Recently on another chilly January afternoon in Ottawa, a small group of Ottawa-based Sommeliers had the pleasure of spending an afternoon at the Urban Pear in Ottawa’s Glebe community tasting wines from Domaine de l’Arjolle of Southern France and enjoying some delicious fresh food.  The event was hosted by H.H.D. Imports  Inc., and Roger Linton of Vintners’ Selections.

Domaine de l’Arjolle is a family owned winery located in Southern France producing wines with the appellation of IGP Cotes de Thongue in the world’s largest wine region, Languedoc-Roussillon.  The winery has been making wines since the late 70s, and have taking some serious steps towards implementing sustainable viticulture practices by becoming Terra Vitis certified thereby demonstrating their commitment to nature and the production of affordable quality wine.

We were fortunate to have Geoffroy de la Besnardiere from Domaine de l’Arjolle in Ottawa to lead us through a tasting of their portfolio of wines.  Geoffroy himself an Oenology graduate from Montpellier, with 20 years of winemaking experience, now has the ‘difficult’ task of traveling the world to showcase his portfolio of wines.

Geoffroy started off the tasting with their 2012 l’Arjolle Sauvignon Blanc Viognier blend (LCBO #348904, $11.95).  A very inviting blend of two frangrant varietals. 60% SB, 40% Viognier producing showing rich orchard fruit, cantaloupe, floral notes, with a hint of asparagus. The palate is full of refreshing asian pear, yellow apple, with a slight herbaceousness. Perfect on its own, however, the refreshing acidity makes this value priced wine a great option to pair with seafood/shell fish in a butter or cream sauce with asparagus and mushrooms. Tasted January 2014. 89 pts.  Needless to say, each of the Sommeliers that tasted this wine were very impressed with the quality and the price.

The second wine we tasted was the 2013 Domaine de L’Arjolle’s Equilibre Viognier Sauvignon Blanc ($15.95 – not yet available in LCBO).  A blend of 60% Viognier and 40% Sauvignon Blanc from the cooler 2013 vintage.  Lifted nose full of honeysuckle, lemon, basil, fresh herbs, and asparagus. Aged on the lees for four months with no oak contact to preserve the delicate crisp fruit and herbal notes, this mouthwatering blend is a great match for summer salads with goat cheese.  Tasted January 2014. 89 pts. (note this wine is not available yet in LCBO however may show up on the shelves in time for Spring/Summer 2014).

We tried a few of l’Arjolle’s Cabernet/Merlot blends and I was very impressed with the 2012 Domaine de l’Arjolle Cabernet Merlot ($15.95 – I rated it 90+ pts), and the 2011 Domaine de l’Arjolle Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc blend ($21.95 – I rated it 91 pts).  Both were terrific and unique examples of complex old-world styled Bordeaux blends with layers of delicious fruit, baking spices, herbal and earthy notes, and so well balanced.  Unfortunately neither of those wines are available yet in Canada, however, Geoffroy suggested that may change in the near future.  Highly recommend trying them out.

The next two wines had us all intrigued.  A French Zinfandel and a Carmenere.

Z Zinfandel 2011 Vin de France – 14% abv ($19.95 at Vintages #346072).

Domaine de L’Arjolle from Cotes du Thongue, France, has spent the last five years nurturing France’s only hectare of Zinfandel vines to produce this unique expression of a increasingly popular varietal. Deep ruby red with wild raspberries, stewed dark fruits, wood smoke, vanilla, and a touch of fresh herbs welcomes you into this medium-full bodied wine. On the palate, you’ll find a fresh example of a Zinfandel that stylistically seems to fit-in right between Californian and Italian (Primitivo) styles. This French experiment has potential to produce a more complex world-class style of Zin as they continue to learn how to harness its potential in the beautiful south of France. Tasted January 2014. 89 points.

K Carmenere 2010 Vin de France – 13.5% abv. ($19.95 – not yet available in Canada).

One of the few Carmenere single varietal wines you’ll find in all of France, and the only Carmenere in Languedoc. This is a very unique wine from Domaine de L’Arjolle, and I like what they’re doing with this. Deep ruby, nearly black, this medium-full bodied wine is loaded with flavour. Nose shows stewed fruits, baking spice, leather, wood smoke, and pencil shavings. Repeat on the palate. Enjoy on its own or pair with braised beef dishes, or rich stews. Tasted January 2014. 90 pts.

This winery is breaking new ground with these two single varietal wines, in a very mature market in the largest wine region in the world.  I think that says a lot right there.

All in all, Domaine de l’Arjolle is achieving what the set out to do: To produce elegant and fresh wines that are modern and authentic.  Well done!

Each of the wines we tasted delivered on purity of varietal expression, complexity, and value.  Highly recommend trying their wines and why not start with a $11.95 Sauvignon Blanc Viognier blend.  Guaranteed your friends will enjoy especially this Spring/Summer.

Matt Steeves, Certified Sommelier

Quercus Vino