Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v08n15)
The Wine Scene - by Jill A. Ditmire
posted: Jul. 22, 2011
More of my May adventures in the Languedoc region of France.
Good thing I slathered on sunscreen this morning before my walkabout. (Avon ANEW Solar Advance. SPF30 with light refreshing fragrance.
Was 70 and sunny at 7am when I went walking. Wanted a new route but didn't want to get lost so headed to the canal which was parallel to the train tracks which were parallel to the hotel so if worse came to worse I could find my way back to the hotel. THIS was the place to be in the morning. Runners, bicyclists, old couples walking dogs, young girls walking dogs, old guys walking dogs, students with backpacks and iPods. Along the stagnant canal were lines of VERY expensive and modern looking apartments. Aha, the students must live here after graduating and getting that high paying job.
Our job today was SPITTING as we would eventually taste over 35 wines and 3 barrel samples. Tooth enamel, don't lose me now.
We loaded up the 5 seater Peugeot station wagon (AWESOME- would love to find a ride like this in the states) with our luggage since we were heading for hotel number 2 in Narbonne. Ed's suitcase was the biggest and he humbly admitted he can't go anywhere without a huge suitcase AND a carry on bag. We girls with our fits-into-the-over-head-compartment bags razzed him.
First stop in the Terrasse du Larzac appellation at Domaine de la Croix Chaptal. "La Croix" means the cross which is the symbol of the Languedoc region due to all of the Crusades and religious inspired wars in the area. Winemaker/Owner Charles Pacaud named his place after the symbol and his wife's family, after they learned that her distant distant relative was one of the first recognized enologists in France. Witty, bubbly Charles trekked us into his vineyards to see the soil and learn why syrah, grenache, carignan and mouvedre grow so well here. The area was once the "melting ground" for a series of 8 ice age warmups. Each time of the two glaciers to the north melted, the water came just to this area, creating terraces and leaving tons of stones: sandstone, flintstone, volcanic stone. The Benedictine Monks once owned the land as well. And the 17th century field stone barn now houses the winery. On the outside is a sculpted cross and heart signifying faith and charity. Charles also explained the interesting keystone carved into the other side of the barn. It bears a cross in between an olive tree twig and a balsam tree twig with the numerals 1875 nearby. Evidently it was added to bless the barn and ward off the phylloxerra epidemic that year. Didn't work. Most of the vines were lost but more have been planted since.
Inside the barn were rows of oak barrels, stainless steel tanks and cement tanks. Charles and another vintner Vincent then offered us 11 wines to taste. I won't share all of my notes but a few faves that are avail in the US:
2008 Mas Cal Demoura "L'Infidel" - big black fruit, subtle hints of mocha, dusty tannins in this grenach, syrah, mouvedre, carignan, cinsault blend.
2008 Mas Conscience "L'As"- a former Bordeux wine guy and an English composer own this winery and tried to make new world style wines out of the traditional grapes. Didn't work so they now are working on making everything new old again. This wine does just that. Syrah, carignane, grenache give way to huge spice box nose and notes of cardamom, cocoa and black fruit on a smooth minerally finish.
2008 Les Orbiers de La Peira - Cinsault and carignan ROCKED my world- GORGEOUS nose of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg..hints of mocha and smooth creamy mineral finish. (Note to Liz: Note the smooth creamy finish!!!)
We did 2 verticals of Charles' bold powerful red blends but the most fun came tasting a local white grape called Clairette.
2009 La Croix Chaptal Clairette Blanch had honeydew melon nose, silky, honeyed finish. The 2008 gave way to anise and minerals.
The 2007 was the fave offering a sweet perfumey nose with smooth dry finish and hints of licorice.
Off to what seemed to be the middle of no where. But one visit and you wouldn't want to be anywhere else: Chateau Jeanjean. This family owned winery is literally at the end of the road which is surrounded by a spectacular view of no neighbors, no cars, no cities. Just wild animals, plants, flowers, trees, hills and vineyards. The family owns 5 wine estates in France offering a number of labels. And at this place produces bottles labeled Devois des Agneaux (Place of the sheep. The lucky ones end up in the cheese we had at the end of the meal. The unlucky ones WERE lunch.) Our gracious hosts welcomed us into the rustic, old stone home with plenty of 21st century technology. And wines. A dozen were ready to taste but first to the barrel room to sample 3 different vintages of syrah's that will one day be in bottle. The winemaker here believes in finishing the wine in the barrel and bottling when it is ready to drink. What a refreshing idea. Instead of forcing young tannic wine on consumers. We Like This!!
The syrah samples had big noses of black fruit, licorice, fennel, cocoa and blackberries. Supple tannins offer some outstanding wines for the Devois des Agneaux line of reds.
12 wines tasted were each fantastic. Only a few avail in the US so won't share all of my notes. But did enjoy:
2009 Devois des Agneaux d Aumelais - a rich silky blend of roussanne and marsanne. Tasted like lemon meringue pie. YUM.
2006 Faugeres Domaine de Fenouillet Grand Reserve. Inky black with pencil lead and spice on the nose and lush black fruit on the palate. Dusty tannins. Dynamite and delicious now.
Jill A. Ditmire is an Omnimedia wine specialist, AWS certified wine judge, freelance broadcast journalist and 20+ year home owner in the Warfleigh neighborhood of Broad Ripple. Send your questions and comments to Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also on INSTAGRAM @jaditmire