2016 Clos du Gravillas Sous les cailloux des grillons Vin de Pays de Côtes du Brian

A beautifully complicated French name, something like, “under the stones, there’s crickets”. Seems the vineyards are stoney in a CNdP way and the crickets think it’s a nice spot to sit and make some noise. It also looks like the authorities responsible for naming VdP areas are big Monty Python film fans in the same way as the Catholic Church liked naming Burgundy vineyards. The wine’s back label continues the complications by listing eight or so ingredient varieties, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache, Counoise, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Terrets Red, in the plural meaning perhaps there’s the red and Gris version of this ancient variety? Labels really don’t get much better for those nerds amongst us. Probably a good indication of old vineyards planted promiscuously as of old to hedge bets in ripeness despite the season. Well, the wine itself? Spotlessly clean, bright red fruited and delicious in a drink me now way but the stuffing to keep it delicious over a couple of days. Sweet cherry and spice to commence, a swell of rocks, gravel and almond paste, then Mediterranean scrubby sweetness and roasting pan juices to finish. Bright natural feeling acidity and drying towel of fine tannin. Clos du Gravillas also make an upmarket Carignan, if that’s not an oxymoron, from ancient vines giving great depth of fruit. Praise be to Brian.

13% alcohol. Cork. $24 at auction.

92 or 93 for hard work in amongst the crickets.

2018 Domaine Clos du Bagatelle Les Sentiers de Bagatelle à l’Origine Saint Chinian AOP

Many words in a name, a lot of flavour in the glass. A blend of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache in roughly equal parts. Lovely purple red colour like something from the more technical new world way of making. Smells like Languedoc though, albeit beautifully fresh and clean. Pure flavours of kirsch, soot, dark dried cherries and that Mediterranean scrub they call garrigue. Nice crunch of chalky acidity and tannin. Smatter of mocha oak seasoning. Warmth and brightness at ease with each other. Seems very polished in the technique, sort of Bordeaux gloss meets Languedoc generosity. There’s something in the rich sooty cherry flavours that bring to mind the tension of good Priorat, old vine Carignan? There’s two more bottles on the auction site. Big brave bid.

13.5% alcohol. One of those odd one plus one agglomerate stoppers, sort of Diam maybe? $29 at auction.

93 points.

2019 Abbotts and Delaunay Syrah Pays d’Oc

Another from this producer’s budget single variety range. Bursts forth immediately with heaps of red summer berries, brown baking spices and pepper, yep, it’s Syrah. Floral perfume adds detail and a whisper of sulphide keeps it savoury. Bouncy fruit of quality above its simple appellation. Crisp natural acidity and a brush of ripe skin tannin. No complications or complaints, just a good whack of deep, drink me now fruit. Again great sourcing and careful making. Winner with your dinner if it’s piggy.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. Bargain $13 introductory special.

91 points.

2019 Abbotts and Delaunay Pinot Noir Pays d’Oc

From a producer who has made some clean, tasty Languedoc Roussillon bottles, often using deeply flavoured old vine Carignan, now dabbling in a cheaper single variety range. Shy and herby but palpably still Pinot on day one, it opened up well on day two. Strawberries, other red fruits and bramble undergrowth with a whole berry lift. A little washy and dilute but the settled fresh acidity shows a poise above its price point. Another of those cheerful and authentic drinks that would suit that mythical bistro carafe with a crispy confit quacker. Smart sourcing and making Monsieur Delaunay, santé.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $13 from Oatley Wines imports own invitation web site, The Sippery, as an introductory special offer, amazing value. Email if you want an invitation.

89 points.

2018 Château d’Anglès Classique La Clape AOP

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.

2017 Domaine Benjamin Taillandier Laguzelle Minervois

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.

93 points.

2016 Domaine de Blayac Minervois

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.

2017 Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre Pays d’Herault IGP

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,

2017 Domaine des Montèzes Carignan IGP

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.

91 points.

2013 Le Temps Retrouvé Mourvèdre

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.

94 points