The south of France has many charms and the dark, red wines of the Côtes du Roussillon Villages are a real pleasure, especially in a great vintage like 2009.

The larger area known collectively as the Languedoc-Roussillon is an expansive region stretching from about the city of Nimes in the east to the border of Spain. While thought of as one large region, the area is actually two distinct appellations: Languedoc in the north and Roussillon in the south. If one were to provide an overarching stereotype to the two regions, one might say that the Languedoc has more in common, stylistically with the southern Rhone region, while Roussillon shares more in common with southeastern Spanish regions. No matter, the wines that hail from either area are quite diverse, but all share a more rustic style – the reds especially are big, dark-complexioned with flavors that give an obvious nod to their surroundings.

The smaller region of Côtes du Roussillon Villages is reserved for higher-quality red wines from the greater Roussillon region. Located in the hilly northern part of the Roussillon, the vineyards in the region have a long track record of producing a higher-tier of quality wines. The Côtes du Roussillon Villages does contain four named sub-regions: Caramany, Latour de France, Lesquerde and Tautavel, which may be listed on the label if the grapes originate from within their boundaries. If no designation is made, then the grapes hail from non-designated parcels.

Soil types vary in the overall region, but the presence of the ubiquitous garrigue (low-lying scrub brush on limestone soils) imprints much of what is produced. The climate is resolutely Mediterranean in character – hot, dry with some moderating winds, which makes for a ripe, disease-free crop.

MasLavail

The Mas Lavail Tradition is a blend of 40% Shiraz, 40% Carignan and 20% Grenache Noir, which is the usual cast of characters in this region. In researching the wine, I found the following from the importer’s web site:

Nicolas Batlle, an enthusiastic young winegrower, farms the lands of the Mas de Lavail with his family in the heart of the Maury appellation in the Rousillon region.

This exceptional terroir consists of black shale and calcareous marl set between the Corbières and the Pyrenees at the foot of the Cathar castle, Quéribus. This location has a micro-climate which is favourable to noble grape varieties such as Grenache, Carignan and Syrah.

The property’s wines are produced from old vines and are concentrated, generous and elegant.

I also found the “technical” details of the wine – The vineyard comprises 8.04 hectares (19.54 acres) with an average vine age of 60 years. The soil type is listed as limestone-clay and the vineyard is noted as being “traditionally” managed. I assume that the term differentiates practices that would otherwise be considered “organic” or “biodynamic.” Grapes are harvested manually and are vinified, again, using “traditional” methods. A long maceration time is noted, which clearly is evidenced in the deep color of the wine. Total production is set at 30,000 bottles and it appears that the wines are aged for 12 months before bottling. The winemaker notes a 5 year aging potential, which I confirmed with my own tasting.

I found the wine to be quite stunning and well worth the price…

My tasting note:

Ripe, Jammy nose with explosive fruit – garrigue, pepper and floral hints. Full-bodied with moderate acidity and firm, dry tannin. Dark fruit core with black cherry, tar and spice notes. Moderate length with a layered finish – very nice. Drinking well now and should improve with another 3 to 5 years in the bottle.

At an average bottle price of $16.99 before the discount, this wine is a very respectable value.

Cheers!

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