The “Outsiders” tasting at London’s Maison de la Région Languedoc-Roussillon hosted grower-winemakers who moved to the region, be it from nearby Bordeaux, Europe, USA or even New Zealand.
Why Outsiders? The Languedoc-Roussillon offers the best value in France for a newcomer to potentially make interesting wine. With the decline of co-operatives for example, affordable established but underachieving vineyards on fine terroirs are available. These Outsiders have either brought new ideas or simply open minds to their craft, but are all strongly motivated by a love of wine and making it.
From a UK tasting perspective these “Outsiders” all have a fine command of English to communicate their all important philosophy. This perfectly organised event was also buzzing but not heaving so there was plenty of time to engage with those behind the wines – and surprisingly little to write notes.
Of the 12 growers (links at the foot of this post) I am familiar with three. Mas Gabriel tasted just as fine in London as it does in the Hérault (see Leon Stolarski’s blog comments here), as did Treloar – I’ll post separately on a memorable Treloar dinner that evening.
La Grange de Quatre Sous I’ve enjoyed for many years and Hildegard Horat’s Les Serrottes 2007 (Syrah and Malbec) is fat and supple with sweet blackcurrant and a delicious balanced mouth feel. The white Le Jeu du Mail 2008 (Viognier and Marsanne) has hints of sherbet and elderflower with a bit of depth from ageing on the lees.
The surprise of the day was Château de Combebelle which turns out to be just 3 Km from La Grange de Quatre Sous. Peaking at 300m it’s has the highest vines in Saint Chinian plus they have been organic before Catherine Wallace purchased them in 2005 and went biodynamic. “Les Fleurs Sauvages” 2008 is 90% Syrah and the surprise was its elegance – this is Syrah that lets the light in, gentle red fruits and hints of game and reminiscent of northern Rhone. My suspicion of such a Syrah dominated (Languedoc) wine was completely derailed. “Henri” 2008 uses up the Syrah from young vines and was hand bottled in just 150 magnums(takes half the time of bottles), Lovely fresh, unsophisticated but luscious fruit with hints of smoke.
I was introduced to one wonderful Limoux Chardonnay this year and I can now add a second. Château Rives-Blanques Cuvée de l'Odyssée 2009 oozes mineral coolness with racy white flowers. Apparently fermented in barrels but you hardly notice. Vintage Rosé 2007 is crémant style and I find the soft mousse mouth feel ideal as an aperitif – strawberry and dry fruit with citrus tones.
Domaine de Calet
Chateau de Combebelle
Mas des Dames
Domaine Hegarty Chamans
La Grange de Quatre Sous (no website)