Saturday, 30 December 2017

Back in the Languedoc


Friends to dinner always provides a good excuse to open a few bottles.    We kicked off with a white la Clape from one of the pioneering estates of the appellation, Château Mire l’Etang.   The name  means view over the lagoon and the vineyards are indeed right by the lagoon. It is no surprise that the wine has a refreshing salty tang on both nose and palate, balanced with good acidity and a little weight on the finish.  Bourboulenc is the backbone of la Clape blanc, with some Grenache Blanc and roussanne.  

Next came 2016 Princesse, the first white wine from Domaine Picaro’s, a small estate in my home village of Roujan.  The blend is Grenache Blanc with 40% Chardonnay, both aged in demi-muids with some bâtonnage, for six months.  The nose is rounded and lightly nutty and the palate nicely textured and rounded, with a hint of oak, balanced with good acidity. 

Then on to a couple of reds, Domaine de Sarabande, Faugères, les Espinasses, from 90% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre, with fresh peppery spice and supple tannins.  It was still quite youthful, with a fresh finish.

We compared it with a St Chinian from the village of Roquebrun, Mas d’Albo, le Pérarol 2012, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan which has evolved very nicely, with some supple spicy fruit and an elegant finish.  The two wines made for a satisfying comparisons of two adjoining appellations, with the similar terroir of schist.

And we finished with a Muscat de Lunel from the best estate of this small appellation Domaine le Clos de Bellevue, Cuvée Lacoste after the previous owner of the estate, who established its initial reputation.  The wine was fresh and honeyed, with balancing acidity, and made a delicious finale to the evening. 

This will be my last post of 2017, so may I wish everyone a very Happy New Year, une très Bonne Année, along with plenty of bottles of the Languedoc’s finest.  

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Languedoc Roussillon The Wines and Winemakers


Firstly, many apologies to my regular readers for completely neglecting my blog for past few weeks.  My excuse was my end of November deadline for my own book, The wines of the Languedoc, which is planned for publication on 22nd March.

Meanwhile Paul Strang has brought out a completely new edition of a book he first wrote in 2002, Languedoc Roussillon, the Wines and Winemakers.   Jason Shenai is the photographer, as he was for Paul’s earlier book, and the new book is a visual delight.  I first enjoyed the humorous contrast between the inside front and back covers – you will have to look at the book yourself to see what I mean.   Throughout the book Jason has very effectively captured the expressions of the various vignerons, the wry smile of Thierry Navarre; the sensitivity of Marion Gallet of Roc des Anges; the vivacious intensity of Katie Jones of Domaine Jones.   There are some magical landscapes, one taken near my Languedoc village of Roujan – I would like to know exactly where, and where did Jason find that particular dry-stone wall of schist in Faugères?

As well as a brief introduction to each area, covering the basics of the various appellations, there is also a succinct history of the Languedoc and details about practices in the vineyard and cellar and a summary of the most commonly found grape varieties.

However, the real nub of the book is all the information about the various producers.  Paul’s blurb boasts more than 670 growers, who are arranged by appellation and area.  For some he has written small profiles, giving an approximate price point for each wine that is mentioned, as well as an overall star rating for the estate, whereas for others there are just the contact details and a rating.  I am full of admiration for all that attention to detail.  As with any selection, it is always interesting to see who is included and who is omitted.  Inevitably I thought: where is so and so? Or who are they?  as I did for Muscat de Lunel, for example.   Château Grès Saint Paul, as the oldest estate, deserves its place; Domaine de la Croix Saint-Roch is a name that is completely new to me, but where is the most important estate of the appellation, Domaine le Clos de Bellevue?   Inevitably with so many growers, it is impossible to keep tabs on everyone – Domaine Plan de l’Homme in the Terrasses du Larzac has been sold to les Grands Chais de France; Domaine la Croix Vanel in Caux is now owned by Marc-Olivier Bertrand and Faugères has only had one cooperative since 2010.

But those are niggles. There is no doubt that this is a very useful addition to our wine book shelves.   I am planning to explore Roussillon in more detail and I shall certainly be consulting it to see who I should be going to visit, with the help of some excellent maps, that show very clearly who is where.   Paul and I agreed very amicably that our two books will compliment each other perfectly, and you will just have to wait until 22nd March to see how

Softback available from Amazon for £35.00