Monday, 30 January 2012


A familiar name, as they were showing a couple of wines on the Maury walk last May. Agnès de Volantat –Bachelet explained that 75% of her vineyards are Grenache, with some Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre. And she also has some Muscat. And 2011 is the first vintage for Maury Sec, with about ten producers of a red table wine, and only red, to distinguish it from the surrounding Côtes du Roussillon Villages. Maury as Vin Doux can be white as well as red.

2007 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Désir, a blend of Grenache and Syrah. – a future Maury Sec
Good colour; solid rounded ripe fruit, a touch oak, nicely full-bodied.

2010 Maury Traditionnel, from Grenache
Some spicy red fruit. Quite ripe, rounded spice on the palate. Well integrated alcohol. The alcohol is added to the juice.

2009 Maury Vintage
Again pure Grenache. Very deep colour. Youthful spice, medium weight palate, riper, more tannic with more concentration. The difference between mutage on juice, as in the previous wine, and mutage on skins, as for this wine, with three weeks skin contact with the alcohol. Lovely youthful spice.

Maury Blanc, again from Grenache, Blanc and Gris. Quite ripe and rounded, with juicy ripe fruit on the palate, with good acidity, some alcohol and a raisiny finish. 13.00€

1925 Maury Blanc, or rather tawny brown in colour. It was bottled in 2001, a foudre made by Agnès’ great grandfather, and a piece of history. Lovely ripe rich fruit, long lingering rich palate with a long elegant finish. Absolutely delicious. Elegantly dry, rich and nutty. Only 3000 bottles made – 350€

2010 Muscat de Rivesaltes, a blend of both Muscat à petits grains and Muscat d’Alexandrie. – Half and half. Fresh, ripe and grapey with a bitter Muscat finish. Classic.

Friday, 27 January 2012


I didn’t get to the Salon des Vignerons Independents in Paris this winter, for various reasons, but instead made up for that omission at a mini-salon at Lords last week. There was a good handful of growers from Languedoc-Roussillon, some new to me and some familiar. So my next few posts will focus on what I discovered at Lords.

First off was a new name – Domaine du Grand Chemin, with Emmanuel Floutier, at Savinargues in the Gard, not too far from Anduze and Alès. Most of the wines they were showing were IGP Pays d’Oc, but they also come within the Pays des Cevennes and Duché d’Uzès. Emmanuel’s first bottling was the 2003 vintage, but his father started bottling back in 1984. Altogether they have 60 hectares of vines and produce an eclectic range. Here are some of the highlights, or indeed just of few of the wines they make, as the number of wines was limited to six for each exhibitor – nowhere near enough, even with a couple more hidden under the table. I ended up tasting more of their wines that I anticipated which must be a good thing.

2011 Sauvignon – 4.50€
Quite a firm pithy nose. Crisp palate, with good acidity and a rounded finish.

2011 Viognier
A hint peachy on both nose and palate. No great depth but fresh with light varietal character.

2011 Chardonnay
Lightly buttery on the nose. Light fruit on the palate and nicely balanced.

2011 Rosé Gris – a blend of Cinsaut and Grenache. – 4.60€
This wine accounts for 40% of their production, and pretty good it was too. A light, pretty colour. A delicate nose, but on the palate quite ripe and vinous, with a rounded delicate fruity finish. A food rosé.

2010 Pinot Noir
They are in one of the cooler parts of the Languedoc, where Pinot Noir fares better. It was quite a simple wine, but none the worse for that. A delicate nose, with a hint of raspberry, and on the palate quite dry, with a hint of liquorice and a fresh finish. Easy simple drinking.

2010 Merlot
Quite ripe and rounded, with a tannic streak.

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Quite rich, rounded cassis on the nose. Quite dry fruit on the palate, with good varietal character.

And then came a couple of blends:

2009 Cuvée JMF – after Emmanuel’s father Jean-Marc. -9.00€ A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon with 20% Pinot Noir, blended together after six months of élevage, partly in old French oak and partly in vat. The nose was quite firm and oaky, with some perfumed fruit on the palate, some spicy oak and a fresh finish. I am not sure about blending Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir – I think they might argue a bit in the glass, but from memory it was the first time that I had tasted such a blend.

2010 Clos Rogé, a blend of 40% each of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, with 20% Petit Verdot which worked better. It was also more expensive at 14.50€ and included a higher percentage (80%) of oak ageing, in 400 litre tonneaux.. Quite firm and structured on the nose; quite powerful palate, with an elegant finish. Some good ageing potential.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


Liberty Wines celebrated their 15th anniversary this week with a mega tasting at the Oval Cricket ground. In my mind, they are known above all for what was a ground-breaking range of Italian, and especially Tuscan wine, when they first started up, but these days their list covers the world and includes some stars from the Languedoc, namely:

2011 Château la Tour de Bérard, Costières de Nîmes blanc
This is the sister property of the better known Château Mourgues de Grès. A blend of 40% Grenache Blanc with 30% each of Roussanne and Vermentino. Still very young with some pithy fruit with hints of white blossom and some good acidity. Nicely understated and plenty of potential for further development.

2010 Château la Tour de Bérard, Costières de Nîmes rouge
A blend of Syrah and Grenache, with some Mourvèdre and Carignan. Quite a deep colour. Very perfumed sunny fruit. Rounded ripe and spicy, with supple tannins. Lovely easy drinking.

2011 Domaine la Croix Gratiot, Picpoul de Pinet.
Quite a fresh stony nose, but more rounded and perfumed on the palate. Not the saline minerality that I expect for Picpoul or whether that will develop with a bit more bottle age. A slightly sweet finish.

There was also a 2011 Roussanne, IGP Pays d’Oc
Quit rounded, with white flowers and some perfume and a dry finish. Very pleasant easy drinking.

There were a couple of wines from Mas la Chevalière, the Domaine Laroche property outside Beziers. 2010 Chardonnay was a tank sample and was quite fresh without much real character. Nor was the 2010 Viognier particularly expressive. More satisfying was 2008 Vignoble Peyral, a blend of 85% Chardonnay and 15% Viognier, grown in vineyards at 200 metres. Quite solid, rounded and nutty, with a peachy hint from the Viognier.

Emmanuel Cazes, from Domaine Cazes in Rivesaltes, was at the tasting with a couple of wines:

2011 Le Canon du Maréchal Blanc, a blend of Muscat with 20% Viognier. Lovely grapey varietal character. Very Muscat, but with the potential bitterness of the Muscat on the finish softened by the peachiness of the Viognier. Easy drinking for an apéro.

2010 Marie Gabrielle, Côtes du Roussillon
60% Syrah, with 40% Grenache. Quite rounded and ripe, with a leathery tannic note. Ripe and spicy with a firm finish. Youthful, characterful and satisfying.

2009 Château Saint Roch, Chimères, Côtes du Roussillon Villages
Quite firm with some leathery fruit and some oak on the palate, which slightly overwhelms the fruit. I preferred the Cazes wine.

However, the real surprise of the tasting was the very first wine I have ever tasted from Armenia. Estate name Zorah, made by Zorik Gharibian with the help of Italian oenologist Alberto Antonini. The grape is an indigenous variety, Areni. No, I had never heard of it either. It is ungrafted – there is no phylloxera in the southern part of Armenia. The wine fermented in stainless steel and then undergoes a malo-lactic fermentation, partly in amphora – the mention karasi on the label indicates this – and also in French and Armenian oak. Armenian oak is apparently denser than French oak. And how did it taste? I had no idea what to expect. Elegance was the dominant characteristic; medium colour; quite a firm nose. Cherry fruit – not so dissimilar to Sangiovese, with a streak of tannin and freshness on the finish. A really lovely surprise.

The other extreme at the tasting were wines from England – a couple of sparkling wines from new producers Coates & Seely a blanc de blancs from Chardonnay and a rosé, with some ripe fruit. And then I spotted two wines from Stopham in West Sussex. This is a village that I associate with brass-rubbing in the church more years ago than I care to remember. Simon Woodhead was showing a Pinot Blanc and a Pinot Gris – I had no idea that these were planted anywhere near the South Downs. The 2010 Pinot Blanc was light and delicate with some fresh fruit, and while the 2010 Pinot Gris had a touch of residual sugar to round it out a bit, balanced with some spice and good acidity.

And to complete the unexpected flavours of the day, friends came to dinner bearing a bottle that their son-in-law had procured in the duty free shop at Adis Abeba airport – yes, it was an Ethiopian wine. A dry white wine, labelled Awash Cristal, from a possible appropriately named producer, Awash Wineries. The back label gave no clues about grape varieties, simply saying that it is ‘made from early grapes and produced with particular methods’. It would be kind to say that it was short on flavour – but it got full marks for originality of provenance.

Thursday, 12 January 2012


Ten days in the Languedoc, and not one cellar visit ....... but some highlights around a table. Vigneron friends came to dinner, but mainly English with a thirst for New Zealand. And French friends were introduced to the delights of English bubbles. Ridgeview’s Grosvenor came up trumps.

Dinner with my tasting buddy Lits, who produced both red and white from Finca Narraza in St. Paul de Fenouillet - new name for me, and definitely worth exploring further.

The 2006 white is a blend of Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Macabeo, Camps del Roi, Côtes Catalanes. A light amber colour, with a rich nutty nose and palate. Initially it might seem oxidised, but it is most definitely not. A wine with great depth, character, richness and length. Very good acidity.

The red was also from the 2006 vintage, les Cigales, Côtes du Roussillon Villages a blend of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah. Deep young colour. Quite rich and intense on the nose, with ripe fruit on the palate. Quite tannic with a mineral streak. Again very intriguing with length and depth.

Friends from the village came to dinner and Françoise Ollier’s 2010 les Collines slipped own a treat – sunshine in a glass; with ripe spicy fruit. And Lizzie came bearing a bottle of 2004 No 7 from Domaine la Croix Belle. I admit to my shame that I omitted to write a tasting note sat the time, but from memory, it was drinking beautifully; any oak had long since integrated leaving a wonderful complete, harmonious glass of wine.

And the next evening a friend generously opened bottles of 2007 Mas de Daumas Gassac. It was sound, with firm tannins and firm fruit, but it simply did not sing, and I did not feel that it was going anywhere either. A bottle of the 2000 vintage drunk in London last autumn was so much better.

Dinner with Anne and Christian at Domaine de Monplézy, with fellow guests Deborah and Peter from Mas Gabriel, confirmed just how much I enjoy the wines from both estates – see earlier postings. And Christian is a dab hand with barbecued gigot d’agneau.

And before we rushed to the airport we checked out the new restaurant in our village, Le Petit Péché. It has to be said that the wine list needs a bit of work, but it did produce a cheerful 2010 Muscat Sec, Côtes de Thongue from Domaine Bonian. Light colour; ripe, grapey, pithy Muscat fruit, and fresh varietal character on the palate, with a sweet touch of grapy fruit and a slightly bitter Muscat finish. Very Muscat.

And the red wine was 2010 l’Ambrin Vin de la Grange, Languedoc, a blend of Syrah and Grenache – see my earlier posting about Eric Morot’s wines. This was quite solid on the nose, with rustic peppery black fruit on the palate. And went deliciously with a confit de canard.

And now I am off to taste some 2010 Chablis for a complete change of flavours.