One of the keystones of our buying strategy is to remain open-minded and many of our best wine discoveries have been serendipitous. One such is Dominique and Valérie Ibanez's 'Meli Melo' from their Domaine Roquemale in Villeveyrac. We had never heard of Alicante Bouschet when we first encountered it at a wine tasting in the historic Abbaye de Valmagne back in 2014, but something about it piqued our interest and we made a tentative inaugural order to see if others shared our enthusiasm. Happily, they did and it now enjoys a loyal following on these shores and has garnered lots of positive press.
Dominique and Valérie deploy a base of 70% Alicante Bouschet (named after 19th Century cultivator Henri Bouschet) along with 20% Syrah and 10% Cinsault that are grown organically on iron-rich Bauxite soils. It drinks beautifully on its peppery youthful fruit and is known locally as 'the Beaujolais of the South' for its ripe red fruit characteristics and fresh finish; it is a versatile quaffable red that is perfect for picnics and barbecues.
Domaine de Montcalmès
Frédéric Pourtalié is a modest and under-stated wine-maker but when you meet him and taste his wines in his cellars in the hill village of Puéchabon on the Terrasses de Larzac, you can sense that he knows he is one of the best in the business and that his currency is rising. As with actors, artists and athletes, sometimes when an individual is at the top of their game they don't need to talk about it: it's plain for all to see!
Frédéric's red 'Domaine de Montcalmès' accounts for the vast majority of production although he does make a modicum of white wine and some single variety bottlings too. It is made from a blend of 60% Syrah and 20% each of Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre that are grown organically on Lacustrine limestone soils. Each parcel of grapes is vinified individually and matured in barrels of varying age and size for 24 months before blending and bottling. The finished wine is approachable on release (if decanted) and typically has a complex, dark garrigue berry, kirsch and wild herb bouquet and a rich, spice-infused black fruit palate with peppery undertones and a firm tannic structure that will readily support a decade's bottle age. It makes an excellent partner to game and mushroom dishes and has gained a loyal following amongst sommeliers and journalists and for special occasions.
Domaine de la Grange des Pères
Laurent Vaillé has an enviable C.V. that includes internships at J-L Chave in Hermitage, Coche-Dury in Meursault and Domaine de Trévallon in Provence. He produced his first wine in 1992 and rapidly established a reputation as one of the finest wine-makers in France. Based in the hills above Aniane north-west of Montpellier, his vine-holdings enjoy terrific drainage, cooling breezes, a long growing season and excellent light levels. Older vintages of his wines are fiendishly difficult to source on secondary markets and change hands for increasingly stratospheric sums.
Bottled as a humble 'Pays de l'Hérault', 'Grange des Pères' is made from a base of Mourvèdre along with lesser volumes of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Counoise. Each variety is vinified separately and raised for 24 months in Burgundy barrels of various sizes and ages prior to a rigorous assemblage. The finished wine is often remarkably approachable on its youthful fruit, but make no mistake, this is a wine for the long haul. With complex garrigue herb and berry scents and flavours and a core of rich, dark autumnal fruit supported by supple tannins, Grange des Pères is a wine that every oenophile should aspire to sample and feature in their cellar.