FITOU - Tasting of the 2016 Ambassador Collection
Although Fitou was the very first red table wine (as opposed to fortified vin doux) appellation of the Languedoc, it tends to get rather overlooked alongside its larger neighbours, Corbières and Minervois. Curiously the appellation of Fitou is split in two with Fitou-Maritime, for vineyards close to the coast and around the village of Fitou itself, and Fitou de Hautes-Corbières, with vineyards up in the hills around the villages of Tuchan and Paziols. When the appellation was created back in 1948, the villages between the two zones did not wish to accept the constraints on grape varieties and yields imposed by an appellation, so that today those villages are part of the much larger appellation of Corbières . A new initiative, implemented this year, has been the selection of a case of twelve different Fitou, which they are calling the Ambassador Collection. There was a tasting of the wines in London last week, which I missed as I was in the Languedoc, they very generously gave me the twelve bottles to try at home. What follows is what I found.
2014 Domaine Lerys, Adrienne - 12 €
80% Carignan with 10% each of Grenache Noir and Syrah, grown on slate, in the hills The wine is aged in vat. Deep young colour. Ripe spicy red fruit; quite smooth nose, with a much fresher sturdier palate. Quite tannic with a youthful streak, and even a touch green, but that was balanced by some appealing fruit. A ripe fruity finish,
2014 Château Les Fenals, Cuvée Julie - 12 €
From an estate in the village of Fitou itself. 50% Carignan and 50% Grenache Noir, grown on clay and limestone. Aged in stainless steel vat. Deep young colour with some ripe black fruit on the nose, and almost a sweet confit note. Rounded ripe fleshy palate; the Grenache dominates the palate. A touch alcoholic on the finish.
2014 Domaine Esclarmonde, L'Impulsif - 8 €
From Paziols, A blend of 35% Carignan, 35% Grenache Noir and 30% Syrah. grown on clay and limestone, and slate. Aged in vat. Deep young colour. Quite a sturdy nose, that initially seemed a touch reduced, but that wore off after a while. Quite a firm palate, balanced with some ripe fruit, with a firm tannic streak. Quite a youthful palate.
2014 Domaine de La Rochelierre, Noblesse du Temps - 20 €
From the village of Fitou. 50% Mourvèdre, 30% Carignan and 20% Grenache grown on clay and limestone. Aged in oak barrels for 13 months. Quite a restrained nose, and quite a solid rich palate, with a sturdy streak of youthful tannins, and a slightly green notes on the finish. Also some oak on the palate, as well as some ripe spice. The oak did not seem very balanced, but may be that is question of age.
2013 Les Vignerons du Mont-Tauch, Hommage - 19€
From the large cooperative in Tuchan and a blend of 40% Carignan and 30% each of Grenache Noir and Syrah. grown on clay and limestone. aged for 9 - 12 months in new oak barrels, and indeed the nose was dominated by notes of vanilla, as well as some black fruit, but there was also a firm dry streak of tannin on the finish, which jarred. Essentially more oak than fruit, and not very nice oak at that.
2013 Domaine de La Grange, Via Fonteius - 10€
From the coastal village of La Palme. 40% each of Carignan and Mourvèdre with 20% Carignan.grown on clay and limestone. 50% aged in barrel. Deep young colour and quite a firm nose, with a palate that is drying out, as though the oak has leeched any fruit, leaving a green stalky finish, The least successful wine of the dozen.
2013 Château Wiala, Harmonie - 10 €
A blend of 40% each Carignan and Grenache Noir with 20% Syrah, from the village of Tuchan, grown on clay and limestone hillside. The Syrah is aged in 400 litres French oak barrels; the Carignan has been in wood too, in barriques, with ageing in vat for the Grenache Noir. Deep young colour. Some red fruit on the nose, and quite a round palate,with some red fruit and some pepper and a streak of tannin, A harmonious finish and quite an accessible style.
2013 Château Champ des Sœurs, Bel Amant -11 €
From the village of Fitou. A blend of 30% each of Mourvèdre and Carignan, with 40% Grenache Noir, grown on clay and limestone. Aged in stainless steel vats. Medium colour. Some red fruit on the nose; a very refreshing nose. Medium weIght palate,with more fresh red fruit, with a streak of tannin, quite harmonious with a youthful balance and an appealing energy. I liked this a lot.
2013 Domaine Bertrand-Bergé, La Boulière -18,50 €
From the village of Paziols. A blend of 50% Mourvèdre, with 25% each of Grenache Noir and Carignan. Aged in large casks. Deep young colour; quite a firm nose with a touch of spice and on the palate quite rich and fleshy with good fruit and a tannic streak, and a rounded finish.
2013 Château Abelanet, Vieilles Vignes - 8,50 €
From the village of Fitou. 60% 45 year old Carignan with 20% each of Grenache and Mourvèdre grown on clay and limestone and some slate. Ageing first in vat and then in barrel, for four months, one third of which are new. Deep young colour. Quite firm structured nose with some vanilla, and an oaky palate with vanilla and tannin. Not very balanced, and drying on the finish. I have had better from this estate.
2013 Château des Erles - 17,50 €
From the village of Villeneuve les Corbières, up in the hills. 50% Syrah with 25% each of Carignan and Grenache noir. Aged for 18 months in 600 litre demi-muids. Deep young colour. Quite rounded ripe vanilla and oak on the nose and palate. A tannic streak but the oak is nicely integrated and the wine more polished than some of the others. Fitou sometimes has a wild rugged quality that can be quite appealing
2013 Château de Nouvelles, Gabrielle 16 €60% Carignan with 30% Grenache and 10% Syrah, grown on clay and limestone and other soils. Half the blend is aged for 18 months in French oak. Some of the vines are 70 years old for this is one of the old established estates of the appellation. Deep young colour. Some spice on the nose, and on the palate nicely supple and harmonious with some rounded tannins. Lots of nuances, with a fine balance of fruit and flavour and tannin. Nicely representative of the character of Fitou.