As the reviewer of all Languedoc-Roussillon wines for Wine Enthusiast, it was pretty much incumbent on me to hop on AirFrance and make my way to Montpellier this week for the big wine show of the area, Vinisud. 2010 marks the ninth occurrence of Vinisud, a massive, international exhibition of Mediterranean wines and spirits, with over 1,600 exhibitors and over 33,000 professional visitors expected to attend throughout the three day period. The span of the Mediterranean offerings there are expansive, with wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region (Sud de France) as well as the Rhône Valley, Provence, Corsica, South-West France, Italy, Spain, Tunisia, Lebanon, Portugal, Malta, Morocco and Algeria.
But first, after arriving in Montpellier on Saturday morning, I headed out to visit with Neasa and Laurent Miquel. I joined them at their new organic estate, Les Auzines. While they arrived at Les Auzines with enough time to blend some of the 2008 vintage, their first real hands-on vintage will be the 2009, which was showing beautifully. During our lunch of estate-caught wild boar and aligot, we tasted through some Laurent Miquel wines, including the 2007 Verité Viognier, also showing marvelously, and the 2006 Saga Pegot Faugères which still shows great depth and promise for aging.
I then headed to Château de Boutenac for a Cru Boutenac tasting. In 2005, a new appellation was established within Corbières to acknowledge the stringent guidelines and restraints imposed on the vineyard management and winery production of this specific area, Corbières-Boutenac. The wines are elegant and fresh, produced with traditional techniques but yielding a very modern result. They are dominated by vibrant, juicy flavors, but show depth and complexity among the fruit; with all Carignan grapes harvested only by hand (ensuring the grapes stay whole to encourage carbonic maceration) it’s no surprise these flavors came through.
However, with various winemaker impressions, aging techniques and oak treatments, not everything coming out of Boutenac is a fruit-bomb ready to be drunk now. Perfect examples of the non-bombs are wines from Château Grand Moulin, Château Maylandie’s Villa Ferrae, Cellier des Demoiselles’s Messaline, and Château Ollieux Romanis’s Cuvée Or, a huge, lush red wine with intense red berry flavors and an ample serving of toasty oak. All were delicious and immensely satisfying so I was disappointed to learn that not everyone is currently imported into the states. (Email the winery for distribution and availability.)
Yesterday, I visited with Martine and Jean Luc Quinquarlet of Domaine de Familongue out in the Terrasses du Larzac sub-appellation of Coteaux du Languedoc. Previously part of a cooperative, they began creating their own wine in 2002, and to date they keep the selections coming. While they produce whites, reds and rosés, they also experiment with late harvest and fortified wines (though the production is small). In addition to wine, the family also produces olive oil from trees planted on their estate, which they press, bottle and distribute internationally. The wines were stunning, showing excellent balance and structure, and a certain exuberance while remaining restrained and approachable. All of the bottles were great, but to me the stars were the 2007 L’âme (soul) de Familongue (dark and concentrated with opulent black fruit, a creamy mouth and a decadent raspberry-vanilla finish) and the 2007 3 Naissances (loads of intense black berries and raspberries, hints of leather and herbaceousness and a rich mocha finish to die for). Sadly, the 3 Naissances is not currently available in the US, but they’re working on it.
Et finalement, Vinisud. With today being the first day of the event, the crowd was in full-force and the spirits were high. Everyone was hoping to make appointments with various producers, speak to the winemakers and taste through their wines together. I began with Sud de France, which was serving over 400 wines in their “booth” (which was more like a corner of one of the halls). Launched in 2006, the Sud de France name was created to help promote the wines and foods of the region of Languedoc-Roussillon, with only AOC/IGP producers allowed to join (no table wines). This ensures a certain quality of wine is represented by the brand, which is gaining in international recognition each year.
I decided to spend the remainder of the day focusing on various Vin de Pays from the region. I enjoyed the wines from Domaine de Blancardy, who have been in production for 10 years. Their Vin de Pays d’Oc wines seemed fresh and very accessible, with nothing tasted receiving less than an 86 in my opinion and a couple of gems like the 2007 Coteaux du Languedoc and 2007 Fût, which is 100% Syrah and aged 18 months in new oak. The same goes for Domaine de Puilacher, whose four wines from the three person family operation all tasted at 87-88 points. As this is only their second vintage, one can expect only good things to come from them as they develop and expand.
The red wines from Château Fondouce did not disappoint, either. While I have reviewed some of the wines before, this estate amazes me as it really shows some of the potential for the Coteaux du Languedoc wines and their ageability; the 2000 Cuvée Julien was still quite robust, fruit-forward and tannic, and while certainly drinkable now could also be held for a bit longer.
Les Chemins de Bassac, an organic producer from the Côtes de Thongue, showed me some excellent Agriculture Biologique wines at affordable prices. The Isa line (white, red and rosé), priced around $15, were all above 88 points, while their higher end offerings showed amazing depth and complexity along with beautiful notes of the garrigue on the nose and palate. The 2006 Camille Léonie, a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre, was intriguing and inviting with strong notes of cassis, licorice, thyme and rosemary along well-integrated oak in the mouth and a creamy texture.
But, for me, the highlight of day one was a small estate by the name of Prieure de Valcrose, located about30 kilometers from Montpellier. Owners Romain Tremoulet and Laetitia Masson produce about 10,000 bottles of fantastic wine. Out of five wines tasted, one was an 89, two were 90s, one a 91 and the last a 93. The high scorer and my star of the day was the 2006 Cuvée Jules, a 50/50 Syrah-Grenache with no oak but all the opulence and character in the world. Undeniably complex and concentrated with tons of gorgeous dark fruit and herbs along with a huge, firm structure, great acidity and a long, expressive finish. Whoever decides to grab and import this relatively new estate will not be disappointed … and neither will I.
So, that’s all for day one from Vinisud in Montpellier, France. Until tomorrow…