From one of the five newish AOPs in Languedoc recognising special wine places, La Clape’s an area near Narbonne very close to the sea and a theoretical maritime cooling influence. This version is 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre which seems pretty typical of the AOP’s permitted varieties. Starts very Mediterranean with a warm herby shrubiness which becomes recognisably sage, lavender and bay leaf with time. Lots of spiced red fruits and lots of chewy extract with a tail of hot year dark prune, rich and smoothly ripe. Plenty flowery perfume to balance the chunky fruit, maybe violets from Syrah and roses from Grenache. Good drag of drying skin tannin and roast meat add a clean finish. Safely made with a polish but still has real character. Delicious now rather than later perhaps? This La Clape deserves infectious applause.
14% alcohol. Diam. $19.90 direct import from Woolworths.
Started 91, then got better, 92 perhaps.
A quick twiddle with google suggests this is a blend of Carignan, Cinsault and Syrah. Notwithstanding a yeasty, beery edge of the low sulphur, natural wine persuasion, it’s the Carignan that shows the way with savoury, sweet meatiness. The roast goat’s well flavoured with some clean peppery raspberries. Light on its feet for Languedoc as some crisp acid and emery tannin freshen things up. Good balance on the tightrope of low intervention. Lovely unblemished fruit.
13% alcohol. Diam. $30.
Seriously, this is probably the best under $20 Woolies’ import ever. There, bold statement. Probably a love of old vine Carignan from Languedoc Roussillon sways the claim. The blend is Carignan, Grenache and Shiraz but it’s that sweet, caramelised roasting pan juice character that drives this spotlessly clean, softly delicious mouthful. Somehow there’s a ripeness level where the bright red fruit and clunky acidity of Carignan turns dark, mysterious and soft. There’s also dark, dark berries and velvet tannin. If quality is judged by how quickly the bottle empties, two of us were looking for the last drops as we mopped up our pasta sauce, all gone…
13% alcohol. Cork. $14.30 in a six pack.
93 points but more pointedly, delicious.
As a post script, I’ve bought and drunk both the 2017 and very recently the 2018 vintages of this. Sadly neither has the life or interest of the 2016. Both looked a bit dead fruited, mostly full of prunes, dry skins and lacking freshness. Maybe very hot weather or just left hanging too long. Really hoped this would be a regular buy, sad. There’s one 2016 left, let’s see.
Post script to the post script. Opened the last of the 2016 and the original note still holds true. Just as delicious, with a core of dark but still sweetly fresh berries. Perhaps more 92 than 93 but relieved to see some consistency in both the wine and an old dodgy palate.
From the family responsible for the hallowed Mas de Daumas Gassac’s grand vin comes this grand value. A Murphy’s direct import. Lip smackingly fresh, clean and delicious. Clear red fruit, some Languedoc herbiness and good acidity in harmony. Little bit dilute towards the end but it’s candid in its honest good fruit and not artificed by over extraction. The quality of good skin tannin and ripe acidity pull it through. Just as good the second day. Lovely label too that would look good on hobbit’s dinner table, my precious.
12.50% alcohol. Screwcap. $10.
89 points for a tenner!
2018 version. Dark, spicy and a bit of dried fruit. Pull of sappy dried grape skin. Some herby Mediterranean dry scrub and more dusty dried skins. Lacks a bit of succulent sweet fruit and looks a bit hollow.
86 points and now nearer $12,
From Larzac in Languedoc. Perfumed and primary, really fresh and bright, mid weight, clean and red fruited, nicely ripe but still hanging onto the crunchy, firm handshake of Carignan’s acidity. The tannin lurks behind. Great favourite country cousin sort of grape. Another unwavering selection from Juhlès leading to some frantic posting.
13% alcohol. Cork. 11 euros.
From vines in the hills above Perpignan in Roussillon via the seminal natural wine caviste La Cave des Papilles in Paris’ 14th. Developed but still some freshness to the dark cherry fruit and relatively high acidity. Improved with being open for a day as the parts came together to make a delicious wine. As well as cherries there was a lasting sweet roasting pan juice flavour tinged with rosemary. Clean and fine for its warm climate origins. The last glass was wistfully the best.
12.50% alcohol. Cork. 25 euros.
A favourite caviste in Paris, Les Caves du Marais, run by the irrepressible Jean Jacques Bailly, is described by Paris by Mouth as the sort of place you always thought should exist but rarely does. Yet to be disappointed when asking for a coup de coeur. This Languedoc blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan is spectacularly rich, firm and at its powerful core deeply fruited. Dark squishy cherries and blackberries abound with earthy road tar, woody herbs, dried figs and scents of an old carbon black fireplace. The exuberance is nailed securely in place by dense wall of ripe tannin and acid that really brings the fruit to life with food. Sort of daunting without in that almost Italian way maybe. Wild but beautifully clean. The winery website shows just how carefully its beautiful old vineyards are tended. Forgotten no more.
14% alcohol. Cork. 24 euros.
From a Languedoc original, Mas de Daumas Gassac, now run by the second generation Guibert family who have expanded the range to include lower prices and the immediately approachable. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a little bit of Syrah and it’s the Cabernet that shows. Chewy, generous and blackcurrant flavoured with a note of almost Bordelaise gravel. Not complex but holds out all the way through with a ripe chunk of tannin and acid. A level of fruit quality above some large production Southern French stuff with a some phrygana notes. Valid synonym for garrigue or scrubby shrubbery it seems.
13.50% alcohol. Screwcap. $22, shame was about $18.
Two years later and it’s an even worse review. Inversely the wine itself has settled into a round, satisfying mouthful. The quality of the fruit shines. In an imaginary French bistro, you wouldn’t be allowed your steak frites or confit without a glass of this. More a hedonistic 91 points now.