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.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

The Outsiders – a six pack

The outsiders are just that, a group of wine makers who do not originate from the Languedoc, but from other countries or other parts of France, and who join forces for marketing purposes.  The wines of six of them are currently available from the excellent wine shop in the centre of Limoux, L'Atelier des Vignerons, so they put together a lockdown six pack and talked about their wines on the net.  I happened to come across the link in the monthly letter from Château Rives-Blanques, so I rather cheekily asked if I could taste the wines.  And this what I was sent.  You order via this link
The cost of six bottles is 95€ which includes delivery to eight countries, including the UK and from the shop, the wines cost 82€

2017 Blanquette de Limoux, Château Rives-Blanques - 13€
An Irish Dutch couple, Caryl and Jan Panman.   One of the most original of sparkling wines, made purely from Mauzac, the grape variety of Limoux, which is only found elsewhere in Gaillac.    The Champagne grapes are much more recent arrivals in the region.   Fourteen months on the lees before disgorgement.    Light colour.  Fresh nose, combining herbs and flowers and a rounded floral note on the nose.  Perfect for drinking in the garden on a summer’s evening.

Domaine Modat, Le Petit Modat Amour   - 11.00€
This estate was set up by Philippe Modat, who is a jurist in Paris.  His sons, Quentin and Louis were brought up in Fontainebleau, but have settled in Roussillon.  An intriguing blend of 25% Rousanne, 25% Grenache, both Blanc and Gris, 20%  Viognier and 30% Muscat.  .  A long maceration on the lees, rather than a classic débourbage. No oak.  The unusual blend works well.  A fragrant nose with some peachiness from the Viognier and a hint of grapiness from the Muscat, which become more apparent as the wine evolves in the glass.  Some weight on the palate, with a fresh finish.  A refreshing apéro, rather than a food wine. 

Le Clos du Gravillas  2015 A fleur de peau, Vin Orange de maceration de Muscat - 19€
John Bojanowski is American and married to Nicole who is French.  John always has some perceptive observations to make and the last time I saw him he wondering who it was who had determined that white wine should be made without its skins.....  and why not try an orange Muscat.   I have to say, I thought it was delicious.  A golden orange colour.  Very perfumed orange and Muscat notes on the nose, but the skin contact tempers the overt grapiness of the Muscat on the palate, so that the wine is much more subtle, if Muscat can ever be subtle, and has more depth than a conventional Muscat Sec.   There was a hint of pithiness and a little sweetness, with some acidity and some tannin and some intriguing fruit and structure.   I find that orange wine is remarkably versatile, accompanying a number of different dishes and flavours.

Domaine la Louvière, Malepère Rosé, Le Maquis - 8€
Jem Harris, the winemaker, is Australian and the estate is owned by Grohe family who come originally from Germany.  However, Nicolas Grohe was brought up in Switzerland and now lives in Alsace.  

A blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec.  A little colour.   The bordelais grape varieties make this quite a different style from most southern French rosés.  The nose is quite closed, and the palate quite firm and structured.  There is some rounded raspberry fruit, but the overall impression is one of structure and firm acidity, especially on the finish. 

2015 Domaine Sainte Croix, Corbières, Magneric - 14.00€
Liz and Jon Bowen are an English couple, with Jon an early graduate of Plumpton College in Sussex.
A blend of 31% old vine Grenache, with 29% old vine Carignan, and 35% Syrah, and just 5% Mourvèdre.   Destemmed.  Fermented plot by plot, using natural yeast, with manual punch downs.  Skin contact for 20 – 25 days, depending on the parcel.  75% of the blend is aged sur lie for 16 months in French oak barrels that are between 4 and 10 years in age,  and 228, 300 or 400 litres in size.   The remaining 25% of the wine is kept on its lees in tank.   

Deep colour.  Rich stony red fruit on the nose.  Ripe fruit and garrigues on the palate with some firm tannins, and a peppery note on the finish,  Good depth and a rich finish.,   It tastes of the warm south, and the rugged hills of the Corbières.   And I love the back label that essentially tells you you need to know about the estate and the wine.

2016 Domaine de Cebène, Faugères, Belle Lurette - 19.00€
Brigitte Chevalier comes from Bordeaux.  Predominantly Carignan from old vines, grown in schist, with some Mourvèdre and Grenache .  Very low yields.  Fermented and aged in stainless steel vats. Deep colour. Young ripe berry fruit with fresh tannins. Nicely rounded fleshy fruit.  Good balance.  Some stony notes.  Youthful and fresh.  Drinking well with some ageing potential.   Great with spaghetti alla carbonara!   And a great six pack showing the diversity and quality of the south.

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Rosés from Foncalieu

I was sent a selection of rosés from one of the big Languedoc players, Foncalieu, and this is what I tasted.

2019 Ensédune, Coteaux d’Ensérune, Cabernet – 5.90€
A rather charming label, with a photograph of the vignerons, Stephane et Nelly G, vignerons d’Ensérune, vous présentent…. 
Pure Cabernet Franc, although the label does not specify.  Three months in stainless steel vats, with a weekly bâtonnage. Pretty pale colour.  Quite rounded nose with some ripe fruit on the palate, but also it tastes a tad heavy, although it is only 12.5°, with a note of boiled sweets. 

2019 Le Versant, Grenache Rosé Pays d’Oc – 6.90€
Pure Grenache grown on north-facing slopes.  Direct pressing and three months ageing in stainless steel vats with a little bâtonnage.  A pretty pink. Quite a ripe rounded nose, as you would expect with Grenache.   Combined with a rounded palate, with some weight and fruit.  A hint of sweetness on the finish, coming from the ripe grapes. 

2019 Piquepoul Noir, Coteaux d’Ensérune – 7.90€
An unusual grape variety for rosé; I have had it more often as a fresh red wine.  Pretty pale colour.  Light fresh fruity nose, with a hint of raspberry.  On the palate quite firm acidity, but still very young and crisp. A little weight but needs to fill out on the finish, which it will as the summer progresses.  13°

2019 Domaine Haut Gléon, Vallée du Paradis  - 9.90€
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Gris and Marselan, from Foncalieu's flagship property in the Corbières.  A bit of a fruit salad of grape varieties, but it worked surprisingly well.   Four months ageing in stainless steel vats.   Pale colour.  Quite a rounded nose, with a rounded palate.  Notes of raspberry with lightly mouth filling weight.  Good depth on the finish.  A food rosé, which went beautifully with a piece of salmon.   13.5° 

2019 Château Haut Gléon, Corbières – 12.00€
Half and half Syrah and Grenache.  Four months in stainless steel vats.  Quite a vibrant pale pink – a little too vivid.  Quite a fragrant nose and a rounded palate with some weight and depth. Quite ripe and mouth filling and quite a rich 14°. It goes a touch heavy on the finish, but that makes it a good food rosé   

2019 Paradis Secret, Languedoc - 10.90€
A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault.  Direct pressing and some ageing on the lees.  Pretty pale colour, orange pink.  A delicate nose and a similarly delicate palate.  Elegant subtle with fresh acidity.   An elegant food rosé that would also serve as an aperitif.   I liked this a lot.   The very best of the bunch.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Domaine of the Bee - their latest wines

A package arrived in the post last week, containing half a dozen dinky little bottles, each containing 50 ml of wine, with an exhortation to taste them as soon as possible.   The bottles had been carefully filled, without contact with oxygen, so the contents were in good condition.   They came from Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, the owner of the Roussillon vineyard, Domaine of the Bee, situated in the Agly valley.   

All the cuvée names are an amusing play on words.

2019 Field of the Bee, Côtes Catalanes - £16.00
A blend of Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc, the classic white varieties of Roussillon. The vineyards for this wine belong to Jean-Marc Lafage, one of the big producers of Roussillon, and a good friend of Justin’s. Twenty percent of the wine spends four months in barrel, but any oak flavour is  is barely perceptible. A light colour.  The nose is fresh and youthful, some delicate floral fruit and un joli amer, a nice bitterness - bitterness can be a compliment in French - and some pithy fruit on the palate, with a little weight on the finish.  I felt that it needed to fill out a little, which it doubtless will with some bottle age.  

2019 Bee Pink, Côtes du Roussillon - £15.00
A blend of Grenache Noir, Grenache Gris and Syrah.   A very pretty palate pink colour.  A rounded nose, but a touch amylic.  Some weight on the palate with some dry fruit.   Again I thought it would benefit from a little longer in bottle.  

2018 The Bee Side, Grenache, Côtes Catalanes - £22.00
Half the Grenache is whole bunch pressed and half destemmed, and all fermented in barrel, and then aged for 14 months.   Medium colour.  A dry nose but with lovely ripe Grenache fruit on the palate, with a firm streak of tannin on the finish.  Essentially lots of cherry fruit on palate; quite ripe and fleshy, and very Grenache. 

2018 Carignan, Côtes Catalanes - £18.60
From 80-year-old vines. Aged in 500 litre barrels, one new and one three years old.  Deep colour.  Compared with the Grenache, a much firmer fresher nose, with a nicely structured palate, with some rounded ripe berry fruit.  Nicely rounded and balanced.    A lovely example of Carignan, with some great potential.

2018 Domaine of the Bee, Côtes du Roussillon Villages - £25.00
This is the wine for which this estate is known.  A blend of Carignan, and Grenache.  Some of the Carignan is fermented in stainless steel vats, and the rest in demi-muids, with their tops taken off, along with the Grenache, and then all the wine is aged in 500 and 250 litre barrels for 18 months.  Medium colour.  A youthful nose; lovely fruit with a hint of well-integrated oak.  A rounded palate, with fruit and balancing tannin; good depth and weight, and plenty of ageing potential.   More elegant than some earlier vintages that I have tasted.   Justin attributes this to more whole bunch pressing which helps restrain the alcohol levels and retain freshness.  

2018 Les Genoux, or the Bees’ Knees, Côtes Catalanes - £40.00
A field blend of old vines, from the 100-year-old Coume du Roi vineyard.  Grenache Noir with 10 – 15% Grenache Blanc and Gris.   The grapes are handpicked, destalked, lightly crushed and fermented in 500 litres demi-muids, with some hand-plunging.   There is a three-week post fermentation maceration and then the wine is aged in demi-muids – one third new – for 14 months.    The colour is lighter than the domaine wine.  And the wine is altogether more elegant and subtle, in other words Grenache at its most elegant, with delicate red fruit and silky tannins.  The oak is very well-integrated and the flavours very harmonious.   A lovely glass of wine.   

NB  I have given the full retail prices, but if you join the Club of Domaine of the Bee, there are some serious discounts available. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

2019 Mas d’Alezon, Presbytère

A bottle turned up unexpectedly in the post one morning a couple of weeks ago.  My good friend Catherine Roque had sent me her latest Faugères, the 2019 Cuvée Presbytère, complete with a smart new label.  And the wine was delicious, with a deep, young colour and ripe spicy nose, that was wonderfully opulent.   A rounded ripe palate, with fruit and spice, with a streak of tannin providing balanced structure.   Even though it is less than a year old, it is remarkably ready to drink, with immediate appeal, and a modest 12.5°.

The blend is 40% each of Cinsault and Grenache, including its cousin, Lledoner Pelut.  There is also 10% Carignan for some structure and 10% Syrah for some spice.   Catherine favours a gentle infusion of whole bunches for about four weeks in cement vat or concrete egg; there is no pigeage or any other extraction.  Then the wine is aged in either a chestnut foudre, or in oak barrels for eight to nine months.

I asked Catherine about the weather conditions in 2019.  She said that the year was marked by the wind.  The winter was fairly dry and cold.  March was dry and mild and the vines started to grow.  Cooler than average April and May slowed down their growth, with dry windy weather.  Flowering was around June 15th.  The summer was dry, with little wind and on occasion some very high temperatures which blocked the ripening process.   The harvest took place in September in dry windy conditions.  In short, the grapes were concentrated by the north wind and ripened in good conditions.  And 2020 so far is marked by water.

The new label was designed by Delphine, Catherine’s third daughter who is an architect, as her mother was, before she came to wine.  Delphine found an old plan of Faugères in the departmental archives of Montpellier and they were able to use it to make a very effective label.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Mas Gabriel – a webinar and zoom tasting with Winefunding

Planting a new vineyard is an expensive undertaking and an investment for the future.   Happily there is an organisation called WineFunding, which helps small wine growers to fund that kind of investment.   In return, the investors become part of a select club of supporters, and receive wine at an advantageous price.  It’s bit like the theatrical angels investing in a future production.   So the other day Deborah Core presented her wines to some of the people who had supported them through WineFunding and asked me if I would like to join the zoom meeting.     

First she explained that they had particularly wanted to plant their new vineyards using massal selection, taking cuttings from their existing vineyards, rather than buying clones from a nursery.   Massal selection makes for greater variety of flavour and complexity in a vineyard, not to mention greater resistance to disease.   Vines selected by clonal selection  tend to be very consistent, so that they react in identical fashion to any problem in the vineyard, whereas massal selection vines are much more diverse.  A vine nursery took the cuttings and grafted the vines.  They are gobelet, bush vines, each with its own supporting post – making 3500 posts for 3500 vines; with 50 ares of Cinsault and 25 ares of Grenache Noir.

And then we tasted some wines, which had been sent out to the attendees ahead of the zoom meeting.  

2019 Champs des Bluets, Languedoc Blanc -16.00€
A blend of 80% Vermentino with 10% each of Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris.    2014 was the first vintage of this second cuvée of white wine. 30% of the blend has been aged in acacia, rather than oak, which Deborah considers to be more gentle than oak. The barrels are not new and they do not mark the wine in the same way as oak.  The colour is pale, and the nose delicate, with a hint of pear.  On the palate there is fresh fruit, balanced by good acidity and what the French call ‘un joli amer’, a refreshing bitterness that is typical of Vermentino.   The palate is nicely rounded with some satisfying weight on the finish.

2018 Les Trois Terrasses, Pays de l’Hérault - 12.00€
So called as the grapes come from three adjacent terraces.   The principal variety is Carignan, blended with some Syrah and Grenache. The Carignan vines are at least fifty, if not 65 years old.   The wine is aged in a cement vat.  Deep young colour.  Fresh spice and red fruit on the nose, with more fresh fruit on the palate.  There is a firm fresh streak of tannin, which gives the wine structure, balanced by some flesh from the Grenache.    I love the fresh finish of the Carignan, making it a very refreshing wine.   Carignan is often criticised for being a tad rustic; this belies that generalisation with an elegant finish.   And it illustrates just how much Carignan is improving, and how it deserves to be taken seriously.  

2017 Clos des Lièvres, Pézenas - 17.50€
A blend of 75% Syrah, with 25% Grenache.  Aged for 12 months in 5000 litres demi-muids.  15% new oak.  Deep young colour.   An intriguing contrast with Trois Terraces.  The palate is richer and fleshier, with a touch of pepper from the Syrah.  There is rounded weight and youthful fruit. Although it was drinking well on the night – we subsequently finished the bottle with a coq au vin – it is definitely a wine that will develop with bottle age.



Sunday, 21 June 2020

Château d’Anglès – the latest vintages

Château d'Anglès has enjoyed a considerable revival in its fortunes over the last few years, since the Fabre family arrived there from Bordeaux in 2002.   Eric Fabre had been the technical director of Château Lafite but he wanted to do his own thing and he chose to come to La Clape as he was particularly interested in the potential for Mourvèdre in the area, seeing similarities with Bandol.  Eric has reunited the two estates of Château Rivière Haute and Château Rivière Basse, and called them Anglès after a local landowner, Barthélèmy Etienne d’Anglès, whose family owned both estates for over a hundred years after the French RevolutionTheir vineyards are less than two kilometres from the sea so you always have some cooling sea breezes.  The cellars have been modernised and streamlined and you can sense a bordelais approach.  For their red and white wines, they make a Cuvée Classique and a Grand Vin. 

Vianney, Eric’s son, who is now working with his father, very kindly sent me bottles of the most recent vintages.   So this is what I tasted.

2019 La Clape Classique Blanc - 12.90€
A blend of 50% Bourboulenc, 30% Grenache Blanc and 20% Roussanne. Some lees stirring in concrete vats for four to five months. A little colour.  A salty tang on both the nose and palate, with firm fresh fruit.  A nicely rounded finish.  A touch of exotic fruit on the palate, but essentially there are the refreshing salty notes from the maritime influence.

2017 La Clape Grand Vin Blanc - 22.50€
A blend of 40% Bourboulenc, 30% Grenache, and 30% Marsanne.  The Bourboulenc vines are 80 years old.   Fermented and aged in wood, with some lees stirring for 5 – 6 months.  A little more depth of colour than the Cuvée Classique. A nicely buttery, oaky nose – I don’t usually like overt oak, but this is classy oak and it has made for a very appealing nose. There is oak on the palate too, but with considerable depth of flavour.  The wine is rich and youthful, with a good long finish.  Very stylish.   Anglès usually hold back a white vintage to release ten years later, proving indisputably the ageing potential of white La Clape.

2019 Classique Rosé, AOC Languedoc - 12.90€
Rosé is not part of the appellation of La Clape, hence the appellation Languedoc for this very elegant rosé.  A blend of 40% Mourvèdre, 30% Cinsault and 30% Syrah. Direct pressing and some lees stirring, in concrete vats, for three months.  Very pale colour, almost white, but not quite.  A hint of raspberry on the nose.  Some ripe raspberry fruit on the palate, but dry, structured and youthful, with a fresh finish.  A serious food rosé that will evolve a little more in the bottle.  

2018 La Clape, Classique Rouge - 12.90€
A blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre.   Aged in vat for eighteen months.   Quite a deep young colour.  Rounded spice and garrigues notes on the nose, and a hint of orange.  A fresh, spicy palate.  Medium weight with a refreshing streak of tannin, and some peppery notes.  Rounded red fruit.  Easy drinking with good depth, and length.

2017 La Clape Grand Vin Rouge - 22.50€
A blend of 55% Mourvèdre and 25% Syrah, which are aged in oak for 12 months and 20% Grenache, aged in cement vat.  Deep colour. On the nose a subtle veneer of oak, with some spicy fruit.   The palate is rounded, with good depth and length, with more weight and body than the Classique Cuvée.  There are youthful tannins; the wine is drinking well with a substantial dish – ours was coq au vin – but it also has ageing potential.  A very satisfying finish.   And a lovely range of wines.  

Friday, 12 June 2020

Domaine Lafage - a small selection

Domaine Lafage is based at Mas Miraflors, outside Canet-en-Roussillon.   Altogether the business includes three estates, the largest near the sea, as well as 20 hectares in les Aspres, and in 2007 they have bought the estate of St Roch in Maury, which has its own cellar.  In addition, there is a recent purchase of 17 hectares in St. Paul-de-Fenouillet for white wine, and another acquisition in Rivesaltes is being converted to organic viticulture, making a total of 260 hectares.   Their beginnings were small.  1995 was Jean-Marc and Eliane’s first vintage, just 1000 bottles of a Muscat de Rivesaltes.  Then in 2001 Jean-Marc took over the family vineyards and acquired Mas Miraflors in 2006.   The Lafage family came from Maury; Jean-Marc’s grandfather was one of four brothers, three of whom settled in Canet, and one stayed in Maury at Domaine du Dernier Bastion.  

They make an extensive range of wines, from the simple entry level to the more complex.  A few came my way recently.    

2019 Côté Est, Pay d’Oc – 7.90€
A blend of 50% Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris, with 30% Chardonnay and 20% Roussanne.   The Grenache are 60 years old and the vines are planted east /west, which helps maintain a cooler temperature and some freshness.  Each grape variety is fermented separately, and given some ageing on the fine lees.  The aim is easy drinking, as it partners Côté Rose and the red Côté Sud, as the entry level to the range, but even at that level it demonstrates the success of Roussillon for producing white wine.  The colour is light and the nose is fresh and pity, with the same pithiness on the palate, and some stony fruit.  It is nicely rounded, with what the French call un joli amer on the finish – a nice bitterness.   There are moments in French wine tasting when bitterness can be a quality, which of course it never is in English.   Appealing and refreshing.

2018 Authentique, Côtes du Roussillon – 9.60€
A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan from different terroirs, and the aim is a wine that is truly representative of Roussillon.   Most of the wine is aged in vat, but about 20% spends twelve months in French oak.   Deep colour. Ripe black fruit on the nose, and on the palate a hint of vanilla and a streak of tannin, with ripe rounded fleshy fruit.  14.5° but it carries its alcohol well and does not taste alcoholic or heavy; on the contrary.   Quite simply, it is a jolly nice glass of wine that is authentically Roussillon.  

2019 Le Rétro, Vin de France – 10.00€
Carignan, Lledoner Pelut, Grenache Noir and Grenache Gris.  There is a story on the website about a wine made from the grapes picked at the end of the harvest in early October.  They were not suitable for vin doux, and instead served to make a refreshing everyday wine.  Bright light red in colour, with perfumed fresh fruit.  A touch of acidity and tannin with good fruit and a fresh finish.  Quite light in the mouth and indeed a modest 12.5°.  Served slightly chilled, it could be termed Roussillon’s answer to Beaujolais, and I say that, liking Beaujolais.


Saturday, 6 June 2020

Taronja – an orange wine from Roussillon

Taronja is a joint project between Jean- Marc Lafage of Domaine Lafage, outside Perpignan, and Justin Howard-Sneyd MW of Domaine of the Bee.  Justin has vineyards, but no cellar, and so he makes his wine chez Lafage. And in 2017 they had the idea of producing an orange wine.  Taronja, which means orange in Catalan, comes mainly from Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc, with a little Muscat and even less Viognier.   In 2018 there were four barrel fermentations, two with whole bunches, one carbonic maceration and one with destemmed grapes.  The fermentation took place in open top 500 litres barrels and then the juice was left to macerate on the skins and stalks for two weeks after afterwards.  The wine was protected from oxidation with dry ice and then aged in neutral barriques for eight months.  There was a light filtration, but no fining before bottling.

Thanks to bottles arriving from Jean-Marc in Roussillon and Bibendum in London, I was able to compare the 2018 and the 2019 vintages.    They made an intriguing comparison.   

2019 : The colour was a light pink, with the colour coming from the Grenache Gris which turns slightly pink as it ripens.  The nose was fresh and rounded, and on the palate there were hints of the peachiness of the Viognier and the perfume of Muscat.  There was a youthful freshness, balanced by some dry tannins, and some pithy fruit with a refreshing finish.  14°

2018 : More orange pink in colour, with a firmer, dryer nose and a firm but fresh palate, with some tannic notes.  The wine had lost the youthful peachy notes of the 2019 and developed more complexity and other nuances.   It was an appealing combination of freshness and fruit, with some elegant tannins. And it proved its versatility, by answering the conundrum of what to drink with a pasta sauce with egg and home-grown asparagus, two notoriously difficult things to accompany any wine.  Taranja simply came up trumps!


Friday, 29 May 2020

Domaine Danjou-Banessy with Cambridge Wine

This is a new Roussillon estate for me, run by two brothers, Sébastien and Benoît, who follow biodynamic methods.  One or two people had already recommended it as an interesting estate to visit, and then Stewart Travers at Cambridge Wine very kindly offered some samples.   I enjoyed what I tasted, so they are now on the wish list for a visit the next time I get to Roussillon, whenever that will be.  Meanwhile here are my tasting notes.  The wine names are the names of the specific vineyards.

2017 Côtes Catalanes Blanc, Coste - £17.40
A pure Macabeo, grown on clay and limestone in a plot called Les Terres Rouges.  The vines are between 10 and 30 years old, which is quite young for Macabeo vines.  Aged in old oak for ten to fourteen months.  Light colour. Fresh stony, lemony nose with firm acidity on the palate.    Very fresh and elegant, and nicely incisive on the finish.   A modest 11.5°

2017 Côtes Catalanes Blanc, Clos Escounils - £24.18
This comes from one plot, of just one hectare, a complantation of 100-year-old Grenache vines, Noir, Gris and Blanc.  Obviously the Grenache Noir is not used for this wine.  However, there is some depth in the colour.  The wine was fermented in large oak barrels, and aged for two years in the foudres. Quite a rounded nose, with some well integrated oak on both nose and palate, balanced with some firm fruit.  A nicely textured palate with some satisfying mouthfeel and some potential for ageing in bottle.

2017 Côtes Catalanes Rouge. Roboul - £17.46
A blend of 60% Mourvèdre with 40% Grenache.  Aged in old oak for twelve months.  Fairly light colour, with quite a fresh nose.  Initially it had what I call a natural edge, but that blew off with some air. On the palate the wine is fresh and juicy, with appealing ripe cherries and a balance of light tannin and acidity.

2017 Côtes Catalanes, la Truffière - £21.18
From 60-year-old vines, half Grenache and half Carignan, grown on schist. Medium colour.  Very perfumed, with red cherries on the nose. The palate is elegantly rounded, with ripe fragrant fruit, and a concentration of flavour, but without being heavy.  Nicely balanced, with a fresh finish.

2016 Côtes Catalanes, la Truffière - £24.99
An interesting vintage comparison.  Deeper colour.  More black fruit, rather than red fruit on the nose, with more concentration on the palate.  Ripe and rounded with a tannic streak.  Ripe black fruit, with balanced tannins and a long finish.  Probably longer lasting.

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2016 Côtes Catalanes, les Myrs  - £26.58
Pure Carignan.  The vines are over ninety years old, grown on black schist and the wine is aged for 20 months in old oak barrels.  Quite a deep colour.  An initial natural edge on both the nose and palate, which disappears with air. Fresh red fruit on the nose and on the palate, it is quite tannic and structured, with an initial dryness. However, the wine evolves in the glass and the ripe fruit comes to the fore, with an elegant finish.   12.5°.   One of those wines that keeps you guessing. 


Thursday, 21 May 2020

Domaine des Soulanes at Cambridge Wine

Cambridge Wine has one of the best lists of wines from the Languedoc and Roussillon of any independent wine merchant in the country.    Their Languedoc-Roussillon buyer, Stewart Travers, has won the prize of Sud de France specialist, and their list includes many of my favourite estates, too numerous to list here.  

Domaine des Soulanes is one of them, situated in the Agly valley just outside Maury, in the heart of Roussillon.  Daniel Lafitte is a Maurynat, born and bred in the village of Maury.  After a brief career as a Jaguar car mechanic, he worked for the previous owner of his vineyards, Jean Pull, learning from him as well as doing various stages. Jean was already farming organically in 1992, and when he retired in 2002, he sold 17 hectares of his 44 hectares to neighbouring Mas Amiel, and Daniel bought the rest, choosing the plots he particularly wanted to keep. Back in the 1990s, in common with all the wine growers of Roussillon, they made very little table wine or vin sec; the production was 90% fortified vin doux naturel, of which a large part was sold en vrac to Martini.  These days the balance has completely shifted, to 90% vin sec. However, Daniel gleefully remarked that one of his proudest moments, was selling some Maury to a wine shop in Portugal!

2018 Kaya Blanc, Côtes Catalanes - £14.04
30% each of Grenache Gris and Blanc, with 20% each Carignan Gris and Blanc, fermented in oak.  The Carignan adds acidity to the Grenache, and the schist of Maury also makes for a good level of acidity.  Very pale colour.  Youthful lemony notes on the nose, with fresh herbal fruit on the palate. Taut and lemony with juicy acidity, and a streak of oak.

2017 Kaya Blanc, Côtes Catalanes - £14.34
A slightly different blend with 50% each of Grenache, both Blanc and Gris, and 50% Carignan, again both Blanc and Gris.  A little more colour.  Firm stony mineral notes, and on the palate filling out, with long stony fruit, and a salty note, with a background streak of oak, which will disappear with bottle age.  Daniel wants his white wines to have ageing potential, and this does.  

2018 Cuvée Jean Pull, Côtes Catalanes - £10.92
Named after the previous owner.  A blend of Grenache and Carignan, with a little Syrah and a hint of Mourvèdre, fermented in a concrete vat.  A lovely perfumed nose, and on the palate, rounded and fresh with supple tannins.  Cherry liqueur fruit, and ripe without being heavy.  Perfect easy drinking.   

2017 Kaya Rouge, Côtes Catalanes - £12.60
A pure Carignan, with fresh red berry fruit, balanced with a streak of tannin and a fresh finish. Beautifully balanced and harmonious. It does not have the rustic notes that you sometimes find in Carignan.  A really lovely expression of the grape, showing just why the old vines are worth preserving, and why it deserves to be taken seriously. 

2017 Maury Grenat - £18.90
Pure Grenache.  Deep red colour.  Ripe berry fruit on the nose, and palate, with a fresh finish. Ripe and intense without being heavy, with rich fruit and a streak of tannin.  Daniel want the tannins to slip in behind the sugar, as he put it, so the wine is not too sweet. An extra 10 gms of sugar can mask the tannins.  It is all a question of the balance between sugar and alcohol.  And this is beautifully balanced.   Just bring on the dark chocolate!