TOP TEN LEADING LANGUEDOC

by Rose Murray Brown MW

Published in The Scotsman Sat 3 May 2014

Thirty years ago it was the land of cheap table wine.  Now Languedoc Roussillon, the world’s largest wine region, is undergoing a renaissance with more experimentation here than anywhere else in France – and is now a source of some of the best value wines in the country.  Here is my pick of my current favourite top ten:

WHITES

PICPOUL DE PINET 2013 DOMAINE DE HAUT-BRIDAN

(£8.99 Waitrose)
Once known as ‘lip-stinger’ due to its tart acid, the Piquepoul grape is grown near the vast salt water lagoon of Bassin de Thau between three towns of Agde, Pezenas and Sete.  Now this nippy white has been transformed into a bracing citric delight and has caught our imagination as every UK supermarket seems to stock one.  This is a brand new wine to Waitrose.  Very appealing as a summery aperitif, it acts like a squeeze of lemon with a plate of fruits de mer or delicious for just whiling away a Sunday afternoon in the hammock.  12% alc

LE VERSANT VIOGNIER 2012 LES VIGNOBLES DE FONCALIEU
(£8.50 Fine Wine Direct UK; Inverarity Morton, Glasgow; www.winerack.co.uk)

A very popular wine at our recent tasting where our tasters labelled it as a bargain at under £10.  Le Versant is from hillside vineyards in western Languedoc where higher altitude plantings benefit from more Atlantic influence and higher acidity which is crucial with the rich textured Viognier grape.  Peachy aromas, fresh zippy and very well made by the Foncalieu co-operative group, who have no less than 1,200 members across 5,000 hectares – so a wealth of grapes to select from. 13.5%

MAS DES MONTAGNE TERROIRS D’ALTITUDE BLANC 2011
(£9.99 Majestic Wine)

Clever blend of Grenache Blanc and Macabeo, this ‘mountain wine’ is named after its high vineyard sites in Rousillon creating minerally thirst-quenching vivid whites. Made by the Lorgeril family, who own better known Chateau Pennautier in Languedoc, with renowned consultant Patrick Leon of Domaines Rothschild assisting. Their Grenache Noir, Syrah and Carignan-based red blend is also good quaffing stuff and even better value at £8.99. 13.5%

VIOGNIER 2012 DOMAINE STE FERREOL
(£10.99 each for 2 bts or £12.49 Majestic Wine)

For those who like their Viognier with more weight and complexity, this honeysuckle scented rich weighty barrel fermented example from Chateau Ste Ferreol is seriously delicious. Jorge Maslakiewicz, the owner of this mediaeval priory near Nizas in the heart of the Herault where vines have been grown since 1146, has a passion for Viognier. 13%

VIN DE PAYS DES COTES CATALANES, LA SOULA BLANC 2008
(£20.99 Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh; www.terroirlanguedoc.co.uk; £25 www.bbr.com)

Gerard Gauby of Domaine Soula is a legend.  He uses biodynamic methods to cultivate his old vines, creating unique polished wines which have been hailed by some critics as the best in France.  Close to the Pyrenees in rugged Roussilon, on schist/granite soils in an area which has been slower to change. He started only in 2001, but is now a cult hero.  Nine white grapes are used in his blend, with an emphasis on Sauvignon Blanc, Macabeo, Vermentino and Grenache Blanc. 13.5%

Les Truffieres Saint Chinian Yapp BrosREDS
ST CHINIAN LES TRUFFIERES 2010 CHATEAU MILHAU-LACUGUE
(£13.50 Yapp Bros www.yapp.co.uk)

Top scorer at our recent tasting.  I love this unoaked blend of Syrah and Grenache with its pungent vivid extracted bugle-blowing fruits – it just cries out for a plate of roast lamb.  My own experience of St Chinian reds in the past has been disappointing, I often find them coarse, but this shining example is superb. Vines have been grown on south east facing limestone terraces since the Crusades, the chateau was a resting place for pilgrims enroute to Compostella.  I am not the only one to love this wine; rated as ‘outstanding’ by Decanter magazine in their Languedoc panel tasting. 14.5%  STAR BUY

PINOT NOIR POMAREDES 2010 DOMAINE DE CLOVALLON
(£17.50 Terroir Languedoc www.terroirlanguedoc.co.uk; La Garrigue, Edinburgh)

Bedarieux in Haute Vallee de l’Orb, just outside the Faugeres appellation, is an unusual remote place for a female architect-turned-winemaker to end up tending a parcel of ancient vines.  Catherine Roque is clearly a determined character with a gentle touch, her Pinot Noirs are deliciously delicate and fragrant from her high altitude vineyards. Pomaredes is her premium Pinot.  Forget Burgundy, this is more Loire-like. 12.5%

EMOTION OCCITANE 2005 LE MAS D’ECRITURE
(£12.50 Terroir Languedoc www.terroirlanguedoc.co.uk)

Pascal Fulla studied law and worked for 20 years in the corporate world before becoming a vigneron in Terrasses de Larzac – now one of the trendiest outposts in eastern Languedoc.
Immense attention to detail, he calls his wine estate – the writing lodge – with poetry on his cellar walls. His red blends of Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Carignan have a wild fennel, sweet herby, spicy undertone.  He uses both French and Russian oak.  His Les Pensees red is even better, but pricier (£19.95). 14%

COTES DE THONGUE CUVEE TRADITION 2013 DOMAINE LES FILLES DE SEPTEMBRE
(£9.75 Yapp Bros www.yapp.co.uk)

Bordeaux meets Languedoc in this well-priced find made mid-way between Beziers and Pezenas. Cotes de Thongue is not as well-known as it should be, as this Merlot, Grenache and Syrah blend is a cracking buy for those who like their reds simple, young, fruity and thirst-quenching.  Made by Hugues and Roland Geraud who are exploiting this undervalued terroir. Stoke up the barbeque, fling on the chipolatas and steaks – and fill your glass with this lusty red. 13%

FAUGERES 2011 CLOS FANTINE
(£14.75 Les Caves de Pyrene www.lescaves.co.uk; L’Art du Vin, Dunfermline www.aduv.co.uk; Bottle Apostle www.bottleapostle.com)

Funky wild Faugeres, tastes so earthy it is like liquidized schist with a sprinkling of fennel and pepper.  Untamed Languedoc from wild untrained bio-dynamically grown vines and no sulphur added in the winery.  Clos Fantine, in the under-valued Faugeres appellation in the schist foothills of the Cevennes, is owned by the enterprising Andrieu family: sisters Carole and Corinne with brother Oliver.  A typical Languedoc blend of Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. A vinous experience that will take you right back to the wild herbs of the Garrigue. Delicious with spicy tapenade or coarse pate. 14%
 

wine tastings

The perfect gift for the wine enthusiast in the family. Rose does In-person tastings too.

cellar advice

Rose does cellar valuations for private clients, valuations for insurers & bespoke portfolio management.

Related stories

  • May 18, 2024

    By Rose Murray Brown MW    Published in The Scotsman 18 May 2024 I am standing in the highest vineyard in Hungary.  This 501 metre hill, in the foothills of the Bukk mountains, towers above the beautiful baroque town of Eger below to the west – and is one of the Eger’s most prized vineyards. I can barely see

  • April 6, 2024

    By Rose Murray Brown MW  Published in The Scotsman 6 April 2024 Bulgaria was one of the first countries in the modern wine world to sell its wines by varietal labelling – with the grape name clearly emblazoned on the front label - a practice which was swiftly taken up by the New World countries. Back in early 1990s

  • March 31, 2024

    By Rose Murray Brown MW  Published in The Scotsman 30 March 2024 On 2 February 1659, the first wine made from grapes grown in South Africa was crafted by the Governor of the Cape, Jan van Riebeeck.  He had planted vines four years earlier in the Company’s Garden near Cape Town from cuttings imported from France. Van Riebeeck’s first