The recently opened Maison du Languedoc in Cavendish Square, a rather smart address around the back of John Lewis, is the London showcase for the Languedoc. Last week it hosted a mini organic fair with eleven exhibitors. What follows are my highlights:
CLOS DU GRAVILLAS, in St. Jean de Minervois
John Bojanowski is an engaging, enthusiastic American, who, with his wife, Nicole, runs six hectares of vines, with thirteen different grape varieties. Carignan has always been a particular enthusiasm, ever since they started their estate with just one hectare of old vines. The UK agents are those wonderfully quirky and original wine importers, and organic specialists, Les Caves de Pyrène. If a wine grower is represented by them on the British market, I know the wines will be rewarding. I may not like them, but they will certainly engage my attention.
2007 L’Inattendu, Minervois. A blend of Grenache Blanc, Macabeu and Terret. Light golden in colour. Herbal hints on the nose. The palate is rounded and textured with a firm streak of acidity. Good mouthfeel and an intriguing finish.
2008 Sous les Cailloux des Grillons, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Brian. A blend of Syrah, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Counoise. Good colour. A warm, but stony nose, with a touch of berry fruit. Medium weight, with some warm leathery notes on the palate, plus some berry fruit and a stony finish.
2006 Rendez-vous du soleil, Côtes de Brian. A blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Counoise. Good young colour. A warm, slightly meaty nose, which repeats on the palate. Nicely rounded fruit, with some supple tannins. Quite textured, with a leathery finish.
2005 Lò Vielh, Côtes de Brian. Pure Carignan. Good colour. A firm, dry nose. The palate is initially tight knit with some berry fruit developing in the glass. Medium weight and youthful.
2008 Douce Providence Muscat de St. Jean-de-Minervois
Light colour; quite a rounded honeyed palate, with fresh grapey fruit. Fresh and rounded and very appealing.
I’ve driven through the pretty village of Puéchabon on numerous occasions and noticed the sign for Domaine Coston, but have never been able to stop, so I was very pleased to have the opportunity to taste Jean-Marc Coston’s wines. He farms 12 hectares with his brother Philippe, and they have just bought another 24 hectares, the very same plot that the Mondavis had hoped to buy, and caused all that rumpus around Aniane. The two brothers are planning to clear the scrub and plant a further eight hectares. This is definitely an estate to watch.
2007 les Garigoles Blanches, Terrasses du Larzac. Grenache Blanc and Roussanne 17.00€ TTC Quite a resinous quality on both nose and palate, but also quite intriguing, with herbal notes and a rounded finish.
2008 Vin de pays de St. Guilhem le Désert. A blend of Grenache, Carignan and Cabernet France. 6.50€ TTC Medium colour. Soft rounded spicy nose. Medium weight. Very drinkable and gouleyant, with soft spicy fruit, but sufficient tannin to provide a backbone.
2007 Terrasses du Larzac, from Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre. Elevage in vat. 9.00€ Quite a deep colour. A rich spicy nose, with more depth than the previous wine. Eminently drinkable but again with more texture than the vin de pays. A lovely ripe finish.
Les Garigoles, Terrasses du Larzac, Grenache and Syrah. A little élevage in barrel. 16.00€ Medium colour. Quite a firm smoky nose, with a hint of oak. More depth and body, with good rounded fruit, and a streak of tannin. Medium weight.
My friend. Virgile Joly was there – see my earlier blog about picking grapes for him. This was the chance to taste the new vintage of Le Joly Rouge, 2008. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsaut and Carignan. AC Languedoc. This could almost be the Languedoc’s answer to Beaujolais, a wine that is fresh and easy to drink, with peppery cherries on nose and palate, just a streak of tannin and a fresh fruity finish. Quite delicious.
2008 Saturne blanc, Languedoc AC Grenache blanc Also a new vintage. Quite a delicate nose, with round fresh herbal notes and a rounded palate with fresh acidity and good texture. .
LES CHEMINS DE BASSAC Isabelle and Rémi Ducellier make Côtes du Thongue and are based in the village of Puimisson. They have fifteen hectares of vines.
2008 Isa blanc, Côtes de Thongue from Viognier and Roussanne - 6.00€ Light colour, a delicate nose. Good fruit on the palate, slightly floral, what the French would call fleurs blanches. Nice rounded body.
2007 Isa Rouge, Côtes de Thongue, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cabernet, Pinot 5.70€
Medium colour. Rounded, restrained nose. Nicely balanced palate, with some rounded fruit, and a streak of tannin. A harmonious finish.
2008 Pinot Noir, Côtes de Thongue. 7.00€
This was a surprise. I had forgotten that they produce Pinot Noir and this was extremely drinkable. It is very simple, with fresh raspberry fruit, a touch of varietal character, but no great depth, nor any barrel ageing. Just a lovely fresh fruity glass of wine.
MAS DE JANINY in St. Bauzille de la Sylve was another new name for me. Of the four wines, they showed, I liked best 2007 La Famille, AC Languedoc and a blend of Grenache Syrah, Mourvèdre, with a little oak ageing was firm and spicy.
DOMAINE VAL AUCLAIR is based in the Corbières at Fontjoncouse, but produces Vin de Pays de la Vallée du Paradis.
2008 Notre Passion from 100 year old Carignan. 12 months ageing in two year old barrels. 13.00€ TTC Ripe and rounded with well-integrated oak. Ripe cherry fruit and a harmonious finish. I liked this a lot.
Notre Passion from 70 year old Macabeu, harvested in mid-October. This was quite intriguing, with some firm oak and a resinous note, and firm acidity on the palate. I wondered where it was going.
2008 Notre Histoire, from 70 year old Carignan and 18 year old Syrah. Although, or maybe because it had only spent three months in oak, the oak seem to dominate any fruit in the wine. The least successful of their range.
2008 Notre Délire. 7.50€ From 60 year old Grenache. Refreshingly no oak. Rounded spicy cherry fruit on the nose, with some texture fruit and spice on the palate. Quite rich, with a dry finish.
DOMAINE DE BASSAC. The Delhon brothers have been producing organic wine since 1990, so could be considered one of the pioneers of the Languedoc.
2008 Armonia Rouge, Vin de Pays d’Oc 470€ A blend of Merlot, Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. A bit of a mixture of grape varieties making an easy to drink wine, with ripe spicy cherry fruit. No great depth, but an enjoyable drink.
2008 Cabernet Franc Côtes de Thongue. Some varietal character with fresh cherry fruit and a streak of tannin to give it backbone.
2008 Petit Grain de Bassac, Côtes de Thongue, moelleux A late harvest Muscat. - 7.50€ Muscat à petits grains, to be precise. Light colour; fresh pithy, grapey fruit, with good acidity and a fresh honeyed finish.
And finally there were a handful of wines from Les Domaines Auriol, which is run by Claude Vialade. She is one of the most energetic and dynamic wine producers of the Languedoc and was once the export director of the large organisation, Les Vignerons Val d’Orbieu. These days she produces wines, both as grower, and as a négociant from the Spanish border to the Costières de Nîmes
2008 Domaine la Chapelle, Vin de Pays d’Oc, a blend of Grenache and Syrah was easy, ripe and spicy. As was 2008 Le Bistro, a Vin de Pays de l’Hérault, from Grenache, Merlot, Carignan and Syrah, providing simple, uncomplicated drinking, with rounded fruit. What more do you want?