Stars and Discoveries in Paris
I recently spent a day at this tasting, in the splendid venue of the brasserie of the large department store, Printemps, which is on the top floor under a spectacular glass dome of shades of blue. I wish I had thought to bring a camera; the colours were simply magnificent, even on a grey October day. The theme covered established stars, proven by their ratings in various tastings over the last year and then they can each suggest a discovery, a newer estate, with some potential.
I concentrated on discoveries in anticipation of some exciting new wines and I was not disappointed; there were some very good wines amongst the newcomers and some old friends amongst the stars. The tasting covered most but not all of the appellations of the Languedoc - there were new producers who have only recently begun making wines and others that are more established, but not especially in the public eye. Corbières and Minervois were well represented but there were very few Terrasses du Larzac or Grès de Montpellier. Sometimes I really appreciated one but not the other in the pair.
One particularly convincing duo came from Fitou with the star Château Champs des Soeurs, and the new estate of Domaine Sarrat d'en sol - a name which translates literally in Occitan as 'a small hill in the sunshine'. They made their first Fitou in 2015 - a sturdy gutsy glass of wine from Carignan with some Syrah and Grenache, with some dry spice, from just four hectares in the village of Fitou itself. Château Champs des Soeurs is also in the village of Fitou and they make three different wines, Tradition, Bel Amant and La Tina. All were very convincing with varying degrees of structured fruit.
Christophe Bousquet from Château Pech-Redon had brought La Combe St Paul, an estate I remembered tasting as Domaine Maury at the annual vigneron ballade a few years ago. Paul Maury has six hectares of la Clape along with vineyards for vins de pays in the Coteaux d'Ensérune. On the day Grès Rouges was the star, a blend of Syrah with 30% Mourvèdre. It was rounded and spicy, with some supple fruit and a streak of tannin.
And l'Epervier blanc, a blend of Grenache blanc and Bourboulenc from Château Pech-Redon was fresh and mineral with white blossom on the finish. And the red wines showed plenty of depth of character too.
Thanks to Clos Marie there was a new Pic St. Loup estate, Clos de la Matane, in the village of Claret. The 2014 was atypical as it contained 70% Grenache when Pic St Loup is usually based on Syrah. It had some ripe cherry fruit with a fresh tannic streak - so not classic Pic St. Loup but nonetheless a jolly nice drink. A Coteaux du Languedoc with 70% Syrah with Grenache and Mourvèdre was nicely spicy but with less depth.
And the stars did include some serious players. I always enjoy the wines of Château Rouquette-sur-Mer, in la Clape, especially Jacques Boscary's white wine. Cuvée Arpège is a blend of Bourboulenc and. Roussanne, with some fresh herbal fruit while Cuvée Henri Lapierre is richer, and more textured and concentrated.
For me Basil St. Germain at Domaine des Aurelles in Caux makes one of the best white wines of the Languedoc. His Cuvée Aurel, a pure Roussanne is astonishing, a wine of depth and elegant intensity, rich and textured and long, and one of those wines which keep you guessing. Manon from Clos Marie in the Pic St. Loup also intrigues with its blend of Macabeo, Grenache Gris and Blanc and a touch of Muscat. There is some firm minerality and youthful fruit. And I also enjoyed the whites of the Prieuré de St. Jean de Bébian.
I had not tasted the wines from Domaine Mouscaillo in Limoux for a while. They now make some Crémant; the 2014 was quite fresh and crisp without any dosage, with some fermentation in oak to give a touch of weight. The still Chardonnay was elegantly rounded but with some firm structure - I likened it to ripe Chablis, much to Marie-Claire Fort's amusement. And then I was given a treat, the 2004, their very first vintage which was drinking well, with some intriguing notes of sous bois and some maturity. And the 2014 Pinot Noir was fresh with elegant red fruit. Their discovery was their nephew, Etienne Fort, but I did not taste his wines as I am due for a visit shortly.
Isabelle Champart from Mas Champart was showing her range of St. Chinian with a delicious white, an intriguing blend of Grenache blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Bourboulenc and Clairette, with some herbal notes balanced with refreshing acidity. I liked her Causse de Bousquet too, with 70% Syrah as well as some Grenache and Carignan, with a satisfying balance of fruit and spice, with an elegant finish.
I always enjoy Vincent Goumard’s wines at Cal Demoura and this occasion was no exception, with a white L’Etincelle based on Chenin Blanc with dry herbal honey, and then a pair of reds, L'Infidèle with some spice and Combariolles with more concentration, but always with some satisfying spicy fruit. Vincent's discovery was Laure Gasparotto who is a wine writer as well as a new winemaker at Domaine la Lauzeta. Earlier this year she published an evocative book, La Mécanique des Vins, in which she is in conversation with Olivier Julien, one of the leading producers of the Terrasses du Larzac. Cal Demoura originally belonged to Oliver’s father, Jean-Pierre. I found Laure's wines rather young and adolescent, possibly explained by the fact that they were 2015s, and not all yet in bottle.
Domaine de Montcalmès is a well-established star. Their 2013 Coteaux du Languedoc blanc is a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne, with some oak and some satisfying texture on the palate, and the 2013 Terrasses du Larzac was elegantly rounded with smooth tannins. With those two wines they undoubtedly maintained their place amongst some of the most refined of the Languedoc. And there were others I could mention, some favourites from Faugères, and more from the Minervois and Corbières. And I finished the day with a refreshing glass of Françoise Antech’s Crémant de Limoux. In short it was well worth the journey to Paris!!