This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.
The Roussillon region of France is full of value. Refreshing rosés, creamy whites, saucy reds and rich sweet wines (vins doux naturels), the adventurous consumer has a lot of options.
Some of the most widely available bottles come from a Michael Chapoutier project named Bila-Haut. When I first caught the wine bug in the early-2000s, I remember being attracted to these wines based on their interesting labels and low price points. And the juice was good, too.
I recently tasted through a bunch of new Bila-Haut releases and was impressed with their across-the-board quality and value. At $27, the high-end cuvee, Occultum Lapidem, is really worth seeking out for the cellar.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
2013 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Bila-Haut Blanc - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon
Nose shows waxy and honeyed notes on top of lemons and oranges, some sweet white flowers. Creamy body on the palate but some medium acid for balance. The white peach and apricot fruit is matched with whipped honey, peanut shell and some interesting mineral and crushed rock elements. Juicy but not thick, a more reserved style of white Rhone blend (Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Macabeu). (87 points)
2013 M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Rosé - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Vin de Pays d'Oc
Bright watermelon colored. Nose of wild strawberries, salted margarita, white cherries, roses, very pretty. Fresh and juicy on the palate, a bright and food-friendly aesthetic. I really like the mineral and dried green herb elements to this wine. Chalky, some sugar cane and papaya on the finish. A crowd-pleasing bottle for a by-the-glass list. Cinsault and Grenache. (86 points)
2012 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Villages Bila-Haut - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages
Light purple color. Nose of black cherries and red and black currants thrown into a fire pit, topped with some pepper, rhubarb and bacon fat. Medium-bodied with light-dusty tannic structure, medium-low acid, an easily accessible wine. Flavors of black and red cherries and currants, the fruit is rich but not still fresh and. Notes of black pepper, incense sticks and boiled peanuts add some complexity, hints of earth coming out on the finish. Seems like a no-brainer for grilled meats and veggies or stews. Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. (87 points)
2012 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Villages Bila-Haut L’Esquerda - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages
Lively ruby-purple. Similar aromatic approach to the Occultum Lapidem (dark berries, charcoal, sweet spices) but just a shade less intense aromatically. Black and red currant and cherry fruit (a hint of blueberry), all of it tart and crunchy, but also rich and powerful. A firm, drying tannic presence, and moderate acid, providing structure and balance. Notes of violets, loamy soil, graphite, pickle, leather and allspice maybe? Long and complex, with time to spare. Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. (89 points)
2012 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Villages Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour
Lively ruby-purple. A bit dense on the nose, but opens up nicely to show blackberries and dark cherries, along with a plethora of non-fruit notes: black licorice, charcoal, lavender and some leather. Firm tannic grip but moderate-low acid helps make it approachable. Lovely elegance to the mouthfeel, this just glides across the palate. The currant and berry flavors are smooth, deeply complex and long, matched by notes of pickling spices, red flowers, white pepper, earth, hints of mushroom, black olive and coffee. Just a complex and lovely Syrah-based wine that could explode with a few more years in the cellar. More depth and cellar potential than the L’esquerda. (91 points)
2001 M. Chapoutier Rivesaltes Domaine de Bila-Haut - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Rivesaltes
Nose of raspberry, strawberry jam, rhubarb pie. The tartness of the fruit is matched with the richness of the earth, spice cake, and anise cookie aromas. Smooth and creamy on the palate, this a full-bodied, raspberry jam-driven wine. I also get lots of tart strawberry, rhubarb pie and caramel notes. Initially a bit heavy but settles down with air. Finishes with caramelized sugar, crème brulée and fig paste. Decant, because it’s full of sediment. A fortified Grenache at 16% alcohol. (87 pts)