Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Domaine De Nizas, the wild wines of the Languedoc

By Jessica Yadegaran
Monday, July 16th, 2007 at 4:54 pm in Uncategorized.

I don’t get a huge kick out of telling people what to drink. But the inspiring wines of Domaine De Nizas, an artisan winery near Pezanas in the Languedoc region of southern France? These I demand you experience. I’ve raved plenty about Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley, another underreported southern region. Now it’s all about the ‘Doc. And to some extent, Syrah from the ‘Doc.

I’ve tried all six wines in their portfolio and can tell you they come from a place where terroir is still paramount, where regional Mediterranean flavors mingle with an elegance that is honed from listening to the land — a mere 156 acres in the case of this property.

The vines range from gnarled 60-year-old Carignans to modern clones of Syrah — perhaps the golden child of the Domaine’s expression. They — that’s winemaker Bernard Meunier, winemaking consultant Bernard Portet of Clos Du Val fame and managing director Arnaud Deville — can trace each bottle to a specific vineyard plot. Naturally, in the grape biz, this makes for ultimate quality control and constant improvement.

Vines are planted high in density and produce low yields, further ensuring optimal expression. Think of it as extreme terroir. Naturally, people who love their land in this way also practice sustainable agriculture. Domaine De Nizas uses cover crops, grows grass between the vines and sprays minimally.

Now that I’ve proved their quality, let’s talk about the soil. They’re blessed with a dynamite trio: limestone clay, villafanchien (a blend of river pebbles and red clay that is often found in Chateauneuf-du-Pape), and basalt. Yes, ancient volcanic flow. Combine that with a superior climate that comes from a location 20 miles from the Mediterranean Sea, and you can understand why the wines are of such distinction. All are under $35. Onward:

Domaine de Nizas Rose, AOC Coteaux du Languedoc:

There’s one word for this dazzling rose quartz wine. Sex. It’s a powerhouse of spice compared to last year’s vintage. Arnaud tells me it’s because they upped the Syrah to 40 percent and lowered the Grenache. It’s spectacular with a spice-flecked salmon and one you should reach for the next time you’re dining with someone who “doesn’t drink pink wines.” Please. Get over yourself. Try Nizas’ style and then come see me with your bottle, er, tail, between your legs.

Carignan Vielles Vignes, Vin de Pays de Caux: A friend of a friend was so taken with the unique aroma and mouth feel of this 100 percent old vine Carignan that she served it at her wedding. Go Jen! Merlot and Chardonnay? Phsaw. It’s gorgeous and anything like it is hard to find, especially made in the states.

Domaine De Nizas Reserve, Vin de Pays d’Oc: Only 500 cases of this blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are made and at $35 a bottle, it’s their high end baby. With soft tannins and an acidity that will develop over the years, it’s a sophisticated bottle that demands the $50-plus price tags of Napa Cabernets. Yet the comparable alcohol content of this wine (14.5 percent) won’t singe your tongue.

If you can’t get your hands on the reserve, try either of the Domaine’s signature Syrah blends: Le Mas Rouge or the AOC Coteaux du Languedoc promise a medley of dark floral, chocolate and espresso aromas and flavors of spice, sexy, spice.

To learn more, go to the Domaine de Nizas web site. Simply translate into English, or go through Clos Du Val’s site. To buy locally, try those devilish Thieves in Lafayette.

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