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A taste of the Pays d’Oc: 8 exciting wine finds

A virtual masterclass last week shone a light on the quality, value and innovative nature of southern France’s Pays d’Oc IGP using eight wines, which we’ve featured here.

Taking in novel blends and unusual varietal wines, the masterclass was designed to draw attention to the freedom for winemakers who choose the Pays d’Oc classification, while showing the range of styles on offer and the first-rate quality-to-price ratio in the wines from this part of France, which uses grapes grown in the Languedoc-Roussillon – the largest and most diverse vineyard area in the world.

The online event also showed the strength of the region’s Grenache and Syrah in reds, and Vermentino and Viognier in whites, as well as the success of blends, although the Pays d’Oc classification is best know for varietal wines – a topic considered in detail during a previous masterclass.

It also highlighted the fine combination of some of the relative newcomer international grapes with the native Mediterranean ones of this part of France, such as Viognier and Vermentino in whites, or Cabernet and Syrah in reds.

The masterclass, which was held on Monday 1 February at 3pm UK time, was the third and final in a set of web-based educational events on the Pays d’Oc by the drinks business, with the previous sessions considering mainstream, varietal wines, and then certified organic wines.

All the wines that featured across the three events were chosen by myself having blind-tasted almost 300 samples from the region.

Click here to read more about the region, and, to read about the wines in the two previous masterclasses, see the links at the bottom of this page.

The wines that featured in the masterclass on 1 February, which was called ‘Native and Novel’, are previewed below.

Domaine de Puilacher, Circulade Blanc, 2018

  • Producer: Domaine de Puilacher (Fages family)
  • Region: Pays d’Oc (Hérault Valley)
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 30% Chardonnay, 25% Viognier and 25% Vermentino
  • ABV: 13%
  • Vintage: 2018
  • Closure: Cork
  • Approx. price: £10-£15 UK retail price

A lovely, medium-weight white showing the quality of Chardonnay, Viognier and Vermentino from the Languedoc, particularly when grown on the chalky soils of Domaine de Puilacher in the Hérault Valley. In terms of flavours, the wine combines notes of vanilla, citrus and apricot, and while gently oily in texture, it has plenty of zesty freshness.

Château de Figuières, Impetus Blanc, 2017

  • Producer: Château de Figuières
  • Region: Pays d’Oc (La Clape)
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 60% Roussanne and 40% Viognier
  • ABV: 14%
  • Vintage: 2017
  • Closure: Cork
  • Approx. retail price: £16-£20 UK retail price

This rich, layered white hails from the La Clape AOP in the Languedoc, but, because it does not use the approved white grape of the region – which is Bourboulenc – it is a Pays d’Oc. It’s a great find for those who like a full-bodied style of white wine, with an oily mouthfeel and characters ranging from peach and beeswax, to baked apple and toast.

Les Domaines Barsalou, Grenache Gris, 2019

  • Producer: Les Domaines Barsalou
  • Region: Pays d’Oc
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 100% Grenache Gris
  • ABV: 13.5%
  • Vintage: 2019
  • Closure: Screwcap
  • Approx. retail price: Under £10 UK retail price

The extremely pale rosé is a lovely and great-value showcase of the quality of Grenache Gris from the Languedoc, with masses of ripe peach flavour, and a nice round, textural mouthfeel, along with a fresh, gently bitter finish.

Mas la Chevalière, Rosé, 2019

  • Producer: Laroche
  • Region: Pays d’Oc
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Cinsaut
  • ABV: 12.5%
  • Vintage: 2019
  • Closure: Screwcap
  • Approx. price: £9 UK retail price

If you are looking for something with the style and quality of Provençal rosé, but not the high price, then this pink wine from Michel Laroche’s estate, Mas la Chevalière, in the Languedoc is an excellent option. It’s pale salmon pink and bone dry, with notes of peach and pomegranite, and a refreshing redcurrant character on the finish.

M. Chapoutier, Marius Rouge, 2019

  • Producer: M.Chapoutier
  • Region: Pays d’Oc
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: Grenache and Syrah
  • ABV: 13.5%
  • Vintage: 2019
  • Closure: Screwcap
  • Approx. retail price: £9.80 UK retail price

Names after Michel Chapoutier’s grandfather, Marius, who put this now famous Rhône-based producer on the international map, is this attractive, quaffable red from the Languedoc, combining the sweet red fruit of Grenache with the dark berry and black olive characters of Syrah.

Château Guery, l’Esprit d’Eloi, Petit Verdot, 2018

  • Producer: Château Guery
  • Region: Pays d’Oc (Minervois)
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 100% Petit Verdot
  • ABV: 14.5/15%
  • Vintage: 2018
  • Closure: Cork
  • Approx. retail price: £12 UK retail price

Taking its name from the Guery’s son, Eloi, born in 2004, is this rare example of a pure Petit Verdot – a grape more commonly added in tiny proportions to fine red Bordeaux. As a late-ripening variety, it performs well in the Langeudoc, where long sunny autumns allow the grape to reach full maturity, giving flavours of blackcurrant, along with the hallmark spice and firm tannin of Petit Verdot. There’s also an appealing chocolate character to the wine from its time spent maturing in French oak barriques.

Les Jamelles, Les Traverses, Sélection Parcellaire 2018

  • Producer: Les Jamelles
  • Region: Pays d’Oc (Les Traverses, eastern Minervois)
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 100% Mourvèdre
  • Vintage: 2018
  • Closure: Cork
  • Approx. retail price: £20-£25 UK retail price

This pure Mourvèdre hails from the Minervois AOP, but, because it has not been blended with Grenache and Syrah, it can’t carry the name of this region, but it can be classified as a Pays d’Oc. It’s part of a range of wines called Sélection Parcellaire from Les Jamelles, which are all varietal wines from special plots. In this case, it’s a 40 year-old Mourvèdre vineyard on a free-draining south-facing slope, which produces a ripe, intense red, with masses of sweet red and dark berry fruit, a touch of prune and plenty of tannin, making this a fleshy, powerful wine with a dry finish – perfect for rich red-meat dishes.

Domaine D’Aigues Belles, Cuvée Nicole, 2018

  • Producer: Domaine D’Aigues Belles
  • Region: Pays d’Oc (Pic st Loup)
  • Country: France
  • Grape variety: 75% Syrah and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Vintage: 2018
  • Closure: Cork
  • Approx. retail price: £15-£20 UK retail price

Our final wine is an exciting find from one of the coolest and wettest areas of the Languedoc, called Pic St Loup. A blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, it must be labelled as Pays d’Oc as the latter grape, which hails from Bordeaux, is not authorised in this region. It shows well the quality on offer within Pays d’Oc classification, being a structured, complex, age-worthy red, with a broad range of flavours, from cigar box and cedar, to dark cherry and blackberry, along with a touch of spice and ripe olive, and a long dry finish with plenty of fine-grained tannin. It’s not heavy or sweet in style, but features none of the greener notes that can be found in wines made from either these grapes in cooler climates. A really good find for sub-£20.

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