The Western-Languedoc appellation of Minervois which sweeps down from the base of the Montagne Noir in the North to the Canal du Midi in the South is a vast and varied vine area where grapes have been cultivated since Roman times. Today there are over 5000 hectares under vine and over 150 independent producers who are bottling their own wine. Inevitably that represents a broad church and we had a long quest before we found a grower whose wines met our exact requirements. Some of the (what we in the wine trade call) 'entry level' offerings are rather thin and insipid, and wines at the other end of the scale tend to be over-worked in the cellar and eye-wateringly expensive. After countless disappointments we eventually stumbled across the wine from Domaine le Cazal and in something of a Cinderella slipper moment, knew that we had found exactly what we had been looking for.
Based in the region's heartland in the hills above Minèrve, brother and sister Claud and Martine Derroja are the fifth generation of their family cultivating 18 hectares of vines at 300 metres elevation at the base of the Black Mountain. Their 'Cuvée Tradition' is made from a blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah and Carignan and has appealing wild herb and hedgerow berry aromas and a lovely plummy palate with warming spicy undertones and supple tannins. It makes a great foil for simple rustic dishes such as Toulouse sausages or braised lamb shanks.
When the correct conditions prevail, the Derrojas also make an excellent 'Vin de Garde' called 'Le Pas de Zarat'. It too exhibits the Domaine's signature core of dark, ripe fruit but with greater complexity and concentration and a framework of rugged tannins that will readily support a decade's bottle age. It merits decanting and makes a great partner to roast beef or venison.