The Languedoc-Roussillon wine is often shortened to simply “The Languedoc”, but that does a disservice to Roussillon, the French part of Catalonia which stretches down to the border with Spain. It does have its stars in the fortified sweet wines of Maury, Rivesaltes and Banyuls, but here we turn our attention to its table wines.
Domaine Lafage are based in Perpignan and produce a large number of different cuvées – white, rosé, red and Vins Doux Naturels. I’ve enjoyed some of their bottles before, including their Nicolas (made from old vine Grenache Noir) and Côté Est (a blend of Grenache Blanc, Chardonnay and Rolle), but here are two that I tried recently that really impressed me:
Lafage “Centenaire” Côtes du Roussillon AOP 2018 (13.0%, RRP €19.95 at Baggot Street Wines, McHugh’s, Sweeny’s D3, DrinkStore, Redmonds of Ranalagh, Martins of Fairview, The Vintry Rathgar and Blackrock Cellar)
The name of this wine comes from the age of the vines – some of them are a hundred years old with the rest not far behind. 80% is made up by Grenaches Gris and Blanc (the split is not given) and the remaining 20% is Roussanne. Such old vines have very low yields (30 hl/ha) but give intense concentration of flavour. 30% of the blend is aged in new French oak for 4 months, with bâtonnage.
Being mainly Grenache the Centenaire has a broad palate, rich but dry and herby. This might sound something of a contradiction, but the spicy pear and quince fruit comes in the attack and mid palate with the finish being crisp and dry. In terms of style it is not dissimilar to a southern Rhône white, but crisper on the finish than most.
Lafage Cadireta Côtes Catalanes IGP 2018 (13.0%, RRP €19.95 at Baggot Street Wines, McHugh’s, Sweeny’s D3, DrinkStore, Redmonds of Ranalagh, Martins of Fairview, The Vintry Rathgar and Blackrock Cellar)
The Cadireta name is of a specific climat which has deep, rocky soils. Vines are a mixture of trellised and bush vines, planted in an east-west orientation to preserve acidity as much as possible. The grapes are harvested in the (relative) cool of night, a practice common in Australia. 30% of the wine is fermented and matured in new Burgundian oak barrels, similar to the Centenaire, with 70% cool fermented in stainless steel. Only 8% of the final blend goes through malolactic fermentation, adding a touch of roundness.
Now for the unusual feature of this wine: the grapes harvested are 100% Chardonnay but they are matured on Viognier lees – something which is quite innovative and adds a real depth of flavour. Melon and red apple from the Chardonnay and vanilla from the oak are joined by apricot, peach and floral notes from the Viognier. It’s a lusciously peachy wine yet remarkably fresh and crisp. This much flavour and interest yet perfectly in balance make for a wine worthy of much praise.
These are both very good wines and excellent value for money. For drinking on their own my marked preference is for the Cadireta – and I’m not alone as it has just won the White Wine of the Year at the Irish Wine Show! With food, I think that the Centenaire would be a little more versatile…so perhaps a bottle glass of each!