Saturday, 12 February 2011

DOMAINE DES CHENES

Somebody had mentioned Domaine des Chênes to me, I can’t remember who, and there the wines were on the first morning of the Salon des Vignerons Independents, without a crowd around the stand. And what a discovery. On first meeting Alain Razungles comes over as modest and thoughtful, and he makes some lovely wines, both vins secs and vins doux, as he is based in the heart of Roussillon in the village of Vingrau. He explained that his great grandfather had had vines at the beginning of the last century and his father had sent his grapes to Byrrh, the local aperitif which used to be very popular in the 1960s. The first vintage that M. Razungles bottled was 1988. And he now has 36 hectares.

2009 Les Olivettes blanc, Côtes Catalanes – 7.00€
A blend of equal parts of Macabeo and Muscat. The Muscat was not as overpowering as you might expect and the Macabeo lengthens the palate, so that the flavour is deliciously fresh and pithy. Nicely balanced and harmonious.

2008 les Sorbiers, Côtes du Roussillon blanc. – 7.00€
A blend of Macabeo and Greanche Blanc, from vines that are over 50 years old, and including some Grenache Gris - they are all planted in the same vineyard, along with Grenache Noir. The wine is given six months élevage in oak. It is deeper in colour than les Olivettes and there is touch of oak on the nose, with some rounded buttery fruit and good balancing acidity. Nice weight and mouth feel.

2006 les Magdaléniens – 12.50€ - presumably Côtes Catalanes – I omitted to write that down – mea culpa.A blend of half each of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. M. Razungles was the first to plant Roussanne in Roussillon, back in the early 1980s, having first enjoyed it at Tain l'Hermitage with Louis Jaboulet. Henri Arnal at Langlade was the first to plant it in the Languedoc. This has been aged in old wood and it gives the wine a lovely rounded, textured palate, balanced with good acidity. It is ripe and satisfyingly mouth filling, and almost Burgundian in character.

2007 Les Grands-mères, Côtes du Roussillon Villages – 8.00€
In theory this should not be an appellation, as with 80% Carignan in the blend, there is too much Carignan. Only 50% is allowed, but who cares? It’s the taste that matters, and I thought it was delicious. The Carignan comes from 50 year old vines and is blended with some Grenache Noir, and just a drop of Syrah. Good colour; ripe rounded fruit on the nose, with lovely freshness and minerality on the palate, some cherry fruit, rounded with body and a good balance. M. Razungles explained that Carignan must be absolutely ripe. Reaching at least 14º to give good results; 12.5º simply will not do.

2006 Le Mascarou – Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel
– 10.50€
From one third each of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache Noir, and with élevage in old barrels for some oxygenation rather than any oak effect. Deep colour; rounded and ripe on the nose, with some rich fruit and a dry finish. M. Razungles thought it would be at its best in 2014. I couldn’t disagree, so a bit of patience required.

2004 Lo Carissa, Cotes du Roussillon Villages, Tautavel – 17.00€
A blend of 40% each of Grenache Noir and Syrah, with 10% each of Carignan and Mourvèdre. The yield of the Carignan was 10 hls/ha, and the others reached 30 hls/ha, so pretty meagre . And one fifth of the wine is aged in new wood, and the rest in old wood. It was still young and closed, even though it was six years old. Quite firm, quite stony and mineral on the palate. Quite solid but with an elegant finish.

2005 Lo Carissa

This is a sunnier vintage, and you can immediately taste it. The nose is much riper, almost confit, with rich concentrated fruit on the palate, balanced by firm tannins. Quite dense and rich, with some alcohol on the finish.

And at the end of the next day, I was just about to leave the salon when I suddenly remembered that I had never gone back to taste M. Razungles’ vin doux. Thanks goodness I did. They were lovely.

2009 Muscat de Rivesaltes – 10.50€
Quite ripe and honey and fresh – good grapey Muscat fruit.

2003 Rivesaltes Ambré – 12.00€
A blend of Grenache blanc, Grenache gris and Macabeo, aged in wood for three and a half years. Lightly nutty on the nose, with more fresh walnut fruit on the palate. Very elegant.

2004 Rivesaltes Tuilé – 14.00€
Grenache Noir aged in wood for three years. Quite a fresh nose, with liquorice fruit on the palate. Medium weight and nicely balanced.

(1995) L’Oublié, rancio sec, vin de table – 14.00
There is no vintage on the label, but M. Razungles admits to 1995. And why the name? Quite simply because he had left the barrel outside, forgetting all about it for four years, and had then left it to age for another three, making seven altogether in wood. The flavour is firm and dense, almost salty, like a fino sherry, with good acidity and some distinctive rancio flavours. Wonderfully quirky and original.


And now I am off to Tuscany tomorrow morning for a week of Sangiovese.

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