Monday, 27 February 2012

DOMAINE DES JOUGLA in St. Chinian



Before I embark on Vinisud discoveries, I must first post some visits to St. Chinian from last year ...... First off, Domaine des Jougla.

I first visited Domaine des Jougla back in the late 1990s when I was writing The Wines of the South of France, and I spent a couple of hours with Alain Jougla. This is a long established wine-making family. There have been Jougla in the village of Prades-sur-Vernazobre since at least 1595, but you sense that the family has moved with the times. They now have an efficient modern cellar on the outskirts of the village. The old foudres are no longer used and instead there are some newer and smaller barriques. They were one of the first in the appellation to invest in a pneumatic press. And their first bottling date back to 1978, at a time when most people were selling en vrac to the négociants. In 2009 they began the conversion to organic viticulture. Alain remains very much involved, but it is now his daughter, Laurence who makes the wine from their 30 hectares estate. She has worked in Chile for Canepa and with Kingston Estate in the Murray River in Australia. Her brother Alexandre came back to join the family business in 2005 and as Laurence was busy supervising the activities of the mobile bottler on the morning of my visit, it was Alexandre who gave me a friendly welcome over several bottles at their tasting room in the heart of the village.

2010 Les Tuileries, St. Chinian blanc – 6.50€
A blend of 45% each of Grenache and Vermentino, with 10% Viognier. A maximum of 10% Viognier has been allowed in St Chinian since the 2008 vintage. The planted their Viognier back in 1994, at a time when it was considered distinctly experimental.
Dry peachy nose, and on the palate, some rounded fruit, with a streak of acidity. Satisfying texture; white blossom fruit and a rounded finish.

2010 Viognier, IGP les Monts de la Grage – 8.10€
Lightly peachy. Very good fruit and varietal character. Nice concentration with a firm streak of structure.

2008 Vendanges Passerillés – 9.80€
Again Viognier, picked three weeks later than the rest of the crop, so not too moelleux, but a touch of botrytis. Very elegant. And rich rather than sweet. Rounded concentrated peachy fruit, with a touch of apricot on the nose.

2010 St. Chinian rosé – 5.80€
Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah. Pressurage direct.
A light pretty pink. Light raspberry fruit. Fresh acidity and a dry fresh finish to the palate

2008 Initiale St. Chinian – 5.00€
One quarter each of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan, in stainless steel vats.
Medium colour. Fruit spice and a touch of tobacco on the nose. Quite a rich bite to the palate, with dry spice, a touch of leather and a long finish. A great entry level wine.

2008 Cuvée Ancestrale St. Chinian– 6.90€
Mourvèdre 40%, grown on clay and limestone, with 30% each of Syrah and Grenache, grown on schist. Also élevage in vat.
Quite deep colour. Quite firm spicy on the nose. Medium weight palate. Some leathery notes balanced with some tannin.

2007 Signée – 8.10€
Syrah and Grenache, as well as some old Carignan from vines planted in 1954. Medium colour. The perfumed nose that comes from schist. Again on the palate, very perfumed, with red fruits and spice. Medium weight. Élevage in old wood.

2006 Viels Arrasics – 13.20€ The name is a reference to old roots. Or for the Jougla a combination of father and daughter’s wine making knowledge and experience. Mourvèdre dominates, with some Syrah and Grenache. Twelve months élevage mainly in new oak. Quite solid; quite dense; firm fruit and oak with a tannic finish. Needs time.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

VINISUD

I’ve just spent an intensive three days at Vinisud, as I suspect, have some of you. It was my first visit to this fair since 2004. So my very first impression was: it’s got BIGGER! I have to say that I can remember the very first Vinisud, back in 1994 when it took up just one hall. Now there are ten large halls and the catalogue of exhibitors weighs in at 700 gms.

I’ve returned to London with lots of great impressions. There was a pre-fair tasting on Sunday with the Vinifilles, a dynamic group of eighteen lady winemakers. Faugères and St. Chinian celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of their appellations, created in1982, three years ahead of the Coteaux du Languedoc. There were old friends to see, and familiar and not so familiar estates with new vintages, as well new estates to discover. Maria Fita in Fitou comes into that category.

That energetic PR lady, Christine Ontivero, whose wardrobe is full of the most exotic hats, had organised vertical tastings at Domaine de la Roc des Anges and Domaine du Grand Crès, so some original wines from Roussillon and Corbières respectively. I love vertical tastings so I also leapt at the chance to taste a range of Quetton St. Georges at the enchanting château de l’Engarran, and the following evening I was in a wine bar in the centre of Montpellier tasting Pascal Fulla’s top wine, L’Ecriture.

I also strayed out of the Languedoc, to Domaine de Pibarnon in Bandol, to Chêne Bleu in the southern Rhone, and to Corsica for a very rewarding presentation by Oliver Poussier of some of his favourite Corsican wines. He was so enthusiastic that I was inspired to taste yet more wines from the Ile de Beauté on the Corsican stand.

And the final highlight was some very mature Rivesaltes from Domaine Cazes, just three wines, but two of them were older than me! I ran out of superlatives. I’ve just found the piece that I wrote about the very first Vinisud for Wine & Spirit magazine, and back then I was also enthusing about Rivesaltes Vieux from Domaine Cazes.

What is perhaps more telling is that I concluded the article by saying that the most exciting thing about that very first Vinisud was that it happened at all. Ten years earlier, or even five years earlier it would have been inconceivable that the wines of the Midi were of sufficient quality to sustain a fair – yes, I know that it covers other areas of the Mediterranean, but none the less Languedoc-Roussillon accounted and still accounts for the lion’s share. The continuing growth and success of Vinisud is a tremendous testimony to the quality of the wines of the south of France.

Friday, 17 February 2012

DOMAINE DE LA GARANCE



I’ve been meaning to write about Pierre Quinonero at Domaine de la Garance for a while now, as it is a little time since my visit. He has seven hectares outside the village of Caux, planted with Carignan, Syrah, Grenache Noir, Chardonnay, Ugni Blanc, Grenache Gris and Pinot Noir, on four different soils, limestone, clay and limestone, basalt and villefranchien.

Some wine growers have the same profile as their wines – is this the equivalent of dogs looking like their owners? Pierre Quinonero is a stocky, well built guy with a friendly smile, and his wines do have a solid chunky character about them. And he is a mine of information, so tasting with him was great fun. He explained how garance is the plant which provides purple dye – his vineyard of Ugni Blanc was covered with it – and hence the name of this estate. Most of his wines take their name from local legends and stories of the Languedoc. And for somebody born and bred in the warm south, he admitted that he does not like the heat, and wants to retire to either Scotland or North Yorkshire! Indeed he greatly regretted that he has never had the opportunity to play rugby in either place.

2008 les Armières, Coteaux du Languedoc The Armières were witches or sorcières.
90% Carignan and 10% Syrah with a three month cuvaison, malo on the skins, and 24 months in wood without any racking. 14º Deep colour. Quite solidly oaky on the nose, and on the palate a firm tannic streak, with ripe fruit and notes of chocolate and liqueur cherries. Ripe and powerful, and still very young.

2000 les Armières, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault - 20.00€
Again 90% Carignan and 10% Syrah. That is the way the vines were planted in the vineyard. But the wine is vin de pays rather than an appellation, as ten years ago Pierre had more vineyards, and more Carignan, and consequently too much Carignan for the appellation. It’s the percentage in the vineyard that matters rather than the percentage in the wine.

The colour was obviously less intense than the 2008, and the wine was more elegant. Pierre commented that 2000 was a quite a fresh year, with some rain, whereas 2008 was warmer, so that the wines had more substance. There was some dry cassis fruit as well as some firm tannins and a leathery note, with quite an elegant finish. The wine was still quite youthful.

Pierre has some ten vintages on sales – observing we vignerons have to do the work that the wine shops don’t do – it’s more elegant in French: on fait le travail que les cavistes ne font pas.


2010 Pinot Noir, Vin de France – 12€
This enjoys a two day cuvaison and then the grapes are pressed and the juice fermented in barrel with natural yeast. It is bottled the following February, after the malo-lactic fermentation. Think of it as as the Languedoc’s answer to Beaujolais, for it was certainly fresh and fruity, with notes of liqueur cherries, griottes, with some acidity. Pierre’s vineyard of Pinot Noir is grown on granite, up in a cooler part of the Languedoc at Colombiers-sur-Orb. The vineyard is just below the Caroux, so it enjoys cool evenings, making for a fresh style of wine, enhancing the côté mineral. And the grapes are picked a month later than in Caux.

He also has some Chardonnay in the same vineyard, which was planted in 2000. The style of wine he makes depends on the vintage. In the best years it is les Vargues, and in lighter years A Clara, who is his oldest daughter. The Vargues were the people who rode horses in the mines – a grandfather mined in Spain, and then in retirement worked in the vineyard.

2008 les Vargues, Vin de pays de l’Hérault, with eighteen months élevage.
Quite golden in colour. And intriguingly oaky on the nose, with layers of texture balanced with good acidity. There is 30% new oak; the wine undergoes a malo-lactic fermentation; there is regular bâttonage, but no racking, fining or filtering, or chilling. It is all very natural, and for Pierre an expression of Chardonnay from granite. He first made this cuvée in 2002, and subsequently in 2003, 2006 2007 and 2008, but there is none in 2009 or 2010.

2010 A Clara – 12€
This enjoys the same vinification, but only spends seven months in wood. I didn’t think the bottle I tasted was showing very well, so I won’t bore you with my tasting notes.

2009 Claviers Vin d Pays de l’Hérault– 20€
A blend of 60% Ugni Blanc, with 40% Grenache Gris and just a drop of Clairette. There is no chilling and only natural yeast. The juice is put straight into barriques and the wine given nine months in old wood. It was very intriguing. The colour was old gold and the nose was not very expressive. On the palate it was quite soft, with notes of hazelnuts, and rounded, with a bite on the finish.

And we finished with 2002 A Coline, Coteaux du Languedoc – 40€ and a heady 16º. It is pure Grenache Noir, grown on clay and limestone and harvested quite late. It had spent five years in old barrels, without any topping up. And the taste was very intriguing. There were some dry leathery notes on the nose, and one the palate it was concentrated and long with some firm cherry fruit. Definitely not mainstream, but an example of the unexpected flavours you can find in the Languedoc.

I enjoyed my afternoon with Pierre – he is passionately enthusiastic about his work, with a wonderfully original streak of creativity.

Monday, 13 February 2012

TASTING ROUSSILLON CHEZ RAEBURN FINE WINES

Raeburn Fine Wines shop in Edinburgh comes into the category of ‘once visited, never forgotten’. I had never seen quite so many bottles crammed into such a small space ..... and what bottles. So when an invitation arrived for a tasting in London, I accepted with alacrity. This was no ordinary tasting, but a series of verticals from some of the many fine estates that they follow. There was Dry River from New Zealand, the most delicious Pouilly Fuissé from Saumaize-Michelin, some amazing Ribolla Gialla from Josko Gravner - wines that are aged on their skins in amphora for eight months – some elegant Nebbiolo from Luca Roagna and some extraordinary sherries and Pedro Ximenez from Lorenzo de Soto. And for the purposes of this blog, an estate in Roussillon that was unknown to me: Clot de l’Origine in the village of Maury.

This is one of the many new estates of the village. Marc Barriot made his first vintage in 2004. Unfortunately the bad weather had kept him in France, so he was unavailable for questions at the tasting. Apparently he studied at Toulouse and worked in Bandol for ten years before settling in Roussillon. He has 17 different plots, totaling 10.5 hectares, not just in Maury, but also in nearby villages, Calce, Estagel, Montner and Latour de France. All are farmed biodynamically. What I really loved about the red wines was their wonderful freshness, that is relatively atypical for Roussillon. But first there were white wines, Les Quilles Libres. Prices are Raeburn Fine Wines’ retail price, but not every vintage is available.

2010 Les Quilles Libres, Côtes Catalanes
A blend of Grenache Gris and Blanc,
Light golden colour. Quite a rich resinous nose. Very texured, with layers of flavours. Notes of dry honey; a dry but rich palate. Lovely mouth feel. It was a great start to the whole tasting.

2009 - £18.50
Grenache Gris, Côtes Catalanes
A more delicate nose, compared to the 2010. Drier, more herbal notes on the nose. And the palate was tighter, less resinous, with more acidity. A dry finish, and again some intriguing layers of flavour.

2008 – There were two wines from the 2008 vintage, each with a slightly different élevage.
Lot 1 - £17.50
This is how Marc explained the vinification process, by email: Pressing on 7th September and the clear juice goes into two 400 litre barrels. The wine is aged until end of May in barrel, and then transferred in tank without fining and filtration, and left to settle for 2 months. He usually adds 20 mg of sulphur at that time. Bottling is done by hand in August, and then the wine is left to settle for ten months before release.

Delicate herbal nose. Lightly nutty palate; elegantly rich, with good acidity. Elegantly balanced, with a fresh mineral finish. The oak is beautifully integrated.

Lot 3
Was kept in old Bandol tonneaux for three months. Quite a firm nose. Curiously I found a touch of newer oak on the nose, compared to Lot 1. Altogether tighter, firmer and more youthful. A tight knit and structured palate, with possibly longer ageing potential.

2007
Light golden. Rich and resinous on the palate. Good fruit, with layers of flavour. Evolving beautifully, but with quite an oaky finish.

2006
Light amber colour. Lovely dry nutty mineral notes on the nose, and even more so on the palate. Very good acidity. And very intriguing. One of those wines that keeps you guessing.

And then on to the reds, which were either Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Côtes du Roussillon, or in one instance just plain vin de table. And there was also a Côtes Catalanes. Essentially the wines are a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah.

2010 Soif de Plaisir
Medium colour. Fresh red fruit on the nose. Quite a firm mineral palate with good fruit, supple tannins and a dry finish. The hallmark of these wines was elegance, comparing favourably to some of the more opulent and alcoholic wines that can come from Roussillon.

2009 Soif de Plaisir - £14.50
Light delicate nose contrasting with a richer fuller palate. Quite a dry leathery note on the palate, and a touch of warmth. Quite a firm finish.

2008 - £13.99
Medium colour. Quite an elegant nose, with elegant red fruit. Drinking very nicely, with some firm dry fruit and a touch of minerality. Very satisfying with lots of nuances to discover.

2007
Good colour. Quite a rich nose, but quire full and leathery. Nicely maturing fruit, dry and leathery with quite a rich mouth-filling finish.

2006
Medium colour. Quite a firm stony mineral nose. Again quite a firm palate; mineral notes. Quite tight knit with a dry leathery note and good depth and a long finish.

2005
Good depth of fruit on the nose, quite rich and leathery, with rich dry spice on the palate and some lovely fruit. Drinking very well now.

2004
Côtes Catalanes - £11.99
Medium colour. Quite a fresh spicy nose, with more mature, leathery notes on the palate. Quite a firm finish, and drinking very well.

www.vin-de-l-origine.com

www.raeburnfinewines.com

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

MORE VIGNERONS INDEPENDENTS

A couple more estates from the tasting des Vignerons Independents at Lords, before moving on elsewhere.

DOMAINE DES GRANDES COSTES

An estate at Vacquières, with vines in three villages, Vacquières, Corconne and Sauteyrargues Jean-Christophe Garnier explained that he and his brother Guillaume have 14 hectares and bottled their first wine in 2000. For the moment Vacquières in not part of the Pic St. Loup but that will change in 2014. Pic St. Loup should also be recognised as an appellation in its own right for the 2013 vintage and they are also working towards a white Pic St. Loup. At the moment any white wine is Coteaux du Languedoc or vin de pays, or IGP.

2010 Coteaux du Languedoc. Musardises 9.00€
A blend of 70% Cinsaut with 15% each Grenache and Syrah. Attractive perfumed nose, very Cinsaut. Quite ripe spicy confit palate. Quite supple and rounded. Easy drinking

2008 Coteaux du Languedoc, la Sarabande – 12€
25% each of Cinsaut, Grenache Noir, Syrah and Carignan, with 24 months in vat. I thought the nose a touch reduced, but liked the palate a lot. Nice rounded fruit, quite supple with a streak of tannin. A sunny wine.

2009 Pic St. Loup - 18€
Half and half Syrah and Grenache – eighteen month élevage. 60% in wood. Quite ripe and perfumed with an oaky streak. On the palate I found that the oak needs time to tone down, as the wine has only just been bottled. So a bit adolescent, but with plenty of potential.

2006 Coteaux du Languedoc 7 Rangées. 35€
A blend of Syrah and Grenache. This has spent 24 months in new wood, and is then given 12 months ageing in bottle before release. I tend to be a bit allergic to new oak, but this really worked. It comes from one small plot, rather than just seven rows. Quite a ripe rounded spicy nose. Some attractive leathery notes on the palate. The oak is nicely integrated and the wine is evolving in a very satisfying way, showing some lovely fruit.

CHATEAU DE CABRIAC

I don’t normally associate Corbières with white wine; white is part of the appellation but in pretty limited quantity. However, I’ve had a soft spot for the white wine of Château de Cabriac for a few years, so was very pleased to have the chance to taste the 2011, a blend of Grenache, Roussanne and Rolle. 6.90€. The wine was not yet bottled, but it had already developed some attractive ripe rounded fruit, with some hints of white blossom, though it still had a slight adolescent note, which will obviously disappear once it has settled in bottle.

2009 Corbières Tradition – 6/.60€
This was showing very well, with some fresh spicy fruit on the nose, and a satisfyingly rounded palate, with some ripe fruit and a leathery finish. Quite a gutsy Corbières, but at the same time quite accessible.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

AUBAI MEMA

Mark Haynes is an Englishman with a wine estate in the village Aubais outside Nimes. His wines are usually IGP Pays d’Oc. He bought ten hectares back in 2002, which he is now in the process of converting to organic viticulture.. I enjoyed the wines of Aubai Mema and thought they deserved to be better known. Mark would say that he aims for ‘minimum intervention and maximum expression’.

2010 Albion, a blend of Chardonnay and Viognier - 12.00€
Light colour; delicate nose, lightly buttery, with a peachy hint from the Viognier, and a firm finish.

More characterful was a Chardonnay vin de table, with some ripe leesy fruit. Mark gives it lots of lees stirring in vat and it has some lovely textured flavours. A Chardonnay with an attitude. 7.50€

2010 Liverna – 6.00€
A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, with 20% Grenache and 10% Merlot, kept in old wood. Designed for easy drinking, with some ripe fruit, soft tannins and a rounded finish.

2010 L’Insoumise – 9.00€
From 60 year old Carignan vines. Half maceration carbonique and half a traditional fermentation, in old wood. Quite firm and structured, with a tannin streak, balanced with some fresh cherry fruit. Some ageing potential.

2008 Grenade – 9.00€
From old Grenache vines, 55 years or more. Spends six months in wood. Some cherry fruit on the nose, with a touch of oak, and more oak on the palate.

I preferred the 2010 Grenade, with was fresher and riper, with more integrated oak.

2006 La Douzième - 12.00€
Syrah with a touch of Viognier, co-fermented, as in Côte Rôtie. Quite a firm leathery nose, with some ripe spicy fruit, and more leathery notes on the palate. Still quite youthful, with a streak of tannin. Mark was still using 225 litres barriques in 2006. For his 2010 he used only demi-muids of 500 litres.

The 2010 was more perfumed on the nose, with some ripe spicy fruit. Quite a fleshy palate, ripe and perfumed. Some of the Syrah, two barrels worth, was fermented by carbonic maceration, which may enhance the perfume.

2009 Lunatico, Vin de France. 24€
From old Grenache, 55 years or more, grown on north facing slopes, given 18 months élevage. Medium colour; elegantly understated nose and palate. Very good balance of fruit and oak. A tannic streak. Plenty of potential for development in the bottle.

www.aubaimema.com

Thursday, 2 February 2012

MAS AMIEL

To continue with Roussillon, a great range from Mas Amiel, as always. It fully deserves its reputation as one of the leading producers of Maury.

2009 Plaisir Blanc, Côtes du Roussillon
A blend of 45% Grenache Blanc, 30% Maccabeu and 15% each of Marsanne and Roussanne.
Quite solid, rich and rounded, with a slightly resinous note on both nose and palate. Layers of flavours. Potential to develop in the bottle.

2008 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Notre Terre. 13€
One third each of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache. The Syrah and Carignan are fermented in wood, and then blended with the Grenache, and aged in concrete tanks. Lovely ripe fruit. Ripe and spicy with a fresh edge. Rich and elegant. Wonderfully southern.

And then on to the Vins Doux:

2009 Maury Vintage – their best known wine. – 15.50€
Grenache aged for a few months in concrete tanks and then bottled. Intense ripe fruit on the nose. Rich cherry flavours; red fruit and chocolate. Quite intense. Rich and spicy with length, and some alcohol on the finish.

2007 Maury, Charles Dupuy – 32€
Named after the man who established the original reputation of Mas Amiel, when it was the only estate of any note in Maury. A selection of the oldest vines, Grenache that are 50 years old and more. Bottled in 2009. The élevage includes a few months in wood. Much richer and more concentrated on the palate, with a dry edge on the finish. I preferred the simpler wine.

But best of all was 1975 Maury – 50€
The traditional rancio style, Red tawny colour. Rich nutty, with some red fruit and an edge of acidity and a steak of tannin. Still remarkably young. Powerful and elegant. Lots of nuances and complexity. Combines power and elegance. Classic Maury and absolutely delicious.

And to finish. 2009 Muscat de Rivesaltes, a blend of both Muscat a petits grains and Muscat d’Alexandrie. 13€
Ripe and sweet, grapey fruit and the typical slightly bitter finish of Muscat.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

DOMAINE MASTRIO

Another new estate in Roussillon, in Ille sur Tet, within Côtes du Roussillon Caramany. I talked to Caty Dhoine Paetzold; she is Belgian and her husband comes from Germany. They made their first wine, just 1000 bottles in 2006 and have 20 hectares. Caty admitted that their yields are miniscule, 15 hl/ha. And their vines range in age from 25 to 102 years old.

We began with a rosé, 2010 Libertine – 11€ - made from Carignan, from grapes that are pressed. Pale orange pink colour. Very ripe and vinous. Quite a heavy food rosé. And quite mouth filling.

2008 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Dynamique 11€ A blend of 60 % Syrah with Carignan. Made in vat. Medium colour. Quite ripe nose, with some warm spicy fruit on the palate. Balanced with some ripe leathery notes. Warm and supple, with notes of the garrigues on the finish. A lovely glass of wine.

2007 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Généreux– 17€
A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan- about one third each, which spends 12 months in wood. Their first real vintage. I liked this less, the palate was quite solid and firm. I felt it was work in progress.

I much preferred 2007 Elégant, a pure Carignan It spent twelve months in oak, but from 2008, there was no more oak. Quite ripe and solid on the nose. A rounded palate; the oak was well integrated, with some ripe spicy fruit. Good body.

2009 Pain d’Oiseau Côtes Catalanes. Carignan blanc from vines that are between 60 and 120 years old. Élevage in vat. Quite rounded, ripe and textured. Almost nutty with ripe fruit. Very satisfying.

Again a new estate with considerable potential.

DOMAINE DE SABBAT

A new estate in Roussillon, in the village of Latour de France. Sylvain Lejeune has bought nine hectares, and made his first wines in 2009. His vines are anything between 40 and 80 years old.

2010 Côtes du Roussillon – A blend of Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Maccabeu, fermented in oak. The oak is still quite dominant on the nose, with a rounded oaky palate. A textured wine with lots of development potential and a long finish.

2010 Côtes du Roussillon Villages – 80% Carignan, with Syrah, and unusual for not having any Grenache. Spends four months in wood. Quite a firm peppery nose with some spicy fruit on the palate. Quite a firm oaky streak. The Syrah tempers the Carignan

2009 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Printemps 1900
A blend of 60% Syrah with 40% Syrah. Spends 12 months in tonneaux. Quite a solid rounded mouthful of wine. Youthful and ripe with good texture. Full-bodied. A long rich finish. A touch of alcohol on the finish. Redolent of the warm south.

2010 Rivesaltes Grenat – pure Grenache Noir. Quite a deep colour. Quite ripe and rounded. Quite intensely sweet, rich and ripe, balanced with a youthful tannic streak.

On first taste, lots of potential and worth a visit.