Yesterday we met with many of our good friends from our former tasting circle to enjoy lovely wines we had brought specially from France. Here are the notes I made for the group.
Wine tasting at Babington House, Wirksworth, Friday 21 December 2012
Wine: Clairette de Die AOC ‘Florilège’  - sparkling
Vigneron: Didier Cornillon, Saint Roman. Didier was the first vigneron we met when we began the twinning adventure in 1992. He had just set up independently at that point – now he is one of the leading winemakers in the Diois. Florilège is his top cuvée of Clairette de Die tradition, made as usual from mostly muscat grapes with just a small amount of clairette.
Wine: Muscats, Vin de France, 2010 - white
Vigneron: one of our local favourites, Serge Martin-Pierrat at his Château des Hospitaliers domaine in Saint Christol, just north of our town, Lunel. Serge and his wife are passionate conservationists who run their business in a holistic way, encouraging wildlife, preferring to repel pests with pheromones rather than pesticides, and with a magnificent and massive chai built from the golden limestone from the quarries near the Pont du Gard, whose cellars are cooled by a ‘living wall’ covered with plants. Muscats is one of a new range of wines they are developing combining unusual combinations, in this case 5 different varieties of muscat grapes.
Wine: La Fermade, AOC Lirac, 2011 – white
Vigneron: Richard Maby at his family domaine in the village of Tavel near Avignon. He is one of several winemakers we have got to know via the Wine Society, to which his family has sold wines for over 120 years. Tavel has its own well-known appellation for rosé wines (Richard makes a good one), but the nearby Lirac is one of the villages on the west bank of the Rhône better-known for its reds and whites. This blend of grenache blanc, viognier, clairette and piquepoul grapes is a typical Rhône village white – like the Languedoc, AOCs in the southern Rhône are blends rather than single varietals – this white was selected in the Guide Hachette for 2013.
Wine: Saltimbanque (carignan), Vin de France, 2010 – red
Vigneron: Benoit Viot at his Chemin des Rêves in the village of Saint Gély du Fesc on the southern edge of the Pic Saint Loup area (north of Montpellier). We met Benoit in 2007 when he had just started producing wines, renting land, equipment and buildings. He has succeeded spectacularly, regularly winning prizes for his Pic Saint Loup AOC and Grès de Montpellier AOC wines, and selected to represent the best of southern French winemakers. Carignan is one of our favourite grape varieties, once part of the high-producing grapes which contributed to the wine lake, but now valued because people have realised that older vines, while reduced in yield, give grapes with a great flavour. We helped with the harvest for the 2012 Saltimbanque last September. Single-variety wines in the Languedoc are never allowed AOC status, but are no less delicious for that.
Wine: Sourire d’Odile, AOC Côteaux du Languedoc Pic Saint Loup, 2007 – red Vigneron: Mézy family at the Clos des Augustins in Saint Mathieu de Tréviers north of Montpellier. The Pic Saint Loup AOC is one of the stars of the Languedoc, a reputation matched by the dramatic Pic itself, a triangular hunk of rock jutting above the village of Saint Mathieu and visible from far across the Languedoc plains. We don’t know this vineyard well, but tasted the wine in a restaurant tasting evening – a classic Languedoc blend of syrah and Grenache.
Wine: La Cantilène, AOC Minervois La Livinière, 2006 – red
Vigneron(ne): Isabelle Coustal at her Château Saint Eulalie in the little village of La Livinière at the heart of the Minervois. Isabelle is another winemaker we have got to know via the Wine Society, which regularly lists this wine and others among favourites of their members and buyers – she is equally well-respected on the French circuit. La Livinière has its own special AOC apart from the rest of the Miinervois – it is on the northern slopes of a beautiful amphitheatre of countryside facing the Corbières mountain and bounded to the south by the Canal du Midi. La Cantilène is a blend of syrah (55%), grenache and carignan grapes.