Roussillon Grenache Blanc/Gris Cuvée

Here in the sunniest corner of southwestern France, after an earlier period of working abroad for other wineries, Jean-Marc Lafage and partner Eliane have followed in his father’s wine-making footsteps – establishing the sixth successful generation to take ownership for farming these historic vineyards in the Côtes du Roussillon. Arguably, the least selective AOC in the larger Roussillon region, it’s still best known for its abundant output of red wine and rosé. However, in the case of this vintner’s practices, somewhat less stringent official guidelines, and fewer entrenched traditions for fashioning their white wine allow for a more flexible, year to year recipe, particularly in the blending proportions of the allowable grape varieties.

The composition of 80% Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris (somewhat novel) is blended with 20% Roussanne and aged in both stainless steel tanks (70%), as well as, in new French oak barrels (30%). Their Grenache vines, averaging 90 yrs. of age, thrive in the ancient Quaternary soil (stony, gravelled) that lie within view of the Mediterranean seashore. Presumably, the significant maturity of the vine stock provides the namesake for this bottling called ‘Centenaire’ (Centennial).

The generally favourable terroir here is helped by the Tramontana winds that blow from the North-West, providing both a cooling and drying effect in the vineyards. In 2016, this vintner’s plots in Roussillon were mercifully spared the hail and frost that were otherwise widespread in France, making it a difficult harvest for many winemakers. Though Roussillon had less than desirable rainfall during the main growing season, the delayed harvest of smaller grape clusters allowed for enhanced acidity and a rich aromatic character. Despite having produced lower yields, 2016 is highly regarded as a banner year for quality.

Relatively new to the international market, this week’s DéClassé recommended offering, Domaine Lafage Cuvée Centenaire 2016, couldn’t be more attractively priced as a premium white wine. If you’re able to snap up a bunch, as you should if you’re a fan of fuller-bodied whites – then know that it will cellar well for at least 2 years or more.

Domaine Lafage

DOMAINE LAFAGE CUVÉE CENTENAIRE 2016
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #343491 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
14.0% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Midi, France
By: Domaine Lafage
Release Date: September 16, 2017

Tasting Note
With aromatic hints of vanilla and white fruit, this rich white wine has subtle citrus flavours with a flint-edged minerality derived from maritime soils. Try serving with food fare such as pasta carbonara, mild curries, ratatouille or fish dishes and mussels.

Languedoc-Roussillon Chardonnay

The European Union reclassified wine grading in 2011 to streamline the wide-ranging, comparative designations. In France, this now breaks down as AOP Appellation d’Origine Protégée, a premier classification with a fairly strict set of requirements; IGP Indication Géographique Protégée, the intermediate category with more flexible guidelines and a greater diversity of permitted varieties, and lastly, Vin de France, the most generic designation; allowing for the practice of cuvée — the blending of wine batches sourced from different growing regions.

Languedoc-Roussillon is by far the biggest and most prolific IGP zone, whose 2,700 wine producers are tending to approx. 245,000 hectares of vineyard. It also provides the namesake of d’Oc into the classification, likely derived from Lange d’Oc, one of two still actively spoken Provençal languages whose historical and cultural roots lie in the formerly independent kingdom of Aquitaine. Present day boundaries stretch between the Spanish frontier to the west, the Loire to the north, the Rhône region of the Gard to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea.

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Flourishing in a diverse set of global regions, Chardonnay can be finished in a broad range of styles. In Languedoc-Roussillon, apart from generally being a hot and dry zone that yields fully mature grapes, the easy-drinking Chardonnay style being produced is decidedly on the lighter and fresh side of the sliding scale. In the 45 years from the comprehensive overhaul that was begun in the early 1970’s, which saw the replacing of unremarkable vine stock with Noble Grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Viognier, there has also been a steady commitment to quality development while maintaining prices at competitive and attractive levels. Though it’s edging toward the upper tier of price-point for white wines in this humble corner of southern France, and relative to what one might expect for comparable quality wine in not-so-distant Burgundy — at $17.95, this bottling of Lafage Novellum Chardonnay 2014 is nonetheless fairly priced; outstanding value, and most importantly — delicious!

A 70% majority of this wine is aged in stainless steel, while the remainder sees the mild influence of wood; imparted during two months spent in second-use Oak barrels. What’s particularly novel in the multi-step finishing of ‘Novellum’ is that it also spends 3 months resting on the ‘lees’ (expired yeast) of a previously fermented batch of Viognier wine, which was filtered out and then transferred to the Chardonnay. It’s another one of the details that set this dynamic vinicultural partnership of Jean-Marc and Eliane Lafage apart from the more conservative, less-innovative, more-expensive wine-making crowd. Dictionaries say that Novellum is a latin adjective meaning: new, young, fresh, etc. I’ll add that it could also mean: will thrill your guests’ palettes alongside Thanksgiving food fare!

lafage-novellum

NOVELLUM CHARDONNAY 2014
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #390781 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
13% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Midi, France
By: Lafage
Release Date: October 1, 2016

Tasting Note
This medium-bodied white wine is marked by tropical/stone fruit aromas and flavours wrapped around some refreshing acidity and mineral notes. Try serving with roasted goose and a squash risotto, herb-crusted turkey with rosemary/thyme, spiced apple and sausage filled chicken or Cornish hen and stove top sage stuffing.

Côtes Catalanes Chardonnay

Here in the sunniest corner of southwestern France, after an earlier period of working for other wineries abroad, Jean-Marc Lafage and partner Eliane have followed his father’s winemaking footsteps; the sixth generation to steward a collection of historic vineyards in various pockets of Roussillon. Their property in the Côtes Catalanes IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) is by definition a mid-tier classification, lying between the coveted AOP and the generic Vin de France designations of the French grading system. However, in the case of this vintner’s inspired practices, the less-stringent guidelines and fewer entrenched traditions for fashioning blended white wine (in a region still better known for its reds and rosés) allows for a more flexible year-to-year recipe for selecting the proportions of the 23 authorized grape varieties. For this week’s DéClassé featured Domaine Lafage Cadireta Blanc 2014, the somewhat novel blend is 95% Chardonnay and 5% Viognier, with a third of the batch having been fermented in new Burgundy barrels and left to rest on its lees (expired yeast).

Flourishing in a diverse set of global regions, Chardonnay can be finished in a broad range of styles. In Languedoc-Roussillon, apart from generally being a hot and dry zone that yields fully mature grapes, the easy-drinking Chardonnay style being produced is decidedly on the lighter and fresh side of the sliding scale. 45 years on from the region’s comprehensive overhaul that was begun in the early 1970’s, which saw the replacing of unremarkable vine stock with Noble Grape varieties such as Merlot, Cab Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Viognier, there’s also been a steady advancing of quality while keeping prices competitive/attractive. At $16.95, this bottle exemplifies these facts, gloriously!

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Roussillon’s Mediterranean coastal areas are among the windiest stretches in south France, which can be both a blessing or curse depending on other factors and climate cycles in any given year. The five converging winds of the Scirocco, Cers, Autan, Marin, and Le Vent Tramontane that blows from the north-west, can provide a respite from the sometimes intense heat of the summer months; guard the vine stock against the proliferation of pests and disease, or in the case in 2014, be the bearer of calamitous hail and heavy rain storms that stunted harvests in the region. Fortunately for Domaine Lafage, their 20-year-old vine stock was largely spared the devastation. Fortunately for
lovers of un-doctored, mid-weight Chardonnay, the September harvest produced a noteworthy vintage of approx. 5,000 precious cases.

If you’re an informed LCBO Vintage’s customer, then you already know that the few cases which made it here will sell-out quickly. If you’ve waited for a recommendation, then it might well be too late to find some. Nonetheless, be encouraged; the 2015 vintage may prove to be even better – next August!

Lafage

DOMAINE LAFAGE CADIRETA BLANC 2014
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #448472 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 16.95
13% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Midi, France
By: Domaine Lafage
Release Date: August 6, 2016

Tasting Note
Featuring some delightful flavours and aroma notes of banana and tropical fruit, this also has the tell-tale vanilla accent of classic French Chardonnay. Try serving as a well-chilled aperitif with mixed charcuterie/cheeses, smoked ham, crostini, moules-frites or with mains of roast veal, lamb tagine, and mild curries.