Occitanie Annual Trade Day
This was the 10th edition of the Occitanie trade tasting, after a two year break. Occitanie has grown in the interim and now includes wine regions west of Toulouse. I am afraid I gave those a miss and concentrated firmly on the Languedoc with a brief deviation into Roussillon, which was not very well represented. It was a great opportunity to reacquaint myself with some familiar estates, whose wines I have tasted previously, but not for a while, thanks to Covid. It would be tedious to write tasting notes for every single wine from every estate, so I shall content myself with a highlight from each producer. Most of producers were looking for a UK importer, so I wish them every success. I actually began my tasting with Simon Taylor of Stone Vine & Sun. They have always been specialists in the Languedoc, so their wines will merit a separate post.
Clos des Nines with Isabelle Mangeart.
Isabelle’s is one of the estates I visited in the summer of 2019 before we had heard of Covid, and we were very pleased to see each other again. She has a new wine:
2020 Cinso Loco IGP Pays l’Hérault
No prizes for guessing that it is a pure Cinsault, and a delicious one at that. With lovely fragrant fruit on both nose and palate, with a fresh finish. A great example of the success of Cinsault as a variety for red wine rather than rosé.
Terre des 2 Sources
Helene Taillefer runs this estate and the wine is made by New Zealander, Kirsten Creasy who is currently stuck in NZ, which certainly complicates life for them. The estate is in one of the cooler more northern parts of the Terrasses du Larzac, near the village of Montoulieu.
2019 Caprices de Bacchus, Terrasses du Larzac
A blend of Syrah Carignan and Grenache Noir. Medium colour. Quite firm spice on the nose and on the palate a combination of southern fruit balanced with tannin and the freshness and structure that is characteristic of the Terrasses du Larzac. A wine with some ageing potential.
Domaine la Grange is an estate outside the village of Gabian. The owners are absentee Swiss and in their absence the property is run by Nicolas de Saint Exupéry. His family estate was Domaine Pech Célèyran in La Clape and then he took over the Chartreuse de Mougères nearé and set about turning that into a thriving wine estate. I have only visited soon after his arrival, so have promised to return to see what is new. And he has been running Domaine La Grange for a couple of years. They have bought the vineyards of the now defunct estate of Turner Pageot, so that there are two new wines in the range. Terre de Tramontane Arrivant Blanc and Rouge. I particularly liked the Blanc which is a blend of 50% Piquepoul Blanc, with 25% each of Marsanne and Roussanne. Light colour, and lightly herbal on the nose, with some rounded herbal fruit on palate. The Piquepoul makes for some refreshing acidity, with a fresh finish.
Domaine de Pech Ménel
Elisabeth Poux is one of two sisters who own this family estate in St Chinian, near the village of Quarante. I have yet to visit the property, but the wines certainly tempt. Elisabeth had brought a mini vertical, four vintages of her top St Chinian, Château de Pech Ménel, the 2015, 2013, 2010 and 2009. A lovely way to show the ageability of St Chinian, especially as I really enjoyed the 2009. Elisabeth said that nothing particular had happened to mark that vintage. The wine had evolved beautifully, with firm spice and rounded ripe fruit, and was tasting beautifully, quite belying its age. It was a blend of 60% Syrah, 23% Grenache and 17% Carignan. The blend can vary quite significantly, with Elisabeth enthusing about the magique de l'assemblage.
Domaine Florence Alquier
Frédéric Desplats bought the old Faugères estate of Domaine Frederic Alquier, and the property is now named after his widow Florence, who remains involved in the business. Frédéric had a new wine to show me, 2017 – the first vintage – Puech Mourié, made from 75% Carignan, 15% Grenache and 5% Syrah, and kept in stainless steel vats for six months. It was ripe and rounded, with black fruit and tapenade, with some smoky flavours, and satisfying mouthfeel. A good extension to the range.
Château Guilhem is an estate in the Malepère, and Bertrand Gourdou Guilhem was pouring the wines. I first visited this estate some time at the end of the 1980s for my book on French Country Wines and had met Bertrand’s mother. It was quite difficult to choose a favourite wine as the range is quite varied, with some very competent IGPs, an understated Viognier, and a serious Chardonnay as well as a pair of Malepère. And I am opting for the 2019 Malepère Grand Vin Rouge, a blend of 50% Merlot and Cabernet Franc, which are co-fermented and then kept for 12 months in one year old wood. Malepère is the sole appellation of the Languedoc that does not require any southern grape varieties, as it is so much cooler than the rest of the region. The palate was nicely rounded with some cassis fruit, and a balancing backbone of tannin. Youthful with some ageing potential.
Frank Flugge, the export manager of Vignobles Lorgeril was concentrating on wines from Moulin de Ciffre, their property that bridges St Chinian and Faugères. You can clearly see the difference in terroir between the two appellations. I have a soft spot for Faugères, as to my palate, the schist makes the wines a little fresher. The 2019 Faugères Terroirs d’Altitude is a blend of 70% Syrah with 20% Grenache and 10% Mourvèdre, partly aged in demi-muids. Medium colour, with some firm spicy fruit on the nose and palate. Medium weight with a fresh finish.
I had tasted the wines of Domaine la Louvière, which is also in the Malepère earlier this year, but Jem Harris had a couple of new wines to try. The 2021 La Souveraine, Pays d’Oc Chardonnay promises well. It is lightly buttery from the barrel ageing, with a rounded palate. Nicely harmonious despite its youth.
I had also tasted François Joubert’s wines earlier in the year, but he too had some new wines or rather new vintages. 2020 Ecarlate Côtes Catalanes, a blend of 80% Grenache Noir with some Carignan, was light in colour after a short maceration, and had some ripe easy fruit. A modest 13.5, for Roussillon. A fresh rounded finish. Probably best served slightly chilled.
The Graff Wine Co had some wines from Maison Ventenac, a large producer in Cabardès. Here my choice is a rosé, since we are approaching rosé season. Trêve Estivale Rose, Pays d’Oc is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Grenache Noir and 10% Syrah. Pale colour. A light fresh nose, with fresh acidity on the palate and some hints of raspberry. Nice refreshing fruit.
Joie de Vin is a specialist importer run by Tim North, and showing a selection of wines from the Languedoc, Roussillon and wines further west. I was very pleased to see that he had one of my favourite white wines from Roussillon, 2019 Domaine la Toupie, Côtes Catalanes. Pure Macabeo, with a firm salty nose and mineral notes on the palate. Very good acidity, tight knit and refreshing.
And I finished the tasting with a taste of Blanquette de Limoux from the large Limoux cooperative. Sieur d’Arques. N.V. Cuvée Sainte Hilaire, is a blend of 90% Mauzac, and 5% each of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. 8 gms/l dosage. Rounded and ripe and frothy and very refreshing and a good note on which to end.