Languedoc and Roussillon around the tastings
A small group of wine importers got together last month for a tasting so I went along to check out the offerings from the south of France. However, I must admit that I also allowed myself to be diverted by a handful of wines from northern Burgundy from Emile Wines. There was Domaine La Croix Montjoie from Vézelay, with an elegant stony Chardonnay, a couple of Bourgogne Blanc from two leading producers close to Chablis, Domaine Céline and Frederic Gueguen and Domaine Jean-Hugues and Guilhem Goisot, and a couple of premier crus Chablis, a Fourchaume from Domaine Jena-Paul and Benoit Droin and a Beauroy from Domaine Laurent Tribut. Both delicious but still very youthful.
Carte Blanche were offering three quite contrasting southern French wines.
2021 Mas Costeplane, Vermentino, IGP Cévennes
From old vines, fermented in concrete vats and kept on the lees for eight months. A lovely example of Vermentino. Quite firm, fresh pithy fruit on the nose, with some satisfying weight on the palate. Un joli amer. Nicely refreshing, and probably would develop with age.
2021 Domaine Ricardelle de Lautrec, Pinot Noir Rosé
Ten hours on the skins followed by a gentle pressing. Fermented and kept on stainless steel for bottling in early spring. From a wine producer in the village of Coursan between Béziers and Narbonne. I had not come across them before.
Light pale pink. Delicate fruit with a touch of raspberry on the nose. Fresh acidity, lightly fruity, with a dry refreshing finish.
2021 Mas d’Alezon, Faugères, le Presbytère
A blend of Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache and Lledoner Pelut grown on schist from some of the highest vineyards of Faugères, at 350 metres. I have to declare that Catherine Roque is one of my absolute favourite winemakers in Faugères. This is still a baby, but with masses of potential. Deep young purple colour. Some spicy notes on the nose and fresh red fruit on the palate. Youthful tannic streak. Lots of nuances and potential. It will be a lovely glass of wine in a couple of years’ time.
Last but certainly not least was 266 Wines, who were showing the wines of Domaine des Enfants, and not only the wines, but Carrie Anne Sumner was there in person. I have to admit that I didn’t immediately recognise her, as we had last met in her cellar in Maury, when she was dressed very much for cellar work, rather than for a tasting in London!
2020 Tabula Rasa Blanc, Côtes Catalanes
The name could translate as clean sweep or clean sheet. A traditional field blend of Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris with some Carignan Blanc and Macabeo. Fermented and aged in barrel, in old wood. A little colour. Very firm, stony dry fruit on both nose and palate, with a fresh finish. Youthful and very Roussillon.
2018 Le Jouet Rouge, Vin de France de la Catalunya Nord
A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Lledoner Pelut. Good colour. Ripe spice on the nose, with some cherry fruit. Medium weight palate, ripe with a streak of tannin. Carrie talked about purity of fruit. The grapes are destemmed; she was adamant that she does not want stem contact and avoids a lot of extraction. An elegant finish.
2020 Chroma Soma Carignan, Vin de France
Pure Carignan, bottled November 2020, in other words, very early. The vines are on granite at 680 metres. Carrie also makes a Carignan grown on schist, which, she said, is more rounded than this. Deep colour. Quite a sturdy nose, with some tension. And again the adjective sturdy comes to mind, with some firm fruit. Quite a tight balance, but with the underlying freshness of Carignan.
2020 Chroma Soma Grenache, Vin de France
Grown on schist at 200 metres. Light colour. Delicate and fragrant with firm acidity. Elegantly fresh and completely atypical – the alcohol level is just 9.5°. Carrie is not afraid to push boundaries and challenge preconceived ideas. In 2021 the Grenache reached 11°, which was still light, but the wine was quite different.
2019 Vivienne Catherine, Syrah
Grown on granite at 350 metres. Picked riper than the Grenache. There is more extraction, with some stem contact. One year in wood in 400 litre barrels, but Carrie is working on two years for future vintages, and bottle age is important too.
Good colour. Quite firm spicy peppery fruit. Quite restrained Syrah, with youthful potential. A lovely example of Syrah.
In short, five very original and individual wines. Carrie Anne deserves to go far as one of the new generation of young pioneering winemakers in Roussillon. She runs Domaine des Enfants with her German husband Marcel Bûhler but Chroma Soma and Vivienne Catherine are very much her wines, coming from grapes that she has bought, usually from friends. She is fascinated by the potential of the different soils of Roussillon, and as she said to me when we met: 'I am not very good at following the rules'. These wines definitely show that she is a free spirit.