Friday, 12 August 2016

Château Rives-Blanques

A catch up with Jan and Caryl Panman at Château Rives Blanques in Limoux last week over the 2015 vintage, with which they are very pleased.  Caryl described it as a surprising vintage.  May and June were hot, while August was cooler, which slowed down the ripening.  And the summer was mainly dry, with a little rain.  They began picking at the end of August, and finished the harvest a week before it even began in 2014.   Who said the Languedoc has consistent vintages?  One of the problems of 2015 was the difficulty of getting pickers together earlier than usual. 

2013 Crémant de Limoux - 12.7
Chardonnay and Chenin blanc, 2 years on lees.  Just  1 gm/l dosage
Delicately rounded and creamy, with fresh acidity on the finish.  A lovely glass of wine. 

2014 Blanquette de Limoux - 12.75
100% Mauzac, although the appellation states a minimum of 90%.  One year on lees, versus 9 months in the regulations.  No dosage.   The label portrays the calligraphy of the oldest document mentioning the sparkling wine of Limoux.

Quite fresh herbal notes on nose and palate.  Nicely creamy with good fruit.  The same price as Crémant, as it takes as much effort to make.  The Panmans definitely do not see their Blanquette as a lesser product.

2014 Crémant de Limoux rosé - 13.65
This includes just 4% Pinot Noir to give the delicate pink colour.  Delicate but firm on the nose and palate, with more structure. It is amazing how much difference just a little Pinot Noir can make to the structure of the wine, as well as providing some lovely hints of raspberry fruit.

There was been some modification to the appellation rules for Crémant, with some fine-tuning of the permitted percentages.  Apparently some people wanted to introduce mechanical harvesters, which was not allowed, (phew!) and others were lobbying for single variety sparkling wine, but that was not allowed either.  

And now on  to still wines:

2015 Vin de Pays Chardonnay and Chenin.  7.65
The grapes are mechanically harvested at night and fermented in stainless steel. Light and delicate with good acidity, making for easy drinking.  

2015 Occitanie Mauzac - 12.75
From sixty year old vines, grown on clay and limestone.  5% of the Mauzac is fermented in new barrels to provide a little more body and weight.  A light golden colour, with a rounded slightly herbal nose and quite soft fruit on the palate.  The grapes are picked four weeks later than for Blanquette.

2015 Chenin Dédicace - 12.75
Pale colour.  Dry honey on both nose and palate.  A nicely rounded palate, with good balancing acidity and youthful honey notes.  Very harmonious balance and promising a long life.   
10% is fermented in new barrels, but from four different coopers

Odyssée Chardonnay - 12.75
This is their biggest selling still wine, of which they produce 20,000 bottles p.a. as opposed to 8000 for the other still wines.  Depending on the vintage, 15 - 20% of the grapes are fermented in new wood.  There is a hint of vanilla on both nose and palate, with some rounded buttery fruit balanced by acidity on the palate.  Quite youthful and firm.  Nicely ripe and balanced, with good acidity and ripe fruit.  The various plots are kept separate, which makes for variations at blending.

2015 Limoux - 12.75
They describe this as an easy drinking restaurant wine.  Quite rounded with some balancing freshness.  A touch of oak, and a herbal note.  Quite intriguing.  

2015 Trilogie - 25.00
A blend of the best barrels each year, making just 1-2000 bottles per year.  They taste each barrel each month and see how things are developing.  Lots of nuances and depth with balancing acidity and structure.  Quite a firm youthful finish.  Definitely a wine that will develop in bottle.

Monday, 1 August 2016

The 2016 Faugères fete

The second Sunday in July felt like one of hottest days of the year, especially if you have just arrived from London, and so conditions were really not ideal for tasting wine at the Faugères fete.  None the less it was a cheerful, animated occasion, with numerous wine growers - mostly the usual suspects, but including the four newest producers of the appellation - manning barrels and pouring their latest vintages.   Given the ambient temperature, I concentrated on whites and rosés, and what follows are some highlights.   Tasting notes are inevitably pretty cursory in such challenging conditions, so what follows are not much more than bullet points.   

Domaine des Trinités rosé was firm and dry with ripe fruit and rounded body - a food rosé rather than an apéro.   And Simon's 2015 L'Etranger was deliciously redolent of fresh cherry fruit, with some balancing acidity, making it a perfect summer red.

Tasting with Françoise Ollier, I can confirm that the 2015 Allegro is beginning to drink well and will be even more satisfying in a few more months.  There is some ripe leafy fruit that is beginning to develop nicely.  2014 les Collines was ripe and gourmand,  while 2013 Grande Réserve was rounded and perfumed, with a firm streak of tannin, and eminently satisfying.   And Domaine Ollier Tailefer reached a milestone this year, celebrating the 40th anniversary of their very first bottling in 1976.

Oliver and Adele have a new red wine in the range of Mas Lou, Jalke from 80% Cinsaut along with some Grenache Noir and Carignan, using a plot of old Cinsaut vines, at 320 metres altitude.  The wine was perfumed and fresh, with a peppery streak.  They only made 600 bottles, so it is quite expensive at 14.00

Jerome Vialla of Domaine de l'Epidaure was pouring his 2015 Carignan blanc.  Unusually this is a pure Carignan, and it is very dry and very mineral, with firm acidity, for 7.00.  His rosé is fresh and dry and nicely rounded, from a blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Cinsaut with some appealing cherry fruit on the finish.

Jerome Py at Domaine du Causse Noir makes quite a sturdy rosé, from Mourvèdre and Grenache Noir.  It is definitely a food rosé, with some structure.

And Nicolas Maury of Mas Nicolas has bottled some of his 2015 rosé in magnums.  I do like a magnum.  This is a blend of Cinsaut and Syrah, with some fresh acidity and good fruit.  And the delicate pale pink colour makes it look so appealing in the glass.  Nicolas's entry level red is a blend of Syrah and Carignan with some Grenache and a touch of Mourvèdre, and it is ripe and rounded with some spice.  8.50  Le Coing Secret with 8 months oak ageing is rather more serious with a firm streak of tannin- 14.50.

Château Chenaie's white Conviction  was nicely rounded with some ripe peachy fruit, and the Conviction rosé  for 6.00 was quite firm and fragrant.  And I finished with the 2015 rosé from Domaine du Méteore, with some delicate fresh fruit.    And then the swimming pool called..........

And a word of explanation for my silence over the past three weeks or so.  We were burgled and needless to say les salauds, which spellcheck would like to render as salads! took my elderly computer and our live box, as well as quite a few bottles of wine, so communications with the outside world have been somewhat challenging.   Hopefully things are now getting back to normal. ........ 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Terres d'Hachene

Teresa d'Hachene - A discovery at the Decanter World Wine Awards

The results of the Decanter World Wine Awards are published and last week Decanter hosted a tasting of a selection of the medal winners.  I think the selection was a bit hit and miss, and depended solely on who was prepared to contribute their wines.  Certainly I was hoping for a much bigger selection from the Languedoc, and an opportunity to taste some of the wines selected by my fellow panel chair, the French journalist Bernard Butschy.  From that point of view, I was disappointed. There was just one lone Languedoc wine on a table of Syrah from around the world, so alongside wines from the Maremma, Macedonia, Portugal and Spain.  But this lone wine was a real discovery, from a new estate, Terres d’Hachene, and from their first vintage, 2010.  It was their Cuvée Ilex, a Pays de Cevennes.  

Terres d’Hachene is outside the village of St. Nazaire-des-Gardies in the Gard, and very much off the beaten track, especially if your particular bit of the Languedoc is well west of Montpellier, as mine is.  Looking at their web site, they make four Pays de Cevennes, and this Cuvée Ilex, is an unusual blend 51% Syrah, 26% Petit Verdot and 23% Grenache Noir.  Not that many people have Petit Verdot in the Languedoc; racking my brains the only person I could think of is Marc Benin at Domaine de Ravanès in the Coteaux du Murviel.   The wine was rich and complex, with a deep colour and quite a powerful spicy nose, and on the palate it had rounded fruit and supple tannins, making for a very attractive balance.  I think the Petit Verdot adds extra richness and weight, but rather masked any pepperiness of the Syrah.  I was told that it had spent 18 months in barriques, from Taransaud and that 2010 was the very first vintage.  What a debut.  It was a delicious and successful harmonious blend.  Unfortunately the crowd at the tasting did not allow for more questions, so I am promising myself a visit before too long. 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Languedoc at The Wine Society

I always enjoy the Wine Society’s tastings as their buyers invariably come up with a deliciously eclectic range of wines, and last week was no exception. 

There were three wines from the Languedoc, namely
2015  Pélerin Blanc Pays de Caux, from the Chartreuse de Mougères, between Pézenas  and Roujan.   £6.25.  This comes from a blend of Vermentino and Sauvignon, with a dash of Muscat.   The nose is quite soft and fragrant and the palate combines the pithiness of Sauvignon, and the sappy quality of Vermentino, with the Muscat providing a lift on the finish.  It makes for eminently easy drinking.

2015 la Clape, Arpège from Château Rouquette sur Mer - £10.50
This is altogether a much more serious wine, made from Bourboulenc, which is the characteristic white variety of la Clape, blended with some Roussanne.  To quote Marcel Orford Williams, the Society’s buyer for the Languedoc, the Bourboulenc gives the wine its grip while the Roussanne adds body and flavour.  It has a lovely saline note, stemming from the vineyard’s proximity to the sea, and there is some weight on the palate, with a fresh sappiness and an elegant finish.  A stunning example of how the white wines of the Languedoc are improving with every vintage.

2014 Fitou Origines, Domaine Bertrand-Bergé - £7.95
This comes from the mountainous vineyards of Fitou, as opposed to the coastal vineyards and the p[principal grape variety is Carignan.  Quite simply the wine tastes of the south.  There are smoky leathery notes on the nose and on the palate lots of nuances, with red fruit, garrigues, herbs and spice .  The finish is youthful and sturdy, with some potential for ageing. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Highlights from Stone, Vine & Sun's South of France tasting

Stone, Vine and Sun are one of the few specialist  wine merchants for the South of France, so I always enjoy their annual tasting.  

2014 Domaine J. Laurens Crémant de Limoux Brut Les Graimenous - £13.95

A great start to the tasting with this delicious Crémant de Limoux from an estate that is establishing itself as one of the leading producers of the appellation.  Quite a delicate nose, dry and herbal with a hint of yeast autolysis and on the palate rounded and creamy with an elegant finish.

Domaine Begude is also from Limoux but concentrates on still wines.  There was an unoaked Chardonnay that was lightly buttery   - £9.50 - and richer oaky Limoux - £14.95 - as well as Le Secret du Sud, a very convincing Gewürztraminer with some ripe spice but quite a soft finish, and good varietal character.  And James Kinglake's 2015 Pinot Noir Haute Vallée de l'Aude was light red in colour with delicate fresh raspberry fruit and a streak of tannin on the finish. - £11.50

2015 Creyssels, Picpoul de Pinet £8.95 was firm and salty, just as good Picpoul should be, for £8.85.

Plan de l'Homme is a new wine estate for Stone Vine & Sun and I was delighted to see that Rémi Duchemin's wines are available in the U.K.  2015 Flores Blanc Languedoc with 90% Roussanne and some Grenache Blanc was rounded and textured with depth and body and understated fruit.   It had just been bottled and may have been a. tad inexpressive on the nose. However there is plenty of potential.   £11.95.

Plan de l’Homme also featured amongst the reds with 2014 Flores which is based on Cinsaut with some Grenache and Syrah, with some ripe but refreshing cherry fruit on both nose and palate.  Medium weight, with some structure and restrained ripeness - £11.95.  2013 Plan de l’Homme Habilis rouge Terrasses du Larzac was quite ripe and sturdy with youthful fruit, and a fresh finish. Elegantly mouth filling with ageing potential.   £15.95

There were just three rosés of which my favourite was Domaine du Météore les Léonides, Faugères. A pretty pale colour with a delicate dry nose and some fresh raspberry fruit balanced by good acidity.   Quite firm and structured.  £10.50

Domaine la Croix Belle Caringole Rouge, Côtes de Thongue is a blend of Syrah, Merlot and Carignan with some ripe rounded fruit and a streak of tannin making for undemanding easy drinking at £8.95. 

I enjoyed a couple of wines from Mas des Brousses, from the picturesque village of Puéchabon.  2014 Chasseur des Brousses, Pays d’Oc with a blend of Merlot with some Syrah and Grenache was ripe, rounded and spicy.   £10.50 and Mas des Brousses 2013 Terrasses du Larzac had quite a sturdy leathery nose, with quite a firm tannic youthful palate, balanced with some spicy fruit.  A serious mouthful of wine with plenty of ageing potential - £16.50

There was a pair of wines from Mas d’Amile in Montpeyroux.  2014 Vieux Carignan IGP St. Guilhem le Désert, comes from 70 year old Carignan vines and has some firm red berry fruit on both nose and palate.  The palate is quite structured, ripe and youthful with a fresh finish.  £12.95.
Amelie d’Hurlaborde’s 2014 Montpeyroux had quite a firm tight knit nose, with some ripe fruit on the palate, balanced with some youthful tannins, with ageing potential.   £14.95

2013 Domaine du Météore, Faugères Rouge, Les Léonides  £10.95 was a good example of that appellation, with some rounded spice on the nose and a youthful palate, with a firm freshness on the finish, with some ageing potential.  

And the tasting finished with three lovely vin doux.  2003 Domaine Fontanel Rivesaltes Ambré, with an amber colour, and long lingering walnut fruit on both nose and palate.  The wine was rich but elegant, with good acidity and elegant nutty fruit, and enormous length, and an absolute bargain at £17.95

Domaine Fontanel Maury 2013 was quite different, a lovely example of a youthful fresher style of vin doux, with ripe spicy berry fruit on the nose, and more red berries on the palate, balanced by a firm streak of tannin.   £17.95.

With Domaine du Traginer Banyuls Grand Cru 2006 it was a return to the oxidative style with more rich walnuts on the nose, and on the palate, with a firm spirity bite on the finish.