Southern France, reds by Tamlyn Currin
The third instalment of this report on current southern French wines. Tomorrow we publish the last instalment, on reds from producers G to Z. See also reviews of whites and pinks, fizz and sweet.
When I asked producers to send in their wines for a big Languedoc and Roussillon tasting, I made a slightly different request from the usual one to ‘send your latest vintages’. I asked them to send two to four wines that they thought fitted these categories: an everyday lunch wine; a dinner-with-friends wine; a special-occasion wine; and ‘an intellectual wine that requires thought and reflection’. Some did (some didn’t!). But the result was that I got to look at some wines that I wouldn’t normally taste.
While around 65% of the red wines reviewed were from the 2018 and 2019 vintages, one of the huge treats was the chance to taste some older wines. It’s a mistaken assumption that Languedoc wines don’t age in the way that wines from Rhône, Bordeaux and Burgundy do. In fact, tasting some of these older vintages made me think that we might well be drinking some of these wines too young. Cendrillon’s 2008 showed how wonderfully those big Languedoc tannins resolved and how much beauty there is in the evolution of that fruit. Les Clos Perdus’ Mire la Mer 2013, La Dournie’s 2015, Colline de l’Hirondelle’s wines from 2014, 2015 and 2016, Prés-Lasses’ Castel Viel 2014 and Mas de l’Écriture’s 2013 and 2014 (the latter two in tomorrow’s article) all prove that the Languedoc, like any great terroir, can produce ageworthy wines.
As an aside, last year I was struck by the number of producers farming organically, and this year is no exception. More than 60% of the wines reviewed here are certified organic. Many more are Haute Valeur Environnementale or working organically without certification.
I was thrilled, too, to see how wines were proper Languedoc blends rather than international varieties. It’s based on the empirical evidence of just one observer but, certainly at the top end, there seems to be more and more of a movement towards wines that are authentically Languedoc, that reflect the unique terroir and character of each appellation. Saying that, however, it is interesting to see that at least 25 tasting notes in today’s and tomorrow’s articles are Vin de France. Are the rules too rigid, or is this a region that attracts rebels?