Named after Minerva (the Roman goddess of wisdom) by invading forces bringing vines from Italy, Minervois has long been an important enclave of viticulture. Free-draining elevated slopes and a long ripening season yield predominantly red wines although small volumes of white and rosé are also produced. We tasted a lot of samples of Minervois that didn't quite 'cut the mustard' before we discovered the wines of Domaine Le Cazal back in 2011. We were looking for wines that were characterful but not over-extracted and many were either too 'thin' or too 'full'. Based just to the east of the eponymous village of Minèrve, the Derroja family have been cultivating vines and making wine in the hills above Minèrve since 1870 so have had plenty of time to master their métier. Today, they have 18 hectares under vine on lacustrine limestone soils planted with Syrah, Grenache Noir and Carignan. Their 'Tradition' bottling is made from roughly equal volumes of all 3 grape varieties and has a wealth of briary berry fruit, spicy undertones and fine-grained tannins which will support 3 to 5 years bottle age. It makes a fine accompaniment to Toulouse sausages or cassoulet and drinks well from release. A second bottling, called 'Pas de Zarat' comes from a parcel of mature rootstock and deploys the same cépagement but is aged in oak barrels prior to blending so is denser, darker and more long-lived. It merits decanting and pairs well with game.