Famille Fabre by Jancis Robinson (TC)

Languedoc round-up, summer 2024

Can’t make it to the south of France this year? Tam finds a bevy of wines that can transport you there

I’m less certain about the Languedoc wines made from non-local varieties, which is why I’ve grouped them separately. Some producers are making unmistakably good Chardonnay and Pinot, decent Sauvignon Blanc and even rather interesting Tempranillo and Albariño. But good as these wines are, they don’t have the canticle of the mountains and herbs and stones and restless winds.

On the other hand, the orange wines I’ve tasted from the Languedoc seem to be on the ascendent. I tasted only three for this round-up but they were all outstanding, managing to pivot into that magic convergence of bright juicy fruit with spicy tannins. They’re brilliantly food friendly as well.

Famille Fabre, L’Instant Bulle Pet-Nat Brut Nature 2023 Vin de France

Full bottle 1,517 g. Certified organic (Ecocert). 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 60% Colombard. Spontaneous fermentation for the base wine. Unfined, unfiltered, not disgorged. 
Quinine and lemon sherbet and teeny crunchy bubbles. It reminds me of baobab fruit! Tart and pithy in the most thirst-quenching, mouth-watering way. You could drink this instead of a spritzer, on a hot day – loads more flavour! (TC)

11% Drink 2024 15.5

Famille Fabre, Grande Courtade Chardonnay 2023 IGP Pays d’Oc

Full bottle 1,161 g. Certified organic (Ecocert). 20% of the juice is vinified in barrels and aged for six months on lees with bâtonnage, and the remainder is vinified in stainless steel.
The dusting of hazelnuts and smudge of toffee on the nose and a certain curve to the wine on the palate are the only traces of the oak in this classy Chardonnay. I’m not a huge fan of Languedoc Chardonnay (Limoux excepted) but the Fabres have managed to capture the sunshine without turning out a fat butterball, and they’ve managed the oak with subtle elegance. Full of fleshy yellow fruit, a delicate smudge of crème anglaise and texture as smooth as fine bone china. (TC)

13.5% Drink 2024 2028 £15 RRP 16.5

Famille Fabre, Grande Courtade L’Instant Rare Alvarinho 2023 IGP Pays d’Oc

Full bottle 1,303 g. Certified organic (Ecocert). 
This very young Alvarinho was actually better the day after it was opened – it tasted a little hard when I first opened it. But the next day it had stretched out and relaxed, still retaining Alvarinho’s saline tension, but now complemented by peaches, grilled grapefruit and peach kernel. Really lovely balance. The acidity has length and depth as well as creaminess, and I just love the flitter of spice almost hidden in the folds of crunchy fruit. Famille Fabre’s best Alvarinho yet. (TC)

12.5% Drink 2024 2026

Famille Fabre, Generation Louis Andrieu Orange Wine 2023 Vin de France

Full bottle 1,306 g. Certified organic (Ecocert). 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Skin-contact maceration for 10 days, spontaneous fermentation, ageing on the lees in dolium and amphorae with partial ageing in chestnut-wood barrels.
Deeper gold than Katie Jones’ orange wine tasted alongside. Spicy (pepper and nutmeg and pul biber chilli) and masses of orange citrus along with a flavour that reminds me of the monkey oranges (Strychnos spinosa) of my childhood – sort of sweet-and-sour pineapple candy with a touch of banana and passion fruit and vanilla. The tannins are there, but delicate, holding back until right at the end when they feel like a brush of soft carpet. Like Katie Jones’ orange wine, this is really sitting at a lovely, approachable midway point on the spectrum of white wines, neither extreme nor conventional. But it’s not commercial orange wine – it’s complex and has real personality. (TC)

13% Drink 2024 2028 17

Famille Fabre, Château de Luc Les Jumelles Rosé 2023 Languedoc

Full bottle 1,157 g. Certified organic (Ecocert). Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah.
It tastes of those tiny vineyard peaches when they’re still crunchy and there is also a distinctly rose-petal floral note which gives a very pretty lift to the finish. Lovely smooth texture, like the shiny curve of a ripe apple. Uncomplicated but balanced and attractive. (TC)

12.5% Drink 2024 16

Famille Fabre, Lux Levis Cinsault 2022 Vin de France

Full bottle 1,137 g. Certified organic (Ecocert). No added sulphites. 100% Cinsault from a vineyard planted in 1964.
I was expecting a lighter Cinsault (along the lines of the South African minimal-intervention Cinsaults) but this is pretty malty and chocolatey. More grunt. Saying that, the acidity is bright, the fruit is cherry juicy and the tannins feel like ripe cherry skin. White pepper on the end. And it’s delicious with Gruyère cheese. (TC)

13% Drink 2024 2025 16

Famille Fabre, Château Coulon Terrasses de Lezignan 2022 Corbières

Full bottle 1,353 g. Certified organic (Ecocert). Syrah (vinified using carbonic maceration) and Carignan (whole-bunch fermentation). This is the first vintage of this cuvée.
I love the playful spit and polish that this wine gives to some pretty serious fruit. It’s slightly zingy, red fruit bleeding into purple fruit seeping slowly into blue-fruit-stained tannins. Tannins that feel like a balustrade that has been slidden down by generations of children. There’s a hint of tobacco leaf (golden, not brown), a hint of cherry coulis, a hint of roasted almond, and – just on the end – sweet fennel. It epitomises everything I love about the Fabre wines: their sheer drinkability. (TC)

14.5% Drink 20242027 16.5

Famille Fabre, La Bergerie Tour de Rieux 2020 Minervois

Full bottle 1,289 g. Certified organic (Ecocert). Cinsault and Syrah blend.
Syrah’s meat-and-gravy dominates in this blend, Cinsault popping in with a little dab of cranberry brightness and white pepper. Rugged, earth-and-leather flavours. Easy, laconic tannins. Perfect wine for a steak and kidney pie. (TC)

14% Drink 2024 2030 16

Famille Fabre, Lux Fortis Cabernet Sauvignon 2023 IGP Pays d’Oc

Full bottle 1,169 g. Certified organic (Ecocert). 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the vineyard called Les Caussades, planted in 1990. No added sulphites.
Unusually for a very ripe-fruited, 14.5% Cabernet, this is juicy rather than jammy and fresh rather than rich. The tannins are round and warm and feel safely encompassing, like the inflatable rubber rings we used to ride the rainy-season rivers in Zimbabwe when we were kids. Blackcurrants, a dusting of soot. I love the gluggable, unpretentious friendliness of Fabre’s Lux range! (TC)

14.5% Drink 2024 2026 16

Famille Fabre, Lux Tano Tempranillo 2022 Vin de France

Full bottle 1,162 g. Certified organic (Ecocert). 100% Tempranillo from a lieu-dit called St-Michel, planted in 2015. No added sulphites. Clearly unfiltered, by the smudge of anthocynanins on one side of the bottle.
A crushed-raspberry ripple of ready, rosy-cheeked fruit. Tannins at ease and playful. Snippets of catchy semi-seriousness – matcha, tarragon, cacao husk. Glou-glou wine. Should be found in a wine bar with good food. (TC)

13% Drink 2024 2026 16