Jewels of the Languedoc
This offer is the fruit of many years of work in assembling a list of some of the most interesting and individual producers in the Languedoc.
In particular it owes a lot to a trip made early this spring to ViniSud - the big trade show held biannually on the outskirts of Montpellier, which showcases all the wines around the Mediterranean, followed by four days of visits to vineyards all over this vast region.
'Jeweller's dozen' offer
To make it even more appealing, we will add an extra FREE bottle to all 12 bottle orders from this offer. If you order a whole case of one wine, we will add another bottle of that wine. If you order a mix, we will add one bottle of another wine in this offer, of at least equivalent value of the average price of wines in the ordered case.
All the wines are listed below, or click any of the producer names to see more detail on each.
A huge swathe of southern France, the Languedoc-Roussillon - as it is now correctly known, runs from the rolling foothills of the Pyrenees at the Spanish border following the coast of the Med as it arcs north and east beyond Montpellier almost up to Marseille.
A vastly important area for French wine production in terms of volume – but not always famed for its quality. In order to supply the thirsty Marseilles market with cheap plonk a century ago, the vineyards 'slid down the hill'. The quality terroirs higher up and on the slopes were abandond in favour of plantings on the coastal plain where varieties like Aramon produced almost limitless quantities of wine. (The French have a rather graphic expression 'faire pisser les vignes'.) The reason that plots of 100+ year-old Carignan exist is that these are the vines abondoned all that time ago. Quality-conscious producers have come back to these old vines on the higher slopes, and replanted with other varieties - Grenache, of course, and Syrah, and Mourvèdre and Cinsault. The Languedoc is now emerging as a truly exciting place to find interesting, beautifully crafted and deeply rewarding wines – but we have had to dig around over the years and kiss a few frogs on the way, before finding our princes and princesses.
As the quality has increased so has the number of 'sub-appellations' - the Grands Crus of the Languedoc:- Faugères, Minervois, Saint Chinian, Pic Saint Loup amongst many others and we have some prime examples of what can be done in these distinctly different sub-regions with great wine-making and careful vineyard mangement. Add to these the newer appellation of the Terrasses de Larzac, where some really exciting domaines are making wines of great finesse on this high plateau which is cooled, like Pic Saint Loup a little further down, by air falling off the high peaks of the Cévennes. In nearly all the top vineyards there is this effect of cool nights which retains an expressive freshness in the wines.
An enlightening moment for us was when Anne Gros, one of our favourite Burgundian growers let us know that she and partner Jean-Paul Tollot, another Côte de Nuits legend - had decided to set up Domaine Anne Gros et Jean-Paul Tollot in Minervois. They were struck by the quality of the environment for creating great wines and have set about correcting the misguided opinion that the South of France was only good for bulky, chunky holiday wines. Their wines are made with Anne's eye for elegance and purity and yet clearly have a strong sense of their place.
With the wines from Frederic Pourtalié Domaine de Montcalmès we have found a rare purity and lightness of touch for wines traditionally from this part of the world, and Xavier Braujou of La Terrasse d'Élise in the next-door village, who makes wines every bit as interesting but since they are monovarietal do not conform the the appellation rules and are sold as Vins de Pays.
In Faugères we are delighted to introduce to the UK the wonderful wines from Domaine La Sarabande. Made as purely as possible with more than a little new-world know-how, these beautiful, organic wines truly reflect the wonderful schist soils and local conditions of the region but it is the huge skill and global experience of winemaker Paul Gordon that sets them apart from so many of their neighbours.
With no specific sub-region to its name, but still one of the most exciting Languedoc producers, the Clos des Nines is within sight of Sète and the coast, and here it is the elevation and the proximity to cooling sea breezes which makes this such an interesting site. Add the soil composed of fossilized oyster shells of colossal size, old vines as well as new plantings, and the passion of two intelligent 'outsiders' (Christian and Isabelle have backgrounds in marketing in big corporations).
Also with a simple ‘Coteaux de Languedoc’ appellation is the Chateau de Lascaux red from our old friend Jean-Benoit Cavalier. Jean-Benoit reserves the appellation ‘Pic Saint Loup’ for his more expensive cuvées, but the crispness of the fruit and the purity of the cool Syrah fruit speak of the origins of this wine. An old favourite, and the 2010 is as good a vintage as we have ever had from him.