Back in the UK and its grey climate after the blue skies of the Languedoc, the need for some colour was apparent. Other than friends and family it was a vintage and some videos which helped me to find some.
The vintage was 2009. I first opened a bottle of one of my favourite wines the Cuvade Préciouse from Domaine Montesquiou, a dry Jurancon. This would be just about my house white wine, I love its dry, zesty flavours with just the faintest hint of sweetness on the finish. I often drink my bottles fairly quickly as it is so attractive but I tucked a few away and found this 2009 lurking on my wine racks. Lesson learned, I need to age more of these bottles. The years had added a directness, softened the zestiness a little and with the slight oak notes this was very much a Burgundy like wine. Just lovely.
I then opened a 2009 Motus from Domaine Treloar. 96% Mourvèdre (with a touch of Grenache) this was smooth as silk, tannins melted into a cocktail of red fruit flavours with great length and complexity. A wine truly at its peak and delicious. A prime example of the quality of the vintage in the Languedoc Roussillon region and of how good Mourvèdre can be.
Intrigued by the success of those two bottles I then opened (all on different nights I should say) a Rhone 2009. It was Jeff who encouraged me to visit Domaine Du Cayron in Gigondas a few years ago. Run by the Faraud sisters their wines are made from the same grape varieties as the Languedoc and it is interesting to compare the regions. Very peppery, liquorice notes and dark red fruits this softened through the evening and still has the ability to age further. Classic Rhone, a lovely wine.
2009 was a good vintage and the benefits of maturing wine were clear with these bottles. A coincidence of two bottles became a mini examination of a vintage and it passed with flying colours.
The other thing which brightened the days was the blog post of Jacques Bonum Vinum after a visit to Mas Coutelou, in particular the accompanying interviews. Well worth listening to, (it will stretch your French it must be said), it captures the passion and spirit of sharing which typifies Jeff. A very good piece of work, highly recommended.
I thought Millésime Bio was big, Vinisud is almost double the size. It showcases wines from around the Mediterranean. 1380 producers were listed as being present though as some shared stands there were probably more. Unlike Millésime Bio where all the producers are given a bare table to present their wines, Vinisud allows producers to pay for different size stands with full publicity displays. Thus some of the big producers such as Chapoutier, Paul Mas and Gérard Bertrand had huge stands with displays of wine, tables to meet and greet clients and various PR offerings. To be honest that’s not my thing and I prefer the more egalitarian approach.
One of the big commercial stands
It was interesting to note some regions club together to create big stands to rival the big commercial outfits, Pic St. Loup was one example. There were also some very interesting areas, the Palais Mediterranée for example, where hundreds of bottles were available to taste without the producers so I was free to taste at leisure. It was there that I tasted some very big names from the Languedoc and other regions whose wines were not very good at all. Conversely, there were some nice discoveries and good bottles.
Even better was the Wine Mosaic area, perhaps my favourite part of the whole event. Wine Mosaic is a group of producers and wine enthusiasts who promote more obscure grape varieties, an objective which matches one of my wine enthusiasms. Again we were left to taste freely and I experienced amongst others, Brachetto, Bouchalès, Agiorgitiko, Aleatico, Obeidi and Mavrodaphne as well as others more familiar to me such as Aramon, Carignan and Nerello Mascalese. There were grapes to represent almost every letter of the alphabet, and the Greek alphabet too! I found it fascinating, some interesting flavours and good bottles such as a Ghisolfi Barolo 2012, Passopisciaro 2012 Nerello Mascalese from Sicily and Montirius Mineral Bourboulenc 2014 from the Rhone.
Most relevant and interesting was a Piquepoul Noir blended with Morastel and Terret Noir which is most of the same blend as the new plantation established at Mas Coutelou last March, a foretaste of things to come perhaps.
So to my favourite wines. In such a huge event it is impossible to cover more than a smattering of the wines, so my experiences would be completely different to anyone else. I read one review which said that the writer was taken by the number of wines being aged in concrete eggs, I never came across one. I did so at Millésime Bio but none at Vinisud. Therefore, if I missed out on some great wines I regret doing so.
My plan was to taste more from the Languedoc than I had at Millésime Bio, to follow up the great Rhone wines I tasted there and to experience some individual producers whom I knew of or who were recommended to me. I tasted some 400 wines and more so these are just a few highlights. Part two of my report will focus on the Languedoc.
Chateau D’Estoublon in Provence is a producer I know from buying their wines from Leon Stolarski in the UK. A very smart stand shows that this is a serious domaine and I apprciated some new cuvées such as a 100% Mourvèdre. Their most famous wine Mogador was shown from different vintages and is very good but my highlight was the Blanc, IGP Alpilles. I tasted both the 12 and 13 of this Roussanne/ Marsanne/ Grenache Blanc blend and the 12 was my favourite, more restrained and delicate with waxy, clean white fruits.
Domaine Brana from Irouléguy next. I tasted a couple of their wines when I visited Biarritz last October. They seem to be a big concern and I wasn’t taken by all their wines but the Irouléguy Blanc 2014 was lovely. Fresh and zesty with a slight hint of oak but the Gros Manseng/ Petit Courbu/ Petit Manseng acidity keeps this clean and long.
Lots of food stalls
Unusual, interesting wine storage system
The Rhone provided many of my Millésime Bio highlights and so I wanted to compare those wines with some of the top domaines from the region such as Mont Redon, Chapoutier and Cuilleron. I would still choose Kreydenweiss, Lombard and Barret to be honest. The following producers did provide some very good wines though.
Domaine Brusset offered a large range and I very much liked their basic Côtes Du Rhone 15 and Cairanne 14. However, their star wines are very much the Gigondas wines. The Gigondas Tradition 14 was generous Grenache (70%) with spice and fruit, clear and direct though still youthful and with soft tannins. Unusually I preferred the bigger wine Gigondas Les Hauts De Montmirail 14, more Mourvèdre in the blend, fuller and rounder.
With the Graillots
Alain Graillot was the first Rhone producer that I visited, many years ago and I was pleased to taste them again. I liked the Crozes Hermitage Blanc and Rouge both 2014s very fresh and plenty of fruit. Best was the Crozes La Guiraude 13 with lovely aromas of red fruit with a chewy, texture balanced with lots of those red fruits. It needs a year or two yet but it was very good.
Domaine Du Pégau is a producer of big, sturdy Chateauneuf Du Pape wines amongst others. The white Chateauneuf A Tempo 15 was very full, complex and yet fresh and clean. The reds were quite tannic, built for the long term but the Chateauneuf Réserve 13 with 80% Grenache had plenty of fruit and a soft tannins to balance. Best, for me, was Chateauneuf Cuvée Laurence 2011, aged in a big foudre (large barrel) used just for this cuvée. Again 80% Grenache I liked the full round spicy flavours with a red fruit finish.
Alain Voge was probably my favourite of the Rhine producers at Vinisud. From the white wines to the sparkling Bulles d’Alain they were all good. I particularly liked the 100% Marsanne St. Péray Fleur Du Crussol 14, concentrated apple and yellow fruit flavours with a rich texture but very clean. The Côtes Du Rhone Les Peyrouses 14 had a freshness which appealed with bright red fruits and a definite mineral note. My favourite though was the Cornas Vieilles Vignes 13, very concentrated Syrah with new oak which should not be my style of wine. Yet it was. There was a good fruit profile as well as a hallmark freshness and though built for the future it was already a wine which could be enjoyed now.
Azienda Corvezzo, really good prosecco
I tasted some Spanish and Corsican wines, I was a little disappointed by the latter. It was disappointing to see the Italian area of the halls fairly quiet and I wish I had spent more time there myself. As it happened a chance visit to Azienda Corvezzo was well rewarded. It was their organic Prosecco 15 which caught the eye of my wife in its attractive packaging. Lightly cloudy in appearance it was much more textured than most Proseccos (including the others in their range) it had lots of pear flavour, was very clean and refreshing, a gentle sparkle, certainly the best Prosecco I have tasted. The cloudiness results from the second fermentation taking place in bottle. I also liked their Manzoni Bianco 15, made from Manzoni grapes which are a cross of Riesling and Pinot Blanc. It was Riesling in character but with a softer rounder profile than most Rieslings.
In the second part of my report on Vinisud I shall report on my home region, the Languedoc.