NEW: Languedoc-Roussillon mixed case
Our new mixed case is a tribute to the sun-drenched Languedoc-Roussillon, with each bottle in the collection telling the story of a unique landscape and microclimate in which it’s grown. It's a selection of premium wines, with a 9% discount when purchased as part of the case, compared with purchasing the bottles individually.
As you may now be aware, here at Buon Vino, we have somewhat of a second passion for cycling. Much of the earlier stages of this year’s current Tour de France skirted this vast and beautiful region.
As one of the largest and most diverse wine regions in France, the Languedoc-Roussillon spans the Mediterranean coastline from the Spanish border, to the city of Nîmes. Varieties such as Carignan, Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah dominate the reds, benefiting from the sunny climate, while fleshy whites are produced from varieties such as Macabeu (Macabeo in Spain), Grenache Blanc Marsanne and Muscat.
This region is historically renowned for its bulk wine production, but over the past few decades, a transformation has occurred. Once infamous for producing high volumes of everyday poor quality table wines, the region has shifted its focus to quality and individuality, becoming a home of innovation, while utilising the foundational ingredient of concentrated fruit from low-yielding old vines. It has also become a leader in organic and biodynamic farming practices, in some cases producing wine that is comparable to the most esteemed regions in the rest France like Bordeauc and Burgundy, but without the corresponding high price tag.
To begin, from the Roussillon, ‘'Coste' from producer Danjou Banessy is a biodynamic white with the charm and precision of a fine Burgundy, while hailing from the sun-kissed Cotes-Catalanes. Traditionally the Danjou Banessy family winery specialised in the fortified wines of the region, Muary and Rivesaltes and still have a cellar full of old vintages of these wines. However in 2001 Benoit Danjou took the reins, and was joined by his brother Sebastien a few years later. Together they have preserved the family heritage and the range of fortified wines which they occasionally bottle and sell to a fortunate few. In addition to that they have started to produce a magnificent range of dry still wines from their own vines recognising that the market for old style 'Rancio' fortified wines is now limited. The 'Coste' white wine is fermented and aged in barrels, and strikes a beautiful balance between mineral undertones and a generous burst of rich fruit. Made from 100% Macabeu, the vines are are cultivated to ensure low yields and perfectly ripe fruit, from vines with an average age of 60 years.
Our second wine is from Domaine Courbissac, their orange wine cuvee called 'L’Orange'. Situated in the heart of the Minervois, this small 5 hectare farm operates under the deft hands of Brunhilde Claux and is building a reuptation for elegant age worthy red wines which are a direct contrast to the powerful deep reds made by most of the region. L'Orange is made with a relatively short skin maceration and is a delightful introduction to orange wine. It has a distinctive freshness and a subtle Muscat-led complexity. The fresh, grapey, floral aromas invariably provide the perfect counterbalance to the savoury character of orange wine.
Our third wine within the collection is a wild, scented rose from a sea-facing site in Banyuls. Biodynamically produced, by the iconic Casot de Mailloles, this super-fresh Rose, crafted from Syrah, with a touch of the white grape Marsanne is bursting with vibrant red fruits, texture and garrigue scented complexity.
It’s from another small estate, just 5 hectares, originally made famous by Alain Castex (who sadly recently passed away while tending to his vines) and Ghislaine Magnier who ran the estate from the 90s until 2015. Production has now been passed to Jordi Perez, who is a winemaker very much from Alain’s mould. Importantly, he continues to make wine very much in the Casot style, but with a little stamp of his own.
At Casot de Mailloles, the terrain is steep, so all of the work is done manually and with horses, and the old vines grow on the unique dark schist that is found here. Strictly organic and biodynamic, they use only natural fermentation and never filter or fine the wines and sulphites are avoided entirely. Production is tiny, (in 2022, Jordi told us they produced only 5 hectolitres per hectare, so low that the vines are now not viable and Jordi has rented some vines in the Jurancon to supplement his activities). The wines at Le Casot are stunning remain highly sought after amongst natural wine devotees, and for good reason.
For our fourth wine, we return to the Domaine de Courbissac's to discover ‘Les Traverses’, a particularly soft, fruity red from the Minervois. The wine exhibits an elegance attributed to the clay and limestone rather than the firmness of the schist soils which typify the region's wines. Les Traverses is a real crowd pleaser, delightfully easy drinking, versatile with bright red fruits, herbs and a lovely round palate.
Our fifth wine is by up and coming producer Joe Chandellier, with the cuvee ‘Les Bruyeres’. This super little natural wine is 100% old vine Syrah from the heart of the Languedoc. Located in St Côme et Maruejols, 12km from Nimes, the vines are north facing and benefit from cooling breezes which flow down from the nearby hills. This helps to keep the acidity in the berries and enables Joe to make fresh youthful reds full of vitality and fruitiness. ‘Les Bruyeres’ is made with carbonic maceration which lasts for 8 days. The wine is aged in fibre glass tanks, with just a small amount of sulphur added at bottling. Medium in weight, with bright, plummy fruit, a touch of spice and just the right amount of rusticity. Bright and fresh enough for drinking on its own, but would also be a great partner to lighter meat dishes or a cheese board.
The final stop is with an absolute legend of the Faugeres region - the wine is called ‘Tradition’ is made by Leon Barral, and is a blend of Carignan, Grenache, and Cinsault. A wine of utter sophistication; damson, violet and cherry in abundance, with a wild, herbaceous undertone. Didier Barral's commitment to biodynamic farming enriches the soil, allowing micro-organisms to create a rich, porous, and lively terroir, cultivating wines that are as true to their origin as they are delightful to the senses.
Didier Barral has 25-hectares of biodynamically-farmed vineyards on slightly acid schist soils full of biodiversity. His ethos goes beyond the vineyard: all grape sorting is done by hand, fermentation takes place naturally, and the wines have long macerations followed by periods in wood to settle and mature, before bottling without fining or filtration, and just a touch of sulphur.
It’s appropriate to round-off the details of the case with some words from Didier Barral:
“Nowadays, farmers feed the planet but destroy it at the same time. Sometimes they think they are doing the right thing by ploughing too often for example, which eventually damages the soil structure. We have to observe nature and to understand how micro-organisms operate. Then we see that tools and machinery can never replace the natural, gentle work of earthworms, insects and other creatures that travel through a maze of tunnels, creating porosity and aerating the soil, making it permeable and alive. There’s grass in our vineyards and amongst the grass, there are cows and horses: a whole living world that lives together, each dependent on the other and each being vital to the balance of the biotope.”
As the Tour de France showcases the endurance of the world’s best cyclists, this case is a demonstration of the persistent pursuit of excellence by the dedicated winemakers of this region! Our British summer might be on a hiatus, but we can, in the meantime, enjoy some sunshine vicariously, with this case!