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Showing posts with label Terrasses du Larzac. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Terrasses du Larzac. Show all posts

23 February 2015

Languedoc: Terrasses du Larzac

I've talked about the now officially stand-alone subzone of the Terrasses du Larzac a few times before and reviewed/profiled certain producers here and their hearty, sometimes wild-side wines. I've also gone on about its slight misnomer and implied mountain-vineyards-ness, as some of them do indeed lie on the lower southern edges of Massif Central range, while others are, well, pretty flat really. Inevitably, perhaps, it's the same old problem when trying to create new smaller zones based on initially quite focused criteria; then everybody in the area wants in on it... Anyway, here's a bit of background reading for you then, in handy "click on this link" form:
Terrasses du Larzac and Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert (May 2012) with its neat summary of and opinions on this fledgling appellation, a touch of sightseeing info and tasty wines from these estates: Brunet, la Seranne, Les Conquetes, Familongue/Quinquarlet, La Traversée, Brousses, Alexandrin, Chemins de Carabote, Plan de l'Homme, Chimeres, Cres Ricards, Quernes, Clos du Serre, La Sauvageonne... As well as even more handy links to these producers in the area, and a little beyond its boundaries (this does seem to stretch the imagination a little too far): domaine la croix chaptal - domaine alain chabanon - domaine d'aupilhac - mas conscience - domaine coston - mas de daumas gassac - mas de l'ecriture - domaine virgile joly - domaine de malavieille - domaine saint andrieu - languedoc tasting reports 2009-2008 vintages.

The region must have become even more fashionable, since some of the Languedoc 'big boys' have moved in over the past few years and bought vineyard plots or already high-profile estates. The Gérard Bertrand group is one of them, which acquired Domaine La Sauvageonne three or four years ago (now cunningly repacked as "Château", although I don't remember much of a manor house type building in situ when I went there six years ago) up in the wilds of St-Jean-de-la-Blaquière (with real terraced vineyards) - click HERE, HERE and HERE to find out what I thought of the wines, before and after so to speak.

Jean-Claude Mas obviously got excited about these terraces too, as his expansionist Domaines Paul Mas (links to lots of other stuff about them) family operation snapped up Domaine des Crès Ricards in 2010. Even if "the vineyard is planted at an altitude of 60 metres," (watch out vertigo sufferers) it does lie at the foot of Mount Baudille and is covered in hardy pebbles apparently. This now-extended and varied 42-hectare estate - there's some Cab, Merlot, Chardy, Viognier etc. here in addition to the 'usual Med suspects' - is found near Saint André de Sangonis around the village of Ceyras. They've recently launched a new white called Esprit de Crès Ricards into the range too. More info: www.cresricards.com, London office: www.cotemaslondon.com, US site: www.paulmas.com

Château des Crès Ricards
Alexaume 2012 IGP Mont Baudille (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Carignan; 14.5% abv) - nice ripe liquorice and wild herb nose with spicy cassis, dark berry and roasted red pepper edges; fairly smooth and easy palate with a touch of weight, rounded finish with a hint of richness and grip too. Attractive drink-now red. €8 cellar door, UK £8.50.
Stécia 2013 (“selected” Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, 14.5% abv) – sweet black cherry and liquorice with minty herbal edges, aromatic and powerful nose; lush mouth-feel with earthier tones underneath, enticing sweet/sour cassis/berry fruit vs developing liquorice, a touch of grip yet it's nicely rounded, powerful and fairly concentrated, bitter twist of tannin vs lush and spicy texture. Well balanced in the end, approachable yet has a bit of structure; good with steak pie and roast duck. €12.50 cellar door, UK: Cheers Wine Merchants £9.99.
Oenothera 2012 (“selected old-vine” Syrah and Grenache, 14.5% abv) – had a funny unripe? (doubt it with 14.5) red pepper/herby brambly smell that was still there after two days open – or is it reduced? (also seems unlikely with a barrel aged red). Certainly had an odd 'dirty' character, which was a shame as underneath there was rich black cherry, liquorice, mint and black olive; more concentrated and structured than the Stécia, although that distracting pungent brambly thing lingered... A second bottle was the same: is it reductive for an oak-aged wine and still there after being open for a few days? Or a not very nice unripe note? Would like to try another bottling or the next vintage... €17 cellar door, £13.20.

Sticking with the theme, another fairly hefty bottle came my way recently bearing a similarly hefty and familiar name: the Orliac family, who are well-known pioneers in the Pic Saint-Loup appellation lying a little to the (south)east of the Terrasses du Larzac. Marie Orliac and, paraphrasing her note, her brothers are making a wine in the stunningly set Buèges valley on their elevated (600+ metres, so now we're talking terrasses) property called Clos du Prieur. The family actually bought the vineyards back in 1999 but had to spend considerable time and effort restoring and replanting the hotchpotch of old-vine blocks and a wee cellar in the village. More @ www.closduprieur.fr including some scenic photos - I downloaded the one of Marie above.

Clos du Prieur 2012 Vignobles Orliac (Syrah 75%, Grenache 25%, Cinsault 5%; 13% abv) – attractive soft and elegant with ripe black fruits and pepper, tasty now actually with its sweet currant palate vs a touch of grip; well balanced and quite straightforward, a nice Languedoc red although not sure I'd pay €16 for it (cellar door). These UK importers list wines from Domaine de l'Hortus, the Orliac's PSL winery, but it doesn't look like anyone ships this one yet: Caves de Pyrène, Bancroft Wines, Berry Bros & Rudd; ditto Wines Direct in Ireland. $38.50 Réserve & Sélection Quebec.

By the way, if you happen to be in the area, or Montpeyroux just down the road to be precise, on Sunday 19 April, the village’s twenty-one wineries will be open to all for tasting, chat and sales presumably for their annual "Journée de Toutes Caves Ouvertes." More: montpeyroux-en-languedoc.com or www.montpeyroux-tco.fr

25 March 2014

Languedoc: La Réserve d'O, Terrasses du Larzac

Marie and Frédéric Chauffray bought a few plots lying at 400 metres above sea level in the wild and airy Terrasses du Larzac (click to find out more) appellation in 2005 - you can read my note on their first vintage red from that full-bodied year HERE (links to "Top Languedoc & Roussillon reds over €10" tasting feature) - when they created La Réserve d'O, using a bit of word play, presumably, for that catchy name. They also starred in 'Les Terroiristes du Languedoc' documentary film (links to post about this) made by American wine-cineaste Ken Payton. The couple also has vines in the Saint-Saturnin area, which is a sort-of subzone of the wider Terrasses du Larzac so-called cru appellation ("Confused? You will be..."), all farmed under the influence of biodynamics from the very beginning, so the story goes; and had a new cellar built in the village of Arboras the following year... LRO is a name I've bumped into before, as I said, and I'm glad I (re)discovered them a few months ago, as their wines are tasty, full of sunshine and have nice depth of character too. Some of them are available in the UK from Cambridge Wine Merchants, Drop Wines, the Humble Grape, the Wine Society and others; and in the US: Johns Island Imports, IL and Astor Wines, NY. More @ www.lareservedo.fr.

2012 Sanssoo St-Saturnin (Syrah, Cinsault; no added sulphites, filtered) – lovely cherry and berry fruit, peppery with liquorice too; tasty juicy palate, quite concentrated and rich though with a certain freshness on the finish too. Lovely. £14
2010 La Réserve d'O Terrasses du Larzac (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault; total sulphites 45 mg/l, filtered) – enticing spicy floral nose with darker blackberry side, lush and ripe with nice tannins and mouth weight, fruity vs earthy finish. Yum. £11.99 - £13.99, $19.96
2009 Hissez O Terrasses du Larzac (similar blend but with more Syrah and some barrel ageing; total sulphites 40 mg/l, filtered) – again has delicious dark vs herby spicy Syrah styling, rich and full-on vs nice grip/bite, earthy vs dried fruit flavours, powerful yet concentrated finish. Wow.
2011 Bilbo St-Saturnin (mostly Grenache; total sulphites 37 mg/l, filtered) – ripe and juicy with liquorice vs crunchier berry fruit, weighty with a light bitter twist, also concentrated and long; nice Grenache style. £10.95 - £12.99

13 March 2014

Languedoc: Domaines Paul Mas update

This belated catching-up sees a couple of striking new poking-fun labels, another sizeable vineyard added to the Mas stable, a variety of 2011 and 2012 vintage reds and whites tasted last year and recently, plus a few words on that "road is long" restaurant 'project' mentioned previously which finally opened a year ago...

First off, Jean Claude Mas has been vineyard shopping again: La Ferrandière comes to 70 hectares (170 acres) near the pretty village of Aigues-Vives in the Aude region and is planted with Cabernet, Grenache, Malbec, Marselan, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Viognier. This latest addition to the total 478 ha now owned/managed by Mas (eight different estates), was "to ensure their development on the French market as well as abroad," the blurb explains. The company has been very export focused so far - 97% of sales in 58 countries apparently - and also works with 70 contracted growers across the Languedoc for extra fruit source.
Their new on-site restaurant - wine bar - wine shop Côté Mas is pretty good by all accounts I've heard (review to follow when I've been there), and looks worth a trip if you're touring this area. And following in the self-mocking footsteps of Arrogant and Elegant Frog, Ribet Red and such like, Doms P Mas have just launched a pair of Striking French! varietals. As you can see, the labels sport a cartoon character demo holding banners saying On veut du Viognier / On veut du Merlot, as in "We want Viognier/Merlot" obviously. See what I thought of them by clicking on the link below, along with a selection of other new vintages from across their extensive portfolio (Grés de Montpellier, Limoux, Picpoul, Pays d'Oc, Terrasses du Larzac, Corbières...).
CLICK HERE TO SEE MY NOTES / REVIEWS as well as lots of other DPM wines, comments and info penned from 2004 to 2011.

29 November 2012

Languedoc: Domaine Coston update, Terrasses du Larzac

You'll find my previous words of wisdom on this very much family affair - Joseph, Marie-Thérèse, Philippe and Jean-Marc Coston to be precise - and their generally pretty good range of wines on this page (notes posted 2006 and 2008). Wow, was that really four years already?! I caught up with Philippe or Jean-Marc (sorry, can't remember which one, they do look a little alike being, like erm, brothers...) earlier this year at Millésime Bio organic wine show in Montpellier (they have been bio since '99 actually) and tried their latest vintages, tasting-noted below. He took great relish in telling me they've recently replanted nine hectares (12 acres) of vine-land, which they acquired after the very high-profile failed Mondavi bid debacle to buy up the entire village area I think. Here we go...

2011 rosé (Mourvèdre, Carignan, Syrah) - clean and crisp style, quite taut zingy and steely finish. Nice with it though. €6 cellar door.
2010 Terrasses du Larzac red (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre) - enticing meaty edges with spicy minty wild herbs vs dark fruits, tight firm mouth-feel with subtle vs concentrated finish. Good stuff. €9
2009 Les Garigoles (Grenache, Syrah) - savoury vs rich mix, hints of oak grain on a dry solid palate, shows good balance of developing fruit, grip and weight on its still quite closed up finish. €16
2010 Les Garigoles (Grenache, Syrah) - richer and smokier than the 09, a tad more chocolate oak too but has more depth and structure, chewy savoury vs dark fruit finish with attractively textured tannins. Very good. €16

09 May 2012

Languedoc: Terrasses du Larzac and Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert

Mas des Brousses, Puéchabon
From masdesbrousses.fr
Toasted as the darling of a clutch of new Languedoc village subzones, Terrasses du Larzac was officially created in 2005 although the name has been used for much longer than that. The appellation's northern and eastern borders, flanked by the raw landscape painted by the Causse du Larzacare shaped by a variety of ranges, foothills, natural terraces, sheer cliffs and scrubland that form the bottom end of the Massif Central mountains. The Hérault River runs silently and roughly through the middle of it, and the terrain then dramatically climbs from here heading northwards (take the A75 motorway towards Millau sometime and be wowed by the view).
However, despite all this terrace talk, vines are planted at from below 50 metres above sea level to over 300 (165 to nearly 1000 feet); so to pretend this is all some kind of unique and homogeneous "high-altitude" appellation is a bit of a nonsense. It also takes in over 30 villages (though there probably aren't vineyards planted around all of them) spanning a pretty sizeable area, including the following perhaps best-known ones: Aniane, Gignac, Jonquières, Montpeyroux, Puéchabon, Saint-André-de-Sangonis, Saint-Félix-de-Lodez, Saint-Jean-de-Fos, Saint-Jean-de-la-Blaquière and Saint-Saturnin-de-Lucian. In addition, certain of these places have created their own village sub-sub-zone (well, the winemakers there I mean obviously), e.g. Montpeyroux and Saint-Saturnin (see some of the winery links below).
See where I'm heading with this quasi rant? Well, I understand the logic of trying to parcel up the enormous Languedoc wine-lands to highlight the best areas, producers and wines. And agree in principle, as long as you make it mean something by creating distinctive statement wines from a relatively small area, and get the message across successfully to wine lovers looking for hot new bottles to try (the tricky bit in a world awash with names of wine regions nobody's heard of or really cares about at the end of the day). But, having sampled my way through a table full of reds from several vintages from Larzac in the Languedoc at their recent "Millésimes en Languedoc" showcase week, I found myself a little disappointed compared to what I tried there two years before (I didn't feature this area's wines last time: see blog archive April-May 2011) and in situ or elsewhere on other occasions.
I ended up excluding quite a few wines out of the total tasted, as they just weren't exciting enough to include or, worse, weren't very good. Admittedly, as is always the case / problem with this sort of event and line-up where it's up to the wineries to submit samples, a few top names were conspicuous by their absence, as I've commented on before. However, certain familiar estates did stand out nicely, such as Mas des Brousses, Mas des Chimeres or Clos du Serre; as well as not so familiar (to me at least), Domaine des Cres Ricards for instance.
I also see Gérard Bertrand, one of the Languedoc's biggest privately owned wineries and vineyard owners and a name some winegrowers like to dislike (although they wouldn't say so publicly of course), has landed in the Larzac zone with his purchase of La Sauvageonne, and its excellent track record over the past few years, up in Saint-Jean-de-la-Blaquière, which is a remote hilly village definitely on the higher side with its remarkable elevated and very stoney terraces.
Over to the wines then: here's my top 20 TDL reds. Some of the 2010s weren't finished samples, but it's looking very promising as a vintage in this area and overall in the Languedoc. Generally, Syrah, Grenache and/or Mourvèdre are the main varieties used here, although certain producers feature old Carignan or Cinsualt in the blend too.

2008 Domaine de Brunet Mas Brunet Prestige - quite forward with ripe liquorice, scented garrigue and spicy Grenache style; good palate and balance with a bit of bite and freshness vs 'sweet' fruit and rounder mouth-feel. Nice now.


Mas de la Seranne Antonin et Louis - perfumed floral nose with spicy liquorice and black fruits, touch of oak but not too much, grippy vs textured with light oak grain, powerful finish layered with 'sweet' fruit.
Les Conquetes Les Innocents - quite rich and lush with herby edges, 'sweet' liquorice and black fruits, drinking quite well now with underlying oomph vs rounded palate vs attractive ripe fruit.
Quinquarlet / Familongue L'Esprit de la Bastide aux Oliviers - very ripe smoky and 'resiny' with savoury edges, chunky tannins vs dark and spicy fruit, dry finish with a bitter twist.
More Familongue here.
La Traversée - this is Gavin Grisfield's new venture, former winemaker at La Sauvageonne. Shows enticing ripe dark fruit vs touch of coco oak, toasted chocolate tannins but it's concentrated, well-made and attractive (although a shade expensive at €30!).
Mas des Brousses Mataro (= Mourvèdre) - lovely scented black fruits and wild herbs, lush savoury vs sweet palate with a touch of oak grain vs rounded texture, liquorice spice and power to finish. Very good stuff.
Domaine Alexandrin Alex - perfumed ripe nose and palate, hints of vanilla oak with 'sweet' textured vs grippy mouth-feel, quite concentrated and punchy.
Quinquarlet 3 Naissances - dark plummy 'soy' vs herby notes, smoky and quite rich vs firm and dry, closes up a bit but should be good.
Les Chemins de Carabote Les Pierres qui chantent - perfumed garrigue and blackberry/cassis notes, nice mouthful of ripe vs spicy fruit, lush powerful and firm yet quite silky too somehow. Very good wine.
Plan de l'Homme Habilis - rich dark 'tar' tinged nose, lush palate with savoury edges, has fair grip yet rounded tannins, good fruit and depth.
Mas des Chimeres Caminarem - rustic ripe and peppery, lush fruit and tannin combo, a bit 'bretty' (rustic) perhaps but is concentrated and has tasty savoury/sweet profile.
Mas des Chimeres Nuitgrave - more savoury and developed, again showing nice dark fruit with those rustic edges; similar mouth-feel to above, tighter and less obvious perhaps although is drinking well at the same time.


Domaine des Cres Ricards Stécia - dark and smoky with a touch of sweet oak, concentrated and tasty, touches of oak grain vs rounded tannins, closes up with firm vs supple finish, nice depth and style. Very good.
Domaine des Cres Ricards Oenothera - smokier and richer perhaps, quite tight on the finish, chunky vs lush mouth-feel, nice balance and class.
Mas des Quernes Villa Romaine - pretty oaky start vs concentrated and lush palate, spicy with dry vs rounded vs grainy tannins, needs time to open up but should be good.
Le Clos du Serre Les Maros - a little closed up, firm concentrated and punchy with dark chocolate tannins vs a lot of depth too, slightly at sorts at the mo but it´s promising.
Previous vintages and profile on Clos du Serre HERE.
Mas des Brousses - quite firm and closed up, showing grainy oak vs lush and concentrated underneath; difficult to tell but there´s definitely something there with attractive sweet/savoury finish.
Quinquarlet la Bastide aux Oliviers - quite juicy fruity vs firm and tight, not very revealing although has good depth of fruit.
Gérard Bertrand La Sauvageonne Pica Broca - spicy herby black cherry notes, good concentration vs solid yet rounded, powerful finish with lingering sweet liquorice and spice, nice length and style.
Sauvageonne under previous management.

Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert © OT SGVH

On a more cultural and historical note, if you're thinking of doing a little wine touring in this area, make sure you find time to have a stroll around the Mediaeval hilltop village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. With its magnificent Romanesque abbey (photo), sloping narrow cobbled (and car free) streets and awesome cliff-face backdrop, it's not far from some of the wine villages and estates mentioned above. Great drive too along the twisty Hérault river gorges, as you wind your way up there. Probably best avoided in the summer though, as it soon gets crowded with tourists. By the way, its name does indeed come from a certain noble warmonger Guilhem, who found his perfect isolated retreat here to study as a monk and founded the monastery in 804, which was rebuilt in the 11th Century on the same site. More @ saintguilhem-valleeherault.fr.

14 November 2011

Languedoc: Domaines Paul Mas

2014 update

This belated catching-up sees a couple of striking new poking-fun labels (there's a picture here), another sizeable vineyard added to the Mas stable, a variety of 2011 and 2012 vintage reds and whites tasted last year and recently, plus a few words on that "road is long" restaurant 'project' mentioned previously which finally opened a year ago...
First off, Jean-Claude Mas has been vineyard shopping again: La Ferrandière, a 70 hectare property (170 acres) near the pretty village of Aigues-Vives in the Aude region planted with Cabernet, Grenache, Malbec, Marselan, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Viognier. This latest addition to the total 478 ha now owned/managed by Mas (eight different estates), was "to ensure their development on the French market as well as abroad," the blurb explains. The company has been very export focused so far - 97% of sales in 58 countries apparently - and also works with 70 contracted growers across the Languedoc for extra fruit source.
Their new on-site restaurant - wine bar - wine shop Côté Mas is pretty good by all accounts I've heard (review to follow when I've been there), and looks worth a trip if you're touring this area. And following in the self-mocking footsteps of Arrogant and Elegant Frog, Ribet Red and such like, Doms P Mas have just launched a pair of Striking French! varietals - the labels sport a cartoon character demo holding banners saying On veut du Viognier / On veut du Merlot, as in "We want Viognier/Merlot" obviously. See what I thought of them below along with a selection of other new vintages from across their now extensive portfolio...

2011 Domaine Martinolles Limoux blanc – nice lees-y toasty notes tinged with aniseed, light toasted coconut vs ripe 'sweet' Chardonnay fruit, good bite vs rich and toasty finish.
2012 Château Paul Mas 'Belleguette' Coteaux du Languedoc blanc (Vermentino, Marsanne) – aromatic aniseed with subtle yeast biscuit flavours vs floral and mineral, concentrated with tasty oat finish vs tight and crisp with light bitter twist. £15/£12 (case) Cheers Wine Merchants (UK).
2012 Mas des Tannes Réserve blanc (organic Grenache blanc, 13.5% abv) - subtle mix of floral aniseed, juicy exotic fruit and light coconut grain; has a little bit of richness and roundness on the palate although is quite tight and grainy, not a blockbuster style white but attractive enough with food. Noel Young Wines, Soho Wines £10.95.
Striking French! Sud de France Viognier, Pays d'Oc (13% abv) - light peach and apricot notes with hints of toast and coconut, a little weight on the palate vs tighter fresher side; nice white although not as good/full-on as some of their other Viogniers. A bit dear at £9.99 UK RRP.
2011 Mas des Tannes Réserve rouge (Cabernet, Grenache, Mourvèdre) – complex and quirky mix of 'inky' black olive vs very ripe 'tar' and liquorice vs herbier cassis notes, taut fresh and firm mouth-feel vs sweet and smoky side. Odd but nice.
2011 Mas des Tannes Peyre Plantade (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan) – sweet fruit and floral aromas with lovely ripe rounded texture, subtle bite and length; delicious red.
Striking French! Sud de France Merlot, Pays d'Oc (13.5% abv) - a little heavy on the vanilla oak for my taste, although it has nice plump fruit and rounded mouth-feel. The oak blends in a little better if left open for a day. Same comment as the Viognier above about price, available at Majestic in the UK.
2011 Mas des Mas Corbières (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) – a tad baked on the nose, attractive wild herb and violet aromas though with 'sweet' Grenache fruit, bite and grip tightening up the palate but it's tasty now too.
2011 Château des Crès Ricards 'Stécia' Terrasses du Larzac (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Grenache) - wild smoky vs herb/flower notes and dark fruit with savoury hints, intense smoky dark fruit flavours with firm structured tannins vs rounded mouth-feel and ripe fruit finish, lovely mix of smoky vs fresh and tight too. £12.99 Cheers.
2011 Château des Crès Ricards 'Oenotheca' (Grenache, Syrah) - richer with sweet and smoky notes vs herby berry fruit, softer yet fuller with enticing lush mouth-feel vs subtle grip.
Côté Mas Picpoul Frisant - juicy yeasty notes vs sweeter ripe melon fruit edges, has a bit of crispness vs a touch of residual sugar. Nice and easy frothy wine.
2011 Les Faïsses (60% Grenache, 40% Syrah) - alluring ripe vs spicy liquorice fruit with firm and tasty palate, fairly easy-going compared to previous vintages but I like that Grenache dominant style.
2011 Grés de Montpellier (half Mourvèdre plus Syrah and Grenache) - a touch more structured vs attractive sweet fruit, lacks a bit of concentration and depth perhaps as I remember it from previous vintages...

November 2011: the latest from the expansionist and thick cheque-booked Jean-Claude Mas camp is the purchase of vineyards in wild and woolly Terrasses du Larzac country (source vitisphere.com), called Crès Ricards (goes to my May 2012 report on Larzac including notes on some of these nice reds) and Domaine de Moulinas in Caux not far from Pézenas. He's also taking over running Domaine de Martinolles (links to profile and previous vintages reviewed) who's a fairly sizeable yet traditional Blanquette and Crémant de Limoux winemaker, which should complement Mas' already growing production of white and red wines in this area from their Domaine Astruc estate. This brings DPM to over 300 ha of owned vine-land across the Languedoc, plus those managed properties and partner-growers who supply grapes. Some people (usually certain small-minded French growers who think all big is bad) diss the Paul Mas operation as a simple churner-outer of lots of "unserious" varietals, largely because of their fun export brand Arrogant Frog I'd guess, which appear to be in-demand and are consistently good. But they've probably never tried their more serious single-vineyard or sub-appellation reds or Limoux whites, for example.

In addition, Domaine de Nicole estate winery, where the company's head office is located near Montagnac, has been expanded into a "wine tourism site" with a restaurant opening in spring 2012 (Ed: the following year actually, see above). I've tasting-noted some of their latest vintages below sampled over the last few months; and there's a fuller profile and lots more wines going back to 2004 underneath these. Their UK importer is Stratford’s Wine Agencies and they're well distributed in the States too (see website).

2010 Vermentino - floral peachy nose, spicy juicy palate with crisp 'gummy' mouth-feel, attractive lively dry white. £7.99 at Majestic allegedly although I couldn't find it on their site.
2010 Chardonnay - benchmark sunny south of France Chardy with juicy citrus and peachy fruit with milky yeast-less edges, quite weighty yet crisp finish. Fairly widely available under different labels.
2010 Sauvignon blanc - nice classic gooseberry vs ripe citrus SB style with soft-ish yet zingy finish. Different versions of this are sold in various retailers e.g. Majestic, Waitrose.
2010 Viognier - delicious V style with lighter zesty touches vs fatter exotic fruit, crisp intense vs rounded and towards weighty/oily mouth-feel. Sainsbury's do an Elegant Frog version and Asda has an own label on offer at the moment for under a Fiver.
2010 Marsanne - floral apricot aromas / flavours, zesty palate vs lightly creamy edges, has a bit of oomph too followed by tight zingy length. Asda and Majestic do different labels of this.
2010 Rosé de Syrah - strawberry and raspberry boiled sweet notes, lively and quite long with a attractive bitter twist, nice round vs zingy style.
2010 Grenache noir - seductive simple fruity style, touch of dry grip on the palate vs lively berry and spice combo.
2008 Mas des Mas Saint-Chinian red - lovely wild herby and floral liquorice nose, spicy white pepper tones vs sweet fruit, quite elegant and drinking well now.
2010 La Forge Merlot - herbal 'inky' tinges vs lots of juicy plummy fruit, a little closed up and firm when I tried it but shows the usual Forge concentration and Merlot style.
2010 La Forge Carignan old vines - 'reductive' nose and tight palate, has attractive fresh blueberry fruit though with intriguing tangy vs ripe profile; quite structured acid/tannin mouth-feel combo, needs a few months to open up but promising probably and different for sure. Majestic lists a version of this at £8.99.
2009 La Forge Malbec - complex spicy nose, aromatic vs richer side with grainy vs sweet texture; quirky Malbec style and tasty with it. Majestic lists a version of the 2010 vintage at £8.99.
2009 DPM Vignes de Nicole Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah - touches of dusty oak or something ? (can't remember if this bottle was screwcapped or with a cork) but layered with cassis and dark cherry fruit, nice texture and depth with again tight finish.
2009 Château Paul Mas "Clos des Mûres" Coteaux du Languedoc (85% Syrah, 10% Grenache, 5% Mourvèdre) - quite chocolate oaky when I tried it with taut firm grainy texture, closing up on a big structured finish; but it's pretty concentrated and stylish too suggesting something much more promising and exiting once it opens up and softens. £12.50

You'll find even more Mas wines buried in here (Languedoc vintage reports 2009 and 2008) and within a few mini-reports before and after this post on Limoux (based around 2010 vintage tastings). In addition, I've copied across all this stuff previously published on various pages of WineWriting.com:

Domaine de Nicole, one of four Mas family properties in the Pézenas area and now their HQ, has been refitted to house a tasteful tasting/reception area and shop with an enlarged "wine tourism site," including a restaurant, due to open in late 2008 (oops, see update above - planning permission delays etc...). If they get the planning permission through soon, that is (a somewhat French case of bureaucracy over progress it seems). A "Languedoc modernist," as their PR accurately calls him, with irreverent labels like Arrogant Frog (the wine’s good too) and lively varietal Vins de Pays such as La Forge Merlot, Chardonnay or Viognier; Jean-Claude Mas and brother Michel also produce serious, more 'traditional' Coteaux du Languedoc reds such as Château Paul Mas (see vertical tasting of five vintages below) and Les Faïsses. In addition, they've now launched wines from a recently converted organic vineyard plus three new 'single terroir' reds called Mas des Mas from the 2006 vintage (also below), which show great promise and knock on the head any thoughts that they're all marketing (although they're pretty good at that too). Oh by the way, guess which country is one of their main export markets? Australia! (2008)

These wines were sampled at Vinisud in Montpellier, February 2008:
2006 Château Paul Mas (all five are mostly Syrah plus Grenache Mourvèdre) - showing spicy coco oak layered with lovely black cherry fruit and peppery tones, attractive textured tannins balanced by depth of fruit, well-handled oak and power on the finish. About £10 in the UK, available shortly at Majestic. 90-92
2005 Château Paul Mas - a touch smokier and richer v firmer and more powerful palate, yet still ripe, rounded and showing great balance of oak/tannins/fruit; lovely concentration v solid grip, the alcohol is a little more noticeable but it works in this wine. 92-94

2004 Château Paul Mas - much more developed than the last time I tasted it two years ago at Vinisud (obviously perhaps but you know what I mean), showing complex liquorice and leather notes; 'sweet' peppery palate with solid structure, grippy tannins yet elegant finish. 92-94

2003 Château Paul Mas - dried fruits, leather and complex herbal v savoury nose; stonky tannins and weight v big rich fruit and power. 90-92
2002 Château Paul Mas - maturing rustic tones with leather and liquorice, further delicious liquorice fruit and savoury tobacco edges on the palate; again still firm tannins but nicely layered, drinking well now. 92-94
2006 Les Tannes Cabernet - Merlot (organic) - nice herbal v tobacco nose with ripe cassis, tangy tannins and quite concentrated & fine finish. 87-89
2006 Mas des Mas, Pézenas (mostly Mourvèdre) - quite closed on the nose, showing tight structure and quite austere in style, oak textured but very concentrated and long. Needs a year or two to open up. 90-92
2006 Mas des Mas, Terrasses du Larzac (more Syrah) - again structured and powerful but a bit richer with black cherry Syrah style; chocolate oak background to its concentrated, firm and commanding finish, yet well-balanced too. 92-94
2006 Mas des Mas, Grés de Montpellier (50% Mourvèdre) - more black fruits and liquorice in style and a tad more savoury too, also peppery with subdued oak; very firm tannins and big weight v 'sweet' fruit and black pepper coming back on its promising finish. 94+?
2007 'lower alcohol' Viognier (10%) - surprisingly characterful, aromatic and faintly exotic with fresh finish; winemakers normally say Viognier isn't an interesting variety unless fully ripe therefore 13-14-15% even. 80-85
2007 Enigma (late harvested Chardonnay blended with 10% Muscat and 20% Viognier both fermented dry, leaving 30 grams/litre residual sugar) - quite exotic v fresh citrus tones, doesn't seem very sweet thanks to its refreshing crisp finish. Nice wine. 87

Stop-press April 2008: Jean-Claude had seven wines selected in the 'Top 100 Vins de Pays' competition, an annual tasting held in Britain aimed at the trade. They were La Forge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Trophy for best Cab Sauv), Arrogant Frog Ribet White Chardonnay/Viognier 2007, Claude Val Rosé 2007, Paul Mas Rosé de Syrah 2007, La Forge Estate Merlot 2007, Paul Mas Merlot 2007 and Paul Mas Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.

2006 update A few new vintages and releases from the JC Mas team, including some unusual blends and the cross-breed red variety Marselan from recently purchased organic vineyards near Pézenas. Tasted at this year's Vinisud:
2005 Sauvignon Blanc dA, Limoux - attractive crisp intense gooseberry and citrus fruit, fresh long finish. 85-87
2005 Viognier - lively and zesty showing lovely depth of rich apricot fruit and aromatic class. 89
2005 La Forge Chardonnay - attractive citrus and peach fruit underlined by subtle toast and cream flavours, good bite v weight on the finish. 90+
2005 La Forge Cabernet Sauvignon - tight focused cassis fruit, firm yet rounded mouthfeel; needs 6 months to come together, promising. 89-90?
Paul Mas 1892 (its name rather than vintage!) (Alicante, Carignan, Cinsault Grenache & Merlot) - stonky grippy palate, unusual meaty style, old fashioned chunky blend but good with it. 87-89
2004 Marselan - curranty juicy fruit, has fair depth and firm texture; different. 87
2004 Château Paul Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc - the oak's quite strong at the moment, but this displays beautiful concentration of blackberry and chocolate; tight, fine yet weighty finish. 92+
2003 Château Paul Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc - similar power v finesse with richer wilder more developed fruit. 92+
2003 Les Faisses, Coteaux du Languedoc - lovely drinking now (with rack of lamb) yet concentrated and structured enough to develop much further; full, gamey and 'sweet' with firm rounded tannins. 92-94
2005 Sauvignon Blanc dA, Limoux - attractive crisp intense gooseberry and citrus fruit, fresh long finish. 85-87
2005 Viognier - lively and zesty showing lovely depth of rich apricot fruit and aromatic class. 89
2005 La Forge Chardonnay - attractive citrus and peach fruit underlined by subtle toast and cream flavours, good bite v weight on the finish. 90+
2005 La Forge Cabernet Sauvignon - tight focused cassis fruit, firm yet rounded mouthfeel; needs 6 months to come together, promising. 89-90?
Paul Mas 1892 (its name rather than vintage!) (Alicante, Carignan, Cinsault Grenache & Merlot) - stonky grippy palate, unusual meaty style, old fashioned chunky blend but good with it. 87-89
2004 Marselan - curranty juicy fruit, has fair depth and firm texture; different. 87
2004 Château Paul Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc - the oak's quite strong at the moment, but this displays beautiful concentration of blackberry and chocolate; tight, fine yet weighty finish. 92+
2003 Château Paul Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc - similar power v finesse with richer wilder more developed fruit. 92+
2003 Les Faisses, Coteaux du Languedoc - lovely drinking now (with rack of lamb) yet concentrated and structured enough to develop much further; full, gamey and 'sweet' with firm rounded tannins. 92-94

Posted January 2005. Reviews of the latest releases from this go-getting Languedoc producer and exporter. Also read my article published in the weekly trade magazine Harpers: Is there a d'Oc in the house? (towards the bottom of that page) which includes a few comments by Jean-Claude Mas.
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Vignes de Nicole, Vin de Pays d'Oc - Wow, needs time: plenty of toasty chocolate oak at the moment concealing big structure and concentration. 90+
2004 Carignan Vieilles Vignes - Tasted from barrique: lots of inky berry fruit with liquorice edges, spicy wood on the firm tight finish, yet shows plenty of nice ripe fruit to balance. Also one to watch. 87+
2004 Claudeval/Domaine de Nicole rosé (Syrah Grenache Cinsault) - Attractive rose petal and strawberry style, quite chunky fruit with a touch of crispness; nice quaffer. Try with tomato and avocado salad. Less than £4. 85
2004 dA Marsanne, Vin de Pays (sourced from the Limoux area) - Attractive honeysuckle aromas, zesty depth with fair concentration of waxy honeyed fruit too; should be rather good in a few months time. 85-87
2003 Ile de Conas Viognier, Michel Mas winemaker, Vin de Pays d'Oc - Quite fat yet flowery apricot fruit; however, this also has lovely bite and length balancing the weighty mouthfeel. Under £6 at Asda. 87-90
2004 La Forge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Vin de Pays d'Oc - Vat sample: lovely balance of riper yet tangy blackcurrant fruit and liquorice edges, firm rounded tannins; will be super in a few months. 90+
2004 La Forge Estate Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'Oc (40% sourced from Limoux, 60% from 'warm' climate vineyards) - Rich and creamy yet aromatic with fresh peach and pear fruit, more toffee-ish in the mouth but has crisp bite and length too. Yum, a bargain too at £5-6. Asda does the Ile La Forge label for £4.99! 90
2003 Les Faisses, Jean Claude Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah Grenache) - Light cedar aromas underneath pure ripe blackcurrant, closed firm palate showing greater elegance than the Vinus, good depth of fruit v solid tannins, very long. Needs time to open up. 90-92
2004 Pinot Noir, Vin de Pays d'Oc - Tasted from barrique: not showing much on the nose, but the palate offers nice youthful cherry fruit set against a tight acid structure; you can see some savoury character underneath, wrapped in not too heavy chocolate oak. Could be good: 85-87. Aldi is now selling Ile la Forge Pinot Noir at £4.99.
2004 Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Pays d'Oc - Plenty of zingy grapefruit and gooseberry, shows nice balance of green v riper fruit, mineral v fatter palate, crisp length. 86-88
2002 Vinus de Jean Claude Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah Grenache) - Hints of cedar mingle with ripe rustic fruit, very grippy and structured set against attractive rounded liquorice fruit, power v elegance on the finish. Very good for 2002, not a great vintage here. 90+

From "Previous wines of the moment" tasted July 2004
2003 Arrogant Frog Ribet Red, Vin de Pays d'Oc (13.5% Screwcap Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon) - Offers a touch of spicy oak, aromatic blackcurrant and cherry fruit, alcohol and some complex earthy notes on the nose; full fruity and spicy leading to firm bite, yet it's drinking well now and will roll out nicely with 6-12 months in bottle. I like your style. 87
2003 Hidden Hill Captivating Chardonnay Viognier, Vin de Pays d'Oc (13% Screwcap) - Fresh aromatic nectarine and apricot nose, nice zesty extract and zingy fruit, lively style and finish. 85-87

2003 Hidden Hill Charismatic Cabernet Shiraz, Vin de Pays d'Oc (13% Screwcap) - Needs a little air... then opens up to reveal spicy blackcurrant, cherry and elderberry fruit; tangy fruity palate finishing with a bit of grip and length. Appears to be suffering a little from "young red under screwcap" syndrome, i.e. displaying reductive notes in the background. 84-86

2003 Hidden Hill Memorable Merlot, Vin de Pays d'Oc (13% Screwcap) - Quite memorable: aromatic cherry, plum and raisin fruit with a tangy twist; reasonably firm palate to start but softens out, especially with food. Appears to be suffering a little from "young red under screwcap" syndrome, i.e. displaying reductive notes in the background. 84-86

2003 Hidden Hill Scintillating Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Pays d'Oc (12% Screwcap) - Grassy gooseberry aromas lead to a tangy citrus palate, soft acidity adds a touch of crispness; not so scintillating but pleasantly easy going if kept well chilled. 80-83
2003 La Forge Estate Merlot, Vin de Pays d'Oc (13% Unfiltered) - Lovely nose showing rich smoky rustic black cherry and plum fruit touched up with aromatic oak, pretty dense and concentrated with nice thick tannins and fruit leaving a coating in the mouth; modern and chunky yet classical style balancing alcohol, power and subtlety. Bargain at £5.99. 90-92

Domaine de Nicole, Route de Villeveyrac, 34120 Montagnac. Tel: 04 67 90 16 10, paulmas.com / arrogantfrog.fr.

28 July 2011

Languedoc: Domaine Alain Chabanon, Montpeyroux/Terrasses du Larzac

Alain Chabanon worked for the legendary (in his own particular way) Alain Brumont of Château Montus in Madiran country after getting his degree in viticulture and winemaking; then returned to the Languedoc in the late 80s, where he bought a few plots of vines around Montpeyroux and Jonquières. He made his first vintage in 1992 and the rest is history, as the cliché runs, since Alain now enjoys quite a reputation for his quality and sometimes slightly quirky wines - you wouldn't perhaps expect Merlot planted up here let alone that it makes good wine too, and his white from Vermentino and Chenin Blanc is something special as well. These blends/varietals are sourced nowadays from 20 ha (nearly 50 acres) of vineyards lying around his home in Lagamas on the way up to the awesome Larzac terraces, which spectacularly fall off the bottom end of the Massif Central range. Alain is a certified organic winegrower and also uses biodynamic techniques; the resulting wines are available in the USA, UK (distributed by Dynamic Vines) and Ireland among many other places: more info @ www.domainechabanon.com

My notes and reviews below spring from four different occasions (hence the mix of 'new' and 'old' scoring systems), although I only met Alain for the first time at the "natural" wine fair in London in May 2011 (the wines with the 1-2-3 ‘scores’: see blurb on the right-hand column) and previously to that (reviewed with the old ‘100 point scale’) in March 2010 and March 2009 at the “Languedoc Millésimes” tasting road-show in the region; and further back into the mists of time at Millésime Bio 2008 organic wine show in Perpignan (Jan 08). To add one of my “interesting to note” themed comments, just for the hell of it, I’ve rated two vintages of Alain’s Campredon red higher than three of his more expensive L'Esprit de Font Caude (although two of these were unfinished cask samples). Perhaps because the latter is less approachable when young – although I wasn’t so wowed by the 2004 vintage tasted recently alongside his other wines, for some reason – or perhaps I’m just too facile?! Or perhaps a winemaker’s reasons for pricing certain wines aren’t always obvious… personal taste vs so-called ‘intrinsic’ quality? Funny old game this wine-tasting lark: answers on an e-card please…

2007 Trelans white vin de pays d’Oc (Vermentino, Chenin Blanc) – complex maturing toasty notes with honeyed and buttery overtones, still lively actually and long. 2 £10-£15
2008 Tremier Languedoc rosé (Mourvèdre, Carignan, Grenache) – yeast-lees-y and rich with toasted red fruits, not sure about this style of rosé...
2008 Le Petit Merle aux Alouettes red vin de pays d’Oc (Merlot) – ‘sweet’ vs red peppery and herby aromas, quite concentrated vs fresh tight palate, nice style of Merlot actually. 1-2 £10-£15
2008 Campredon Coteaux du Languedoc (50% Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan) – really minty and spicy on the nose with enticing black cherry fruit, delicious elegant style with taut tannins/acidity and good length. 2+ £10-£15
2006 Campredon Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah Mourvèdre Grenache Carignan) - nice smoky black cherry fruit with light coconut edges; extracted tight palate leading to very dry finish, but there’s good depth of fruit underneath. 89+
2009 Esprit de Font Caude (50/50 Syrah, Mourvèdre; cask sample) - concentrated and spicy with nice "sweet/savoury" profile, solid mouth-feel although quite subtle too vs tighter commanding finish. €25 87+
2008 L'Esprit de Font Caude (cask sample) - a bit closed and unrevealing although it has fair depth of spicy floral v riper fruit then firm texture. 87+
2004 L'Esprit de Font Caude (Syrah, Mourvèdre) – maturing smoky leather tones, concentrated and meaty with light wood grain vs still quite firm tannins. 1+ £15-£20
2007 Le Merle aux Alouettes vin de pays d’Oc (90% Merlot, 10% Carignan) – richer than the “little” version above with a tad of oak still coming through, quite concentrated / extracted even, closes up to unrevealing finish. 1-2? £15-£20

13 April 2011

Languedoc: Domaine La Croix Chaptal, Terrasses du Larzac

Charles-Walter Pacaud makes some fairly classic high-ground Med reds up in the blink-and-miss-it old-as-time “village” of Cambous found not far from slightly better known Saint André de Sangonis (about 30km northwest of Montpellier). But he has another somewhat unusual trump up his sleeve in the form of a white wine: the Clairette variety and old ones too. There’s actually a separate appellation for dry whites in this area made from 100% Clairette; Charles told me that, when he bought this 25 hectare (60 acre) property, he was tempted to remove and replace this old-vine Clairette, which locally was mostly used to produce drink-young whites in a light refreshing style that often lacked a bit of character. And people offering advice at that time weren’t very enamoured with it suggesting he pulled it up to replant more red varieties.

Well, he didn’t and good job too. From the four vintages of his Clairette I tried with him at Chez Boris restaurant in Montpellier on 20 March 2011, this neglected variety can turn out something rather inspiring and age-worthy too, if treated right in the vineyard (planted in chalky pebbly soils, restricted yields) and cellar (e.g. judicious lees-ageing). La Croix Chaptal also makes a range of red, white and rosé Coteaux du Languedoc wines, three very different and more selected Terrasses du Larzac reds and a trio of quirky late-picked botrytised whites / a red even… Their wines are distributed in the UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium and elsewhere in Europe; and "maybe soon" in the Far East. See www.lacroixchaptal.com for importer/retailer contact details.

2003 Cuvée Charles (Carignan, Syrah, Grenache) – still looking good with maturing savoury side, has an elegant touch actually for a hot-vintage 03 with attractive sweet/savoury finish vs a tad of grip and fresh bite keeping it alive. 2
2001 Cuvée Charles (Carignan, Syrah, Grenache) – more savoury and complex nose vs lighter and more mature palate, long and tasty finish though; very good but the 03 could outlast it. 2
2009 Clairette du Languedoc – a touch reductive on the nose, light bitter/aniseed twist in the mouth vs nice nutty Burgundy character, tightens up on the finish. Needs a few months to express itself. 1+
2008 Clairette – reductive/mineral notes again, turning fresher vs quite rich mouth-feel actually with leesy/nutty/creamy side, well balanced and stylish. 1-2
2007 Clairette – developing complex aromas with toasty edges even, quite full vs still zesty underneath, lovely style. 2
2006 Clairette – oxidising cider-y tones yet it’s still interesting, fatter palate but again has that attractive nutty side. (1)

28 April 2010

Languedoc: Mas de l'Ecriture, Terrasses du Larzac

Pensive Pascal Fullá - écriture means writing, as you might have guessed from his quill pen logo, so perhaps there's a latent wine author, philosopher or composer behind the winemaking here (and he was a lawyer in a previous life) - bought this estate in 1998 and made his first vintage the following year. It's located in the unassuming village of Jonquières (among a clutch of talented names, it has to be said), and about half of the 10 hectares (25 acres) of vines have been replanted. The varietal make-up is fairly typical, although with quite a bit more Mourvèdre (20%) than most growers in the Languedoc (but not so unusual in this area), Syrah (35%), Grenache (27%), Carignan (12%) and Cinsault (6%). Ecriture lies at the feet of the dramatic Larzac hills, where the grape-bearing earth is mostly composed (although not solely by any stretch) of clay-limestone with plenty of stones on top. When I called by in rather warm late April 2010, Pascal told me he's carrying on the "organic spirit" in the vineyard and, since he's never used synthetic pesticides from the beginning and focused a lot of attention in the field, is now over a year into heading towards "Ecocert" certification.
On the winemaking and ageing front, since we were probably talking about oak (uh oh, geek alert), Pascal clarified that "each variety is aged on its own in the appropriate barrel." For example, he's increasingly using those larger demi-muids (600 litres) "...with about 20% renewed each year. It depends on the vintage and tasting rather than putting the same variety in the same type of barrel each year... for about 12 months, then the wines are blended and bottled." And back in the vineyard, Pascal commented on what I spotted and called "gobelets palissés" (trellised bush vines): "you retain the character of a bush vine but with better leaf surface area and you can treat the bunches if necessary (as the leaves can flop over them)." The result: delicious yet subtle (a word that crops up in each of my tasting notes, by the way) Med reds, even if a little pricey at e.g. £12.50/£19.95/£29.95 in the UK... then again "you gets what you pay for," as they say. Mas Ecriture wines are well distributed around the world: try Terroir Languedoc or Dudley & de Fleury in London, Royal Wine Merchants (NY) or Cynthia T Hurley (MA) in the US and Cottage Vineyards in Hong Kong.

2006 Emotion Terrasses du Larzac (GrenacheCarignanSyrah,Cinsault 13.5%) - this wine makes up about 2/3 of production. Shows lovely fragrant dark cherry, liquorice and light white pepper notes; attractive lush fruity palate with a bit of weight, elegant bite and fine dry tannins; warming and fruity yet well balanced with "sweet/savoury" finish and subtle length. Drinking quite well now although should improve nicely over 1-2 years.87-89
2005 Les Pensées Terrasses du Larzac (more GrenacheSyrah,Cinsault, Carignan 13%) - riper "sweeter" more floral nose with liquorice and spice vs wild herb and blueberry hints; fairly rich and concentrated with tasty "sweet/savoury" fruit, subtle power with light grip adding to its delicious length; almost "mouth-watering" even (not a term I'd usually apply to a red) leaving you wanting more! 89-91
2005 L'Ecriture Terrasses du Larzac (more Syrah, Grenache,Mourvèdre 13%) - again has that enticing "garrigue" edge vs ripe berry/cherry fruit, perfumed and peppery vs darker liquorice profile; feels weightier on the palate and a tad firmer, although still has attractive balance and subtle fresh length; lush dark spicy fruit with meaty edges, nice chunky tannins with lovely mix of concentration vs ripe/rounded vs elegance. 90-92+

Lots more info @ masdelecriture.fr/blog-vignoble. Rue de la Font du Loup, 34725 Jonquières. Tel: 04 99 57 61 54.

01 February 2009

Languedoc: Domaine La Sauvageonne, Terrasses du Larzac

The city of Montpellier, or any city or town even, certainly feels very distant from aptly named La Sauvageonne, with its spectacularly rugged hilly vista perched up on the lower edges of the Massif Central range. This face-lifted 32-ha domaine (80 acres), which was bought by businessman Fred Brown in 2001 (and sold in 2011: see update below), is found about 50km northwest of Montpellier in fact; on the Terrasses du Larzac high ground just beyond the little village of St-Jean-de-Blaquière. A sommelier in a past life, English estate manager and winemaker Gavin Crisfield (no longer: see update below) nurtures premium Syrah, Carignan and Grenache from different vineyard parcels (at 150m - 400m altitude = 500-1300 feet), much of it covered in chunks of brownish red schist and rough stones (see pic) making the terroir here all the more tangible and challenging. Hence the names of each wine on the label, such as Pica Broca and Puech de Glen - the latter, curiously Occitan/Scots sounding cuvée made mostly from their best and highest-lying Syrah.

Tasted in situ February 2009:
2007 Sauvignon blanc Vin de Pays du Montbaudille (with a hint of Muscat and, from the 2008 vintage, will have Vermentino and Viognier too) - still quite fresh and zesty actually, nice lively mineral side with light citrus fruit. 80+
2008 rosé (Cinsault, 
Grenache) - lively and refreshing style, attractive raspberry and cream flavours, very drinkable on its own but would be good with most food too. 85+
2007 Les Ruffes (
Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, Cinsault) - smoky v lightly herby with liquorice and leather edges; lovely fruit and 'sweet & savoury' profile with subtle bitter twist and grip in the mouth, nice depth and richness v drinkable refreshing style. €6 87-89
2007 Pica Broca (
Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) - more black cherry and chocolate aromas / flavours; firmer structure as well although again has that attractive balance of lush v tight mouth-feel, long finish too; needs 6+ months in bottle but it's still nice now! 88-90
2005 Pica Broca (
Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) - delicious smoky maturing nose; has more depth and concentration than the 07, chunky with nice coating of tannins layered with 'sweet & savoury' complexity and lovely length. 90-92
2005 Merlot/Cabernet Vin de pays - cassis and tobacco on the nose; pretty rich v very firm and powerful palate, its 14.5% adds a bit of oomph but it's also very concentrated with dry savoury finish. Wow. 90
2005 Puech de Glen (mostly Syrah) - enticing grilled wild black fruit nose with herbal v meaty edges (echoes of maturing Cote Rotie!); concentration and big tannins on the palate, stylish too with nicely developing fruit yet still plenty of life in it. €16 92-94

Previous vintages here (Vinisud 2006).

Latest news: Gavin left and is now doing his own thing called La Traversée; and the estate was recently sold to the Gérard Bertrand group (late 2011): there's a review of one wine in this report.


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