Genius Loci: Andrew Jefford in Decanter on the La Pèira Vintages 2005-10 | La Peira

Andrew Jefford writing at on a recent vertical tasting of the La Pèira vintages 2005-2010 suggests, “They could be the work of a genius”.

After casting around for possibilities, he finally settles on Genius Loci, the Roman term for the protective spirit of a place.

That place? The Bois de Pauliau (pictured above) where the ground is “deep glacial rubble”, “stony, but not austere”, and “bright but ventilated”; “For the Languedoc, it feels almost Médoc-like”.

As for the wines: ‘Every time I get a chance to taste these wines, they bring me uncommon pleasure. They are concentrated, perfumed, fleshy, heady, allusive and beguiling. Every bottle is drained to the last drop. As I polish the glasses afterwards, I begin looking forward to the next time.’

The Vertical Tasting

‘I tasted La Pèira 2005 to 2010, and Matissat 2007 to 2010. These wines are expensive (£63 per bottle for La Pèira, and £50 for Matissat, from Berry Bros) [$130.00, and $105 in the US], but worth it for anyone whose circumstances allow purchases of that sort. The decent Les Obriers is £15.95 from the same source, but I would rather save up and have one bottle of the indecent La Pèira than four of Les Obriers. Las Flors at £27 is perhaps the canniest buy: La Pèira writ small. (That’s still large.)’

Andrew Jefford’s Notes on the Wines 

La Pèira 2005

‘I don’t suppose they’ll ever make another wine like the 2005 La Pèira (for which yields were a barely sane 9 hl/ha): this Gargantua of the Languedoc remains rich, mouth-coating, essence-like, profound, and good for a half-century of ageing.’

(Decanter March 2013)-

La Pèira 2006

‘If you have any of the 2006 La Pèira — lucky you. In aesthetic terms, I think this is the most beautiful of all so far; more Venus de Milo than Gargantua. Milky, gentle, graceful, poised and Pomerol-like, with perfectly judged black-fruit ripeness and svelte, sumptuous tannins.’

(Decanter March 2013)

La Pèira 2007

‘The 2007 is the Grange of the set: a multi-layered, exotic cocktail of everything you might want a wine from hereabouts to be, with cascading texture and depth.’

(Decanter March 2013) 

La Pèira 2008

‘Just as good [as the 2007], for me, is the 2008: less evident extravagance than in the 2007, but more elemental complexity, as elderberries take over from plums, leather and meat qualifies the fruit, and the finish grows stonier.’

(Decanter March 2013) 

La Pèira 2009

‘I once called La Pèira a liqueur of the garrigue, and the 2009 seems to summarise that deep-drizzled ripeness, perfume and incipient sweetness.’ 

(Decanter March 2013) 

La Pèira 2010

‘The 2010 looks like another monument-in-waiting: peacock-like in terms of its aromatic allusions (plant essences, crushed roots and pounded stones). It’s hard to believe that this powerful and searching wine contains no Mourvèdre.’

(Decanter March 2013) 

Matissat – Andrew Jefford Vertical Tasting Vintages 2007-2010

Matissat 2007

The 2007 pure-Mourvèdre Matissat was the greatest of its own short flight: perhaps the most engagingly baroque example of this variety I have ever tasted (blackberries, mushrooms, blood, white truffle and viscera: gorgeous), and another wine that seems unlikely to die before I do.

Matissat 2008

The 2008 is (like the La Pèira of that year) a much tighter, more gathered wine, with shattering concentration, Valrhona acidity, a herbal macerate.

Matissat 2009

The 2009 transforms that black chocolate into gratifyingly milky milk chocolate, softens the tannins and adds a spoonful of liquorice essence.

Matissat 2010

The 2010 seemed primitive and adolescent at this stage, and still trying to resolve its personality, but full of the thorny, thrumming blackberry this variety surrenders hereabouts.

Matissat PDF with David Schildknecht / Jancis Robinson / Andrew Jefford reviews (link) 


Genius Loci

The Latin phrase, Genius Loci (in classical Roman times, an attendant spirit of a person or place) entered the English language as a figure with Alexander Pope’s writing on landscape and architecture. Pope disdained the symmetrical style (Versailles and Fontainebleau for instance), encouraging a more “natural” one where landscape and garden harmonised.

Pope suggests, “to follow Nature, even in works of mere luxury and elegance. Instanced in architecture and gardening, where all must be adapted to the genius and use of the place, and the beauties not forced into it, but resulting from it.”. The English Augustan period adopted Roman forms, be it in Architecture (via Andrea Palladio), Literature (Horace and Virgil), or ideas such as Genius Loci, as dramatically illustrated by the Temple of the Four Winds (pictured above) at Castle Howard modeled on Palladio’s Villa Capra. The famous lines from Pope’s Epistle IV:

Consult the genius of the place in all; That tells the waters or to rise, or fall; Or helps th’ ambitious hill the heav’ns to scale, Or scoops in circling theatres the vale; Calls in the country, catches opening glades, Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades, Now breaks, or now directs, th’ intending lines; Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.