Sunday, 18 August 2019

Domaine Montrose

One tasting leads to another.  Having enjoyed a wine from Domaine Montrose in my long line up of rosés earlier in the summer, I thought the estate merited further investigation, and indeed it did.  It is a substantial property outside the village of Tourbes.  You approach it along a drive lined with olive trees and oleanders on one side, and vineyards on the other.  Most of their vineyards, some 100 hectares, are close by.  However, the property was once important for the production of silk worms, which was much more remunerative than wine in the area back in the 18th century.

Montrose belongs to the Coste family, Olivier and his father Bernard.   Olivier is the 9th generation at Montrose.   The first, Joseph Alazard, was granted a coat of arms, three lizards, by the king of France, Louis XIV, in 1701.   Like so many of the large estates of the Languedoc, until recently the production of bulk wine was the primary function, and Bernard Coste also opened a camp site to help with cash flow.   Then in 1995 they changed direction, deciding to concentrate on wine in bottle, and employed a maitre de chai,  Michel Goaec, who arrived from Provence, where he had had extensive experience of making rosé, working for Castel Roubine. This is one of the reasons that the wine production at Montrose now focuses on rosé.   Then in 2018 they bought the Faugères estate of Chateau les Adouzes; they wanted to extend their range with a red appellation

The vineyards are all around the property, a mixture of different soils, volcanic - the name Montrose comes from an extinct volcano - as well as clay and limestone, argilo-calcaire, and stony villefranchien soil.  The soil mix gives them plenty of blending options.     We had a quick look at the cellar, a large Languedoc barn, with stainless steel vats and the old cement vats,and a state of the art pneumatic press.  The old foudres have gone.   And then we adjourned to the tasting room for an extensive tasting of their range. Although rosé accounts for 80% of their production, they also make some red and white wine, and also buy grapes in order to extend the range.  

Michel talked about the differences between working in Provence and in the Languedoc.  It is much more interesting in the Languedoc.  Here you are at ‘the bottom of the slope’ so that there is plenty of room to progress.   The atmosphere in the Languedoc is also much more congenial; you have confrères amongst your fellow wine growers; in Provence relations are much less amicable.    

Our tasting began with some white wine

2018 Chardonnay, Côtes de Thongue - 7.00€
No oak.  Quite fresh acidity and a firm finish.  A simple, refreshing Chardonnay with no great depth.  

2018 Viognier, Côtes de Thongue - 9.00€
A little colour.  Quite rounded and fresh, with floral notes and a fresh finish, with a touch of bitterness..   I find that Viognier can sometimes be quite heavy and a tad clumsy; not this example.   Most of the grapes are picked relatively early in order to retain the freshness, and then blended with a small batch of later picked grapes, making for a successful balance. 

They make three different rosés.  Depending on the market, the entry level wine is either a Pays d’Oc or Côtes de Thongue, but the same wine.  Michel looks to make elegant rosés that are light, not dense, fitting between the simple apéro and the food rosé.  He wants a combination of fruit, freshness and elegance, with a little weight, and that is what he achieves, especially in the Prestige cuvée.  The best  cuvées are handpicked, and the rest machine harvested, early in the morning, beginning about 3 or 4.m. and carrying on until about 10 a.m.  And then it is too hot.  

The principal grape varieties for rosé are Grenache Noir, usually accounting for about  65% of the blend, with about 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Syrah.  The percentages vary, and they bottle throughout the year, maintaining a consistency of flavour by fine-tuning the blend.  Cabernet Sauvignon gives structure, and Syrah fruit, but they really like Grenache, for its fruit.  They are also  tempted by Cinsaut.  You can use white grapes for a rosé, up to as much as 85%, I was astonished to discover.  So as well as Cinsault, they are planting Vermentino.   With the trend for paler roses, they  tend to favour more pressurage direct rather than saigné; originally the proportions were half and half.

2018 Rosé - 7.00€
Delicate, fresh nose, with a quite a firm palate, and a dry streak on the finish.  Some light raspberry fruit.  

2018 Rose Prestige - 11.00€
A blend of Grenache Noir, with 10% Vermentino.   Just 5% of the blend is fermented in wood.   Pale gris colour.  A delicate nose, with more weight on the palate.  More rounded.  Some elegant concentration.   Raspberry notes.  A dry finish.   Elegant and rounded, making a lovely glass wine.   Michel explained how they take care over oxidation; they have an égrappoir on the mechanical harvest and work with dry ice, and closed boxes, covering everything with CO2.  

2018 1701 - 19.00€
A blend of 90% Grenache Noir and 10% Roussanne.  Ten per cent of the blend, mainly the Roussanne component, is fermented  and aged in barrel, and the wine is much more structured, with some oaky notes.  Much firmer fruit, with a dry finish.  This is very much a food wine.   Spicy food was suggested.  I found the oak a little too intrusive for my palate.  Michel made an observation about the time a wine takes to absorb the oak - for white wine you would allow twelve months but with rosé, with red grapes, that time can  be shorter.  None the less he thought the wine would be better next year.  He uses wood with a very light toast. 

They also have a range they call Languedoc Stars.
2018 RA    - 9.00€
from 80 year old Carignan blanc vines.  From grapes they buy.  Fermented in vat, with no bâtonnage. 
It was fresh with herbal notes and good acidity.   A nicely unusual example of a once despised grape variety that is now enjoying something of a come back.  

2017 Côtes de Thongue - 7.00€
A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Merlot.   Easy drinking, but Merlot int he Languedoc is not for me.

2018 Côtes de Thongue - 7.00€
A different blend, with some Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Marselan, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon, and no more Merlot.  This was rounded and spicy, quite soft making for easy drinking.

2016 La Balade, Côtes de Thongue
A blend of Syrah with 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.  No oak.  Good colour, with dry spice on the nose and palate.  They pick the Cabernet Sauvignon quite early so that it retains some acidity and freshness.   They don’t want too much extraction, with ripe but not overripe fruit.

2016 Salamandre, Côtes de Thongue - 14.00€
60% Cabernet Sauvignon to 40% Syrah, with 12 months in oak, one third new, for all but 15% of the blend, which is used to finalise the blend, balancing the oak.  There is firm spice and a hint of vanilla.

2012 Salamandre 
Opened to see how it had aged.  Quite ripe and spicy with supple fruit, rounded and evolving very nicely.  At cruising altitude.  

And then we tried 2017 Château des Adouzes, le Tigre 
Some 90 year old vines.  No oak.  They are aiming for freshness and balance.  The blend is one third each of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah. 

Next came the base wine for the 2018 vintage, not yet blended.  It was fresh and perfumed, with ripe cherry fruit, and includes some Cinsault.   Here they want power with balance.  
And a barrel sample, of mainly Grenache, had some ripe fruit with a firm streak of tannin.  They want to make something that contrasts with le Tigre.

2018 Cinsault - 8.00€
Includes just five percent Carignan, as they never make a pure varietal.   Light red; attractive red fruit, ripe and juicy.  A long three week maceration.   Easy summer drinking.   

2018 Alicante - 8.00€
Quite a deep colour.  Berry cherry fruit on the nose.  Rounded and ripe with supple fruit.  Medium weight.  A dry finish.

2018 Carignan - 8.00€
Medium colour.  Quite fresh with ripe fruit.  Juicy and spicy and easy drinking.  

2015 Muscat à petits grains - 50cls - 12€
An elegant dessert wine to conclude a generously comprehensive tasting.  40 gm/l residual sugar.  The fermentation is stopped by chilling.  Elegantly herbal honey fruit, notes of grapefruit.    Not obviously Muscat - as Michel observed , you lose the notion of Muscat with a late harvest wine.  The grapes were picked during the first half of October.   Refreshing acidity balancing the honey.   

In conclusion this is an example of an estate that has known how to adapt and grow.   As well as the estate wines, labelled Domaine Montrose, they have a négociant business.  And their annual production of 1.5 million bottles breaks down half and half between estate and négoce wines, with the négoce concentrating on rosé.    


Sunday, 11 August 2019

Terrasses du Larzac Balade Vigneronne 2019

Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun……. and that is just what we did some days ago.   It felt as though the annual Terrasses du Larzac walk was taking place on one of the hottest days of the year.   Little did we know that there was hotter to come.  We had decided to start walking at 4.30 p.m., when the heat was still at its peak, in preference to finishing the walk in the dark, and needing a torch to light the route.    It was a sharp contrast from the previous Terrasses du Larzac walk that I did, in the hills around St Saturnin, when we had not taken enough wooly jerseys, and suffered from the chill rather than heatstroke…….  This year the walk started at the historic priory of St Michel de Grandmont, up in the hills above Lodève.    And one of the key features of the walk was the stunning scenery, the Languedoc at its finest.    

Altogether there were 58 wines to taste; I think I managed about half, as tasting conditions were quite challenging.  But the organisers were brilliant in that the first thing you were offered at each étape was a glass of water, and there was a copious supply of ice so that even the red wines tasted fresh.    Shade was usually, but not always on offer.   And we took the nine kilometres gently; fortunately the gradients were not too challenging.

The course I liked best was the very first, the amuse-bouche of a ravioli of beetroot, with brousse de brebis and orange vinegar.   Here there were more white and rosés to taste than reds - the appellation Terrasses du Larzac is only red, so the other colours are IGP or Languedoc.   Domaine Nova Solis was a new name to me, with a rosé, L’Aube, a blend of Syrah and Grenache, with some rounded raspberry fruit.  Romain Benet’s first vintage was as recent as 2017.  Domaine les Caizergues, with English owners (though absent that particular afternoon) was a blend of Vermentino. Grenache and Marsanne.  The wine was ripe and rounded, with white blossom.   The 2016 Clairette du Languedoc from Domaine la Croix Chaptal was rounded, with good mouthfeel and a hint of honey - this grape variety deserves a revival in its reputation.  The vineyards of the Terrasses du Larzac are cooler than much of the rest of the Languedoc and that should show in the wines.

At the second stage, we enjoyed an escabèche of rouget, with a fresh chichoumeille.   Clos Maia was showing the 2017 white, a blend of Grenache Gris, Chenin,  Roussanne and a little Terret, with lovely acidity and hints of fennel.   Mas Haut Buis, les Carlines 2017 is a blend of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah, with good structure and fresh red fruit.   Domaine des Olivèdes from the hills around St. Jean de Buèges was ripe and spicy.     And the view from this étape was particularly stunning, but meh photographs could not attempt to do it justice.  

A hot entrée of some shredded duck, efflouché de canard, was accompanied by red wines.  Les Chemins de Carabote was ripe and concentrated; la Sauvageonne Grand Vin was rounded and spicy.  Le Clos Rouge, mainly from Carignan, with some Grenache and Syrah, had some fresh fruit.  Jean-Baptiste Granier was pouring les Vignes Oubliées, with perfumed fruit and a streak of tannin.   And one of the pioneers of the Terrasses du Larzac, Mas Jullien was represented by Les Etats d’Ame, a fresh and elegant blend of Syrah and Carignan.  

I gave up eating at the next étape; beef on a hot summer’s day didn’t do it for me.  However for wine there was Domaine de Montcalmès, with rounded textured fruit, a blend of Syrah, Grenache  and Mourvèdre.  Beatrice Fillon from Clos du Serres was pouring Sainte Pauline, with rounded fruit from Syrah, Cinsaut and Carignan.  Vincent and Isabelle Gourmard from Mas Cal Demoura were showing 2016 les Combariolles, with all five grape varieties of the appellation, with fresh fruit and elegance.  But they were somewhat downcast, having been badly affected by the extreme heat at the end of June and many of their grapes have suffered from sunburn.   Xavier Peyraud was showing his 2017 Mas des Brousses with fresh fruit and balancing tannins.  Anne-Laure Sicard, one of the new wine growers based in St Jean de la Blaquière, was offering Mas Lasta 2017, with fresh fruit and dry spice.  

And the walk finished in the courtyard of the priory, with the cheese course at one end and pudding at the other.  Reserve d’O 2017 was quite perfumed with a firm tannic streak; Mas Cap d’Aniel in Gignac was another new name, with les Vendanges de Tom 2017, which was quite solidly oaky,   And Gavin Crisfield’s la Traversée 2017 was deliciously perfumed, with an elegant streak of tannin.

The finale was Charles-Walter Pacaud’s Clairette du Languedoc Rancio 2011, from Domaine la Croix-Chaptal, which was deliciously concentrated and mature and just the thing with a roasted apricot. 

And then we headed for our car, passing the open doors of the priory church.  The lines are simple and the stained glass windows a brilliant blue.   It was a  fitting finale to the balade, apart from getting taking the wrong route to our car, and finding ourselves confronted by a large goose on guard duty - it would certainly not fit into any normal sized oven -   and it was taking taking its responsibilities very seriously.  We turned round and found the correct path back to the carpark.  

Monday, 5 August 2019

Domaine Gayda presents ‘Seriously Syrah’.

This was an absolutely fascinating tasting, presented by Vincent Chansault, the very thoughtful winemaker at Domaine Gayda.   He had taken the Syrah from one plot of their vineyards in Roussillon at Col de la Dona, between the villages of Calce and Pézilla, and put the identical wine from the 2018 vintage into nine different vessels, tank, barrels, an egg  and so on.  We were invited to taste the wines blind and to see what differences we could discern.   It was a fascinating exercise, both challenging and enjoyable, and informative.   The wine will ultimately be a key component of their leading red wine, Chemin de Moscou.    I did not really try to work out what might have been in what, but concentrated on thinking about which wines I liked best.   I also thought that the differences would be even more marked in a year’s time before they do the final blend for Chemin de Moscou. 

Wine No 1 – One year old 500 litre barrels from the cooper, Boutes, in Narbonne.
Deep colour; firm youthful nose with red berries and on the palate fresh and peppery.  Not a lot of body.  It initially seemed quite discreet, but developed nicely in the glass.

No 2   - in a sandstone jarre, with no porosity
Very intense colour.  Quite a rounded berry nose, with fresh peppery fruit. Structured with tight tannins. This is the wine that is subject to the least amount of oxygen, with no movement in the jarre, unlike wine in an egg.

No 3 – 3-year-old 228 litre barrel
Deep young colour.  Nose initially not very expressive but developed in the glass.  The palate was riper, slightly sweeter with a hint of vanilla, and the tannins were quite firm, but well integrated.

No 4 – concrete egg – so very little oxygen and the impact of a gentle movement of the lees.  No racking, so very little sulphur.
Very deep young colour. Quite firm fruit on the palate.  And a fresh structured palate, but with some appealing fleshy notes.  Some lovely fruit with good intensity.   A favourite.

No 5 - One year old 228 litre barrels
Deep colour.  Black fruit with peppery notes on the nose. Quite an intense palate; textured with more tannins and depth.  I was less aware of the oak initially, but it developed in the glass.   Good length.  Another favourite.

No 6 – stainless steel vat
Deep young colour. Quite rounded fresh peppery and cassis. Quite a firm palate; youthful fruit, fresh and peppery, with a firm streak of tannin.  Quite closed, with less evolution than some.  A fresh finish. 

No 7 – Plastic egg – so some movement of the lees, and controlled porosity.
Deep young colour. More perfumed on the nose than some, with elegant fresh fruit.  Medium weight.  Nicely balanced, but the palate did not quite fulfil the perfume of the nose.   

No 8 – Terracotta, kept above ground.  So a lot of oxygen and some movement of the wine.  
Deep young colour. Quite firm with a solid nose.  Quite a ripe perfumed palate, with a streak of tannin.  Quite elegant.  This was another of my favourites.

No 9 – Foudre – 5 years old 20 hectolitres.
Good colour.  Perfumed peppery fruit, on the palate quite fragrant. Elegant fruit with a good balance. Nicely textured. I liked this a lot.

Vincent and the managing director, Tim Ford, explained that 80% of Chemin de Moscou is still given a classic élevage in barrel.  But they wanted to ask the question: how big is each piece of the jigsaw.  “The variables are terrifying” observed Tim, as we came to no obvious conclusion.    

It was a fascinating example of how one of the new talents of the Languedoc, that does not conform to the local appellation, is looking at new frontiers and challenging perceived ideas.  

And then we had a tasting of the current range of wines from Domaine Gayda

2018 Flying Solo White, Pays d’Oc
Grenache Blanc, with 15% Viognier
Quite rounded, textured and perfumed with some peachy fruit and weight on the palate.

2018 T’Air d’Oc, Pays d’Oc
Pure Sauvignon with fresh pithy fruit, some good acidity and a rounded finish.   A southern Sauvignon but with a good streak of freshness. 

2018 Chardonnay, Pays d’Oc
From vineyards in the Minervois and Malepère.  20% fermented and aged in barrel and kept on lees for six months.  Quite rounded, lightly buttery nose and palate.

2018 Viognier, Pays d’Oc
Pure Viognier from the Minervois and Roussillon.  Six months on lees.
Lightly peachy on nose and palate. Good texture and weight with some balancing acidity.  

2018 En Passant, Pays d’Oc
70% Maccabeu fermented in stainless steel and blended with 30% Muscat d’Alexandrie, in stainless steel as well as amphora.  Quite fresh and pithy, with some acidity and some Muscat grapiness.  

2017 Figure Libre, Pays d’Oc
50% Grenache Blanc, 20% Maccabeu, 20% Marsanne and 5% Roussillon, from Roussillon.  The Marsanne and Grenache Blanc are both fermented in a concrete egg while barrels, both 228 litres and 500 litres, are used for the Roussanne,  Maccabeu, and also some of the Grenache Blanc.  Aged in concrete eggs and barrels with some lees stirring.  Rounded and textured, with good acidity and flavours of white blossom on the palate.  Lots of layers and nuances, with a firm finish.  

2017 Figure Libre Chenin Blanc, Pays d’Oc
From a local vineyard in the Malepère.   Fermented in an egg and in 500 litres barrels.  A little colour.  Dry honey on the nose and palate.  Nicely textured, with elegant dry honeyed fruit.   Good depth and length.  A lovely glass of wine.

2017 Sélection Parcellaire, Pays d’Oc
Pure Grenache Gris, from several vineyards in Opoul-Perillos in Roussillon.  Fermented in a concrete egg and aged on the lees for nine months. A little colour.  Dry white blossom on nose and palate.  Very nicely textured with good mouthfeel.  Understated with some weight.  Almost makes you think there is a hint of oak, but no.  Yet another example of how good the white wines of Roussillon are becoming.

2018 Rosé Flying Solo
A blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Cinsault.   Direct pressing.  A little colour and rounded ripe fruit on the nose and palate.  Good weight and texture.

2018 la Minuette, Pays d’Oc
A blend of 70% Mourvèdre, and 15% each of Syrah and Grenache. From la Livinière.  Direct pressing.  On the lees for three months.  Pale pink.  A delicate fresh nose.  And a balance of fresh fruit and acidity on the palate.  Nicely refreshing.  The fermentation is stopped to leave 4 gm/l residual sugar, but you don’t taste it, as the acidity balances it out very nicely.  

2018 Flying Solo, red, Pays d’Oc
A blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah.  No oak. Medium colour.  Ripe fresh fruit on nose and palate.  Rounded supple, ripe and perfumed.    Easy drinking.

2018 T’air d’Oc, Pays d’Oc
Pure Syrah from the Minervois.  One third carbonic maceration.  Bright young colour.  Fresh peppery fruit on nose and palate with a streak of tannin.

2018 Syrah; Pays d’Oc
Syrah from La Livinière in the Minervois, and also from Roussillon.  Ten percent aged in three-year or older barrels for nine months.   Ninety percent in vat on the fine lees for nine months.
Quite a deep colour. I found this still rather young and adolescent, with some dense fruit.  Needs to settle down.

2017 En Passant
70% Syrah and 30% Cinsault on schist and limestone.   The Syrah is aged in 5-year-old barrels, and the Cinsault in stainless steel.  Medium colour.  Quite perfumed fruit on the 
nose with some peppery notes on the palate.  Medium weight.  Quite rounded and ripe, and a slightly sweet finish.

2017 Figure Libre Freestyle red  
A blend of 50% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre and 10% Carignan, both from La Livinière and from Roussillon.   Aged in older barrels for nine months with some bâtonnage and a selection of the best barrels from each terroir.  
Medium colour.  Ripe spice and good fruit, and on the palate, rich and textured; quite dense with a leathery note.   Characterful

2017 Figure Libre, Cabernet Franc
Pure Cabernet Franc grown in the Malepère.  Some aged in new oak; some in foudres and some in slightly older oak.   For some reason, this particular bottle was not showing as well as usual; disappointing it is often stands out in tastings.  

2017 Sélection Parcellaire, Vin de France
Pure Mourvèdre from La Livinière.   Very careful winemaking; hand-picked, no sulphur, whole bunches pressed by foot. Four weeks on the skins.  15 months ageing in foudres.
Deep colour. Quite solid and rounded on the nose, with dense youthful fruit on the palate and some leathery notes.   Lots of potential.  

2016 Chemin de Moscou, Pays d’Oc
72% Syrah, from La Livinière, Malepère and Roussillon.  22% Grenache from Tautavel and La Livinière and 8% Cinsault from La Livinière.  Low yielding vines. Handpicked; destemmed. Traditional vinification with a two-week post fermentation maceration.   21 months in French oak; some new, some demi-muids and some foudres. Blending of the best barrels, and then a further twelve months ageing before the final blend.
Deep colour. Quite a solid rounded nose.  Good fruit on the palate, with rich and spice and balanced tannins, but still very youthful with plenty of potential.   A lovely glass of wine.

2014 Villa Mon Rêve, Minervois la Livinière
Pure Syrah.  Hand- harvested.  One third whole bunches.  Four-week maceration.  Aged in 2000 litre oak and 1600 litre concrete egg for 20 months without any racking of the lees.  Medium colour.  Ripe and intense on the nose, with notes of tapenade.   A ripe, rich palate; lots of nuances and still with potential for further development in bottle.  A great finale to a very interesting morning.


Saturday, 27 July 2019

Domaine des Deux Clés

Florian Richter explained how his father is a wine importer from Dortmund, so wine was firmly in his genes.   He studied wine commerce at Geisenheim, and then worked with various wine producers, at Domaine du Capitoul on La Clape, in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, chez Beaucastel, at Maison Champy in Burgundy, where he met Gaëlle, who is a Burgundian, but her family have no vines.  She studied oenology at Dijon, then they travelled the world, to the Napa Valley, Te Awa in New Zealand, and worked with Alberto Antonini in Tuscany and then in 2012 they arrived in the Languedoc.  Gaëlle found a job with Pierre Clavel while Florian worked with Claude Vialade at Domaines Auriol.  They were living in Puechabon at the time, and decided to look for vines, finding some in St. Jean de la Blaquière, but it was too expensive to build a cellar there.  And then they found this property in 2015, a cellar with a house above, and 12.5 hectares of vines in the village of Fontjoncouse in the heart of the Corbières.  

They are high vineyards, the village itself is at 275 metres, and the vineyards go up to 330 metres.   It is a cool site; the vines are old, with Carignan an average of 80 years.  They have eight varieties altogether, mainly Carignan for red wine, with Grenache and Syrah, and for white, Grenache Blanc and Gris, Vermentino, Macabeo and Roussanne.  The vineyards were already farmed organically.   The previous owner was a Parisian banker; he also had gites, which he has kept, preferring to sell the vines.  The estate was originally called Val Auclair.  Altogether they now have 14 hectares, starting initially with just with 4 hectares.  

As for the two keys, Florian observed that he and Gaelle compliment each other; we each have our own key. The previous two years have been tough; in 2016 they lost 20% of their crop to frost and in 2017 50%.     And in 2018 there was mildew.  Altogether they make two white wines, one rosé and four reds,  2015 was their very first vintage.

In true Burgundian style, we tasted barrel samples.  First came Roussanne, grown on three different geological sites, tertiary era, jurassic with shells, and triassic with quartz and volcanic rocks, but all essentially argilo-calcaire.  2018 was their first Roussanne vintage, and Florian is inspired by his work at Beaucastel.  He makes wine as you would Chardonnay in Burgundy.  The grapes are trié à la vigne, and whole bunch pressed, with a new pneumatic press; the juice is then débourbé, and they use natural yeast, with the fermentation beginning in wood, but not new wood.  There is a malo-lactic fermentation, but no bâtonnage.  Tasted from barrel, the wine was fresh, almost lemony, herbal with white blossom, with some satisfying weight.  It will have been bottled in May, as Jeu de Clés, Vin de France - 18.00€

Next came a Corbières Blanc, from 50 year old Macabeo vines, 60%, with Grenache Blanc and Gris, and Vementino, with a firm dry note on the nose, and on the palate some dry herbal notes, with fresh acidity and understated fruit.  And also an appealing saline note.  Ten per cent of the wine is fermented in vat, with the rest fermented in barrel with a very small amount of new oak.  Florian favours barrels from Damy, with a fine grain and a light toasting.  He also talked about Chassin, the new cooper who is popular in Chablis.  'You have to fall on your knees and beg'. They only make 5000 barrels a year, half of which go to Burgundy, but he was lucky; because of the frosts in Chablis in 2017, he was able to buy some.  Florian is convinced that the Languedoc can produce great whites.  

2018 Clés en Main, Vin de France - 14.00€
70% old Carignan, planted in 1950 and 30% Syrah, the oldest Syrah vines in the village, planted 40 years ago.   The aim is a lighter style, an entrée de gamme. Fermented and aged only in vat. The Carignan is whole bunch pressed and given a shorter 15 day maceration.  Nonetheless a deep colour. Fresh red fruit with a touch of spice.  Medium weight, dry spice; a streak of tannin; dry cherries, griottes.  A croquant, crunchy quality.  

2018 Corbières Rouge - 16.00€
A blend of Grenache,Carignan, Syrah aged in vat.  Good colour.  Quite firm, fresh peppery cherry fruit on the nose and palate.  Very fresh; nicely peppery and very appealing.   Florian does not fine or filter his wines; and his vineyards are all north, north east facing, with nothing south or south west. That makes a lot of difference in the Corbières.

Next came three different barrel samples of the same Grenache, which will be Jeu de Clé.  The vineyard is at 300 metres and the alcohol a heady 15.5º, except you really didn’t notice it on the palate.  The first sample, from an old barrel, was ripe with cherry fruit, medium weight and a fresh finish.  The next was much more structured and tannic, tauter, but again with fresh fruit, while the third sample was from the new Chassin barrel, with much more obviously structured oak on the nose, though less so on the palate.  It is always fascinating to taste the quite significant differences between one barrel and another.

2018 Reserve, IGP Vallée du Paradis - 22.00€ 
The poetic, evocative name is the local IGP covering villages in the heart of the Corbieres. A blend of 80% Carignan, from vines that are 110 years old, and 20% Grenache, from 50 year old vines.  Blended after pressing and then all aged in barrel for 12 months.  Smokey red berry fruit on the nose and more delicious red fruit on the palate. Very appealing with a streak of tannin and a fresh finish.  

2017 Corbières - 16.00€
A blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Carignan and 20% Syrah, with 30% given some élevage in old wood and the rest in vat.  It was bottled in September 2018.  Rounded spice fruit, with  fresh fruit on the palate and a streak of tannin.  Garrigues notes.  Medium weight and an elegant finish.

2017 IGP Vallée du Paradis - 22.00€
The wood was quite apparent on the both nose and palate, with a firm tannic streak, but with good fruit underneath the oak. The wine needs to develop in bottle, and promises well for the future.  

There is also Rouge des Clés which we did not taste.  You sense that Florian has lots of ideas, and things he would like to try.  He admitted that fourteen hectares is too much for them.  And they really need more space as he would like to age his white wines for longer, and keep two vintages at a time in barrel.   There is a saying that you should one harvest on the vines; one in the cellar in élevage; one in bottle waiting to sell, and the fourth sold, and in your bank account!  

I was left the impression of a very thoughtful and committed winemaker.  He deserves to go far and it will be fascinating to observe his progress.


Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Vins & Vinos - A wine tasting in Carcassonne at 38 rue Barbès

I first met Alex Francis in Chablis rather more years ago than either of us care to remember.  He had just completed a wine-making stage chez Long Depaquit and since then he has had a varied wine trade career and is now based in Carcassonne, running a successful export business, dealing in Spanish wine as well as the wines of the Languedoc.  The shop front of his business is a welcoming wine shop, Vins et Vinos, right in the centre of Carcassonne.   I was in the vicinity the other day, so Alex suggested popping in for a tasting of some of his new discoveries and current enthusiasms, an invitation that I was particularly happy to accept.  In the Languedoc Alex concentrates particularly on the Minervois and is also exploring further afield. 

What follows is what I particularly enjoyed:  

Clos de Vènes, 2016 Vin de France - 25€
From an estate in at St Couat d'Aude.   Made from 70 year old Carignan
Deep colour; quite a solid ripe nose, with a dose of new oak.  Rich spicy fruit, with a firm steak of tannin. Quite a dry finish. An interesting interpretation of Carignan.  And on consideration, l preferred the Grenache from the same estate. 20€
Quite a deep colour, with a perfumed nose. Nicely silky palate, with juicy sweet berry fruit.   Quite ripe and rounded with an elegant finch.  

Next came a couple of wines from Domaine le Sieston in Laure-Minervois.
La vie est une fête. - a rosé from, unusually, Pinot Noir. 7.90€
Light pink with a very fresh nose.  Rounded palate with a fresh crisp finish.  Quite an unusual rosé for the Languedoc. 2018 was Alexis Brunel's first vintage, when he took the family vines out of the village coop.

His second wine, Aujols, meaning aieux in Occitan, or ancestors, is a pure Syrah. Good colour.  Quite rounded, rich and spicy, with a touch of tapenade and some firm tannins. Quite fleshy black fruit on the finish.

Then Alex opened Péchaligous, the wine made by Thierry Rodriguez from the vineyard of gris varieties that he has planted outside his cellar at Domaine Gabinèle in Laurens, which is part of the Faugères appellation.  There are twelve different gris varieties, all with pink skins when they are ripe, so with apologies for the list, but it does make interesting reading - Pinot, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon, Muscat à petits grains rose, Piquepoul, Savagnin Clairette, Trousseau, Grolleau, Mauzac, Riveyrenc and Grenache.  They are co-fermented.  It is a white wine with some depth of colour.  Firm mineral fruit on the nose, and on the palate, good acidity with firm fruit and well integrated oak.  A quarter of the wine is fermented in new oak.  A lovely original and very intriguing glass of wine.  Production is tiny and so the wine is inevitably expensive - 33€

I have always had slightly mixed feelings about Château d'Agel, often finding their wines too heavy and oaky, but apparently they have a new winemaker since my last visit.  2017 was his first vintage and the wines are noticeably more elegant.   There was les Bonnes, red, white and pink, all nicely unoaked.  10€.  The red, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and a little Carignan, is rounded and spicy with a tannic streak.  Caudios is a lightly oaked old vines Macabeo 16€.

Bruno Ohlzon is a Swede who has created a wine club of a large group of Swedish investors, about 1000 of them, at Domaine d'Escapat in the Minervois. Prestige le Capitaine Blanc is an intriguing blend of Muscat, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, with some pithy fruit @ 7.90€.   And Mes Amis Rosé is a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, with some well-integrated oak and quite a dry but viscous palate @12.00€

Numéro 6, Minervois, @ 9.95€, is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, with good fruit, a nicely rounded palate and a hint of oak.  Medium weight with a steak of tannin.  The estate is close to Cabardès so in the cooler part of the Minervois.   

Prestige le Capitaine Rouge, a Pays d'Oc and blend of Cabernet and Merlot had ripe, rounded cassis fruit and a streak of tannin and a little oak, with a fresh finish.   

And then we moved onto Roussillon, with wines from Domaine Modat, an estate that I have not visited for a while. Philippe Modat's son, Quentin, is now making the wine.   De-ci et 
De-la was fresh and mineral with firm acidity and an elegant finish.  Les Luccioles, with some Viognier as well as Roussanne, Grenache Gris and Carignan Blanc, was richer and more textured.   And we finished with 2015 Comme Avant,  Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Caramany, with Carignan, Syrah and Grenache, and some oak, made by Philippe, was quite rich, structured and oaky.    18.00€.

So do go and check out Alex’s selection if you have a spare moment while you are in Carcassonne.  And thank you Alex for some new introductions, adding to my never-ending wish list of wine estates to visit.