Thursday, 1 September 2011

Two very different Languedoc reds

Domaine de Montcalmès 2005 Coteaux du Languedoc
60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, aged for 2 years in new and one-year-old oak barrels. The oak is beautifully judged, insofar as it remains very much in the background, rather than competing with the fruit. Curiously though, the Grenache and Mourvedre content provides more than a match for the Syrah, in terms of aromatics, with some really quite smoky, savoury/meaty elements (and perhaps even a touch of brett?) plenty of ripe, brambly, slightly "confit" fruit, damp earth and an attractive whiff of eau de vie. In fact, it puts me more in mind of a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, albeit a rather good one. Somewhat more recognisable Syrah-like notes of white fruits and flowers emerge after a while, adding a welcome touch of elegance. The tannins are ripe and there is adequate (rather than ample) acidity, which - for now at least - is not quite enough to match the rather obvious feel of alcohol (although the label says 13.5%, I suspect it is somewhat more). Having said that, there is plenty of time for it soften out a bit. I do hope so, since I have more bottles of this tucked away (plus a few 2004's) so I must give it the benefit of the doubt - and a few more years under the satairs. It is a good wine, but it is (for now, at least) no match for the sheer unadulterated beauty of................

Domaine de La Marfée Les Vignes qu'On Abat 1999 Coteaux du Languedoc
This one is 100% Carignan and the phrase "les vignes qu'on abat" translates roughly as "the vines they are pulling up". An alternative (provided by Google Translate, which does things more literally) is "the vines that shade". I much prefer the former, although the latter also has some merit, due to the fact that this much-maligned variety is figuratively "in the shade" - i.e. forgotten and forsaken by all but its most ardent fans. Or at least in 1999 it was.............. These days, many short-sighted growers who pulled up their old Carignan vines in return for an easier life (and some easy money) will be quietly crying in their soup, given its resurgence in popularity amongst the more enlightened Languedoc winemakers and wine aficionados.

This wine still has many of the hallmarks of a young wine - deep purple in colour, with an abundance of fresh, ripe red and black fruits, but with some tell-tale secondary notes of tobacco and polished wood, and the classic hallmark of all La Marfée wines - crystallised fruits, blackcurrant leaf and a wonderfully unusual (for a red wine) whiff of elderflower. There are also some subtle hints of herbs and leather, which only serves to add yet more complexity. And yet, even at 12 years of age, the emphasis of this wine is very much on a combination of wonderful fruit, juicy acidity and fine tannins. Actually, it hasn't moved an awful lot since the last bottle I enjoyed, a good 18 months ago, but that is no bad thing in my book, because although it has another 5 to 10 years before it reaches its peak of maturity, it is just so lovely to drink now. Another utterly glorious wine from Domaine de La Marfée. Oh, and in case I haven't mentioned it before(!), you can buy the full range of current vintages from La Marfée - plus a couple of older wines - from my online shop.

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