Andover Wine Friends’ June tasting focused on the Languedoc in the south of France. For Janet and I this was a continuation of our experience of ‘sunshine in a glass’, having just returned from a wine-tasting holiday in next door Roussillon. The tasting was led by Torquil Jack who, with his wife, Marion, has started to import wines he has discovered, via his company, Carte-du-Vin. As you would expect these were full of power and of the sunshine of the Mediterranean basin. I suggested they brought a rosé (as they are so typical of the region); then there were four single varietal whites and four strapping reds. High torque wines indeed!
We kicked off with the rosé from La Tersande, Domaine des Homs, 2008 and 2009, one bottle of each, from the Minervois region. Made from Grenache, it is a pleasant salmon pink in colour, with a fragrant nose, good structure on the palate and a slightly sherbety finish. As we poured the wine we discovered that there were two different vintages so we could compare the two, with the ‘09 being paler in colour, but the ‘08 standing up well to the passing of time, and if anything longer and drier.
One of the fashionable whites of the area is made from the Picpoul de Pinet grape, which produces this grapefruit (pale) yellow colour and is zesty and acidic on the palate. Some creamy notes in there too, lemon-scented, attractive. We agreed this was a good example: Domaine la Grangette, L’Enfant terrible, Picpoul 2010, AC Coteaux du Languedoc.
Ah – a wine with a virtually unphotographable label – translucent, reflective, pale! Fortunately, the wine itself is easy to appreciate. From St Chinian, this is Fastoche Blanc, Ch. St Jean de Conques, 2009, a blend of Rolle (Vermentino elsewhere in the Med) and Colombard. Pretty impressive for an inexpensive bottle with the grassy and flowery Rolle showing well with its more neutral partner. We are in good company as this is chosen as a house wine by Raymond Blanc’s Brasserie.
The Muscat grape, especially when made in a dry style, makes a real Marmite wine. It can be so, well, grapey, and musky, as to be too much. But Treloar’s One Block Muscat 2008 has fine subtle aromas of orange and even pineapple and a long gingery finish. The palate is perhaps a bit less exciting but all-in-all this is a complex and drinkable example.
Just as Syrah has marched south from the Rhône, so has the Viognier grape variety, a fashionable wanderer now found around the world. This example is from Domaine des Homs again, Le Viognier 2009. A powerful nose of creamy apricot, rich on the palate … some went for ‘banana’, others each reached for ‘banoffee pie’. Quite structured and very full in the mouth; and showed it quality by developing in the glass.
Ch. St Jean de Conques, AC St Chinian, 2007 is the sibling of the Fastoche Blanc above. It is a very typical blend of 40% Grenache Noir, 35% Syrah and 25% Mourvèdre. The wine is now a deep ruby red, having left its ‘purple’ phase behind after four years. It has a pretty intense nose of berried fruit, middleweight on the palate, a very good everyday wine.
By contrast this wine Treloar’s Le Secret 2006, is basically Syrah (80%), with the rest being made up by the rest of the GSM trilogy. We have moved a bit further south into the Côtes de Roussillon appellation, so we are on the plain which leads towards Spain. Low yields (29hl/ha) and 18 months in barriques, 25% of which are new, show real intent for quality. This is a bright fruit-led wine (redcurrant through to blackberry) with hints of smoke and liquorice; substantial and balanced.
Back in the Languedoc and in Minervois in particular, our penultimate wine was Domaine des Hom, Paul, AC Minervois, 2008. Like the preceding wine, this is 80% Syrah, the rest being Grenache. A slightly dusty nose which people took exception too, but then excellent fully-ripe fruit on the palate. Very good depth of flavour and quite a powerful tannic finish. Stylish label too!
A splendid finale: Motus, Côtes du Roussillon, Treloar, 2007. The preceding wines are clearly in the international, fruit led style, very easy to appreciate. This is a rather more redolent of its place, being made predominantly from Mourvèdre which does so well in hot spots near to the Mediterranean. Beautifully fragrant nose, the smell of early autumn according to Jancis Robinson, then lots of fruit and a very polished finish. There are tannins but they are completely covered by the lingering fruit. Excellent – and I gather popular among those who bought wines following this tasting. You have such good taste!
Thanks to Torquil and Marion … and all power to your bike wheels as you continue to find other wines in this great part of France!