Part 13 of a 2006 Cataluña/Pyrenées/Roussillon travelogue
by Thor Iverson
24 October 2006 – Barroubio, France
North of Bize-Minervois, the rocks scattered throughout the seemingly endless vineyards that carpet this region turn white, glinting in the relentless downpour of the southern French sun. This, according to oenophile cartography, is where Minervois turns into St-Jean-de-Minervois, and the deep, powerful reds of the former become the perfumed, rich, muscats of the latter.
Domaine de Barroubio – The tiny village of Barroubio looks as if it hasn’t changed since the 10th century, with its hewn stone buildings, ancient wall-clinging vines, and dusty center. “11th,” corrects the winemaker at its namesake winery, who wanders into the town’s central courtyard when he hears our car doors close.
In the corner of a spacious in-cellar tasting room, which almost seems to throb with ancient energy, we quickly taste through the wines on offer.
Barroubio 2002 Minervois “Cuvée Jean-Miquel” (Languedoc) – Carignan-dominated, with grenache playing the supporting role. Grapey and thick, with a rough texture and a slightly green finish. There’s not much form or cohesion here, nor are the elements particularly appealing.
Barroubio 2003 Minervois “Cuvée Marie-Thérèse” (Languedoc) – Here, syrah is king, with some grenache along for the ride. Denser than the Jean-Miquel, with a thick earthiness that feels almost sludgy. The fruit has a nutty character that’s a little odd, but ultimately intriguing. That said, it’s not very interesting now, though a short stretch of time might help.
Barroubio 2005 Muscat Sec (Languedoc) – Fresh-cut hay, but the mower caught a more than a few flowers as well. Clean, crisp, and long. Nice. Though Alsace remains my benchmark for dry muscat, there’s a sun to (or in) this wine that’s really appealing.
Barroubio 2004 Muscat St-Jean-de-Minervois “Cuvée Classique” (Languedoc) – This is thee basic wine, also known as “Cuvée Noire” in some markets. Clover honey drizzled over gingered grapes. Long and floral, though with a certain lightness that freshens the sugar.
Barroubio 2005 Muscat St-Jean-de-Minervois “Cuvée Classique” (Languedoc) – Richer and more vivid than the 2004, though there’s a spikiness to the structure than reduces the appealing cream of the previous vintage. Grapes and green apples add themselves to the finish, which is surprisingly tangy. This is clearly a better wine than the 2004, though it may take a little while to settle into itself.
Barroubio 2004 Muscat St-Jean-de-Minervois “Cuvée Bleue” (Languedoc) – Aged in wood (one presumes old) for nine months, on its lees. Chewy/creamy pine needles. Strong, heavy, and somewhat hot. Too much.
Barroubio 2004 Muscat St-Jean-de-Minervois Dieuvaille (Languedoc) – A single-parcel muscat (or so I’m led to believe) named after an historic church near the village. Intense essence of muscat, with life and plenty of nerve. Very intense, and while it’s heavy it’s got the structure to support itself. Terrific.
A rarity in France – a beautifully-situated picnic table – rests near the historic Cathar village of Minerve, with the vineyards of Minervois spread out below. It’s a perfect place for a picnic: roast chicken from St-Savin, cheese and chorizo from Barcelona, and a vinous intruder.
Pazo Pondal 2004 Rias Baixas Albariño (Northwest Spain) – Sweet lemon juice, rind, and curd, with grapefruit along for the lemony ride. Summery and sunny, though a touch hot. There’s a bit of a carbonic sizzle to the finish, which is refreshing.
Copyright © Thor Iverson.