Friday, 8 July 2016

To the Languedoc and back again: Bancroft's Mike reports...

Recently, Bancroft's very own Mike Unsworth and Managing Director Neil McAndrew recently took a trip over the channel to tour the realms the South of France in the company of some of their favourite vinous chums. Mike Unsworth reports:

"This time three weeks ago, we were stood on a plateau in the hills of the Languedoc, looking over the expansive vineyards of Domaine Cabrials. While our guests filmed the winemaker and quizzed him about a wine anorak's favourite subjects - soil types, pH levels, clonal selection and the like - we took a step back behind the camera and enjoyed a moment's rest with a cool glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Our guests were three lovely ladies from Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, charged with the task of getting our winemakers to cut to the quick and distill their wine knowledge into several short and snappy video clips. In between takes we treated them to a taste of the Languedoc: in two short days they must have sampled over 30 wines (and a good deal of local cuisine).

Their first taste was exceptional: we had barely checked into Hotel de la Cité de Carcassonne before we had to usher Sabina, Sarah and Katie into the hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant 'La Barbacane'. It turns out that Sabina isn't one for drinking, but no worries here. We soldiered bravely on and chin chin'd a round of rums (and another...and another...) on her behalf, sinking deeper into the night with each emptied glass.

The next day we shrugged off the after-effects of our indulgence and headed to Chateau de Musto meet the Family Julien. Brice was our guide around the resplendent Chateau and the much more rugged vineyard. The Chateau is home to a brand new reception and tasting room, ready and willing to welcome any intrepid adventurers who make it to Murviel-lès-Béziers in one piece.

We tasted a succulent, fresh Pinot Noir Rosé (very pale pink with wild strawberries and soft berry fruit) and an equally enticing red Pinot Noir available at a cracking price point. The new vintage Malbec offers up a more perfumed nose than previous vintages, a trace of rose petal on the nose and familiar bramble fruit on the palate. A must try.

Time was of the essence so after a whirlwind of a trip we waved goodbye and shot off to our next appointment with Daniel Orsolini and Claude Serra. Daniel is a slippery Frenchman I introduced to Bancroft many years ago, when I first joined, while Claude (his business partner) doubles up as a winemaker. Claude is responsible for Fred Olsen's house wine and Bancroft's very own Roc d'Opale. After a hair raising drive up into the hillside we took a look around the various vineyards, all the while scouting for an ideal spot to film our interview. We struck gold and got to shooting: passerby's giggles aside, Claude looked the part as Kate questioned him and Sabina filmed.

A tasting at Clos des Roques in the village of Cessaras was the perfect setting to learn more about the estate and its winemakers. Claude grew up with wine in his blood, a fourth-generation winemaker; his great-grandfather was a cooper living in La Clape located between Narbonne and the Mediterranean Sea. Their expertise can be tasted in Claude's fresh, crisp whites, replete with tropical fruit and citrus (Sauvignon) and iodine, aniseed, pear and honey (Grenache). While they match perfectly with warm weather grub - aubergine, grilled peppers, seafood - we were more interested in the reds to go with our BBQ chicken, rice, tomatoes and crispy duck skin pieces.

Before we knew it we were out of food, drink and time and we were on our way back again."

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