IT HAS a distinctive name – and improved wines. Full throttle La Clape in Languedoc is one of the most exciting wine areas in the whole of southern France right now.
Vines have grown on this rocky outcrop right down to the seashore since the days of Julius Caesar. What makes La Clape unique is the combination of hard limestone scree and an unusually warm maritime climate – which makes wines riper and more luscious than its Languedoc neighbours, but always with amazing freshness.
I have tasted from several La Clape estates and none impresses as much as Chateau d’Angles, which under its new owners is making fabulous handcrafted wines at attractive prices.
“I spent a year looking in the Languedoc before I discovered this perfect position facing the sea with a unique sunny climate and pebbly/limestone soils surrounded by the famous garrigue,” says Eric Fabre, owner of Chateau d’Angles who moved here from Bordeaux in 2000.
Fabre worked as technical director at first growth Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Pauillac. “I loved the experience of working with cabernet sauvignon in Bordeaux, but my dream was to make mourvedre by the Mediterranean Sea,” he says.
“I knew that mourvedre would do well down here,” says Fabre. “It’s such a supple red grape with a soft and gentle character when grown in a coastal environment,” he says.
He has increased the proportion of mourvedre in his Chateau d’Angles Rosé to 80 per cent, with a little grenache and syrah. For those who enjoy southern French rosés this is a must. It is stronger and richer than a coastal Provence rosé, but it has a wonderful texture and long finish.
Once Fabre arrived in La Clape, he discovered another treasure – “the white bourboulenc grape: it has turned out to be a total revelation.”
La Clape is the only appellation based on the bourboulenc grape: 350 of France’s 500 hectares are found here. Fabre was lucky as the former owner planted a quality vineyard after the Second World War so his bourboulenc vines are 60 to 70 years old. His Classique Blanc is based on 60 per cent bourboulenc which gives freshness and structure, blended with 20 per cent grenache blanc to add fruity notes and 10 per cent each of Rhône grapes roussanne and marsanne to increase complexity and add spice.
Chateau d’Angles Classique Blanc 2010 (£11.99)
Floral, peachy, rich smooth palate, herby undertones: zingy salty edge giving it a vital fresh feel to the mouth. Suitable as an aperitif.
Chateau d’Angles Classique Rosé 2012 (£12.99)
A very fine dry rosé with power and texture – a match for the best from Provence. For those who find many rosés too sickly sweet, this is a real find with its crisp dry finish.
Chateau d’Angles Classique Rouge 2009 (£11.99)
Very well-made and superbly balanced: ripe lush fruits, moderate acidity, meaty, savoury with liquorice notes and very fine grained tannins. A deftly made accessible Languedoc red made from the same grapes as a Côtes du Rhone (syrah/grenache/mourvedre) but it tastes like a cross between a claret and a Rhône: this is superb value considering its quality.
Stockists: Drinkmonger, Edinburgh and Pitlochry; Peckham’s, Glasgow and Edinburgh; www.hawks headwines.co.uk; www.slurp.co.uk