Saturday, 31 December 2011


The first evening in our Languedoc home for three months and friends coming to dinner – so a good opportunity to open a bottle or two.

First was Villa Dondona’s 2010 Esperel,Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc, a blend of Vermentino and Grenache Blanc with a touch of Marsanne and Roussanne. Light colour, with some herbal notes on the nose. Some white blossom and a herbal note on the palate, balanced with refreshing acidity. Nicely understated. It made a good apéro. I first tried this in the spring when it won a trophy in the Vallée de l’Hérault competition and it was gratifying to find it just as good nine months on.

Next came 2009 Les Clauzes de Jo from Domaine des Belles Pierres. Damien Coste is a particularly talented white winemaker. And this was delicious, with a light colour and a slightly honeyed note on the nose. There was more honey on the palate, with a ripe flavour and a satisfying mouth feel, balanced with good acidity and a rounded finish. A blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier.

And then we compared a pair of Carignan. First was 2009 Vieux Carignan, Cuvée Paul from Mas d’Amile in Montpeyroux, so an IGP Mont Baudile. Medium young colour. Some berry fruit on the nose, and even more on the palate with a streak of tannin. An elegant edge of rusticity. Nicely balanced fruit and tannins. Still quite youthful but drinking well now.

2004 Carignan from Jean-Louis Denois in Limoux, so a more mature wine from cooler vineyards. Medium colour. Quite a dry leathery quality on the nose, and also on the palate, with some dry fruit. A certain sturdy quality; a more masculine wine than Mas d’Amile. Quite rustic with dry warmth and very satisfying.

So two shining examples of the dramatic improvement in white wine making in the Languedoc, and two lovely examples of a once despised grape variety.

And for a quiet ‘this is not a New Year’s Eve dinner’, I am contemplating a bottle of Crémant de Limoux Rosé from Domaine Rives Blanques, and a bottle of Domaine de Clovallon’s best Pinot Noir, 2006 les Pomarèdes to accompany a guinea fowl.

Bonne Année to all lovers of Languedoc wines!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

MAS GABRIEL at the Solicitors' Wine Society

Christmas deadlines seem to have taken over and I’ve neglected my blog for the last week or three - apologies – I’m not sure where the days have gone, which is a pretty feeble excuse. But with the grey dank weather in London this morning, my thoughts turned to Languedoc sunshine. Earlier in the month I was invited by the Solicitors’ Wine Society to help with a tasting of the wines from Mas Gabriel. Those of you who read my blog with any regularity will know that Mas Gabriel is one of my favourite local estates and this tasting provided a great overview of their wines since their very first vintage in 2006. Deborah Core was a solicitor in a former life, so it was only fitting that she should present her wines to the solicitors.

The prices given below are those of specialist Languedoc importer Terroirs du Languedoc

2010 Les Fleurs Sauvages Rosé - IGP Hérault - £11.50
A blend of Carignan and Cinsaut with 10% Grenache, made from pressed grapes. Light colour. Quite a rounded nose with a hint of strawberry and raspberry fruit. Quite a firm palate, with a streak of tannin and acidity, and balanced with a nicely vinous ripe finish. What I would call a food rosé – bring on the salade niçoise.

2010 Clos des Papillons Blanc IGP Hérault - £14.95
A great example of the revival of a lost white variety, Carignan Blanc. A little colour. Quite a perfumed herbal nose, with some intriguing fruit, length and depth on the palate. Lots of nuances. And there is a reason why Carignan Blanc performs so well in the Midi – its high level of acidity, so that it retains its freshness and does not develop the flabbiness of some northern varieties in the south.

Next came a mini vertical of Les Trois Terrasses, IGP Hérault – their pure Carignan

2010 – A vat sample. Very deep young colour. Firm mineral nose and quite closed. And on the palate, ripe black berry fruit; ripe and rounded with the rustic streak of Carignan. The blend includes one third of carbonic maceration, which softens the sometimes harsh tannins of Carignan. Peter and Deborah like to try something new each vintage.

2009 - £11.95
Deep young colour; firm and youthful on the nose. Quite a ripe dense palate, with more tannins than in the 2010. That may be a reflection of the vintage conditions, and also the vinification, as there is no maceration carbonic in this wine.

Good young colour. Quite a closed nose. The wine is beginning to develop, some cedary hints, with some berry fruit. Nicely balanced, with an attractive rustic, tannic streak. Really quite elegant, especially for a Carignan. Fermented in a concrete tank, so not a hint of oak anywhere.

2006 Mas Gabriel, Coteaux du Languedoc
A blend of 63% Carignan, 28% Syrah and 9% Grenache. Their very first wine. Quite a deep colour; some oak on the nose. The palate is quite firm and tannic, dense and solid, and quite extracted, with what I call furry tannins. For a first vinification from vineyards that they did not know, it is pretty good, but it also shows how much Peter and Deborah’s winemaking has improved in subsequent vintages, as they got to know their vineyards and with more experience of the conditions of the Midi.

2008 Clos des Lièvres, Pézenas - £12.50
60% Syrah with 20% each of Grenache and Carignan. Deep colour. Quite a closed firm nose. Good fruit. Quite dense and rounded on the palate with a firm ripe streak of tannin. Youthful. Needs time to develop.

Clos des Lièvres 2009, Pézenas
A traditional fermentation. The same blend as the 2008. In 2010 the blend is Syrah with Grenache and no Carignan, which went into Les Trois Terrasses Good colour. A more elegant nose, with some berry fruit. Quite rounded and brambly, quite rich with a tannic streak. In fact, absolutely delicious and a great finale to the tasting.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


The autumn organic tasting at the Maison du Languedoc in Cavendish Square seems to have become an annual event. This year there were 18 producers, some from last year; some newcomers; some old friends; some new discoveries. What follows are some of the highlights. Most people were looking for some UK distribution, so no retail prices were available.


Jean-Francois Izarn is a short, stocky guy, and somehow his wines follow his physique. They are ripe and rounded, rich and characterful. The estate is in the tiny village of Causses et Veyran, which is part of the appellation of St. Chinian. Jean-Francois explained that he has three different terroirs.

2010 Les Terres Blanches, St. Chinian
45% each of Grenache and Syrah, with 10% Mourvèdre, grown on limestone.
Deep colour; lots of ripe fruit on both nose and palate, very gourmand, ripe with supple tannins. A glass of sunshine.

2010 les Schistes, St. Chinian
Mainly Syrah and Grenache with a little Carignan. Aged in old 600 litres barrels, so that the oak is well integrated on the palate, with a fresh nose and some supple peppery notes on both the nose and palate.

2009 Les Cres St. Chinian
70% Syrah with 30% Mourvèdre, aged in 600 litre barrels of three wines. Grown on galets, not dissimilar to those of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. A more substantial nose, with a ripe, rounded palate. This wine has charpente or shoulders, with body and weight and a hint of ripe cherries. It needs time.

2009 Midi Rouge, St. Chinian
60% Syrah, 45% Mourvèdre, 5% Grenache. This is a new cuvée made for the first time in 2008. The idea is to take the best of each terroir, depending on the year and blend them together. The wine is fermented in open top demi muids and spends 18 months in barrel. It is quite solid and dense on the nose, with a ripe intense tannic palate, with good fruit and an edge of oak. Youthful tannins and a lot of matière and weight. Needs time

2009 La Combe, Coteaux de Murviel
70% Cabernet Sauvignon with 30% Syrah.
Quite ripe cassis – you immediately detect the presence of Cabernet Sauvignon after the flavours of the south. Quite a rounded palate, and not too tannic and quite full-bodied.

At Lézignan-Corbières

2010 Corbières, based on Syrah.
Medium colour; quite spicy fruit on the nose. Medium weight, easy drinking with a touch of spice and supple tannins on the palate.

From the village of Antugnac in Limoux

NV Cuvée Tradition Blanquette de Limoux
A blend of Mauzac with 10% Chardonnay Their Blanquette spends 18 – 24 months on the lees, as opposed to the nine months dictated by the AC regulations.
Ripe creamy nose, with a ripe rounded palate, and a nice touch of creaminess on the finish.

2008 Crémant de Limoux, Cuvée Passion,
60% Chardonnay , with 10% Pinot Noir, 15% Chenin and 15% Mauzac. Again 18 – 24 months on lees, as opposed to 12 months in the AC regulations.
Quite rounded with a touch of maturity on the nose. Again a rounded palate, with some depth and a creamy finish.

2008 Crémant de Limoux, Cuvée des Sacres
The same blend as the previous wine, but a selection of the juice, in other words, the first juice out of the press, with 5% fermented in oak.
Generally riper, fuller, and more rounded on nose and palate. Good body with a fine harmonious balance.

Clair de Lune, Blanquette Méthode Ancestrale
The traditional style of sparkling Limoux, a pure Mauzac, and made by stopping the fermentation, and then allowing it to start again in the spring. In lateral drinking terms, this could a French Asti Spumante, as it is quite sweet with grapey fruit. Light nose. Rounded palate, ripe and honeyed, with an appley touch on the finish that is characteristic of Mauzac.

And they have a new wine in the pipe line – all fermented in oak, with no dosage and two years on the lees. Sounds very intriguing. I can’t wait to try it.

An estate that covers Fitou, Corbières as well as Rivesaltes.
The Fitou are all called Les 4 Nids - apparently it brings you good luck for the next harvest if you find a bird’s nest (nid) in your vines.

2007 Les 4 Nids, Fitou
47% Carignan, 37% Grenache, 14% Syrah, 2% Mourvèdre
Quite ripe and rounded, with good leathery fruit. In contrast, the 2008 vintage was more closed on the nose, with a warm leathery palate, and some firm tannin.

Rivesaltes Rancio
A blend of all three colours of Grenache. Lovely walnut fruit on the nose and palate. Beautiful balance with a certain bite on the finish. Just what it should be. Rivesaltes Rancio is one of the great drinks of the Midi, grossly underrated and overlooked, and usually quite delicious. .

Manuel Jorel has just seven hectares at St Paul de Fenouillet in the Agly valley, close to Maury. I visited him a few years ago – I remember dramatically situated vineyards on one of those February days in the south that are too good to be true.

2007 Cuvée Un, IGP Pyrénées-Orientales
50 / 50 Grenache and Carignan Medium colour. Quite a firm cherry nose, with some liquorice and spice on the palate. Medium weight. Lovely spicy fruit.

And I liked the 2008 even more. The vines, sixty to eighty year old, are grown on granite and schist. The wine has more structure than the 2007, with some spicy brambly fruit and an edge of tannin. Deep colour.

2010 Pésquiès, IGP Pyrénées-Orientales
Pure Grenache grown on schist in Maury.
Quite a firm nose with ripe liqueur cherries on the palate. Ripe and rounded with a tannic edge

2009 Pétaillat IGP Pyrénées-Orientales
Old Grenache grown on limestone. With the ripe liqueur cherry fruit, that is typical of Grenache, but balanced with good acidity and tannin.

2008 Côtes du Roussillon Villages
A blend of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache. Part of the Syrah has been aged in old wood, for twelve months, after a four week maceration on the skins. Firmer more structured fruit on nose and palate. Quite dry leathery spice, with a peppery edge of Syrah. Quite ripe and full on the finish.

2008 Maury
A blend of Grenache and Carignan. Three years in barrel.
Young colour. The ripe rounded berry fruit of vintage Vin Doux. A streak of tannin. Well integrated alcohol. A youthful balance and fresh fruit.

See a previous posting about Anne’s s wines. But she did want me to taste the 2011 rosés, which were of course both vat samples

Plaisirs Rosé, a blend of Grenache, Cinsaut and Syrah.
Pale pink; fresh youthful fruit, a touch of raspberry and good acidity

2011 Plaisirs Interdits Rosé
From the same grape varieties, but with a deeper colour and a fuller riper palate.


A 15 hectare estate, bought ‘in a moment of madness’ by John Hegarty of advertising fame, with his wife Philippa. He is applying his broader vision to his wines, with some success. And he feels very strongly that he wants to put something back into the land, leaving it in a better condition than how they found it. I also liked his concept that wine needs to lose its mystery, but still maintain its magic. The wines are sold by Adnams in Southwold.

2008 No 2, Minervois
70% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, 10% Cinsaut 12 months in oak
Warm spicy nose with a touch of oak. Quite warm ripe and rich cherry fruit. Nice spice with a lift on the finish.

2008 Open Now, Minervois
50/50 Mourvèdre and Syrah- the latest addition to the range.
Advertising humour comes in to play here The cork sports the words ‘Well Done! congratulating you on the successful manipulation of the corkscrew. 20% of the Syrah is aged in wood, and the rest in tank. Some cherry spice on the nose with ripe fruit and a rounded, textured palate. An appealing entry level wine.

2008 les Chamans Blanc, Minervois
50/50 Roussanne / Marsanne fermented in oak and blended before élevage/ No fining or filtering.
Quite a rounded, textured palate. Well integrated oak with good depth of flavour and layers of nuances. Still quite young. Should develop more intriguing character, with some more bottle age.

2005 No 1 Minervois
60% Syrah and 40% Carignan, blended and aged for 16 months in barrel and then a further year in tank. Good young colour; quite firm leathery notes on both nose and palate. Good fruit. Quite sturdy with tannin and concentration. Dry peppery notes. The warm south with a sturdy edge on the finish.

A 15 hectares estate in the Côtes de Thongue. Isabelle Ducellier was pouring her wines. I liked the white best 2010 Isa blanc, a blend of Roussanne and Viognier, with some rounded fruit and peachy hints, and a touch of honey. Medium weight.

2010 le Joly Rouge
A blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 10% Cinsaut
This was drinking deliciously on the day. Medium weight. Fresh ripe fruit on the nose, and lots of ripe cherries on the palate. Easy drinking, just as it is intended to be.

2009 Saturne blanc, Coteaux du Languedoc
Pure Grenache blanc.
Lovely leafy ripe fruit. Textured palate with layers of flavour. Nicely balanced. I prefer Saturne to the oakier Virgile Blanc.

A 7 hectare estate based in Banyuls.

2007 Cuvée Vieille Foudre, Collioure

25% each Grenache, Carignan Mourvèdre and Syrah, with some old vines and ageing in barrel.
Medium colour. Quite a light nose, with leathery notes. Quite a rounded ripe palate, with some weight and ripe leathery fruit. Quite powerfully elegant with a fresh finish.

2005 Cuvée d’Octobre, Collioure
Same percentages of the same four grape varieties as the previous wine, but a later harvest and 14 months in barrel.
Medium colour. Some leathery spice, and more leather, spice and oak on the palate. Medium weight.

2001 Ey Single Vineyard Banyuls
Grenache Noir. Quite a tawny colour. Some rounded nutty fruit on the palate. Nicely balanced and very satisfying.

A large, 54 hectare property, with vineyards near Vingrau, making a range of different Côtes du Roussillon, with different blends and ageing.

2007 La Pinède, Côtes du Roussillon
A blend of 70% Syrah, 20% Grenache Noir and 10% Carignan, aged in barrel
Quite deep colour. Rounded oaky leathery nose and palate.

2009 La Crinyane, Côtes du Roussillon Villages
Crinyane apparently means Carignan in Catalan, and that is the main grape variety, if not the only grape variety in the wine, though of course in theory Côtes du Roussillon Villages should be a blend of grape varieties. 13 months ageing in wood.
Quite a solid dense nose; solid rounded oaky palate, with ripe fruit, and a touch of alcohol on the finish.

2007 Arrels, Côtes du Roussillon Villages.
Predominantly Grenache Noir with a serious ex cellar price A selection of their four best barrels of Grenache Noir, so very limited quantity.
Quite a deep colour. Solid, dense and spicy oak on the nose, and on the palate intense fruit and oak. How will it age? Last week it packed a punch of flavour, but at the moment lacks subtlety for really enjoyable drinking.