This April past I travelled to the southwestern French town of Pézenas to attend the annual Terroirs & Millésimes week of Languedoc wines. Tasting well over 1,200 wines over the course of five days, it was extremely hard to make sense of some of my reams and reams of (electronic) notes.
After much internal discussion/argument I cajoled myself into listing my top 10 wines of the experience. It was incredibly tricky trying to slim down my exhaustive (and exhausting) tasting notes in an effort to pick out a mere 10 bottlings, as there were an inordinate number of wines that could easily have made this list. You may wonder why you see no mention of some of my favourite regions, notably Cabardès and Terrasses du Larzac? Well, all of the event’s submitted wines were tasted blind, within their appellations, and looking back at my notations, it was these particular 10 wines that simply scored most highly in my mind and on my palate. That’s not to say that there weren’t many, many other extremely fine five apple wines!
What follows is a wholly subjective breakdown of the 10 Languedoc wines that, in situ, gave me the utmost of vinous pleasures.
2013 Calmel and Joseph Crémant de Limoux “Brut”
A nifty blend of 60 % Chardonnay/30 % Chenin/10% Pinot Noir, made traditional method, and vinified dry with 15 months élevage in bottle. A delightful little number that proudly flies the flag for quality Crémant from the region. A nose of green apples with some autolytic touches. An impressively persistent mousse, and solid weight and texture on the palate made this a real stand out from the sparkling crowd. I pushed this up to five apples as it was simply so bloody enjoyable.
2014 Vignobles Courbissac “Roc Suzadou”, Minervois
A 50/50 cépage of organic Carignan and Grenache, with some eight months ageing in 40hl foudres. The 30 hectare domaine is the lovechild of the film producer Reinhard Brundig and the Alsatian winegrower Marc Tempé. A stunningly perfumed nose, no doubt due in no small part to the Carignan component of the blend. A very structured wine, with fine, silky, elegant tannins. Also check out their Mourvedre/Syrah “Roc du Pière.
2015 Domaine Malys-Anne “Prelude”, Minervois
Again I find myself drawn to the Carignan-heavy Minervois, with this 80% Carignan/20% Syrah blend from Domaine Malys-Anne. A touch of dill and black pepper on a pretty perfumed nose of fennel and floral elements. The palate is all about delicious black licorice, with some delightfully fine tannins. Excellent finish. Pretty damn good value too!
2015 Château Sainte Eulalie “Grand Vin”, Minervois La Livinière
Composed of some 35% old vine (80 years old) Grenache, 35% old vine (planted 1910) Carignan, and 30% of some 35 year old Syrah, this is a cracking wine that really woke me up after a long day of tasting. Expressing a wonderful purity of deep, dark black fruit, this wine is pure elegance in the glass. A bouquet of dark fruit is touched with hints of violets and cracked pepper. An amazingly persistent finish.
2015 Gerard Bertrand Château Laville Bertrou, Minervois La Livinière
As is often the way with many a Bertrand wine, this is certainly a bigger style, but by no means at the expense of elegance and finesse. 65% Syrah/20% Grenache/15% Carignan, with around 12 months in 225 litre Bordeaux barrels. Lots of blueberries, stewed brambles, and garrigue/underbrush/herbs on the nose. On the palate the wine is remarkably rich and generous for the money. Lovely silky tannins and intriguing woody tones. A gorgeous wine for an extremely modest pricepoint. Gets five apples for the pure value it exhibits. Extremely polished.
2012 Domaine De La Cendrillon “No. 1”, Corbières
A heady hit of 60% Mourvèdre really fills up the bowl of the glass, and there is no mistaking the varietal here. The rest of the blend is made up of 30% Syrah and 10% Grenache, but it is certainly the glorious Mourvèdre that dominates here. The nose is delightfully complex and earthy, with dark chocolate, spice (eight months in oak), and punnet upon punnet of ripe blackberries. Wonderful juiciness and acid on the plate with some lovely weight, but never tiring. Superb extended finish. Three thumbs up! Striking packaging too.
2015 Château Guilhem “Clos Du Blason”, Malpère
Dipping into the intriguing world of Bordeaux varietals in Languedoc, this appellation often comes out with some excellent surprises, and this one really did it for me. 60% Merlot/20% Cabernet Sauvignon/20% Cabernet Franc, and 12 months in French oak. An entrancing nose of both red and black ripe berry fruit, with nuances of dusty leather-bound books and baking spices. The palate shows a remarkable finesse that is sadly often lacking in the reds of the southwest. Lots of mineral elements going on here too. Great sustained finish.
2014 Les Eminades “Vieilles Canailles”, Saint Chinian
A stunning 95% Carignan/5% Syrah blend that really blew me away. Massive Carignan personality, and sure to win over anyone with any doubts about this varietal’s true potential down here in Languedoc. One of the most perfumed red wines (outside of Lacrima di Morro d’Alba) I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. As well as all that floral character there is also a tonne of mineral, smoke, and licorice to ponder over. In the mouth this wine is pure pleasure, with en point acidity, chocolatey smooth tannins, and a hauntingly spellbinding texture. W0uld love to try this again in a few years. A fantastic bottling.
2014 Domaine de Mathurins “Carnaval des Sens”, Saint Chinian
80% Syrah and 20% Carignan, with six months ageing in barrel. The nose threw me off at first, but then I began to become seduced by the Syrah’s undeniably reductive charms. Quite stinky, but in a most appealing fashion, this wine reminds you of just why so many Languedoc growers placed their bets on the Syrah varietal, as when it can be done well it can be a thing of beauty. Red and black forest fruits and black licorice, with hints of animal, woodsmoke, and underbrush. Good upfront attack on the plate, smooth tannins, but sufficient structure. Pleasing weight and body, with assertive backbone. I wish I could have this wine with my braised beef ribs this evening…
2014 Mas Du Soleilla “Réserve Blanc”, La Clape
I had to include at least one white on my five apples list, and if the truth be told there were quite a few other contenders for this spot (Gerard Bertrand’s pricey but impressive Château L’Hospitalet Grand Vin La Clape being particularly noteworthy), but it was this wine from Mas de Soleilla that really stood out for me. A blend of 60% Bourboulenc and 40% Roussanne that saw nine months in barrel with some serious battonage going on. For me this wine was all about the dreamy texture, due in no small part to all that lees contact. Loads of juicy ripe peachy character on the nose with some orchard blossoms and cardamom. Although this is a very mouth-filling and rich wine, there’s a fine seam of acidity that keeps everything in check. Capable of perhaps even 10 years of cellar time.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he does love the Languedoc; Its wines, food, and people.