Serious stuff from the south of France

Published by Sally on October 9, 2010

Languedoc vines

Languedoc vines

A high-profile panel of trade buyers and writers recently whittled down, by blind-tasting/judging, a selection of so-called icon wines from sunny Languedoc and Roussillon, in a tasting organised by the Sud de France promotional organisation.    

The tasting shows how much real character and individuality can be found in the south of France – a region more commonly known for its everyday, often varietally-labelled, Vins de Pays wines. 

Vins de Pays can offer super value for money, but not all the wines produced under the Vins de Pays label are so humble. Some are made from low yielding old vines with the level of care bestowed on the highest quality wine. Also the rules allow more flexibility of grape variety choice than appellation wine, which means the likes of cabernet sauvignon can be blended with syrah and carignan.  

The appellation wines, such as Corbières, St. Chinian, and Minervois are generally made from a core group of varieties including grenache and syrah, with greater or smaller dollops of others including mourvèdre and carignan.

Of the top 40 wines selected, here’s my top 25.


Domaine Guillaume Cabrol, Picpoul de Pinet Prestige 2009, Coteaux du Languedoc,
Majestic £7.99
Creamy linden blossom and citrus. Smooth texture, good density of zesty citrus with fennel notes. Nice concentration. Good.  

Domaine de Peyreficade, Cuv ée Ludovic Gaujal, Picpoul de Pinet 2009, Coteaux du Languedoc
Yapp Brothers £8.75
Hints of gun smoke alongside lemon curd. Quite full bodied and concentrated. Some real character and width to this wine. Tasty.

Domaine Astruc, dA Chardonnay 2009, Limoux,
Stratford’s Wine Agencies £10.49
Gentle toasted nut aromas, smooth, butter-cream attack with attractive slippery texture, balance and integration. Nicely put together with some class at this level.

Ermitage du Pic Saint Loup, Cuvée Sainte Agnès Blanc 2008, Languedoc,
Aldeby Wines £19.95
Clairette, marsanne, roussane, grenache blanc et gris
Fresh, melon, and baked yellow plums, lovely primary fruit flavours, white and yellow fruits without being tropical. Good concentration of fruit – white nectarine, apricot. Delicious.

Domaine Ledogar 2009, Corbières,
Dynamic Vines £17.20
Carignanc blanc, maccabeu, grenache blanc
Funky, sweet-savoury lift to the nose, soft, round palate, with soft melon notes. Bags of individuality and personality in this rounded, quite full bodied wine, thought with a steely, nutty background of structure. Good. And unusual.

Clos du Gravillas, L’Innattendu 2007, Minervois,
Les Caves de Pyrene £21.99
Grenache gris
Toasty, spiced and roasted almonds on the nose, sweet attack of lanolin and dried honeyed melon. Rounded and soft palate with plenty of flavour intensity, and savoury allspice finish. Full bodied, dry and softly structured.

Famille Guibert Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc 2009, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault,
Les Caves de Pyrene £28.99
Viognier, chardonnay, manseng
Apricot and honey aroma, primary fruits, lifted, elegant and freshly intense. Perfume lingers all through the palate length, weighing pleasantly on the tongue. Fresh and fleshy all at the same time. Far too easy to glug for such a big yet elegant wine. Long finish.

Domaine Matassa, Matassa Blanc 2007, Vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes, 
Les Caves de Pyrene £34.49
Grenache gris and maccabeu
Almond blossom and toasted white nut nose, oily-spiced attack, savoury and aromatically spiced – allspice, cinnamon, clove. These early stage wood aged elements whilst to the fore, will mellow with more time. Dense and volumed. Very long


Château La Dournie, 2007, St Chinian,
Majestic £7.99
Syrah, carignan, grenache
Violet perfume with baked cherries and redcurrants, elegant with tarry note to back palate. Good value for what it delivers. Medium bodied, light dry-ripe tannins offering backbone. Finishes with the violet perfume. Good.

Mas Bruguière,  L’Arbouse 2008, Coteaux du Languedoc – Pic Saint Loup,
Yapp Brothers £10.95
Syrah, grenache
Meaty, with fresh-stewed red berries, and aromatic tar core. Medium bodied with sweet ripe fruit, focused on the primary and with complexing tar and black pepper spices. Savoury hints add further complexity. Very nice.

Domaine Les Yeuses, Les Epices 2008, Vin de pays d’Oc,
Majestic £8.99
Enticing smoked black pepper and parma violet on the nose. Sweet palate attack with smoothness and bonfire smoke aromatics in the core. Freshly structured, aromatic and elegant.  Really classy syrah with a silky-textured profile more often associated in the northern Rhone. Very nice.   

Domaine Paul Mas, Mas des Mas 2009, Corbières,
Majestic £9.99
Syrah, grenache, carignan
Smoke and burnt rubber nose, mulling spices and redcurrant jelly speared with supple tannin support. Supple and structured, with plenty of fruit flesh to adorn the supple frame – nice.

Château du Vieux Parc, La Sélection 2007, Corbières,
Great Western Wine £11.25
Carignan, syrah, mourvèdre, grenache
Tar and wood-smoke. Bramble crumble on the mid palate betrays the lush sweet fruit and supple, plentiful tannins. Immediately appealing and youthful. Big softie.

Château Cesseras, Château Cesseras 2007, Minervois La Livinière,
Waitrose £12.99
Syrah, with carignan, grenache, mourvèdre
Aromatic tar and violets, some restraint on the palate, smoothly textured, fine tannins, with black pepper and plum profile, relaxed refinement.  Silky texture. Very nice indeed.

Domaine Le Roc des Anges, Segna de Cor 2008, Côtes du Roussillon Villages,
Les Caves de Pyrene £14.49
Grenache, carignan, syrah
Sweet, raspberry jam, super-smooth texture, sweet tannins, savoury spice mid palate, dense, savoury core with dark flesh clothing. Almost a hint a porty in fruit flavour – dense, brambly, fresh-jam.  Very nice. Well structured for all that sweet fruit.

Domaine Les Eminades, Cebenna 2006, Saint Chinian,
Aubert & Mascoli £15.00
Grenache, carignan, syrah
Cinnamon, clove, allspice. Savoury and meaty nose, and palate attack. Dark loganberry and blueberry complexity. Big boned and fleshed and delicious for that. Meaty, sweetly-chewy and youthful, and beginning to develop.  Good.

Domaine de Clovallon, Les Pomarèdes 2008, Vin de Pays Haute Vallée de l’Orb,
Terroir Languedoc, £15.75
Pinot noir
Medium pale cherry colour. Fresh redcurrants and strawberry, but not overtly varietal despite those fruits. A little soft bellied for benchmark pinot noir. Nice fruit intensity and volume, but don’t expect the profile of either classic or new world pinot noir. Nice wine.  

Clos du Gravillas, Le Rendez Vous du Soleil 2006
Les Caves de Pyrene £16.49
Carignan, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, mourvedre, grenache
Dark, steak, liquorice and aniseed nose, meaty and spicy, super-smooth tannins, blackcurrant concentrate. Big, fat, sweet fruit. Alcohol burns a little at the end. characterful. Lacks a little elegance, but I suspect it wasn’t looking for any.

Domaine Jean-Michel Alquier, Les Bastides d’Alquier 2005, Faugères,
Richards Walford £17.49
Raspberry and strawberry nose, sweetly spiced attack, smooth tannins, structure balanced with fruit intensity. Understated structure supports flesh and spice to good effect. Sets off the ripe fruit well on the catwalk. Long finish

Mas du Soleilla, Les Bartelles 2007, Coteaux du Languedoc – La Clape,
Great Western Wine £19.50
Syrah, grenache noir
Enchanting violet perfume, intense, enticing. Seductively smooth, silky texture, really quite classy definition and intensity. Understated complexity with layered fruit and spice, long in-palate length and finish. Very good. .

Léon Barral, Jadis 2007, Faugères,
Les Caves de Pyrene £23.49
Enticingly sweet-spiced soft black fruits, sweet attack, lush and gently supported by sweet tannins in a full bodied whole. Brooding bramble and loganberries in itscore. Still with freshening acidity so nothing falls flabby. Porty-bramble flavour finish with youthful dry-ripe tannins.  Good.  

Domaine Alain Chabanon, L’esprit de Font Caude 2004, Coteaux du Languedoc,
Dynamic Vines £25.10
Syrah, mourvèrdre
There’s a funky, meaty savoury thing going on with this aroma.  The attack is fresh, and of medium body with attractive, somehow elegant poise despite big flavours. Savoury, dry spice, and bramble depth to the fruit. Lush sweet fruit, in big and bold, but not brutish style.  Unashamedly big.

Les Clos Perdus, L’Extreme 2006, Vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes,
Dynamic Vines £27.50
Grenache, syrah
Almost gravelly, lead pencil sort of aroma, with supple, finely textured palate entry. Ripe fruit, not super-ripe, still held in frame by the chalky tannins and fresh acidity. Some sophistication and definition here in what is still a big wine, but well proportioned. Savoury spice to finish. Nice.

Domaine Peyre Rose, Clos Syrah Léone 2002, Coteaux du Languedoc – Grès de Montpellier,
Terroir Languedoc, £64.50
Wood smoke and dark berry fruit. Remarkably little age showing on the palate which is still lush and sweet, invisibly supported by integrated tannins. Just a hint of fruitcake on the back palate gives a clue to some development. Delicious, if a tad pricey.


Vignerons de Maury, Maury Solera 1928 Cask no 886 NV
Richards Walford £17.99
Grenache noir, grenache gris, carignan
Dark, mahogany with amber rim. Walnuts, wood, wood-smoke, just-burnt toffee, big complexity. Coffee and chocolate give a not so sweet perception, though sweetly textured.  Delicious, concentrated and elegant. A digestif with which to put the world to rights. Long and very good.


2 Responses to “Serious stuff from the south of France”

  1. Graham Tigg Says:

    Mas Bruguière L’Arbouse 2008 looks a bargain given that it retails at €10 in France. We’ve bought it most years since the mid-1990s and it ages remarkably well as it usually has good acidity.

  2. Sally Says:

    Thanks very much Graham. I’d clearly got the wrong information. I’ve double-checked and the price is £10.95, which still sounds pretty decent value, given the UK’s duty regime, if it’s retailing at €10 in France. I’ve updated the post.

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