The Vignerons Independents come to London

The beginning of the year started well with lots of sunshine and wine in the Languedoc, but old favourites rather than new discoveries, so nothing of note for a blog - hence my silence.  And then back to London a week into the year for a complete immersion in the 2011 Burgundies – 2011 Chablis tends to pale alongside the razor sharp minerality of the  2010s, while many of the red wines are deliciously forward and fruity and almost ready for drinking – and then yesterday there was the London version of the Vignerons Independents tasting,  with a healthy representation from the Languedoc, providing an opportunity to discover some new names. 

But first I said hallo to friends:

Constance Rerolle from Château l’Engarran outside Montpellier was there with a new vintage of her Cuvée La Lionne.  The 2011 is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Grenache.  Deep colour; a rich concentrated nose.  The palate is quite perfumed with ripe spice and nicely integrated oak, with a satisfying streak of tannin on the finish.

Christine Mouton Bertoli from Domaine Sainte Cécile du Parc, a new estate outside Pézenas, was there too, so an opportunity for a quick update.

2011 Notes Pures, Sauvignon is quite golden, with ripe rounded nose and a textured leesy palate and some lovely depth.  Dry and mouth filling.

2012 Rosé, Notes Frivoles, A blend of Grenache, Cabernet Franc and Carignan was a vat sample, and still fresh and crisp with a rounded ripe finish.  It promises well.

Christine’s red wines from the 2009 and 2010 vintages were ageing very nicely, with some smoky understated oak and rich tapenade notes on the palate.  See an earlier posting from last summer for more details

Pic St. Loup was represented by:

Château de Lancyre, owned by the Valentin and Durand families.  I’ve not tasted these wines since I was researching The Wines of the South of France at the end of the 1990s..

2011 Languedoc – a blend of Roussanne, with 10% each of Marsanne and Viognier.  Ripe and perfumed; with Viognier peachiness and some white blossom.

They were showing three reds, Coste d’Aleyrac, Clos des Combes and Vieilles Vignes, from Syrah and Grenache planted in the early 1970s – so not that old.  The style of the reds was ripe and supple, with spicy fruit.  Coste d’Aleyrac was very gourmand, and Clos des Combes quite warm on the finish, with more concentration.  None were aged in oak, so fruit dominated the palate.

I had a jolly conversation with Guillaume Granier from Domaine les Grandes Costes, another Pic St. Loup estate at Vacquières on the edge of the appellation. It is his brother Jean-Christophe who makes the wine, and according to Guillaume, looks for rounded tannins, with an élevage in older barrels.  They have Coteaux du Languedoc, or Languedoc  too. 

2007 Sarabande, Languedoc, from Cinsaut, Grenache, Syrah and Carignan had some nice evolving fruit with tapenade notes and some dry spice on the finish.   

2010 Pic St. Loup from Syrah and Grenache, was sturdy and more concentrated, with ripe fruit and a firm streak of tannin. A satisfying contrast with the Languedoc.   And the 2009 had some ripe spice and tannin, and was nicely balanced and mouth filling.

Frederic Mezy from Clos des Augustins in the Pic St. Loup made his first vintage in 2003 from 3 hectares.  He now has 32 hectares. He is a friendly young guy, with some engaging enthusiasm who deserves to do well.

I particularly like d his 2011 Pic St. Loup, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.  Deep colour. Quite solid, ripe and rounded with a tannic streak.  Youthful with some fresh fruit. Good balance.

Then there were some wine growers from the Minervois.

Domaine Saint Michel Archange,  in Bize-Minervois   Charles Janbon used to be a professor of medicine, before he joined the family estate in 2005, in retirement, so we had a reassuring conversation about how good for you wine is – phew .....

He was showing two wines, Cuvée La Tour de Boussecus, one third each of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah, with some spicy fruit and a certain sweetness.  Élevage in vat and vinification by carbonic maceration for the Grenache and Carignan.

Cuvee Joséphine was a Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre blend, with 12 months élevage in oak, which I found a bit drying.

Domaine du Bosc-Rochet in Aigues Vives was also an unknown (to me) Minervois estate. 
2010 Minervois Carpe Diem from Syrah and Carignan, including some very old Carignan, planted in 1901, was rounded and spicy with well integrated oak, making for a supple finish.

Nor had I come across Domaine Terres Georges before. Roland Coustal’s father was called Georges, and the vines came from him.  They are in Castelnau d’Aude, close to the Canal du Midi.  There were two cuvées, Et Cetera, with some ripe spicy fruit and a streak of tannin, and Quintessence which had spent eight months in three year old wood, with some more structured spice and a steak of tannin.  Both easy drinking.

René-Henry Guéry of Chateau Guéry in the village of Azille explained how he is the 8th generation of his family to own the vineyards, but his father had sold grapes to the négoce.  He bottled his first wine in 1998.  And as well as Minervois he makes various varietal wines.  I liked his 2010 Minervois Grès, a blend of Grenache , Syrah and Mourvèdre, with an élevage in vat.  Quite a firm nose; rounded structured palate with firm fruit, and  a sturdy streak that is the benchmark of good Minervois.

He has a Cuvée les Eolides, named after a piece by César Frank, who composed the work in the village of Azille.  It also recalls the importance of the wind in the area.  The 2010 vintage was rounded and ripe, with some solid oak and firm tannins and a solid youthful finish.

There was also a pure Petit Verdot, a more unusual varietal of the Languedoc, which he made for the first time in 2004.  12 months in wood.  Ripe and rounded with good fruit and tannins and some acidity.  Youthful balance.

The pioneer of Petit Verdot in the Languedoc was Bernard Jany at Château Condamine Bertrand in Paulhan.  His son-in-law, Bruno Andreu, explained how 40 years ago he had planted just one hectare in the middle of a plot of Merlot – so that it was always declared as Merlot.  Now that Petit Verdot is allowed, since 2000, they have planted a second hectare.  And the wine is fresh and tannic with some perfumed fruit.

I also liked their 2011 Coteaux du Languedoc Tradition with quite a deep colour and some firm leathery notes on both nose and palate, with a tannic streak and a sunny finish.

Sylvie Ellul was the directrice of the Vin de Pays d’Oc syndicat before she became involved in the family vineyard of Domaine Ellul-Ferrières outside Castries.  She explained how they are hoping to extend the zone of St. Drézery, to include eight wine growers.  Currently Domaine Puech Haut is the best known estate of St. Drézery. Inevitably these things take time, and for  the moment they are within the terroir of Grès de Montpellier – I suggested that Grès de Montpellier might provide a more obvious identity than St. Drézery.   At least the mention of Montpellier gives you a clue as to where the wine might come from, unlike St. Drézery, but Sylvie did not seem convinced.

1997 was their first vintage and they have six hectares, and make two styles of red wine, les Romarins, which is given a long élevage in vat, and is a blend of Syrah and Grenache, with no fining or filtering.  The wines are ripe and harmonious and very gourmand, with some lovely red fruit.  The alcohol levels are quite generous, but you do not taste it.

Grande Cuvée is given twelve months élevage in oak and again is a blend of Syrah and Grenache.  The wine is solid and intense, with ripe fruit and firm tannic steak, with ageing potential.

And there was one lone estate from Roussillon, with Marie Claude Mathieu, from Château de Lacroix in Cabestany.   She makes a range of Côtes du Roussillon, both red and white.  Cuvée Louise was perfumed and supple, with a small amount of oak élevage, while the Réserve was more intense and concentrated with ripe fruit and oak.

There was a characterful Muscat Sec, les Petits Grains, Côtes Catalanes, and an elegantly grapey Muscat de Rivesaltes, and best of all was a Rivesaltes Ambré.  Hazelnut on the nose and a taste of sherry trifle.   Have you ever tried explaining sherry trifle to a French woman?


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