Master of wine, Matthew Stubbs reviews great wines for autumn
September is the most exciting time in the winemaker’s calendar. After 12 months of waiting, nurturing, treating, and hoping, the grapes are ready to be picked. Harvest time is a stressful, often nervous, time for a winegrower. Regular analysis and tasting of the fruit, consulting daily meteorological reports and phoning around for pickers (for those harvesting by hand) take up much of the working day. Making the right call at the right moment can mean the difference between a great or an average wine. The immediate build up can also be frenetic with the need to empty the tanks and barrels to free up space for the new vintage. Many mobile bottling lines work overtime in July and August to bottle the last remnants of the previous year’s wine so that everything is clear for the new intake.
The change in temperature and the shorter days prompt a slight shift in wine drinking habits. Less rosé is consumed and the bigger reds come back in to vogue. It is not a time to ignore whites and, as the oyster season returns, the perfect accompaniment is the crisp, refreshing Picpoul de Pinet “Beauvignac” 2008 Cave de Pomerols. It is difficult to be loved when you are a Cave Cooperative. Often seen as big, monolithic structures producing average quality wine with dubious reputations, this is the unglamorous side of wine production. However, good Caves Cooperatives can be the source of some of the best value for money wines in the region. The Cave de Pomérols shows that ‘big” can also be “beautiful”. With 450 members, 650 hectares of vineyard producing 15.6 million bottles of wine a year, this is a sizeable operation. However, strict control of the vineyards, 100% traceability, very modern winery equipment and a professional commercial team have created a deserved quality reputation for this Co-op. And at only €4.10 a bottle this is a great alternative for the Muscadet loving wine consumer.
The Corbières is the perfect profile for autumn and Château La Voulte Gasparets Cuvée Réservée 2007 is a textbook example of the region’s wines. This 64-hectare estate is situated in the heart of the Boutenac commune in the Corbières, a terroir so well regarded that it has recently been awarded its own appelation. Much of the Corbières is ancient, wild and inaccessible; this estate is few of those things though the wines do show a hint of that “4 horsemen of the Apocalypse” character under their polished exterior. A world-class producer, La Voulte Gasparets regularly tops the polls as the best domaine in the Corbières. This estate is also home to some of the oldest vines of the region, with a parcel of Carignan at 115 years of age.
As the nights draw in, puddings become more popular and deserve a decent dessert wine. The Languedoc-Roussillon is home to some of the world’s most diverse and interesting fortified wines but the Domaine Mas Neuf L’Incompris Muscat 2007 Vin de Pays d’Oc provides an interesting twist on the usual examples from this variety. Made by the Late Harvest method as opposed to fortification, the wine is less alcoholic than its Vins Doux Naturels counterparts. Scoring 10 on the Richter scale for aromatics with an explosive nose of orange blossom, tangerine peel and lime marmalade this is a classic example of Muscat. The intensity of fruit, surprising level of acidity and well-balanced structure make this the perfect companion for fruit-based desserts and propelled the wine to victory in the “Top 100 Vin de Pays” competition, winning the sweet wine trophy. Sourced from the private vineyards of the Jeanjean family (owners of the largest negociant in the region) this is nectar in a glass and, at €12 for a 75cl bottle, an absolute steal.
So, spare a thought for the sleep-deprived vigneron when next stuck behind a tractor or machine-harvester over the coming weeks. When they make wines like this, an extra five minutes on your journey time is a price worth paying.
© Matthew Stubbs MW
Contact details for the domaines reviewed here are given below.
Learn more about Languedoc-Roussillon wines! Matthew Stubbs is a master of wine and offers a range of wine tasting events at Vinécole near Carcassonne ranging from a thirty minute speed tasting through to a one day wine experience. Visit the Vinécole website for more information.
Cave de Pomérols – Les Costières de Pomérols
tel: +33 (0)4 67 77 01 59
Château La Voulte Gasparets
tel: +33 (0)4 68 27 07 86
Domaine Mas Neuf – Vignobles Jeanjean
34725 SAINT FELIX DE LODEZ
tel: +33 (0)4 67 88 80 00