Ter­rasses du Larzac and Min­er­vois La Livinière reds

These Langue­doc heart­land ap­pel­la­tions of­fer am­ple choice for lovers of chunky, spicy reds. Yet, says James Lawther MW, they are re­gions of dif­fer­ing out­look

Decanter - - CONTENTS -

58 wines tasted No high-fly­ers, but an ex­cel­lent choice of full, spicy reds from the heart­lands of Langue­doc

The siM­i­lar­iTy be­TweeN Ter­rasses du larzac and Min­er­vois la livinière is, ini­tially at least, ap­par­ent. both are lo­cated in the foothills be­hind the plain in the shadow of a lime­stone plateau or causse. a Mediter­ranean cli­mate pre­vails but, in both cases, the cool night air from the higher causse helps to pre­serve fresh­ness and acid­ity in the wines. with pre­dom­i­nantly lime­stone soils and el­e­va­tions run­ning from 100m-400m, both ap­pel­la­tions re­quire a min­i­mum 60% syrah, Gre­nache and Mourvè­dre in the vine­yards.

There­after the sub­tle dif­fer­ences kick in. Min­er­vois la livinière es­tab­lished it­self as one of the langue­doc’s six crus as long ago as 1999. it’s a fairly com­pact ap­pel­la­tion, the 400ha in pro­duc­tion lo­cated in a de­lim­ited zone that en­com­passes six vil­lages. The soils are es­sen­tially lime­stone and, of the var­i­ous grape va­ri­eties per­mit­ted, syrah of­ten plays a dom­i­nant role. Cli­mat­i­cally speak­ing the ex­tremes tend to be avoided, al­low­ing greater con­sis­tency from year to year.

all this adds up to a rea­son­ably co­her­ent iden­tity, the wines rich and con­cen­trated with darkly fruited, spicy aro­mat­ics and tan­nins that are soft and gen­er­ally re­fined. in terms of pro­duc­tion there are some heavy hit­ters – Gérard ber­trand, les Grands Chais de France and the Cazes fam­ily of Château lynch-bages to name a few – but all told the num­bers haven’t changed over the last 15 years and you would have to de­scribe the mi­lieu as con­ser­va­tive rather than pro­gres­sive.

Mod­ern mind­set

The op­po­site is the case in Ter­rasses du larzac, where in the last five years 25 new do­maines have sprung up. since ac­quir­ing ap­pel­la­tion sta­tus in 2014 – even be­fore – Ter­rasses du larzac has been the place to be, would-be vignerons at­tracted by the avail­abil­ity, po­ten­tial and price of land. One con­se­quence of the new flow has been the adop­tion of or­gan­ics on a large scale, with more than 75% of the vine­yard now or­gan­i­cally or bio­dy­nam­i­cally farmed, or un­der con­ver­sion. Oth­er­wise, the area un­der vine is wider spread than in Min­er­vois la livinière, the 568ha presently de­clared ex­tend­ing through 32 dif­fer­ent vil­lages or com­munes. Cer­tain zones have a moun­tain feel and the di­ur­nal range of tem­per­a­ture can be as much as 20°C. it makes for a more ex­treme regime.

soils are pre­pon­der­antly lime­stone with a vary­ing mix of stones or galets roulés, silt and clay. but on the higher slopes in the north­west, schist and sand­stone pre­vail with, in the val­ley be­low, a moon­scape of vol­canic red earth known lo­cally as ruffe. Con­se­quently, there’s per­haps more di­ver­sity in blends and styles, though a defin­ing vi­brancy and struc­ture is gen­er­ally present.

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