Valérie and Dominique Ibanez typify a new generation of Languedoc wine makers who have realised the viticultural potential of the landscape and have been brave enough to throw caution to the wind and set up as vignerons independents. Both sets of their parents were co-opérateurs, selling grapes to the local grower's collective but Valérie and Dominique decided to do their own thing and started Domaine de Roquemale from scratch in 2001. Based in the town of Villeveyrac they now cultivate 13 hectares of organically certified vines that benefit from a long ripening season, iron-rich bauxite soil and cooling coastal influences. Their popular 'Meli Melo' red is made from red-fleshed Alicante Bouschet and a soupçon of Syrah and has been fondly described as the 'Beaujolais of the South' due to its bright red fruit characteristics and supple tannins. Anyone keen to explore the locale should book up the chambre d'hôtes holiday let that they run above their wine shop in the centre of the village.
Domaine de Montcalmès
Fréderique Portalié cut his wine-making teeth under the tutelage of Alain Graillot back in 1996 and has since made a name for himself producing wines of great character and quality at his base in Puéchebon on the Terrasses de Larzac, 30 kilometres north-west of Montpellier. His Domaine de Montcalmés currently extends to 22 hectares of vines in 4 communes - Puéchabon, Aniane, Saint Jean de Fos et Saint Saturnin de Lucian. After 3 years under conversion, his entire vine holdings have now been certified as organic which, one must assume, will only add to the burgeoning demand for his wines. For his principal red wine, Fréderique deploys 60% Syrah and 20% each of Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre that undergo a 2 year élévage in vat, oak barrels and larger (600 litre) demimuids before being blended and bottled. The finished wine has a beguiling bouquet of wild herbs and berries and a ripe, concentrated palate of red and black fruit with supple tannins and peppery notes. It is a great food wine and 25% of the 4,000 case annual production is snapped up directly by French restaurants.
Domaine de la Grange des Pères
A visit last year to Laurent Viallé's ground-breaking Domaine de la Grange des Pères, outside Aniane on the eastern flank of the Terrasses de Larzac, found the patron on stoical form having lost half of his potential 2017 harvest to wild boar. He will no doubt to turn his friend and sometime mentor Eloi Dürrbach at Domaine de Trévallon for advice on anti-boar fencing, as Eloi had exactly the same problem in 2016. Happily, the quality of the fruit that was picked was excellent but it will impact on the final assemblage as the dreaded sangliers have a marked preference for (sweeter) Syrah than (more tannic) Mourvèdre and Cabernet Sauvignon. An extensive barrel tasting of the component parts of the 2016 vintage soon restored smiles as it is clear that this is going to be a worthy successor to the acclaimed 2015. As in Burgundy and the Rhône, there is a fine concentration of ripe fruit but with a notable freshness and acidity that should impart finesse as well as longevity. Typically, the final blend of Grange des Pères is 40% Syrah, 40% Mourvèdre, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Counoise. The finished wine is so harmonious it is remarkably accessible on release but really comes into its own with 3-5+ years bottle age. It makes a fine partner to slow-cooked stews and daubes; wild boar being an obvious suggestion!