June-July 2014

A Report from VINISUD
By: David Furer
Visiting Montpellier's Biennial Vinisud Exhibition is an unparalleled opportunity to meet and taste with growers and winemakers from France and its neighboring Mediterranean (and near-Med) countries.

Author David Furer listens to commentary while taking tasting notes Along with its Languedoc neighbor, La Clape, the broad Terrasses du Larzac appellation is expected to receive its full, independent AC status this November. Having toured Terrasses du Larzac in 2012, I stopped by the stand of its Mas Conscience (imported by Vintage 59) to pay my respects to its new owners, Nathalie and Eric Ajorque, the young couple transitioning ownership from one of district’s pioneers, Laurent Vidal. Their 2010 Cuvée L’As, a Syrah/Grenache/ Carignan blend from vines of 28-45 years of age, was more composed and entrancing than when tasted exactly two years ago with Vidal. They also make a terrific new 100% Petit Manseng which probably doesn’t make it to our shores.

Trade exhibitions allow for grand(ish) tastings. Here I was able to watch Gérard Basset in action with fellow World Champion Sommelier Paolo Basso showing off 14 wines from five countries, eight examples of which were culled from France. Nothing exceptional here to report of at this well-attended, seated tasting, though it offered a good overview of vinous Mare Nostrum as seen through the palate of two prestigious European somms.

The busy exhibition floor at VINISUD. During two of the exhibition’s three days, English wine writer Andrew Jefford expounded upon Saint-Chinian’s 14,000 acres of vines. “Saint-Chinian, Saint- Chinian Roquebrun and Saint-Chinian Berlou are broadly divided between clay-limestone in the south and schist in the north,” he said. “It’s typical for its domaines to make both a basic wine and a grand vin.”

Carignan, Grenache and Syrah dominate this Languedoc appellation. My favorites included two from 2009: Pech-Ménel, from a 45-acre single parcel of southerly-planted vines atop a mix of limestone/sandstone/schist which received no oak, and Des Jougla Vieille Arrasic, from Grenache/Syrah/ Mourvèdre, which spent 12 months in barrel—dense, garrigue-y, tannic and needing time to age.

“One of Saint-Chinian’s greatest personalities, Jean-Marie Rimbert, once described his appellation as ‘my Burgundy’,” continued Jefford—leading him to write of it as “the Pinot of the Languedoc”—although his Domaine Rimbert 2011 Saint-Chinian Berlou (familiarly known as “Éléphant” for its label) is a fairly typical blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan from a parcel of a century-old, lowyielding vines. It brimmed with cherry and rose hips aromas with a grippy palate given to it by its schist-dominated soils. Les Eminards 2012 Lebenna, fashioned from organically grown, 114-year-old Carignan planted upon clay-limestone soils was complex, filled with red fruit flavors, crisply structured with a long finish. Not included in the tasting was Fréderic Lornet’s Château Fontanche Carignan (imported by Wine Symphony) with a soupçon of Grenache, something I recall enjoying with the Jura-based vintner in 2012.

A chance meeting with Crozes-Hermitage stalwart Gilles Robin allowed expected enjoyment of his reds, but I was equally knocked out by the quality of the whites he poured, especially the 2011 Hermitage blanc (imported by Martine’s Wines).

As for the “near-Med,” Bulgaria’s Katarzyna winery offered a shockingly correct and savory Syrah with its 2009 Encore, though only its 2012 is currently in the U.S. (imported by Texavino).

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