Minervois is one of the names I remember from when I first got into wine as an impecunious student living in France for a year. Back in 1993 the appellation was still less than ten years old, and the wines were a small step up from the Vin de Pay d’Oc bottles on nearby shelves, but they were noticeably different from Bordeaux, Chinon and the like.
I was recently given a sample of Minervois to taste by the folks at Molloy’s Liquour Stores (an Irish off licence chain) so I thought I’d do a quick recap on some facts the Minervois delineated area:
- One of the biggest wine areas within the Languedoc-Roussillon region with around 15,000 ha under vine.
- Of this around 5,000 ha grow grapes for AOC wines, with the rest mainly Vin de Pays..
- Historically, the region’s capital has been the village of Minerve
- In addition to the main AOC Minervois there is also the longstanding AOC Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois (a vin doux naturel from the north east of the Minervois area) and the more recent AOC Minervois – La Livinière.
- AOC Minervois covers 61 communes (villages, 16 in the Hérault and 45 in the Aude)
- Maximum yields are 48 hl/ha
- AOC regulations require the wine to be blended, so single varietals are necessarily Vin de Pays.
- The vast majority of production is Red (84%) with some Rosé (13%) and a little White also made (3%)
- The main grapes for red and rosé are Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre
- The main grapes for white are Grenache, Bourboulenc, Maccabeu, Marsanne and Roussanne
Château du Donjon AOP Minervois Blanc 2014 (€12.95 Molloy’s)
So to the wine itself. And the first surprise for me, given my experience, was the colour – a rare Minervois Blanc! Before doing a bit of research I hadn’t even known about the whites, shame on me. The producer’s name translates as “Castle of the Keep” rather than directly relating to dungeons, but it’s pretty cool anyway.
Their Minervois Blanc is a blend of Vermentino and Roussane. Vermentino originally hails from Sardinia, though is also known as Rolle in the South of France, as Favorita in Piedmont. Roussane is well known in the Rhône and the rest of Southern France.
This is a fairly straight forward wine with lots of citrus and stone fruit, plus pleasant herb notes. It has good acidity which make it refreshing on a summer’s day, and could partner well with seafood or salad. Perfect for a summer picnic!