Wednesday, 31 March 2010

“Traditional” Languedoc red wine?

If asked what a traditional Languedoc red wine was I would proffer a blend at least two of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mouvèdre and perhaps Cinsault in reasonably balanced proportions. With the reality that the vines planted have come and gone over the centuries then either these varieties are it, or traditional red hasn’t been made since phyloxera forced total replanting over 100 years ago.

For most producers these are benchmark wines. One of my all time favourite examples was Domaine Alain Chabanon's Font Caude Tradition. I say was, because 2000 was the last vintage he produced. Four years later he launched Campredon, but that has a different objective – unoaked, can be drunk young and is ready to go after 6 months thus keeping the price down, making room in the cellar and no doubt providing much needed cashflow. By contrast his “Tradition”, a wine that built Alain’s considerable reputation earlier in the 1990s, took the best part of 3 years to exit the cellar. Fortunately I still have a few bottles of the 2000 to reminisce over, a 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 10% Mouvèdre blend.

Alain Chabanon Font Caude Tradition 2000 Savoury, red berries with tobacco and a touch of chocolate. An understated wine that you need to meet half-way. Consumed over two evenings the empty bottle still yielded a gentle perfume for hours.

Looking at the excellent technical fiche provided with the wines it’s interesting that the yield was 35 hectolitres/hectare – well over 50% higher than his other reds, the Syrah dominated L’Esprit, Grenache Les Boissiers and Merlot Merle aux Alouettes. While I’m all for winemakers moving on, and it’s one reason why the Languedoc is so exciting, why abandon something so good? Despite branching out as well, nearby Domaine d’Aupilhac for example still makes excellent Montpeyroux rouge usually containing all five of my “traditional” grapes.

At least I have now found a worthy alternative in Domaine Treloar's Three Peaks. Curiously, the 2007 has the identical assemblage in exactly the same proportions with the same yield as the Font Caude 2000. Even the soil types are both described as argilo-calcaire, albeit the domains are over 130 Km apart.

Domaine Treloar Three Peaks 2007 Dried cherries, bay and tobacco. Ripe, round and mellow fruit which characterises the best Roussillon reds. The next day it became deliciously brambly with good length.


  1. As you know, Graham, I too have recently lamented the change in Alain Chabanon's wines, although perhaps for different reasons. Campredon was a good, reliable wine, if not a world beater. But the premium cuvées of late leave a lot to be desired in my opinion. Whatever their merits, I'm with you on these traditional old Languedoc blends, which can often evolve into something quite special.

    Glad to see a mention for Treloar 3 Peaks. Have you tasted the other wines in the Treloar range?

  2. I've tried most of the Treloar range at various times - recently enjoyed the maverick minerally Muscat Alexandria and had some of the very elegant floral and melon Rivesaltes.
    I do need to stock up on some other reds next time I'm down there (it is nearly 100 miles from the Herault valley)

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