Monday, 20 September 2010


Several northern white grapes have been planted in the Languedoc over the past 20 plus years. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc along with Viognier from the northern Rhone are the most obvious examples, mainly driven by fashion and are hence easier to sell. Chenin Blanc isn't fashionable, but does well because it keeps its acidity.

Vermentino has its base in southern Italy. In the Languedoc it was, until quite recently, commonly referred to as Rolle. This is Vermentino's northern outpost where it ripens late and is more likely to result in a more mineral style of wine. While usually a modest proportion in a blend, I would like to see more near 100% Vermentinos made - I know of less than half a dozen Languedoc examples.

Chateau Malautié is in Aspiran between Pézenas and Picpoul country to the south and the Terrasses du Larzac to the north. Malautié is a long established independent in what is a fading bastion of Clairette and a cooperative that only supplies wine tankers. Their Vermentino is gently floral with a lemon balm background. It has all the acidity of Picpoul with the tropical fruits toned down a notch, plus at €6 is at a similar price point. I love it as an apero. The 12% alcohol is also welcome.

Malautié also make an oaked version I haven't tried, but I did have a glass in a restaurant the other day of a young oaked Vermentino  Domaine Fons Sanatis from Saint-Jean de Fos in Terrasses du Larzac country. The oak transforms it into something different and it will no doubt gain in complexity, as it should for around €20.

An alternative in the Malautié mould is Domaine Saint Hilare on the edge of the Picpoul Appelation. I find their basic inexpensive un-oaked Vermentino by far their most successful wine.

Outside the region it may be easier to buy Corsican examples and, outside of France, look to Sardinia. Even so, they seem to be few and far between - something that should change.

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