Sunday, 29 September 2013

Domaine la Sarabande: Great value Languedoc drinking

A recent addition to the Sarabande vineyards
Sarabande is a relatively new addition to the up and coming Languedoc wine region within a region of Faugères.

It's run by two knowledgeable and friendly folk, Paul and Isla Gordon.

Their wines, produced from small parcels around Faugères, are superb drinking.

I was lucky enough to visit their house in the village during August and taste a few of their recent vintages.

They make several reds and a rose, and promote their work and wine via this enjoyable blog.

As you'd expect for the region, the grapes are mostly Carignan, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache.

Despite breaking one of the bottles of their wine in my suitcase flying home from Toulouse, I've managed to enjoy several bottles of their rose, mid range and signature reds since August.

Those I have sampled are pictured below (pinched from their blog but I hope they won't object). Their wines range from 7-8 Euros for the Rose, to 12.50 for the AOP Faugères and 25 Euros for the excellent "Les Espinasses".

Here's where to go to consider buying the wines. For cutting-edge boutique wine (if that's not too silly a term, which it may well be) from an emerging region lots of wine fans are excited about, it's well worth trying a few.

 Les Espinasses, left, is powerful stuff. At 15% it needs food to accompany it, but drinks beautifully.

I'm finding I am enjoying the good newer wines from the Languedoc more than my traditional Côtes du Rhône at the moment. They seem less predictable. Perhaps because they are new to my palate.

For value drinking, the bottle just below, AOP Faugères is pretty unbeatable at below £10 a bottle (pre UK tax).

I'll be buying a case of this as as soon as my 2011 Clos d’Alzan Côtes du Rhône Villages Signargues 2011 is exhausted. That arrives next week from those excellent folk at

(I bought it En primeur at a total cost with tax of about £7.50 per bottle, based on the excellent 2010. I'm not expecting it to be quite as good as 2010, but at that price I am sure it will still be worth it)

The Sarabande rose is also below. It's keenly priced, although I found it a little acidic. But that's probably me more than the wine. For some reason I find a lot of rose too acidic to have more than a glass of. For rose fans, I'd say try it, it beats buying from supermarkets any day.

If interested in buying the wines, contact

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Gerard Bertrand La Forge 2000 - A hidden Languedoc gem

Not cheap, but a rare gem
I first discovered La Forge in a wine shop in Shanghai.

An odd way perhaps, but it was via a friend who spends his summers in Languedoc-Roussillon, so perhaps not that much of a surprise.

The region is by far the best value place in the world for what are now wines of rapidly increasing quality.

Places such as Corbieres and Fitou have a reputation for bulk wines, mass production and less than average, fruity quality.

Not any more. Those wines of course still exist, but more and more boutique wineries, and much larger ones, are springing up to take advantage of the soil and weather.

In the past the Gironde river served as a connecting artery between Languedoc-Roussillon and Bordeaux. Wine used to be shipped down the river to bulk up clarets of the past. Whether this still happens I am not sure.

This wine, Gerard Bertrand La Forge 2000, is truly a hidden Languedoc gem. I also tried the 2001 and the 2002, plus a few others. The 2000 is a stand out. It is not cheap at around 50 Euros a bottle, but for a rare treat, if you can get it, it's highly recommended.

In the glass it's the colour of 20 year old left bank claret, with the complexity and smoothness to match.

It's a blend of Syrah and Carignan, the latter being a grape you see less often compared to better known equivalents in Languedoc, such as Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah and sometimes Cinsault.

Given the grape variety, La Forge 2000 lacks the tannins of Bordeaux, but has survived 13 years in vat, barrel and bottle to create a wine of supple richness, smoothness, complexity and a touch of sweetness.

This is without doubt the best non-Bordeaux aged red wine I've ever had. There are only a couple of hundred bottles of it left, according to our charming guide who took us around the winery. I imagine it does not have long until it is past it's best. The 2002 that we tried had gone over the edge, but the 2001 appears to have some ageing potential left until it reaches the heights of 2000, if that's possible given 2000 is a stand-out vintage in the region.

Given that wines from the far south of France lack the Bordeaux tannic structure ability to age for 10+ years this was a real find for me.

I visited the winery, Château l’Hospitalet, in mid/late August this year and a few more photos are below.

It's part of an impressive empire built up by Gerard Bertrand, a former rugby player for the French national side, over the last twenty years.

In the distance from the top of the hill you can see the sparkling of the mediterranean sea.

Mini-vertical tasting of La Forge 2000, '01,'02,'30. A difficult day.