A [Better] Taste of the Languedoc

In an earlier post about Languedoc, I was feeling so grumpy about the miserable food we met on our recent visit that the region’s new wave wine makers – the whole point of stopping off there – got rather short shrift. Here are some comments on the wineries we visited and enjoyed, plus some we didn’t but whose wines we’ve tasted (and can buy) in Alsace.

Mas Cal Demoura, Jonquières, Tel. 04 67 44 70 82, www.caldemoura.com

Vincent Goumard warms to his subject in Les Combariolles vineyard

…provided a great intro to Les Terrasses du Larzac, one of Languedoc’s finest terroirs. The 14ha estate was founded in the 90s by Jean-Pierre Jullien of Mas Jullien (next door) and purchased in 2004 by Vincent and Isabelle Goumard. After a bone-shaking ride up stony tracks in Vincent’s battered car to the Les Combariolles vineyard where their finest reds are grown, we moved to a tasting of the fruits with Isabelle. First two crisp, bright, pricey whites, L’Etincelle (€14.50) and Paroles de Pierres (€19), in both of which Chenin plays a somewhat surprising (for Languedoc) part. Then L’Infidèle (€14.50), a spicy, silky-textured red from the 5 classic Languedoc grapes (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault). Les Combariolles (€22) majors on Syrah and Mourvèdre with supporting parts played by Grenache and Carignan – black cherries and cedarwood, structured, complex, crunchy, gorgeous. Finally Feu Sacré (€35), principally from 60 yr-old Grenache vines (which according to Isabelle are “too bossy and opinionated to put in just any blend – like a cranky old person who doesn’t mix with just anyone!”) plus a little Syrah + Carignan – dense, mineral-laden, very tannic. One to squirrel away.

Château de Jonquières, Jonquières, Tel. 04 67 96 62 58, www.chateau-jonquieres.com

…is a gorgeous property with golden stone château (also a classy B&B, with evening meal in the summer) and 7 hectares of vines, resurrected by François and Isabelle de Cabissole and their daughter Charlotte. Jonquières Blanc is another Chenin-rich blend (with white Grenache), a bit of a dumb blonde with a stiffish price tag of €14. The fragrant pale blush Jonquières Rosé has good fruit and nicely balanced sweetness/acidity, a snip at €7.50. Jonquères Rouge (€11), from Cinsault and Carignan plus Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache in declining proportions, is a fruity, cheery, delicious mouthful, best served slightly chilled while Lansade Rouge (€11) has good fruit and a little more plumpness thanks to a short spell in oak to soften the tannins of the (dominant) Carignan. La Baronnie (€15.50), from Mourvèdre and Syrah with some Grenache and Carignan, was remarkably taut, muscular (it spends 12 months in barriques) and needs patience to show at its best.

Domaine Monplézy, Pézenas, Tel. 04 67 98 27 81, www.domainemonplezy.fr

…gets lots of Brownie points for accepting us at very short notice when all Christian (the son) really, really wanted was to get out into the vineyards and get on with the harvesting. The domaine’s symbol (on all their labels, literature and etched on the side of the house) is an elegant crested hoopoe (huppe fasciée), who apparently haunts the vineyards – which are also a bird sanctuary – on this beautiful plateau near Pézenas, with distant views of Canigou in the Pyrenees to the west and the Mediterranean to the south. The wines – white rosé and red – are variously labelled Félicité, Plaisir, Emoción [a nod to the family’s Spanish ancestry] and Délice. It was a whirlwind affair but we fell for Plaisirs Rosé,a fruity Cinsault/Grenache/Syrah mouthful, Plaisirs Interdits (Côtes de Thongue), a Merlot-rich blend with Carignan and Marselan, while Plaisirs (AOC Languedoc-Pézenas), where Carignan, Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault were all present and correct, is described by Rosemary George MW (who sent us there) as just that: “pure pleasure”.

Domaine La Croix Belle, Puissalicon, Tel. 04 67 36 27 23, www.croix-belle.com

Large producer in the Côtes de Thongue appellation producing decent wines at very competitive prices. In the single varietal wines, prefer the Chardonnay and Syrah to the Merlot. The No. 7 red and white (7 varieties in each case) is well made and well liked. Wines are stocked in Alsace by André Rosati, wine merchant in Rixheim.

Prieuré St. Jean de Bébian, Pézenas, Tel. 04 67 98 13 60, www.bebian.fr

32ha estate on outskirts of Pézenas, one of the oldest in Languedoc but not resting on its laurels. Wine maker nowadays is Aussie Karen Turner (who owns Domaine Turner-Pageot in Gabian). La Prieuré wines (red and white) feature most of the usual Languedoc varietal suspects, as do the lighter La Chapelle ones, in slightly different combinations. In another league is Bebian – L’autre Versant, 80% Cabernet/20% Merlot, rich, ripe, discreetly oaked and delicious. André Rosati also stocks it.

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In the pretty town of Pézenas we purchased a picnic (had to taste the famed petits pâtés, pictured here) and fell upon a small wine shop – whose name escapes me, sorry. Great selection of Languedoc wines (and single malts) whose genial, well-versed patron helped us select a mixed case (average price €10), including two whites:

Domaine des Conquêtes, Aniane (IGP Pays de l’Hérault) – Vermentino, Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc and Chenin

Fontenilles, EARL Aussel-Silhol, Nizas (Vin de France) – Grenache blanc

both delicious, aromatic, fruit-packed, satisfying…

and 4 reds (yet to be tasted):

Abbaye Sylva Plana, La Closeraie (Faugères) – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan

Mas du Pountil, Gourmandise (Coteaux du Languedoc) – Syrah, Grenache, Carignan

Mas Bruguière, L’Arbouse (Pic St Loup) – Syrah and Grenache

Mas des Chimères, Nuit Grave (Terrasses du Larzac) – Syrah, Grenache + a little Mourvèdre and minimal Carignan

Finalement on n’a pas chômé en Languedoc, même si la bouffe n’était pas à la hauteur (we didn’t waste our time in Languedoc, even if we did waste a few meals…)

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