Monday, 19 October 2020

Terre Ensems - a new estate in Berlou

One good thing leads to another.   We had dinner in August at the wonderful pop up restaurant in the crater at Domaine du Météore and by chance found ourselves in conversation with a fellow guest, Michel Bouisseren, who happened to mention that he made wine in Berlou, and so we arranged a cellar visit.


It turned out that Michel had just completed his second harvest.   He explained that he had spent 30 years selling Speedo swimwear and then it was time for a change.  He wanted to monter une domaine and had hoped to buy an existing estate in Gabian, but the owner changed his mind.  Michel didn’t know the village of Berlou but found himself having lunch at Le Faitout, the village restaurant, which is well worth the journey.  He had a coup de foudre for the place; it is a lost corner, on the way to nowhere, and there are vineyards on schist, not to mention vines for sale at an affordable price.  Michel gave us some figures - an average of 12-14,000€ per hectare, and even as low as 7000€ if the vines require a lot of work, with many missing, as opposed to 40,000€ in the Terrasses du Larzac.   He has bought two plots of vines, a total of 12 hectares of land, with 7 hectares in production.   He has all five red varieties of the Languedoc, but Carignan is the most important, with lots of old vines that are 80 and even 105 years old.  He is also planning a hectare of white wine, concentrating on Chenin Blanc, which he loves, with some Bourboulenc, Marsanne, Roussanne and maybe Macabeo.  The vineyards are being converted to organic viticulture and eventually will become biodynamic.  

 He took possession of his vines in 2018 and worked the vineyards, giving him a chance to get to know them, but sold the grapes sur pied, so that he did not harvest them himself.   He talked about the innocence of inexperience. 


He has a small cellar, well situated in the centre of village almost next door to the mairie.  His methods are natural, using indigenous yeast, no fining, no filtering and a minimum of SO2. The cellar is neat and compact, well equipped with a small modern basket press - you can regulate the pressure so that it is very slow - Cinsault is very juicy and quick to press; Syrah in contrast takes longer as the skins are thicker.  There are small stainless-steel vats, with temperature control, an egg, a demi-muid and a couple of amphorae.   The egg, made from some form of plastic, has the micro-porosity of a barrel of two fills. Michel uses for it for fermentations, and finds it gives more volume than a fermentation in a stainless-steel vat.  His amphorae are sandstone, and made in Bordeaux; which he prefers to amphorae from terracotta, which is much more porous. He is not very keen on oak; he had put some Carignan in the demi-muid, but found it too oaky.  In an amphora there is a continual movement of the lees.  He finds that amphorae give freshness and what he called droiture to the wines.  Two more are on order - a 5hls amphora costs 2300€, but they are very easy to clean.    He works by gravity and talked about filling the vats a bucket at a time, going up and down a ladder, but he plans to be better organised next year.  This year the harvest began on 26th August with Syrah and finished on 9th September with Carignan.   He bottles with the waning moon, when the wine is less disturbed.

I asked about the name of the estate.  Ensems means ensemble, or together, in Occitan and it is a joint project, between Michel and his compagne, even though she works full time as a chartered accountant.  Michel explained that he is doing this for his quality of life; a change of career at the age of 57.


In 2019 Michel made four wines, all Vin de France.  He does not want to bother with the appellation, which would be St. Chinian - Berlou.  “There are too many constraints, with the number of grape varieties and minimum and maximum percentages.  And the IGPs are almost as bad”.

2019 Histoire de Carignan - 13€

Vinified by carbonic maceration, taking the CO2 from a fermenting vat to put it in an empty vat, and then adding whole bunches for a maceration that lasts about three weeks.   Good colour. Fresh red fruit on nose and palate. A certain density on the palate, but not heavy   A fresh finish with some acidity and tannin.   I will be intrigued to see how this develops in the bottle. 


2019 Sans Rien C’est Bien - 17.00€

Destemmed Carignan, vinified in an egg.   Slightly lighter colour.  A different plot of vines.  More restrained fruit and less dense on the palate.   Fresh and youthful.  After the egg, the wine goes into vat and is then bottled in April.


2019 Toute Première Fois - 19.00€

70% Grenache with some Syrah, fermented and aged in vat, and bottled at the beginning of April.  Medium colour.  Quite a firm nose, with a nicely rounded palate, with the sucrosité or richness of the Syrah and the cherry fruit of Grenache.  Supple tannins, a rounded finish, and still very young.


L”Amphoiré - 21.00€

A blend of 90% Mourvèdre with 10% Syrah.  Each plot and grape variety is vinified separately, and blended in February, and then bottled in June.  The Mourvèdre will have spent six months in an amphora.  Quite firm fresh fruit, with a nicely rounded palate, ripe fruit, spice and elegant tannins.  A potentially lovely glass of wine, but still very young.


As for 2020, Michel may try a different cuvée or two.  He does not want things to become repetitive, and is clearly enjoying himself.  Asked about future projects, he talked about getting a prestateur de cheval, renting a man with a horse, to come and work the vineyards of old Carignan, for which a tractor is well-nigh impossible.  He has also six sheep in the vineyards during the winter to keep the grass and weeds at bay.  He does not want any more vines. Six hectares is small enough for him to do it all himself and to really know what is happening in his vineyards. You must keep your connection with your vines; he knows all his vines; you simply have to spend time in the vineyards.  


As a past salesman, Michel pertinently observed that the Languedoc still has a complex about its wines, and about selling them.  Wines can be priced too low.  It is something that the Languedoc has to overcome.  Indeed, many is the times that I have lamented a delicious wine made by somebody who clearly has no idea how to sell it.   Michel clearly does.  





Monday, 12 October 2020

The 2020 vintage in the Languedoc – some initial thoughts as the harvest draws to a close.

Official figures say a large harvest in Languedoc Roussillon - 13 million hectolitres and 7% up on last year.  However, that was not borne out by anyone I talked to; low quantity but good quality was how they summed it up in a nutshell.   

For Deborah and Peter Core at Mas Gabriel, it was a slightly smaller yield, especially for Vermentino and Grenache, but great quality, with clean fruit and nicely balanced wines.   As for the weather, there were good reserves of water from last autumn and winter – their village of Caux was actually cut off for two days last October due to flooding. The spring was quite cool, and there was quite a bit of rainfall in late April early May, while London was enjoying summer weather during lockdown. The summer temperatures were quite warm but thankfully without the extremes of 2019.   High summer did of course warm up and was dry as usual, but the August nights were quite fresh, giving a day/night difference of over 10°C, which is great for the ripening of the grapes and flavour development.   Now in the cellar, the wines are looking very promising.


At the Abbaye de Valmagne, in the Grés de Montpellier Roland d’Allaines described 2020 as correct for quantity, especially for those who were able to control the mildew and oidium.   However, he found the ripening complicated.   You really had to wait for the right moment for each parcel.   But then the balance between aroma, acidity and freshness is superb, for both red and white wines.


The year was characterised by its very wet spring, followed by a dry summer. No great heatwave, and only one day, August 1stwith a heatwave temperature.  September was initially quite fresh, and then warm, with some welcome rain at the beginning of the month.  ‘The climate was with us’.    


Caryl Panman at Château Rives Blanques in Limoux said that it is difficult to give an overview.  “The quality was good with us as with many people I’ve spoken to, but the quantity was unexpectedly low.  I’ve heard the same complaint from others... but then again, there are some who had a bumper year, even in Limoux.  People point to the unusually wet spring, the unusually dry, hot summer.  Our flowering was textbook perfect, and our lab reports show absolute zero evidence of any water stress”.  So nobody knows why the quantity is low.   Caryl is still asking.  However, it was also their earliest harvest ever, with picking beginning on 21stAugust, to finish on 13thSeptember 


Bruno Lafon in Magellas was more circumspect, saying that it is difficult to have an opinion about the vintage.  Rain in spring made for mildew.  Then it was very dry.  His crop is small - 20-30% down – with an average yield of about 28 hl/ha.  Ideally, he would like 35 hl/ha but he hasn’t had that for a long time.   His Grenache suffered from mildew, and he had expected higher yields from his Syrah, as some of his vineyards are quite vigorous, but some suffered from drought, and the long-term effect of several dry years.   There is a high mortality rate amongst Syrah.  However, his vat samples tasted very promising.   


At Domaine Ollier Taillefer, they began the harvest on 31stAugust, a few days earlier than usual.  The quality is very promising, with very healthy grapes, benefitting from cool nights, making for refined tannins and flavours.   Ideal weather!  


At Mas Lou they started on 7th September, a little earlier than usual, and had finished by 18th.  On 2019, in comparison, they were still picking on 9th October.  This year everything was ripe all at once, and they also hurried as the weather forecast had announced a downpour, that never came!  The quantity is correct and the quality very good.   


The other problem this year was the wild boar.  They were thirsty and consumed about 70% of one plot of Mourvèdre, and also a large amount of Syrah.  


Simon Coulshaw at Domaine des Trinités summed it up; “Low yields but very good quality”.   His yields are down on last year.


Grenache is susceptible to downy mildew; he lost 15 tons to mildew.  Simon stops treating six weeks before the harvest, so mid-July when the weather was heavy and humid and consequently the Grenache suffered.   However, it is a perfect mushroom year, and there were some wonderful looking girolles in the market as we left at the beginning of October.   Other varieties, the white varieties and his Carignan and Cinsault are fine.   Syrah did not set very well, but is absolutely delicious - Simon is very excited.


Apart from mildew the other problem is the wild boar.  This year the hunting season finished earlier than usual because of confinement.  You can apparently get compensated for loss of fruit, but it is a bureaucratic hoop, and not worth the trouble.


However, there is no doubt that Simon is happy about the quality, quantity is 35- 40% down on 2019, which was a great year for him, after a disastrous 2018.  



Domaine de Roquemale in the Grés de Montpellier.  

The vintage started on 20th August and was finished by 14 September, the first time that they have ever finished so early.  And everything had finished fermenting by the end of September except for a couple of vats of Grenache and Syrah.   So a beautiful vintage, with less quantity than anticipated but very good quality with beautifully balanced juice in the cellar.  


It all promises well.  I am looking forward to tasting some during my next stay in the Languedoc.  



Sunday, 4 October 2020

Chateau Rives Blanques - some highlights

2016 Saphir, Crémant de Limoux 15.00€ 

A special Crémant, made for Jan and Caryl’s 45th wedding anniversary. A blend of 60% Chardonnay, 30% Chenin blanc and 10% Mauzac. 17% of the blend is fermented and aged in French oak barrels. The wine spends 40 months on the lees of the second fermentation. No added dosage, which makes it something of an acquired taste, compared to some softer Crémants I found this very restrained and elegant. Without any dosage, it lacks the usual rounded creaminess of the average Crémant, and has a firm backbone of acidity and quite a tight knit palate, with good depth on the finish. There are some yeasty brioche notes on the nose. A Crémant to linger over; a wine that gradually reveals itself.
2019, Occitanie, Mauzac - 13.65€ 

We shared this bottle with friends, and it was delicious. A light colour. A fresh herbal note. And on the palate, some herbal notes and some saline hints, with some fresh acidity and juicy note. Jan and Caryl are one of the few estates to make a pure Mauzac, which is a shame as it is an important part of the heritage of Limoux, and if it is as good as this, it certainly deserves a much better reputation. The vines are 60 years old and the wine is fermented and aged in old oak barrels. with some occasional lees stirring.
2019, Dédicace, Chenin Blanc 13.65€ 

This has long been one of my favourite white wines from the Languedoc, even though Chenin Blanc is not a typical variety in the region. However, introduced to Limoux, to add flavour to Blanquette, it now makes some lovely still wine. Light golden in colour, with some hints of dry honey on the nose, and more honey on the palate, with good acidity. Elegantly mouth filling. The flavours are still quite restrained, so there is plenty of ageing potential.
2016 Lagremas d’Aur, Pays d’Oc - 16.50€ for a 50cl. bottle 

A late harvest Chenin blanc, with the grapes picked in November. Only made in years when the weather allows for the development of noble rot, as it did in October 2016. And again in October 2019. Fermented and aged on the lees in a stainless steel tank. Light golden in colour, with some roasted notes on the nose, typical of noble rot. Dry honey balanced by firm acidity. Elegantly honey with a fresh finish. Quite delicious. As good as the best Bonnezeaux or Coteaux du Layon. And very similar in style. Try detecting the difference in a blind tasting.

Monday, 7 September 2020

Picpoul de Pinet

One of my favourite Languedoc moments is lunch on the water front at Bouzigues, at Le Grand Bleu.  If you have a table upstairs, you are able to look out on the oyster beds of the étang de Thau, while you eat oysters or mussels that probably came of out of the étang that morning or the previous day.   And you are sipping the perfect accompaniment, the fresh dry, white wine, that is Picpoul de Pinet.  All is right with the world, the sun is shining, the water is sparkling in the sunlight, and the wine is delicious, with a lemony saline note to compliment the oyster.  

Picpoul de Pinet has enjoyed an enormous surge in popularity in recent years.  Gérard Bertrand even suggested that it was the Pinot Gris of the Languedoc!  There is hardly a restaurant wine list in London that does not include it.   People now order Picpoul de Pinet much in the same way as they order Chablis or Côtes du Rhône, paying scant attention to the wine grower’s name.  They know that the quality is reliable and the flavours enjoyable.  Yet not so long ago Picpoul de Pinet was in the doldrums. 

The original history of Picpoul de Pinet is based on the vermouth, notably Noilly Prat which is produced in nearby Marseillan.  Piquepoul, as the grape name should be spelt, was once a relatively common grape, grown all over the south of France but was gradually abandoned, only to remain around the étang de Thau, but principally for the vermouth trade. Terret Blanc was more popular for its bigger berries and resistance to disease and by the early 1970s there was very little Piquepoul left.    But with the development of the seaside resorts and the tourist trade in the 1970s, its fortunes began to revive.  As Guy Bascou, of Domaine Condamine l’Evêque, who was until recently the very articulate president of the syndicat of Picpoul de Pinet, put it, ‘there was an explosion in technology’, particularly for white wine, with more gentle pressing, cool fermentations and the prevention of oxidation, all aspects of wine making that we take for granted these days.   Also, Piquepoul has a considerable advantage in the Mediterranean climate; it retains its acidity.  

The export market for Picpoul de Pinet is currently very buoyant, with the United Kingdom the biggest customer.  Joël Julien, the very able director of the cooperative of Pomerols, talked about the success of Picpoul.  When he arrived at the cooperative in 2009, there was no demand at all for Picpoul and they did not know how to sell it.  But they were lucky, they found a solid partner in London, the wine shippers, Liberty Wines, and then in 2010 they began supplying the supermarket, Tesco’s for their Finest label, for which the turning point was winning the accolade of Best White Wine of the Languedoc in the annual Top 100 tasting competition. This gave an enormous boost to Picpoul de Pinet, establishing its reputation, and helped pave the way to the establishment of the appellation.  Picpoul de Pinet was recognised as an appellation in its own right, without any supporting mention of Languedoc on the label, in 2013.   

The delimited appellation of Picpoul de Pinet covers 2400 hectares of which about 1500 hectares are actually planted with Piquepoul, covering six villages, Pinet, Pomerols, Montagnac, Florensac, Mèze and Castelnau de Guers.  It seems that the délimitation parcellaire, determining exactly which vineyards were to be included, was quite problematic, with vineyards being eliminated that merited inclusion or indeed vice versa.   Vineyards that are not Picpoul de Pinet are classified as IGP Côtes de Thau, and most wine growers make both.  

So what determines the appellation?  The altitude is low with vineyards barely above sea level on gently rolling land rather than completely flat plains.   The climate is influenced by the proximity to the sea, with vineyards generally facing east looking towards the Bassin de Thau for the sea breezes.  Rainfall is a significant factor in the summer; the southern part of the appellation below the motorway and the Via Domitia is more exposed to drought than the northern part.  The soil is predominantly limestone, with some sandy deposits. 

Cyril Payon, the bright director of the Pinet cooperative, is very aware of the success of Picpoul de Pinet, and also of its possibly precarious position.   He attributes its success to a series of circumstances; Muscadet in decline; people getting bored with Pinot Grigio; the excitement of a new appellation with an appealing identity and a very good rapport qualité- prix, as the French say so succinctly.  Back in 2000 they produced 14,000 hectolitres of Picpoul de Pinet, which were difficult to sell.  They now make 33,000 hectolitres, which they have no problem in selling, mostly in bottle, of which a third goes to the United Kingdom, but what will be the effect of Brexit? 

Taste in their caveau and you will immediate become aware of the diversity of Picpoul de Pinet.  Carte Noire is fresh and lemony with good acidity. Duc de Morny comes from riper grapes and older vines.  A Picpoul sur lies amply illustrates the benefit of bâtonnage with a selection of better vineyards and lower yields, making for some firm mineral flavours.  L’Effet Mer is a blend of Duc de Morny and Picpoul sur lies, combining the best of both.  Esprit Libre was an experiment in 2016, using no sulphur, which received mixed reactions as the colour was very golden and the flavour quite unlike traditional Picpoul.   A sparkling wine, Méthode Traditionnelle, was remarkably successful with fresh salty fruit, and some years they make a late harvest wine. 

A few days ago I was sent a bottle of  2019 Villemarin from the Pinet coop.  You can also find their wines under the name of L'Ormarine.  Villemarin is a special label for Majestic and everything that classic Picpoul should be.   It has a light colour, with a firm, dry nose and palate, with the salty notes of sea, and some tight acidity, all making a deliciously refreshing glass of wine on a summer’s evening.  The only thing that was missing was the view of the oyster beds at Bouzigues.  

£9.99 a bottle or £7.49 for a mixed six, from Majestic Wine

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Domaine des Trinités - An update

Back to cellar visits, and catching up on local friendly vignerons.  Simon Coulshaw was in ebullient mood, with wine to sell, after a disastrous 2018 following an attack of mildew. 

2019 Viognier, L’Invité, Vin de France - 12€
Light colour; lightly peachy, dry fruit on the nose, and on the palate some fresh acidity which makes it slightly atypical Viognier, with some refreshing fruit and lightly peachy notes.  Medium weight - very restrained Viognier, if Viognier can ever be described as retrained.  Simon emphasised that he wants freshness and understated tension in his wine.

2019 Roussanne, Vin de France - 12.00€
A little colour.  Satisfying  texture.  Leafy notes; some dry honey and good acidity.  Nicely rounded on the palate.  Simon had had a phase of making an orange wine from his Roussanne, but this is much more retrained with just five days of skin contact.  He used a CO2 blanket to avoid any oxidation, leaving it at 6C and then pressed the grapes and fermented the juice in the usual way.  He has planted more Roussanne, and also some Bourboulenc, which is the principal grape variety of La Clape and not usually to be found in Faugères.. 

2019 L’Etranger, Vin de France - 13.50€
Cinsaut with just 10% Syrah.  I like this a lot, and I have even taken my own advice and bought some!  Medium colour.  Light cherry fruit on both nose and palate.  A little streak of tannin, as well as some acidity.  Fresh cherry fruit, with a lightly peppery streak.   2013 was the first vintage of this lovely wine; 2015 followed and then there was none until this 2019.

2019 Pech Mege, Pézenas - 11.00€
60% Grenache, with 30% Syrah and 10% Carignan.  Medium colour.  Some peppery notes on the nose.  Quite rich rounded palate, with juice red cherry fruit.  Very ripe - at 14º, with a dry finish.  

2017 Le Portail,  - 12.00€
This is Simon’s entry level Faugères, but this year it is Vin de France, due to a disagreement about the policy of the syndicat.  2019 will return to Faugères, but frankly what is the difference.  You are buying the reputation of the wine grower rather than the appellation.  Simon feels  that the new slogan of Faugères, Grand Vin de Nature conveys a rather confusing message and does not really convey the best of Faugeres.   For him,   Faugères is a wine with freshness and minerality; it is not about Nature or natural winemaking, and not necessarily about schist.

As for the wine; no élevage in oak.  Deep colour.  Quite dense nose.  Quite sturdy with some black fruit.  Quite tannic and youthful on the finish  solid black fruit with a fresh finish.  Medium weight.   Plenty of potential.

2016 la Deves, Pézenas - 16.00€
From 100 year old Carignan vines, as well as 30% Grenache, from 60 year old wines, both in the same vineyard.  Higher acidity levels than usual in 2016, making this very much a wine to keep.   Fresh brambly spice on the nose.  Very elegant, fresh with some weight; black fruit and a little tannin.

And Simon always has plans; a Syrah Viognier blend from the 2019 vintage is in the pipeline, with Viognier accounting for 6% of the wine.  It will be bottled 2021.  His second Faugères les Maurels,will not be bottled until 2021 either.  And there will be a 2020 Cuvée 42 - in due course.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Clos du Temple 2019 - the Languedoc's most expensive rosé

It seems that rosé is on a role, being drunk more than ever before, and also being taken more seriously than ever before. A fellow MW and friend, Elizabeth Gabay, has written a whole book on rosé: Rosé, Understanding the Pink Revolution, published by Infinite Ideas. and wine makers worldwide are giving rosé much greater consideration.  Provence is setting the pace, with the palest of ethereal rosés, that almost look white, but it is the Languedoc that produces much more rosé than Provence.  Sasha Lichine at Château d’Esclans is the Provençal champion, with many others following in his wake. In the Languedoc it is Gérard Bertrand who is raising the bar for rosés and he has just released the second vintage of the Languedoc’s most expensive, by far, rosé, Clos du Temple 

I was lucky enough to be sent a sample bottle, and quite fortuitously, shortly after an MW webinar, chaired by Liz Gabay at which Gérard talked about Clos du Temple and his aspirations for rosé and about how the methods of production for rosé have evolved.  Gérard first began making rosé 25 years ago, when methods were pretty primitive, without much temperature control. Next he looked at different terroirs, and natural yeast, considering that organic viticulture reinforces the terroir.  There is no doubt that Clos du Temple is produced in some of the most stunning vineyards of the Languedoc, in the schist hillsides above the village of Cabrières, a village which already had a traditional reputation for its rosé. 

Gérard talked about the importance of the harvest date - it is not the same as for red wine. He considers Grenache to be the best grape variety for rosé in the Languedoc, not just Grenache Noir, but Gris and Blanc as well, and also considers the potential of Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Syrah.  Grenache gives sapidity, saltiness, complexity, but he favours blends. The schist and limestone of Clos du Temple provide freshness and minerality, while the finish and aftertaste are important too. 

For Clos de Temple, Gérard selects some very old vines, and dedicates them to rosé. They are at an altitude of 200 - 400 metres, giving small yields. The berries, once picked, are chilled for 24 hours, down to a temperature of 3C and that way the grapes gives off less colour and the grapes need less chilling during fermentation. There is some oak ageing, with a fermentation around 19 - 21C.  Any lower and you get technical aromas. A warmer temperature is better to express the terroir. You cannot ferment rosé in oak if the yield is too high; it is the same as for white wine; there must already be some structure in the wine. In fact there are really no differences between winemaking for white and for rosé wines. You must take care with acidity and use indigenous yeast which capture a sense of place. Made like this, there is no reason why rosé should not age, just like a white wine. 

There is no doubt that the wine is very impressive. It is a delicate palle colour. The blend also includes some Viognier and I found that made for a lightly peachy note on the nose, as well as some vanilla oakiness, from the oak ageing. The palate is rounded and ripe, with some raspberry fruit and a streak of tannin on the finish. But for some reason, the wine simply did not sing, and certainly not at the high retail price. You do not get much change from 200€. There was weight and there was complexity, but perhaps there was too much oak and rounded weight. I closed my eyes and wondered how I would like it if it were a white wine. And there is the problem, I am a Chablis girl at heart and this wine was more like a Meursault or a Puligny Montrachet. The rosé I really enjoy from among the many that Gérard produces, comes from vineyards in the Terrasses du Larzac, at Château la Sauvageonne, outside the village of St.Jean de la Blaquière. La Villa is also aged in oak, but it has a more incisive structure than Clos du Temple. And for me that makes it a more satisfying and possibly age worthy wine. I still have a bottle of 2018 Clos de Temple, so I am going to simply forget about it and give it, say, five years bottle age. Rendez-vous in 2025!

Sunday, 16 August 2020

The Vinifilles - a six pack for the summer

The Vinifilles are a lively group of women winemakers scattered all over the Languedoc, and also in Roussillon.  They get together for marketing purposes, often sharing stands at wine fairs and organising events together and they also exchange technical information.   It also has to be said that they are a lively group of women who have a lot of fun together, and provide mutual support in what can sometimes be a difficult situation.  This summer, with the help of the wine shop, L'Atelier du Vin, in Limoux, they have put together a box of six wines, for summer drinking, with a suggested recipe to accompany each wine in the box.   

Our good friends Jan and Caryl Panman came to dinner the other day, bearing the six pack for me to try.   And delicious the wines were too.  

2019 Château de l’Ou rosé, Côtes du Roussillon.
A blend of Syrah and Grenache Noir.  This is a serious rosé, in a smart bottle, with a pale colour and a rounded nose, with some raspberry  notes.  The palate is quite firm and structured, with elegance and some weight, and delicious fruit.  Nicely balanced.   An elegant food recipe, and Séverine's recipe was a ratatouille.  Séverine talked about cooling the grapes in a cool chamber before pressing them, saying that the technique makes for some interesting aromas.  She only uses the first pressings of the juice.  She considers rosé to be underrated as a food wine, and more difficult to make than either red or white.

A second rosé came from Clos des Nines, 2019 Niño, Vin de France.  This is mainly Cinsault, with 20% Grenache, which adds some depth.  Cinsault has large berries, and is picked early to retain the freshness and acidity.

A delicate salmon pink colour.  Quite a rounded nose with good fruit.  Quite a firm palate, with weight, fragrant red fruit and balancing acidity.   A nicely rounded finish.  Red mullet with some courgettes was Isabelle's choice of accompaniment here.

Bubbles were represented by Françoise Antech, from the family firm of Limoux producers, with Crémant de Limoux, Cuvée Eugénie.  A blend of 70% Chardonnay, with 10% Mauzac and 20% Chenin Blanc.  18 months on the lees.  I had not realised that Antech produce as many as 15 different sparkling wines, including wines aged in oak, and rosés.  Eugénie was the great-great-aunt of Françoise. 

Good mousse with a light colour.  A delicate nose.  Quite an elegant palate, with rounded floral notes and a touch of brioche.  A little weight and some appealing creaminess on the finish.   Françoise suggested a salad of prawns, avocado and pink grapefruit.  I definitely intend to try that.

The white wine in the selection came from the other Vinifille of Limoux, Caryl Panman of Château Rives Blanques, with 2018 Odyssée Chardonnay. Limoux, with its combination of Mediterranean and Atlantic climates, is the one place in the Languedoc which can produce elegant Chardonnay.  There is fresh fruit on the nose, with well integrated oak - Limoux must be fermented and aged in oak - and nicely balanced acidity on the palate, with a textured youthful mouthfeel.  An elegant finish, and a wine that will develop with bottle age.   Caryl’s recipe was a tuna salad, with some exotic Asian flavours.

Next came a pair of reds.
First was Domaine de Roquemale, 2019 Méli Mélo, Pays de l’Hérault.  From an estate in Villeveyrac70% Alicante Bouschet, with some Cinsault and Syrah.  I was amused when I opened the bottle, to find a smily face on the top of the cork.  Valerie Ibanez has a sense of fun.  Alicante is a teinturier grape and so given only a short maceration.  However, the wine  is still quite deep in colour, with some fresh red fruit on the nose, and lovely juicy fruit on palate, with an appealingly rustic note.   It is best served slightly chilled, and goes with a summery rice salad, with ham and feta cheese.

2019 Domaine la Jasse Castel, la Pimpanela, from an estate in Montpeyroux,  is a blend of 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 20% Cinsault and 10% Carignan.  It is deep in colour, with some rounded spicy fruit on the nose.  The palate is ripe and rounded with a streak of tannin.  The alcohol reaches 15º, but you simply do not taste it.   For this, Pascale suggested a kebab of magret de canard.

The box costs 82€ from L'Atelier du Vigneron and includes delivery to France, the UK and five other EU countries.   It's a bargain!   Order here

Saturday, 8 August 2020

La Grange de Bouys - what's new?

How wonderful to be back in a wine cellar again.  We drove down to our Languedoc house in the middle of July and our first cellar visit was to our neighbours just outside our village at La Grange de Bouys.  Stéphane and Florence Monmousseau have featured in this blog on previous occasions.

First we went to have a look at Stéphane’s grafted vines, for his new cuvée le Médiéval.   You lose just one year of production; the first year with the new variety the vine is generous as though it is making up for the previous year’s loss, and then it calms down.    Then the high summer temperatures drove us inside to a cool cellar for tasting.

2019 Florence Rosé,  Vin de France - 9€
20% Syrah with 80% Grenache Blanc.  Quite simply 20 boxes of one and 80 boxes of the other go into the press.  Stéphane is adamant that he does not want to do a charcoal fining to obtain the elusive pale colour of a Provence rosé; he prefers to blend white with red grapes.  The Syrah was picked a day earlier than the Grenache Blanc.  And the wine is indeed a very pretty colour, a pale salmon colour, with a ripe, rounded nose and a fresh dry palate, indeed much drier than the nose would lead you to expect. but with some substance.  Pronounced acidity balanced with fresh fruit.

2018 Confucius, AC Languedoc - 16.00€
A blend of  80% Grenache Blanc with 20% Clairette, fermented à la bourguignonne, with an élevage on lees in 600 litre demi-muids from the Austrian cooper, Stockinger, for 75% of the wine.  Blended in February.  A little colour, Quite a rounded nose and a nicely textured palate.  A hint of vanilla from the oak.  Good weight, length and balancing acidity.

2016 Carignan, Vin de France - 12.00€
1.5 hectares of old Carignan gives Stéphane just 5000 bottles.  The blend includes 15% Syrah, but that does not need to be mentioned on the label.  Only in stainless steel tank.  Stéphane does not like Carignan in wood, and I am not sure that I do either.   A peppery, spicy note from the Syrah balanced with some fresh red fruit and a nice streak of lively tannin.   The rusticity of Carignan with a satisfying freshness on the finish.

2018 St Andrieu, Pézenas - 15€
45% each of Syrah and Grenache, with 10% Cinsault.  25% in barrel.  Good colour.  Ripe spicy black fruit; rounded and ripe. A more silky palate than the Carignan, with a touch of oak.  Rich and concentrated.

Apparently Pézenas could have acquired an appellation communale without the need to mention Languedoc on the label, but the cooperatives account for 70% of the production of the appellation and they adamantly refused to accept the requirement to give up using weedkiller and instead plough between the rows.  Words failed me.   We were not even talking about having to buy an intercep to work between the vines,  Stéphane adamantly refuses to get involved in local wine politics - how wise…..….

2019 Médiéval, Vin de France - 16.50€
Just 2000 bottles.  From the grafted vines.  45% Aspiran, with Morastel, Terret Noir, Aramon, Cinsault and Oeillade.   Also 50 pieds of Mourvèdre.  We had a discussion about the age of the vines.  Here is a conundrum.  The roots are 16 year old Syrah; the buds came from 80 year old vines and they were grafted two years ago.  So how old are they?   A quarter of the wine is kept in 500 litres barrels for  five months.  Next year Stéphane would like to age it for longer.

The vines ripen late; the grapes were picked ten days after the Carignan, on 15th September,  and the wine is a modest 12 degrees.   Medium young colour.  Very fresh red fruit on both nose and palate.   Lots of nuances from the different cépages.   Lovely freshness combined with spice from the garrigues.  The Morastel gives pepperiness and the Aspiran balance.   Aspiran disappeared from the region as it does not produce enough alcohol or a high enough yield and the cooperatives didn’t like it.   A fresh speak of tannin.   Stéphane’s oenologist refers to this wine as an UFO, in French, Un Objet Volant Non Identifié!

2018 Le Fût Oublié, Vin de France - 20€
From both Grenache Noir and Grenache Blanc.  Quite a light colour.  Fresh stony nose.  Some cherry fruit.  Medium weight. Nice freshness with red fruit.  Picked a little early, and aged for two years - a forgotten barrel from 2018.

And this year Stéphane will make a Médiéval Blanc from Aspiran Gris, Aramon Gris, Clairette, Terret Gris and Blanc and Picpoul.   I can’t wait to try it this time next year.  

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Domaine du Météore's latest release

2019 Le Météore, Faugères Rosé - £15.50

it is the season for rosé, even though the weather in London has been generally  unseasonally chilly – we should have been planning rosé tastings during the sunniest month of May.  But never mind a bottle of Domaine du Météore’s new rosé was delivered the other day.   The blend consists of  50% Cinsault, 40% Grenache Noir and just 10% Mourvèdre, which would add some structure. Direct pressing, for lightly coloured juice and a cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks followed.   I liked it a lot, with a pretty pale colour and a delicate nose.  The palate is nicely balanced, youthful and elegant with fresh stony fruit, with hints of raspberry and some balancing acidity and structure.   It could be a food rosé or an aperitif, whichever is needed.  

I am looking forward to some cellar visits in France, now that quarantine restrictions have come to an end, and I hope to be to visit this estate and see the changes under the new ownership.   

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Terre des 2 Sources

An email from Kirsten Creasy, who is stuck in New Zealand, thanks to the pandemic, resulted in the arrival of the latest bottlings of Terre des 2 Sources.  And this is what I enjoyed.

2019 Les Amourettes, Pays d’Oc, Blanc
A blend of Marsanne, Roussanne, Ugni Blanc and Vermentino.  Light colour.  A rounded nose, with some fresh herbal notes, and on the palate lightly herbal, with fresh youthful fruit. Good rounded weight, but not heavy.  Very harmonious and very complete.  A lightly bitter note on the finish, that refreshes the palate.   Nicely balanced.

Next came a trio of rosés, with subtle nuances and variations.   

2019 Les Amourettes, Pays d’Oc
A blend of Cinsault and Grenache.  A light pink colour and on the nose some delicate, fresh raspberry fruit.   The palate is rounded with more raspberry fruit and a little weight, balanced with refreshing acidity.   Youthful and fresh, and eminently easy to drink.  More of an apéro than a food rosé.

2019 Empreintes, AC Languedoc
A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, with a little more colour, a hint of orange pink.  And more rounded on the nose and palate, ripe and fuller, and quite mouth filling with a dry finish.  Definitely a food rosé, going well with a substantial salad.

2019 Accords, St Guilhem le Désert
A pure Syrah, with more colour than the other two wines.  Quite a rounded nose; quite full and substantial, with some body, good weight, a hint of tannin and some fresh acidity.  Nicely mouth filling and very definitely a food rosé.  

2018 Accords rouge, IGP San Guilhem le Désert 
A blend of Carignan and Syrah.  Quite a deep young colour.  This wine simply exudes opulently ripe, fresh fruit on both nose and palate.  There is a balancing streak of tannin, but fruit is the hallmark, both red fruit and black fruit, cherries of both colours, with some notes of spicy garrigues.  The Carignan provides freshness and the Syrah some spice.  A rounded harmonious finish.  Drinking beautifully now, but with ageing potential.