TN: An Unusual Sweet Trio

Three sweet wines, from three different corners of France. The first hails from Gaillac, which I have to confess is a region with which I am almost entirely unfamiliar. It is one of the regions of the hinterland between Languedoc and Roussillon to the south-east, and Bordeaux to the north-west. In this often over-looked region there are vines and appellations dotted here and there, not only Gaillac (white, red, even sweet as here, or indeed sparkling) but also the Côtes du Frontonnais (good and robust reds from the Negrette grape) and other lesser-known Côtes - du Marmandais, de Buzet, de Gascogne - as well as the rather better-known Cahors (long-lived wines, principally Malbec, with a little Merlot or Tannat).

Chateau Bal-Ségur Gaillac Doux 2003: I don’t know the varieties involved here, but good candidates include Mauzac, Ondenc and Len de l’El. This interesting wine has a deep orange-gold, burnished hue, with aromas of honey, marmalade and golden fruits most evident. The palate is full, fresh, gently creamy, with good acidity immediately apparent. Fine, gentle, balanced, floral and honey-tinged, this is certainly an attractive wine. 16+/20

The next is from a region with which I am very familiar indeed - the Coteaux du Layon - but from a famed producer. The late René Renou was president of the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) until the time of his death, and as such was one of the most influential figures in French winemaking. Unfortunately the wine didn’t live up to the reputation of the domaine.

René Renou Coteaux du Layon Les Melleresses 2001: This wine has a lightly burnished orange-golden colour. The nose has some bitter orange fruit, with elements of lemon tart and pastry, with a sharp rather than rich character. An orange confit, marmalade-style follows on the palate, fresh but certainly very full and rich in terms of flavor, and yet the texture seems lean rather than fleshy. I think it lacks the substance of the appellation, and it has a short finish. Merely decent. 15/20

And finally, Monbazillac, a region to the east of Bordeaux which stakes its reputation on sweet, botrytised wines made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, akin to the more famous Sauternes and Barsac of Bordeaux.

Chateau La Fonrousse Monbazillac 2005: A pretty colour here, light and golden. The nose is promising, with orange blossom, orange and apricot fruit, and a fine, meaty botrytis element. The wine shows moderate concentration on entry, and this character is maintained through the midpalate, although somehwat tempered by bitter orange fruit flavors. A nicely styled wine, perhaps just lacking in concentration, and rather more notably midpalate defintion, which it would need to be more desirable. Still, a good wine indeed. 16/20

Thanks for the TNs. This wine is the kind I thoroughly enjoy discovering but the 03 vintage would’ve had me looking twice. I know Mauzac as a sparkler (Limoux and mostly sweet), but don’t believe I’ve ever even seen or heard of Ondec or Len de l’El.


Well, outside of Gaillac, Richard, neither have I!