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02 June 2011

Languedoc: Minervois & Muscat

“What, no reds?” is possibly the first thought that permeates your enquiring mind, but Minervois is also a little corner of Muscat heaven in the Languedoc. Especially the stunningly back-dropped lost little corner of Saint-Jean de Minervois, a blink-and-miss-it village lying “out there” on the northeastern edge of the appellation roughly between St-Chinian (town) and awesomely Mediaeval Minerve itself (a must-see in the area). Here they grow (100% ‘Petit Grain’ variety, AKA Muscat d’Alsace, Moscatel de Douro, Moscato d’Asti, yellow Muscat in Germany & Hungary) and make a small quantity of traditional sweet fortified Muscats (Vins Doux Naturels), as well as, increasingly, dry Muscat, late-picked barrel-aged Muscat and even ‘Fine de Muscat’ (a rather good ‘eau de vie’ or grappa actually, see below). Certain estates are at the forefront of this almost ‘adapt or die’ movement, e.g. Barrubio, Sacré Coeur, Clos Gravillas and the Saint-Jean co-op winery too.

Most of these wines were sampled at the ‘Chai de Port Minervois’ in Homps - a wine shop on the Quai des Tonneliers that also holds tutored tastings - at the end of March, where a group of us landed after an energetic bike ride alongside the Midi canal (and slightly hazardous, as it was stormy the week before so the path was nicely branch-strewn). By the way, there’s a handy rental company called Mellow Vélos (mellowvelos.com) that will deliver bikes to any spot in the area then pick them up again at an agreed rendezvous and time, so you can peddle as far as and take as long as you want.

2010 Domaine de Barrubio Muscat sec – lively aromatic and grapey, crisp mineral mouth-feel vs nice Muscat fruit, attractive dry style. 1
2009 Muscat de Saint-Jean de Minervois VDN, Cave Coop – nice and fresh and relatively light, a bit of kick and sweetness vs fair bite too. 1
2009 Domaine du Sacré Coeur ‘cuvée Kevin’ – more exotic and sweeter, quite rich vs still has nice bite though. 1
2010 Domaine de Barrubio Muscat de SJM VDN – nice and fresh with citrus vs pineapple notes, lovely balance and classic style. 1+
Barrubio Muscat de St-Jean ‘Vendanges d’Automne’ (barrel aged) – dried apricot, candied and complex oxidative notes, oily texture vs light oomph. 2
2008 Barrubio Muscat ‘cuvée Nicolas’ (selected late-picked grapes) – delicious exotic marmalade aromas/flavours, concentrated and lush vs a touch of underlying freshness. 2
Fine de Muscat ‘Esprit de Barrubio’ (44% alc.) – very Muscat-y aromas, quite fine actually despite that ‘wow’ kick. A small shot after a big dinner would be nice.
Tasted at the Natural Wine Fair in London, May 2011:
2009 Clos du Gravillas ‘Douce Providence’ Muscat de St-Jean – delicious style, floral with orange peel twist, refreshing vs sweet finish. 1+

A few other Minervois wines worth including tasted during the “Millésimes en Languedoc” event in late March 2011, mostly while eating, as you do. I’ve used my simplified scoring system of one, two or three ‘ticks’ (good, very good, fabulous); or just plain 1 to 3 above and below.

2010 Domaine de Barrubio rosé (red, white and grey Grenache; saignée or ‘bleed’ method) – attractive elegant style with zingy mouth-feel and light red fruits tinged with rose petal perfume. 2
2008 Château Sainte-Eulalie, La Livinière red – quite rich and smoky, maturing lush palate vs oak backdrop, fairly supple tannins and fresh bite; more concentrated than some 08s with nice ‘sweet’ black cherry finish. 2
2009 Villerambert-Julien white (Roussanne, Viognier) – attractive exotic honeyed nose vs aromatic floral and lees-edged, good concentration and juicy ‘fat’ fruit vs crisp finish. 2
2010 Château La Grave rosé – elegant crisp with pink rose tones, subtle red fruits with zingy lees-y finish. 1
2007 Château La Grave ‘Privilege’ red – still quite tight and firm in the mouth vs underlying smoky/savoury side and dark fruit. 1-2
More to follow, maybe.

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