here)...
Just a few years off its 100th birthday, Vignerons du Mont Tauch is one of the most progressive co-operative cellars in southern France. It's grown bigger over the years combining 4 cellars & 250 growers in and around Tuchan, Paziols, Villeneuve and Durban, giving them 2000 hectares (nearly 5000 acres) to play with. And this year they formed a partnership with the united co-ops in Fitou itself and La Palme, near the coast. The massive stainless steel winery would look a little ugly set anywhere else but, jutting out underneath mighty Mount Tauch itself (picture above), it creates a pretty dramatic contrast.
The co-op has implemented a comprehensive vineyard management system that tracks each parcel, and the growers are helped at every stage to improve the quality of their grapes and environment. They're paid on a graded scale - and can be 'demoted' if necessary - that takes into account vine age, pruning, yields, disease, picking, ultimate wine type etc. So, for Les Douze (see below) I'm told you can actually trace the grapes to those 12 growers, who might not be the same ones every year. Les Quatre is sourced from four growers' (Robert, Christophe, Juliette and Jean-Régis) best plots in a high altitude vineyard near Paziols. 120 core growers (over ¾ of the vineyard area) have now taken the plunge into sustainable viticulture aiming to reduce chemical treatments "significantly": hopefully the others will too.

MT wines are widely available in the UK, Sweden, Belgium and Canada. Le Village du Sud (scroll down to 'OLN' article July 2006) fun range of vin de pays d'Oc varietals - click to see the cartoon pic of the label. The Merlot, Chardonnay and Rosé are available in the UK at Co-op stores for £3.99:
2005 Chardonnay - (a bit cold to taste) simple clean style, dry and crisp with light peach and citrus fruit; lacks a bit of character but it's OK.
2005 Rosé (Grenache) - zingy and dry with light red fruits, a bit stripped perhaps.
2005 Merlot - plum and currant notes showing a touch of Merlot character, fruity with dry tannins; a bit lean but OK.
2005 Syrah - nice peppery black cherry style, has more substance and grip. 82-84
2005 Mont Tauch Corbières (50-50 
Carignan Grenache) - appealing berry and liquorice style, light fruit v a bit of grip. 82-84
2005 Mont Tauch Fitou (Carignan Grenache 
Syrah) - a bit richer and spicier with light tobacco tones, attractive firmness v fruit.83-85
2004 Les Douze Fitou (Carignan Grenache Syrah, 14%) - nice smoky ripe fruit, good weight v light tannins; subtle background oak and earthiness v 'sweetness'. 85-87
2004 Les Quatre Fitou (Carignan Grenache Syrah, 14.5%) - perfumed coconut oak but not overdone, good depth of fruit v power and grip, quite long. 87-89
2004 L'Exception Fitou (Syrah Grenache
 Carignan selected from Tuchan and Paziols) - aromatic liquorice and black fruits with light layer of chocolate oak, concentrated powerful and structured finish; better than when first launched (previously too oaky). 89-91

The 3V range - Vins Vents Vignerons (wine wind grape-growers: blustery climate rather than local eating habits) - consists of small batch high quality cuvées, so far only available in France in restaurants and wine shops; but I'd be surprised if they don't crop up in Britain or elsewhere sooner rather than later. Tasted Oct-Nov 06:
2004 Montmal Fitou (Syrah Carignan Grenache, 14%) - closed up and unrevealing at first, better with a bit of air: touch of oak turning black cherry then more savoury, quite elegant tight mouth-feel; underwhelming in a positive way, quite like it in the end. 87+
2001 Château de Montmal Fitou (Syrah Carignan Grenache, 14.5%) - 12 ha (30 acre) vineyard in Villeneuve: rich and smoky with savoury leather notes, powerful and structured v maturing fruit, complex and well-integrated on the finish. Yum. 90-93
See link at the bottom to latest vintage, 2009.

2004 L'Esprit de Montmal Fitou (Syrah Carignan Grenache, 13.5%) - lightly volatile complex aromas, ripe and smoky v herbal and white pepper, moving to blackcurrant black cherry and fig on the palate; elegant concentration and weight with firm long finish, fresh acidity even v power and alcohol. Gets better with aeration. 88-90
2005 Merlot-Carignan vin de pays de la Vallée du Paradis (13%) - nice aromatic inky yet juicy red and black berry fruit with smoky liquorice backdrop; lush v tarter side, fruity and soft v dry bite and length. 87-89
2005 La Coucante Corbières white (Grenache blanc Muscat, 13%) - subtle oats and coconut on the nose lead to enough floral fresh fruit with aniseed bite, crisp and dry v a bit of weight. Try with salmon in a dill sauce. 85-87

2005 Domaine de Coucante Corbières red (Carignan GrenacheSyrah, 13.5%) - attractive more modern style with juicy black fruit and light oak, turns more rustic and chunky yet with relatively soft tannins. 87
Tasted July 2007:
MT Muscat de Rivesaltes - classic Vin Doux Naturel style with aromatic grape, citrus peel and pear-drop notes; quite full and sweet v fresher punchier finish. £5 in the UK. 87

Mont Tauch update summer 2009
The village's annual Fête du Vin bash on 17th-19th July provided a lively platform (I think the entire village was out on Saturday night for the big dinner and watching the live band afterwards) to check out the co-op's swanky new visitor centre and wine shop, as well as catch on new wines and vintages...
2008 Les Garrigues Grenache blanc vin de pays (13%) - honeyed & oily vs floral, mineral and "stony" aromas/flavours; juicy and refreshing with aniseed notes, turns fatter with very light wood (?) spice and yeast-lees edges. €5.50 £6.99 (same price for all four of these varietals I think). 85
2008 Grenache noir (13.5%) - nice creamy vs spicy black cherry and liquorice with cassis and blueberry undertones; crunchy vs richer mouthfeel, fruity finish with lightly bitter twist. 85+
2008 Carignan - attractive fruity wild berry nose with spicy notes and a touch more vanilla; a tad tart on the palate although has appealing freshness too, then creamier on the finish. Quite good, perhaps less charming than above (maybe why there's more oak?) although has fair length and it was over-chilled anyway, as they all were at first. 85
2008 Marselan (13.5%) - riper jammier fruit with spicy dark backdrop and light vanilla wood; enticingly full-bodied, rounded and "sweet" vs dry bite and lively finish. 87+
2006 Fitou "Les Trois" (14%) - maturing savoury aromas with peppery vs dried fruits; nice bit of grip and integrated blob of oak vs rounded maturing resiny fruit flavours/textures. 87+
2007 Fitou "Les 12" (CarignanGrenacheSyrah 14%) - big fruit and pepper on the nose, juicy attractive palate although ends up a little disappointing despite its nice dry vs "sweet" finish. Tried again the next day: perhaps richer and gutsier with appealing pure "sweet" liquorice & black cherry fruit; a touch of background oak, grip and power to finish. Majestic £6.99. 85-87
Muscat de Rivesaltes (15.5%) - classic piercing grapey honeysuckle Muscat and orange peel notes; sweet and tasty vs quite well-balanced and refreshing. £6.29 half-bottle Morrison's.85
2004 Fitou "Tuchan" (CarignanGrenacheSyrah 14%) - developing smoky tobacco notes with dried red & black fruits and a touch of spice; mature savoury palate with very light dusting of oak and dry texture, nice subtle warm finish. Drink now. 87(+)
2006 Fitou "Villeneuve" (CarignanGrenacheSyrahLladonerPelut 14%) - nice fresh berry and cherry fruit; attractive mouthful with fruity minty finish, although lacks a bit of depth and real character. 85+
2006 Corbières "Durban" (CarignanGrenacheSyrah,
Mourvèdre 13.5%) - a bit too vanilla coconut oaky although it does have quite appealing & vibrant fruit and "sweet" vs dry texture. 85
2008 Corbières white - fresh and clean showing a bit of character and floral honeyed juicy fruit. 83+
2008 Corbières rosé - lightly creamy red fruity style with crisp vs oily finish. 83+
2008 Chardonnay Le Dog de Charlotte vin de pays d'Oc (13%) - aromatic and a touch peachy and exotic with gummy citrus palate and clean attractive finish. 80+
2008 Le Village du Sud Chardonnay (12.5%) - a touch more yeast-lees notes and butter, moving on to fresh crisp bite vs a touch of weight. The Co-Op £4.49. 80-83
2008 Le Village du Sud rosé (Grenache) - juicy boiled sweet nose with crunchy red fruits underneath; attractive enough fruity vs crisp style. The Co-Op £4.49. 80+
2008 Merlot Le Dog de Jean Marc (13%) - herbal plummy and spicy, turning firmer in the mouth with fresh bite; not bad style.80+
2008 Le Village du Sud Merlot (13%) - plummier still with a hint of soy sauce, turning to cassis with a tad of liquorice; juicier and lusher than above. The Co-Op £4.49 83-85
2007 Growers' Reserve Fitou - gets better with aeration showing creamy cassis and liquorice with wild herb undertones; a bit confected, jammy and simple although has quite nice dry texture vs crunchy fruit on the finish. Tesco £5.99. 83
2007 MT Corbières (CarignanGrenache 13.5%) - similar style but a bit richer and more concentrated, dark fruity vs herby underneath; quite nice style and texture. 83-85
2007 MT Fitou (CarignanGrenacheSyrah 13.5%) - more peppery on the nose plus nice liquorice, more interesting and gutsier than it used to be. Asda/Booths £5.99. 85
2006 Fitou "Les 4" (CarignanGrenacheSyrah 14%) - up-front vanilla and coconut oak but also has nice ripe & resiny wild fruits vs herbs; attractive grip, coating and weight with concentrated spicy punchy finish, well-handled oak in the end. Waitrose £8.99. 89(+)
2006 Fitou "L'Exception" (Syrah Grenache Carignan 14%) - that dusty spicy oak is quite strong on the nose at first; however, this has lovely depth of dark fruit vs a touch of cedar on the finish, but it's concentrated enough to soak up that wood combined with maturing tobacco notes, nice grip and bite. Needs 1 or 2 years to mellow. Majestic £10.99. 88-90?

2011 update: click here for a tasty note on MT's latest single-vineyard Fitou available at M&S (on-line): 2009 Château de Montmal...
Or HERE for my Fitou report 2012 featuring their latest vintages...

2 Rue de la Coopérative, 11350 Tuchan. Tel: 04 68 45 44 73, caveau@mont-tauch.comwww.mont-tauch.com.

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