Monday, 24 May 2010

Two Carignans

Other than the extraordinary Le Carignan 1998 from Domaine d'Aupilhac I haven't said much about pure red Carignans. It's well understood these days that old vines with self-regulating low yields on poor soil can give Carignan the one thing it normally lacks; interesting fruit flavours to contrast the clumsy tannin and acidity it possesses in spades. These two examples illustrate this, and at around 8€ and 9€ respectively are pushing half the price of the areas benchmark.

Mas d'Amile Vieux Carignan 2007 I came across at the Montpeyroux Toutes Caves Ouverts day in 2009. There are too few interesting sub 10€ wines in this commune these days, but at least this was one of them. I know little about it except that 2007 was the first vintage, there isn't much of it, and the wine is unfiltered - witness the sediment in the empty bottle. It's also produced by Amélie, daughter of Le Mairie of Montpeyroux, which is perhaps all one needs to know. In the glass there's cool thyme and blackberry and the mouth gets a pleasant coating of meaty fruit, certainly a fine quaff with interest.

I mentioned Mas Gabriel Les Trois Terrasses 2008 here when I purchased a half-case of the then just bottled wine after nearly a year in tank. It has settled down to layers of mint leaf, composting leaves, ribena and wild rose. There's also a ripe freshness and while there's heaps of tannin this stays in the background. I will be stocking up with more - the last bottle posed for this picture and yes, I pasted the image in.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Terrasses du Larzac Geology

I posted a map of the Terrasses du Larzac appellation in an earlier post here. Thanks to Languedoc Wines on Facebook I recently came across this fascinating video (in English) on how the Terrasses du Larzac were formed. It features Charles-Walter Pacaud of La Croix Chaptal, a domaine in the tiny hamlet of Cambous at the southern end of the Terrasses - the stepped plateaus that Charles-Walter explains and points out in the video.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Jonquières May Day “Caves Ouvertes”

Montpeyroux’s “Toutes Caves Ouvertes” day has always been a great success the couple of occasions I’ve been over the years. Well attended despite low key publicity, even in 2009 when someone realised very late on the annual Roger Pingeon cycle race would be passing through and the date was hastily rearranged. The village is sealed off to vehicles and you purchase a glass and a map for a few euros that gives access to a tasting at a dozen or so of the producers. This year was the first equivalent event for Terrasses du Larzac next door neighbour Jonquières.

Here the format was more low key. There was a bustling “bin end” pottery sale in the centre of the village and leaflets were handed out showing how to navigate to the nine participating caves.

This was all well and good except that few people seemed to be actually visiting the caves – we were on our own with growers for much of the time. Given this was a major public holiday and they gave up their day, no doubt with a three line whip from the Mairie, I’m sure there will be an inquest over a lack of publicity. Debates will also ensue on whether to broaden the appeal of the day – animations is the French term that comes to mind. Paying for the tastings is another. Nevertheless, with the exception of Mas Jullien where no mainstream wine is available for sale due to advance allocation, everyone was generous with their time and had plenty to say about their products.

First up was Mas Cal Demoura with a thorough and personally tutored run through the range by articulate Vincent Goumard himself. These are wines that impress me more every time I taste them, no doubt due to Vincent’s approach of considered evolution rather than revolution since taking over in 2004. Rosemary George’s impeccable recent blog post here has all the background and tasting notes. I would only add that L’Infidèle, the main red, has moved on to the 2007 vintage; a cooler year that has resulted in elegant reds that are relatively attractive now. This has fresh red berries and a touch of garrigue about it, not dissimilar to neighbour Mas Jullien’s 2007 except it’s approaching half the price - €13,50. A 2002 L’Infidèle, made before Vincent took over the estate, was available to taste and showed continuity in style and how elegantly a cooler year can mature.

A short walk out of the village is Pascal Fulla’s Mas de L’Ecriture, a wine I encountered in London when the first vintages (1999-2001) were being launched. Then the young wines were impressive and seductive but for some reason, perhaps not decanting in advance as Pascal emphasises, those I’ve broached have not been memorable. Pascal put on a splendid show of decanted ready to drink vintages.

Emotion Occitane 2006 €10 is a Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan mix. Plenty of red berries, quite elegant, hints of liquorice and sweetness. Seemed lighter than it was. Les Pensées 2004 €18, half Grenache with Cinsault, Syrah and Carignan. Ripe raspberry and blackberry with quite mellow integrated tannin and a fine finish. The Tour de Force, L’Écriture 2004 €29, is 60% Syrah with Grenache and Mourvèdre. Much richer fruit with some spice. Silky mouth feel, complex and long but more of a progressive curve of pleasure than layers of flavours. There was an extra surprise, Message Personnel 2005 €18 (on the day, but not normally for retail) with 70% Syrah plus Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan. The Syrah, apparently from an excellent Syrah vintage, comes from a vineyard on a small hill called terroir de «Pechaurel». I would crudely describe the “soil” as consisting of large stones of fossilised shells such as oysters. It has a seductive fatness, rich but with less opulent fruit, dashes of smoke and a finish that was trying to dance around a bit. It had no problem following the L’Écriture. I don’t often buy €18 wines but left with a bottle of this. To me the wines illustrate what must be a dilemma for many Languedoc winemakers. Edgy, less crafted wines that strive to express the terroir that I’m continually learning to love seem impossible to market at this price level. The area desperately needs more prestigious global wines, and this is one that’s doing it with Mediterranean grape varieties, so a chapeau to Pascal for that.

Back in the village to visit Mas de Pountil that I wrote about last year - click on Mas de Pountil on the contents menu. The wine that stood out was the rouge 2006 (€10), that blends all five of the mainstream red grapes. It has a reassuring grip in the background from a touch of oak and a pleasant mixture of cooked fruits, leathery aniseed along with a hint of butterscotch.