March 20, 2014
Within the Languedoc in the South of France is the Terrasses du Larzac AOC. The Terrasses du Larzac has a long history of wine making, beginning in Roman times when it lay along a road linking two major cities Cessero (St. Thibery) and Segodunum (Rodez). In 782, the Benedictines founded the Monastery of Aniane in the area and went on to found over 50 additional abbeys in the greater region. The Benedictines planted and tended vineyards wherever they founded abbeys. In the 16th and 17th centuries, agricultural production in the Terrasses du Larzac expanded rapidly as land was cleared to plant olives, almonds and grapevines. The mountain road Pas de l’Escalette was built during this time, allowing for easier movement of the region’s eau de vie. In 1850, the greater region was devastated by powdery mildew and phylloxera. After the South of France re-established itself as a wine region, it also gained a reputation for producing mediocre bulk wine. Today, individual AOCs are refocusing on quality production from their unique terroir and producing richly aromatic and long-lived wines.The Terrasses du Larzac AOC, granted in 2004, is uniquely situated in the Languedoc atop the Larzac plateau. Vineyards are exposed to cooling breezes and during the summer, the temperature can vary up to 68 degrees between the day and night. This diurnal temperature swing enables grapes to retain their freshness and acidity while developing complex aromatics. The soil varies greatly throughout the AOC, but is typically a blend of clay and sand, with limestone dating from the Jurassic period. Wines must be a blend of at least two varieties from the five allowed: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Carignan. Grape vines must be at least 5 years old and the wines must be matured for at least one year.
Mas Jullien was founded by Olivier Jullien from part of his family estate in 1985. He rebelled against the economic pressures forcing small and independent grape growers in the region to sell their over-cropped fruit to the local cooperative to make cheap bulk wine. At 20 years old, after studying viticulture and oenology, he took over some of his family’s vineyards to produce his own wine. In his early years, he experimented with different oak aging regimes and vineyard techniques. Today he is considered one of the top producers in the Languedoc.He produces wine from his small and rocky parcels scattered around the village of Jonquieres. In the vineyard, he farms organically, practices biodynamics and severe pruning, and propagates vines through cuttings of field selections (selection massal). In his wines, he blends together Carignan for freshness and body, Cinsault for finesse, Syrah for aroma and color, Grenache for complexity and spice, and Mourvedre for its structure. The grapes are partially destemmed and vinified separately in stainless steel before being aged in barrels. The Mas Jullien Rouge is a powerful and elegant blend of Syrah, Carignan and Mourvedre that ages beautifully.
Mas Julien Terrasses Du Larzac Rouge 2010 ($59.95) $49 special, 3+ cases available
Mas Cal Demora
Olivier inspired his father to leave the cooperative and found his own estate in 1993. Jean-Pierre named it Mas Cal Demoura, which means “one must remain,” in tribute to the many winemakers who lost their businesses and wineries in the region. He sold his lesser vineyard holdings to focus on the 12 best acres of land. Today, the estate is run by its new owners, Isabelle and Vincent Goumard, who trained under Jean-Pierre before taking over in 2004. The estate’s vineyard parcels are organic, with stony and porous soil. The grapes are hand harvested in two passes to ensure only the best grapes are selected. Each variety is vinified separately in stainless steel and racked into barrels. After a year of maturation, the wines are blended, bottled without fining or filtration, and bottle aged for six months. The L’Infidele is a blend of all five grape varieties.Mas Cal Demoura L’Infidele 2010 ($31.95) $27 special, 3+ cases available
Other fantastic finds from the Languedoc available now!
Mas Daumas Gassac Rouge 2010 ($59.95) $49 special, 5 bottles available
80% Cabernet and 20% other varieties; unfiltered, 12-15 months in old oak barrelsChateau de la Liquiere Faugeres Vieilles Vignes 2011 ($19.95) $14 special, 3+ cases available
Carignan and Grenache, from vines that are over 50 years old. The cuvée classic of this estate since the beginning, when they had very little Syrah and Mourvèdre. 12 months in vat, then bottled – they’ve tried an élevage in barrel, but didn’t like it. The grapes are entirely destemmed, but beyond that, the vinification is very traditional. Deep colour. Spicy fruit and a touch leathery. Red and black cherries, rich and a ripe. Good backbone and structure and drinking well now.Chateau de la Liquiere Faugeres Nos Racines 2011 ($24.95) $19 special, 3+ cases available
Carignan (which includes around 20% Terret Noir in a field blend), planted in 1900, with 5% Grenache. Élevage totally in vat. From la Liquiere’s best plot – of 4 acres of old gobelet vines. Appealing young & bright color. The wine solid and rounded. A very simple vinification, Vidal says that he wants the vines to talk: ‘C’est la vigne qui parle’. Quite an elegant Carignan, with perfumed red fruit. Lots of character and some ageing potential. A very elegant Carignan.
Leon Barral Faugeres Jadis 2010 ($49.95) $39 special, 5 bottles available
50% Carignan, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache from 30 to 60 year old vines grown in schist soil
Leon Barral Faugeres Valiniere 2008 ($59.95) $49 special, 1 bottle available
80% Mourvedre and 20% Syrah from 15 to 30 year old vines grown in schist soil, 2008 vintage
Leon Barral Faugeres Valiniere 2010 ($79.95) $69 special, 15 bottles available
80% Mourvedre and 20% Syrah from 15 to 30 year old vines grown in schist soil, 2010 vintage