Highlights from the 2016 Languedoc Top 100
I did not spend much time at the London Wine Fair this year – blame a book deadline, of which more in due course, but I did taste through the Top 100 Languedoc wines. I had missed helping with the judging this year, as I was in the Languedoc, so I was keen to see what had been chosen. 684 wines were submitted, with more wines from smaller producers than in previous years, and what follows are my highlights.
First off was a pair of lovely sparkling wines from Domaine J. Laurens. Le Moulin, Blanquette de Limoux and les Graimenous, Crémant de Limoux, both fine examples of their appellation and illustrating the differences between Blanquette and Crémant. I thought they were both delicious in different ways.
The best of the Picpoul de Pinet came from Château St. Martin de la Garrigue, with some convincing salty fruit. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, Picpoul seems to be turning soft and soapy, when it should have a firm grip of salinity and acidity. Please don’t lose that. And there was a firm stony Vermentino from Domaine Saint Hilaire, a property which has recently changed hands, but this wine would have been made by the previous owners.
Domaine Jones was a Trophy winner with a delicious 2014 Côtes Catalanes from Grenache Gris, with a touch of oak and some lovely rounded textured palate with good depth of fruit. It was a lovely glass of wine, fully deserving its trophy, and demonstrating the quality of Grenache Gris. I tasted some more of Katie’s wines the next day; they are well worth looking out for. A host of Chardonnay and Viognier came next, for which I could not work up much enthusiasm. Château de Lascaux, a Pic St. Loup estate, had a lovely white Languedoc a blend of Vermentino, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier with some intriguing herbal notes and a rounded palate. Château de Gaure Limoux Blanc, a blend of Chardonnay with Chenin Blanc and Mauzac was elegant and fresh with some dry honeyed fruit.
There was just one rosé, and that won a trophy, La Nuit tous les Chats sont Gris from the Cellier des Chartreux in the Gard, with a pale colour and fresh fruit and an elegant finish. I was amused by the name, but I know nothing about the producer.
And then on to reds, which accounted for three quarters of the wines. Domaine Coudoulet Pinot Noir from the Minervois village of Cesseras was light and rounded with a fresh raspberry finish. Château Viranel, IGP Pays l’Hérault, was an unusual blend of Alicante Bouschet, Syrah and Cabernet Franc, with some ripe, spicy fruit and supple tannins. There were a couple of Carignan, with Fortant de France, Réserve des Grands Mont showing fresh red fruit and some structure, while Domaines les Auriols, Côtes Catalanes, was firm and peppery. Then there was a handful of Syrah Pays d’Oc, from Vignobles Lorgeril, Domaine Aubaï Mema and Domaine les Yeuses.
Next came various AC Languedoc, such 2015 Château de Gaure, with a blend of Syrah, Carignan Noir and Grenache Noir, which was youthful and dense, with tight knit layers of fruit. Château de Lascaux had a youthful red, a blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre, with some smoky concentrated fruit. I was also intrigued by an estate that I have not come across before. Château Argenties in Lagrasse, with a Grenache |Noir, Syrah, Carignan blend, with some smoky fruit and a rounded palate.
Other highlights included Domaine de Magellan, again AC Languedoc with some fresh spice and oak; Villa Dondona’s Dame Mourvèdre, with some youthful smoky elegant fruit, Château de Cazeneuve les Calcaires, Pic St. Loup with some rounded spice. Although it was only 2014, it was drinking deliciously, and there was a new, to me, Pic St. Loup, Domaine Mirabel, with some youthful fruit.
2012 Quetton St. Georges, St. Georges d’Orques from the Château de l’Engarran was ripe and spicy with good depth on the palate. A Grès de Montpellier, Domaine Guizard in Lavérune was fresh and spicy with a good balance. Les Cocalières 2014 from Sylvain Fadat had elegant spice on the palate with a fresh finish.
There were four Faugères, Mas Gabinèle, Domaine de Fenouillet, Château des Estanilles and Domaine Montgros. My favourite of theses on the day was Château des Estanilles 2013 Raison d’Etre, with some elegant fresh fruit and a good balance on the finish. Les Haut de Saint Martin from the Cave de Roquebrun was rich and smoky, youthful and spicy. A handful of Corbières followed, of which Lauzina Rouge from Château Beauregard, was my favourite, with fresh but ripe fruit and an elegant balance and the wild note of Corbières.
And I am sorry to say that I disagreed with the red trophy, a Fitou 2014 Noblesse du Temps from Domaine de la Rochelierre. It seemed rather ripe and oaky, and not very balanced, but I ought to qualify that by saying that tasting temperatures were not ideal. The hall at Olympia was heating up in the spring sunshine so that the organisers were faced with a logistical challenge. I preferred Ancestrale from Domaine Bertrand-Bergé, which was rich with a firm balancing tannic steak.
And the 100th wine was a new estate to me, Château de Peyssonnie, a Muscat de Frontignan, with some fresh elegantly grapey fruit.