Wednesday, 28 March 2012

RISING STARS IN THE LANGUEDOC



The Maison du Languedoc has taken to arranging an annual tasting of Rising Stars, asking various Languedoc enthusiasts to nominate their own stars. I am not quite sure what the exact criteria are, as one wine grower in the group this year has certainly been making wine for quite a number of years, but since his wines are very good, it was nice to include him. Some already had a UK importer, and some were looking for one.

I began by tasting of a table of bottles without a wine grower in attendance, some names I knew and some were less familiar.

2007 Domaine Ste Croix, Corbières, Celèstra, made by Jon Bowen
Deep colour. Quite firm dry leathery nose, and on the palate a bit riper and more raisiny. Quite warm and concentrated.

Mas Mudigliza – I have come across them at the Fenouillèdes tasting in Tautavel. Dimitri Glipa is the grower.

2009 Côtes du Roussillon, Carminé
Mainly Grenache with some Syrah and a touch of Carignan. I liked this a lot. Deep colour. Quite firm nose, quite solid and leathery, and even more on the palate. Ripe, rounded, warm and leathery. Lots of character. A great sense of place.

Villa Tempora in Pézenas were showing a couple of wines and looking for a distributor. See an earlier post for some tasting notes. Suffice it to say here that both wines were showing deliciously.

La Reserve d'O
I much preferred Hissez O 2009, Terrasses du Larzac, to 2009 La Réserve d’O, also a Terrasses du Larzac. Hissez O was rounded and ripe, with spice but much fresher, with good fruit. It is 60% Syrah, 35% Grenache and 5% Cinsaut.

Domaine la Maurerie in St. Chinian was a new name for me. The 2009 had a ripe nose and palate, but was just a touch jammy on the finish.

Les Vignes Oubliées 2010 – Another wine from the Terrasses du Larzac, with 60% Grenache, and 20% each of Syrah and Carignan. Medium colour. Quite perfumed, fresh fruit on nose and palate. Raspberries and other fruits rouges. Medium weight and an elegant finish. I like this a lot – and the name is beautifully evocative.

Le Chemin des Rêves was another new name for me. They are in Pic St Loup. I liked their 2010 Abracadabra red, a blend of 50% Syrah with 40% Grenache and 10% Carignan. Good colour. Ripe rounded fruit, with some leathery notes, and some fresh raspberry notes. Balanced and ripe.

As well as Domaine la Maurerie, there were several other offerings from St. Chinian.

Domaine Pech Menel gave us a vertical tasting of six vintages back to 2002. The 2002 had benefitted from some bottle age, while the 2009 had some ripe spicy notes.

Domaine les Eminades did not show as well as I expected. I am not sure why. I think I liked their white wine best, a blend of Grenache Blanc and Marsanne, with some white blossom and ripe fruit.



Xavier de Franssu from Mas de Cynanque was there too – see a posting from last summer and the wines were showing very nicely. His 2009 Fleur Rouge had some ripe spice, while the Plein Grès was more structured, again with good fruit.

Olivier Pascal from Domaine des Terrasses de Gabrielle explained that while his cellar is at Capendu, his vines are at Berlou, which is one of the crus of St. Chinian, but he seemed only to make Languedoc or Pays d’Oc.

Lidewej van Wilgen from Mas des Dames is in Murviel les Beziers so on the edge of St. Chinian. Her wines were showing beautifully – see an earlier posting for more details.






Some one else who deserves to go far is Gavin Crisfield – again see a recent posting. His 2009 La Traversée was showing beautifully, with lots of potential.

Pézenas was represented by Domaine les Aurelles – I tasted all Basile St. Germain’s wines at Vinisud so am planning a post dedicated to them, rather than dumping them in the crowd.

And down the road there was Domaine Turner Pageot, with particularly good whites, La Rupture. From Sauvignon, and le Blanc, from Marsanne and Roussanne, as well as reds, Carmina Major and le Rouge. Manu Pageot is a careful and talented winemaker, with his wife Karen. Again I have written about them before.



A new estate is Domaine Sainte Cécile du Parc which is just outside Pézenas. Christine Mouton Bertoli’s first vintage was 2009 and her wines are very much work in progress as she gets to grips with selection parcellaire and so on. I promised to go and visit. So more anon.





Roussillon was also represented, by Katie Jones of Domaine Jones – Katie was showing the new vintage of her white wine, 2011 Cotes Catalanes, a pure Grenache Gris with light colour; fresh mineral nose, with a rounded palate. Good depth and layers of flavour. Nicely integrated oak. see an earlier posting for more details.

And also from Roussillon was Domaine Modat with Philippe Modat, who I visited last summer. – again another previous posting.




New to me was a lovely Fitou estate, Château Wiala with Wiebke Seubert.

2009 Rebelle, Fitou
55% Carignan, 40% Grenache Noir, 5% Syrah. All in cement.
I liked this a lot. Some elegant spice on the nose, and a certain freshness on the palate, balancing the ripe fruit. Lovely balance.

2009 Harmonie, Fitou
47% Carignan, 40% Grenache Noir, 13% Syrah. The Grenache sees no wood; half the Carignan and all the Syrah are aged in wood. And the wine had a good colour, with some firm leathery notes on the nose, and some ripe, more rounded fruit on the palate. Rounded and satisfying and still very youthful.

2007 Domino, Fitou
45% Carignan, 35% Grenache Noir, 20% Syrah. The Carignan and Syrah go into oak, 400 litre new barrels, but not the Grenache. Medium colour. Quite solid, rounded firm fruit. And on the palate, warm and leathery, with ripe fruit and a rounded finish.

Wiebke explained that her first vintage was 2001; she began picking on 11th September .... She has nine hectares of vines at Tuchan and has moved towards biodynamic viticulture, but does not say so on the label. It all promised well.

Domaine les Aires Hautes in the Minervois, at Siran,and includes vineyards in La Livinière for the cru. 1992 was the first vintage of this estate.

2010 Minervois, from Carignan, Syrah and Grenache. Quite rounded perfumed ripe fruit; medium weight. Quite fleshy ripe and easy.

Three wines from La Livinière were all quite chunky and raisiny, rich and warm, and there was also a Malbec, Pays d’Oc, from 70 year old vines, with some sturdy but fresh fruit.

The tasting also strayed into the Gard, with a Costières de Nimes estate, Château d’Or et de Gueules at St. Gilles on the edge of the Camargue.

2011 Costières de Nimes blanc, 40% Grenache blanc, 40% Rolle 20% Vermetiono was fresh and herbal with some white blossom and good acidity.

There were four different reds. An easy Syrah Pays d’Oc; a more solid 2009 Costières de Nimes from almost pure Mourvèdre, la Bolida, which was quite dense and meaty; Qu’es Aquo, a pure Carignan from 100 year old vines, with some sturdy fruit, lots of character, and good complexity and 2010 Trassegum, a blend of 50% Syrah, 25% Mourvèdre and 25% Carignan, with rounded ripe leathery fruit.

And last, not least was Mas d’Amile. Amélie d’Hurlaborde was pouring her 2009 Vieux Carignan, Pays du Mont Baudile. Deep colour; quite a ripe nose and on the palate some lovely berry fruit with a firm backbone. Very garrigue. Nicely balanced. Again see a previous post for more details.

And I left on a positive note of optimism. There are indeed rising stars in the Languedoc.


OLD RIVESALTES FROM DOMAINE CAZES

Mature old rancio Rivesaltes along with Maury and Banyuls must be amongst the most original wines of the Languedoc, and yet they are so grossly underrated. Domaine Cazes are masters of the style and they have found various batches of old wines, from small local growers, which are still in barrel, small barrels sized from 400 litres to 10 hectolitres at the very most. In contrast their delicious Cuvée Aimé Cazes is aged in large foudres, so a subtle difference in style. The grape variety blend is Malvoisie, Grenache Blanc and Grenache Noir, mixed up together in the vineyard, but with Grenache blanc the dominant variety. They are bottling wines from the 1930s through to the youngest, 1962. Only the immediate pre-war years are missing, 1936, 1937 and 1938. So I could not resist an invitation to taste these on the Advini stand at Vinisud. There were just three wines, but what wines, 1952, 1942 and 1932. How often you do go to a tasting where most of the wines are older than you?!

1952 was still in barrel. It was light amber in colour, with the most wonderful nutty nose, and elegant walnut fruit. On the palate there was good acidity and a firm bite, with richly elegant fruit and considerable length. It was served at room temperature which brought out all the various nuances. It just lingered in the mouth so that I could still taste it after a ten minute conversation.

1942 was a deeper amber colour, and more intense on the nose, with dry nutty notes. There was a firm bite on the palate, with great intensity and dry walnut fruit, and again considerable length on the finish.

1932 Light amber in colour. Comparisons are odious, but this did make me think of fine dry oloroso sherry. It was extraordinary, with a firm dry bite on the nose, and a certain underlying richness, and elegance on the palate. Not sweet but rich, with enormous length and a lingering flavour of walnuts. I simply ran out of superlatives.

And if you wondered about the price of these liquid treasures, the 1930s will be about 400€ a bottle and the 1950s 150€. I wonder if I can afford a bottle of my birth year.

Monday, 26 March 2012

CINSAUT FROM CHILE

2011 De Martino Viejas Tinajas Cinsaut, Itata Valley

I went to a tasting of some of the Wine Society’s newest offerings last week. They had rather neglected the Languedoc, but they were showing a Cinsaut from Chile. I had no idea that Chile produced Cinsaut and this example was delicious, made by De Martino from thirty year old unirrigated bush vines in the Itata Valley, which is only about 20 kilometres from the coast, and therefore one of Chile’s cooler areas. The wine was fermented in amphora, which apparently is an old tradition in Chile.

The flavour was a little denser than a Languedoc Cinsaut. Young vibrant colour. Fresh cherry fruit with some spice and herbs on the nose and palate. Very intriguing fresh fruit, with some balancing acidity and tannin – a retail price of £8.95.

For those who do not know the Wine Society, or to give it its full name, The International Exhibition Cooperative Wine Society, it is the UK’s oldest mail order wine merchant, founded in 1874. And to buy from them, you must first buy a share in the Society. I have a soft spot for them, as it was a glass of The Society’s Champagne that first lured me into the wine trade, when they offered me my first job. And they have a great list of wines as they have a firm mission to seek out the new and the original, such as this delicious Chilean Cinsaut.

Friday, 23 March 2012

TASTING CORSICA WITH OLIVER POUSSIER

I’ve always had a soft spot for the island of Corsica, ever since my very first visit, when I left London on a typical grey drizzly February morning and arrived in Ajaccio to find spring sunshine and the almond trees and mimosa in flower. So I leapt at the opportunity to attend a tasting of Corsican wines hosted by Olivier Poussier, who has received various accolades as a top sommelier and writes a regular column for Revue du Vin de France.

He was highly articulate, speaking with great enthusiasm about the island’s wines. He wanted to emphasise the diversity of grape varieties, and especially the indigenous varieties. Corsica has numerous advantages for growing grapes. It enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with the added benefit of the sea breezes. The terrain is semi-mountainous, with twenty mountains that reach over 1000 metres, and the vineyards enjoy significant temperature differences between day and nighttime. And with the exception of Patrimonio which is limestone, the soil is either granite or schist. Both give acidity, and energy to the wine, and to grape varieties, such as Vermentino that may lack acidity, but in Corsica can produce wonderful minerality. Vermentino is one of the oldest grape varieties of the Mediterranean, and known on the island as Malvoisie de Corse. And initially I was surprised that Olivier placed greater emphasis on the white wines of Corsica in preference to the reds, but he definitely has a point. The Vermentino in the tasting that follows displayed some lovely original flavours.

2010 Clos Alivu, Patrimonio
Light colour. Quite sappy salty nose, soft acidity but with a nice mineral note and a touch of saltiness. Oliver suggested agrumes or citrus notes, as well as white blossom such as hawthorn. The wine was fresh and balanced.

2011 Domaine de Granajolo, AOC Corse Porto-Vecchio
Vermentino grown on granite soil. A 20 hectare estate created in 1970. Organic. Quite a rounded nose with a firm mineral palate. Good structure and good length. ‘Less exuberant fruit’

2010 Clos Culombu, Ribbe Rosse Blanc, AOC Corse Calvi
An experiment with Vermentino fermented in oak. The oak was very apparent on both nose and palate, but there was some fruit underneath, and oak gave the wine a certain texture. Personally I would prefer it without oak, but it did have a rounded satisfying quality about it. Apparently they are considering some larger oak barrels, and they also wanted to show that Vermentino could age.

2010 Clos Canarelli, Corse Figari
An intriguing herbal nose with a touch of oak on the palate. This was more successful, a vinification in oak, without losing any tipicity. The granite soil provides tension. There was minerality and length, with texture, weight and volume. I liked this a lot. Olivier explained how the work in the vineyard – this is biodynamic – makes for weight and body in the wine.

2009 Domaine de Torraccia Oriu Blanc, Corse Porto Vecchio
More Vermentino – this underwent a malo-lactic fermentation. A little colour. Beginning to mature on the nose. Quite rounded leafy mature notes; some herbal fruit; elegant nuances ageing well with good acidity. A hint of bitterness on the finish – grapefruit skins.

2007 Clos Venturi white
An estate inland, with relatively high vineyards at 400 metres, and facing north. A little colour. A slightly resinous character on the nose and more so on the palate. Quite dry nutty fruit, with some salty notes and some firm minerality. Quite intriguing.


2010 Domaine de la Punta, Bianco Gentile

A change of grape variety here – Bianco Gentile is one of the lost Corsican varieties, and attempts are being made to revive it. It is generally fatter and riper than Vermentino. This was fermented in oak, and had some light nutty notes on both nose and palate, coming from some subtle use of oak. For Oliver the oak reins in the wine, giving it a firm backbone. Intriguingly understated.

2011 Domaine Sant Armettu, Rosumarinu Rosé, Corse Sartène
Pure Sciacarello, an originally Corsican variety. And pressed, rather than saigné. Very pale pretty colour. Some cherry fruit on the nose, and more raspberry on the palate. Quite vinous palate with herbal notes. Quite elegant. The finesse comes from the granite soil. Quite a long finish.

2011 Clos Teddi, Patrimonio Grande cuvée rosé
Delicate pale pink. Quite a delicate nose. Quite rounded, nicely vinous but elegant palate, balanced with good acidity.

2009 Domaine Giacometti, Cru des Agriates rouge
Olivier observed that Patrimonio is best when there is no water stress. In 2009 the Nielluccio was very ripe, but stressed and the result was a rather jammy wine with a streak of bitter tannins. Medium colour. Quite a confit ripe nose, with a rather jammy palate. Overripe. Vividly demonstrating the difficulty of making red wine on Corsica.


2009 Clos Canarelli, Corse Figari
Quite deep colour. Intriguing fruit on nose and palate. Medium weight. No confit or jam. Some elegant tannins giving backing, with some leathery fruit. Quite cedary with herbal hints and a touch of pepper. Elegant finish. A blend of Nielluccio, Sciacarello and Syrah, aged in barrel. Beautifully balanced and satisfying. This worked so much better.

2008 Domaine Leccia, Patrimonio
A contrast, with no water stress. Medium colour, a little development. A hint of cherries on the nose and on the palate some elegant fruit, balanced with a tannic streak and a touch of acidity. Elegant, with some garrigues notes and a wild streak, a côté sauvage. Nielluccio without the rustic tannins. Grown on clay and limestone.


2008 Domaine Leccia, Muscat du Cap Corse
Olivier explained how there are two styles of Muscat from Cap Corse, those from grapes grown on schist from vineyards on the Cap, and those from Patrimonio, grown on limestone. Here the residual sugar is 95 gms/l as opposed to the more usual 120 gms/l. The grapes are passerillé and the fermenting juice muté sur grains. Quite a deep golden colour. Lovely fruit; ripe and intense. Bitter oranges and mandarin. A lovely finish to a fascinating tasting, which amply demonstrated that Corsica deserves a much wider audience.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

CHATEAU L'ENGARRAN AND QUETTON ST. GEORGES



Château de l’Engarran is one of the most beautiful of the Languedoc chateaux, situated just outside Montpellier within the cru of St. Georges d'Orques. The gardens are a delight. I first went there about fifteen years ago when I was writing The Wines of the South of France, and have returned fairly regularly ever since. One time I was with my artist friend Sue, who painted while I tasted, and then subsequently exhibited her paintings at L’Engarran, and my most recent visit was during Vinisud for a vertical tasting of their top wine, Quetton St. Georges, St. Georges d’Orques.




The château was looking enchanting as were the gardens, all floodlit and showing off the statues to best advance, and the two sisters, Diane and Constance, with their parents are welcoming hosts. Diane is the winemaker, while her sister does sales, so she is responsible for the colourful descriptions below of each vintage. Apologies I have not translated them as they read so much better in French. Quetton St. Georges is aged partially in barrels, half new and half of one wine, and then blended with the half aged in vat, and the whole cuvée is then aged for another 14 months in vat. Syrah dominates the blend, as much as 75%, but each year Diane takes the best wines for Quetton St. Georges.




2009 Un grand et beau Bébé! Habillé d’Or
78% Syrah, 15% Grenache, 7% Mourvèdre The first vintage that they have bottled in magnum.
Deep colour, young. Quite a ripe balsamic nose and some ripe tapenade notes on the palate. Rich fruit; quite tannic with a firm backbone. Very youthful, with plenty of ageing potential



2008 – Tu es mon millésime ....tout le Bonheur que tu m’as donné
75% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre 10% Grenache
Deep young colour. Again some balsamic notes, but more elegant than the 2009. Quite supple, ripe fruit on the palate. Quite powerful and intense, but not too tannic. Supple and appealing.




2006 - Noir, c’est Noir! Une main de fer dans un gant de velours
92% Syrah 8% Grenache. Medium colour. Quite a sturdy nose, with some oak. A firm tannic palate – definitely an iron hand – quite tight knit with firm fruit. Still very youthful. Will develop

2005 Le bel hommme! Bodybuildé et généreux.
80% Syrah and 20% Grenache.
While I have doubts about that particular bit of Franglais, it was quite an apt description of the wine. A rounded palate, with quite dense ripe fruit and tannins. Quite solid balsamic notes on the nose. Rich and rounded.



2002 La grande Demoiselle ou les efforts récompensés
80% Syrah 10% Carignan, 7% Grenache, 3% Mourvèdre.
Medium colour. Quite ripe notes on the nose, with a vegetal hint. Very easy ripe fruit on the palate; supple with soft tannins. Lighter and less powerful than other vintages, but lovely easy drinking.

2001 Un puissance au maculin; une réussite contre vents et marées.
74% Syrah, 16% Carignan, 10% Grenache
Medium colour, showing a little development. Quite ripe cassis on the nose. Supple palate, ripe and mouth filling, a touch of oak in the background, with a tannic streak, Medium weight with some elegance. And my favourite in the line up.

1999 - L’année de la tournade! Une bonne étoile veillait sur l’Engarran. On 5th October a tornado tore the roof off the cellar, just at the end of the harvest, so that the vats finished their fermentations under an open sky.

Quite a developed colour with a cedary note on the palate. Quite rich and supple, rounded with a balancing streak of tannin. Very harmonious. Has aged beautifully.



And the next day I went back to the fair and tasted the rest of their wines: Constance teased Diane about her inability to stop making yet another new wine, which she needs to sell. And Diane talked about how she vinifies everything in small lots, so that she has plenty of blending possibilities, with about fifty different cuvées, when it comes to the final wines. So here was a new cuvée, from one particular vineyard

2009 Le Parc - still in vat. And aged in new wood. 92% Syrah, 6% Grenache and 2% Mourvèdre.
Good colour. Quite rich dense and ripe, with some supple tannins. Quite intense with some lovely fruit.

2010 le Parc. Quite solid dense and ripe, with olives and black berries. Quite dense and solid palate. Good ripe fruit.

And then onto wines in bottle:

2011 St. Georges d’Orques rosé 82% Grenache 18% Cinsaut. Saigné – 8.20€
Ripe and juice. Medium weight ripe fruit with good acidity and some raspberry notes.

2011 Lionne blanc Pays d’Oc Sauvignon – 8.80€
Fresh and crisp with some varietal character

2010 Adélys Pays d’Oc 14.70€
Again Sauvignon and vinified in oak, with well integrated oak on the palate, and nicely rounded.




2010 Languedoc, Ste Cecile – 8.60€
56% Syrah, 44% Grenache
Medium colour. Quite ripe fruit with some appealing spice on the nose. Good balance with a touch of tannin. No wood.

2009 Tradition, Grès de Montpellier - 11.60€
The rules for Grès de Montpellier require a maximum yield of 45 hl/ha; a minimum of 70% Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre in the blend, including a minimum of 10% Grenache, and 16 months élevage. There is also a special embossed bottle with a Languedoc cross, from the 2011 vintage. This blend is 54% Syrah, 21% Carignan, 14% Grenache, 9% Mourvèdre and just 2% of some very ripe Cinsaut.

Quite a deep colour. Quite a rounded, ripe nose with some black fruit. On the palate some tannin and structure. The wine has shoulders. Medium weight with good fruit and complexity. 30% of the blend was aged in barrel.

2009 Grés de Montpellier, Grenat Majeur – 14.50€
62% Grenache, 16% Syrah, 16% Mourvèdre, 6% Cinsaut 30% barrel aged.
The opposite of the previous wine, with Grenache very much the dominant flavour. Medium colour. Quite ripe cherry fruit. Very ripe and perfumed. Liqueur cherries, with a streak of tannin.

2008 Caprice de l’Engarran, Vin issu de raisins surmûris. Pure Grenache Noir - 15€ for 50 cls.
Deep young colour. Ripe nose and palate, with some acidity and tannin. It is sweet and rich, but the streak of tannin and acidity give it a fresh finish. Try with chocolate!




www.chateau-engarran.com

The gardens are open to the public on the first weekend in June and for the Journees de la Patrimoine on the third weekend in September, and are well worth a detour, if not a journey.

And for a look at Sue's work - www.art2murals.com

LA TRAVERSEE




I first met Gavin Cresfeld when he was the wine maker at la Sauvageonne, a substantial property in the hills above St. Jean de la Blaquière. Since then Gavin has moved on, and so has La Sauvageonne as it was bought last year by Gérard Bertrand, one of the large players in the Languedoc.

Gavin meanwhile has settled in the even more isolated village of les Salses – you take a winding, scenic road to head even further into the hills from St. Jean – and bought his own vineyard, one three hectare block above St. Jean de Blaquière. It is planted with Cinsaut, Syrah and Grenache, on volcanic grès and schist, called ruffes. He also has another plot of Syrah on limestone and some Carignan on schist, making a total of 4.5 hectares. His first vintage of La Traversée was 2009.




Gavin’s cellar is on the ground floor of a classic maison de maitre in the centre of the village. The first thing I saw was a concrete egg? Why an egg? It all depends on fluid dynamics – the egg makes for movement, unlike a vat. It imitates the old amphora. This egg was made from 15 centimetre thick concrete, without any steel reinforcement; and the other advantage is that concrete maintains a constant temperature, unlike stainless steel.

Gavin uses natural yeast and the fermentation can last as much as two months. He works on taste, and not analysis. He also has a couple of tronconique vats – I am never quite sure how to translate tronconique into English – anyway it’s a tapered vat, made either of oak or concrete, which is also used for fermentation. The photos should explain. And as you can see Gavin, has both. He observed that he can use more whole bunches in the tronconique vat, and also it is easier for pigeage. And in addition he has an oval foudre, which he uses for the élevage of the Carignan and Grenache, after they have fermented in the egg, while his Cinsaut is fermented in the tronconique vat and then aged in the egg. In contrast the Syrah is fermented and aged in barrel, but nothing too small.




You sense immediately that Gavin is a thoughtful, discursive winemaker. He related how a bottle of Rully St. Jacques, when he was 12, was a turning point for him and at 19 he began working as a sommelier, and then realised that what he really wanted to do was make wine, so in 1995 he enrolled at Plumpton in East Sussex, and then did at stage at Domaine de Poujol – see one of my very early postings. Then he was offered two jobs – in Argentina or at La Sauvageonne. He chose the latter and worked there for eight years. Gavin is quite scathing about some of his fellow vignerons – so many of them listen to their oenologist, and don’t take decisions for themselves. He says that he does everything by intuition and doesn’t listen to anyone else, and added humbly that it’s a bit arrogant. He works on taste and doesn’t bother with analysis.

Then we tasted the components of La Traversée, starting first with a pure Cinsaut 2010. In fact this was so good, that Gavin had decided to bottle it as a single variety. I was most disappointed to find that it was already sold out.

Medium colour; elegant perfumed nose. Lovely silky tannins. Velvety mouth feel, reminiscent of Pinot Noir. Very good acidity and minerality. It is elegant and powerful at the same time, with lovely length and a liquorice note that reminded me of Pinot Noir. It was a Cinsaut quite unlike any other. It was fermented in the concrete tronconique vat and aged in the egg.

Next we tried a blend of Carignan and Grenache, both fermented in the egg, with élevage in foudre. Deep purple young colour. Discreet oak on nose and palate with some dry spicy fruit. The Grenache gives cherries, and Carignan some rustic tannins. It had intense fruit and a long finish.

Gavin explained that 2010 was a much better vintage than 2009 – streets ahead. There was enough water and it was not so hot, with cooler nights and a better balance. He is aiming for intensity and purity; what he called quite a linear style, with balance. Acidity is important. He wants his wine to be representative the area, which is why he has opted for Terrasses du Larzac rather than Vin de France. Terrasses du Larzac must have terroir, intensity and character.

Then we went onto the Syrah, grown on limestone and volcanic sand, which has been fermented and aged in the tronconique vat. It was still in the vat, and was a tad sulky on the nose. But there was some firm peppery fruit, with more perfumed fruit on the palate, and a firm peppery streak, with a fresh finish and silky tannins.

And then we tasted the complete wine, 2009 La Traversée, - 30€
Deep colour; quite intense ripe cassis fruit, with a touch of oak on the nose, which comes from the new oak foudre. It will obviously tone down in subsequent vintages. This was a ripe year, with some lovely perfumed fruit on the palate, and a tannic streak. Rich and mouth filling with layers of flavour and length. It was full of promise and potential and I can’t wait to taste the finished 2010.

And at Vinisud, I did taste the 2010.

But first I was seduced by the 2011 Cinsaut. Lovely fresh ripe fruit. Very elegant, cherries. Very good balance. Scrummy! Not a very professional tasting note, but heartfelt.

And then 2010 la Traversée which will be bottled in April. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Cinsaut. To recap the Cinsaut, Carignan and Grenache were fermented in an egg, and the Syrah in a tronconique vat. The nose was quite delicate, and the palate very fresh, with elegant cherries, and some supple subtle tannins. Lovely ripe elegant fruit. Very finely crafted, with great finesse. ‘This is the wine I want to make’ mused Gavin.


Monday, 12 March 2012

THE VINIFILLES AT VINISUD

The Vinifilles are a group of eighteen energetic, enthusiastic and friendly lady winemakers. I asked Caryl Panman how she came to be a member: 'somebody invited me to a meeting, and it went from there'. And on the Sunday evening before the start of the fair, the Vinfilles hosted a soirée, with an opportunity to taste their wines and enjoy some Occitan music. I have to say I use the word enjoy with certain reservations in the case of the music, but the wines were great. What follows are some highlights, though tasting conditions were not ideal, so my notes are not very detailed. Each vigneronne presented three wines and I have generally selected the one I liked best

I kicked off with a hallo to Françoise Ollier and a taste of 2010 Allegro Faugères Blanc.
Delicate, leafy. Nice fruit and a rounded palate. Just as Allegro should be.

Next some Limoux from Françoise Antech
A characterful Blanquette de Limoux Brut Nature. So no dosage. Quite rounded with good acidity. Some herbal hints on the nose. Quite a firm finish.

Domaine de Roquemale at Villeveyrac, with Valerie Tabaries-Ibanez
2010 Lema Rouge, Grès de Montpellier
A blend of Syrah and Grenache. Deep colour, quite a firm but rounded nose. Quite a ripe juicy palate; quite confit with good fruit.

La Grange des Quatre Sous, with Hildegaard Horat at Assignan, in the appellation of St. Chinian, but she is not mainstream and so makes vins de pays rather the appellation.

2010 Le Jeu du Mail Blanc, a blend of Viognier 55% and Marsanne 45%, aged in oak. Quite rounded and leesy, with a lemony hint. Some peachy notes on the palate, with some white blossom. Quite rich and textured.

La Réserve d’O at Arboras with Marie Chauffray
2011 SansSoo rouge, St. Saturnin
Deep young colour; very ripe cherry fruit, a streak of tannin balancing ripe but fresh fruit. Very succulent. Marie also makes two Terrasses du Larzac, La Réserve d’O and Hissez O, both with some lovely fruit.

Mas des Dames with Lidewej van Wilgen
2010 La Dame Rouge, Languedoc.
Quite a rounded nose, with spicy leathery notes on both nose and palate. Supple tannins, with a bite on the finish. Youthful and balanced

Château Beaubois at Franqevaux in the Gard, with Fanny Molinié Boyer
2010 Confidence Rouge, Costières de Nimes
Quite rounded spicy easy fruit. A nice leathery note. I tend to think of Costières de Nimes as the Beaujolais of the Languedoc, and that is meant to be a compliment. I am talking about real Beaujolais, not wines that taste of bonbons anglais, but wines that offer sheer pleasure, with lovely accessible fruit.

Domaine la Jasse Castel at Montpeyroux, with Pascale Rivière
2010 La Pimpanela rouge, Montpeyroux
Quite a firm nose, with a rounded palate with good fruit.

Domaine des Tremières at Nébian, with Bernadette Rouquette
2009 Patience rouge, Languedoc. Bernadette also makes various vins de pays as well as Terrasses du Larzac.
Quite a rounded nose with lots of fruits rouges. Ripe and spicy palate with good fruit and a tannic streak. A lovely ray of sunshine on a cold February evening.

Mas Champart in St. Chinian with Isabelle Champart. Isabelle’s white was showing very nicely.
2010 St. Chinian Blanc. A blend of Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc and Marsanne.
Delicate herbal nose, quite elegant on the palate with ripe white blossom fruit. Rounded with good acidity.

Clos des Nines at Fabregues (in other words near Montpellier airport) with Isabelle Mangeart, with a range of appellation Languedoc as the vineyards are not part of any of the various crus.
2010 L’Orée rouge, a blend of 50% Grenache, with 25% each of Syrah and Cinsaut. A leathery edge on the palate balanced with some nice fruit. Some supple fruit with a firm streak. Still quite young. Good potential. Cuvée O du Clos was quite rich and oaky while the white Obladie is a blend of Vermentino, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, with some peachy oak.

Château La Dournie in St. Chinian with Véronique Etienne
2008 Elise rouge, St. Chinian. A selected plot of Syrah, with 20% Grenache. Spends a year in wood. Quite solid and rounded, with ripe spicy fruit on both nose and palate. The oak needs to tone down a bit, but some good fruit and body.

Château Coupe-Roses, in La Caunette in the Minervois, with Françoise le Calvez Frissant
2009 Orience, Minervois
Deep colour. Quite a firm solid oaky nose, and on the palate, rounded, dense and oaky. Rich and sturdy. Needs time.

Mas Thélème, at Lauret in the Pic St. Loup with Fabienne Bruguière
2007 Exultet rouge, Pic St. Loup
Quite a solid dense ripe oaky nose and palate. A big mouthful of fruit and tannins. Good fruit but quite sturdy. Possibly not as elegant as some Pic St. Loup.

Château de l’Ou at Montescot in the Pyrénées-Orientales, with Séverine Bourrier. She makes Côtes Catalanes, and had three wines, all from Syrah, grown on three different terroirs, black schist, red schist and marnes, or marl, and all aged in barrel. They tasted quite different.

2010 Infiniment, grown on marnes was the most elegant. It was fresh with good fruit and some appealing spice

2010 Velours Noirs, on black schist was quite firm and leathery. There were peppery notes and some firm tannins. Medium weight.

2010 Secrets de Schists, from red schist. Dense colour. Very perfumed nose. Quite confit, with ripe perfumed fruit. Quite supple, and also quite alcoholic on the finish.

Château de Rey in Canet-en-Roussillon with Cathy Sisqueille
2011 Muscat de Rivesaltes. A mouthful of sweet fruit which was quite a relief after so many red wines. Rounded ripe and grapey.

Domaine Pietri-Géraud in Collioure with Laetitia Pietri-Clara, who was showing both Collioure and Banyuls.
2003 Banyuls Traditionnel, Cuvée Joseph Géraud.
Dry walnuts on the nose, and more walnuts on the palate, with some fruit rouges. A delicious finale to the tasting.

And an apology to my friend Caryl Panman for not tasting any of her wines – partly as I had visited Château Rives-Blanques relatively recently. Anyway we caught up the next day and Caryl thrust a glass of 2011 Chenin at me. She wasn’t sure what they were going to do with it, blend it or keep it as a mono-cépage, but it tasted absolutely delicious, with lovely dry honey balanced with good acidity.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

GREAT WHITE WINES FROM THE LANGUEDOC

That was the theme of the tasting that the Maison du Languedoc asked me to present last week, and they got together ten lovely examples. There were plenty of contenders and it was difficult to stick to just ten, thereby demonstrating just how much the white wines of the Languedoc have progressed in recent years.

There are various reasons for that transformation. There was has been an enormous development in wine-making techniques, the same improvements that you find everywhere else in the world, not just in the Languedoc, but the impact of better cellar hygiene, more efficient temperature control, insulated cellars and more subtle use of oak has been considerable.

The other significant change in the development of unusual blends – the best red wines of the Languedoc are based on blends, so why not the white wines? And grape varieties from elsewhere have been introduced to the region, such as Roussanne, Marsanne, Vermentino. Viognier, Chenin Blanc. And the traditional varieties have been reassessed – such as Carignan blanc, Grenache blanc, Terret, Bourboulenc and so on. It all makes the potential truly exciting.

I’ve already blogged about most of these estates – the two exceptions being Domaine Gauby and Domaine le Conte des Floris, omissions which will be rectified shortly. So for more background information look at my earlier postings.

Domaine J. Laurens, Blanquette de Limoux Le Moulin
Light colour. Quite soft, slightly nutty, slightly herbal nose. Quite rounded, creamier on the palate, with a herbal note and good acidity. This is a very convincing example of the traditional sparkling wine of Limoux.

Château St. Martin de la Garrigue, 2011 Picpoul de Pinet
Quite a soft, ripe nose and palate. Soft acidity with a nice herbal note and a salty tang. The new vintage is showing very nicely. And a great example of how white wine making has improved in the region.

Domaine de la Madura 2010 Classique Pays d’Oc
This is Cyril Bourgne’s unoaked Sauvignon. It was firm and mineral on the nose, with good stony minerality and understated fruit on the palate. Cyril finds notes of fennel, which initially surprised him. To my mind Cyril is one of the rising stars of St. Chinian. Although he comes from Bordeaux, he did not choose to plant Sauvignon, but inherited it in his vineyard and decided to do the best with it, and very good that is too. He finds the main problem is deciding when to pick, not too early and not too late. He has now planted some Picpoul which he thinks will go well with Sauvignon, so look out for an unusual blend in due course.

Mas Cal Demoura, L’Etincelle, 2010 Pays de l’Herault

A wonderfully intriguing blend of Chenin, Grenache blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Muscat and Petit Manseng. There is more Chenin in the Languedoc than you might expect. I asked Vincent Goumard about this and he explained that Chenin was first found in the Aveyron, and from there it went to the Loire Valley and to the Languedoc. Twenty years ago the INAO decided to experiment with it and encouraged various growers to plant Chenin in an attempt to find grape varieties that would give more freshness and minerality. But they then rejected the experiment as giving results that were ‘pas typique’ but most of the growers such as Ollier Jullien and Alain Chabanon decided to keep their Chenin and make vins de pays instead. Vincent wonders whether Chenin might eventually be allowed in the appellation in twenty years time.

Vincent’s wine was rich rounded and textured. There was dry honey from the Chenin, a touch of peachiness from the Viognier and a little grapiness from the Muscat, with the Roussanne and Grenache providing body and weight. As you might expect, with such a blend, there were lots of intriguing nuances and layers of flavour. It was still quite young.

Domaine le Conte des Floris, 2010 Coteaux du Languedoc, Lune Blanche
This is pure Carignan from an innovative estate in the village of Caux outside Pézenas. Daniel le Conte des Floris much prefers varietal wines to blends, and he is interested in working out which grape variety expresses itself best in which terroir. He has three different terroirs, basalt which is good for Carignan, as well as schist for Syrah and villefranchien for Grenache.

The wine has a firm dry nutty note, with good structure, balance and depth on the palate. The great advantage of Carignan blanc is that it retains acidity, so the palate did indeed have some firm acidity. And Daniel works organically in the vineyard.

Domaine la Tour Vieille, 2010 Collioure, les Canadells

Another intriguing blend, of Grenache blanc, Grenache gris, Roussanne, Maccabeu and Vermentino.
Light colour; quite a rounded nose with hints of fennel, and on the palate rounded and textured, with good balancing acidity. Lots of layers and still very youthful.

Château d’Anglès, 2009 La Clape
Bourboulenc is the essential grape variety for la Clape and here it was blended with Grenache blanc and Roussanne. Chateau d’Anglès was originally known as Domaine la Rivière-Haute, and was owned by one of the pioneers of white wines from the Languedoc. Back in the mid-1980s Jean Ségura was making white wine quite unlike anything else you could find in the region, wines with character and depth. And following a difficult period after his death, it is great to see that this estate is now back on track. It was bought by Eric Fabre, who was the technical director of Château Lafite for eight years. He also bought the adjoining property of Domaine Rivière le Bas and amalgamated the two into Château d’Anglès.

Quite pithy and herbal, with salty notes of the sea, appropriately as you can see the sea from the vineyards. Good fruit, body and texture. And a fitting succession to the work of Jean Segura.

Château Rives-Blanques, 2009 Limoux, Trilogie

As you would expect from the name, a blend of three grape varieties, Chardonnay, Chenin and Mauzac. Quite a delicate nose, with light oaky fruit. Good acidity and lightly buttery notes with a herbal hint on the palate. Nicely understated oak. Limoux in the one appellation of the Languedoc that insists on oak ageing for its white wines, and this wine showed the suitability of Limoux, with its cool climate, for white wines.

Domaine Gauby, Vieilles Vignes, Côtes Catalanes
Another intriguing blend, Maccabeu, Grenache Blanc, Carignan Blanc, Grenache Gris and Chardonnay. The Chardonnay is unexpected but Mme Gauby inherited a small vineyard from her uncle. The vines are between 45 and 85 years old and the wine illustrates the merit of reassessing some of the traditional varieties like Grenache and Maccabeu. A very intriguing palate. Quite a firm nutty nose. Some herbal hints on the palate, with very good acidity. Mineral, tight knit. Youthful with a firm edge on the finish.

Château de la Peyrade. 2005 Vendanges d’Automne.
From one of the leading estates of Muscat de Frontignan, but a vin de pays, rather than an appellation as this wine comes from overripe raisined grapes and has not been muté. The grapes were picked at the beginning of October, so six weeks later than the main harvest. There is no botrytis as the climate is not suitable and Muscat skins are too thin.

It was a lovely golden colour, with ripe honeyed notes on the nose and on the palate. A lot of depth, with nuances of flavour, with orange and apricots. And more subtle than the classic Muscat de Frontignan. A lovely example of the suitability of the Languedoc for sweet wines, and a grand finale to a great tasting.

A PLEA FOR THE LANGUEDOC

There are some wine merchants who stand out above others. One of them is Richards Walford, set up by Roy Richards and Mark Walford back in 1982. I know that when I meet a new wine grower and ask who their UK agent is, if the reply is Richards Walford, the wines will be interesting in the very best sense of that over used word. I may not necessarily like them, but they will be wines with character and personality that stand out from the run of the mill.

So the introduction to their latest report on the Languedoc made depressing reading. They have an exciting range of Languedoc wines, from such talented growers as Remy Pedrono at Roc d’Anglade, Gérard Gauby in Calce, Jean Michel Alquier in Faugères, Mas Champart in St. Chinian, to name but a few, but they are having problems in selling these wines.

It seems that we are not prepared to pay a sensible price for these wonderfully original wines, and the Languedoc has still to shed its image of cheap wine. In fact the region offers remarkably good value; some of wines are expensive, but deservedly so, and the best of the Languedoc is still cheaper than much mediocre wine from the classic regions of France.

Let me quote Madeline Mehalko from Richards Walford, as I cannot express the situation any better.

“I am going to be controversial (and trite, sorry…) and reference an article from the Parker website in a positive manner. Not by Mr. Parker himself, but the infinitely more objective David Schildknecht. In his last overview of the Languedoc, he praises the excellent quality, exciting potential, and all-round uniqueness of the wines of the region. Then notes that no one is buying them. This is a problem that we at Richards Walford know all too well. Sadly, as the vintages of certain wines pile up, we are forced to re-assess whether we should be shipping them any longer, and in some cases, even offering them. It is a heartbreaking experience to have to tell a talented vigneron with whom you have a long-standing relationship that you can no longer sell their wines because consumers view the Languedoc as a ‘cheap’ region and refuse to pay more. I don’t pretend to have an easy answer to this; as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water…

I believe Rémy Pédréno of Roc d’Anglade puts it best. When confronted with a proclamation that the top Languedoc Roussillon wines are too expensive he will say: “Life isn’t about a price, it’s about an emotion. If you can’t sell an emotion, you have missed the point.” Missed the point indeed, because in fact, you can buy the very best Languedoc wines that will give pleasure now and for many years to come for a fraction of the cost of many a mediocre Burgundy or Bordeaux. So here is my plea: don’t let these wines disappear from the UK, or altogether for that matter – there is an increasing trend for growers in the South to rip up wonderful old vines and replace them with high-yielding varieties which are easier to sell. They may take a little bit of hand-selling, but they are so worth it.”

Of course the Languedoc has its fair share of over oaked, over extracted, clumsily made wines – not everything is perfect, but the best of the Languedoc offers some of the most exciting drinking in the whole of France. And these are wines that are accessible and affordable. They are not cheap – cheap wines will come from the run-of-the-mill cooperatives or from growers who do not see the need to invest in their future. The best come from people who are building their future, from the wine growers I feature in this blog.

And sadly Pierre Quinonero from Domaine de la Garance ( see my posting of last week) is a victim of Richards Walford’s need to curtail their Languedoc list, and consequently his wines, including older vintages, are on special offer. They are not cheap, but they are stuffed with character, with a strong sense of place. Take a look at their website www.r-w.co.uk I should add that Richards Walford are not retailers, but wholesalers, but they will obviously be able to supply information about stockists when something on their list catches your eye.

www.r-w.co.uk

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

YET ANOTHER HOWLER AT MONTPELLIER AIRPORT




Readers of this blog may remember that I have unfortunate experiences with wine at the local airports. Well, it continues. I’ve just been sent a press release about a new eatery at Montpellier airport, and when I read it, the words : I don’t believe it’ came to mind, in best Victor Meldrew tradition, using his favourite catch phrase from One Foot in the Grave.

We all know that the wine growers of the Languedoc need every bit of help that is going to get their wines better known, and you would expect that the port of entry for many of the visitors to the region would be suitably supportive. There is after all that large sign in the airport, welcoming us to the largest vineyard in the world. So what would you expect them to be serving at the new restaurant? How about an imaginative range of wines from the region, perhaps featuring a wine or two of the month, to illustrate the wonderful variety of the Languedoc?

No. Wrong. The press release shows a photograph of a bottle of claret of indifferent provenance, with a brand name that no one has ever heard of. Words fail me.

With thanks to my friend, Robin Hicks, for the photos. He writes the WOW website, www.heraultwhatson.info that is essential reading for anyone living in the Languedoc. And went to the launch party and spotted the vinous abberration.


TERRES FALMET in St. Chinian




The last in my trio of St. Chinian growers. I first met Yves Falmet at a tasting in London in the Maison du Languedoc and felt that his wines merited a cellar visit. So we arranged a rendez-vous on a side road on the way to Cruzy, so that we could take a look at his vineyards before going on to his cellar. Yves has a magnificent north facing slope of 20 hectares and proposed a walk. This was last year – not in the recent inclement weather where the Languedoc has been colder than London. Yves explained about the importance of geology; he has very good reserves of water, as the plateau above the vineyard, with its layer of clay, collects a lot of water. There is limestone too.

Yves comes from northern France, from the Aube. He related how he began looking for vines back in 1995 and was told that this magnificent plot was for sale, but the previous owner had not looked after his vines. He had practiced desherbage intégrale, the liberal use of weedkiller, which had resulted in a lot of erosion – a nightmare – and his yields were four times what Yves obtains now. Yves worked to create terraces and left grass in order to keep the soil in place.

And then we took a scenic route over the plateau above the vines back to the little village of Creissan, where he has his cellar, in a narrow back street, that answers grandly to the name of boulevarde de la République. It’s a neat little cellar, with old cement vats, some fibre glass vats and barrels, with a tasting gallery above so that you look down on the vats. Yves talked about the difficulties of finding a cellar. 2001 was his first vintage, and from 1996 to 2001 he was a member of the Cébazan cooperative. He found this small cellar in Creissan in July, and was still finishing the renovations on 11th September, and he started picking the next day.....

2010 Vin de France, Cinsaut - 4.00€
As it is a monocepage it cannot be St. Chinian. Élevage in vat; a traditional vinification with a month on the skins. I loved this. Lovely spicy fruit on both nose and palate, with a fresh tannic edge and a nice lift on the finish. Yves observed that the soil gives acidity to his wine.

He does not encourage visitors to the cellar, but in the region you can buy his wines at the Espace Vin in St. Chinian and at the Caves Paul Riquet in Beziers. In the UK his customers are Stone, Vine & Sun and Berry Bros. He is doing well; ’he laughingly observed that when he began he had ‘zero clients and zero money’.

2009 Carignan – 5.00€ Also Vin de France.
Traditional vinification, with destemmed grapes. No carbonic maceration here but four to six weeks skin contact and an élevage in vat. Quite a deep colour, with ripe brambly fruit on the nose. Quite firm tannins on the palate, balanced by ripe fruit, and a rounded body, with a dry finish. Very Carignan.

2007 L’Ivresse des Cimes – 6.00€
A blend of 40% Mourvèdre on the east side of the slope, 30% Grenache from the top of the slope and 30% Syrah from the bottom of the slope. Élevage in vat.
Deep colour. Solid dense firm fruit, with firm leathery notes. Quite a tannic palate, with some wild berry fruit. Quite long. Yves begins the assemblage after the malo is finished, blending in several stages to readjust as necessary. He does not use an oenologist.


2004 Vieilles Vignes St. Chinian – 10€
From 50 year old Grenache, and 70 – 80 year old Carignan, with an élevage in old wood, for three years, without any topping up. It was very intriguing; quite perfumed on the nose, and quite confit, dense, mature and leathery and not at all oaky. Yves observed that ‘the professionals don’t like it’ as it certainly isn’t mainstream. I did like it.

2010 Viognier IGP Oc – 13.€
Light golden, a herbal nose; and on the palate dry peachy fruit with acidity. Yves explained that it had a traditional white vinification, but with no protection against oxidation. And then spent six months on the lees in vat, with lots of bâttonage. Again it was very intriguing with a lot of body and acidity, and maybe a touch adolescent, needing time in bottle.

A fascinating and friendly visit. Yves is a thoughtful and considered wine maker, who is not afraid to experiment and he has very clear ideas of what works in the vineyard and cellar. And he deserves to do well.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

CLOS BAGATELLE in St. Chinian



This is another of the old estates of St. Chinian. You really can’t miss it as you drive out of St. Chinian towards St. Pons. Since they have taken over the family vineyards, Christine Simon, and her brother, Luc have increased their holding to 35 hectares, including 8 hectares of Muscat in St. Jean de Minervois, and 15 hectares in an area called Donnadieu in the northern part of the appellation of St. Chinian.

Christine is bright and vivacious, and treated us to a very comprehensive tasting. I was with my tasting buddy, Lits, while my artist friend Sue, who had come along for the scenery, painted a watercolour. First we had a look at the cellar, with its old foudres, as well as the usual barrels, concrete vats and stainless steel tanks. There is a welcoming tasting room and shop.



2010 St. Chinian Blanc – 7.00€
Roussanne is the base, grown on grès, or sandstone, with Grenache blanc, grown on schist and Carignan blanc on clay and limestone. There is also a drop of Vermentino and Chenin blanc, and next year there will be some Petit Manseng. I did not enquire too closely into the fact that Petit Manseng does not feature in the appellation decree. All are fermented together and 20% of the blend spends two months in new oak, with a lot of lees stirring. The nose was redolent of fragrant white blossom, with some lovely perfume on the palate and very good mouth feel. It was nicely understated and the oak was beautifully integrated. White wine has only become part of the appellation recently, so this cuvée is relatively new.

2010 Donnadieu St. Chinian rosé – 5.70€
Cinsaut, Grenache and a little Syrah. Very pale colour; delicate nose and quite rounded A touch of boiled sweets.

2010 Les 3 Louloutes, St. Chinian – 5.90€
Christine jokingly explained that the name refers to three little girls, her daughter Marie, otherwise known as Riri, and her cousins Camille and Juliette – Camillou and JuJu! The blend is 60% Cinsaut with Syrah and Mourvèdre.

Medium colour. Quite rounded leathery nose. Some perfumed fruit. Medium weight. Lovely ripe fruit. Youthful. Would make a delicious vin de soif when slightly chilled.

2010 Clos Bagatelle St. Chinian – 4.90€
40% Syrah, with Carignan, Grenache and 15% Mourvèdre. Grown on clay and limestone. Quite deep colour. Quite rounded ,with good fruit and some leathery tannins. Medium weight.

Christine explained that the Donnadieu vineyards are on schist, but a different type of schist from that of Faugères. I am afraid that the precise geological niceties are lost on me.



2009 Camille-Juliette, St. Chinian – 5.70€
Forty per cent Grenache and Carignan, with some Syrah. Élevage in foudres and vat. Very perfumed nose, with hints of orange. Medium weight. A certain minerality on the palate.

2010 Camille-Juliette
Was still very youthful when I tasted it, now a few months ago, but with some firm spicy on the nose and palate, and quite a tannic streak. Lovely fresh fruit.

2010 Mathieu and Marie, St. Chinian – 6.50
40% Syrah, with Carignan and Grenache. Christine explained that she planted the Syrah when Mathieu was born. Camille & Juliette is more mineral, while Mathieu and Marie is more fruits noirs. I did indeed find rounded black fruit – blackberries, cassis and black cherries on the nose. And the palate was ripe and rounded, with an edge of tannin. The élevage is only in vat.

2010 Domaine des 4 Vents, IGP Hérault – 4.90€
A blend of 60% Cabernet Franc with Grenache and Mourvèdre. Quite rounded and ripe with a youthful tannic edge.

2007 Veillée d’Automne, St. Chinian – 9.00€
Quite firm and quite structured. A hint of orange on the nose. And some perfumed notes on the palate. Quite tannic. 2009 was quite a hot year, so this is quite sturdy.

2005 La Terre de Mon Père, St. Chinian – 21.00€
They had originally called this cuvée La Gloire de Mon Père, but the Pagnol family – Marcel Pagnol being the author of La Gloire de Mon Père and Le Château de Ma Père – complained. A blend of 40% Syrah on schist, 40% Mourvèdre on clay and limestone and 20% Grenache on schist. Spends time in new wood, with a total of eighteen months ageing. Medium colour. Orange notes on the nose. Quite tannic and rounded and solid.

2006 La Terre de Mon Père, St. Chinian
– 21.00€
I much preferred this, and Christine concurred that 2006 was a better balanced vintage than 2005. Deep colour; quite a firm nose. Quite perfumed with fresh fruit; a tannic streak but more supple than 2005, which was more concentrated.

2007 La Terre de Mon Père, St. Chinian
60% Syrah in this, so a higher percentage than in 2005 or 2006. Quite perfumed oak, again with an orange note on the nose. Some balsamic notes on the palate. Quite rounded with nicely integrated oak. Youthful. Comes between 2005 and 2006 in taste.

2004 Je me souviens, St. Chinian – 40€
80% Grenache with 20% Mourvèdre They first made this cuvée in 202 when the Mourvèdre as particularly good, and in 2004 the Grenache showed very well. Since then they have made a 2007 and 2009. It spends 20 months in new wood.
Quite rounded and intense. Very harmonious. Very youthful. Belle matière with a good balance.

While I admire Christine and her brother for pushing the boundaries with their St. Chinian, partly of me really enjoyed the simplicity of more accessible wines. Christine herself admits that they need more experience with oak élevage – it’s a compliment to the wine, but you need to work out which oak and degree of toasting suits your wine. They work with various coopers, Francois Frères, Taransaud, Demy and Demptos, and there is also a cooper nearby who will renovate foudres.

And then we moved on to Muscat de St. Jean de Minervois.
2010 Grain de Lumière 7.00€ for 50cls.

The first pressing of the Muscat, with 120 gms/l residual sugar. Pale colour; very perfumed very supple, some lemony notes and a fresh finish. No alcohol burn.

2009 Muscat de St. Jean de Minervois – 6.00€ for 50cls.
125 gms/l of residual sugar, from older vines and several pressings. This was more traditional in style, heavier and richer and more concentrated