Spotlight on Languedoc-Roussillon: Chateau de la Negly “La Falaise” Coteaux du Languedoc La Clape 2006

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As I finally move into the Languedoc I am happy to begin with Chateau Negly, perhaps the most well recognized and important producers in the Languedoc. But Negly’s importance comes less with its family traditions and more with its recognition by American media, which has helped to put both the winery and the region on the map. While Negly’s top cuvees are often criticized as behemoth over-extracted wines, this mid-range wine from the estate seems unrelated to such criticism.

The Terroirs of the Coteaux du Languedoc

While the Coteaux du Languedoc is the most diverse AOC in the region, the La Clape sub-region is a perfect place to start as it was the most important vineyard in the Languedoc in the Roman period. The Romans saved the wines made in La Clape to be shipped back to Rome (always a sign of the higher quality). Interestingly, La Clape used to be an island until the sea receded and connected it with the mainland. This separation still exists, however, with its unique micro-climate, which is one of the driest in the Coteaux du Languedoc. Today La Clape is at a higher elevation than the plains on which most vines are grown and it is the sea-mists that keep the moisture in the air in this region and the craggly outcrops of rock interspersed with garrigue and vines that give it its unique visual character. As is consistent in the region, the higher elevation helps to brings the wines made in La Clape greater complexity.

The Coteaux du Languedoc AOC has been divided to reflect the uniqueness of place, whether this be “terroir” in the soil and site sense or climate. La Clape is one of the 8 “Climats” of the region because of the unique lack of rainfall that I discussed above. There are also 9 “terroirs” in the AOC. It is understandable how all of this can become very confusing, which may prompt some to concentrate on finding good producers rather than buying by sub-region. However, there is also some interest in exploring the diversity that is available in the Coteaux du Languedoc, which as a microcosm reflects the diversity of wines available in the Languedoc-Roussillon.

Negly’s Winemaking

The “Cuvée de la Falaise” is Negly’s mid level cuvee and is produced from a 15 hectare portion of Negly’s 40 hectare vineyard. La Falaise means “Cliff” in French and the vineyard is a literal stones-throw from the Mediterranean. Everything is hand harvested and sees a week long cold soak and a 45 day macerated fermentation. Aged 12 months in half new and half 300 litre oak barrels.

Modern Wine with a Sense of Place

The nose suggests smoked meat and spices and is quite expressive and evocative. There is a briney quality to the wine, which contrasts nicely with its svelte texture. I find La Falaise to be very well balanced and very long. In fact, I think this quality level of wine would cost $70-80 if from the Northern Rhone.

Like many wines from Languedoc-Roussillon this marries elegance with great depth of flavour. I also appreciate that the fruit is very cool toned, which allows all the other amazing characteristics to come through – I would imagine this has a reasonable amount of Syrah and maybe some Mourvedre as well. With air, I noted Grenache characteristics coming through with sweeter cherry fruit. After checking online, I found out this wine is 55% Grenache and 45% Syrah, which is quite fascinating as I think the Grenache elements are subdued at this stage in the wine’s development.

Amazingly this wine is 15% ABV but it is so balanced it tastes more like 14%, which is a remarkable achievement in itself. This wonderful wine again proves the Languedoc marries elegance and power and can make world class wines for entirely reasonable prices.

Excellent
$43 at Marquis (Also, recently this was on an amazing special marked down from $25 to $10 at K&L in San Francisco)

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