Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mas Cal Demoura

To appreciate wine, you can spend many a pleasurable hour drinking the wine, you can read books, and you can take courses. But if you really want to appreciate a region and its wines, nothing compares to being in the region, among the vineyards, talking to winemakers. In Languedoc-Roussillon, that challenge is huge! There are about 300,000 hectares of vineyards, producing about one-third of all the wine in France, or about 3 times the production of Australia. Just the AOC Coteaux de Languedoc (the appellation nearest to Montpellier) at 10,000 hectares of vineyards, is spread over about 11,000 square kilometres. Historically, Languedoc focussed on quantity over quality; much of the wine is vin de table: very ordinary everyday wine. But there are, reputably, some very good producers (I’ve got a list!) so let’s see who we can find.

Montpellier is a maze of one-way streets that, for the residents, makes traffic flow smoothly, but it’s hell for the tourists trying to get out (or in). We never did find the road north out of Montpellier that we wanted, but eventually we found a way out and headed north to Pic St Loup, then west to the Terrasses du Larzac, two of the 10 sub-appellations within Coteaux de Languedoc (renamed AOC Languedoc in 2007). There’s no recognized “wine route” in this region so we follow our own way. The road twists around the rugged mountainous landscape, with vineyards suddenly popping up here and there where growers decide that hillsides and plateaus can support them.

After lunch in Montpeyroux, we continue west to St Saturnin and then to Jonquières. Wine tourism here doesn’t compare favourably to the many other regions in France that we’ve visited. Perhaps because the good producers are small, many accept visitors by appointment only, or they have restricted visiting hours (morning only, weekdays only), none of which are consistent from one to the next. One shuttered door after another. I want to taste some wine!

As we’re just about ready to throw in the towel in Jonquières, we drive into the courtyard of Mas Cal Demoura. A guy in shorts and a t-shirt comes out to greet us: Vincent Goumard, owner and winemaker (along with his wife, Isabelle). We’d like to taste some wine and – whew! – he’s ready to serve. I feel an immediate affinity with Vincent; he used to work in strategic and financial consulting in Paris but said goodbye to all that, studied oenology in Dijon, and bought Mas Cal Demoura from Jean-Pierre Jullien in 2004. Mas Cal Demoura exports to the USA and Québec, but not yet Ontario. It seems odd to be sitting on a terrace overlooking a vineyard in Languedoc, tasting wine, and talking with a vintner about dealing with le SAQ and the el-say-bay-oh. He knows that the LCBO is the largest single buyer of wine in the world!  Vincent says that, because of their monopolies, getting a wine into the LCBO or the SAQ is El Dorado.

We taste our way through four of his wines:
L’Etincelle 2008, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault
A blend of (mostly) Chenin, with Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Muscat, and Petit Manseng
Aromas and flavours of citrus and tree fruit (pear, peach); surprisingly crisp acidity but a viscous mouthfeel; minerality on the finish

L’Infidèle 2007, AOC Coteaux de Languedoc – Terrasses du Larzac
A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cinsault; aged in 500 litre barrels
Aromas of black fruits, dried herbs, liquorice and leather; fruit-dominant with very soft tannins

Les Combariolles 2007, AOC Coteaux de Languedoc – Terrasses du Larzac
A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre; aged in 500 litre barrels
Aromas of blackberry, cassis, rosemary, thyme, pepper, gamy, and smoke; balanced by soft well-integrated tannins

Feu Sacré 2006, AOC Coteaux de Languedoc – Terrasses du Larzac
Old Vine Grenache; aged in 500 litre barrels
Very dark purple; aromas of cassis and black cherry, chocolate, sweet spice; soft tannins; powerful, concentrated, and rich in the mouth; WOW! Vincent recommends it with a chocolate dessert; I think it’s a meditation wine: a wine that you can easily drink on its own.

We leave with a bottle of L’Etincelle, L’Infidèle, and Feu Sacré. In the Occitan language, Cal Demoura means, “one must remain”. We’re glad this one did for us!

To see photo highlights, go to http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=10026&id=100000148392134&l=307b6461aa

1 comment:

  1. Loving your tales from the south of France.
    Keep it up!