By Vicky Burt, Assistant Manager of Majestic Wine Nottingham

Haut-Lirou-Garrigue-VineyardsI was fortunate enough, on gaining my WSET Advanced Certificate, to be awarded a Vintner’s Bursary to fund a wine trip of my choice. To me, shadowing a Wine Buyer seemed the best way to see behind the scenes at as many vineyards as possible.

My good fortune continued when Chris Hardy kindly agreed to my joining him for his autumn trip to the Languedoc. Given the huge array of wine styles and producers in the region, this was an amazing opportunity.

Day 1

After an early start at home, by 10am we’d landed in rainswept Nîmes and were driving to our first appointment. We soon arrived at the fantastic rustic winery that is Domaine Les Yeuses. Its reds are an annual fixture in the Top 100 Vins de Pays, but the intensely aromatic dry Muscat definitely deserves attention too, with its characteristic grapey notes balanced by refreshing acidity.

Onwards to Domaine des Lauriers, makers of Domaine Cabrol Picpoul de Pinet. Picpoul means ‘lip-stinger’ – and this fantastically refreshing example certainly lives up to its name! Its crisp citrus and green apple flavours make it a great partner for fish and seafood, and an interesting alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.

We arrived at our overnight stop, Domaine Haut-Lirou, in time to go off-road around vineyards at sunset. The air was drenched in thyme, lavender, sage and rosemary aromas that somehow find their way into the finished wines, in the ultimate expression of terroir. Their GSM blend Pic Saint-Loup is the perfect showcase, packed with ripe tannins, intense baked red fruits and those garrigue herbs in abundance.

Day 2

Domaine-Sainte-Rose-(2)The following morning began at Domaine Sainte Rose, the incredibly successful boutique winery owned and run by British couple Charles and Ruth Simpson. Their Le Marin Blanc Marsanne Roussanne is a cool-fermented white with fresh melon and pear notes, plus vanilla and caramel layers from a short time in French oak.

We moved on to Château La Dournie, inherited through the female line by quirky head winemaker Véronique, who advocates wines with a feminine touch. And her Syrah-heavy Saint Chinian is certainly beautifully crafted – sourced from vines grown on flaky schist soils and rich in black cherry fruit, with mocha and menthol notes.

Château-L'Hospitalet-(2)We spent the night near Narbonne, at Château l’Hospitalet, where dinner was accompanied by the spectacular Grand Vin 2008. This 2010 IWC Gold Medal and La Clape Trophy winner has densely concentrated fruit and cloves on the nose and a palate brimming with hedgerow berries. Food-friendly now, it’s well worth cellaring a bottle or two – look out for it in our Fine Wine stores.

Day 3

Our final day began at Château Cazal Viel, renowned for classy Syrah and Viognier. My personal highlight was helping to blend a new Chardonnay from different oaked and unoaked vat samples. Launched under the Laurent Miquel L’Artisan label, this wine is a summer star, with fresh citrus, stone fruits and the lightest hint of oak.

Domaine BegudeNext up, more Brits: James and Catherine Kinglake at Domaine Begude in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Cool-climate whites are their forté, with the fresh aromas, fruit-driven palate and clean, crisp acidity of their unoaked Chardonnay Le Bel Ange, a long-time Majestic favourite.

By mid-afternoon we’d reached the newly-restored Château de Pennautier on the beautiful Lorgeril estate. Its Château de Pennautier Cabardès Rouge, an unusual blend of six Bordeaux and Southern French varieties, shows intense dark hedgerow berries and lashings of spice.

Château Guiot SignpostWe ended back in Nîmes, where Château Guiot owners François and Sylvia Cornut hosted a tasty barbecue – the perfect way to showcase their wines. Fans of their Costières de Nîmes red should definitely try the rosé, whose medium body, juicy redcurrant fruit and crisp acidity make it a perfect picnic wine.

Back home, I was able to reflect on the incredible insight I’d been given into the decisions and negotiations carried out by our buyers before our wines hit the shelves. And seeing inside so many great estates, tasting newly bottled vintages, trying vat samples, blending a new wine and meeting such inspirational producers was a privilege I won’t forget in a hurry.

Domaine Les Yeuses Muscat Petit Grain 2009/10, PGI Pays d’Oc
£7.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Picpoul de Pinet Prestige 2010, Domaine Guillaume Cabrol
£7.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Domaine Haut-Lirou 2009, Pic Saint-Loup
£8.99 or £7.49 when you buy 2 bottles

Domaine Sainte Rose ‘Le Marin Blanc’ Marsanne Roussanne 2010, PGI Côtes de Thongue
£7.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Château La Dournie 2008/09, St Chinian
£8.99 or £7.49 when you buy 2 bottles

Laurent Miquel L’Artisan Chardonnay 2009, PGI Pays d’Oc
£7.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Domaine Begude ‘Le Bel Ange’ Chardonnay 2010, PGI Pays d’Oc
£7.99 or £7.49 when you buy 2 bottles

Château de Pennautier 2009, Cabardès
£7.99 or £6.49 when you buy 2 bottles

Château Guiot Rosé 2009/10, Costières de Nîmes
£6.99 or £6.49 when you buy 2 bottles

No Comment Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.