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.

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.