La Peira at the ‘Legends of Southern France’ Tasting at Roberson Wine Merchants
We were fortunate to have our comparatively youthful La Peira 06 included in the Roberson Wine Merchant’s Legends of Southern France Tasting, beautifully set out in this tasting brochure HERE, and covered (with wonderful descriptions of the wines) by its host, Mark Andrew, on the Roberson Wine Blog HERE.
The 2003 Domaine Gauby ‘Muntada’ (with 4 votes) trumped our La Pèira 2006 and Provence’s Domaine de Trevallon 2000 (with 3 votes each), and the white of Grange des Peres 1998 (3 votes again) as the top wines of the tasting. Some tasting notes from Adam Lechmere for Decanter Magazine are included below.
Decanter Magazine Report
Tasting notes by Adam Lechmere
Robersons, in Kensington High Street, is one of London’s most dynamic specialist wine shops, with a varied and fascinating list. It runs regular tastings – with renowned winemakers and producers such as Anthony Barton of Château Leoville Barton – and with the well-informed in-house tasting team. This was a relaxing, informative and fun evening, with Mark Andrew, one of the buying team, providing just the right amount of serious commentary, and fielding a good deal of questions from the dozen or so participants. I can’t see how Robersons makes money from such tastings – they cost £50 a head, but then the wines are typically expensive and in this case mostly extremely rare.
Grange des Peres, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault 1999 (Terrasses du Larzac/Aniane, Languedoc; Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon & Mourvedre) Funky, barn-yardy nose, with a hint of mushroom. Very gentle and sweet palate, still with some funk and spice. Low-key elegance £49.95
La Peira en Damaisela, Coteaux de Languedoc 2006 (Terrasses du Larzac/Aniane, Languedoc; 90% Syrah & Grenache) Grown-up nose. International, round, big, beautifully managed tannins which hit early on the attack and gently fade into masses of brambly fruit, not charming but very well-made. Commercial, impossible not to like, difficult to place. £59.95
Mas Jullien, Coteaux du Languedoc 2001 (Terrasses du Larzac/Aniane, Languedoc; Syrah, Carignan & Mourvedre) Very interesting, unpolished nose. Lots of brambly fruit and white pepper spice, garrigue flavours, fruit, rusticity and charm. Not massively long but very nice. £59.95
Grange des Peres Blanc, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault 1998 (Aniane, Languedoc; Marsanne & Roussanne) Aged in oak for 16-24 months. Light yellow straw colour. Strong, deep spicy nose. Powerful, with an explosion of delicate fruit flavours: honeyed apple, spicy oak, honeysuckle, but with the oak under control. At first taste you think it’s a spiced Chardonnay with a lovely rustic edge. £52.95
Prieure Saint-Jean de Bebian, Coteaux du Languedoc 2001 (Pezanas area, Languedoc; Syrah & Grenache) Dense tarry nose. Spicy palate with smoky hedgerow fruit. Length slightly short. £39.95
Terre Inconnue, Los Abuelos, Vin de Table 2003 (Languedoc-Roussillon; Grenache) Sweet juicy nose, dense spice on the palate, slight ‘animal fur’ notes as well – meaty and rustic. Is it missing on one cylinder? Seems slightly hollow at the core. n/a
Mas de Daumas Gassac, Vin de Pay de l’Herault 1996 (Aniane, Languedoc; Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah & miscellaneous varietals, Nebbiolo etc) Mineral and meaty on the palate but with delicacy and elegance. Garrigue flavour, strong young tannins still. Not the most exciting of the line up but very well-made. £50.95
Domaine de Trevallon, Rouge, Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône 2000 (50% Cabernet Sauvignon & 50% Syrah) Dense and very fruity, smoky nose. Long and integrated tannins, blackberry, dark raspberry leaf fruit. Some say it tastes like Bordeaux: possibly, as it’s elegant and fresh, but there’s a distinct note of animal skin, a smoky, meaty taste that gives it a fascinating edge. If it’s related to the Médoc, it’s the wild, charming, slightly unwashed cousin from the backwoods. £48.95
Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc, Vin de Pays de l’Herault 1996 (Aniane, Languedoc; 90% Chardonnay, 10% Viognier) Dark straw colour, spicy, very aged nose, nutty, sherry palate with lots of spice and secondary flavours. Not long, but very charming. £22
Clot de l’Oum, Numero 1, Cotes du Roussillon Villages 2006 (Maury, Roussillon; 80% Syrah, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon) From the wonder ’06 vintage. A white pepper nose gives way to a perfumed palate with more pepper, delicate hedgerow fruit, strong dry graphite tannins and lovely minerality. £19.95
Domaine Gauby, Muntada, Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2003 (Maury, Roussillon; 40% Carignan from 125-year-old vines & Grenache) Very exotic dense meaty, bacony nose with tar and roses, lovely deep ripe tannins, fabulous smoky, dark garrigue fruit. Beautifully balanced wine. £69.95
Domaine Peyre Rose, Leone, Coteaux du Languedoc 1998 (Pezenas area, Languedoc; 90% Syrah) Really lovely dense blackcurrant and raspberry, pepper and spice palate. Long and sweet with grippy tannins. Very refreshing for quite a monster, which holds its 14.5% alcohol very well indeed. £64.95
Terrasses du Larzac: Typicity and a Sense of Place
The tasting prompted some discussion. As Mark Andrew who organised the tasting, and recently paid us the complement of visiting the domaine, relates on the Roberson Wine Blog:
2006 La Pèira en Damaisèla. This is a domaine that I am a big, big fan of and the commitment to quality is evident through their entire range of wines. The La Pèira itself is their top cuvee and a wine that I expected to be met with universal approval by the group, but in reality it seemed to polarise opinion. Everybody agreed that it was beautifully made but some tasters felt that it was a little too polished, lacking some of the charming rusticity that many Languedoc wines have.
Our view on rusticity is not so different to that expressed by Dr Vino recently in his Discussing Rustic article: “If the term were applied to high end wines, such as Burgundies, it would be interpreted as a bad thing or a flaw. But in the context of… everyday drinking wines, it’s something to seek out.”
Rusticity (however charming in a youthful everyday wine) is not something found in the finest expressions of nature in France’s greatest wine regions, nor in any prized produits du terroir. Nor is it found in nature. Nature can be brutal, beautiful, intricate, but only when touched by the hand of man does it become rustic. The same with wine.
Perfectly tended grapes arriving at a chai are never rustic. It is only after vinification this quality emerges. For us, imposed rusticity cannot be a false substitution for a real sense of place. Also the idea that wines can be well-made (or beautifully made) while always meant as a positive, implies that the work in the chai was not almost wholly dependent on what nature (with some fine work in the vineyard) gave. And as with photography, the notion of ‘well captured’ is more apt than ‘well made’. A least, that is the way we hope to work.
Terrasses du Larzac: A Sense of Place and the Idea of ‘Styles’
David Schildknecht in his recent Wine Advocate round up of the region (his La Peira notes HERE) made a similar observation on stylistic differences in the region:
And among the very greatest wines of the Languedoc are to be found some of the starkest contrasts. Mas Jullien and La Pèira en Damaisèla inhabit the same neighborhood, but different stylistic worlds; Peyre Rose and Clos la Truffiers stand less than a mile, yet poles apart.
Quite a journey around France for just three wines – albeit metaphoric!
And in terms of a sense of place somewhat confusing.
For while this certainly puts to bed any notion of a stylistic preference in the Wine Advocate’s Languedoc coverage, it does seem to suggest in the Terrasses du Larzac a protean quality.
Neither Syrah grown in Hermitage, nor Mourvedre grown in Bandol, nor Carignan in the Languedoc are normally expected to create serious young wines that could be said to “out-Burgundy Burgundy”, but nor should a Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache blend grown in the South of France normally bring to mind a, “great Pomerol.”
Yet all three wines are made by domaines on simular soils almost adjacent that dry farm, harvest on ripeness, and vinify with no additions, gently, carefuly, and simply.
The idea that a ‘style’ can be imposed upon a wine is an anathema to us. Yet what happens to a wine during vinification, elevage and blending is different from domaine to domaine, and so, sadly, we have the notion of styles.
It would be understandable to hope that underneath any differences there would be present a fundamental truth to place and to the cepages grown.
Is there a common thread?
What is typicity (or a true sense of place) in the Terrasses du Larzac?
Are all right? After all the wines are young and the appellation not widely known.
Jancis Robinson, who published enthusiastic notes on the La Peira 06 and 07 doesn’t resolve the matter!
Jancis Robinson Notes
La Peira 2006 “There is certainly a gloss on this and it’s much more sophisticated than the average Languedoc red. Very fine and polished. Full of pleasure: sweet start and then a dry finish. I’d love to see this alongside other serious Syrahs.”
La Peira 2007 “Blackish crimson. Leathery Syrah on the nose – rather sleek and refined and smells as though it may be a little austere and claret-like on the palate but in fact it is hugely seductive and rich and glamorous. Amazingly sweet seeming!”
The sole purpose of our domaine, or any serious domaine, is simply an investigation into the questions above.
Yet these are things we cannot impose but simply watch emerge and be sympathetic to.
We cannot impose a sense of place, nor should we impose a man-made sense of rusticitiy.
For us , typicity is a question to be posed of nature, not an aesthetic to be imposed.
The cost of the question for us is excellent viticulture, careful harvesting, natural vinification, and an attentive period of elevage.
Our aim, as always: to let nature show her true colours, and let La Peira be a black pearl of the Larzac (and not a pale echo of the wines of northern France) if she will. To allow her to be unique. To remain unaltered. A Cinderella of the South untroubled by her sisters from northern climes.
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