Sunday, 10 January 2010

Mas de Daumas Gassac rouge 1996

Aimé Guibert's Mas de Daumas Gassac single handedly put the Languedoc on the fine wine map back in the 1980s. Cabernet Sauvignon was planted in 1972 and Émile Peynaud hired as consultant resulting in a wine very much in the Bordeaux mould. It seems by luck his property had a cooler micro-climate from being overlooked by the high Larzac plateau. It also needed Aimé's considerable passion and energy to promote his wine and the region in the right circles. For a recent video of him reminiscing on this period don't miss this Love that Languedoc episode.

My first purchase, a case of the 1988 vintage, was a couple of years before first visiting the region (accidentally) in 1993. Having tried it at a tasting I simply perceived it as better value than Bordeaux. It more than fitted the bill and subsequently I bought most vintages until the 1998, of which I have high hopes but have yet to taste - my case lies with a friends in bonded storage. All this said, something changed after the 1991 vintage - leaner more closed wines that have not been at all memorable.

I broached my second to last bottle of the 1996 (80% Cabernet Sauvignon) and consumed it over two evenings. Dark garnet with little browning for it's age. Distant blackcurrant, although this emerged somewhat the next day, and a palate of tight fruit with hints of broom and pepper. Reminiscent of a Medoc in structure with plenty of chewy tannins that I enjoy. More balanced 24 hours later, but ultimately it lacks the richness and generosity of the better 1980s vintages. Further ageing could well help.

Proving that the Languedoc can deliver a Bordeaux style alternative seemed a necessary first step to shake up the fine wine merchant and consumer mind set. There is, of course, still a long way to go for the regions mainstream Mediterranean cépages.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Domaine Les Aurelles, Solen 2001

Looking back over eight months of articles I see that all the wines I’ve commented on I’ve been reasonably enthusiastic about – stimulating wine does get the though processes going. This wine is a bit of an exception, and also one I could find very little about on the World Wide Web beyond the Domaine's web site

I had asked Sue, who has stopped imbibing to recover from a virus, what wines she didn’t particularly care for that I could broach. A rummage through our stocks, many of which are going to need consuming over the next year or so, turned up Domaine Les Aurelles 2001 Solen. I recall this came from a mixed sampler case of the Domaine bought some years ago and is, along with a magnum and bottle of the Aurel cuvee, all that remains.

A blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Carignan from the fine 2001 vintage, grown just north of Pezeans and made without oak, certainly reads well on paper. The colour was a healthy dull garnet red. The smell a little dusty and hints of marinated cherry and spice needed to be coaxed out. The taste was more revealing – leather, black olives, rosemary oils. The next day I continued with the second half of the bottle. The nose had all but gone, although this was partly compensated for by more warm spice and richness on the palate.

From memory, this is the house style of Domaine Les Aurelles – quite serious and better suited to drinking with food. Bottle age doesn’t seem to have helped either way. Certainly decent wine, but we prefer reds that are suppler with edgy layers and a better balance between smell and taste. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how the Aurel (Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache) fairs, but the magnum may have quite a wait.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Most enjoyable of 2009

Much of the media seems to be reviewing 2009 so I’m joining in with wines I’ve enjoyed most.

As the Languedoc is essentially a red wine region I’ll pick three reds.
Aupilhac (Montpeyroux), Le Carignan 1998 (from magnums) was the pinnacle at the splendid Repas Vignerons hosted by Sylvain Fadat and La Terrasse du Mimosa.
Ollier Taillefer (Fos in Faugères), Castel Fossibus 2001 and 2002 enjoyed at several meals with friends chez nous and fully mature.
Mas Gabriel, Clos Gabriel 2006 as the exciting newcomer.

For white I’ll pick just one, a Viognier Clovallon Les Aires (Bedarieux) 2006 severed as an apero on the balmy terrace of Le Mimosa and as rich and balanced as any Condrieu I’ve tasted.

For sparkling wine, plus the bargain of the year, is Clairette de Die Jaillance Tradition purchased at Carrifour’s Foire aux Vins (€10 for three bottles). While actually from next door Provence it’s a blend of Clairette (also grown in our village) and Muscat. Simple, fresh, light, sweet, frothy, low in alcohol and brilliant with any fruity summer dessert in the setting sun.

The wine events of the year have been the aforementioned Repas Vignerons (Mas Jullien especially, Aupilhac, Alain Chabanon, Terrasse d’Elise and Pas de l’Escalette) plus their revealing and fun Dégustations à l’aveugle - informal blind tastings. Also up there, literally, was the Ascension Day walk up and down the Pic Baudille. Here was evidence that Mas Brunet and Mas Cal Demoura are making great strides.

The Pic Baudille at 849m guards the edge of the Larzac plateau and overlooks the finest Herault valley vineyards.

Wines stocked up on, beyond ongoing odd bottle purchases, were the Picpoul bargain Domaine de Bridau, reds from Ollier Taillefer, a selection from Domaine Treloar in the Rousillon and find of the year Mas Gabriel.