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2012 Château de Cazeneuve, Les Calcaires Pic Saint Loup
Chateau de Cazeneuve wine maker, André Leenhardt, was first drawn to this area in 1987 when looking for parcels of land to create a herb nursery. The project floundered, but having fallen in love with the area he bought 20 ha of an existing wine estate.
Like all quality-conscious winemakers he keeps his yields low, down to a derisory 25-30hl/ha. He harvests by hand, practices traditional fermentation procedures and ages his wines in barrel.
The vast majority of wines from the Southern Rhône are blends. There are 5 main black varieties, although others are used and the most famous wine of the region, Châteauneuf du Pape, can be made from as many as 13 different varieties. Grenache is the most important grape in the southern Rhône - it contributes alcohol, warmth and gentle juicy fruit and is an ideal base wine in the blend. Plantings of Syrah in the southern Rhône have risen dramatically in the last decade and it is an increasingly important component in blends. It rarely attains the heights that it does in the North but adds colour, backbone, tannins and soft ripe fruit to the blend.
The much-maligned Carignan has been on the retreat recently but is still included in many blends - the best old vines can add colour, body and spicy fruits. Cinsault is also backtracking but, if yields are restricted, can produce moderately well-coloured wines adding pleasant-light fruit to red and rosé blends. Finally, Mourvèdre, a grape from Bandol on the Mediterranean coast, has recently become an increasingly significant component of Southern Rhône blends - it often struggles to ripen fully but can add acidity, ripe spicy berry fruits and hints of tobacco to blends.
Pic Saint-Loup in Côteaux du Languedoc is evocatively and accurately named, with steep limestone escarpments stark in the Mediterranean sunshine of the hilly uplands to the north of Montpellier. Pic St Loup produces some of the finest wines in the Languedoc.
To qualify as a Pic Saint-Loup a wine must contain Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, a bold initiative and thus far a successful one with some truly outstanding domaines such as Lascaux and Cazeneuve producing some of the very best wines in the region.