Spotlight on Languedoc-Roussillon: La Peira “Las Flors” 2005 Coteaux du Languedoc

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Robert Parker is famous for turning back-water wineries into international superstars overnight, regardless of pedigree or old-school reputation. All that is needed are three simple digits. This has understandably made wine lovers wary of critical proselytizing and euphoria about the next great producer that you’ve never heard of.

But proper critical appraisal also requires an open mind to the contrary – massive scores for little known wineries should not in themselves negatively dictate a wine lover’s assessment of quality. While a pretence to objectivity has never sat well in my mind’s critical eye, an attempt at neutrality and open mindedness is surely essential.

La Peira seems to be one of the newest superstar winery discoveries for critics ranging from Robert Parker to Gary Veynerchuck to Andrew Jefford and Jancis Robinson. These critics have been raving about the outstanding quality from this new estate in the Coteaux du Languedoc’s “Terrasses du Larzac” climatic sub-region. Is all this hype substantiated? After a careful and open minded tasting of three of La Peira’s wines, I have to concur with the talking heads and recommend these wines as some of the best from the Languedoc.

The Winery

Begun in 2004, La Peira is the joint effort of winemaker Jérémie Depierre (a young vigneron who spent time at Château Margaux and Château Guiraud), Karine Ahton (a lawyer from the Languedoc), and Rob Dougan (a writer/composer of music). This is a quality first operation: low yields, hand picking, meticulous attention to detail in the vineyard and in the cellar. La Peira does not rack, does not fine or filter and thus they rely on meticulous work in the vineyard to ensure fruit of impeccable quality. La Peira does not use chemicals in the vineyard and in fact works the soil by hand rather than by machine.

The limestone and gravel soils date from the Late Jurassic period and are home to 10-40 year old vines planted of the varieties Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Roussanne, Cinsault, and Carignan.

The Terrasses du Larzac

The Terrasses du Larzac, a relatively new sub-regional “climat” in the Coteaux du Languedoc, also sits at one of the highest elevations in the entire region. Wines from the Terrasses are known to be both intense and wild.

These are the most northerly vineyards in Languedoc-Roussillon and sit well back from the sea, thus limiting the temperature moderating effects of the Mediterranean. Thus, summers are longer and warmer than average and winters can be quite cold here. The average rainfall is a fair amount higher than the rest of the Languedoc.

Andrew Jefford has called the Terrasses du Larzac the potentially greatest region in the entire Languedoc-Roussillon. Big words.

The Wine

There was a fair amount of oak on the nose, but still it smells fresh with its plummy notes and baking spices. Once again, the wine is fairly oaky on the palate, but is also very well balanced for this style.

Right now, it seems that the oak is a little too pronounced, but this is smooth and long in the mouth and has tremendous potential. As for flavour, baking spices, plums, and toast intermingle quite deliciously. The 14.5% alcohol is well integrated, but does give the wine a fair amount of weight, which is quite impressive considering the freshness.

Thus far, the wine has yet to come into its own and needs more time in the bottle to develop structure and nuance. I do, however, think it has quite a bit of potential. This is not to say that I am not excited about La Peira, I am. But it was another of their wines – to come – that really opened my eyes. The Las Flors is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah.

Very Good+
$50 at Marquis

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