Pays d’Oc Collection 2017

The former Vin de Pays d’Oc, now just called Pays d’Oc, has clocked up thirty years and the initial offering of 24 grape varieties (9 red and 15 white) has grown to an extraordinary 58, which illustrate the rich diversity of the south of France.   Pay d’Oc also accounts for half the production of the entire Languedoc.  Among the grape varieties, there are the classics of the Languedoc, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre.  Surprisingly perhaps, Carignan has only recently been accepted as a single variety, illustrating that it was once despised and is now enjoying a huge revival in its fortunes.  There are of course the varieties of Bordeaux, Cabernets, Merlot, a growing amount of Petit Verdot, as well as previously spurned varieties like Aramon and Alicante.  For whites, Sauvignon and Chardonnay are important, as well as ever growing amount of Viognier; Terret Blanc and Carignan Blanc are making a comeback, and the latest newcomer is Albariño.   

Each summer the annual Collection is chosen to represent the Pays d'Oc and illustrate its quality for the ensuring 12 months.  In 2017, 28 wines were chosen, and what follows are some of the highlights.

2016 Domaine la Fadèze, Terret Blanc. 
Light colour; a light fresh pithy nose and on the palate lightly rounded with some stony fruit.  A fresh finish.  No great depth, but an eminently drinkable glass of wine.

2016 Sauvignon, Famille Guilhem-Malviès
This comes from the Malepère, one of the cooler regions of the Languedoc.  Light colour, and a light stony nose, and on the palate very good varietal character, with firm acidity and stony mineral fruit.  For a southern Sauvignon, it is not too ripe

2016 Premier Rolle, Domaine d’Aigues-Belles
A Rolle or Vermentino from the eastern Languedoc, close to the Pic St. Loup.  A rounded nose, with texture and weight on the palate, balanced with acidity.  A touch of oak slightly flattens the finish, but nonetheless a sound example of the grape variety.

2016 les Jamelles Gewürztraminer
Light colour.  Very perfumed Nivea cream nose and on the palate opulent perfumed fruit, with the benchmark Gewürztraminer spice, balanced by good acidity, and a hint of sweetness on the finish.   Classic varietal character.

2016 Domaine Ventenac, Cuvée de Marie, Colombard Chenin
Light colour and a fresh nose.  A fresh pithy palate with a hint of honey, good acidity and a rounded finish.  From Cabardès, so a cooler area where Colombard performs well.  You more commonly find it in Côtes de Gascogne.

2016 Le Versant Viognier
This was my favourite of the various Viognier, with some peachy fruit balanced, with good acidity.  Medium weight

2016 Solas, Albariño, Laurent Miquel
Laurent Miquel is successfully pioneering Albariño in the Languedoc, at Domaine les Auxines in the hills up above the village of Lagrasse.  This has some understated but convincing varietal character on both nose and palate, with distinctive peachy notes. 

2016 Domaine Rives-Blanques, 90% Chardonnay - 10% Chenin blanc. 
Light colour,  A delicate nose and a rounded palate, with balanced acidity.  Nicely crafted and understated.  Easy drinking

2016 Villa Blanche, Chardonnay, Calmel and Joseph
This was the best of the Chardonnays, with a light colour, a lightly buttery nose and a rounded palate, with mouthfeel and texture and some leesy notes.  Very satisfying.

Sadly, my bottle of Domaine Gayda’s Chenin blanc Figure Libre was corked, but the Cabernet Franc Figure Libre from Domaine Gayda was delicious.   Cabernet Franc performs really well in the south, and this had some ripe cherry fruit on nose and palate, with supple tannins.  A wonderful explosion of fruit that leapt out of the glass, balanced by a restraining streak of tannin.

There were a pair of Pinot Noir, showing that in certain parts of the Languedoc, Pinot Noir can be very successful.  Laurent Miquel’s 2016 Solas was light in colour, with fresh perfumed fruit on the nose and palate, with some acidity and tannin.  It made a refreshing drink without any great depth.

2016 Pinot Noir, Anne de Joyeuse
This is from the smaller of the two Limoux cooperatives, a wine with more structure, deeper in colour with ripe fruit and some oak on the palate, with more tannin and depth. 

2016 Les Yeuses, Marselan and Cabernet Franc
Deep young colour, with some rounded spice.  Very supple, with soft tannins, for easy drinking.  Goes a hint jammy on the finish.  

Among the Bordeaux blends, I like Anne de Joyeuse, 2016 Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon, with rounded fruit, and a firm tannin streak.  Nicely balanced. 

There were a pair of Petit Verdot, of which I preferred Domaine de Valensac, 2015, Entre Nous, with a deep colour, some spice on the nose and a structured palate.  It was elegant and fresh. 

And best of the Syrah was Domaine les Yeuses, 2015, with some peppery fruit on the nose and medium weight with accessible uncomplicated fruit on the palate.  A cheerful glass of the warm south. 


Bob Rossi said…
" Surprisingly perhaps, Carignan has only recently been accepted as a single variety, illustrating that it was once despised and is now enjoying a huge revival in its fortunes."
I remember about 15 years ago and American importer (who also now owns a vineyard in the Roussillon) told me that in his opinion Carignan can be terrible if it is from young vines grown on the vallet floor, but outstanding if it is from old hillside-grown vines. I've often been a fan of carignan, but recently had one that I thought put pretty much all others to shame. It was 100% carignan from the Cotes du Rhone appellation, which I didn't realize even allowed 100% carignan in that AOP.
Cotes du Rhone is usually a blend, so that is very unusual. I think yield is one of the key factors with Carignan; old vines help too, but people are replanting Carignan, so correct viticulture helps too, and as you say, hillsides rather than valley floor.
Bob Rossi said…
Although rare, I've seen CDR's that are 100% Syrah. But never Carignan; I wouldn't have thought that the appellation rules would even allow that. And I definitely agree about the low yields. In fact, the importer I referred to (who was Dan Kravitz) may have mentioned low yields when he was discussing Carignan. And I wonder what your opinion is about generally-reviled Aramon. The little I know about it comes from Patrick Moon's books on living in the Languedoc.
I think Aramon has some potential too. Next in line for a come back??? I can't remember what Patrick said about it. But Ch la Linquiere in St. Chinian produces a rather good one, which I have described as follows:

Next came an originality, a pure Aramon, from bush vines planted in 1910. Even at that age it gives a crop of 35 hl/ha, but when the vines were young, they would have produced a 100 hl/ha or more. The Aramons Centenaires, Vin de France, has some fresh fruit, a streak of acidity as well as tannin and a nicely perfumed note, as well as a hint of sympathique rusticity.

And I am sure I have had another rather good one from somebody else, but can't quite remember who at the moment.

Bob Rossi said…
There is a small producer in Sommieres, Chateau l'Argentiere, that for some reason is well-distributed in the small Maine market. They make a 100% Aramon rose. I tried it once but don't remember being overwhelmed by it.
As to what is next for revival: There's always Chatus, but I think that it has always been obscure, given its small geographical limit (but it's one I've really liked). Same for Mondeuse Blanche in the Savoie.
I am out of my depth in Savoie. However the other Aramon producer I was trying to remember is Lou Belvestit a new and I think up and coming estate in the Cotes de Thongue.

And what about Clairette and Carignan blanc in the Languedoc?

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