Jane MacQuitty in 'The 50 Best Red Wines for Summer' in The Times, 5/7/14: "Condamine l'Evêque makes lots of different blends but in 2013 this was the top. Côtes de Thongue, equidistant between Narbonne and Montpellier, set back from the Mediterranean coast, is another Languedoc appelation to watch and this beguiling, bold, smoky, blackberry-charged, barbecue-loving red shows why."
Matt Walls on mattwalls.co.uk, 17/3/15: "Syrah and Mourvèdre are two other varieties that are widely planted across the South; Syrah provides peppery spice, Mourvèdre gives lush texture and fulsome berry fruits. This estate between Béziers and Montpellier in the Côtes-de-Thongue was formally the residence of the Bishops of Agde, but is now owned and run by the Bascou family. It is due to receive organic certification later this year.
"It’s a full-bodied wine, but with vivid freshness and plenty of bright blackberry flavour. This vibrancy acts as a counterpoint to the richness of the dish, and would also underline the citrus top notes of orange peel and lemon zest."
Domaine Condamine l'Evêque is a 40 hectare property, bought in 1978 and ran by Guy and Marie-Claude Bascou. It is located in Nézignan L'Evêque, a village set above the River Hérault between Sète and Béziers, in the Côtes de Thongue. Founder Guy Bascou, an oenologist, was the head of the Institut Cooperatif du Vin in Beziers and was in charge of the management of the vineyard, while Marie-Claude used to look after the vinification.
In 2000, their son Guilhem took over the domaine and is now in charge of the vineyard and of winemaking. The property is planted with nine hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, four of Merlot, eight of Syrah, six of Mourvèdre, two of Cinsault, three of Petit Verdot, four of Sauvignon Blanc and four of Viognier. The Bascous have operated organically for the past 25 years and applied for the organic certification in 2010. The entire vineyard will be organic in 2015.
After a BTS in vine growing and oenology, Guilhem worked for Roederer Estate in California, Roberson Co-op in South Africa and Château de Gourgazaud (Minervois La Livinière). He joined the family estate in 1997, before taking it over in 2000.
Syrah and Mourvèdre are popular in most appellations of the Languedoc (Faugères, Minervois, Corbières, Coteaux du Languedoc...) but Syrah is probably the most popular grape variety and is also used on its own for ‘vins de cépage’. Mourvèdre is rarely used on its own, but an exception is made at Condamine l'Evèque where they have been doing a 100% Mourvèdre for decades. They are often blended together, with Syrah bringing the spiciness and fruit, and Mourvèdre bringing the structure to the wine.
The grapes are mechanically harvested, either at night or early morning, to avoid the excessive heat of the day. After destalking, vatting takes place in cement tanks, (for two to three weeks depending on vintage) and the temperature is controlled at between 25C and 28C. Regular pumping overs and punch downs take place during first days of alcoholic fermentation and natural yeast is used. Malolactic fermentation is allowed to complete and then the wine is racked, fined a little and filtered before bottling.
The wine has a beautiful balance, with a mouth-watering, fruit purity. There is a savoury complexity to this wine as well and a long fruit finish. Darks fruits, spices, nice acidity with smooth tannins.