Monday, 30 April 2012

A DAY IN LIMOUX - DOMAINE DELMAS

A brief tasting of Bernard Delmas' wines at the Maison du Languedoc in London encouraged further investigation – I was particularly keen to try his oak fermented wines - so earlier in the month, we drove to Limoux and further down the Aude valley past the little town of Couiza to turn into the hills towards Antugnac, in the Haute Vallée de l’Aude. M. Delmas has smart spacious cellar, built in 2000, on the outskirts of the village, with capacity for the 30 hectares of vineyards he has in Couiza and Esparaza, as well as Antugnac. He has 14 hectares of Chardonnay, 8 of Mauzac, 6 of Pinot Noir and 2 of Chenin Blanc. As well as several sparkling wines, he also makes Pinot Noir and white Limoux from Chardonnay. He explained that he was born in Antugnac; he had trained as a cook, while his father had three hectares of vines and made a bit of Blanquette. After working in various restaurants around France, he married his florist wife from the next village and they expanded the vineyards. 1976 was his first vintage and he has been organic since 1986. There is a neat little tasting caveau – on the Thursday before Easter it was sporting a display of chickens, eggs and Easter bunnies. And we settled down to tasting.
NV Cuvée Tradition Blanquette de Limoux - 8.00€ 90% Mauzac with 10% Chardonnay; disgorged a month or so ago. 6 gms/l dosage< Fine mousse. Soft rounded nose. Good acidity. Ligfhtly herbal notes. Good depth and elegantly creamy. Blanquette with its high proportion of Mauzac can sometimes be a little rustic, but not this.
NV Crémant de Limoux, Cuvée Passion –
9.20€
50% Chardonnay, 20% Mauzac and Chenin and 10% Pinot Noir. With about eighteen months on the lees. 12 months is the minimum for Crémant, and nine months for Blanquette. Quite rounded and rich on the nose, with a satisfying hint of yeast autolysis on the palate. Lightly nutty with good acidity. A touch of brioche and good length on the finish.
2008 Crémant de Limoux, Cuvée Audace – 17.50€
50% Chardonnay with 20% each of Mauzac and Chenin and 10% Pinot Noir, all fermented and aged in oak for eight months. Slightly deeper colour than the previous Crémant. Rounded and rich, with some appealing nutty notes. There is no doubt that the oak, which is beautifully integrated, adds some depth and character. As far as he knows. M. Delmas is the only producer in Limoux to ferment a wine entirely in oak. He uses the first juice out of the press and this 2008 was the first vintage with oak. I thought it was delicious.
2009 Blanquette de Limoux, Cuvée Mémoire – 15.45€
Again 90% Mauzac and 10% Chardonnay. Also vinified and aged in oak. Somehow the oak accentuates the difference between the Mauzac and the Crémant, giving more vinosity to the wine. Mauzac is quite a rustic unrefined grape and the oak enhances that character but in an appealing way. The nose was quite rich and rounded, with a full-bodied rich herbal palate and some soft acidity. Nicely satisfying and very intriguing. M. Delmas explained that his father used to ferment all his wine in wood, and that the practice has been somewhat lost. Eventually he would like to build up some vins de reserve, so that he can include some oaked wine in all his cuvées, but that is a long term project.
2008 Crémant de Limoux Cuvée des Sacres – 12.20
From Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir, but no Mauzac. No oak and no dosage, but more selection in the vineyard. Quite rounded and creamy on nose and palate, with good acidity and a satisfying depth of flavour. A little yeast autolysis. Very harmonious with some length. And our tasting finished with two vintages of Pinot Noir, IGP La Haute Vallée de l’Aude. M. Delmas has a long experience of Pinot Noir; his first vintage of this variety was 1977. And the very first Pinot Noir was planted in Antugnac in 1961, by the previous owners of the Château d’Antugnac.

2008 Pinot Noir– 8.00€
Medium colour. A closed nose, with a fresh but ripe raspberry fruit on the palate. Very elegant with some balancing acidity.
2009 Pinot Noir – 8.40€
Again quite a closed nose, but more liquorice than raspberry and more opulent fruit. Quite fresh perfumed fruit, with some elegant tannins. More rounded than 2009. The grapes are handpicked, sorted and destemmed and then punched down twice a day. There is a four to five day cold maceration, with a fermentation in vat and a twelve months élevage in barrel, on the fine lees, with a bâtonnage every two or three weeks. Yields are low, 35 hl/ha. You sense that M. Delmas is a thoughtful winemaker, responding carefully to the conditions of each vintage. And his oaked ‘effervescents’, as they call the sparkling wines of Limoux, were certainly worth the journey.

Monday, 23 April 2012

MONTPEYROUX OPEN CELLARS




Montpeyroux is a picturesque little village at the foot of the Mont Baudile, with a growing number of committed and talented wine growers. One of the best ways to get the measure of the quality is at the open cellar day, an annual event on a Sunday in the middle of April. You can wander round the village with glass in hand, tasting old favourites and discovering new wines and catching up on the local news. There are now twenty growers, including the competent village cooperative.

I started off at Domaine de Grécaux. This estate used to belong to Alain Caujolle but he has moved on to pastures new near Lodève and his bulk of vineyards have been bought by Arnaud and Sophie Sandras. They have come back to France from Nouvelle Caledonie but Sophie does come from the Languedoc. They had their 2011 rosé to taste, quite a solid rounded vinous wine. Their reds were from 2009, Alain’s last vintage at Grécaux.

A friend had mentioned a new estate, Domaine Joncas. In fact Pascal Dalier has also bought some of Alain’s vines, eight hectares. He is planning two wines, one lighter and one more powerful and is gradually converting his vineyards to biodynamic viticulture. 2011 Joia, his first wine, was available for tasting. It comes mainly from early picked Grenache that had only reached a modest (for Grenache) 13⁰. It is kept part in vat, and part in an egg. It was rounded and perfumed with some lovely liqueur cherry fruit, with a ripe rounded finish, making for stunningly easy drinking. Pascal said he wanted he wanted something gouleyant, and he has certainly succeeded. He comes from Lorraine so wine is a career change from running a car showroom. And he said that he owed a lot to Alain Chabanon, referring to him as his ange gardien.

And that prompted me to taste Alain’s wines at Domaine Chabanon next. See an earlier posting for more details on the wines.

2008 Trélans,
Quite leafy herbal fruit, with some dry honey. Intriguing and long

2010 Campredon. As always, absolutely delicious, ripe and perfumed, quite a rounded palate with a satisfying leathery note.

2007 Esprit de Font Caude.
Quite perfumed; rounded ripe; leathery, nice texture, rich fruit.

Next a look at Villa Dondona with André Suquet

I was hoping for a preview of their 2011 white, but it is not yet bottled. André said that it is more aromatic than the 2010 with more Vermentino and less Grenache Blanc.

2010 Dondona – 10.50€
To emphasis the difference from Oppidum, they had picked earlier, and given the wine less extraction. 20% Grenache and 40% Syrah and Mourvèdre. Quite ripe rounded fruit and a perfumed nose. Medium weight palate. A touch of tapenade and some good fruit.

2009 Oppidum – 60% Mourvèdre, 40% Syrah.
Quite a rich tapenade nose. Again, quite rich with some oak on the palate. Rounded, perfumed and supple. More body than Dondona.

2010 Chemin des Cayrades – a pure Carignan and new to me. Aged in vat. With 50% carbonic maceration. An attractive cherry perfume on the palate. Some tannin and acidity and that appealing rusticity of Carignan with a fresh cherry note.




I then wandered down the street and found my friend Amélie, from Mas D’Amile. At that point the village band came past and made any conversation totally impossible. When peace was restored, Amélie said that she had found 25 ares of old Terret Bourret vines, so that she would be able to make some white wine in 2012. She is also looking for some Syrah and Grenache to go with her Carignan so that she will be able to make appellation Montpeyroux. For the moment her Carignan is a vin de pays.

2010 Carignan, Mont Baudile. Quite solid, rounded fruit, with a rustic note. Nice texture. Quite young and chunky on the palate.

And a nice comparison with the 2009, which was a little more mature, and elegant, with some appealing rustic fruit. I do like Amélie’s Carignan.

Further down the street is Sylvain Fadat’s cellar at Domaine d'Aupilhac. This was definitely worth a visit with four tables of goodies. First whites and rosés with

2011 Mont Baudile – 8.10€
Quite ripe and rounded; nice perfume. Good fruit

2011 les Cocalières Blanc – 16.80€
Quite a rounded, ripe nose. Quite a textured palate with layered fruit. Nice depth.

2010 Rosé – 7.40€
Quite rounded and ripe, with raspberry fruit and acidity.

2011 Lou Maset rosé. Half pressed and half bled. Cinsaut and Mourvèdre 7.40€
Fresh acidity; quite crisp and rounded with a herbal note.

2010 Lou Maset red.
Young red colour. Ripe fruit on the nose. And on the palate nice rounded fruit with a touch of tannin. Very Montpeyroux.

2009 Montpeyroux. – 14.00€
Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Carignan and a little Cinsaut. Quite solid rounded nose. A sturdy palate, balanced with some lovely ripe fruit. Very good balance.

2010 Le Carignan – 17.00€
Quite solid, dense ripe nose and palate. The appealing rustic notes of Carignan with some black cherry fruit and a streak of tannin.

2009 Les Cocalières – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre. – 16.30€
Deep colour. Quite rounded. Fresh ripe Grenache fruit. Very perfumed with a tannic streak.

2009 La Boda – 25.20€ the blend of two terroirs, Syrah from Cocalières, with north aspect and Mourvèdre from the south. Whole bunches in demi-muids, and kept in barrel for two years. Quite sold ripe and rounded, tapenade notes, a touch of oak and still very youthful, with potential.

2009 le Clos – 38.00€
Quite solid firm leathery fruit on the nose. And leathery notes with ripe fruit on the palate. Quite sturdy and very youthful. A certain freshness to balance the ripe fruit. The first vintage of this particular wine since 2000. Whole bunches fermented in demi-muids and then given two and a half years élevage.

And then Sylvain had generously opened some older vintages: A treat not to be missed.

2004 Le Carignan
Quite firm leathery notes Quite dry, with a touch of nay on the palate. Quite a supple mature finish.

2004 les Cocalières – 23.25€
Medium colour. Quite a delicate nose; some leathery notes. Satisfying maturity.

2004 Montpeyroux
Medium colour. Quite dry leathery notes on the nose and palate, with some underlying elegance and a dry finish.

2003 Authentique, blend of Carignan and Mourvèdre that was only made in 2003. Firm nose. Quite a sturdy palate, with ripe fruit and leathery note. Very intriguing.

1999 les Plôs de Baumes, Gorges de l’Herault.
Apologies, I never found out the grape variety blend. Quite a developed colour; elegant leathery on the nose. Quite cedary with some mature fruit. Quite rich and very intriguing and a lovely example of a mature Midi.



There was a new estate in the square by the old covered market, L’Escarpolette. Mark Andrew at Roberson’s had told me to look out for Ivo Ferreira, and how right he was. Ivo describes himself as a vigneron funanbule – a tightrope walker. However, tasting in the street, especially on an increasingly chilly morning, is never ideal so I realise now that my tasting notes are really lacking in detail. The wines definitely deserve further consideration, so I’ve negotiated a cellar visit in due course. 2009 was Ivo’s first vintage in Montpeyroux and from five hectares near the village of Arboras, he makes five red wines, one white and a liquoreux. All Ivo’s wines are vin de table.

2011 l’Escarpolette en blanc a blend of Muscat and Macabeo – 19.99€
Vinified like a red wine on the skins. An orange wine. Still some fermentation aromas on the nose, but a very intriguing palate, with dry nutty fruit and good acidity.


2011 La Petite Crapule – 13.00€
Carignan, fermented by carbonic maceration. Quite rounded ripe fruit on the nose. Medium weight. Spicy cherry fruit. A lovely example of the variety.

2010 Jeux de mains – 22.00€
Cinsaut aged in seven or eight year old demi-muids. Quite solid oak, with some chocolate notes, and on the palate a touch of coconut. Firm fruit but with a fresh streak on the finish.

2010 L’Escarpolette
– 17.00€
Bright colour. Firm dry nose. Quite a dry leathery palate, with firm tannins and a dry finish. Quite intriguing. A blend of Cinsaut and Carignan, 60 year old vines, maceration carbonic, but the wine did not have the overtly fruity taste that you sometimes get with carbonic maceration.

2010 Les Vieilles – 22.00€
From 60 year old Carignan grown near Arboras. Very bright colour. Quite firm fresh fruit on the nose, with fresh cherry notes on the palate. Medium weight. Quite intriguing.

2010 l’Enchanteur
A pure Merlot, vines in St. Jean de Fos. Quite solid and dense, with chocolate notes on the nose. Again a solid ripe rounded palate. Quite full-bodied with lots of character.



Across the square I encountered Christopher Johnson-Gilbert with Virgile Joly. Virgile’s vineyards are in St. Saturnin so he was an interloper, giving Christopher a hand. So a chance to taste Christopher’s first red wine, 2009 Domaine Cinq Vents. 18.00€ The label has a dramatic owl painted by Elizabeth Frink, who was a distant relation by marriage. 60% of the wine has been in oak for twelve months, mainly new French oak from different coopers. The wine was quite perfumed on the nose, with a hint of orange, rounded and ripe with some firm tannins, still very youthful, with a dry finish. It has only just been bottled and promises well for a first vintage. Christopher observed that the 2010 was fruitier.

Then I walked briskly through the back streets of the village to find Domaine l’Aiguelière. It has been a while since I’ve tasted their wines.

2010 Grenat, as you might expect from the name 90% Grenache, with 10% Syrah. Young bright colour. Ripe fruit. Ripe liqueur cherries. Quite ripe and warm.

2006 Tradition – in vat. Quite solid firm and intense with some leathery fruit.

2006 Tradition fût de chêne. Quite solid dense ripe oak on nose and palate. Notes of tapenade. Richer and fuller but I preferred the unoaked wine.

2006 Cote dorée
Pure Syrah grown on gravel. Good deep colour. Solid nose, solid ripe youthful oaky palate. Thought it might have developed more in six years.

2006 Cote Rousse
Again Syrah, but grown on clay and limestone. Dense and solid. Dense dry peppery notes with quite a rich leathery finish. Again needs time.

And by this time it was beginning to spit with rain and getting distinctly chilly, so I had a very quick taste of Domaine St. Andrieu and Domaine Boisantin. Domaine Boisantin was set up by Charles Giner's son, while Domaine St. Andrieu is Charles' estate. I preferred the wines from St. Andrieu

2006 la Séranne. A blend of Mourvèdre, Carignan and Grenache, aged in vat.
Rounded, balanced and harmonious with a leathery note.

2005 Les Marnes bleues 80% Mourvèdre and 20% Grenache, again in vat.
Quite a firm leathery nose with a warm mature palate, with some ripe fruit and quite a sturdy streak of tannin. Quite mouth filling.

2002 l’Yeuse noire
40% Mourvèdre, with Carignan Grenache and Syrah. The Mourvèdre and Syrah were aged n wood. Quite a sturdy nose and palate. Quite firm and rounded; quite dense and tannic, even though it is ten years old. It shows that wines from the Languedoc can and do age.

There were other estates to taste, but time and energy had run out and it was starting to rain, with a chilly wind. But none the less a fun and worthwhile morning.


Sunday, 15 April 2012

MAS L'ECRITURE - A VERTICAL OF L'ECRITURE




I do enjoy a vertical tasting - it so often illustrates the history of the domaine, showing how the philosophy, as well as work in cellar and vineyard, has evolved with experience. So an opportunity to taste twelve vintages of Pascal Fulla’s L’Ecriture one evening at Vinisud, was not to be spurned. Like Marjorie Gallet at Domaine du Roc des Anges, Pascal wanted to disprove the theory that wine from the Languedoc does not age. Those of us who regularly drink and enjoy the Languedoc of course know that, but not everybody appreciates it. And Pascal was completely vindicated.

Other developments over the years included a shift towards larger barrels, of 600 litres, and the work in the vineyard has changed, so that he has worked organically from 2009. Pascal also wanted to show that it is possible to invest in the future of a wine in the Languedoc, as you would in Bordeaux or Burgundy.

Just one caveat; the tasting took place in the rather small crowded wine bar, Chez Boris, so tasting conditions were far from ideal, and my notes are not as detailed as they might be. But I hope you will deem them worth sharing with you. And Pascal preferred us to taste from old to young.

L’Ecriture is mainly Syrah, with some Mourvèdre and a maximum of 10% Grenache Noir.
1999: Medium colour; elegantly dry leathery nose. Quite firm elegant fruit. Quite structured. Medium weight. Elegant and still quite youthful.

2000: Medium colour, showing a little development. Quite a closed nose; a touch confit. Quite a firm palate, dry and peppery with a firm finish.

2001: Medium colour. A little development. Quite a firm leathery fruit on the nose. An elegant palate with some depth. Firm fruit with good balance.

2002: Medium colour. Quite a rounded nose. Some elegant notes, and a touch leathery. More depth on the palate. Quite supple tannins; quite rounded and elegant. Good balance. Not too intense. Very characteristic of the vintage.

2003: Again very characteristic of the vintage. Quite deep young colour. Quite a solid dense nose. A touch stalky, with some ripe glycerine notes on the palate. Quite fleshy and warm, and quite a firm tannic streak.

2004: This was my favourite, from a beautifully balanced vintage. Medium depth of colour. Young. Attractive spicy notes on the nose. Medium weight palate. Quite rich with very good balance. Quite ripe fruit. Stylish.

2005: Young colour. Quite solid dense, ripe nose, with a touch of oak. Quite ripe, almost sweet, supple fruit. Medium weight, elegant ripe fruit. Quite silky tannins. This was a close runner up to my favourite.

2006: Medium colour. Young. Elegant red fruit, with a touch of spice. Elegant palate with a lovely balance. Finely crafted with some red fruit and supple tannins. Lovely balance. Long harmonious finish. Another contender for my favourite of the line-up.

2007: Youthful colour; medium depth. Quite a firm smoky nose. Satisfying depth on the palate, with good fruit and firm balancing tannins. A touch viandé. Medium weight. Quite powerful in a quiet way.

2008: Deep young colour. A touch viandé on the nose, with some smoky oak. Elegant nuances. Rounded spicy fruit on the palate. A subtle palate, that develops in the glass. Not too substantial, but quite powerful. Rich youthful fruit, a touch of balsamic and a tannic streak. Quite dense and youthful on the finish.

2009: Medium colour. Quite a ripe rounded nose, and on the palate, ripe fruit. Quite rich and dense, with a good tannic balance. Harmonious rounded and youthful. Plenty of future development.

2010: Good colour. Dense ripe nose. Quite a ripe perfumed fruit on the palate. Supple tannins with good body; promises very well with a lot of matière, and some lovely fruit.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

DOMAINE ROC DES ANGES

Roc des Anges is one of those estates that I keep hearing about but have never actually visited, so I seized the opportunity for a vertical tasting of their pure Carignan at Vinisud. Marjorie and Stéphane Gallet have 30 hectares at Montner in the heart of Roussillon between the Agly and Têt valleys. They bought several plots from members of the local cooperative and now make five whites, one rosé and four reds. 2001 was their first vintage. Marjorie studied at Montpellier and then did a stage chez Gauby. First some whites, to refresh the palate.

2010 Côtes du Roussillon blanc, Vieilles Vignes
80% Grenache Gris with Macabeo.
Quite rounded and ripe on the nose. Textured palate with layers of fruit. Some ripe fruit and a nutty streak, with an elegant finish.

2011 Iglesia Vella. IGP Pyrénées Orientales.
A vat sample of Grenache Gris.
Quite rounded with ripe textured fruit and layers of flavour. Sélection parcellaire matters here. And the vinification is the same for all the whites.

2010 L’Oca, IGP Pyrénées Orientales
Pure Macabeo. Quite ripe herbal nose, with notes of fennel, and on the palate. Quite solid, textured palate, with nuances of flavours.

And then on to Cuvée 1903, from four plots of Carignan all planted in 1903, totalling two and a half hectares.

By way of introduction Marjorie explained that their vineyards have been registered as biodynamic from 2010. This required a gradual transition, as the vines had previous been treated with chemicals, though not by them. They began ploughing their vineyards, gradually turning to organic viticulture, which has had an impact on the quality and character of the grapes. They have also moved toward an earlier harvest; 2001 was picked in the third week of September and in contrast in 2010 they began the vintage at the end of August. In the cellar there has been a shift from partially crushed grapes to grains entiers, and a move towards natural yeast. And for the first four vintages there was a cold maceration before fermentation, but now they have given that up. And for the élevage they have moved away from new oak, in favour of concrete vats and foudres. With this vertical tasting they wanted to show that the wine was ‘still standing’ after ten years and that the terroir is all important, prend le dessus, in determining the flavour.

2010: Deep colour. Quite a rounded, ripe nose. Quite firm tannins. Underlying freshness. Good minerality and quite intense, but still refreshing. Quite youthful and sturdy and plenty of potential.

2009: Élevage in vat. Quite firm dense confit nose, with a touch of cassis. And a youthful and intense palate. With some leathery notes. Again lots of potential.

2008: 80% cement and 20% élevage in old barrels for about 11 months. Deep colour. Quite a solid ripe smoky nose, with some oak, and also on the palate. Quite ripe and intense, with good tannins and balancing acidity. Packs a punch of flavour.

2007: Picked later than the previous three vintages. Élevage in barriques, old ones. A slightly lighter colour than the previous wines. Quite solid and rounded, quite dense and oaky. A rustic tannic note with good body on the palate. Ripe with black cherry fruit. Long and youthful.

2006: A similar élevage to 2007. Deep colour. Quite a firm intense nose. Quite solid firm dense tannic fruit on the palate. Tight knit and youthful, a drier finish.

2005: Deep colour. A bit dry and raisiny on the nose. Quite intense. Quite chocolaty on the palate, and not as dry as the nose, with quite a sturdy finish. Less harmonious.

2004: Very deep colour. Ripe and rounded on the nose. Some chocolaty notes. And on the palate quite sturdy and intense, but less harmonious than the younger vintages.

2003: (en magnum) Deep colour. Intense oak on the nose. Very dense and structured. Marjorie observed that it had the tannins of 2003. This was of course the year of the heat wave and it lacked the charm of other vintages.

2002: A cooler vintage. Medium colour. A touch of Bovril on the nose. A cooler, fresher palate, but still quite intense. Quite solid and dense, but with a more elegant finish.

2001: Élevage all in new wood. Quite ripe cherry fruit. Quite rounded with some smoky oak. Quite a dense palate, still quite tannic but with good fruit and the fraicheur of Carignan. There was no doubt that it was a lovely glass of wine that had aged beautifully and still had potential for further development. And what a stunning vindication of that often – though less so these days – despised grape – Carignan.

And I finished the tasting with a couple of other reds:

2010 Segna de Cor, Côtes du Roussillon Villages
60% Grenache, with Syrah and Carignan. Élevage in vat. Deep colour. Ripe cherries on both nose and palate. Lovely supple ripe fruit on the palate. Very gouleyant and quite delicious.

2010 Reliefs, Côtes du Roussillon Villages
Mainly Carignan with a little Syrah and Grenache. Élevage mainly in foudres, vat with just a little wine in barriques. Quite ripe and rounded on the nose. Quite an intense palate, with very good fruit. Very appealing, ripe and harmonious.

And altogether a lovely discovery. Vaut le voyage.

Monday, 9 April 2012

A LANGUEDOC MOMENT



Easter Saturday was a spring day with bright sunshine, tempered by white clouds racing across the clear sky – in other words, the perfect day for a walk up in the hills behind the village, with our friends, Gary and Colleen. The track took us past Lizzie and Ali’s vines – they have had a team of helpers staying for the past week and the vineyard was looking impeccable, free of weeds, beautifully pruned, with the first leaves appearing on the stubby vines. Further up the track by the restored capitelle, we met a herd of goats, their bells playing a gentle tune. And then it is time for our picnic. I have pretty simple ideas about picnics – ham and baguette usually does me nicely, but not Gary and Colleen. Out of their rucksack came pissaladière, olives, cheese, half a chicken and a bottle of wine. It was 2008 Z de l’Arjolle. To the best of my knowledge Louis-Marie Tesserenc at Domaine de l’Arjolle in the village of Pouzolles is the only person in the Languedoc who has thought to plant Zinfandel. The vines have now been in production for a few years, I think à titre experimental, rather than fully accepted by French bureaucracy, and consequently the wine is a simple vin de table. And it was the perfect wine for the moment, with a deep young colour; a touch of oak on the nose, and on the palate some lovely peppery notes and black fruit. There was a streak of tannin, and a touch of acidity, nicely rounded and not too heavy, and with that slightly sweet and sour note that I associate with Zinfandel And it still had some youthful freshness. We sat and savoured it, looking out over the garrigues, with thyme and cistus coming into flower. And the thought crossed our minds that it was better than many a Californian Zinfandel.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

FITOU - DOMAINE MARIA FITA

Domaine Maria Fita was new to me. I first saw the name in Hugh Johnson’s Wine Atlas and then spotted their stand across an alleyway at Vinisud, so wandered over to investigate further. This is a ten hectare estate in the village of Villeneuve les Corbières, in the higher part of Fitou. Grenache is their main grape variety, along with Carignan, a little Syrah, Lladoner Pelut and Cinsaut. Maria Schmitt and her husband Jean-Michel had run a restaurant in Gordes in the Vaucluse and, seeking pastures new, arrived in Fitou for their first vintage in 2001. Fita is the old name for Fitou, hence the name of the estate. And this is what they were offering at Vinisud.

2009 Fitou
60% Grenache, with Carignan and Syrah, kept in a concrete vat. Good colour. Quite rounded, leathery, nice depth and texture. Quite elegant with a certain freshness. Conjures up the wild scenery of the region. The soil is schist and limestone.

2007 Fitou
2007 is a warmer vintage. Medium colour. More solid, rounded and dense, with ripe confit notes, and on the palate dense ripe fruit. Quite alcoholic and tannic. A richer, riper year than 2009. And 14.5˚ gives it some warmth on the finish. It has spent twelve month in concrete and a further twelve months in wood.

2009 MF
90% Grenache with Syrah. Aged in both concrete vats and barriques. Quite solid, dense and youthful on the nose. Quite a tight knit palate. Quite solid and youthful with layers of flavour and considerable depth. A warm confit finish. Speaks of the place.

2001 Fitou
Their first vintage. The colour was still remarkably young, showing a little development. The grapes were destemmed, and the élevage included 10% new oak. An appealing note of evolution on the palate. Some oak but it was nicely integrated. Good depth, rounded with fruit and flavour and still very youthful. In short it was a brilliant first vintage. Maria explained that until 2004 they worked with an associate who had previous experience of wine-making.

2007 Le Schmitou, IGP Vallée du Paradis rouge
A blend of Grenache, Cinsaut, Syrah and Carignan, from vineyards of younger vines in the middle of the garrigues. In contrast some of their Fitou vines are centenarians. Quite a light palate; quite rounded with some viandé notes and a touch of spice. Less substantial than the Fitou.

Osé
A rather original vin de table. From two harvests of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. Pressed; fermented to leave 8 gms/l residual sugar, which then re-ferments to make for a very light sparkle in the bottle, so no sulphur and no fining. Light red colour. Quite ripe and rounded, soft with some acidity. Some lovely fresh ripe fruit. Original and fun.

2007 Le Schmitou, IGP Vallée du Paradis blanc
A blend of Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Macabeo. Fermented in 500 litre oval cement vats. Quite a firm closed nose, with a richer palate. Satisfying texture; quite dense with lots of nuances and matière, and good balancing acidity.

Le Blanc de Marie, No 9 vin de table
Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Macabeo. A long ageing period – I am afraid I did not note how long exactly. Hence an amber golden colour. Quite an intriguing nose and palate. Lightly nutty. Medium weight. Quite firm dry nutty fruit, with a long finish. Not especially acidic but quite balanced. Very intriguing and original.

In conclusion, a lovely discovery and I hope I find their wine on a wine list soon so that I can actually have the opportunity to enjoy their wine without the need to spit it out.