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View of the Maury vineyard in the Roussillon (which joins the Languedoc to the south)

View of the Maury vineyard in the Roussillon (which joins the Languedoc to the south)

Anybody returning to this major wine-growing region of southern France who has not been there since the 1980’s would find it quite hard to recognize: the vines have mostly left the plains and reclaimed the hillsides. Oceans of high-yielding varieties such as Aramon have been ripped out and replaced, elsewhere, by Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Many cooperative wineries have disappeared and new independent wineries have taken their place. Changing landscapes, new faces and a renewed image combine to provide a different vision of Languedoc wine. And all this is constantly evolving.

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All you have to do is take a sniff of wines made with grapes such as poulsard, trousseau or savagnin (the latter in Vin Jaune mode or not) to realise that you have entered another world in wine terms, and not only made a close encounter with some rather obscure varieties.

 

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Perched quite high up between Burgundy and Switzerland, with its vineyards at around 400 metres above sea-level, this small vineyard region (2,000 hectares) has firmly stood by its own traditions and grape varieties. Sure there are increasing areas devoted to pinot noir and chardonnay that have crept in from neighbouring Burgundy, but even the chardonnays here can take on a strong local accent. Jura red wines (usually dark pink in fact) made with poulsard or trousseau are anything but fashionable: pale in colour, low on fruit flavours, with high acidity and firm tannins, they often also have animal-like or leathery aromas. One may love them or hate them but they certainly have plenty of character. This strong character can be even more noticeable with the white wines.

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Can you imagine a wine that is at the same time deep in colour, reasonably tannic, fresh-tasting with ripe fruit, weighing in at below 12° alcohol and coming from a cool-climate region (the Loire Valley) and a generally disastrous vintage (2013)? Sounds like an improbable combination? Yet, on February 26th 2015, we tasted just such a wine in order to wash down a delicious Montbeliard sausage (or the other way round).

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