Light and heat reflected in the Languedoc wines: La Minervois – Part I

Important decisions.

G. “Let’s go. Tomorrow”.

L. “Alright. Where are we going to?”

G. “I don’t know, but we have to go. Any suggestion?”

L. “You know where my instinct would lead me. If I were you I wouldn’t leave a wide margin of discretion”

G. “It means that, for a change, our hearts will drown in a glass once again”

L. (margin of the mouth raised in a half-elated smile): “ok”.

G. turns back, satisfied. He knows how to make her happy.

Languedoc is one of the places being, first of all, a state of mind. Its naturalistic patrimony composed by caves, conches, canyons and vertiginous gorges at the edge of the road, has the ability to include everyone in a scenario of rare beauty. The sun is always present and the heat is restlessly mitigated by a Mediterranean breeze. Such climatic homogeneity falls into the glasses: between sky and earth there are rows of vineyards that, if the flair does not deceive me, we will be talking about in the near future.

This is the reason why I talk about wine as a cultural asset, because wine mirrors the character of its homeland, when it is made with criteria and conscience. This is Terroir, a beautiful word that French invented thanks to their ingenious synthesis and skilfulness in the wine field. Languedoc goes from the Grand Massif Central to the Mediterranean Sea; Cathar fortresses, medieval villages and Folies Languedociennes, characteristic stately homes, characterise the landscape.

Moreover, it must be said that this is the first French wine-making region in terms of size (263,000 hectares, giving more than a third of the country’s wine production – that is 5% of global production), of appellation variety (61 AOCs and 29 IGPs in 13 departments), of cultivated grapes (56 varieties divided into international and native), and therefore, of the wines produced: white, rosè and red, still and sparkling.

Prices also cover a wide range. The western area enchants madly. That is the area between the Canal du Midi and the Black Mountain, until the Natural Park of Haut-Languedoc. From such landscapes, only wines with a vibrant character can derive.

Months, perhaps years, won’t be enough to discover this territory. That’s why it is worth taking the best and concentrating on the most prestigious areas, with regard to wine production, of this part of France: the Minervois region, which produces red, white and rosé wines – French people are used to call these wines –“Le grand vin millésimé pour le vent”), and La Liviniére village, an area where complex red wines have the exclusive. Last but not least, in Saint Jean de Minervois wine growers produce a very good Muscat, a pale white sweet wine.

First things first. The Minervois takes its name from the ancient city of Minerve, an explicit dedication of the Romans to the wisest Goddess Minerva. The city lies in a vast amphitheatre, between Carcassonne and Béziers, approximately 40 km from the sea. The main grape varieties are Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache noir, along with Carignan and Cinsault for the reds and Grenache Blanc, Bourbulenc, Marsanne, Roussane, Vermentino for whites.

No reservations for tasting, just the desire to explore this mosaic of colours and to find its multiple expressions in a glass. In the heart of the Minervois, immersed in the Occitan hills embroidered with olive trees and vineyard fields, we meet Le Pech d’André. Pech, which means hill in Occitan, is a cellar that has been constantly working for ten generations, an activity that was started in 1701 by Jean Baptiste d’André, a distant relative of the Remaury family who holds the reins of the company today.

Many grape varieties, a single constant: the respect for land from generation to generation, in respect of to the ancient lesson according to which there is no future without roots. This family started the Green Revolution, or the rejection of chemical contamination in the cultivation of vines, in the mid-1900s. They did so when few people really believed in it.

Their wines have an original personality, what I wanted above all, a strong minerality and intense aroma, obtained by mixing the grapes «en cuve», depending on quality and maturity. At each harvest, they explain, a careful selection takes place to reach a balanced flavour. With regard to vinification, the wood is not privileged: the aging of red wine takes place exclusively in cement vats; wine is generally bottled 16 months after the harvest.

Cuvée Azerole – AOC Minervois 2010 (Syrah 80% – Grenache 20%). Product of a clay-limestone Terroir, the grapes grow on a 27-year-old vineyard of Syrah and 39 year-old vineyard of Grenache. No pesticides, no irrigation, no organic fertilizers. Impossible? No, if you know how to make the best of necessity using the Cousinié Method. The harvest is destemming and light crushing machanical, and the vinification takes place in cement tanks.

Tasting notes, in one go: the colour reminds me of a cherry; it is so intense that it seems almost black. The nose is powerful and cherry comes first. Then, flowers. Finally, red fruits again. Here it is, I smelled it! it was leather! The mouth is full-bodied and the tannins are very soft, the persistence lasts a long time. I would like to pair it grilled meat, despite it was 11 am.

Château de mon Père – AOC Minervois 2015 (Mourvèdre 80% – Carignan 20%). Cultivation, terroir and winemaking as those of the Azerole. Tasting notes: the colour changes and becomes garnet with intense reflections. The perfume is complex, but here spices come into play, perhaps even a little bit of resin (I confess, they suggested it to me).

Less sinuous than the previous one, but mouth is still elegant and enveloping, soft tannins and a long finish: the Mourvèdre loves sea breeze which removes any tannic roughness. My desire for grilled meat increases.

Grand Terroir – AOC Minervois 2010 (Mourvèdre 70% – Syrah 25% – Grenache 5%). Same terroir as the previous ones, Syrah vine, 42 years old. I pass once again directly to the tasting: garnet, the intense colour reminds me of cherry.

The nose is reminiscent of the almond notes that envelop your nose at the entrance of the estate, with a very thin thread of vanilla that is proposed in the mouth. This right roundness is to be paired with goose breast and cheese. This averts the risk of becoming obsessive with meat!

I would not have stopped here, the range of wines that Pech d’Andrè produces is vast, but I preferred to honour the passion I have for the reds.

They were waiting for the rain: it will be an excellent vintage.















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