Minervois is a Languedoc wine appellation that includes over 12,350 acres of vineyards. Only around 1/3 of those are actually used for AOC wine production, with the remaining thousands of acres used for anonymous but quite affordable vin de pays wines made from various grapes. Of the higher-quality wines, Minervois is most known for its sweet Muscat, but regular red and white wines are also made in large quantities.
The Muscat de St-Jean de Minervois subappellation is the Minervois region's claim to fame, although it is likely that the red wines of the Minervois are higher in objective quality. The reds are hard to find since they are rarely exported, but almost all are reasonably priced and can offer great spicy Languedoc flavors.
The appellation for Minervois was created only in 1985. Its sub-appellation Minervois La Livinière was created in 1999. This means that the red and white wines of the Minervois haven't had much time to put themselves on the map, explaining why most of the non-Muscats made here are still sold as the lower-level vin de pays. However, the Muscat appellation has existed here since 1949, and in that time Minervois has built a firm reputation for its Muscats.
Climate and Viticulture
The Minervois appellation has a very solid climate and geography, with the soil mostly made up of limestone and sandstone bases covered over by pebbles. There is also plenty of schist in the soil. However, the warmth of the appellation can be a negative. The climate is perfect for the production of fortified wine, while it may get too hot for some of the other examples. Nonetheless, in good years the reds can be pleasantly spicy.
As mentioned earlier, Muscat is the most well-known and easily the most widely planted grape in Minervois for fortified wines. But for unfortified red and white wines, other grapes have become popular, namely Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah for reds and Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier for whites.
Here are four top producers that we selected for Minervois wines. Note: This does not include white wines, since they are so uncommonly imported into the USA.
- Clos Bagatelle: This producer is considered #1 for Minervois's Muscats; the wines are exceptionally difficult to find in America, but are outstandingly rich, sweet, and flavorful examples of fortified Muscat.
- Clos Centeilles: This producer makes high-quality red Minervois from Rhône grapes; again, it is hard to find in America, but can be worth the often above-average price.
- Château d'Oupia: These wines are often slightly easier to find than the aforementioned two. Reds should cost $10-$20, the pale but spicy rosé a trifle more.
- Château La Tour Boisée: There are a wide range of cuvées made here, but the basic Minervois is generally still the best. It is under $15 and easy to find, with flavors of dense, unctuous herbs and definite ageability.
There are three appellations relating to the Minervois.
- Minervois: The basic Minervois AOC is for red and white wines. For red wines, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah are allowed, but no more than 40% of the final blend can be Carignan. A number of grapes are allowed for white Minervois, and proportions vary. The final three producers on the above list are a selection of the best in Minervois. The appellation has existed since 1985, and is home to over 250 wineries making 94% red wines and a small fraction of rosés and whites.
- Minervois La Livinière: This appellation's wines come from six of the Minervois' 61 villages and are all red. About 35 wineries use the appellation, but the wines are still rather obscure.
- Muscat de St-Jean de Minervois: The Muscat derivative known as Muscat Blanc de Petits Grains is responsible for the fortified Muscats made under the auspices of this appellation. There are only around eight wineries, but the appellation's long history means that it is fairly well-known in France and around the world. Clos Bagatelle makes the richest wines in the appellation, although they are admittedly hard to find. All of these wines are powerful, sweet examples of Muscat's best grapy characteristics.