A taste of the Pays d’Oc: 8 varietal wines to try

A virtual masterclass on Monday at 3pm UK time will shine a light on the strengths of southern France’s Pays d’Oc IGP using eight varietal wines with mainstream appeal – which we’ve previewed below.

Pays d’Oc wines comprise white, reds and rosés from a vineyard area of more than 120,000 hectares in southern France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region

The masterclass, which you can register for by clicking here, is the first of three online tutored tastings designed to uncover the key traits of this part of France, where varied terroirs and varietal labelling are used to bring brilliant and crowd-pleasing wines to the world.

In the educational event on Monday, we focus on whites, reds and rosés made from popular varieties, and sold at keen prices, to maximise their commercial potential.

The following wines will be shown next week, and were chosen by myself having blind-tasted almost 300 samples from the region.

Click here to register for the masterclass and click here to read more about the region, and find out about further events on the Pays d’Oc, which will take place on Monday 25 January (3pm) and Monday 1 February, and showcase organic wines and indigenous grapes respectively.

The wines featuring in the masterclass on Monday 11 January are previewed below.

1. Domaine de Massiac, Sauvignon Blanc, 2019

  • Producer: Domaine de Massiac
  • Region: Pays d’Oc
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
  • ABV: 12.5%
  • Vintage: 2019
  • Closure: Cork
  • Price: £8 (UK retail)

An intensely flavoured and ripe style of Sauvignon Blanc with plenty of passion fruit and blackcurrant, complemented by juicy pink grapefruit and a touch of lime zest. An impressive alternative to Marlborough’s tropical types of Sauvignon.

2. Les Vignobles Foncalieu, Albarino, 2019

  • Producer: Les Vignobles Foncalieu
  • Region: Pays d’Oc
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 100% Albarino
  • ABV: 13%
  • Vintage: 2019
  • Closure: Cork
  • Price: £11.90 (UK retail)

You don’t often find Albarino grown outside its homeland of Iberia’s Atlantic coast, but here’s a rare example of the grape from the Pays d’Oc, complete with the variety’s signature traits of ripe peach, fresh lemon, and, in this bottling, a touch of bitter almond too. A juicy and bright white wine.

3. Marquis de Pennautier, Chardonnay 2018

  • Producer: Marquis de Pennautier
  • Region: Pays d’Oc
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 100% Chardonnay
  • ABV: 13%
  • Vintage: 2018
  • Closure: Screwcap
  • Winemaking: Fermentation in barrels on fine lees with stirring for three months. Partial ageing (20%) in barrels.
  • Price: £10-11 (UK retail)

If you thought that a brilliant, barrel-fermented Chardonnay for around £10 was an impossibility, then look no further than Marquis de Pennautier, which has specialised in this much-loved wine style for decades, and without inflating prices. It’s a classic take on the grape that would appeal to any long-standing Chardonnay drinker, with characters ranging from beeswax to toast and fruit flavours from peach to apricot.

4. Alma Cersius, Miss Alma Rosé, 2019

 

  • Producer: Alma Cersius
  • Region: Pays d’Oc
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 50% Cinsault and 50% Grenache
  • ABV: 12.7%
  • Vintage: 2019
  • Closure: Screwcap
  • Price: Under £10 (UK retail)

It’s proving increasingly hard to fine pretty, pale, bright and ripe styles of Provencal rosé for under £10, encouraging those on a budget to look beyond this famous pink-wine producing place. And they don’t need to travel far to find it, with this type of rosé increasingly available from southern France’s Pays d’Oc, such as this ‘Miss Alma’ Cinsault and Grenache blend. It’s a delicious, inexpensive pink wine with flavours of peach, pomegranate and pink grapefruit, and a fresh, slightly peppery edge.

5. Laurent Miquel, Solas, Pinot Noir, 2019

  • Producer: Laurent Miquel
  • Region: Pays d’Oc
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 100% Pinot Noir
  • ABV: 13%
  • Vintage: 2019
  • Closure: Cork
  • Soil type: Limestone clay
  • Winemaking: Night harvest, cold pre-fermentation maceration for 5 to 7 days to extract a maximum of fruity aromas, fermentation up to 25-26 degrees alternating punching down and pumping over. Majority aging in stainless steel vats with 20%, the malolactic fermentation of which is done in barrels of 1 to 2 wines.
  • Price: £11 (UK retail)

Making fine Pinot at any price is difficult, but producing a bottle for selling below £15 is a particular challenge, and one that few manage successfully. But in the case of this sample from Laurent Miquel, we have a delicate, aromatic red wine that would please any Pinot lover, with its notes of tomato, dried herbs, cherry and vanilla. And, while it has a light mouth feel, it doesn’t taste thin, with plenty of lingering ripe red berry characters.

6. Fortant de France, Malbec, 2019

  • Producer: Fortant de France
  • Region: Pays d’Oc
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 100% Malbec
  • ABV: 14%
  • Vintage: 2019
  • Closure: Cork
  • Soil type: Conglomerates, clays Sandstone & limestone. Alluvial terraces dating from the Tertiary
  • Winemaking: Made from a selection of plots in the hill terroirs, this Malbec is harvested overnight at perfect maturity in order to preserve its potential. After a 4-day cold pre-fermentation maceration to promote the intensity of the colour and the fresh fruit, the plots of land are then vinified separately at moderate temperature in order to maintain their typicity and promote aromatic freshness. The vatting ends with a 7-day hot post-fermentation maceration to refine the tannins and develop the texture. The wines are then aged for 4 months on fine lees in French oak wood.
  • Price: €6-8.90 (ex-cellar)

Today, while Malbec may be most closely associated with Argentina, the grape’s origin is France, ensuring it’s very much at home in the Pays d’Oc. This example from Fortant de France proves that brilliantly, with its flavours of olive, pepper, blackberry and a touch of milk chocolate, as well as dry, fine, tannic finish. A first-rate alternative to Mendoza Malbec, and at a keen price.

7. Domaine Montlobre, La Chapelle, 2018

  • Producer: Domaine Montlobre
  • Region: Pays d’Oc
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 90% Merlot 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • ABV: 14%
  • Vintage: 2018
  • Closure: Cork
  • Winemaking: Vinification in stainless steel vats, partial ageing for eight months in oak barrels
  • Price: €12 (ex-cellar)

One of the Pays d’Oc’s most-planted grapes is Merlot, prized for producing juicy reds with mainstream appeal, along with fine barrel-aged samples too, like this one from Domaine Montlobre. Expect plenty of ripe red and dark berry fruit, a touch of blackcurrant, spice, chocolate, cedar and a hint of leaf, making this a layered and serious glass of red for not much money.

8. Gabriel Meffre, Laurus, 2017

  • Producer: Gabriel Meffre
  • Region: Pays d’Oc
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 100% Syrah
  • ABV: 13.5%
  • Vintage: 2017
  • Closure: Cork
  • Winemaking: Malo-lactic fermentation in barrels. 80% of the blend spends 8 months in 275 litre one- and two-year old oak Laurus barrels.
  • Production: 10,165 bottles and 214 magnums.
  • Price: €12 (ex-cellar)

Proving the ability of the Pays d’Oc as a source of fine reds is this Syrah from Gabriel Meffre. Called Laurus after the oak barrels used to mature the wine, it is a top-end drop for a surprisingly accessible price, showing the characters normally only found in a Syrah at two to three times the cost. These include intense and bright blackcurrant, black olive, pepper, and creamy oak, with a touch of chocolate too, as well as appealing fine mouth-coasting tannins, and a long, dry finish. In short, it’s delicious, and has the depth and structure to suggest it will age well, which means that it should develop greater complexity over time.

Discover Pays d’Oc IGP

Stretching along the Mediterranean coast to the height of the Pyrenees, the Pays d’Oc IGP vineyard is a part of the largest winemaking area in the world, producing more wines than the whole of New Zealand. But it is also the richest in terms of range, encompassing a broad sweep of styles, from delicate whites to full-bodied reds, and everything in between. To celebrate such choice, the drinks business and Pays d’Oc have collaborated to bring the UK trade a taste of this region’s exciting offer through three virtual events, featuring wines chosen by Patrick Schmitt MW following a blind tasting of almost 300 samples. The online masterclasses will cover three different themes, incorporating 24 wines. The online masterclasses will be as follows:

  • 18 January, 3pm GMT: Varietal and commercial (for the Pays d’Oc’s many great value, fashionable varietal wines from Pinot Noir to Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 25 January, 3pm GMT: Organic and sustainable (for the Pays d’Oc’s rich array of affordable wines made in an environmentally-sensitive manner).
  • 1 February, 3pm GMT: Native and novel (to draw attention to the Pays d’Oc’s wealth of indigenous grapes, old vines and novel blends)

If you would like to attend any of these masterclasses please register your interest here. 

Read more

D’OC ’N’ ROLL: PAYS D’OC UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

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