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15 May 2011

Languedoc: Corbières & Boutenac

Corbières-Boutenac is one of those new-fangled Languedoc "cru" subzones covering 10 villages (one of them is called Boutenac) and 22 producers in the northern Corbières, lying across a still fairly sizeable 1400+ hectares (3500 acres) of rolling, although hardly very hilly terrain. Apart from claiming to implement a stricter selection for wines destined to become Boutenac, what arguably makes these red wines more distinctive is their policy of not allowing too much Syrah in the blends while focusing on up to 50% Carignan (often from the oldest vines although not exclusively; old doesn't always mean good of course). I'm not saying Syrah is bad - far from it - but there doesn't seem a lot of point in launching a new wine area with wines that taste the same as anywhere else in the Languedoc. And, a few vintages down the line, quality is pretty evenly high. But, as I said in my report on previous editions of the "Languedoc Millésimes" tastings held in the region in March, these wines should be good as prices are already quite high for a new appellation with less than a five-year track record (although technically since 2005 as the rules were back-dated I believe).

Happy New Year from Ollieux Romanis!
from their facebook page.
The 2010s on the table were unfinished cask or tank samples but, on this showing, this vintage is looking a real star here. 2008 again threw up some inconsistency, although overall they were showing better than certain other appellations and definitely much better than red Corbières as a whole (see below below). And the few 2009s sampled here are all very promising too, even if more difficult to taste at the moment. Tastings took place at Château de Pennautier near Carcassonne or at the Trinque Fougasse wine bar in Montpellier. I’ve used my ‘new’ scoring system of one, two or three ‘ticks’ (good, very good, fabulous); or just plain 1 to 3 here. Euro prices are cellar door per bottle inc. taxes and were added after the event.
Château Maylandie "Villa Ferrae" 2008 (40% Grenache, 30% Carignan, 30% Syrah) - vanilla cherry and cassis fruit, a bit light and oak heavy vs quite extracted/grippy tannins. €11
Château Maylandie "Villa Ferrae" 2010 - slightly leafy/herbal with aromatic cherry and “garrigue” notes, tight and tangy palate vs concentrated, structured and firm vs rich and lightly meaty fruit. Promising. 2
Château Maylandie "Carnache" 2008 (50/50 Carignan/Grenache) - richer nose with herbal/red pepper edges, pretty structured/extracted and certainly has freshness but tannins are a bit lean. 1 €13.80
Château Ollieux Romanis "Atal Sia" 2008 (50% old-vine Carignan, 23% old-vine Mourvèdre, 23% Grenache, 4% Syrah) - delicious maturing sweet cassis, blueberry and cherry nose, wild flowers and herbs too; concentrated vs fresh and tight, much nicer tannins, elegant long finish vs a bit of oomph. 2-3 €17
Château Ollieux Romanis "Atal Sia" 2010 – closed to start, perfumed blue fruits vs liquorice, more elegant and less grippy although lots of structure and dark ripe fruit vs nice perfumed characters. 2-3
Château Ollieux Romanis “Or” 2009 – the oak’s quite strong but again it has nice perfumed blueberry/cherry fruit and fresh vs firm finish. 2
Celliers d'Orfée "B de Boutenac" 2008 (50% Carignan, 40% Grenache, 10% Syrah) - enticing maturing ‘sweet & savoury’ nose, turning oily and sweet with subtle depth, dry tannins but not aggressive, again fresh bite and length too. 1-2 €13
Celliers d'Orfée "B de Boutenac" 2010 - oak dominating at the mo so it’s pretty charred/choco in tone, but again concentrated/extracted and impressive; hope it soaks up that oak. 1-2
Château Meunier St-Louis "Exégèse" 2008 (Syrah/Carignan/Grenache) - oaky start, is some nice blue fruit and liquorice underneath but a bit heavy on the vanilla at this stage; tannins are quite attractive and again has fresh and elegant length. Pity about that oak! 1 Dear at €32.
Château les Palais "Randolin" 2008 (50% Carignan, 20% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre) – a bit baked and fading, short. €12
Château les Palais "Randolin" 2010 - again a deliciously perfumed 2010 with blue and black fruits, wild flowers and mint; grippy and concentrated with lovely lush fruit underneath, tight structured powerful finish. 2-3
Château les Palais: trio of oldie vintages of their “Randolin” red tasted over dinner in the Hotel de la Cité’s restaurant in Carcassonne oldie town (how appropriate).
1998 – minty vs maturing/savoury, oxidising and meaty vs still a bit of firmness and fruit, looking pretty good still. 2+
1995 – much older, a tad dusty perhaps? Mint vs leather, tannins drying out a little vs alcohol holding it up. 1
1991 – very meaty/oxidised, quite dry firm and over the hill… Still, thanks for bringing them along all the same!
Gérard Bertrand "La Forge" 2009 - complex herbal vs liquorice and oak underneath, grainy texture vs nice concentration, pretty grippy yet rounded, oak still strong but good depth of sweet fruit and bite/oomph. 2-3
Gérard Bertrand Domaine de Villemajou 2009 - similar profile to above with a bit less oak and more perfumed fruit, nice grip vs depth, tannins a bit less fine but again it's got substance. 2
Domaine de Villemajou 2008 – subtle perfumed berry vs liquorice notes, firm texture vs elegant and refreshing finish. 1
Gérard Bertrand "La Forge" 2008 – complex herby berry nose, intense and rich vs subtle underlying oak vs lovely fruit, young and tight with fine length and well-balanced tannins/acidity. 2+
Domaine Sainte Lucie d'Aussou "Ladybird" 2009 or 2008? (discrepancy in the tasting booklet/tech sheet. 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, 20% Syrah) - up-front and jammy with nice wild flower/herb undertones, grippy and powerful vs rounder sweeter side. 1-2 €14
Château Saint-Esteve "Ganymede" 2010 – a bit malo-lactic but shows rich tasty dark cherry/blueberry and liquorice with savoury edges, lovely concentration vs power, grip vs textured and intense finish. 2-3
Château La Voulte Gasparets 2010 - lovely perfumed blueberry and peppery pure damson, floral and fruity vs big tannins vs lush and dark mouth-feel, grippy and tight finish but v. promising. 2-3
Château de Caraguilles "Solus" 2010 - chunky and concentrated, dry vs grainy vs sweet choco tannins, power vs finesse, closes up but v. promising. 2-3
Ledogar 2010 – a bit awkward and firm; not sure, would like to try it again.


I sampled a lot of Corbières wines in all colours and ended up leaving out a lot too, especially from 2008 vintage which, frankly, proved quite hard work finding wines with any real charm. I wasn’t the only one who thought this; and, although better overall with more substance, there weren’t even that many seductive 2009s with too many wines showing clunky hard tannins. The tasting line-up was disappointing this year, as I’ve been known to have a bit of a soft spot for Corbières, for good reason; but where were the likes of Pech-Latt, Clos l’Anhel, Auzines, Caraguilhes, Lastours, Embres et Castelmaure, Grand Arc etc? Obviously you can’t have every wine on tasting from a vast region like the Corbières, but it makes sense to have some of the top producers out on the table (some of them were at least e.g. Sainte Croix).

Having rather stuck the boot in, there were a lot of wines priced at €5 to €8 here making Corbières much more affordable than certain other areas of the Languedoc (perhaps it’s the reverse “not very near Montpellier” factor?!). In addition, about a dozen 2010 red cask samples were up for trial, which all showed a pretty evenly high standard so that’s one to watch out for when ready and released. And the 2009 and 2010 whites and rosés lined up along the catwalk once again convinced me that Corbières is a good place to look going beyond the confines of red wine.

Red Corbières 2009

Château Sainte Lucie d’Aussou (48% Carignan, 17% Grenache, 35% Syrah) – enticing black cherry fruity peppery and minty nose, forest floor notes, not bad concentration and depth of fruit vs firm and punchy vs some roundness. Finishes a little ‘hot’ though. 1 €5.50
Château du Vieux Parc “Air de Rien” (50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 10% Carignan) – tannins are a bit too stonky and dry, but at least it’s got some solid fruit. 1 €5.20
Château Prieuré de Borde-Rouge “Rubellis” (45% old-vine Carignan, 38% Grenache, 17% Syrah; converting to organic) – sweet vs smoky nose, fair depth of chunky fruit vs better tannins, less aggressive with rounder side vs grip and smoky black fruits. 1 €5.50
Château Les Palais “tradition” (50% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 25% Syrah) – undemanding with nice spicy black cherry notes vs some savoury vs wilder side, fairly soft vs chunky mouth-feel. 1 €6.20
Château de Bubas “Prieuré de Bubas” (50% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 25% Syrah) – ripe raisin edges vs firm but fairly attractive texture and fruity vs savoury finish. 1 €6
Domaine Sainte Croix “Le Fournas” (30% Carignan, 34% Grenache, 36% Syrah; organic) – dark fruity vs perfumed vs meaty edges, chunky and solid palate but tannins are textured despite that firmness, good concentration. Needs a few years. 2+ €8
Château de Sérame “Réserve” (65% Syrah, 16% Carignan, 19% Grenache; converting to organic) – a bit ‘reduced’ on the nose, moves on to vibrant dark cherry and solid but round tannins, fair depth length and balanced too. 1-2 About €7.50
Château Meunier St-Louis “A Capella” (mostly Syrah + Grenache) – minty herby nose, nice sweet fruit vs dry but attractive tannins, pretty firm finish vs underlying wild herbs/flowers/mushrooms and dark fruit, light savoury edges too. Might transform into something really nice. 1-2 €10.45
Château de Bubias “Clos Bubas” (50% Syrah, 40% Carignan, 10% Grenache) – chunky fruity modern style, grippy vs extracted fruit, not bad although expensive. 1 €16
Château Coulon-Veredus (organic) – nice spicy vibrant Syrah-led black-cherry style, chunky and tight with attractive tannins and ‘sweet & savoury’ finish. 1-2

Red Corbières 2008

Château Montfin “Carignena” (not clear whether 08 or 09 actually; 80% Carignan, 20% Grenache; converting to organic) – a bit reductive? and awkward, moves on to tight and fresh palate vs underlying perfumed fruit, grippy and taut vs touch of herby sweetness. 1+ €5
Domaine Serres Mazard “L’Origine” (40% Syrah, 30% Carignan, 30% Grenache) – maturing herbal berry tones, quite dry palate but has some elegance and freshness vs maturing fruit. 1
Château Sainte Lucie d’Aussou “Le Secret de Rudolph” (35% Syrah, 50% Carignan, 15% Grenache) – nice perfumed herby vs maturing nose, quite light but attractive ‘sweet & savoury’ thing vs tight dry tannins. 1 €7
Château Le Bouis Cuvée Roméo (70% Syrah, 30% Carignan) – Syrah-heavy and -friendly style, peppery black cherry vs bit of choco oak vs firm but much rounder than others. 1 €32!
Rigal/Château du Grand Caudont “Impatience” (45% Carignan, 35% Syrah, 20% Grenache) – a touch rustic/’bretty’ and soupy but it’s lusher at least with fair depth of fruit vs maturing savoury tobacco side, firm vs sweeter finish. 1 €9.50
Château du Vieux Parc “Selection” (40% Carignan, 40% Syrah, 10% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre) – has some aromatic crushed red and black fruits, softer and maturing texture, although still quite firm and punchy but underlying attractive ‘sweet & savoury’ going on. 1 €9.50
Château la Cendrillon “Inédite” (10% Carignan, 65% Syrah, 25% Grenache; organic) – shows quite a bit of ‘charming’ choco oak but there’s some substance at least, intriguing herbal/reductive note vs ‘sweet & savoury’ fruit, fairly attractive tannins and finish. 1+ €18
Château Coulon-Veredus “Réserve” (mostly Carignan) – herby vs savoury vs quite lush with leather tones, quite intense vs elegant. 1

Red Corbières 2010 (unfinished cask/tank samples)

Domaine des Anes “L’Enclos” – rich dark vs meaty side, chunky tannins vs vibrant fruit, pretty big and grippy vs attractive black cherry and damson. 1-2
Château Montfin “Mathilde” – again nice sweet vs spicy vs chunky, rounder tannins and less extracted/concentrated but nice fresh bite too vs good fruit. 1
Château de Lastours “Simone Descamps” – delicious dark cherry vs perfumed blueberry, nice firm vs fine tannins, grip vs elegant length. 2
Grand Moulin “Terres Rouges” - oak dominates at the mo vs pretty extracted vs rich ‘sweet & savoury’ fruit, difficult to taste but impressive depth. 2
Hauterive Le Haut – lively spicy cherry and cassis, pretty grippy and extracted but again vibrantly fruity vs structured. 1-2
Martinolles Gasparets – more subtle, nice crunchy blackberry, firm vs sweet, attractive even if a bit simple. 1
Château Meunier St-Louis “A Capella” – lovely pure spicy black cherry Syrah-esque style, chunky vs round tannins with ‘sweet & savoury’ edges, quite elegant finish despite the oomph and grip. 2
Meunier St-Louis Boutenac – leaner and less revealing, very tight and fresh, could be good. 1-2?
La Bastide – ‘biscuity’ youthful chunky fruity, nice grip vs sweet, simpler perhaps but lingers. 1+
Château Cascadais – a tad finer and tighter, cassis and black cherry, quite intense, nice coated tannins. 2
Château du Vieux Parc “Selection” – spicy and juicy, firm vs sweet; vibrant cherry on tight solid finish, that spicy herby side carries through nicely. 2
La Baronne “Les Chemins” – soy sauce tones, not v. revealing but it’s tight and concentrated, fair grip vs touches of underlying dark fruit. 1-2?
Beauregard-Mirouze – grippy vs spicy and tasty savoury side, powerful stuff vs chunky fruit. 1-2

White Corbières 2009
Château Trillol (85% Roussanne, 15% Maccabeu) - nice enough fresh aromatic pear and citrus vs weightier peach and honey, juicy mineral-ish finish, a tad short but fairly attractive vs a bit of oomph too. 1 €6.90
Château de L'Ille "Emilie" (55% Bourboulenc, 25% Vermentino, 20% Grenache Blanc) – lees-ier and edgier, more intense citrus vs fatter side, quite zingy and tight still; again nice enough style although not super exciting. 1 €7
Château Beauregard-Mirouze "Lauzina" (70% Roussanne, 30% Vermentino; converting to organic) - touches of toasty oak, gets creamier and fuller, ends up a bit too toasty although has some freshness vs weight. 1 €11
Château Maylandie "Exquises Esquisses" (100% Grenache Blanc) - banoffee pie nose, quite rich and rather vanilla-y, comes back a bit with nice weight and bite but a bit heavy. 1? €11
Château Ollieux Romanis "Prestige" (50% Roussanne, 50% Marsanne) - toasty and buttery, nice richness and concentration vs toasty finish, turning more hazelnutty although the oak's quite strong still; has fair oomph too, should integrate thanks to that fruit and attractive stirred-lees character. 1-2 €16
White Corbières 2010
Domaine La Bouysse "Cyprius" (60% Grenache Blanc, 35% Maccabeu, 5% Terret; converting to organic) - zesty zingy and very crisp, aromatic and light lees, bit lean perhaps but would be OK with seafood. 1 €8
Château Aumèdes Réserve (40% Grenache Blanc, 20% Roussanne, 40% Marsanne) - floral grapey almost Muscat-y kinda character, quite simple but nice enough fruity aromatic quaffer, dry and crisp. 1 €6
Roland Lagarde/Domaine Roque Sestière "Carte Noire" (45% Grenache Blanc, 35% Maccabeu, 10% Bourboulenc, 10% Vermentino) - nice zesty estery style vs a bit more substance, lees-y intensity vs fresh acidity vs touch of oily exotic. 1+ €5.50
Château Meunier St-Louis "Prestige" (Grenache Blanc) - quite rich vs banana aromatics, nice oily texture vs mineral bite, crisp steely and long vs lingering sweet fruit. 2 Value at €5.50!
Roland Lagarde "Vieilles Vignes" (55% Maccabeu, 35% Grenache Blanc, 10% Roussanne) - similar to his above white but definitely more intense, aromatic floral then exotic vs very crisp acidity and oomph too, long and quite classy. 2 Good value again €7.
Château du Vieux Parc “Selection” (mostly Grenache Blanc + Vermentino, Muscat) – toasty notes, toffee and banana vs aromatic and zingy, creamy coating then more mineral. Good, tad too much oak perhaps but it’s young of course. 1-2 €11
Gérard Bertrand “Blanc de Villemajou” - not much nose, builds up to buttery vs zesty palate, quite delicate actually with touch of toast vs bite. 2

Corbières Rosé 2010

Bonfils/Château Vaugelas “Presige” - candied red fruit cocktail, juicy fruity ‘vinous’ style, rounded oily creamy vs crisp-ish finish. 1
Domaine La Bouysse "Floréal" (90% Syrah, 10% Grenache; converting to organic) – full-on fruity, strawberry and raspberry, nice rounded creamy palate vs zesty undercurrent. 2 €7
Château Maylandie “Le Cabanon” (40% Cinsault, 20% Syrah, 40% Grenache) - zestier tighter/lighter style, more Provence with chalky length vs light pink rose petal. 1 €5.90
Château Ollieux Romanis "Classique" (60% Grenache gris, 40% Cinsault) - similar elegant style, mouth-watering and delicate with rose petal and red cherry/cranberry. 1+ €7
Vignerons de Camplong "Peyres Nobles" (14% Cinsault, 36% Syrah, 50% Grenache) - attractive chunky ‘modern’ style, candied red fruits and crisp enough finish. 1 €4.75
Château Les Palais "tradition" (50% Cinsault, 25% Syrah, 25% Grenache) – perfumed rose petal and redcurrant, subtle crisp texture vs light fruit and zesty edges. 1 €5.50
Gérard Bertrand “Le Rosé de Villemajou” - quite tight and elegant vs red fruity, crisp and closed up at the mo. 1+
Château Vieux Moulin (30% Cinsault, 20% Syrah, 50% Grenache; converting to organic) - again quite tight and elegant vs rounder creamier vs red fruit tang, nice foodie probably. 1+ €5.50

Peruse the Languedoc winery A to Z on the right for lots more wines from and profiles on many of these producers.

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.