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29 April 2015

Languedoc red

As a scene-setter to this first of several pieces drawn from a trip to the Languedoc region last week, here's a punchy post written for UK wine & spirit trade website Harpers.co.uk (goes there, published 28/4/15) about the Languedoc AOP, followed by my pick of the red wines on tasting from this appellation.
"Created in 2007 as an extension of, and ultimately to replace the old 'Coteaux du Languedoc' designation, the Languedoc AOC (becoming AOP from vintage 2014) covers wines from one or any of the other Languedoc named appellations following roughly the same production 'rules', although a little less restrictive. It differs from IGP (used to be Vin de Pays) mainly by the way the wines have to be a blend of at least two grape varieties, yet they have the cohesive edge of using the same single geographic moniker rather than a myriad of sometimes unrecognisable, even if pretty sounding, place names. So, eight years down the line, how successful has it been?
Languedoc AOP only accounts for 17% of the region's overall appellation-status output, which doesn't suggest a massive uptake from potentially thousands of producers, despite the obvious advantage of labelling a wine simply as 'Languedoc' helping consumers easily locate where it's from, especially in 'wines from everywhere' markets like ours. On a broader scale, and more positively, 185 million bottles of all AOC Languedoc wines were sold in the year 2013/14, and about one-third of this exported with the UK sitting in third place in value and volume behind China, Germany and Belgium.
Out of over 100 red and white Languedoc AOP wines tasted last week at the CIVL's (Languedoc wine trade federation) annual 'Terroirs et Millésimes' press showcase held in Montpellier, I singled out about 25 – more whites than reds actually – as exciting enough to make a note of. Assuming this was a representative selection (always the problem with these kind of line-up tastings, if some of the top producers don't put samples in), you have to question the rationale or end-result, if, it seems, many estates end up leaving all their best stuff to be classified as one of the various new subzone appellations within the Languedoc, such as Terrasses du Larzac, La Clape, Pic St Loup or Pézenas, which after all is logical enough; and their least exciting wines are released as AOP Languedoc. It could undermine the whole idea if consumers don't get too inspired by these wines either. But AOP Languedoc should be, and already is judging by some of the wines I liked, a good opportunity for the more progressive co-op wineries and large property owners / brokers to get listings for full-on fruity Med red, rosé and whites in the £4.99-£8.99 bracket, such as ones from Cave de L'Ormarine, Les Costières de Pomerols, Jeanjean or Calmel & Joseph that were in the blind line-up.
As for recent vintages, I didn't select many 2012s at all; my overall impression is that it isn't a very charming vintage, or at the very least isn't drinking well at the moment. 2013 is a very different animal, although I probably missed some good wines as they weren't very revealing at this stage but should blossom well (more fruit yet structured too). And 2014 is generally looking promising across reds, whites and rosés. Here are some other wineries worth looking out for, which are labelling wines as Languedoc AOP (with approx UK retail): Domaine le Nouveau Monde (two reds £7.50/£10), Domaine de Sainte Cécile du Parc (£10.99), Mas Belles Eaux (the red I picked wasn't good value though at over £20), Château de l'Engarran (£7.99), Château de Flaugergues (£7.50), Les Trois Puechs £6.99, Domaine Cammaous (£7.99); and whites from Domaine des Lauriers (£7.50), Clos Sorian (£8.69), Virgile Joly (£6.99) and Mas Saint Laurent (£6.99)..."
All rights Richard Mark James for Harpers Wine & Spirit.

Le Folia restaurant @ Château de Flaugergues
A dozen Languedoc AOP reds to look out for with my notes and cellar door prices (added afterwards as these were tasted blind):

Domaine le Nouveau Monde 2011 Estanquier (Syrah, Mourvèdre; 1 year in cask, not fined or filtered) - The first one with any charm in a long line-up: nice minty spice and aromatic fruit, fair depth vs firm tannins still with lingering menthol and black cherry flavours. €10

Domaine le Nouveau Monde 2012 Tradition (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre; no oak) - Lots of aromatic minty spicy black cherry and liquorice, firm texture but has attractive 'chalky' tannins, extracted style but with solid Med fruit. €7.50
Domaine de Sainte Cécile du Parc 2011 Sonatina (Syrah, Cinsault, organic; mostly oak aged) - Quite chunky and firm but rich too, dark fruit vs hints of savoury development, powerful yet balanced in the end despite fair toasted oak. €15
Mas Belles Eaux 2012 Carmin (selected block of Syrah, 18 months in barrel) - Bit of oak on nose and palate and chunky tannins, nice fruit though underneath with lively spicy black cherry/berry, fairly full-on finish. Very expensive though at €35.
Les Costières de Pomerols 2013 Hugues de Beauvignac (Syrah, Mourvèdre; no oak) - Nice soft-ish Syrah dominant styling, chunky vs fruity mouth-feel with a bit of depth too, drinking well now. €10
Château de l'Engarran 2013 Sainte-Cécile (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault; no oak) - Nice minty vs funky black cherry thing on the nose, quite soft and easy with a tad of grip; good for the price (some of their other reds are dear). €9
Château de Flaugergues 2013 Les Comtes (GSM, no oak) - Quite firm, chunky and closed up; good substance though, chunky dark fruit vs tannins rounding out on the finish. Screwcapped so needs a little longer to soften up. €7.90
Les Trois Puechs 2013 Tradition (Syrah, Grenache; no oak) - Lovely spicy minty nose, firm but fruity with 'chalky' tannins; much more charm and character than many of the others. €6.50 good value.
Cave de L'Ormarine 2013 Château Cazalis de Fondouce (Grenache, Syrah; no oak) - Reasonable depth for an inexpensive wine, spicy vs dark vs savoury fruit profile, firm structured but not drying, nice minty finish and length. €5.05 great value.
Cave de L'Ormarine
2013 Château Fertillère (Grenache, Syrah; no oak) - Chunky black cherry/berry with liquorice notes and a meatier side too, grippy mouth-feel but has some roundness, quite big but tasty with it. €6.20
Domaine Cammaous 2013 Audace (Syrah, Grenache; no oak) - Extracted to start but finishes well, concentrated and powerful with lingering savoury notes and spice. €9
And a couple of other Languedoc AOC reds tried over dinner:
Domaine de Roquemale 2014 Les Terrasses (old-vine Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah; no oak) - aromatic black cherry with floral blueberry notes, attractive with quite soft tannins, "sweet 'n' savoury" fruit and fresh finish; nice style.
L'Emothion d'Encoste 2011 (Jeanjean family estate) - enticing herby and crunchy vs ripe fruit combo, quite tight still on the palate and elegant, then nice spicy fruity finish.

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