Can the Midi make ageworthy wines?
France’s Midi is well known as a great source for red wines. The Côteaux du Languedoc AOC encompasses a vast territory where most of the villages make age-worthy wines. To celebrate its 30th anniversary, the AOC (which was renamed “Languedoc” in 2007) held a tasting of a selection of old bottles at Mas de Saporta near Montpellier, during the annual Millésime en Languedoc event.
The price of these wines range from $20 to $50 upon release. Wines at these price levels are usually drunk within a few years. This tasting was proof that some of them can last and be enjoyed much longer — especially if you appreciate the taste of a mature bottle. The wines were poured straight from the bottle, without decanting. Sadly, one bottle was corked, the 2002 Noël Calmes from Cave de Saint-Saturnin.
Mas Jullien 1996, Terrasses du Larzac
At close to 20 years of age, the wine shows an expected garnet colour. The nose is equally evolved with notes of dried fine herbs and plums. A tertiary “animal” scent shows up in the glass after a while. The mouthfeel is caressing, the tannins are melted; balance is still excellent, from the mid-palate and all the way through the lovely finale.
Cave de Saint-Saturnin Seigneur des 2 vierges 1998, Saint-Saturnin
The colour is dark, but has a brick-brown rim. The nose is complex, full of tertiary, empyreumatic aromas. The texture is still slightly grainy, but very finely so, with largely melted tannins. Finish is long and delicate.
Château l’Engarran Quetton 1998, Saint-Georges-d’Orques
Brick-red colour. Fresh nose of tea leaves, mushrooms and wet earth. Supple, tender texture, only medium bodied with melted tannins and a seductive finish.
Château Pech-Redon L’épervier 1998, La Clape
Garnet colour. Still a good deal of freshness on the nose with a delicate bouquet of wet earth and animal scents. Medium bodied at most, it is past its prime and declining but still enjoyable.
Clos Marie Simon 1998, Pic Saint Loup
Garnet colour. The nose is predominantly earthy with declining fruit. The tannins have taken over in the slightly astringent mouthfeel. Unrewarding and near the end of its life.
Domaine de Peyre-Rose Clos des Cistes 1998
Noticeably younger than other wines of the same vintage. Aromas of blackberries are still present on the nose, along with earth and liquorice. Still firm on the palate, it finishes on a tannic note. Impressive longevity.
Mas Jullien 2000, Terrasses du Larzac
The only wine from the 2000 vintage is showing extremely well. Colour still has a ruby tint; the nose is mostly fruity and shows some reduction (none of the wines were decanted prior to pouring). Excellent presence in the mouth, robust tannins and still juicy. Impressive.
Mas Bruguière La Grenadière 2001, Pic Saint Loup
Brick red colour. Nice fresh nose of dead leaves and lots of fine herbs notes with a menthol-like touch. Very expressive on the palate, with an “open” structure and a great length to match. A joy to drink.
Clos Marie Olivette 2001, Pic Saint Loup
A disappointment. The nose appears to be tired and lacking with only dried plum notes. Equally weak in the mouth, the tannic backbone is all that is left. This wine is well past its prime.
Ermitage du Pic Saint Loup Guilhem Gaucelm 2001, Pic Saint Loup
Garnet tint. Tertiary nose of tea leaves plus a fresh note of menthol. Melted mouthfeel, still intensely flavoured even if oxidative notes appear. Very pleasant to drink but entering its declining phase.
Domaine d’Aupilhac Les Cocalières 2001, Montpeyroux
Colour is still on the ruby side. The nose is complex, generously fruity and oak notes are still clearly perceptible. This wine is surprisingly young and delicious to drink, full of fruity extract and well balanced.
Prieuré Saint Jean de Bébian 2001, Pézenas
Dark colour with a brownish rim. The nose is evolving, at this stage it is dominated by meaty notes of overripe blackberries. Only medium to full bodied, but it fills the mouth well. Very satisfying.
Domaine de la Prose Les Embruns 2002, Saint-Georges-d’Orques
Ruby garnet colour. The nose retains a lot of fresh fruity notes but alcohol is perceptible. Medium bodied and with a good deal of dry extract but the finish is a little warm.
Château Pech Redon La Centaurée 2002, La Clape
Pleasant nose of candied fruits but not perfectly clean, possibly slightly corked?
Castelbarry Rocquefeuil “Grande Cuvée” 2003, Montpeyroux
Seductive nose of fine herbs, very fresh but not with the usual menthol-like note. Equally fresh in the mouth and highly drinkable, nicely balanced. Very enjoyable.
Château l’Engarran 2003, Grès de Montpellier
Astonishing freshness on the nose, especially from the extremely hot 2003 vintage. Pleasant to drink, but the vintage has left its imprint: the alcohol level seems a little high and is perceptible in the finish.
Domaine de la Prose Les Embruns 2003, Saint-Georges-d’Orques
Light garnet colour. All components of the bouquet are intermingled in the beautiful, complex, evolved nose. Melted tannins glide on the palate; the taste is fresh and very pleasant. At its peak. Hard to believe this is from 2003.
Mas Bruguière La Grenadière 2004, Pic Saint Loup
Garnet. Fresh and intense nose of tea leaves and decaying fruit. Medium bodied and softly textured, this is a beautiful wine, still at its peak.
Montcalmes 2004, Terrasses du Larzac
Nice freshness on the nose but a little acidic on the palate, it tickles the tongue. Only medium bodied, it still drinks favourably.
Domaine Alain Chabanon L’esprit de Fontcaude 2004, Montpeyroux
Younger than the other 2004s, its texture is chewier and thicker. A beautiful glass of mature wine.
Prieuré Saint Jean de Bébian 2004, Pézenas
Restrained nose of blackberries. Still energetic on the palate, the fine, tight tannins provide a full body mouthfeel.
Castelbarry Rocquefeuil “Grande Cuvée” 2005, Montpeyroux
The wine is more evolved than the 2004 tasted just before. Nose is tertiary with empyreumatic notes. Medium bodied and well balanced. Fully mature.
Ermitage du Pic Saint Loup Sainte Agnès 2005, Pic Saint Loup
Colour is still a bright ruby. Young nose of red and black fruits. Compact mouthfeel, a little acidic with a nice fresh fruity taste. Intense and slightly warm finish. Still maturing.
Montcalmes 2005, Terrasses du Larzac
Beautiful nose of red and black berries. Oak is perceptible but well integrated. Pleasant sweet fruit taste and a nice long finish lifted by acidity.
Mas Cal Demoura Combariolles 2005, Terrasses du Larzac
Small black fruits on the nose. Supple and chunky mouthfeel, harmonious balance. Just beautiful.
Domaine d’Aupilhac La Boda 2005, Montpeyroux
Beautiful nose of blackberries, elegant oak notes. Full bodied and lots of fruity extract to wrap the firm tannins. Will evolve further.
Domaine Les Aurelles Aurel 2005, Pézenas
Full mouthfeel but shows obvious signs of evolution.
Domaine de Peyre Rose Syrah Léone 2005
Fresh nose, complex with some tertiary notes. Medium bodied, there is still fruit on the palate but it is declining, the sharp tannins pierce through.
Domaine Alain Chabanon La Boissière 2006, Montpeyroux
Pale ruby tint. Small red fruits and oak notes. Nice fresh palate, fine tannins in the elegant mouthfeel but the finish is a little rough yet intense. Needs more time.
Domaine Les Aurelles Solen 2006, Pézenas
Pleasant nose of red fruits. Tight and even a little astringent in the mouth, with a lengthy finish. Wait for its peak.
Mas Cal Demoura Combariolles 2006, Terrasses du Larzac
Dark ruby. Black berries and liquorice over oak notes. Round and full bodied, fleshy mouthfeel, well balanced. Finish is firm and not without power. Still far from its peak.
Top image: Pech Redon’s Christophe Bousquet