David 6 March 2014
Andrew Jefford knows a lot about wine, he writes well and is a wine critic I enjoy reading. He’s published many books and writes for several high profile publications including Decanter Magazine. A native of the UK, he’s been keen on the
Languedoc region in the south of France for a long time, saying that “in fifty years, Languedoc will be producing as many great wines as the Rhône valley and rather more than Burgundy.” He's also lived there for the last 3 years.
The hope is he’s gathering information for another book that will cast light on this rapidly evolving and exciting region. I’m also a fan of Languedoc, having written about several wines from the region, which is why in April last year my interest was piqued when Jefford penned these words:
“I did a vertical tasting of the wines of La Pèira… They were shockingly, shatteringly good; it’s a long while since I have tasted wines which were quite that exciting from any region. It’s a jaw-dropping prospect for the future… every time I get a chance to taste these wines, they bring me uncommon pleasure. They are concentrated, perfumed, fleshy, heady, allusive and beguiling. Every bottle is drained to the last drop. As I polish the glasses afterwards, I begin looking forward to the next time… They could be the work of a genius.”Decanter, April 2013.
That’s an incredible rap - as a friend of mine rather humorously noted, “he’s not a gushy kinda guy.” A little bit of research uncovered more of the same though from other high profile critics:
“La Pèira continues to knock it out of the park and in my view is the leading estate in all of the Languedoc and Roussillon.”Jeb Dunnuck, March 2013, writer for The Wine Advocate and The Rhône Report.
“Wines that need not fear comparison with any of the world’s wine icons.”Robert Parker - The Wine Advocate #183.
And it’s not just praise from afar, the French themselves are onto it. Here’s Bertrand Rougier, editor of the Guide Lafont:
“In just a few years, La Pèira has established itself as one of the most groundbreaking properties of the Languedoc-Roussillon. The property now ranks alongside (and in some eyes even above) the best of the best in Bordeaux and Burgundy.” November 2013.
The superlatives go on but you get the picture - this is an extraordinary estate.
Its full name is La Pèira en Damaisèla and it was established in 2004 by composer Rob Dougan, an Australian expat based in London and his French-Chinese wife and lawyer Karine Ahton. The property is a tiny 11.4 ha and is situated in the Terrasses du Larzac, northwest of Montpellier.
Grapes were established here well before Bordeaux and Burgundy, but the region only received official recognition as an appellation within the Coteaux du Languedoc in 2005. Interestingly, this wild and idyllic terrain is also Roquefort (cheese) country. In 2004 the the region gained some celebrity when it appeared in the wine film ‘Mondovino.’ Since then Andrew Jefford has developed a theory “that Terrasses du Larzac is the greatest spot in Languedoc.”Decanter Feb 2009.
The familiar Languedoc varieties of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, cinsault and cargignan are found here and the usual restrictive French wine laws apply, stipulating blending percentages.
It’s a hilly place with parts of the appellation rising to over 800m. The resulting diurnal variations, as much as 20 degrees celsius, mean that the grapes mature slowly and steadily... a good thing.
The winemaker at La Pèria is the talented Jérémie Depierre, who gained his experience at no less thanChâteau Margaux (1st growth Bordeaux) and Château Guiraud (1st growth Bordeaux, Sauternes). Acclaimed consultant oenologist Claude Gros is also part of the team and brings a strong Bordeaux influence with him as well.
There were established vineyards in place when La Pèria was founded and the vines are now between 10-40 years old. These are intensively tended by hand and yields are miniscule. As with many great estates ‘less is more’ and the wines are made with as little interference as possible.
The wines of La Pèria are simply stunning and I highly recommend them to you.
1. Les Obriers de la Pèira 2011
65% cinsault and 35% carignan, this wine has been aged between 18-24 months in large old oak barrels before being bottled unfiltered and unfined.
You’ll be drawn in by the intense aromatics as soon as the cork comes out. It’s an intriguing wine - a blend we don’t often see and its aromas and flavours are enticing and familiar, yet a little hard to put your finger on. It has a combination of fresh, sweet and savoury that changes as the wine opens up - prunes, raisins, liquorice and cedar. It is soft and approachable, yet juicy and dense and shows great finesse - amazing given that it’s 14.5% alcohol. Rich and smooth with gentle tannins. Delicious.
“Savoury scents of undergrowth and mushrooms with lush, smooth, soft yet vivid fruit flavours and a faint chestnutty sweetness. Mouth-filling and poised”.Andrew Jefford (he’s not a fan of scoring).
“It displays a finesse oriented profile with notions of red and black fruits, old leather, rose petal, and background herbs carrying through the medium-bodied, seamless, and decidedly polished palate that has integrated, yet racy acidity keeping everything focused nicely. Turning more and more floral and elegant with air, it’s a beautiful wine that will drink nicely for 4-6 years.”91 points.Jeb Dunnuck, The Rhône Report March 2013.
“Raspberry, coffee, hazelnut, dried herb. Almost sticky feeling in the mouth, medium weight, some warmth, light tannin, blood and a bit of ash on a pretty decent finish. Solid, but sort of comforting. Certainly has interest and intrigue.”91 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front.
I couldn’t help but think what kind of wine I’d get for the same price from a major wine region like Burgundy. Though obviously a different style, I’d get basic Bourgogne Rouge, the simplest and most generic of the appellation’s wines. In the La Pèira I get something interesting, perfumed, with texture and twice the intensity! Pretty simple choice.
I can offer it for $40 a bottle. SOLD OUT - Check availability
2. Matissat La Pèira “Les Terrasses du Larzac” 2011
This unique wine is 100% mourvèdre that’s been aged for 18 months in large, new and old oak. Mourvèdre is a warm climate variety that’s been in Australia for a long time, where it’s known as Mataro, and has historically been used to make fortified wines. In France its traditional home is Bandol in Provence. You’re most likely to see the variety in a blend where it’s used to add colour, tannin and alcohol.
“Make no mistake this is a very special wine made on a very special estate.”Jancis Robinson at a vertical tasting of Matissat vintages 2007-2011. Not many critics have reviewed the current 2011 vintage, however in Nov 2013 the previous 2010 release was described as a “legend in the making,” scored 100 points and was named Best Red Wine of France in the Lafont Presse ‘Classement des Meilleurs Vins de France’ 2014.
The 2011 is a wine of powerful fruit, immense concentration and high alcohol, yet it in no way seems heavy or extracted. This refinement balances the explosion of flavour on the palate, giving it real wow factor. The wine tastes like mourvèdre, with dark fruit flavours of blackberry, blueberry and plum, and there’s no heavy oak influence. It also has a real silkiness, with none of the chewy toughness often found with the variety. Powerfully refined and intense - an amazing wine.
“Firm transparent deep crimson. Showing the mineral side of this wine at the moment. Delicate but sweet and seductive too. Very appealing. Transparent. This doesn't taste like a 14.5% wine. Very clean, pure and driven. Great energy.” Jancis Robinson, 17.5/20 (a very high score from her).
Yes – it’s worth it.
I can offer it for $150 a bottle (11 bottles available only). SOLD OUT - Check availability
3. La Pèira “Les Terrasses du Larzac” Rouge 2011
The top wine of the estate, known simply as La Pèira, is a blend of two thirds syrah and one third grenache. Meticulous fruit selection means that only about 300 cases are made.
This is a serious, serious wine - dense, plush and concentrated. Think Southern Rhône warmth and generosity meets Northern Rhône precision and intensity – which means that despite all the power, it’s not overdone and it’s built to age.
La Pèira is known to be incredibly consistent, maintaining this high standard each year. The 2007 release garnered this from Californian winemaker Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non (the most coveted cult Californian winery you’ve never heard of with a 6-year waiting list for the waiting list) “I have no idea what it costs, but just about whatever it is – buy it!” This single review resulted in the 2007 vintage selling out in the US.
Jeb Dunnuck described the 2010 vintage as “just about as good as wine gets.”Rhône Report, April 2013.
And the current 2011 release:
“Mid crimson. Treacle notes with herbs and spices. Dry finish. Still neat and racy. Transparent. Lively. Overall there is the trademark combination of minerals and sweetness. Sweetness dominates at the moment. Then a bit chewy on the end.”Jancis Robinson, 17/20.
“Elegance is all here, with cassis and plum fruit evocative of Médoc class and a spicy gently peppery finish rendering suitable homage to the Mediterranean.”Simon Field MW (UK).
For a wine of this quality, this is a bargain. Line it up next to a second growth Bordeaux or top Northern Rhône and the proposition becomes clear. And I can only see supply decreasing and the price increasing as the rest of the world cottons on. This is a fabulous wine and will age 20+ years. Go on… grab a treasure for your cellar
I can offer it for $180. SOLD OUT - Check availability