Saturday, 22 December 2012

Chateau Trillol

 A CHANCE BOTTLE – 2008 Corbières, Château Trillol

Rootling around our cellar yesterday evening, looking for a cheerful bottle to go with a  daube, I chanced upon a bottle of Corbières, from Château Trillol.  It was the perfect wine for the moment.  Trillol is one of the examples of bordelais investment in the Midi.  The Sichel family made their first wine in the high hills of the Corbières, in the village of Cucugnan, back in 1989. The countryside is wild, with the dramatic Cathar castle of Peyrepertuse nearby and the village of Cucugnan features in a short story by Alphonse Daudet. The vineyards lie at 400 metres.  The grape mix was a classic Midi blend of Grenache, 38%  Syrah 34% and Carignan 28%.  The wine has a lovely deep colour, with some ripe spicy fruit on the nose.  On the palate you have ripe cherry fruit from the Grenache, balanced with some peppery notes from the Syrah, and a fresh tannic streak on the finish.   The Carignan gives more backbone.  At four years old it was nicely evolved and harmonious, but with a youthful streak of freshness and was drinking deliciously.  Just the thing for a chilly winter’s evening.    And available from one of my favourite wine merchants – The Wine Society for £8.95

And this will be my last post before Christmas - and probably until next year,  so this is the moment to say Happy Christmas and Bonne Annee and to wish you lots of bottles of delicious Languedoc wine.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Roussillon at the Maison du Languedoc

There was a large tasting of the wines of Roussillon at the Maison du Languedoc earlier this autumn.  I was dashing off to Chablis the next day, so never got round to blogging about it at the time, but better late than never, especially as there were some lovely wines.   Roussillon offers quite an eclectic variety  – you have independent producers, as well as some very competent village cooperatives, that are working well for their region.  White wines are improving apace; reds are warming and serious, just the thing for this time of year.  The IGP Côtes Catalanes is as good if not better than the appellation, Côtes du Roussillon or Côtes du Roussillon Villages.  And then there are the Vins Doux, sweet grapey Muscats and barrel aged old Grenache, which provide a very satisfactory alternative to port, especially old tawny.    I've just concentrated on two of the fourteen producers at the tasting, the two whose wines excited me the most.  

Domaine Vaquer.  

I first visited this estate in the late 1980s, for my book on French Country Wines.  Fernand Vaquer parried every question with ‘ça depend’, so it was rather a frustrating encounter from the point of view of information, but his wines were lovely, and simply outstanding compared to most other table wines from the region at that time.  Things have moved on and it is now his Burgundian daughter-in-law Frédérique Vaquer, who is making the wine, and she is certainly following in Fernand’s  footsteps, with some deliciously satisfying flavours.

2011 Côtes du Roussillon Esquisse
A blend of Macabeo and Grenache; aged in vat with some bâtonnage and an early bottling.  Ripe white blossom on the nose and palate.  Lovely weight and mouth feel, balanced with good acidity.  Some dry honey.  Lots of nuances

1985 Côtes Catalanes, Tradition  A pure Macabeo. This was extraordinary.  Light golden in colour.  Ripe and mature with a layered palate.  Again, very good acidity.  .  A slightly almondy finish.

1986 Blanc de Blancs, again a pure Macabeo.  Old gold colour.  Ripe and rounded ,with lots of nuances, fresh acidity.  Very intriguing, mature and vivacious, and showing just how well the white wines of the region can age.

2011 Côtes du Roussillon rosé, Ephémère
One third each of Carignan, Grenache, and Syrah,  Quite a bright pink.  Quite a rounded nose. Ripe vinous palate, with raspberry fruit and some fresh acidity on the finish.

2010 Côtes Catalanes, Exigence.
Pure Grenache Noir, aged in vat. Medium colour.  Ripe spice on the nose; rounded cherry fruit; medium weight.  Very nicely balanced.  Ripe but fresh.   

2010 Côtes Catalanes, Carignan Expression.  
A pure Carignan.  20 % aged in barrel.  Quite spicy fruit on nose.  A rounded palate, with some berry fruit and a certain rustic note.

2010 Côtes du Roussillon les Aspres, Exception
50% Grenache, with 25% Carignan and 25% Syrah.  30 % aged in wood for eighteen months.
Nicely rounded nose with some oak and on the palate ripe and spicy with a youthful tannic streak.  Good potential.

1988 Côtes Catalanes, Fernand Vaquer
80% Carignan with 20% Grenache.  Aged for 24 months at high altitude, 800 metres.  Quite a tawny colour.  Mature dry leathery notes on the nose and palate.  Elegant fruit and very stylish; and very intriguing and original.

2007 Rivesaltes, Grenat, l’Extrait
Medium young colour.  Ripe liquorice spice on nose and palate.  Quite ripe and concentrated.

1995 Rivesaltes Tuilé, Post Scriptum
Medium depth amber colour.  Lovely dry nutty notes on nose and firm.  Firm and nutty; intense and rich and quite delicious.

Rivesaltes Ambré, Hors d’Age
In other words, an average of 25 years old.  The youngest wines in the blend of ten years old.  Lovely dry but rich nose; quite rich and intense nutty fruit.  Wonderful length depth.  Lots of nuances.   A stunning example of mature Rivesaltes.

Domaine Treloar

This etate was created by Rachel and Jonathan Hesford, after Jonathan decided to change careers back in 2001.  Rachel comes from New Zealand and they learnt their wine making there, but wanted to do their own thing, and serendipity led them to Roussillon.,  Their first vintage was in 2006 and they now have 11 hectares of vines outside the village of Trouillas

2011 Côtes Catalanes, One Block Muscat
Muscat à petits grains.  Fresh pithy nose; very Muscat.  Quite dry, with the slightly bitter note characteristic of dry Muscat

2011 Côtes Catalanes, La Terre Promise
A blend of Carignan Blanc, Macabeo and Grenache Gris.  Fermented in oak and followed by six months élevage.  Delicate nose.  Rounded nutty fruit, with good balancing acidity.  Satisfying structure

2010 Côtes du Roussillon, le Ciel Vide
Mainly Carignan, with some Syrah and Grenache.  Quite firm and leathery on the nose. Maybe a touch bretty, but nicely so with a characterful palate. And some leathery, viandé notes.

2009 Côtes du Roussillon, Three Peaks
Syrah dominant, with Grenache and Mourvèdre.  All aged in oak.  Rounded and ripe on the nose.  A nice balance in the mouth.   Medium weight and harmonious fruit and tannins.

2010 Côtes du Roussillon, Three Peaks.
Three Peaks is the name of a walk in Yorkshire, where Jonathan comes from,  and there are also three peaks in Roussillon.   Slightly deeper colour.  Firmer fruit on the nose, and more youthful and structured on the palate.  Good potential.

2010 Côtes du Roussillon, Motus
90% Mourvèdre, all aged in oak.  Firm oak on the nose; youthful tannic and structured.  A tight knit palate with plenty of potential.

2009 Côtes du Roussillon, Tahi,
Tahi means No. 1 in Maori, and Rachel does have some Maori ancestry.  Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, in the same proportions as Three Peaks, but aged in barrel.  Medium colour.  Elegant oak on the nose; evolving nicely.  Good fruit on the palate with youthful tannins.  Good balance and potential.

And a sweet note on which to finish

2011 Muscat de Rivesaltes
Light golden.  Quite sweet spicy nose.  Ripe and fresh; lemony and honeyed, with refreshing acidity.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A Languedoc dinner

Friends for dinner last night provided the occasion to see how just well the Languedoc ages.   But first a refreshing Picpoul de Pinet from an estate, that is new to me, Domaine Guillaume Cabrol in Castelnau de Guers.  This was everything that good Picpoul should be, with some appealingly salty, sappy notes and a nicely rounded palate with balancing acidity.  The bottle disappeared rather quickly.  We’ll be going back to Majestic for some more.

Next we compared two wines that had been sitting in members’ reserves at The Wine Society for a number of years.

2000 Faugères¸ la Maison Jaune from Domaine Jean-Michel Alquier.   The Alquier family have been making seriously good Faugères for two generations.  And this was delicious.  Good colour; quite a spicy nose, with a leathery note, and a rounded palate, with quite a firm backbone of tannin, and some peppery fruit from Syrah.  Nicely mouth filling and harmonious.  Had developed beautifully but was still quite youthful.

2000 Domaine la Rectorie, Coume Pascale, Collioure
The Parcé family counts amongst the leading producers of Collioure and Banyuls.   Grenache Noir is the dominant grape variety here and as you would expect, the wine was very ripe and rounded, quite opulent and spicy with some sweet cherry liqueur notes, and supple tannins.  Again, beautifully mouth filling and just the thing for a cold winter’s night, with roast chicken.    

In  short two stunning examples of age ability from the Midi.

And we finished with a delicious 1998 Banyuls Grand Cru, Cuvée Christian Reynal, from the highly competent coop in Banyuls, Cave de l’Abbé Rous.  Grand cru implies at least 75% Grenache Noir, instead of 50%, and a minimum of thirty months againg, instead of ten.  In fact this has spent six months in barrels and is beautifully developed. Quite a deep colour with a tawny rim. Quite firm liquorice notes on the nose, with some ripe red fruit on the palate and a nutty finish.  Great length, and simply delicious with walnuts.    You can buy this from a new internet wine site  for the bargain price of £13.95 a bottle.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Organics, Biodynamics and Vins Natures at the Maison du Languedoc

A day of tasting organic wines at the Maison du Languedoc.  This is now an annual event, with fifteen producers exhibiting their wines.   Some were familiar,  but there were also some rewarding new discoveries.   What follows are some highlights: 

First was Domaine de l’Ancienne Mercerie, a Faugères from the village of Autignac.  They make two cuvées, Les Petites Mains and Couture, and since Francois and Natalie’s home used to be the older haberdashers in the village, they have retained the association with the names of their two wines

Les Petites Mains, 2011 – 9.00€
50% Carignan, with Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah.  Aged in vat.   Quite ripe berry fruit on the nose and palate; lots of red fruit and spice, with a firmly youthful tannic streak.  Medium weight.

Les Petites Mains 2010
Carignan 50% , with Grenache ad Mourvèdre.  Quite a fruity nose, with some ripe spice on the palate; some mineral notes and a firm streak of tannin.   

Couture 2010
Carignan, Syrah and Grenache.  François observed that they have quite a lot of old Carignan, and you are only allowed 40% maximum in the blend of Faugères.   Rounded ripe nose, with quite a firm youthful palate.  Tight knit and structured with ripe red fruits.  Still very youthful.  Élevage in wood fills out the palate, and the oak is nicely integrated.

Couture 2009
Carignan, Syrah and Grenache.  Quite ripe and warm on the nose, with some spice and a touch of oak.  The oak is well integrated and on the palate there is a firm tannic streak, with sturdy youthful fruit, and a long finish. 

Liz Bowen from Domaine Sainte Croix, whose wines I tasted at the Outsiders’ tasting earlier in the month, was showing some different wines.

2011 Pour Boire, Vin de France – 12.00€
87% Carignan and 13% Syrah.  Vin Nature.  No SO2.
Rounded ripe cherry fruit, ripe and smoky, with some supple tannins and restrained opulence.  This worked very nicely and was not too wild......!  A lovely refreshing finish. 

2007 Celèstra, Corbières   - 20.00€  14.5º
80% Grenache Noir and 20% Carignan.  Aged in wood for two years. This was solid, ripe and rounded with some dense fruit on the nose, and rich and concentrated on the palate.  Quite confit and almost sweet with some cherry liqueur notes.  Quite a heady finish. 

Château Bousquette in St. Chinian.
Isabelle Perret was showing a range of red St. Chinian.  I like her simplest wine best, 2010 Mas des Huppes, with a hoopoe on the label.  5.90€   70% Carignan with Grenache.  Medium colour.  Very ripe spicy tapenade nose.  Rounded and spicy, with black fruit and supple tannins.   Her other wines were all quite soft and made for easy drinking.

Mas Delmas
Pierre Andre Delmas made his first wines in 2005, after a varied career doing all sorts of other things, that  I couldn’t quite work out how he had managed to fit it all in.  And he has developed his vineyard with his Catalan wife Mercedes. 

2009 Marie Delmas, Côtes du Roussillon Villages – 10.00€
Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.  Some ripe spice on the nose.  Quite a ripe palate.  Medium weight.  Rounded finish.  Full of sunshine.   There are apparently five generations of Marie in the family, hence the name of this cuvée.

There were other red Côtes du Roussillon Villages, which were ripe and fleshier.  And also a Côtes Catalanes, 2010 Dona Lisa, which was fermented and aged in oak. It was quite solid and rounded, ripe and quite resinous on the nose, with a firm streak of acidity and mouth filling white blossom fruit.  

And even better were the Muscats, mostly vins doux, but also one dry Muscat:
2011 Marie Delmas Muscat Sec
Very perfumed Muscat, both d’Alexandrie and petits grains.  Very perfumed Muscat fruit; quite ripe and rich, with the characteristic bitter finish of Muscat.

Muscat de Rivesaltes – no vintage given. Half Muscat d’Alexandrie and half Muscat à petits grains.
Fresh, elegant and honeyed, with a slightly bitter streak.

2008 L’Or, Muscat de Rivesaltes – 14.00€
This had spent two years in a barriques.    Quite a light amber colour.  Dry and nutty on the nose, with a firm dry oaky streak on the palate, but also with rounded vanilla fruit.  Nutty and rich, with great length.  Long and lingering and quite delicious.

2005 Muscat de Rivesaltes – 55.00€
This has spent six years in barriques, with a racking, but no topping up, every six months. Very intriguing.  A firm streak on wood on nose and palate, with some rich fruit and dry honey.  Lots of nuances and layers of flavour.  Great length.   In fact it was the last wine I tasted, and a great note on which to finish. 

Domaine Grand Guilhem
Gilles Contrepoids was at the same event last year, this time with two wines.  His vineyards are in Cascastel des Corbières, so in the higher vineyards of Fitou, well inland. 

2010 Fitou
Carignan and Grenache Noir.
Medium colour.  A firm sturdy nose.  Quite firm but nicely balanced with structured fruit and tannin.  Has the characteristic rugged quality of Fitou.

2011 Angels, Fitou
Again Grenache Noir and Carignan.  A selection of old vines and aged in barriques.
Deep colour.  Quite firm and structured; solid,  ripe and rounded with a firm tannin streak and more depth on the palate.  A good contrast.

There were a couple of stylish Corbières
Sandrine Puech of Domaine de la Jument Rousse has 6.7 hectares outside the village of Lagrasse and she was showing just one wine, a blend of Grenache Noir and Carignan with just 5% Syrah.  It spends nine months in wood, in barrels that have previously been used for some Chardonnay.   Medium colour.  Quite a rounded nose.  A touch of tannin.  Oak nicely integrated with ripe rounded fruit, with a youthful streak of tannin.  Good balance.  Nicely mouth filling.  And I completely forgot to ask the price.

Château Montfin is in the hills above the village of Peyriac de Mer.   Jérôme Estève explained that his father bought the land, a rundown estate in 2002., which they have since renovated.  There is some very old Carignan. 

2011 Corbières blanc - 6.50€
Roussanne and Grenache blanc, vinified in vat.  Quite leesy and herbal, with some firm fruit.  A mineral streak; some acidity and some fennel on the palate.

2011 Cuvée  St Jacques, Corbières  - 9.00€
Roussanne and Grenache; fermented in wood and élevage for six months.  Some skin contact.  Light colour.  Quite rounded and textured with an oaky streak and some soft acidity.  Quite ripe and long, with good mouth feel, and again some fennel on the palate.   

2011 Carignena, Corbières  - 5.50€
Carignan noir , with some Grenache noir.  Elevage in vat.  Some carbonic maceration.  A fresh peppery note on the nose.  Rounded with subtle pepper and a dry finish.  Attractive rustic note of Carignan.  Good balance.

2011 Cuvée Pauline, Corbières – 8.50€
Syrah, Carignan and 20% Carignan noir – aged in wood.  Quite solid rounded fruit. Some good spice.  Quite ripe, with the oak nicely integrated.  Structured and youthful.  Potential.

2011 Cuvée Mathilde, Corbieres  - 11.50€
60% Carignan with 40% Grenache Noir.  Medium colour.  Quite ripe and rounded with some sturdy fruit on the nose.   Carignan vinified by maceration carbonique and aged in wood.  No wood for the Grenache.   Very ripe fruit on the palate.  Marc Dubernet is their oenologist.

Domaine Loupia

This was the lone Cabardès.
2011 Cuvée Domaine – 6.00€
Medium colour. Quite rounded with  touch of spice.  Quite a fleshy palate, with a little pepper and some supple fruit.  Less structured than some Cabardès.

2010 Cuvée Tradition – 7.70€
This spends six to eight months in wood.  Medium colour. Quite a firm nose, with touch of spice.  Quite rounded and ripe on the palate, and some attractive spice.  Again more supple than I normally expect for Cabardès, and no great depth, but none the worse for that.

Domaine Sainte Marie des Pins
An estate between Carcassonne and Limoux, making IGP Cité de Carcassonne.  Best of all, I liked:

2011 La Soulane – 8.50€
Grenache Noir and Syrah.  Maceration carbonique and élevage in wood.  Light fruit on the nose.  Quite round with a light tannic streak.  Quite supple. For easy drinking. 

Marc Leseney in Limoux makes two wines
NV Blanquette de Limoux from Mauzac and Chardonnay, which was rounded and creamy with good acidity.

Blanquette de Limoux, méthode ancestrale   Pure Mauzac.  Soft and slightly apply and slightly sweet.   The méthode ancestrale wines can be quite rich and sweet, but this was more subtle and restrained.

Domaine Bordes, with Philippe Bordes. 
A St Chinian estate that was new to me, and also making IGP Monts de la Grage as his blends did not conform to the AC.

2011 Les Narys, St. Chinian – 8.40€
Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre aged in old wood.  Syrah and Carignan grown on limestone and the Grenache and Mourvèdre on schist.
Medium colour.  Some oak, and some mineral notes on the nose.  Good ripe fruit; quite rounded; well integrated oak, with a ripe finish and some spice.

2010 Peyroulières, Monts de la Grage – 12.00€ – which means les pierres qui roulent and is the name of a stream.  14 months in wood.
100% Mourvèdre.    Quite a firm structured nose and palate.  Medium weight; some tannin.  A firm finish.

2009 La Plage, Monts de la Grage.
Carignan planted in 1898 and Syrah planted in 1975, which makes it some of the first Syrah to be planted in the region.  Young colour.  Quite rounded ripe cherry fruit, with a tannic streak.  Quite a structured palate with some spice.  Youthful.  Potential. 

Marie Fabre-Teisserenc was showing various wines from the Fabre family vineyards in the Corbières.  My favourite was

2011 L’Orangerie du Luc, Languedoc.  5.50€
A blend of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache, with a little Mourvèdre.  Aged in concrete tank.  Deep colour. Quite rounded, with fresh red fruit on the nose and palate.  Medium weight.  Easy drinking.

There was one of the longer established properties of the Pic St. Loup, Château de Lascaux in the village of Vacquières.   With 65 hectares, Jean-Benoit Cavalier also makes IGP Val de Montferrand and AOC Languedoc.   Needless to say, I liked his most expensive wines best!

2010 Les Pierres d’Argent, Coteaux du Languedoc – Pic St. Loup is never white. – 15.50€
40% Marsanne and Roussanne, with h20% Vermentino.  Oak ageing.   Quite a firm nutty nose, and on the palate nice depth, with leesy notes, and leafy fruit.  Well integrated oak.  Quite characterful.

2007 Les Nobles Pierres Rouge, Pic. St. Loup – 17.50€
Syrah with 20% Grenache Noir.  14 months in barrel.  Quite solid, dense ripe and oak.   A touch of tapenade and still youthful and mouth filling.

Friends were there too.  I couldn’t resist a taste of Manu Pageot’s La Rupture, even though I know the wine quite well.  

2011 Pays d’Hérault – Firm Sauvignon on fruit.  Good minerality and depth, with balancing acidity and satisfactory weight.  The cépage is incidental to the character of the wine. 

And next to him was Virgile Joly with two new wines for Vintage Roots, Classiques Blanc from Grenache blanc, with some appealing ripe white blossom fruit and Classiques Rouge from Grenache and Syrah. 

2011 Le Joly Blanc from Grenache blanc, with 20% Roussanne had more weight.  Quite ripe and rounded with some white blossom fruit.  Nice balance.

2010 Saturne blanc, Coteaux du Languedoc – 11.40€ 
95% Grenache blanc with 5% Roussanne.  A slightly tarry nose, with some herbal notes on the palate.  Good acidity and some intriguing layers of flavour.

2009 Saturne Rouge, Coteaux du Languedoc – 13.40€
Grenache noir, Syrah and Carignan in equal parts.  Medium colour.  Quite firm fruit on the nose, with good structure and rounded palate, with some appealing spice.  Good balance. Medium weight. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

HIghlights at the Salon des Vignerons Independants in Paris

This is a great wine fair covering the whole of France, with around a thousand wine growers, all under one roof at the Porte de Versailles, but it is enormous.  There were moments in the two days when my energy levels were definitely flagging, but where else can you revive yourself with a baguette au foie gras??!  And it is a great opportunity to make new discoveries and to catch up with old favourites, and also just check out a few familiar names, with which I was a bit out of date.   Naturally I concentrated on the Languedoc, but did allow myself a deviation or two, to Chablis for Domaine des Maronniers with my friends Bernard and Marie-Claude Légland, and to the Côte d’Or for some lovely Pommard with Anne Parent.  

New discoveries included Domaine Pech Tort in the Pic St. Loup with Nadège Jeanjean.  I asked the obvious question, and no, she is not related to the other bigger Jeanjean company.   Her first vintage was 2008.  There was also a new, to me, Faugères estate, Domaine des Pres-Lasses.   The owners are from Alsace and their first vintage was 1999.  Their vines are in the village of Autignac.  The cheerful vigneron at Château Pepusque in the Minervois described himself as un jeune vieux; his first vintage was 2005 and he was a chartered accountant in a former life.  ...And Domaine de la Rencontre is a Muscat de Mireval, created by an Anglo-French couple, Julie and Pierre Viudes, who met in Mexico.  Their first vintage was 2010 and they introduced me to the delights of sweet Muscat with Bleu d’Ambert cheese.   And thanks to a mention in the Revue du Vin de France I stopped at Domaine la Yole.   I am not usually very enthusiastic about Chardonnay from  the Languedoc, but how wonderful to have my prejudices firmly overturned.

And there were some delicious vins doux naturels.  Two sisters at Mas Karolina make irresistible Maury, as well as serious Côtes du Roussillon Villages; and Domaine de Fontanel in Tautavel had a wonderful Rivesaltes Ambré, which was everything that good Rivesaltes should be. 

And amongst the ‘old favourites’ I would highlight Château de l’Engarran, for St. Georges d’Orques and delicious late harvest Grenache; Château Perdiguier for elegantly understated  Bordeaux blends; Domaine de Nouvelles for sturdy Fitou.  I always enjoy the elegant Palette from Château Henri Bonnaud.  Sylvie Guiraudon at Clos de l’Anhel in Lagrasse produces an elegant range of Corbières, refreshingly without a trace of oak;  Philippe Modat’s new vintages at Domaine de Modat in Roussillon lived up to expectations.  And I can never resist the vins doux from Domaine des Chênes, and I left the fair with the lingering taste in my mouth of  Cap de Creus Rancio Sec from Domaine la Tour Vieille in Collioure. 

Some more detailed posts will follow.......

Friday, 16 November 2012

A deviation to Turkey

I’ve just returned from a wonderful week in Turkey.  The purpose of my trip was the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference, the EWBC for short, in Izmir.   And I had a complete immersion in Turkish wine, with lots of tasting opportunities; guided tastings of Turkish grape varieties, and blends with international grape varieties.  Nearby producers had their wines available for tasting during the two days, and there were also wine growers from Georgia, Lebanon and Armenia.   And then when the conference was finished, there was a trip inland to see vineyards around the towns of Manisa and Denizli, within easy reach of Izmir, and on my last day I went out to Urla, to visit vineyards close to the coast.

You may well ask what Turkey has to do with the Languedoc.   I think there are parallels and it is always interesting to make comparisons.

Turkey has many indigenous grape varieties.  We had the opportunity to taste white Emir and Narince, as well as the more widely planted Sultaniye, which is commonly known as Thompson Seedless, and  also grown for table grapes and dried sultanas, not to mention the popular drink of raki.    The red varieties have exotic names, such as Kalecik Karasi, Őkűzgözű and  Boğazkere.  Őkűzgözű translates literally as bull’s eye and the grapes are fat and juicy, and flavour is not unlike Zinfandel.  Boğazkere means throat gripper, for the firm tannic streak in the wine, while Kalecik Karasi is more elegant and sometimes compared with Nerello Mascalese or Nebbiolo.    The flavours are fresh and exciting, and these undoubtedly represented the discovery of the trip.

But the Turks much prefer to drink international grape varieties, so you will also find Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Sauvignon, as pure varieties or blended with the indigenous varieties.   This is not so different from the Languedoc, where the true varieties of the south grow alongside international varieties.   There is interest too in Italian varieties.  Federico Curtaz who has a vineyard on Etna and consults for Villa Estet, where the soil is volcanic, is planting Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio.  I also encountered Sangiovese and Nero d’Avola.  And for Midi grape varieties, there is a Roussanne /Marsanne from Suvla winery, as well as Grenache and Carignan, in addition to Shiraz or Syrah.

Turkey is one of the world’s largest growers of grapes, coming sixth in volume, and fourth in growing area after Spain, France and Italy.  However only about 2% of the total grape production is actually used for wine, and 96% of that production is drunk in Turkey, by tourists and by Turks.   Consequently there is not yet much Turkish wine available on the export market.  And you sense that it is only in the last ten years or so that the industry has begun to emerge from the doldrums, with a growth in the number of wineries, created often by people who have done other things.  

I lost count of the number of wineries, who when I asked the date of their first vintage, answered with a year in the last decade.  Take the three wineries I visited around the town of Urla outside Izmir.   The winery called Urla was created by Can Ortabaş with a first vintage in 2006.  He also owns what he said is the  world’s biggest producer of palm trees.  The winery is very stylish - my photographs simply don't do it justice, so I've not used them  - and the wines show promise.  Mosaic is run by Ali Emin.  He made his first wine in 2008, with the help of Italian expertise and the modern winery was funded by his father-in-law’s coal mine.  And Reha and Bilge Őğűnlű lived in Ann Arbor before coming back to Turkey in 2002 and planting vines on a more modest scale. My instinct to favour indigenous grape varieties was upset here; they produce an intriguingly salty Chardonnay and a beautifully harmonious Cabernet Sauvignon.

And this injection of new life into the wine industry has given the older established wineries like Doluca, Kavaklidere and Pamukkale the impetus to improve and renovate.   The young wine maker, Semril Zorlu, at Kavaklidere’s Pendore vineyards has trained in Montpellier and Bordeaux, including a stage at Château Margaux, working on experiments with organic and biodynamic viticulture.    And she is not alone; several of the winemakers have studied abroad, and the newer wineries are employing foreign consultants.  At Pamukkale a Frenchman Jean-LucColin has been instrumental in improving quality. 

As for taste, oak can be an issue.  We were told that it is illegal to import second hand barrels into Turkey, though somebody else disputed this.  Whatever, the chief wine-making defect is an excess of new oak, and not necessarily very good oak at that.  Sometimes it was heavy handed with an excess of vanilla – most people use French oak, but there is American too – and sometimes the flavours were green and drying.   There certainly is a parallel with the Languedoc here, where the wine growers have needed to learn to manage their use of new oak barrels.  But it is a problem that will be solved with experience.

So I have come back to London full of enthusiasm after a wonderful voyage of discovery.  You could not help but be carried away with the passion and dedication of the Turkish winemakers.  There is a sense of adventure, and the feeling that the Turkish wine industry does have a serious future, with both indigenous and international grape varieties and flavours.  Like the Languedoc, Turkey is full of untapped potential.   So if you come across a bottle, do give it a try.  You may be very pleasantly surprised. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Outsiders' Tasting

The Outsiders are a group of ten wine growers from Languedoc-Roussillon, who were not born and bred in the region.  Their origins are as varied as England, Ireland, Holland, New Zealand, Australia and North America – and elsewhere in France.   Some, but not all, have had careers in other fields, before coming to wine, and to the Midi, which gives them a broader experience and wider horizons than many of the more traditional wine growers of the region.  And last Thursday they were in London for a tasting at the Maison du Languedoc.  I already knew most of them, and so it was a great opportunity for a catch up and a taste of new vintages.

Château Rives-Blanques  -

Caryl Panman was at the first table and anyone who reads my blog with any regularity will know that Rives- Blanques is one of my favourite Limoux – and I always enjoy seeing Caryl.  

2010 Blanquette de Limoux
Fresh herbal creamy fruit on nose and palate.  Very elegant with good depth.  This was a great start to the tasting, and the 2010 vintage is particularly successful.

2009 Crémant de Limoux Rosé
Light pink colour.  Delicate raspberry nose.  Ripe, rounded and creamy on the palate – raspberries and cream in a glass.

2011 Limoux Occitania, Mauzac
Quite a rounded oaky nose.  Good acidity; intriguing herbal notes and a touch of ginger.

2011 Le Limoux 
This was made for the first time in 2010.  A blend of Chardonnay,  Chenin Blanc and Mauzac.  Caryl explained the blending decision.  First they choose the barrels for Trilogy, and then they determine the individual varietals, and make a selection from those barrels for Le Limoux.  The result was some elegant oak, with fruit underneath.  Some honeyed hints, with rounded fruit and good length, and potential for future development, to tone down the oak.

2010 Limoux, Dédicace
Chenin Blanc. Dry and honeyed with youthful fruit and firm acidity.  A touch of oak on the finish.  Textured palate and again still youthful, with plenty of potential.

2011 Limoux Chardonnay
Quite rich and buttery on the palate. Nice mouth feel. 

Clos du Gravillas  -

John Bojanowski is one of the leading enthusiasts for Carignan, both red and white.  But we began with:

2011 Emmenez-Moi au Bout du Terret blanc  IGP Côtes de Brian
Light herbal nose.  Quite rounded palate with good acidity and herbal notes.

2009 Minervois, l’Inattendu
Light colour.  Quite rounded nutty nose, ripe and rounded and texture.  This is Carignan blanc.

2009 Lo Viehl Carignan, IGP Côtes de Brian
Light red colour.  Ripe berry fruit.  An appealing rustic note on the palate, with fresh fruit.  Good tannin structure and elegant balance.

And as he is in the village of St. Jean de Minervois, he was also offering:

2011 Douce Providence, Muscat de St. Jean de Minervois
Light colour.  Elegant honey on both nose and palate.  Fresh, with a hint of orange and some grapey fruit.   

Château d’Anglès  -

Eric Fabre was technical director at Chateau Lafite for a number of years, but really wanted to grow Mourvèdre on the Massif of La Clape.  Nonetheless, there is a bordelais style in their wines, beginning with the idea of a Classique Cuvée and a Grand Vin for both red and white.  His son, Vianney, was pouring their wines.

2009  La Clape Classique Red
Syrah, Grenache Mourvèdre.  Elegant spicy fruit.  Silky tannins.  Elegant balance.  Very stylish and satisfying.

2008 La Clape Grand Vin Red
This is 55% Mourvèdre, with Syrah and Grenache, with ten months in oak.   Ripe fruit.  Quite rounded and gutsy, a certain meaty tapenade quality.  Ripe and solid, but with well mastered tannins  and lots of character.  Needs some time.

2010 La Clape Classique White
50% Bourboulenc, 30% Grenache blanc, with 10% each of Marsanne and Roussanne.   Herbal and salty on nose and palate.  The vineyards are very close to the sea. Nice body, with a refreshing sappy note. 

2009 La Clape Grand Vin White
40%  Bourboulenc, 20% Grenache blanc – 60 year old vines, with 20% each of Marsanne and Roussanne.    Barrel fermented in old oak.  Very rounded, very ripe.  Rich with layers of flavour.

There will be more on Chateau d’Anglès in due course, as I did visit them in the summer, so they are due another post.      

Domaine Turner Pageot

Manu Pageot was pouring their wines.  He is French and his wife Karen is Australian, and they met in Alsace, chez Hugel.  Karen also makes the wine for the now Russian owned Prieuré de St. Jean de Bébian.   I really enjoy their white wines.

2011 La Rupture
Fresh herbal fruit on nose and palate with good acidity.  Some lovely characterful Sauvignon.

2011 Blanc
80% Roussanne with 20% 'orange' Marsanne – i.e. a vin nature.  Light colour.  Rounded ripe white blossom with a nutty streak.  Nicely textured, with weight and length and an ‘orange’ edge.

2010 Carmina Major
70% Syrah, half grown on limestone and half on volcanic soil, with 30% Mourvèdre.  One year in wood and another year in tank.  Quite peppery, sold and ripe, quite dense firm and tannin and plenty of ageing potential.

2010 Le Rouge
80% Grenache grown on schist, with 20% Syrah grown on volcanic soil.  Ripe and rounded.  Quite dense and spicy.  Gutsy and warm, with a tannic edge.  Manu observed that the 2012 harvest had dragged on – it had turned out well, but had been quite tricky.

Domaine Sainte Rose with Ruth and Charles Simpson.

Not content with making wine in the south of France, they have also bought land in Kent, near Canterbury and are planning a vineyard for sparkling wine.   These are all IGP d’Oc..

2011 Le Marin Blanc
A blend of Marsanne, Roussanne with 10% Viognier.  Quite rounded, ripe and oaky with a good balance.

2009 Barrel Selection Roussanne
Aged in barrel.  Quite golden colour.  Rounded nose and palate.  A rich oxidative style.   Their flagship wine.

2009 Le Pinnacle Syrah
Ripe and oaky and peppery and spicy with some tannin.

2011 Les Derniers Cépages
Made from Petit Verdot and Mourvèdre, the last grape varieties to ripen, and the last varieties that Ruth and Charles planted.  Medium colour.  Quite fresh ripe and oaky on both nose and palate.   Some spice and a rich finish.    

Domaine - in Roussillon, with Rachel Treloar who comes from New Zealand.

2011 La Terre Promise, IGP Côtes Catalanes
Grenache Gris, Macabeu, Carignan blanc.  Fermented and then six months ageing in oak.  Delicate nose; nicely rounded nutty fruit, with good acidity and satisfying structure.

2011 Muscat de Rivesaltes
Light golden; quite sweet spicy nose.  Ripe, fresh lemony and honeyed with refreshing balancing acidity.

2010 Côtes du Roussillon, Three Peaks
Syrah, Grenache Mourvedre, all aged in oak.  Quite rounded and ripe.  Nice balance; medium weight.  Harmonious.

2010 Côtes du Roussillon, Motus
90% Mourvèdre, all aged in oak.  Firm oak, with a youthful structure palate and a tight knit nose.  Masses of potential.

Domaine Sainte Croix, in the village of Fraissé des Corbières   
With Liz Bowen.  This was the one completely new estate, to me.  Jon Bowen trained at Plumpton and 2004 was their first vintage.  They have 14 hectares. 

2011 La Serre white
Grenache blanc and Grenache blanc, from two plots,  one late picked on schist,  and the other early picked on limestone.  Cool fermented in tank.  Quite a rich ripe nose, but with a leaner, more restrained palate.  Dry white blossom.

2010 Le Fournas
Carignan, Grenache, Syrah and a little Mourvèdre.  No wood.  Fournas derives from furnace, so an especially warm vineyard site.  Dry spice; a little stalky on the finish but some peppery dry fruit.  Medium weight.

2009 Magneric
60% with Grenache, Carignan and Syrah. Part aged in wood.  Ripe, rounded cherry liqueur fruit.  Quite ripe with sweet fruit.  A little alcoholic on the finish at 14.5º.

2007 Carignan, Vin de table
Carignan, with 15% Grenache, planted in 1905. 70% in wood.  No maceration carbonique.  Destemmed grapes and natural yeast. Firm fruit on nose and palate.  Some berry fruit, and some body.   Quite structured. 

2009 La Part des Anges
A late harvest Carignan, from grapes picked at the end of October, so a good month later than usual  and then dried on mats in the attic.  Fermented in wood.  Deep colour.  Rich spice and ripe red berry fruit, with a tannic streak.   Made for the first time in 2006, and now an annual production of just 600 bottles per year.  An original dessert wine.   Perfect for a chocolate pudding.   

Domaine de Saumarez, with Robin Williamson.

2011 S’ white
A blend of Grenache blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne.  Fresh and zingy on the palate with youthful fruit.  What Robin called un vin de la semaine, for  a weekday supper.

2010 S’ red
A blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah.  Quite rounded, ripe spice with a tannic edge.  Easy drinking.

2010 Trinitas
One third each of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah.  Co-fermented.  Medium colour.  Quite rounded with easy spicy.  Nicely harmonious.  Elegant with depth.

2010 Aalenien
Named after the geological formation, based on quartz, and mainly Syrah.   Frustratingly both bottles were very slightly corked, not blatantly so, but just enough to dull the wine, and give it a slightly grubby edge.  This is TCA taint at its most invidious as you could just think that it was the result of bad winemaking, if you did not know better.  Underneath the cork was some peppery fruit with a firm structure.

Château de Combebelle

Catherine Wallace was showing a mini-vertical of four St. Chinian, essentially the same wine, a blend of 60% Syrah with 40% Grenache, but with vintage variations.  About 30% new oak, with the rest aged in older oak..  I tasted from young to old, when she would have preferred me to do the opposite, and when I reached the 2008 I could see why, as it was the least successful of the four wines.   Catherine has obviously learnt much from experience.

2008 St Chinian
Medium colour; a bit earthy and edgy

2009 – Some ripe spicy fruit.  Rounded.  Some tannin.  Medium weight.

2010 – Medium colour. Quite a ripe nose.  Rounded with some oak on the palate.

2011 – Quite rounded fresh and youthful. Some spice and a firm streak of tannin.

Domaine de Cébène, in Faugeres   with Brigitte Chevalier  Cébène was the name of a sleeping lady, and the origin of the name Cevennes

2011 Ex Arena IGP Oc
90%  Grenache with 10% Mourvèdre
Medium colour, quite ripe spicy fruit, with liqueur cherries.  Medium weight.  A streak of tannin. 

2011 Faugères, Belle Lurette
Based on Carignan.  Firm spicy berry fruit.  A certain rustic note on the palate.  Ripe spice and rich fruit.   Carignan at its best

2010 Faugères les Bancèls
Syrah with a little Grenache and Mourvèdre.   Medium colour.  Quite dense spice on the nose.  Ripe and rounded on the palate, with supple tannins.

2011 Faugères les Bancèls
The same blend, with some lovely spice.  Youthful fruit and appealing peppery notes.  Lots of potential

2010 Faugères, Felgaria
Mainly Mourvèdre, grown on schist.  Quite a rounded palate, with some peppery fruit.  Medium weight and elegant.

2011 Faugères Felgaria.
Medium colour.  Some peppery depth with some body.  Ripe spice and good fruit.  Still quite tannic, but elegant.

A great tasting with some lovely wines.  The Outsiders may be a somewhat artificial grouping but they make an effective marketing team, with some undeniably delicious wines.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Domaine Binet-Jacquet

I had met Pierre Jacquet at an event for Faugères’ 30th birthday party, and wanted to follow up the suggestion of a cellar visit before the summer had gone.  So one afternoon we tracked him down in an old cellar in the heart of the village of Faugères.   His cellar is very discreet.  I was glad that he was waiting outside for us; otherwise I might have walked straight past it.   The Binet part of the domaine is Oliver Binet, who lives in Switzerland.  It is Pierre who does the work sur place.  And wine for him is a second career, after working in la commerce internationale.

In good Burgundian tradition, we tasted from vat rather than bottle, but wines that would very shortly be put in bottle, beginning with

2011 Faugères Tradition  - 11.50€  
A blend of 30% Carignan, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache and 10% each of Mourvèdre and Cinsaut.   The wine had been blended in June, and it was now July, and it would be bottled in August, on a fruit day.  They follow the biodynamic calendar.  The élevage is in vat. There was some berry fruit on both nose and palate, with some ripe flavours. I enjoyed the slightly rustic notes that come from the Carignan.

Pierre explained that they have nine hectares.  The estate was created in 1999, from bare land.  They planted the first vines in 2001 and made their first wine in 2005, and found this small cellar in 2006.  Their first vintage was made chez Didier Barral.  In 2006 they bought two hectares of old Carignan; this is the only vineyard that they bought, rather than planted, or replanted. 

The vines are in the villages of Lentheric and Cabrerolles.  Pierre particularly appreciates the schist of Faugères.   They have about 12 plots altogether.  Each cépage has its own particular univers  à lui, considering aspect and slope and micro-climate.  Carignan in particular needs sunshine. 

Pierre explained that they look for finesse and elegance; he wants natural acidity which will emphasise the minerality of the wines.  It all depends on the travail du sol; he uses no chemical products and minimal sulphur, just as a disinfectant.   Yeast naturally produce a little sulphur and that is a good thing – otherwise the end result would be vinegar.  And he also uses a little sulphur at bottling.    He is registered with Demeter, which is very strict – the Demeter dose of copper for oidium is half that of the usual dose for organic viticulture. 

They vinify in a tronconique vat, but do not use it for élevage.  That is easier in barriques.  And they also ferment in some open barrels, and also cement and fibre glass vats.  And favour pigeage in the open top vats. 

2010 Faugères Réserve – 17.00€
2 years élevage, all in wood, and then into vat for bottling.  40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Carignan and 10% Mourvèdre.  Deep colour.  Quite dense fruit on the nose and a touch of oak.  On the palate good length and some silky tannins and lots of black fruit.   Belle concentration and length.  Very promising. With their later vintages they are moving towards using less wood, and look for the minerality and finesse, with some ageing in vat.   They buy second hand barrels from Château Rauzan Gassies in Bordeaux and use a basket press, which gives a very gentle pressing.  Their average yield is about 25 hl/ha – in an ideal world they would prefer 30 hl/ha

2007 Faugères Grande Réserve – 30€
In 2007 they made a Grande Réserve, from Mourvèdre vinified in barrique.  It was so good that they kept it separately and used new oak for it.  And since then they have made a 2009 and 2010 Grande Réserve, in years when the Mourvèdre has shown particularly well.  The decision to make it is taken at the final assemblage.   40% Mourvèdre, 40% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 10% Carignan.  Deep colour.  Quite perfumed spicy fruit on the nose.  Quite dense and solid fruit on the palate.  Very good concentration.  Good tannins.  Ripe fruit from the Mourvèdre.  Very good structure.   All very promising, with lots of potential.   As is the future of the estate.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Chateau la Baronne

A chance encounter with Paul Lignères of Château la Baronne over lunch at Easter led to a cellar visit in the Corbières in September.    We met up in the village of Moux.    I had first visited this estate for my book on French Country Wines.  when Paul’s father,  André, was running it with his wife Suzette in the mid-1980s.  At the time you very much felt that they were among the pioneers of Corbières, and the next generation, Paul,  and his brother Jean, have maintained and improved the quality, and deserve a wider reputation than they currently have on the British market.

First stop was a cellar for barrel ageing.  The use the OXO  system which enables them to store the barrels five high – as many as ten levels is possible –and you can turn the barrels automatically so that racking is much simpler.  But it’s expensive.    For oak, they favour Darnajoux, a cooper  in St. Emilion, and use new wood very cautiously, renewing barrels after six or seven years.  They ask for a chauffe moyen.    

The barrels are expensive –‘ il faut pleurer’, to have your order accepted, and again when you pay the bill, said Paul.  Altogether, they have five ageing cellars, containing a total of 600 barrels,  three cellars  in the village of Fontcouverte, this one in Moux, and one at the Château de la Baronne, outside Fontcouverte,  which is where we went next to see the vineyards and vinification cellar.    

Paul explained that the Montagne d’Alaric, which dominates the skyline, acts as a régulateur de l’eau; it is a limestone mass and operates like a sponge.  Its  altitude is between 270 – 300 metres, creating a microclimate, with the prevailing wind coming over the mountain, cooling the air, and making ultimately for more acidity in the wines.  The wind – and it can blow in the Aude – is ‘notre grand copain’.  

Altogether they have three estates, totalling 110 hectares.  There is Domaine de la Baronne, and adjoining it, Domaine las Vals, and they have a separate property, Domaine du Plo de Maorou, which is joint venture with the Jackson family in California, and only sold in the US.  The harvest was in full swing; everything is hand-picked and there was a cheerful team of Andalusian pickers in the vineyard – the same people return every year – 24 cutters and 6 porters, making an efficient team.   

Paul explained that the vineyard soil is argilo-calcaire, but very heterogeneous; they have four geological eras within about four kilometres and about fifteen different terroirs within the estate, all based on clay and limestone.  Everything is organic; they were certified in 2010.  Their oldest vineyard is Carignan, which was planted in 1892 and  Carignan accounts of 40% of their vineyards.  Paul is particularly partial to that variety, liking its elegance and length and he finds it a very good expression of the terroir.

Back in the cellar grapes were being meticulously sorted.   Rejects are composted.  They use natural yeast, which gives a slower start to the fermentation and no S02 during fermentation, which takes place either in stainless steel vats or in tronconique oak vats.    There was Roussanne in a tronconique vat; which is given some skin contact until the fermentation starts.  It had been destalked.    Some Vermentino was given 24 hours of maceration in the press, and then settled at 14˚C for a débourbage, without using any enzymes.   A smiling Italian, Alessio, was running the cellar.   There is an Italian influence as the Tuscan oenologist, Stefano Chioccioli,  is their consultant, working alongside Marc Dubernet, who is based in Narbonne.

We tasted some Roussanne juice that was sweet and grapey, with acidity and not yet fermenting.  Paul explained that it can be difficult to control the temperature, if you have large vats for carbonic maceration.    Here they had small vats of Carignan, which makes for cooler temperatures.  The key factors are size of vat and temperature of grapes when they go into the vat.   You can’t control the temperature once the grapes are in the vat.   And you don’t want to identify the terroir with a Carignan  made by carbonic maceration; you can only identify terroir with a classic vinification. 

And in an outhouse was an old lorry, a Berliet dating from 1919, which Paul's great grandfather had driven, to deliver barrels.  It reached a speed of 13 k per hour –and curiously the steering wheel was on the right-hand side.  And then we adjourned to the old cellar that had been Paul’s great-grandfather’s, dated 1890, with the enormous foudres of Hungarian oak. 

Paul explained that for his red wines, he makes three levels at la Baronne, namely les Lanes, les Chemins and a selection of different terroirs

2011 Domaine des Lanes, IGP Hauterive – 9.00€
A blend of Grenache Blanc and Vermentino – 50/50  Light colour; light pithy nose; quite rounded with some fresh acidity.  Quite sappy; citrus notes,  grapefruit pithiness.    Not debourbé; natural yeast, but no so2.  So2 is good for conservation, but  during vinification is an extracteur, and ‘results in une extraction mal faite’.  Batonné sur lies.  Good mouth feel with a certain weight. 

2010 las Vals, IGP Hauterive  -15.00€
From Roussanne grown on the foothills of the Montagne d’Alaric.   Light golden colour; quite rounded, rich, very good texture.  A blend of the three styles of Roussanne, stainless steel, barriques and skin contact with whole grapes.  There is a touch of tannin from the stalks, with refreshing acidity.  Paul observed that a low pH is a characteristic of the estate.  And the so2 is low too.

2010 Domaine des Lanes,  Corbières  – 2010
A blend of Grenache and Carignan.  No wood.  The wine spends twelve months in cement tanks, on the fine  lees, with some bâtonnage.  The wine is neither filtered nor fined.  Medium colour.  Rounded fruit on the nose.  Quite spicy berry flavours.  Some tannins, with an elegant palate and a fresh nervosité.  Medium weight and eminently drinkable.  They want buvabilité, which sounds more appealing than drinkability. 

2010 Les Chemins, Corbières  – 12.00€
A blend of Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre, from different terroirs, and some aged in vat, and some in barrel.  Deeper colour.  A richer nose, more confit and a very rounded palate, but with a freshness and nervosité, and some lovely dry spicy fruit.  They are careful about extraction, aiming to extract as little as possible.  The wines are treated very carefully in the cellar, and great attention is paid to the work in the vineyards.  Paul was adamant that they do not want to make heavy or tiring  wines, and they have certainly succeeded, producing wines with an elegant finesse that leave you wanting more.

And then we went onto a selection of different terroirs, beginning with:

2009 Alaric, Corbières  – 17.00€
60% Syrah with some Carignan and Mourvèdre, mostly in barrel, but not new wood.  They do not want their wines marked by oak.   Deep colour, with a much richer more confit nose.  Quite solid and rounded on the palate, but not too heavy.  Dry spice balanced with elegant tannins.  2009 was a hotter year, so the wine is less fresh compared to the 2010s.  The Syrah dominates the palate.

2010 Alaric,  Corbières  – 17.00€
Lighter nose.  More elegant fresher nose and palate.  Quite sturdy tannins, with a refreshing note on the palate and more vivacity.  Nice balance of elegance and tannin.  Very appealing.

2009 Pièce de Roche,  IGP Hauterive  -24.00€
This is the Carignan that was planted in 1892 – they have 4 hectares, with 15,000 plants. La Pièce describes  la plus belle vigne du domaine.  Traditionnel vinification.  Destemmed.  Quite serious, dense and concentrated, with acidity and tannin.  Very youthful.  Neither filtered nor fined.   Carignan always gives a tannic streak, with considerable length.  Dense rustic berry fruit. Paul observed that the cadastre viticole which records what was planted where did not start until 1905 – so they do know exactly what was planted after phylloxera and before 1905.

2010 Piece de Roche, IGP Hauterive
Again I preferred this to the 2009.  The was a wonderful purity of fruit.  Quite a firm nose, with some red fruit – those little griotte cherries.  A lovely freshness and more vivacity.  Very satisfying mouth feel.  Fresh acidity and tannin.  Stony fruit and minerality with some berry notes.  Again as little so2 as possible – they are working on reducing the sulphur levels. 

2010 Les Chemins de Traverse – 14.00€
A blend of Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre, vinified in the tronconique vats, without any additional so2.  Yeast always produce some so2.  Quite a heavy nose, a tad reduced, but with a fresh palate, fresh cherries, acidity and elegance developed as the wine breathed in the glass.   Quite a firm finish with tannin from the stalks.

Paul observed that there is an important market for wines without so2.  However, the vins natures need more polyphenols to protect them against oxidation, and you do not get the same identification of terroir that you get with more conventional wines.   

A great visit with some great wines.  

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Absolutely Cracking Wines from France

This is an annual tasting that I really enjoy.  Wine writers, and this year, for the first time, sommeliers, are asked to choose three of their favourite wines from France, in three different price bands – under £8; between £8 and £15 and something special for Christmas.  There are some classics, and some quirky and original wines, and of course the Languedoc got a good look in.  And the great thing about this tasting is that you know that there will be no dud wines, because one of your colleagues is really enthusiastic about each of the 150 wines at the tasting.  It was quite a marathon and what follows are my highlights. 

2011 Côtes du Roussillon, Château Saint Nicolas - £5.99 - Waitrose
Syrah, Grenache and Carignan.   Good colour.  Rounded, ripe and perfumed, with a touch of orange and some leathery fruit on the palate.  Youthful and characterful and excellent value.

NV Berry’s Crémant de Limoux, produced by Antech – £11.95 – Berry Bros & Rudd
A blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Mauzac and Pinot Noir.  Lemony,  creamy nose; ripe and rounded palate; maybe a touch earthy, but with a nice balance. 

NV Domaine Préceptorie de Centernach, Coume Marie - £10.99 – The Wine Society
A blend of Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Macabeu and Carignan Blanc.   Light golden.  Quite a rich, resinous rounded nose, with more resinous oak on the palate.  Lots of texture, weight and body, and considerable length.  Full of character. 

2010 Château Rives-Blanques Limoux Cuvée Occitania Mauzac should have been included but it had transmogrified into their sparkling Blanquette de Limoux, which was rounded, ripe and creamy with some herbal notes on the finish.  

2011 Vermentino, L’Atelier Miquel, Pays d'Oc - £9.99 - Waitrose
Quite a rounded nose, with some herbal notes, and on the palate ripe with a pithy finish.  A Vermentino with some character.

NV Le Mas des Masques, Silex Chardonnay - £14.50 - Swig.   
I'm not sure exactly where this is from.  The producer's name was a cryptic SCEA DDM and the address 13100, which is somewhere in the Bouches du Rhone.  This was  wonderfully funky.  A light colour; ripe oaky buttery and powerful and both nose and palate.  Rich and characterful.  And about as far removed as you can get from my favourite Chardonnay that is Chablis.

And straying out of the Languedoc across the water to Corsica:

2011 Coteaux de Cap Corse Rosé,  Domaine Pieretti - £13.95 from Yapp Brothers.  And also available at Harrods, as their new buyer, Jo Aherne MW, informed me, but I don’t have their price
Grenache Noir, Nielluccio and Alicante.   Pretty light colour; light fruit on the nose with a delicate palate, but also with some hidden weight.  Lovely balance, and very stylish.

There was also a rosé from Chêne Bleu, an estate near the Dentelles de Montmirail – I can’t give you the grape varieties, or the correct price, as there was a bit of a blip and the tasting sheet said Chardonnay!   A nicely rounded ripe,  rather vinous rosé,  with texture and body.  Very satisfying. 

2011 Mas Coutelou, Le Vin des Amis – Roberson  Wine - £12.95
Grenache, Syrah Cinsaut and Mourvèdre.  Lovely fresh ripe juice fruit,  and on the palate, ripe and intense flavours with liqueur cherry fruit.  Lovely depth.  Lots of character. Showing really nicely.

One of my suggestions – I  strayed outside the Languedoc for the others – was 2009 Domaine des Trinités, Faugères le Portail 2009 - £9.31 from Ellis of Richmond. 
A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.  Fresh perfumed fruit.  Medium weight.  Supple  Faugères fruit, with the herbs of the garrigues.  Gouleyant and easy to drink.  Midi sunshine in a glass.

1999 Domaine Fontanel, Rivesaltes Ambré– £14.95 - Stone Vine & Sun and Indigo Wine.  
Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris.  Intense amber colour.  Lovely ripe sweet walnut fruit on both nose and palate.  Rounded and rich, smooth and unctuous, but with a bite.  A long finish. 

2011 Domaine Pieretti, Muscat de Cap Corse. - £21.00 - Yapp Bros.
Lots of perfumed fruit on the nose.  Ripe and pithy and characterful.  A bitter sweet finish.

2011 Domaine Jones Blanc –.  £16.95 - The House Wine
Grenache Gris.  Medium colour.  . Ripe and textured  on both nose and palate, with lots of nuances.  Some lovely southern fruit,  with a touch of spice. 

2008 Collioure, Domaine Cazes, Notre Dames des Anges - £22.46 – Harrods
Medium colour.  Quite ripe and rounded, with some warm spice and dry tannins on the palate.  A warm edge on the finish. 

2011 Domaine Jones, Fitou  - The House Wine - £20.83
Carignan, Grenache, Syrah.  Warm ripe spice on nose and palate; restrained opulence, ripe spice with dry tannins and some fleshy fruit.  Good balance. 

2009 Maury, Domaine Mas Amiel - £18 - £25  Lea & Sandeman, Slurp
Medium colour.  Ripe and dense and spicy on both nose and palate, with lots of black fruit and a  dry edge on the finish.

2008 Clot de l’Origine, les Quilles Libres, Cuvée Spéciale, IGP Côtes Catalanes - £23 – Raeburn Fine Wines
Grenache Gris and blanc. Light golden colour. Ripe, rounded,  rich and leesy with a resinous note on both nose and palate.  Good acidity.  Youthful with potential for development.   develop.  Lots of nuances and texture.  Very intriguing.

2008 Domaine le Soula blanc.  Côtes Catalanes  - Roberson Wine - £26.95
A blend of Sauvignon, Macabeu, Vermentino,  Grenache blanc and Gris, with a drop of Marsanne, Roussanne, Malvoisie du Roussillon and Chardonnay.  Light colour.  Quite rich and leesy on the nose.  Rounded ripe textured palate.  Great depth and length.  Could age, but drinking nicely now.

And straying in to Provence:
2009 Bandol, Domaine Tempier - £11.75 per half bottle - The Wine Society.
Medium colour; rounded dry supple nose; subtle elegant leathery notes on the palate.  Understated power.  Delicious.

2008 Palette blanc, Château Simone – Yapp Brothers  - £30.00
Clairette,  Grenache blanc, Ugni blanc and Muscat blanc. Light golden colour. Quite rich and leesy with some resinous notes on the palate.  Rounded and intense and plenty of ageing potential.  Lots of character.

2011 Bandol rosé, Château de  Pibarnon - £20.50 – Slurp
Mourvèdre and Cinsaut.  Pale orange pink. Quite rounded and ripe and vinous, but also elegant and understated on the palate.   Nicely characterful.

2010 Bandol, la Bastide Blanche - £13.99 - Waitrose
Mourvèdre and Grenache. Quite rounded and ripe and very nicely balanced, with good fruit and depth.  Surprisingly ready to drink, but with some tannin and alcohol on the finish. 

2010 Maury, Domaine Terres de Fagayra - £29.00  - Caves de Pyrène
Grenache Noir.  Medium colour. Quite rich and intense on the nose, and on the palate rich and sweet with a herbal note.  Still very youthful with an alcoholic edge.

And I could go onto enthuse about Chablis, as well as some original flavours from the Jura and the Pyrenees, not to mention the Loire valley and the south west.......