Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Minervois takes heed and changes its image

Few wine areas can have had a speedier change of image than the Minervois: from gut rot (from the Aramon vine) to quality in one generation is quite a success story. The Midi, of which the Minervois is a part, was the ‘wine basket’ of France, producing the daily vin ordinaire. Now shrunk to 15,000 hectares, a third of which is AC, the Minervois has seen real progress, having brought in quality vines from other regions and kept the best of its own local varieties.
There are three ACs (Minervois, Minervois La Livinière and Muscat de Saint-Jean de Minervois) plus several regional and local vins de pays. Prices range from €3 to €15 a bottle. Although the Minervois AC allows white wine, 90% is red or rosé. La Livinière is red and Saint- Jean is solely Muscat-based Vin Doux Naturel (VDN).

Le Chai Port Minervois in Homps sells 150 local wines at producer prices.

A muscat and two contrasting reds

The Domaine de Barroubio, close to the Upper Languedoc regional park, has been in the Miquel family more than 500 years. Raymond Miquel, who has modernised the whole property – some 60 hectares of vines – says “My wines are for current drinking or short term storage, using modern techniques but with a quality image. This is what my customers demand and expect.”
Muscat Sec 2006 Vins de Pays d’Oc – 14% alc. Using low temperature fermentation this muscat is dry, crisp, clean and grapey, an ideal chilled aperitif. Dry muscats are very much in the ascendant in Europe.
The two red wines show the difference between the old and the new style wines.
Minervois 2005 AC - 13.5% alc.
is made from approximately one third each of carignan, grenache and syrah, grown on chalky clay. Both carbonic maceration and traditional vinification methods are used, and the result is blended. Medium bodied with aromas of berries, spice and red fruits and a long finish it is an excellent partner to lamb.
Cuvée Marie Thérèse – 2005 AC Minervois – 14% alc. Although also produced using a combination of the two fermentation methods, this wine is made up of 75% syrah and 25% grenache. Much fuller on the nose and with stronger tannins, spicy and peppery, here the comparatively recent concentration on the syrah really comes into its own. Ideal with game and beef, it will benefit from two or three years’ storage.
A lingering finish

Nicole and John Bojanowski, both Narbonne born, made their first vintage at their estate in 1999 and have gained a worldwide reputation for wine quality whether red, white or fortified.
At the Clos de Gravillas in Saint- Jean de Minervois, they produce an AC Muscat VDN by adding grape spirit to the fermenting juice thus stopping the fermentation (often called the Port method).
Douce Providence 2006 AC Muscat de Saint- Jean de Minervois – 15% alc.
This muscat VDN makes an ideal accompaniment to chocolate. Aromatic on the bouquet, lusciously sweet with hints of pineapple and tropical fruit, it has a long, lingering finish. Try it, too, with roquefort cheese.

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