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23 April 2011

Languedoc: Pic Saint Loup

This time, I only tasted red Pic Saint Loup wines (there are PSL rosés too; the whites are classed as AOC Languedoc or vin de pays, don't ask why…) starting with a very mixed bag of half-a-dozen 2008s, which all lacked charm and/or ripeness or substance or were overdone oak-wise, except one wine by usually star winery Château La Roque: their "Cupa Numismae" 2008. And these reds are mostly expensive too, which brings out the cynic in me regarding PSL's perceived trendy status and convenient location close to Montpellier, i.e. where all the money is in the Languedoc! Moving on to 2009, well, this tasting table included a couple more attention-grabbing reds and, overall, this vintage was looking better although also more difficult to taste with a few of the line-up not showing much at all, as I noticed with the 2009s from other areas. As for 2010, taking a flyer on three samples noted here, it looks like one to watch; looking forward to trying many more 2010s next year!

RMJ lurking behind Lincoln S in the bush hat, pretending to do some exercise. Photo by Ryan O from facebook.com/lovethatlanguedoc
This is the next instalment in a continuing series of reports and winery profiles drawn from five intensive days spent at the “Languedoc Millésimes” tastings in the region (21-25 March 2011). We also met and talked to a few PSL winemakers and tried the odd bottle of their older vintages too. Jean Orliac of Domaine de l’Hortus led our merry band on a well-earned, hearty and occasionally verging on dangerous hike out in the field (see photo with yours truly lurking in the background). We trekked a little up and along the edge of part of the eponymous peak itself and the Hortus massif on the other side of the valley, where you get an inspiring view of a meandering slice of the PSL appellation and the lie of the land, sandwiched as it is between these two extended wild rocky limestone cliff-faces. It’s a beautiful spot for a concerted bit of ‘wine tourism’, with several good wineries packed into this rugged landscape lying less than 20km to the north of Montpellier. There are also organised walking trails and food & wine events, as well as a directory of places to stay and eat in the area on www.pic-saint-loup.com

I’ve used my ‘new-fangled’ scoring system of one, two or three ‘ticks’ (good, very good, fabulous); or just plain 1 to 3 for the wines below. Euro prices are cellar door per bottle inc. taxes, added after the event.
Château La Roque "Cupa Numismae" 2008 (65% Syrah, 35% Mourvèdre; converting to organic/biodynamic) - maturing savoury notes on a dark cherry backdrop, quite subtle although has a cetain lush side vs grainy texture and light grip, elegant length vs power. Nice 2008. 2 €15
Château La Roque "En Garde" 2008 (85% Mourvèdre, 15% Grenache) - light grainy oak vs maturing 'sweet & savoury', lightly leafy / cedary; bit more extracted than above, is quite concentrated but just less charming. €28
Domaine les Grandes Costes 2008 (Syrah/Grenache) - red pepper dominates the nose and palate, unripe or reductive? Bitter finish. €17.50
Bergerie du Capucin "Larmanela" 2008 (Syrah/Grenache) - complex maturing herby cherry nose, again very firm and heavy-handed on the palate. €17.80
Domaine Desvabre "Prestige" 2008 (Syrah/Grenache/Carignan) - a bit lean. €8
Mas de L'Oncle "Les Amours" 2008 (Syrah/Grenache/Cinsault) - oak masking a rather lean and hard wine. €11
Domaine Saint Daumary "Asphodele" 2008 (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre) - has a bit more to it but still oak heavy. €15 
Château de Lancyre "Vieilles Vignes" 2009 (65% Syrah/35% Grenache) - dark and brooding nose, delicious sweet herbs and black cherry, minty and peppery too, pretty firm vs lush depth of fruit. 2-3. Much better value too at €9.50 vs the quality.
Château de Lascaux 2009 (60% Syrah/40% Grenache; organic) - nice pure fruit and spicy notes, firm mouth-feel but quite nice tannins, dry vs sweet profile, power and good length. 1-2 €9
Château de Lascaux 2009 ?? (no more info available) - mintier perhaps, firmer grip, more difficult to taste.
Vignerons de la Gravette "Tourtourel" 2009 (65% Syrah/35% Grenache) - quite simple fruity then grippy.
Bergerie du Capucin 2009 "Dame Jeanne" (55% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre) - quite savoury/meaty nose, turns sweeter with black cherry, again firm tannins vs bit of punch. 1 €9.80
Domaine Desvabre 2009 (80% Syrah/20% Grenache) - not much nose, quite nice fruit with minty edges, some oily texture vs firm but rounded, quite nice fruit flourish to finish. 1 €6
Domaine de la Salade Saint Henri 2009 "Aguirre" (SGM) – gets the prize for most entertainingly bizarre producer name, but the wine was too oaky and extracted for me. €15
Château L'Euzière 2009 - sweetish fruit vs oak and solid tannins, lacks charm. Disappointing for them.
Domaine de Villeneuve "Fol Envie" 2009 (80% Syrah/20% Grenache) - heavy bottle, heavy oak! Bit charred, probably is some rich fruit underneath but at the moment it’s not expressing itself... 

Les Coteaux du Pic "Les Déesses Muettes" 2010 - attractive enough fruit vs grip and nice texture, lacks a bit of flavour perhaps but is young and closed up. 1 €6
Ermitage du PSL "Guilhem Gaucelm" 2010 - nice perfumed pure spicy black cherry Syrah nose, juicy and chunky with attractive tannins vs seductive ‘sweet/savoury’ fruit. 1
La Roque 2010 - perfumed, quite concentrated and structured, power grip and lush dark fruit, closes up. Promising. 2-3
Other vintages/wines
Ermitage du PSL "Guilhem Gaucelm" 2003 red – rich smoky maturing truffle-y nose and palate, mature now really and a bit soupy/leathery, but nice enough old-fashioned style. 1
Ermitage du PSL “Sainte-Agnes” 2008 white – milky and toasty showing light oak although well done; quite fat, rich, honeyed and weighty, lacks a bit of freshness but quite attractive food white anyway. 1
Mas de Martin “Cuvée Ultreia” 2004 (14.5%) – not convinced they’re in PSL but pretty close to it anyway, this was a rather classy 2004 (an overlooked/shadowed vintage at first, now beginning to show well in a classic way, balanced and tasty rather than “great” or “impressive”). Lovely nose, maturing vs inky/leafy tones, nice liquorice vs crunchier fruit and firmer fresher finish vs drinking well now. 2


  1. Interesting selection as this is a long list and yet has no Clos Marie, Mas Bruguiere, Morties, Foulaquier, Cazeneuve or Zélige-Caravent.
    It's a big place these days.

  2. I quite agree Graham that certain top names were conspicuous by their absence, as was the case with tastings of other appellations on this trip. The wines I've included here were all the PSL reds on the table. Don't know why these estates didn't submit samples, maybe they don't think they have to as they're already famous? As you'll see, if you can be bothered reading my forthcoming piece on Corbieres, the line-up of the latter was very disappointing and didn't include any of the best wines. Why not? I know you can't taste everything from a huge area like Corbieres in one day, but you might as well show the best if you want to impress.



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