The last word in festive wines – part two



The terroir at Château de Lancyre

Adam Holden, Account Manager for our Wholesale Team, turns his expert gaze to the south of France for vinous inspiration befitting the Christmas season

The reinvention of the south continues apace. Since the dark days when ‘Vin du Midi’ was more synonymous with quantity than quality, the South of France has become a centre of innovation, yet much of it remains informed by traditional methods and a close connection to the land. The emergence of creative winemaking and the recognition of the peculiar qualities of small enclaves undoubtedly makes this one of the most exciting regions in the world for wine production at present. All the same it remains an area where great value may still be found, and there are few better examples of this than:

2011 Château de Lancyre, Vieilles Vignes, Pic St Loup, Côteaux du Languedoc – £12.95

This estate has a long and rich history, the château itself dating to around 1500; although the current owners are more recent arrivals – acquiring the property in 1970. The vineyards, now totalling 50 hectares or so, are dominated by that stalwart partnership of Syrah and Grenache, the age of which averages an impressive 25 years – although this particular cuvée benefits from vines with an age closer to double that. Naturally low-yielding with their fruit, the resultant grapes are more concentrated and richer both in structure and aromatic complexity. The Vieilles Vignes is absurdly good value and, like many of the best wines from the region, it has a soft nature that makes it easy to drink. Wines at this level can be drunk immediately yet a few years’ cellaring would be to their benefit.

Further south, and close to the Pyrenees, lies the Roussillon, long associated with lush but sometimes rustic styles of wine. Once you are making inroads towards Spain you’re very much in Vin Doux Naturels (VDNs) territory, but there are some great dry wines here. The altitude afforded by the first signs of the Pyrenees is prime land for back-breaking viticulture. A stand out producer for me is the Domaine de la Rectorie, its wines having such a purity to them, at once so powerful and so fragile:

2011 Domaine de la Rectorie, Côté Montagne, Collioure – £27.50

Marc Parcé is particularly perceptive and intuitive as a wine maker, not always adhering to the appellation rules if he feels they are not in the best interests of his wines; thus, as with many of his neighbours, his superb efforts may be declassified to Vin de Pays status on occasion. The Montagne is wonderfully fine, with distinguished floral notes of violets (often symptomatic of the presence of the Counoise grape) and a piquant lift from a touch of mint. Initially this was a little introverted but, allowed to breath for 10 minutes or so, it blossomed dramatically and the fruit shone through in enthusiastic style. There is a notable purity in the wines of Domaine de la Rectorie, and this, their top ‘table wine’, is no exception, its fresh character partly thanks to the mountainside situation of their vineyards.

These are just two personal highlights, but this is a region which has more than earned the right to some serious attention; the South of France is to be explored with the same enthusiasm, vigour and sense of adventure with which the wines are made.

Yesterday we looked at the on-trend bottles from Beaujolais, Champagne and the Loire; tomorrow’s chapter will look to Austria, Alsace and Germany.