Tuesday 10 March 2009

Judging Minervois

The Chai Port Minervois, beside the canal du midi in Homps, is an excellent shop window for Minervois wines. Its manager Laurent de Roulhac, is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about local wines and each year he organises as series of tastings to select the best wines for the Chai.

The tastings are held at the Maison du Minervois in Siran and involve tasting various flights blind and rating them in terms of quality and value for money. I tasted a flight of upmarket Minervois reds, ranging in price from €6 - €11. It was a respectable line-up with no real mingers. My favourite was 2006 Chateau du Donjon, a beautifully balanced, elegant Minervois with fine tannins and good depth of black fruit with hints of tea and smoke. Well worth €9/bottle. I also enjoyed the Cuvée Vincent Minervois from Domaine Festiano in Tourouzelles. It was brimming with ripe blackerry and raspberry fruit and good value at €7.10. I liked the Minervois from Domaine Entretan, finding it concentrated and long with a lovely garrigue nose. Sadly, my co-tasters disagreed with me. The 1997 Chateau Maris had attractive depth of black fruits on the palate, framed by youthful but smooth tannins, and an impressively long finish. It lost points from me for an overly reductive nose.


  1. Is the Donjon just their regular Grande Tradition? If so, I've seen it here, in the far reaches of the Northeast US, but have not yet tried it. I'm a big fan of Minervois, particularly d'Oupia (at least prior to Andre Iche's untimely death), for which I often come in for ribbing from wine snobs.

  2. Bob, I think it was the cuvée prestige which is a bit more expensive than the traditiion. I reckon you get the last laugh a propos wine snobs. There are some great Minervois wines, and at a fraction of the price of cru classé Bordeaux and 1er Cru Burgundy!

  3. Juliet, if it's the Cuvee Prestige I can't get it here. C'est dommage!
    Today I bought a 2005 Chateau Maylandie Corbieres Vielles Vignes that had just come into my local shop here in Maine (USA). What do you know about this producer? I had a couple of their wines 2 years ago and liked them. And I mentioned this wine to the same wine snob I was principally referring to (who, incidentally, is a friend and quite amusing, and who works at the shop part time)), and suggested he try a bottle. He said, in essence: "Corbieres! That's as bad as Minervois." In fairness to him, he's in his 80's and when he last tried Minervois and Corbieres, probably 30 years ago, maybe it wasn't worth drinking. And yes, his wine drinking life has principally been top growths Bordeaux and Burgundy, and he has trouble getting beyond that. C'est dommage.

  4. I've never visited Ch Maylandie but I've tasted a couple of their wines. The white and their top red, Villa Ferrae. I forget the vintage but the VF was very good and benefited from decanting as it was a big wine and it had thrown quite a sediment. You've reminded my that I should check this domaine out. Thanks.

  5. Can you elaborate a bit more on the term reductive nose. Does it mean solid and a bit four square, chunky, lacking refinement?

  6. Graham - a 'reductive' nose is one that smells eggy or cabbagey and is sometimes almost metallic. It is not particularly pleasant and it suppresses the fruit character in the nose.

    In extreme forms (Ch Maris wasn't extreme, just a bit offputting) it is considered a wine fault and is caused by an excess of sulphur compounds in wine. These sulphur compounds are formed during vinification and maturation in the absence of oxygen. Reduction is the opposite of oxidation.

    Often a wine which smells reductive can be improved by decanting (and therefore introducing oxygen). That is what I tend to do. Chucking a copper based coin into the wine can help too as the copper reacts with the hydrogen sulphide and removes the excess sulphur compounds which cause the offputting smell.