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The wines of Val d’Orbieu/La Cuvée Mythique

Domaines Listel, Rt. Nat. 112, BP126, 34202 Sète Cedex, France
Ph: +33 (0)4 68 42 75 45
UK representative: Val d’Orbieu-Cordier (Tel: 020 7736 3350, e-mail: anyone@vvo-uk.com)

Val d’Orbieu is an interesting company. It’s not a co-op, but a growers’ association, with 180 growers and 15 co-ops from the South of France. How does it work? Each domaine makes wines as it wishes, calling on help from the association staff if it is needed, and makes use of the pooled marketing resources (this is especially important; it allows small domains to have a presence in the marketplace that they’d otherwise lack). The nice thing about this arrangement is that unlike the co-op system it tends to reward people who do good work. Altogether sales top 20 million cases. La Cuvée Mythique is an interesting wine. As a flagship of Val d’Orbieu, it is made centrally: vignerons who supply grapes for this selected cuvee will typically be visited four times by viticulturalists from the association, and the result is quite impressive. The selection of wines listed here are all listed in UK supermarkets (availability details in brackets).

La Cuvée Mythique 1998
Bit of sweetness to the fruit on the nose, together with a touch of caramel and spice. Rich spicy palate shows chunky, savoury fruit and some complexity. Very good+ (Safeway, Waitrose, Coop £6.49; most will now be on the 1999 vintage, below)

La Cuvée Mythique 1999
Deep coloured with an attractive herb-tinged spicy nose. Nice spicy berry fruit on the palate: well structured with good acidity. Nicely made and good concentration. Very good  (Safeway, Waitrose, Coop £6.49)

Château Villenouvette Corbières Cuvée Marvel Barsalou 1999
Old vine Carignan. Ripe, liqouricey herby nose. Concentrated, quite lush fruit on the palate with a savoury, tannic finish. Lovely authentic wine. Very good+ (Safeway £7.99)

Château de Landure Minervois Cuvée de l’Abbé Fregouse 1999
From rocky limestone soil. Deep coloured opaque red/black colour. Rich sweet, herb and caramel edge to the nose. Lovely dense but approachable palate with sweet herby fruit. Very southern and ripe. Very good+ (Marks & Spencer £7.99)

Domaine La Cazal ‘Le Pas de Zarat’, Minervois 1999
From gravely soils, this dark coloured wine is dominated by Mourvèdre. Beautifully fragrant hebal nose with a delicious, meaty, green olive edge. Superb savoury, herbal, meaty palate with great balance. Quite superb. Very good/excellent (Marks & Spencer £7.99)

Château Ribaute Corbières Cuvée Francois Le Noir 1998
A co-op wine, this is a blend of mainly Grenache and Mourvèdre. Shy nose is quite traditional. Good concentration of chunky, herbal fruit with firm tannins.  Very good (Marks & Spencer £7.99)

Domaine Contenson Merlot 1999
Bright berry fruit on the nose. Good concentration on the palate with a slightly leafy edge to the fruit. Tasty but simple. Good/very good (Safeway £4.49)

Wild Garrigue Minervois 1999
A blend of Syrah and Grenache. Quite a rich, sweetly fruited nose. Rich, spicy palate with good dense fruit character. Impressive with a savoury finish. Very good (Sainsbury £3.99)

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wines tasted November 2001