For many years, Languedoc-Roussillon was a byword for lousy wine. The region was infamous for producing vast amounts of grim fare which appealed to nobody except the French army who bought the rough local reds by the container-load, for cleaning their rifles with or running their tanks on or something.
Today, though, this vast area has been transformed and is an exceptionally happy hunting ground, especially for those wine lovers bored with the wines of Bordeaux or miffed at Bordelais prices. Or put off by the dire reports of Bordeaux’s 2013 vintage.
Languedoc-Roussillon’s climate and terroir are both spot on, and a new generation of winemakers has gleefully spotted the region’s potential. They have invested heavily and are using modern vineyard practices and state-of-the-art machinery. 2013 was also a fine, if small, vintage here.
I recently joined the truffle-hound that is Jason Yapp on a whirlwind tour of the region and, true to form, Jason ran to ground some exceptional wines on our behalf, including two that he has agreed to import exclusively for us. These wines are simply not available anywhere else in Britain.
The first of these exclusives is the IGP Pays Duché d’Uzès ‘Amanalie’ 2012: Domaine Camp Galhan (1). A blend of Viognier (mainly), Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, it’s fresh, delicate and oak-free. It boasts delightfully creamy apricot fruit and a long, persistent savoury finish. It makes a great aperitif or partner to pot-roast chicken, although the wine-maker (and asparagus grower) Lionel Pourquier told us it’s best with new season’s asparagus. I absolutely love it and pat Jason firmly on the back for keeping it at just £10.75 a bottle when he reckons it should be £12.25.
The Côtes de Thongue Rosé 2013: Domaine Les Filles de Septembre (2) is another exclusive and only £8.95. An equal blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Grenache Noir and Cinsault, it’s a gorgeous palest of pale pink and is utterly charming. It’s thirst-quenchingly refreshing, too, with seductive sweet, spicy redcurrant fruit and a long, dry to off-dry finish. A must for any picnic or al fresco seduction.
The Minervois ‘Cuvée Tradition’ 2012: Domaine le Cazal (3) is an old favourite of mine. I like it even more at £9.25 a go (a full £1 off Yapps’ list price). A blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Carignan, it’s intense, robust, earthy, spicy and leathery. It has bags of style and character and is a classic match for a true, days-in-the-making, shirt-popping cassoulet.
The Saint-Chinian ‘Cuvée Magali’ 2010: Château Milhau-Lacugue (4) is an equal blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Cinsault from just west of Béziers. It’s soft, mellow and dangerously accessible. There is a definite hint of pepper and spice, though, behind the rich, ripe fruit, and it has a long, fresh red cherry finish. Enjoy it, as we did, with a salad of pigeon breast and puy lentils. Only £9.25.
Goodness, I enjoyed the Pic Saint-Loup ‘L’Arbouse’ 2012: Mas Bruguière (5), made from old vines at the foot of the rugged Pic Saint-Loup mountain itself. A big, brave Syrah/Grenache combo, it’s full of heady spice and rich, exuberant, dark bramble fruit. Jason reckons it’s ideal with (and in) slow-cooked daubes and casseroles. But keep a glass back. I thought it even better the day after opening. £12.50, down from the Yapp RRP of £13.50.
Finally, the Collioure ‘La Pinède’ 2012: Domaine la Tour Vieille (6) made from handpicked Grenache Noir and Carignan grown on steep, terraced slopes overlooking the harbour of Collioure. ‘Rugged, chest-thumping and life-affirming,’ declared Jason, and I can’t help but agree. It’s big and bold with a wealth of briary berry scents and flavours supported by firm but ripe tannins. Serve with stuffed peppers and a saddle of lamb liberally laced with anchovies and garlic. £14.25, down from £15.25.
There’s a sample case containing two bottles of each wine, and delivery, as ever, is free.
Prices include VAT and delivery on the British mainland. Payment should be made either by cheque with the order, payable to the wine merchant, or by debit or credit card, details of which may be telephoned or faxed. This offer, which is subject to availability, closes on 5 February 2013.
Click here to take advantage of this offer (subject to closing date).