January and February see wine fairs, or salons, appearing regularly including some of the bigger events. For some reason best known to themselves two of the larger fairs, Millésime Bio and Vinisud, fell out and decided to hold their events simultaneously, meaning that Millésime Bio moved to Marseilles from its usual Montpellier home. However as Many of the offline events remained in Montpellier I decided to attend those and Vinisud. (It was announced on Feb. 4th that a rapprochement has been found and next year will see both events back in Montpellier).
Vinisud is a huge event, 900+ producers from all around the Mediterranean gather and professional wine buyers, cavistes, restaurateurs and journalists make appointments with them, it is big business. For someone like me, who cannot offer to buy thousands of bottles it is a little daunting so I prefer to attend some of the help yourself areas such as the sparkling zone which is self- explanatory. Sadly, there was little of any real interest for me in this zone, some neutral Limoux and Proseccos which offered nothing exciting. Sadly neither did the Picpoul zone really offer much of interest.
There was also the Palais Méditerranéan where hundreds of bottles from some of the producers are available to serve yourself. If a bottle appeals then you can always pop along to the stand of that producer. I tasted almost a hundred wines here. Some decent white wines from:
- Crouseilles co-op (Pacherenc du Vic Bilh)
- Chateau Estanilles (Faugères), Inverso 2015, nice use of wood to add complexity
- Jacques D’Albas (Minervois), Blanc 2013, fresh and zesty
- Frères Laffitte, Côtes De Gascogne 2016, really well balanced demi-sec
- Domaine Barreau (Gaillac), Caprice D’Automne 2014, nice clean, sweet wine
And reds from:
- Dondona, ‘Chemin Des Cayrades’ 2014, a nice, fresh pure Carignan (Montpeyroux)
- Cébène, ‘Ex Arena 2015’, (IGP Pays D’Oc from Faugères), fresh, full fruits
- Mas Champart, ‘Causse Du Bousquet’ 2015 (St. Chinian), soft red fruits
My favourite area was that of Wine Mosaic, an organisation which promotes rare and unusual grape varieties. Again, you can serve yourself wines from unusual and rare grapes from Turkey, Greece, France etc. A real opportunity to try something different and to promote the growth of these cépages oubliés. Mollard, Viosinho, Sidalan, Kotsifali were just some of the cépages I had never even heard of before. Ironically, it was the very familiar Carignan which provided my favourite wine produced by Domaine Nizas near Pézenas.
I did also attend some producer stands notably Mas Des Capitelles, the Faugėres domaine which I really like. The Laugé family have converted to organic production in the last couple of years but they have been making classic Faugėres for many years. They reward patience in bottle developing real complexity and maintaining an admirable freshness. They are big, well-structured wines but they remain balanced between fruit and power ensuring you can enjoy them in the short or long term. My particular favourite is the Carignan based Loris 2013 but other older bottlings of special vintages (cuvées such as No.1 and No.2) are a real treat and deserve the multiple awards they garner.
Corvezzo is another domaine which captured my attention and admiration at the 2016 event, like Capitelles. This large Prosecco producer (125 hectares of vines) is again organic and, unlike any other Prosecco I have tried, these cuvées have depth, fruit, freshness and length. They hold their own against many champagnes. The Extra Dry, for example, has lovely spice and lemongrass notes, very good. They also produce some lovely white wines such as Manzoni and their Pinot Grigio Ramato full of fresh fruit flavours.
Even better was an amazing red, Rosso Riserva, produced in Amarone style with dried Robosa grapes and had great flavours and aromas of dark fruits along with a leathery complexity and which built in the mouth long after drinking the wine. A truly excellent wine.
The other stand of interest for me was Les Beaux Nez Rouges, a group of natural wine producers under the umbrella of oenologue Hervé Chabert. I declare an interest as I know some of these producers quite well, eg, Regis and Christine Pichon of Domaine Ribiera, Grégory White, David Caer (Clos Mathélisse) and Lionel Maurel (Mas D’Agalis). Hervé kindly gave up half an hour to lead me through tastings from Ribiera, Domaine Henry (St Georges D’Orques) and his own wines, Wine Drop.
Ribiera is a favourite of mine and wines such as Causse Toujours 2015 shows lovely fruit with some complexity. The Cartagène was also dangerously drinkable. Top on the day though was La Vista 2016 a pure Cinsault of lovely sweet fruit with a touch of tannin too. Lovely.
Domaine Henry was new to me and I really liked wines such as the fruity Paradines 2015 (not yet bottled for sale). Fascinating was a cuvée called Vermeille (pictured top left) which is a saignée from all the cuves of the year, ie they run some of the juice from each tank – sounds mad but it is an old practice in the region and Vermeille was light, fruity and delicious. Equally of interest was Le Mailhol 2015, a complantation of old Languedoc cépages which gave lovely fruit with a touch of raisin to add complexity.
Hervé’s own Wine Drop bottles were good, Cuvée No.5 2014 had lovely Cinsault red fruits with a touch of body from some Grenache. Grenache to the fore in No.6 2014 which had lovely aromas and a touch of spice and fruit. The 2013 No.4 had more structure and shows how well natural wines can develop with time, good balance of fruit, power and complexity.
Vinisud offered a very interesting day for me after the offline events I had visited the previous two days. There is much to offer the visitor from classic wines to natural, wines from all around the Mediterranean, business opportunities, masterclasses, seminars and the chance to match wine and food amongst others. A valuable day in my wine education.
February 6, 2017 at 5:27 pm
You do evoke the sheer size of events like this. Impossible to do justice. I have problems at Raw and Real, but they may seem small to you.
Domaine Henry is an interesting estate to pick out. I had one of their wines many years ago, a Saint George’s d’Orques Ctx Languedoc 1995. It was really good. It comes to mind because it’s label adorns the upstairs loo (which is wallpapered with wine labels). I’ve never come across the domaine since.
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February 6, 2017 at 6:52 pm
I should have found out more but they’ve obviously passed to the dark side: )
It’s good that people are reviving the @ old cépages and complanting too. Sounded very familiar.
Your loo obviously merits a detour!
February 6, 2017 at 5:28 pm
PS I hate auto-correct!
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February 6, 2017 at 10:51 pm
Thanks as always for being eyes & ears (and tastes) for your readers!
February 7, 2017 at 8:39 am
Thank you for reading.
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February 13, 2017 at 2:28 pm
Interesting to read, I don’t have a lot of experience with the South of France so it is good to get an insider impression. I get what you’re saying about picpoul de pinet, it is not all that it’s hyped up to be. I recently attented a tasting held by the appellation syndicat, and was disappointed. Often to alcoholic and simply plump to really enjoy. It may also have been because these are the wines you would more associate with better weather, but I don’t think that this would help much.
February 13, 2017 at 4:06 pm
Thanks for your comment. I really like Picpoul when it is fresh and zesty. I have found less wines like that in recent years. I do wonder whether its popularity has made producers over produce and the wines become softer, less energetic. There are many wonderful wines in the region so keep looking!