Pic St-Loup: an emerging wine region

Vineyards overlooked by the Pic St Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc

[Editor's note: this feature, first written in 1999, is now horridly out of date, and has been supplemented by an in-depth review of this region, based on a visit in August 2002. I'm leaving this article up for historical interest and to prevent link rot.]

Situated some 25 km inland from Montpellier, the Pic-St-Loup is a high limestone ridge peak that overlooks the vineyards of the eponymous subregion of the Coteaux du Languedoc appelation. Producing predominantly red wines, it is not a well known area—as a consequence, little is written about it. I first 'discovered' it three years ago while staying at the municipal campsite in St Martin de Londres, 3 km or so down the road from the Pic.

Since then, I've noticed an increasing number of Pic-St-Loup wines being imported to the UK, and after trying some of these I've come away with two observations: first, there are a number of quality-minded producers who are producing intense, characterful, individual wines at fair prices and, second, that these wines all show a distinctive regional typicity ('terroir', if you will).

There are 12 separate communes around the Pic, with about 5000 Ha of vineyards, although the majority of these grapes are destined to be simple table and jug wines. Carignan is the principle variety planted (it is allowed to constitute up to 40% of the blend), but it is increasingly being replaced in the better wines with Syrah and Mourvedre, with some Grenache and Cinsault. Most producers seem to make a regular cuvee, which usually doesn't see any new oak, and a special 'Grande cuvee', made from selected grapes and often matured in new barrels.

Tasting notes

Chateau de Lancyre 1996 Vieilles Vignes, Pic St Loup, Coteaux de Languedoc (5.99 Tesco)
65% Syrah, 35% Grenache
A dark wine with smoky, meaty and earthy flavours. The Syrah also contributes some bacon-fat character. Good concentration, 'terroir-driven' and with complexity, this is a very good wine. This producer also make a Grande Cuvee, which is similar in flavour profile but has been matured in new oak.

Les Terres Rouges 1996, Chateau de Cazeneuve, Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St Loup (4.99 Fullers)
Lighter Cuvee from this quality minded producer. Rich nose and palate of smoky, barnyardy, earthy red fruit. With no oak and a smooth structure, this is an excellent wine for the money, showing real regional typicity.

Chateau de Cazeneuve Pic St Loup 1996, Grande Cuvee, Coteaux de Languedoc (6.99 Fullers)
Deep purple/back with a smoky, earthy nose. Gushing ripe fruit, vibrant acidity and firm tannins fuse to make this a very good wine. Another winner from Pic St Loup.

Chateau L'Euziere Cuvee des Escarboucles 1997, Pic St Loup (7.99 Fullers) Delightful structure: a combination of rhone-like acidity and tannin. Matured in new oak, but this is hard to detect. Characteristic herby/smoky/earthy red fruit, with raspberry and black cherry notes. Quite aromatic, and will probably evolve some more with time in bottle. Good.

Chateau de Cazeneuve 'Le Roc des Mates' 1997, Pic St Loup (6.99 Fullers)
An upmarket cuvee from Ch Cazeneuve, this is a real stunner. Deep purple and concentrated, with a smoky, herby nose ('garrigue'). Good depth and acidity, real complexity, and an earthy, barnyard edge. This is intense and lively, deep and serious. It would be no understatement to say that this is one the most exciting wines I have tried in a long time. A step ahead of the 1996 Grand cuvee from the same producer. Try it now!

Mas des Costes 1995, Pic St Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc (5.49 Fullers)
Cepage not disclosed
Wonderful combination of red fruits, minerals, and herby, meaty, earthy notes. There is a spicy smokiness that suggests some new oak, and the wine has considerable concentration and tannic structure. It is slightly let down by a slight chalkiness in the finish, but a great value and a serious wine.

Mas Bruguiere 1996, Pic St Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc (5.99 Fullers)
Cepage not disclosed
Again, a really super, concentrated and serious wine, with the smoky, herbal and earthy red fruit characters that define the better wines from this region. Mineralic edge and no noticeable oak. This producer also makes a Grande Cuvee, but as this regular cuvee is this good I'm tempted to stick with it.

Domaine du Gratet 1997, Pic St Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc (very cheap, bought in France)
The great thing about this region is that even the plonk from here seems to have a more serious edge to it. While this cheapie lacks the concentration and depth of flavour of the others tried here, it still displays the smoky, herby, earthy characters typical of the region. Better than its price would suggest.

Other names to look out for

The following is a list of the Pic St Loup producers selected for the 1999 edition of Le Guide Hachette. All should be worth looking out for and will give a good account of the regions wines. (Le Guide lists wines of merit, and then awards one, two or three stars for wines it considers to be of further merit).

Mas Bruguiere
Pic St Loup Eleve en fut de chene 1996**

Guilhem Bruguiere, La Plaine, 34270 Valflaunes

Chateau de Cazeneuve
Pic St Loup 1997*

Andre Leenhardt, Ch de Cazeneuve, 34270 Laurent

Dom des Costes
Pic St Loup 1997*

SCV La Gravette, 30260 Corconne

Ch de Lancyre
Pic St Loup Grande cuvee 1996*

GAEC de Lancyre, 34270 Valflaunes

Ch de Lascours
Pic St Loup Tradition 1996*

Claude Arles, Ch de Lascours, 34270 Sauteyrargues

Les Coteaux du Pic
Pic St Loup Cuvee Speciale 1996*

SCA Les Coteaux du Pic, 34270 St Matthieu-de-Treviers

Ch L'Euziere
Pic St Loup Cuvee Tradition 1996*

Michel et Marcelle Causse, ancien, chem. D'Anduze, 34270 Fontanes

Dom de L'Hortus
Pic St Loup Classique 1996*

Jean Orliac, Dom de l'Hortus, 34270 Valflaunes

Clos Maries
Pic St Loup L'Olivette 1996**

Christoph Peyrus, 34270 Lauret

Pic St Loup Grande cuvee 1996**

GAEC du Mas de Morties, 34270 St Jean de Cuculles

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