The Terrasses du Larzac – a walk through the vineyards.

For anyone who enjoys the wines of the Languedoc, the annual ballade vigneronne of the Terrasses du Larzac is a must.  This year it was focused on the village of Pégairolles de l’Escalette, which enjoys some of the most dramatic scenery of the whole of the Languedoc.  If you drive south down the A75 motorway from Millau, there is a moment when you come over the pass, the Col de l’Escalette and you have the Languedoc at your feet.  Pégairolles is the first village after that pass, and the vineyards are on steep hillsides to the west of the motorway.  I’ve attempted a few photographs, but they simply do not do justice to the grandeur of the scenery. 

The producers of the Terrasses du Larzac were in festive mood as they have achieved the status of an independent appellation, without any reference to Coteaux du Languedoc or Languedoc.  Depending on when the minister signs the final decree, this should be for the 2014 vintage.    They are fairly optimistic.  The mayor of Pégairolles is a deputy, and his political colours are the same as the appropriate minister …… the out-going president of the syndicat, Vincent Goumard from Cal Demoura is undoubtedly exiting on a high note, and his place will be ably filled by Marie Chauffray from Réserve d’O. 

The walk took the usual format – six stages, with six courses and a total of 44 wines to try.  Don’t worry: I am not going to inflict 44 tasting notes on you, but just a handful of highlights.  However, it is true to say that there is a very high standard of overall quality in the Terrasses du Larzac, defined by the essential freshness of wine that comes from cooler vineyards at higher altitudes. 

The first stage for the mise en bouche included tastes of all three colours, and the more  solid accompaniment was a pink wine jelly with some melon and water melon.  It was quite refreshing, but really a bit sweet for the wines.  And the walk initially was through olives groves and woods.   Evidently a lot of work had been done to create the paths, removing obstacles and even at one point even putting temporary bridges over a small river.  Apparently there are plans to keep the path  open, making it a more permanent oeno-tourist attraction.  That would be a great idea. 

The new owners of Mas Conscience were pouring L’In Blanc, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino and Roussanne, with a touch of Viognier.  Martine and Jean-Luc Quinquarlet of  La Bastide aux Oliviers were offering Pierre et Bastien 2012Bastien was their son who died far too young, and Pierre is a good friend.  It was a wonderful rich glass of wine, with ripe fruit and tapenade and well-integrated oak, after 14 months in barrel.  The price is 25€ -' we’ve never sold a wine for that price before', admitted Jean-Luc.    Olivier Bellet from Clos Rivieral was offering his 2013 Rosé Les Fontanilles, which was mainly Cinsaut with some Syrah and Grenache and was delicate and elegant, with a fresh dry finish.

At the next étape, with a vegetable flan for sustenance, there were a couple of white wines that caught my attention.  La Jasse Castel in Montpeyroux was showing their 2013 L’Egrisée Blanc  made from Grenache blanc, with some Carignan and Roussanne, from vineyards at 400 metres, and aged  on lees, so that it had some appealing minerality balanced with white blossom and good acidity, for 12.50€  And Domaine du Dausso, an estate that I have yet to visit was pouring L’Inattendu blanc, a blend of 95% Vermentino with a touch of Roussanne, with some very appealing herbal fruit on both nose and palate, balanced by fresh acidity, and for just 8.90€ a bottle.

On  through vineyards and past stone walls and capitelles and more great scenery for an effiloché de canard, which  might best be described as a bit of shredded duck with some hints of orange.   Wines to go with it included Graeme Angus’s Les Trois Terres 2011 Saut du Diable, which was ripe and rounded with a fresh finish – classic Terrasses du Larzac.  We then tried Jean-Baptiste Granier's 2012 Les Vignes Oubliees with fresh spice, followed by Rémi Duchemin’s Plan de l’Homme Habilis. That is a blend of Grenache with Syrah and Carignan and is ripe and spicy and refreshingly unoaked.   All three were lovely wines, and there were others.

The meat course, a serious chunk of beef filet, was accompanied by several serious bottles.    2011 Domaine Montcalmès was elegant and fresh; Mas Séranne  Clos des Immortelles 2012 had some lovely peppery fruit – it comes from all five red varieties, but mainly Syrah and Carignan.  2011 les Etats d’Ame from Mas Jullien was elegantly smoky and stylish, as one would expect from Olivier Jullien.  Isabelle and Vincent Goumard of Cal Demoura were pouring 2012 l’Infidèle which was nicely rounded and mineral with a touch of oak.   Délphine Rousseau and Julien Zernott from Domaine du Pas de l’Escalette were there with Grand Pas 2010.  This is of course very much their home patch.  And Olivier Jeantet from Mas Haut Buis was showing Costa Caoude.  The name may imply heat, but the wine had a fresh finish.

A cool track along a small river took us to the road that led into Pégairolles which is a pretty circulade village.  In the place de l’Eglise we found the cheese course, with plenty of red wines to go with it.   Guilhem Dardé of Mas des Chimeres was offering 2011 Nuit Grave, mainly Syrah with some Grenache and Mourvèdre with touch of tapenade and some good fruit.   

Jérémie Depierre from Domaine la Peira was pouring 2011 Les Obrières, a blend of Cinsaut and Carignan with a little Mourvèdre and Grenache and unusually no Syrah, with some lovely fruit, with spice and herbs of the  garrigues, and supple tannins, for 12€.  Hissez O from La Réserve d’O was rounded and ripe, and Gavin Crisfield’s  La Traversée 2011 was perfumed, fresh and elegant.

The route took us round pass the château, allowing us the chance to admire an elegant galleried courtyard.  I wasn’t in the mood for dessert but there were some lovely red wines instead, but first Pascal Dalier from Domaine de Joncas was offering his rosé, 2013 Nebla, which was refreshing with strawberry fruit and acidity.   

There was a new estate, Domaine de l’Argenteille from St. Saturnin.  Roger Jeanjean explained that he has absolutely nothing to do with the much better known Jeanjean family.  His father had vines in St. Saturnin,  as did his uncle who had been the first director of the coop of St. Saturnin until 1985.  And his 2012 Garric was a blend of equal parts of Syrah, Mourvèdre and old Carignan with 10% Grenache, with a touch of oak.  It was nicely made with a good fruit and a hint of tapenade, showing some ageing potential.  

Béatrice Fillon from Clos du Serres was pouring 2012 Blaca which was quite rich and powerful with some tapenade and a fresh finish.  Philippe Gros from Domaine Fabregous was showing the most mature wine of the tasting, 2008 Sentier Botanique which was rounded and harmonious with a touch of spice and a satisfying note of maturity.  It made a great finale to the occasion.     


Alan March said…
Would like to do some of these, think I'll be taking my own vegetarian food though :)
I am afraid that they don't really cater for vegetarians.....or whether there is avegetarian option that I have never got to hear about. worth asking.
Unknown said…
very envious - it was sold out by the time we tried to book. How far ahead does one have to reserve?

Presumably farther away from home next year

Btw we tried to do the walk the next day (without the food & wines) but they had already stripped away the signs so we got hopelessly lost! Hope they do keep it open (with signage!)

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