April 4, 2017

Tasting the Pays d’Oc Gems Collection Part One

all aboard the Alphonsia Maria!

By In Exploring the Languedoc, Food and Wine, Photographs
How’s bout this for a fantastic place to stay while touring the Languedoc? Say Bonsoir, Bonjour, or whatcha to the Alphonsia Maria.

Just a taxi ride from Montepellier airport this Edwardian-period Dutch barge, was originally a freighter in Poland. Saw a re-birth as a private residence, then after a long journey through the French heartland to end up moored on the landward side of the Sunrise behind the Alphonsia Maria by Yann Labat. It has been open for just one season – offering three double(ish) sized rooms each with en-suite facilities. From the upper deck you have an uninterrupted view across the coastal flats. There are bikes available if you fancy something a little more strenuous than a walk along the canal, a sundeck for some serious sun-grabbing activity and down below a lounge and tv.

Part of the upper deck can be enclosed for a little protection if the weather turns chilly. A great spot as it transpired to watch a glorious sunset.

The Alphonsia Maria is a chamres and table d’hotes. Yann sources local ingredients to rustle up rustic, homely, tasty dishes. I can attest to the quality of the sardines. And gosh, whatever he cooked the prawns in was superb. The oysters, caught I believe from the far bank of the canal, were tempting even for me a avid oyster-avoider, to slurp a couple down. (Though to be honest I still don’t like them much).

So as the sunset provided a glorious backdrop we indulged in these tasty nibbles and, as this was a wine tour, some serious Pays d’Oc wines. A Muscat Sec with the sardines… why that’s a fascinating match… a lightly oaked Chardonnay with the prawns? Fantastic.

Tasting the Pays d’Oc Gems Collection Part One – on the Alphonsia Maria

Each year a gathering of tasters selects a range of Pays d’Oc Wines to form the Gems Collection; in essence a showcase of the best wines that do not, for whatever reason, fall into one of the Languedoc’s appelation zones. You may think that such ‘lowly’ wines are hardly worth considering. They don’t have the stringent rules to govern them that appelations wines do. But this freedom is the Pays d’Oc strength – grape varieties banned under an appellation label can produce fine results, blends not seen as typical for an appellation can be made, and so on. In fact several producers purposely make just Pays d’Oc wines because of this lack of specific rules.

For this initial tasting of three whites and three reds from the Gems Collection, two really stood out to me. From the whites the Mas La Chevaliere ‘Vignoble Peyroli’ 2013 was superbly stylish and juicy. A little oak influence added great complexity. For those not adverse to some specifics – 20% of the wine sees fermentation in oak casks for 3 weeks. Then 20% (I assume the same 20%) is aged in oak casks – some new, some 1 year old, some 2 and some 3). A great aperitif or seafood wine.

The Domaine Condamine Bertrand ‘Elixir’ 2014 would be my pick of the three reds. Its ripe berry flavours coming from a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. Hints of coffee, spices and a rounded, full palate make for a joyous paring with game, red meats and so on.

Photographs Tasting the Pays d’Oc Gems Collection Part One – on the Alphonsia Maria

I haven’t been able, at the moment, to find a link listing all the Pays d’Oc Gems Collection 2016 wines.

The Alphonisa Maria is at
34750 Villeneuve-les-Maguelone
Book a stay via their website.

Tasting the Pays d’Oc Gems Collection Part One is the first of a series covering a little tour of the Languedoc visiting a selection of producers, off all sizes, and tasting the wines under the Pays d’Oc label.

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