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Friday, 1 February 2013

AOC Languedoc Dinner at Ampersand Hotel

Another week - another tasting of wines from the Languedoc region. This time I was a guest of AOC Languedoc at the Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington.

Before dinner in the Games Room, we started in the Wine Room with talks from two winemakers - Vianney Fabre whose family moved from Bordeaux to La Clape to run Chateau d'Angles and Loic Bacou who runs Ollieux Romanis in Corbieres Boutenac.

Languedoc - the history

Languedoc is a region full of dark historical grudges and bloody battles; formerly the source of the country's wine lake, it is now France's New World - a progressive and exciting region making characterful, well-made wines.

Languedoc - the quality factor

For the talks this evening, Vianney and Loic focused on the quality factor in the wines, and expecially on freshness and elegance due to rocky soils, cool air and altitude.

In La Clape, 200m above sea level, it is blue limestone and sea breezes from the Mediterranean - in Corbieres Boutenac, 100m above sea level, it is chalky, pebbly soils and northerly winds.

As quality increases in Languedoc and winemakers become more ambitious, inevitably there will be attempts to test out the market for higher-end wines.

Whether AOC Languedoc should focus on being a reliable producer of low-cost, well-made crowd-pleasers or set its sights on higher goals is something of a moot point.

Languedoc - The Wines

AOC Languedoc La Clape

Classique blanc 2010, Chateau d'Angles (£9.99 Wine Rack) a blend of Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Roussane and Marsanne, it has a waxy texture and some spiciness cut through with refreshing acidity and underpinned by a leesy savouriness. It feels weighty and toasty with a long palate. Good.

Chateau d'Angles, Grand Vin 2008 (£19.99 Ocado) the same blend as above, but barrel-aged, this was a weightier more complex wine with honey, acacia and salinity on the nose; creamy toastiness from lees ageing and a rounded minerality. A perfect match with baked scallops. Very Good Indeed.

Chateau Complazens, Cuvee la Garrigue 2008 (£8.99 City Beverage Company) Syrah/Grenache blend, does what it says on the tin - vanilla, ripe black cherry and elderberry fruit, garrigue herbs. Mouthfilling with good ripeness and acidity. Technically well-made and very pleasant but for me somehow a little unambitious and overly crowd-pleasing.

Chateau Ricardelle, Cuvee Closabieres 2010 (£12.95 BBR) Grenache/Syrah/Carignang blend, I found this rather stalky and lacking in fruit. This prompted a discussion with Robert Georgione who praised its regional and varietal typicity and Quentin Sadler who questioned the idea of typicity in as dynamic a region as Languedoc.

AOC Minervois La Liviniere

Chateau Cesseras 2009 (£15.45 BBR) Syrah-blend, musky and woodsy, vanilla, black cherry and sour cherry fruit, mintiness and inky texture.

Chateau Maris Les Planels Old Vine Syrah (£17.95 Vintage Roots) vegetal nose with vanilla and dark fruit; sour cherry and vegetal palate, with dark fruit and vanilla, aromas of garrigue herbs and mintiness. Fresh acidity, inky texture.

Domaine La Rouviole 2006 (£16.99 Corking Wines) Syrah, ripe sour cherry acidity dominates, mouthfilling and well-structure if a bit of a one-trick pony.

Chateau Sainte Eulalie Cuvee Cantilene 2011 (£11.50 Wine Society) Syrah with Grenache and Carignan, ripe fruit and vanilla on the nose, a touch of Pinot-esque farmyardiness. Blast of pure blackcurrant, sweet vanilla and ripe dark fruit with garrigue herbs. Spicy, ripe and long with a soft, inky mouthfilling texture. Grip and pepperiness on the finish. Very Good.

AOC Corbieres Boutenac

Chateau Les Ollieux Atal Syrah 2010 (€18 ex cellar) Carignan plus GSM. Dark fruit and mocha, ripe dark fruit and toasty savouriness, lovely rounded acidity and good texture. Long palate and finish. Very Good Indeed.

Chateau les Ollieux Romanis Cuvee Or 2010 (€21 ex cellar) Carignan plus GSM musky Carignan nose; more muskiness and ripe elderberry fruit, complexity, well-structured acidity. Mouthfilling texture, long palate and good finish. Very Good.

Chateau de Villemajou 2009 (£13.04 Majestic) Carignan, Grenache, Syrah ripe dark fruits, a touch stalky, good acidity, grippy finish. Underwhelming.

Dinner menu at Ampersand

Baked scallops with seaweed
Grilled cannon of lamb, saffron potatoes, pipperade and olives
Pistachio & olive oil cake with vanilla ice cream
Pecorino cheese with poached pear

I attended as a guest of AOC Languedoc.

Recommended Wines

Top white was the weighty and complex Chateau d'Angles, Grand Vin 2008.

Overall top red was the Chateau Les Ollieux Romanis Atal Syrah, but top red available in UK was Chateau Sainte Eulalie Cuvee Cantilene 2011.

Other related articles
On Character Sketches, Languedoc Wines and Minor Royalty
Pays d'Oc Dinner at Gauthier
Ollieux Romanis at Joseph Barnes Wines
Languedoc wines at Cambridge Food and Wine Society
Others' reviews of this event: Quentin Sadler, India Farrington, Jenny McKenzie, Denise Medrano (whites)

AOC Languedoc - website

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