Friends came to stay from Provence, who very sensibly wanted to stock up on the Languedoc's finest. They are not very francophone, so we opted for an English wine grower, and fortunately. Simon Coulshaw was at home. First he wanted to show off his new pneumatic press, which had set him back about 15,000€, the price of a new BMW, he observed. It is all highly computerised, and will maintain the same pressure throughout the pressing. Apparently with other less streamlined presses, the pressure diminishes as the grapes become less juicy.
I’ve been a bit tardy in posting notes on September cellar visits, so this visit was just before the harvest was about to begin, and the grapes were looking good. There would only be a small crop of Grenache, thanks to rain at flowering. ‘It's been a funny season’, commented Simon. I have since heard from him that he is very pleased with his Syrah.
We kicked off with:
2012 Viognier - 6.50€
Grown on a north facing basalt slope. Whole bunch pressing. A cool débourbage, followed by a cool fermentation. Initially dumb, it develops beautifully in the glass, with peachy notes. And the palate is quite elegant and peachy, with some texture and length. However, Simon favours quite a crisp style, asserting that he did not want to make Condrieu.
2012 Roussanne - 6.50€
Stayed on the lees with regular bâtonnage for about a month. It never sees any oak. Some white flowers on the palate. Quite rounded, with some acidity. Youthful and restrained with nice mouth feel.
Light golden. White flowers and weight on the nose, with more depth than 2012. Quite rich and leesy, white blossom texture and depth. A herbal note, and elegant evolution. Roussanne does age well, and I have since drunk the 2010 which was a lovely glass of wine.
2012 Faugères Rosé - 6.25€
Some colour. Simon agreed that it was darker than usual as a reaction to the anaemic pale wines that smell of bonbons anglais, or boiled sweets. This was more like a Tavel from the southern Rhône. Quite a solid rounded dry nose, and on the palate, quite firm and gutsy. Usually it is a blend of Mourvèdre and Cinsaut, but 2012 has some Syrah, so that the blend is 60% Syrah, 10% Cinsaut and 30% Mourvèdre. Quite garrigues, herbal and peppery. The Syrah has spent two to three hours on the skins. Good dry finish, with Faugères minerality. A food rosé. And it is also available en magnum, for the first time. I do so like a magnum.
2010 Le Portail, Faugères - 6.50€
Syrah 65%, Mourvèdre 10% and Grenache 25%. Medium colour. Lots of black fruit, with rounded ripe spicy notes. Medium weight palate. Ripe silky fruit. Soft tannins, peppery with a stony mineral finish. Fresh and elegant. And since this visit I have also had an opportunity to compare 2011 and 2012. The 2011 is very ripe and opulent, while 2012 is more restrained with a firmer structure, and more ageing potential. I preferred 2012 but Simon said that on his last trip to England, the 2011 was the star of the trip.
2010 Le Pech Mégé, Pézenas - 6.00€
70% Grenache, 25% Syrah. Two week pre-fermentation cold soak to extract the maximum fruit. Élevage in vat. Fresh red fruit on the nose. Ripe cherry liqueur fruit and soft tannins on the palate. Simon suggested serving this chilled.
2009 La Devèze, Pézenas - 8 .95€
85% Carignan, from vines that are 120 years old. 15% Grenache Noir. The Carignan was so delicious that Simon really did not want to blend it with anything else. It is just 1.30 hectares, that yielded 15 hl/ha. No oak. More structured than Le Pech Mégé. Red fruit on the nose, with a hint of animal from the Carignan. A certain ripeness. Some rustic spicy tannins. Medium weight. A leathery note on the finish.
209 les Mourels, Faugères - 9.50€
70% Mourvèdre with 30% Syrah. The Mourvèdre was particularly good in 2009. It can be a very difficult grape to get ripe. Medium young colour. No oak. Quite a firm nose. Firm berry notes on the palate. Quite full, dry ripe spice, with a rich finish. A touch alcoholic on finish, at 14.5˚. Quite tannic and still very youthful.
2010 Cuvée 42 - 35€
This comes from just three hectares, that is to say, one hectare each of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, aged in 2 year old 500 litre barrels, for two years. The yield was just 8 hl/ha and the vineyard is cultivated biodynamically. All the grapes are fermented together. The earlier ripening Syrah and Grenache grapes are kept cool till the Mourvèdre is ready for harvesting. No so2.
Quite deep young colour. Very spicy and oaky. On the palate rounded oak and dense spice. Quite sweet with ripe vanilla. Quite tannic. Rounded and rich. Quite alcoholic on the finish. Needs time to settle down. And needs decanting if you are planning to drink it soon. Simon is pushing the boundaries, seeing just what he can do, giving a small plot a lot of TLC.