The behemoth appellation of Minervois - that came in to being in 1985 - covers a vast swathe of the western Languedoc bordered by the Montagne Noir to the north, the Canal du Midi to the south, Carcassone to the west and Narbonne to the east. With 30 cave co-opératives and over 200 independent producers, quality is inevitably variable but there have been seismic improvements in the 21st century and there are some finely-crafted and great value wines to be found. A case in point is Claude and Martine Derroja's 'Domaine de Cazal' located three kilometres to the east of the picturesque hill village of Minèrve, from which the appellation takes its name. The estate is comprised of 17.5 hectares of vines grown on steep, free-draining, limestone soils. Their popular 'Minervois Tradition' is made from a blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Carignan that are matured for 8 months in concrete cuves prior to assiduous blending and bottling. It has a deep purple colour, a briary bouquet and a rich, warming palate of wild garrigue berries supported by peppery tannins. A patron's bottling called 'Le Pas de Zarat' is made from the same cépage but has a longer élévage in oak barrels and is denser and more structured and capable of supporting 5-10 years bottle age.