Friday 18 February 2011


The Côtes de Thongue is that gently rolling area between Beziers and Pezenas which covers 14 villages. It may only be classified as lowly vin de pays, but it has a good number of forward thinking, energetic producers who produce cracking wines that are great value for money. Domaines de l'Arjolle, la Colombette, Sainte Rose, La Croix Belle and St Georges d'Ibry to name but a few.

The newest kid on the block is Domaine Montazellis, since 2005 owned by a French/British couple Dhanya and Nova Collette. The domaine is between Alignan du Vent and Abeilhan and on the map it is called Montarels. They had to choose another name for their wines as Montarels was already used by the local co-op and Montazellis was the name of the property in the middle ages. There are a collection of ancient buildings and approx 11 hectares of vines here; sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, syrah, merlot, carignan and alicante bouschet with plans to plant grenache and some more white, perhaps viognier or vermentino. 70% of the production is sent to the co-op.

There first thing you notice on entering the lofty cave is a set of drums. Dhanya is a musician while Nova works in fashion, commuting to the UK every second week, and it is clear that they brought their creativity and imagination to bear on their vision for the domaine. Not only the wines but plans for renovations of house, stockage, gites and parking for camper vans etc. They have their work cut out as several of the buildings are still ruins but they intend renovating a bit at a time.

Danhya had no winemaking background but learnt quickly via a course in Pezenas, various stages at other producers and from the advice of his oenologue. Low yields, pigeage, modest use of oak result in a wines that have delicious fruit, excellent balance and are very fairly priced. They are not showy or incredibly complex but provide a lot of pleasure. My favourites were the chardonnay and their top Syrah, Etienne although their entry level syrah showed well on retasting/drinking in the evening.

Chardonnay 2008
nutty, creamy nose. Gentle toasty fruit - very discreet touch of oak which provides richness mid palate. Elegant. 7€

Merlot 2008
Easy drinking, brambly cherry fruit here. A quaffer. Only 5€ a bottle but in my view it's worth paying a euro more for...

Syrah 2008
Pure raspberry, cherry fruit. Good concentration and firm but ripe tannins. Decent length too. Good value at 6€

Syrah Cuvée Etienne, 2007
Named after their son who was born soon after their arrival in France, this is their top syrah which is aged for around a year in oak. 2000 bottles made. Deeply coloured, good concentration of spicy raspberry, blackberry fruit on nose and palate. Tannins are grippy but there is plenty of fruit to balance. Oak is evident but not dominant. Good length.

Kaiya 2008
Tiny quantity made of this late harvest sauvignon blanc, named after their daughter. Pretty, medium sweet, nutty.

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