Les Vignes de l'Arque Cuvée des Boissierres 1998 Vin de Pays d'Oc
100% Merlot, aged for 1 year in oak barrels. I bought this whilst on holiday in around 2000, so it had been lying on the rack in my under-stairs cupboard for the last 12 years - and it went down surprisingly well at the Nottingham Wine Circle last night. I say surprisingly, because there are many there who are not particularly fond of Merlot (and these days, I tend to count myself amongst them). But when Merlot is good, it can be very good, and Languedoc certainly makes its fair share. Tasted blind, some people were guessing at Bordeaux, and even some of the more ardent Merlot haters (the famous line from the film "Sideways" - "I ain't drinking no f***in' Merlot" - springs to mind) were rather enamoured by this one. I didn't write a specific tasting note, but recall it had its soft, plummy side (doesn't all Merlot?) but still had some nice grip, a touch of blackcurrant leaf and fruit, some polished old wood and forest floor notes and surprisingly good balance, with plenty of acidity to accompany the rich, ever-so-gently herby/spicy fruit. And tasting the remaining half glass whilst preparing dinner this evening - and despite the fact that it has now begun to oxidise a little - it is still rather lovely, in a Merlot sort of way(!) As with many 1998's from Languedoc, this wine has aged far more gracefully than most of its counterparts from the nearby southern Rhone. As an aside, when I first started selling wine in 2004, I carried a fairly full range from Les Vignes de l'Arque. And I still do - but very few of my customers now buy them, which is a shame, because I believe they provide excellent value for money. I don't currently offer the above cuvée (though on the evidence of this bottle, perhaps that is a mistake!) but if you are on the lookout for some under-the-radar Languedoc bargains, I can highly recommend them.