Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Blind tasting - do Languedoc reds age?

The answer of course is some do, although few are worth keeping more than a decade in my experience. Reds that age was simply the theme of a blind tasting with a few friends hosted by Deborah and Peter Core of Mas Gabriel. It was an ideal topic given that, for various reasons, I have bottles that theoretically needed drinking.

The wines were served in age order with the youngest first; a traditional approach to tackling a flight of wine. As an aside, Languedoc wine locals order them by palate-power, although obviously when the wines are known to those determining the order.

After the first pass we re-tasted each bottle in reverse order before unmasking it.

When finally revealed (it was tasted first and last) Léon Barral Tradition 2009 (Faugères) was the surprise, indeed shock, of the evening given the 2008 had been my "wine of the previous year" although the 2007 was equally impressive. It started with an attractive brambly fruit that did evolve nicely over the evening. However, on the palate a volatile apple character dominated and everything else was incomplete and disjointed. I discussed the experience with a sommelier a few days after the tasting and confirmed this wasn't a one off with our  bottle; the restaurant concerned isn't taking the 2009 Tradition although did comment that the Jadis is excellent.
[Update July 2012 - tasted a glass of this again and found it to be in much better form, can only conclude this was a rogue bottle or was poorly stored by the cavist]

Our hosts slipped in one of their wines, Mas Gabriel Clos des Lièvres 2008. Lightly baked liquorice. Lovely balance and ripeness. Showing big ripe tannins that would benefit from a few years to mellow. Already showing a layered finish. Easily the most palate-power of the evening.

Domaine de la Garance Les Armières 2001 (Pézenas). Lean. Pencil wood dominates, little discernible fruit. Starting to dry out. This is the classic Carignan of the Pezenas area, but we concluded the Carignan had been picked too soon before fully ripening. I recall 9 years ago this had promise but as the fruit has dried the wine has declined. Carignan wine making has certainly advanced in the past decade.

Domaine Ollier Taillefer Castel Fossibus 2002 (Faugères) was the panel's mature wine of the evening. Structure with plenty going on - toffee, liquorice and orange peel. Elegant as reflects the cooler vintage. A reliable wine from a very reliable producer. My last bottle following on from the 2001s I finished last year.

Mas Bruguière La Grenardiere 2001 (Pic St Loup) Full colour with heaps of sediment. A gutsy yet silky wine balanced by plenty of acidity. Pepper and spices with chocolate on the finish. If the Fossibus is a Clarinet then here are the French Horns. This example makes it unbeatable of its type, but vintage and bottle variation around that time have made opening bottles a roller-coaster experience.


  1. A good selection of wines, though that goes without saying. My Clos Des Lievres will go further back into my cellar this evening, they do make damn good wine. As an Ollier Taillefer fan I would happily concur that they are ultra reliable and have tasted many older wines, always well made and well developed. As you say a shock about the Barral, I will avoid from my usual supplier. Great notes, thanks Graham

  2. Update July 2012 - tasted a glass of the Léon Barral Tradition 2009 again and found it to be in much better form, can only conclude this was a rogue bottle or was poorly stored by the cavist