FULL THROTTLE LA CLAPE

FULL THROTTLE LA CLAPE image

by Rose Murray Brown MW

Published in The Scotsman 6 April 2013

It has a memorable name - and even more memorable wines.  Full throttle La Clape can be some of the most exciting wines in the whole of Languedoc Roussillon, yet prices still seem quite reasonable compared to other cult enclaves in Southern France.

Vines have grown on this rocky outcrop right down to the sea shore since the days of Julius Caesar.  Some call La Clape a mountain, but coming from Scotland I would call it barely consider it a hill, more of a ‘rise’ – it was once an island protecting Narbonne’s harbour over two thousand years ago.  What makes La Clape unique viticulturally is its hard limestone scree soil and unusually warm maritime climate.  Its wines are often riper and more luscious than its Languedoc neighbours, but they always have an amazing freshness.

I have tasted from several La Clape estates – whilst they all have this distinctive hallmark in their wines – none have impressed me as much as one single estate, Chateau d’Angles (pictured right), who under their new owner are now making fabulous wines on offer at attractive prices.

Chateau d'Angles La Clape“I spent a year looking in the Languedoc before I discovered this perfect position facing the sea with unique sunny climate, pebbly/limestone soils surrounded by the famous garrigue”, explains Eric Fabre owner of Chateau d’Angles.  He and his wife Christine bought the historic Mas, whose name derives from its first post Revolution owner, and moved here from Bordeaux in 2000.

Fabre’s credentials are impressive.  Born and brought up in Bordeaux, where his family have been winemakers for five generations, 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: they say that Mourvedre is happiest facing the sea – something we have in common”, he says.

Chateau d’Angles Rose is now 80% Mourvedre with a little Grenache and Syrah: for those who enjoy southern French roses this is a must.  It is stronger and richer than a coastal Provence rose, but it has a wonderful texture and long dry finish.

Once Fabre had arrived in La Clape, he also discovered another treasure here – the white Bourboulenc grape: it has turned out to be a total revelation for me”, he says.

La Clape is the only appellation based on the Bourboulenc grape: 350 out of France’s total 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 lovely Classique Blanc is based on 60% Bourboulenc which gives freshness and structure, blended with 20% Grenache Blanc to add fruity notes and 10% each of Rhone grapes Roussanne and Marsanne to increase complexity and add a little spice.

Chateau d'Angles La ClapeAngles is now very much a family affair with Fabre’s son, Vianney (both pictured right), now involved after five years working with Champagne Bollinger.

TASTE TEST:

Chateau d’Angles Classique Blanc 2010
(£11.99)
Floral, peachy, rich smooth palate, herby undertones: zingy salty edge giving it vital fresh feel to the mouth.  Suitable as an aperitif or with grilled fish.

Chateau d’Angles Classique Rose 2012
(£12.99)
A very fine dry rose with power and texture – a match for the best from Provence.  For those who find many roses from elsewhere too sickly sweet, this is a real find with its tasty dry finish.

Chateau d’Angles Classique Rouge 2009
(£11.99)
Very well-made and superbly balanced: ripe lush fruits, moderate acidity and fine grained tannins – a deftly made accessible Languedoc red made from the same grapes as a Cotes du Rhone (Syrah/Grenache/Mourvedre) but it tastes like a cross between a claret and a Rhone: this is superb value considering its quality.

Stockists: Peckhams, Glasgow & Edinburgh; Hawkshead Wines; www.crackinglittlewinecompany.co.uk; www.slurp.co.uk