By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 22 July 2017
Languedoc Roussillon is such a vast region – where do you start? For the wine drinker, it offers a confusing mix of immense value and some of southern France’s best quality and priciest wines. Exploration is well worthwhile as experimentation amongst its passionate new generation of growers continues apace – but here is a guide to my favourite cuvees:
VIOGNIER 2016 Mas La Chevaliere
(13%; £11.99 Provender Brown, Perth; Fountainhall Wines, Aberdeen)
Viognier may be the white grape of the Northern Rhone, but it has a place in southern Languedoc too, grown in high altitude cool vineyards near Beziers and Minervois. This unoaked, fresh and zippy with Viognier’s typical apricot scents is made by Chablis producer Laroche who invested here in 1995.
PICPOUL DE PINET 2016 Domaine Gaujal
(13.5%; £10.50 Yapp Bros www.yapp.co.uk)
Made from Folle Blanche (aka Picpoul), one of the original Vermouth grape varieties, now grown to make vibrant lip-smackingly acidic whites on rich limey clays very close to the Mediterranean. Grown near the famous salty lagoon Bassin de Thau near Montpellier. You cannot find this Picpoul grape anywhere else, apart from a tiny enclave in Chateauneuf du Pape. Expect citrus tangy dry white with a salty edge.
GRENACHE GRIS 2014 Domaine Jones STAR BUY
(13.5%; £13.50 www.thewinesociety.com; Henderson Wines, Edinburgh)
For those who like full flavoured whites, the intriguing Grenache Gris grape makes a lusciously rich honeyed white in warm Roussillon. Englishwoman Katie Jones unexpectedly discovered some old gnarled vines of this unusual grape in her Maury vineyard; expect fresh minerality combined with herby spicy undertones.
MAS CHAMPART BLANC 2012
(13.5%; £18 Berry Bros & Rudd www.bbr.com; 2014 vintage £12.95 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)
With its mix of 80% Terret and 20%Grenache Gris, this unusual honeyed herby white gives a hint of Languedoc’s vinous history as these are its original varieties, before the invasion of Chardonnay. Made near Saint Chinian from tiny yielding vines, picked late and matured in large old wooden vats.
LA SOULA BLANC 2009 Domaine Soula
(13.5%; £23.99 Raeburn Wines, Edinburgh; www.terroirlanguedoc.co.uk; 2011 vintage £20 www.thewinesociety.com; 2012 is £33 www.bbr.com)
Close to the Pyrenees in rugged Roussillon, this vin de pays des Cotes Catalanes from a blend of nine grapes grown on schist/granite soils is a revelation. With an emphasis on Sauvignon Blanc, Macabeo, Vermentino and Grenache Blanc, Gerard Gauby has created the most intense beautifully textured nutty tangy white I have tasted in the south.
CORBIERES ROSE CUVEE TRADITION 2016 Chateau Fontareche STAR VALUE BUY
(13%; £9.65 Berry Bros & Rudd www.bbr.com; www.corksout.com)
Well-made generously fruity dry(ish) rose from an interesting blend of Picpoul Noir, Grenache Noir & Syrah grown at C14 Chateau Fontareche, one of the oldest Languedoc vineyard estates. Check out their white wine too, same price and great value.
MINERVOIS PLAISIR D’EULALIE 2016 Chateau Sante Eulalie STAR VALUE BUY
(13.5%; £7.95 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)
Chateau owners Laurent and Isabelle Coustal have fashioned a typical Minervois here from 30% Syrah, 40% Carignan & 30% Grenache. Ripe jammy blackberry aromas, full upfront fruit palate with a hint of earthiness, minerality and soft tannins.
COTES DU ROUSSILLON VILLAGES 2013 Mas des Montagnes
(13.5%; £9.89/£10.99 Majestic Wine)
From a harsh landscape of terraced schist and granite vineyards, the Lorgeril family have tamed Grenache to a delicate juicy up-front raspberry fruited red. Quite light in character for Roussillon, but a hint or two of wild thyme here.
MINERVOIS LO MAINATGE 2012 La Croix de Saint Jean STAR BUY
(14.5%; £17.99 Henderson Wines; Cornelius Wines; Fine Wine Musselburgh; Luvians; Markinch Wine Gallery)
Loved this silky spicy herby Minervois with its focused fruit and mineral tinge. Made by up-and-coming winemaker Michel Fabre from 70% Grenache with 30% Syrah in cooler Les Causses, in the north east corner of the appellation.
MINERVOIS LA LIVINIERE 2014 Chateau Laville Bertron
(14%; £13.94/£15.49 Majestic Wine)
For Big Red lovers, this hearty powerful blend of Carignan, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre is like an upscaled Cotes du Rhone. From the 200 hectare Liviniere enclave in north west Minervois, which offers Languedoc’s most intense herby reds.
CORBIERES BOUTENAC 2013 Domaine de Villemajou
(14%; £13.99/£15.99 Majestic Wine)
From the classy Boutenac enclave in this vast appellation, Gerard Bertrand has crafted a very smoky spicy blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah. Corbieres can be rugged and austere, but this is elegant and rich.
TERRASSES DU LARZAC, LES VIGNES OUBLIEES 2012
(14%; £16 Berry Bros & Rudd www.bbr.com)
The brainchild of Jean Baptiste Garner who works with local growers around Saint Privat village tending the old gnarled neglected vines on the high terraces and cooler valleys of the Larzac foothills. Ageing in demi-muid and barrel for 10 months has enhanced flavours; expect a highly scented, blackcherry fruited, herby savoury red with firm tannins.
Join Rose’s Celebrate the Festival in Style ‘Champagne Masterclass’ in Edinburgh on Thursday 24 August £40 www.rosemurraybrown.com