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Minervois wine-maker Luc Lapeyre may have needed a little help with his spoken English but none at all when it came to singing. Francoise Taillefer, another Languedoc wine-maker, and Luc put on one of the liveliest wine-tastings ever at Jacques last Thursday.
It was Luc’s singing that ended a very entertaining evening, his Fields of Athenry rising over the packed tables and giving stiff competition to the music from the pub across the way. Chanson du Vin.
Fionnuala Harkin of Wines Direct had accompanied the two organic winemakers on their week's trip around Ireland and Thursday was the final day. Their visit to Cork began with an afternoon masterclass in L’Atitude 51.
Francoise, of Domaine Ollier Taillefer, started with her Les Collines. The vineyard, that she runs with her brother (also named Luc), is set in the hills around the picturesque village of Fos. The Taillefer vines are planted in the sloping schist soils of the Faugeres appellation, the smallest appellation in the Languedoc.
The soil is mainly schist, a very poor soil but “easier “for organic”. It gives this wine, a blend of Grenache (50%), Carignan and Syrah “freshness and finesse”. “It is very easy drinking, very fruity… not for long keeping..serve at 16 degrees. All the work is manual and we are the 5th generation.”
Just twenty per cent of the wine is exported and Fionnuala said: “This is kinda special for us. It is not widely available outside of France.” She pointed out too that the same three grapes, planted in a another area of the Languedoc would have a different result. “That’s how we get individual styles from our small producers”.
The Lapeyre family's wine-growing goes back even further; Luc is 8th generation. His first big job there, in 1980, was to “change the cepage”. His first wine in “L’Atitude was his San Bres 2015, “a simple wine”, expressive of the fruit (Syrah 60%, Grenache 40%). “Drink it young”, he advised. “But it will keep a few years”.
“I never learned agronomy or science but think I have a feeling for it. The summers are more and more hot and I prefer sometimes to pick a little early. Wine is made in the vineyard, not the cellar. If you have the best grapes, it is simple to make good wine.”
His pride and joy is the L’Amourier. The name comes from the Occitan and means a lover, not a fighter. “Make love, not war,” he said.
Both he and Fionnuala made the point that these wines are not made to win prizes. The big wines may well stand out at a tasting and are often then abandoned. Luc makes wines to “stay with for the night”.
“L’Amourier,” Francoise told us as she helped Luc out, “takes in all the soil types and grapes that he has, including the oldest vines and the poorest soils. They then spend one year in big barrels to develop complexity, originality, personality, the aim being to keep the aromas and youthfulness of the wine.”
He admitted that his “recipe is flexible", never quite the same from vintage to vintage. This is to allow for the weather, the harvest itself, and other variables. This is where the”feeling” comes in!
By the way, Mourvedre, a small part of this blend (Grenache and Syrah are also included), is raised that bit differently, in smaller barrels “to soften the tannins”.
Every now and then, maybe once in three years, Luc finds the grapes in just one particular parcel “too powerful for L’Amourier”, so he makes “a wine to keep”. “How old is that parcel?” someone queried. “Older than me,” was the jovial reply.
This wine, L’Amourier Les Clots (2010), spends two years in barrel. With its deep dark fruits, this smooth full-bodied beauty is “very versatile… try it with viande rouge”.
We would meet the wines and the winemakers again later in Jacques, as part of their well-loved series of Tapas and Wines. And Eithne Barry and her team kept the Cork end up with some lovely matching dishes.
Francoise: Irish lamb is the best
Their gorgeous chicken paté was paired, and paired well, with Les Collines. “Bon appetite” all round as we enjoyed the matching of Coq au Vin with the San Bres. And then came another magic match: Lamb cassoulet and the L’Amourier before we finished on an exquisite Brie de Meaux.
Except that we weren't exactly finished. The chansons were only beginning.
Languedoc Strongholds: Corbieres, Minervois, St Chinian.
Top Notch Reds. And White!
“Down here, they speak the language differently”, I had mentioned to my companion as we came down from Peyrepertuse (left), a high Cathar fort in the Languedoc, south of Carcassonne. Workmen stopped to allow the string of tourists reach the car park. The digger-driver was instantly on his mobile and soon he illustrated my language point as one “Whay” after another boomed out. No gentle “Oui” for him!
They make wine differently too in the rocky hills of the western Languedoc. And they make it very well indeed.
Le Moulin des Nonnes, Cuvée Inés blanc 2012, Minervois, 13.5%, €12.00 in SuperValu French Wine sale from 12th Feb.
This Vin Biologique, produced by the Andrieu brothers, is a blend of Roussanne (50%), Grenache Blanc (40) and Muscat petit grains (10) and is Very Highly Recommended. Colour is a bright gold and it has beautiful floral notes. Nice fruity notes on the palate too, some gorgeous spice too. This elegant organic white, with its fruit and finesse, surprised me. Apparently, less than ten per cent of Minervois wine is blanc. Perhaps we should encourage them to make more! “Whay, whay, si vous plais!”
Les Secrets Saint Chinian rouge 2012, 13.5%, €10.00 in SuperValu French Wine sale.
This red, a brilliant blend of Grenache and Syrah, is Very Highly Recommended. There is a superb introduction on the palate, excellent fruit, spice galore, but nothing extreme, all well balanced. Quite an elegant medium-bodied performer with a silky smooth lingering finish.
St Laurent Corbieres rouge 2012, 14%, €10.00 in SuperValu French Wine sale.
The palate on our second red is slightly more reserved and none the worse for that, fruit and spice again in evidence but slightly more rounded. The Corbieres, bottled by the same co-op in Saint Chinian, is more full bodied, possibly a bit better as a food wine. Grilled meats and cheese are recommended. Indeed, I think the Corbieres is marginally the better wine but I have a small preference for the Saint Chinian. Both though are Very Highly Recommended.
* French wines are extremely popular in SuperValu and all three above are part of their French sale that begins on February 12th. These three would be a good start and I also note that the Minervois blanc is part of a trio that may be had for €25.00, the others being Coteaux de Giennois (Loire Sauvignon blanc) and Domaine Cristia Grenache. There is more from the Languedoc and big name areas, such as Bordeaux and the Rhone, are also well represented.
From the heart of the Minervois, from an area called La Liviniere, Karwig Wines in Carrigaline bring you this superb red, a blend of Syrah (55%), Grenache (30) and Carignan (15). La Cantilene (881 AD) is the first romanesque poetic work, stanza above.
Close to Canal du Midi, north east of Carcassonne, north west of Beziers, Laurent and Isabelle Coustal run “an outstanding estate” and are one of the leading producers. This Very Highly Recommended wine underlines their reputation.
Dark fruity aromas greet you. On the palate, it is fruity; there is a dash of spice, some tannins also but this full bodied wine is so well balanced you don't notice the hefty alcohol and you will enjoy a deep finalé. Recommended for game, grilled red meat and cheese.
I was in a really comfortable zone with the last glass ofCaldora Yume Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008. I reached out for the next bottle
and was totally ambushed, in the nicest possible way, by this 2009 from
blend of Merlot (60%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and Cabernet Franc, is a
delight from a year of delight in the region. It has everything going for it:
silky, fruity for sure but so well balanced and, of course, a long finish.
The producer’s description: A
round and exuberant wine, very enjoyable in its youth, yet with a complexity
and elegance one expects of prestigious Bordeaux. This wine will be enjoyed
from its second year and beyond.
du Donjon, La Pujade, Minervois 2010, 14.5%, €15.25, Karwig Wines
vineyards of the "Château du Donjon", Panis family property since the
16th century, stretch out over the rural district of Bagnoles, the
western part of the Minervois region. It is divided into two large parts, one
for A.O.C. Minervois, and the other for "Vin de Pays". The grapes for
this are from a vineyard that is over 100 years old, planted mainly with
Grenache Noir vines.
There is a magnificent concentration of aromas in this dark red wine. Beautiful
juicy black fruit flavours on the palate and also a little spice. Totally
luscious then before this well balanced wine produces an excellent finish.
to be decanted. Highly Recommended.
Messias Grande Escolha,
Douro 2011, 13.5%, €15.40, Karwig Wines
Continued the very enjoyable Euro red sequence with this beauty
from Portugal’s Douro, another with an intense aroma and then a smooth mouthfeel,
a supple fruitiness on the palate followed by a terrific finish.
Grape Varieties used in this blend are all local: Touriga Franca;
Touriga Nacional; Tinta Roriz; Tinta Barroca.
A big wine for the price and Highly
Recommended. Unfiltered - Decanting advised.
say this was one of the best sets of reds that I’ve come across recently but
the Italian, the Portuguese and the languedocien will have to take a place
behind that superb Bordeaux. Of course, if you are having a group in, start
them off with the other three before springing the Bordeaux. A perfect ambush.
Of the nicest possible kind. * Prices quoted all before recent tax ambush!