Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Domaine de Roquemale

Valerie Tabariès at Domaine de Roquemale is a welcoming hostess in her tasting caveau right in the centre of the village Villeveyrac.   She talked about the early beginnings of the estate, which they started in 2001.  She and her husband, Dominique Ibanez, are both children of viticulteurs for their parents belonged to the nearby coop of Poussan.   They began with 7 hectares and now have 12, and left the cooperative in 2005 and converted to organic viticulture.  They found a maison de vigneron in the village, with quite a sizeable cellar.  Their first vintage at Villeveyrac was 2006.

Like all good vignerons, they attach enormous importance to their work in the vineyard, keeping plots separate and making as many as ten different wines.  They find Mourvèdre difficult; it is only good one year in four.  And for white wine, they are shifting from Marsanne and Roussanne to Picpoul and Clairette.   And they also have a lot of Alicante Bouschet.  Their vineyards are in an isolated valley outside the village. You go under the railway line that was used for transporting bauxite, which was mined nearby.   And Roquemale means mauvaises roches, in other words, a very stony place, and the lieu-dit of the vineyard.

Our tasting began with:

2015 Roc Blanc, Languedoc – 11.00€
An intriguing blend of Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Gris, Vermentino and Viognier, all in the same plot and all picked over three days.   20% of the blend is fermented in oak and then spends a further four months in oak.  They buy just two new barrels a year. I found the nose in the young wine quite oaky, but it was very intriguing with other nuances and Valerie explained that it had ageing potential.  She wants a balance of weight and freshness, and is considering fresher, more acidic grape varieties.

2015 Méli-Melo, Pays de Hérault – 7.00€
An unusual blend of 80% Alicante Bouschet with a little Cinsaut and Syrah.  The Alicante Bouschet is macerated on its skins for just one day as they do not want it to be too hard or rustic. It is less than 12° so quite light in the mouth.  It is fermented and kept in vat until bottling in June and was pleasantly perfumed with some easy fruit and a streak of tannin.  And an original note on the finish. 

2015 Les Terrasses, Languedoc – 8.00€
A blend of Syrah, Cinsaut and Mourvèdre, with an emphasis on the fruit, making an easy to drink wine with some rounded dry spice.  Medium weight.

2014 Les Grès (de Montpellier) – 11.00€
Villeveyrac is within the area of Grès de Montpellier and this is the traditional cuvée that really represents the estate and what they are doing.  The blend is 90% Syrah to 10% of Grenache Noir, and the soil is based on bauxite.  There is plenty of appealing spice, making a classic Languedoc and for easy drinking.

2014 Lema, Grès de Montpellier – 14.00€
This is mainly Grenache, with some Syrah and a little Cinsaut, from three plots on terraces and including some 50 year old vines.   Some of the Syrah is aged in barrel, but not new, one to six years old.  The palate is structured with some firm ripe fruit, with a sturdy balance of tannin and fruit.  There was a refreshing energy about the wine.

2013 Mâle, Grès de Montpellier – 20.00€
This comes from a plot of Syrah which they allow to get really ripe.  It is fermented by carbonic maceration and then spends twelve months in wood.  I found the palate quite rich and sweet, balanced with a firm tannic streak.  Valerie enthused about the 2013 vintage.  A very good vintage, ‘we got what we needed when we needed it, both sun and rain’.  The harvest was later than usually, only beginning on 15th September.  She explained that their valley is very hot, but the nights are cool. And it is much dryer there than in the Terrasses du Larzac.

And then she asked me if I could like to try a vieux Mâle – the 2010.  Could I resist!  The wood was more obvious as it was newer and the nose quite leathery with some rich spicy fruit on the palate, and some satisfying texture.  And the 2014 Mâle included a little Mourvèdre, with less obvious oak and some ripe spicy fruit.  It was supple and rich, with a fresh tannic streak and a good note on which to finish our tasting.    And then we went to look at the vineyards where Dominique was hard at work. 


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Wine classes at Domaine la Grange

Domaine de la Grange, outside Gabian, is running a series of wine evenings during the first half of next year.  Initially they are planned to be in French, conducted either by the winemaker, Thomas Raynaud, or the domaine manager, Sandrina Hugueux. so a good opportunity to learn some French wine vocabulary, as well as something about the subject.  Here briefly is the programme and there will be six to eight wines to taste each session.  Price 28€ per session, or 150€ for the six.    All on a Friday evening, from 19.30 - 21.00.  I am certainly tempted by the art of blending, as that is something that I would like to know more about.

13th January:  An initiation into tasting, covering the qualities and characteristics of various grape varieties.

27th January:  The main terroirs of  Languedoc-Roussillon, covering soil types, grape varieties, climate and so on, from Banyuls to the Terrasses du Larzac

3rd March: The art of blending.

21st April:  The wine regions of the New World

9th June:   Rosés

For more information : contact Domaine la Grange

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The cave coopérative of Ventenac-en-Minervois

Thanks to my American friend, Jodi Kennedy Gaffey,  who runs a rather smart chambres d'hôte in the château of the village of Ventenac-en-Minervois, I had a rather unusual cellar visit the other day, with enjoyable elements of the unexpected. 

The cooperative in Ventenac-en-Minervois, not to be confused with nearby Ventenac-en-Cabardès is quite unlike any other cooperative building that you might have seen in the Languedoc.  It looks like a large church, standing by the side of the Canal du Midi, with a barge moored in front of it.  It was in fact built in 1880, as a viticultural folly.  This was the time when fortunes were being made from wine in the Languedoc.  Initially it was in private ownership, belonging to a family whose fortunes declined dramatically at the beginning of the 20th century, who then sold it to a négociant, a Mr. Meyer who traded in wine from Bordeaux, Béziers and Lyon.  However, he returned to Germany in 1938, whereupon the wine growers who had supplied Mr. Meyer, turned the cellar and its facilities into a cooperative. Initially they were 60; today they are 14, with 100 hectares of vines, producing Minervois, IGPs and Vin de France.

The architecture makes perfect sense.  The grapes arrive at the top level, in the courtyard of the château, so that everything works by gravity.  The facilities are much more substantial than the current needs of the cave; the enormous vats are empty these days and they have the space for a small museum of various vinous artefacts, equipment and tools that were once used in cellars or vineyards.  You can climb to the top of the tower and enjoy far-reaching views over the canal and the surrounding countryside. And moored outside on the canal is the Marie-Thérèse, the one remaining barge of the many that once plied the Canal du Midi taking wine in barrels from Sète to Bordeaux.  That trade came to an end in the 1960s and the Marie-Thérèse then enjoyed a chequered career first as a restaurant, and then a nightclub on a canal in Sète, and then one night she sank.  A few years later the decision was taken to raise her and restore her.  She is not a particularly magnificent vessel, but she makes a very fitting reminder of the prosperity of the wine trade at a certain moment towards the end of the 19th century.

As for the wines, there is an eclectic rang.  I tasted an IGP Viognier, and a white Minervois that was a blend of  Marsanne, Bourboulenc and Muscat.  Although the Muscat was only 5% of the blend it rather dominated the flavour.  Cuvée Léa, in all three colours, tended to a slightly sweet style for the white and some stalky fruit and vanilla oak for the red.  A Minervois rosé was fresh and cheerful.  As for red Minervois, the Tradition was sold out and the smarter wines, Cuvée 38 and V de Ventenac tended to oakiness.  

However, I really enjoyed Minervois Nos Nouvelles Racines - our new roots. And why the name?  Ventenac and the nearby villages are particularly affected by the disease that is killing the majestic plane trees that line the Canal du Midi and they wanted to do something to help, so 1of the 7.80price goes towards the replanting of replacement trees. The wine is a blend of Carignan, Grenache Noir and Syrah with some fresh peppery fruit.  Medium weight without any oak, and some sour cherry flavours.     It is a imaginative  initiative that deserve support - so do go and buy a bottle for a good cause and discover a facet of the Languedocs viticultural history.