Saturday, 23 June 2012

Another Natural Wine Fair

I may have missed two natural wine fairs in London last month, but instead I got to go to a second one in the Languedoc.  There is a wine bar in Bédarieux that specialises in natural wines – Chai Christine Cannac. In previous years Christine has held the tasting in the square in front of her bar in the centre of town, but this year it was in a large exhibition hall on the outskirts of Bédarieux, La Tuilerie, which proved to be a rather better venue for tasting. 

The first person I saw was Thierry Navarre, a genial wine grower in Roquebrun.  He is very excited as he has recently bought new vineyards near the village of Plaussenous, up in the hills above Roquebrun. The vineyards are at 500 metres and were already planted, with Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. These are not necessarily the grape varieties that Thierry would have chosen, but it is a magical spot and a great vineyard site.   I hope I shall get to see it in the summer.   Thierry thinks that the microclimate of Roquebrun may be getting too hot for fine wine, but theoretically for administrative purposes these new vines are also within the commune of Roquebrun.  And there is a cellar up there too.

La Conque, Vin de France 2009 – 11.00€
40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 20% Syrah.  The Merlot and Cabernet spend 12 months in stainless steel and the Syrah in 500 litre wood.  
Quite a deep colour.  Quite solid leathery nose.  Some dark cassis, balanced with fresh acidity and fruit.  Elegant with a leathery note, and a fresh finish.  Needs time.  Quite un-Midi like

Thierry explained that the vines were planted in 1990 and that there is a two week difference in ripening, compared with Roquebrun. 

2011 Oeillade Rosé,  Vin de France– 7.50€
Oeillade is an old Midi variety that is related to Cinsaut.  Very fresh, pale pink orange.  Fresh ripe strawberry nose.  Rounded and ripe.

2011 Vin d’Oeillade  Rouge – 7.50€
Medium colour;  very spicy nose and palate.  Ripe spicy fruit.  Supple tannin.  Medium weight.   Deliciously drinkable. 

2011 Terret Gris – 10.00€
Slightly almond nose; quite rounded nutty.  Acidity; honeyed; quite rich and mouth-filling.  Fermented in oak, but very simple wine-making, allowing a little oxygenation.

Vin de Grenache
Made from very ripe Grenache, picked at the end of the harvest at a potential 18.5º alcohol.  Fermentation stopped at 14.5º. leaving 15 gm/l sugar.  No added alcohol.  Kept for 12 months in 1200 litre barrels.  Chocolate and nutty notes on the nose.  Long and elegantly rich.   Thierry explained that his grandfather used to make wine like this; it was a local tradition that died out, and when the appellation of St. Chinian was created, nobody thought to include it, so it became hors legalité.  What a shame.  I have tasted something similar in Alain Jougla’s cellar about ten years ago.

Domaine Léon Barral

2010 Blanc, Terret with a little Roussanne and Clairette.  A vin orange, fermented on the skins.  Quite fragrant on the nose, with some bitter orange notes.  A bit funky.  I’m not sure I understood it.  And I got on much better with the red wines.

2009 Faugères  - 14.00€
A blend of Cinsaut, Syrah and Grenache. Medium colour.  A certain freshness.  Quite perfumed with some furry tannins and a certain stoniness and minerality.  Some élevage in wood.

2009 Jadis – 22.00€
Syrah, Grenache and Carignan; two years in fut.  Quite firm; quite solid; quite dense tannins.  Rounded youthful and dense.  A serious mouthful of wine.

2009 Valinière -36.00€
Mourvèdre and Carignan, two years in wood.  Quite rounded and ripe on nose and palate.  Ripe and dense, and mouth filling with very good fruit.  A lot of depth and potential.

Mas d’Agalis, in Nébian with Lionel Maurel.  He has 8 hectares, mainly Carignan and Syrah, some Grenache and a little Mourvèdre, and a very little Cinsaut. And for white wine, Terret, Clairette and a little Vermentino and Chenin.  Lionel is the 4th generation; the previous three generations took their grapes to the coop.  His first vintage was 2004.

Le Grand Carré – 8.40€
This was his grandfather’s name for the plot.   50% Terret with the other white grapes.  Quite a delicate nose; on the palate quite dry and nutty, and lightly almondy.  He uses no so2, no filtering; the wine is kept in vat, and three old barriques.   It tasted quite firm and tight knit.  How will it age?

2010 Yo no puedo mas – 9.00€
60% Carignan, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre.  12 months élevage. 70% in vat, and the rest in old barriques.  Spicy dry fruit on the nose.  Very ripe spicy fruit, with supple tannins on the palate.  Good fruit, with hints of tapenade.  Very Mediterranean and gourmand.

Mas Lumen with Pascal Perret, a small five hectare estate in Gabian .

2008 Orphée, vin de table.  Bottled in 2009 but not yet on sale
Terret, fermented and élevé in wood, à la bourguignonne, said Pascal, but with no bâtonnage.  Quite rounded nutty, and nicely leesy, with some firm fruit.  Quite intriguing. 

2007 Rouge – 15.00€
It was such a small vintage that Pascal blended all his vats together, to make just one wine, comprising 40% Syrah, vinified in barrel, and 30% Carignan, 20% Grenache and 10% Cinsaut fermented in vat.  Élevage altogether for two years in 500 litre tonneaux.  Good colour. Quite rounded ripe fruit.  Supple tannins; subtle black fruit, cherries and damsons.  Quite rounded with a certain weight.

I had the feeling that Pascal loves making wine, but he finds the business of selling it rather more tricky – he is not alone- it’s a common problem in the Midi.

Le Casot des Mailloles in Banyuls.   They were also at the fair in Colombières sur Orb, but I thought I would taste the wines again, as tasting conditions were rather better in Bédarieux.

2011 Blanc de Casot – 35.00€
A blend of Grenache Gris and Blanc, and Vermentino - Quite perfumed orange fruit. Quite a firm nutty nose.  Funky – my currently favourite word for describing orange wines-  and intriguing.

2011 El Nino – 24.60€
Carignan, Grenache Gris and Syrah.  Quite a rounded nose.  Very fresh perfumed palate.  Very appealing,  Supple tannins. Medium weight.   Élevage in vat

Soula – 35.00€   (sorry, omitted to note the vintage)
Pure Grenache in a vat, and into wood as the fermentation finishes.  Confit cherry notes.   Quite rounded and ripe.  A slight cherry liqueur edge, which I quite often find with Grenache.  Medium weight.

Domaine Hautes Terres in the Limoux village of Roquetaillade,  Gilles Azam explained that he comes from Roquetaillade, but left the village and then returned after a 20 years absence.  2002 was his first vintage.

2008 Crémant de Limoux,  Cuvée Joséphine.  – 12.00€  Brut nature, so no dosage.  Chardonnay dominates, with Chenin and Mauzac.  9 months in fût, including fermentation, up to June,  and then 24 months on lattes.  Quite a delicate nose.  Not obvious oak, but a nicely rounded palate.  Quite ripe and beautifully balanced with a dry finish.  Josephine is Gilles’ daughter.

2010 Limoux, Cuvée Louis, after his grandfather. – 11.80€
80% Chardonnay with some Chenin.  12 months in wood.  Quite rounded and buttery.  Good acidity.  Quite mouth filling and rounded.

Domaine le Petit Gimios, Pierre Lavaysse at St Jean de Minervois.
2009 Muscat Sec des Roumanis – 22.00€
Lightly muscaty nose.  Quite pithy.  An initial prickle.  Quite rounded with supple fruit.  Has lost the vibrant Muscat impact.  Mme Lavaysse explained that the wine is débourbé, fermented in vat, bottled in the spring and left to age in bottle.  Quite a different interpretation of Muscat, and none the worse for that.

2008 le Petit Gimios. Moelleux de Muscat – 24.00€
Quite rounded and honeyed.  Again not obviously Muscat.  Quite ripe with a dry finish.  Nicely rounded.

2002 Vin de Liqueur - 26.00€ for a 50 cl bottle
Quite dry and nutty; rounded and honey, very intriguing, with a dry finish and a nice note of maturity.  Apparently the wine was refused its labelle for being pas typique.  It was muted with only 4% alcohol, as opposed to the 10% the appellation requires.

Mme Lavayyse explained that they have 4.5 hectares of vines, with a first vintage in 1999.  Her yields are minute.  She is obviously a purist, and she was very sniffy about people adding enzymes to enhance the character of Muscat.  They also makes a red wine, from 16 different varieties and a vineyard that is 110 years old.

Domaine Jean-Louis Tribouley, at Latour de France.  He has 13 hectares, and his first vintage was 2002

2011 Marceau Côtes Catalanes white – 12.00€. 
Half Grenache gris and half Macabeo    A hint of celery on the nose.  Quite a firm palate, with a hint of fennel, which grows wild in abundance in the area of Roussillon where the vin de pays used to be Côtes des Fenouillèdes – sadly it is now engulfed by the more anonymous Côtes Catalanes.  Quite a firm fresh finish.

2010 les Copines – 12.00€
70% Carignan, Grenache and vat.  A volatile hint of the nose, but quite fresh fruit on the palate, predominantly dry cherries.

2009 Les 3 Lunes – 18.00€
Half Syrah, with 15 months élevage in demi muids;  25% each Carignan and Grenache, vinified together in vat.  Bottled April 2011.  Quite a meaty nose.  Quite solid rounded leathery palate.  Quite dense ripe fruit.  Nice balance.  But maybe a touch of brett. 

Domaine Leonine, owned by Stéphane Morin in Roussillon.  He was taking a break so I just tasted the wines without any chat. but seem to have written rather cursory tasting notes - sorry.

Fond de tiroir – 10.60€
Quite fresh, cherry fruit. Medium weight.  Nice fresh finish.  Appealing.

Carbonne 14º - 15.00€
Medium colour.  Quite rounded perfumed and fresh.

Nice wines – would repay further exploration.

La Petite Baigneuse with Philippe Wies in Maury.

2010 Juste Ciel!  Vin de table Grenache Gris.  
Delicate nose; lemony agrume notes.   Lightly nutty palate with a fresh finish.

2010 les Loustics, Côtes Catalanes. – 13.00€
Grenache with 5% Syrah, carbonic maceration
Light colour. Quite fresh, with light cherry fruit.  Medium weight.  An elegant finish.

2011 Trinquette, Maury Sec – 10.00€. 
2011 is the first vintage of the table wine appellation for Maury.  Grenache – destalked and 40% Carignan, whole bunches.  Kept in 30 hectolitres foudres for 6 months.  Vineyards at 350 metres altitude on schist.  13 hectares altogether, including 3 of white, Macabeo as well as Grenache Gris, with a first vintage in 2008.

Medium weight. Quite elegant cherry fruit.  Dry spice with good mineral notes. 

And finally Mas Coutelou with Jean-Francois Coutelou – I blogged about him last summer, and it was nice to taste a couple of new vintages.

2011 7  rue de la Pompe – 5.60€
85% Syrah with Carignan and Grenache.  Quite a deep colour.  Very perfumed fruit, and nice rounded.  Medium weight.  Gouleyant with a fresh finish.

2011 Le Vin des Amis – 8.00€
60% Grenache, 40% Syrah.  More depth and weight. Quite ripe and rounded with a lovely balance and again a fresh finish.  Very appealing.  And a delicious note on which to finish. 

Monday, 11 June 2012


The appellation of Faugères is celebrating its 30th birthday this year, so over the last couple of weeks or so there have been various festivities, tastings and dinners. 

We were invited to a dinner at the Auberge de l’Abbaye in the village of Villemagne l’Argentière.  A friend was lending a hand in the kitchen, as the sous-chef; he more modestly described himself as the kitchen boy.  And the theme was Cru et Cuit, in other words, a raw and a cooked version of the various ingredients in each course.  It was very imaginative and delicious.  And there were wines from two estates to accompany the menu. Domaine des Fusionels and Domaine Binet-Jacquet.

Let me make you hungry.  The entrée was a verrine of vegetables, peas and salad leaves, with some fresh goat’s cheese, and a scattering of edible flowers.   And the cooked version was a croquette of spring vegetables.  

For the fish course, we had sea bream tartare, with ginger, mango and herbs, and alongside it a cooked filet, with chutney of citrus fruit. Veal was the theme of the main course, as a tartare, with red onions and lemon juice, and as a casserole with some red onions and white wine.  And pudding was strawberries, fresh with panna cotta, accompanied by an éclair with strawberry cream in the middle.   

Sadly we were not numerous enough to warrant the presence of the wine growers, but I did get to chat to Pierre Jacquet as he dropped his wines off before dinner.  He explained that his first vintage was 2005 and he and his partner,  M. Binet, who lives in Switzerland,  have been developing their vineyards since 1995.  They now make three red wines, Tradition, Réserve and Grande Réserve.  We got to drink the 2010 Tradition and the 2009 Réserve.  I really enjoyed the Tradition with its lovely fresh fruit and spice and some youthful tannins, while the Réserve was still quite oaky, but promised well.  I am definitely planning a cellar visit. 

I’ve blogged about les Fusionels before.  We were served their 2010 rosé, which was dominated by ripe strawberry fruit and acidity, which gave it a rather boiled sweet finish.   Much more satisfying was their 2007 l’Intemporelle from one third each of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache.  It was nicely evolved with rounded ripe fruit and supple tannins.  Beautifully balanced and evolved.   

A fun evening, but the wines seem to take very much second place to the food, and were not always really the ideal accompaniment.   As it was Faugères’ birthday party, I thought more of fuss should have been made of Faugères.

Another friend suggested a balade vigneronne with Pierre Roque and Brigitte Chevalier from Domaine de Cebene, with the idea of looking at the schist in Brigitte’s vineyards and then tasting the wines back in her cellar, to see whether we could discern the impact of the schist on the flavours.  It was an interesting idea and Pierre talked very knowledgeably and enthusiastically.    We looked at Brigitte’s recently purchased vineyard of old Carignan – she doesn’t know exactly how old – the papers said ‘planted before 1950’ and there were some wonderfully gnarled twisted vines.  The birdsong was almost deafening and there were wild flowers galore and brilliant yellow broom brightened up the vegetation of the garrigues.  Pierre explained that the schist of Faugères is 350 million years old, squeezed between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central.   It is metamorphic rock, originally clay, which is hard and compact.  The layers between the schist are important, but that is where the roots, water and organic matter filter between the layers.    Usually they are in vertical or sloping layers, allowing for the roots to travel down deep.   There is also a patch of limestone in Faugères, where there are no vines.  And then we looked at a second vineyard, les Bancels, which means terraces in Occitan, with the vines facing north and north west and north east, but not south, planted in terraces around a rocky outcrop.   Brigitte’s tiny cellar is in the village of Caussiniojuls, which means la petite montagne  qui dansent dans les nuages –and there we adjourned for some tasting.

Apparently schist accounts for 10% of the world’s vineyards  and is one of the most distinctive of soils. 
We started with a wine that does not come from schist – 2010 Ex Arena – made mainly from old Grenache, grown on villefranchien soil in the nearby village of Corneilhan, which is outside the appellation of Faugères .   It was delicious, with very perfumed spice on the palate and nose, reminiscent of fresh cherries.  A lovely balance. With red fruit, freshness and elegance.   The 2011 Ex Arena was a vat sample with ripe spice, and lots of fruit, but still the edges of a young wine. 

Next we went on to Brigitte’s first vintage from the Carignan vineyard, 2011 Belle Lurette.  The expression il y a une belle lurette, means ‘a long time ago’.  Very ripe nose with red fruit and a certain stony minerality with some quite tight tannins.   This was grown on schist and it had a minerality that the Ex Arena did not have – was this a result of the different terroir, or the different grape variety, or both?   Carignan is a more structured  gr ape variety than Grenache.  Pierre described Carignan as having ripe cherry fruit, but with an acidulé note.

Next we looked at Les Bancels, a blend of Syrah and Grenache.  The 2011 was fresh and stony, with peppery spicy notes from the Syrah, and some red fruit.  Note this Syrah is grown on cooler slopes.  It too had a firm minerality.  The 2010 les Bancels was richer and riper, a touch alcoholic on the finish, and again a comparable stony mineral note, and 2009 les Bancels from a hotter year, was broader and riper and more mouth filling, with quite firm tannins  Brigitte called 2011 une année féerique.

Her third cuvée is Felgaria, 2010, a selection of the best plots.  Mourvèdre dominates the blend, and Pierre said that he thought Mourvèdre on schist was le couple de l’avenir, the pairing with a great future.  Stony fruit on the nose, with firm tannins on the palate, as well as acidity giving freshness,  and some lovely fruit.  Pierre observed that Mourvèdre is quite virile and the schist brings out the flavours of the Mourvèdre, while the Mourvèdre gives tannin to the wine.    2011 Felgaria in barrel, just the Syrah component,  was peppery on ripe with perfumed fruit and supple tannins.  It promises very well.   And with the wines came a selection of local charcuterie, including a bougnette de Lacaune, which was new to me,  It comes from pork, both meat and fat, bread crumbs and some herbs.

We could have gone on to another birthday party in Laurens,  where various growers were showing their wines, with food and music, but I am sorry to admit that our energy levels failed.  

Friday, 8 June 2012


You could say that Montpellier airport is the gateway to the Languedoc.  After all there is a large sign that welcomes you to the largest vineyard in the world, but sadly nobody seems to have pointed this out to the people who run the revamped cafe / restaurant at the airport.      You would have thought that the airport restaurant would have provided an excellent opportunity to showcase some of the wonderful flavours of the Languedoc, but no...... 

Let me share the wine list with you.   For white wine, there is a Pays d’Oc Viognier, but the other two wines are Bordeaux Blanc and Sancerre.   For reds, they are offering a Costières de Nimes, which is not too far away, but administratively that appellation is part of the Rhône Valley and not the Languedoc.  The other reds are Bordeaux Rouge, Côtes du Rhône and Vin de Pays du Var, which is Provence.  Why not a Vin de Pays de l’Hérault? 

There is one rosé from the Languedoc, Listel’s Vin de Pays des Sables du Golfe du Lion and also a Costières de Nimes, but the other two are Bandol and Tavel..... and the list finishes with a small category labelled Vins du Monde, which is made up of an Argentine Malbec and two South African wines, a red and a white, going under the brand name of Zoulou Tentation....   Words fail me.    What a missed opportunity.   Where was the Faugères, the St. Chinian, Minervois, Corbières etc.. etc.  And how about ringing the changes with a wine of the week, or a wine of the month? 

And since you ask, I had a glass of the Listel rosé ......  

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


La Clape is one of the wine regions of the Languedoc that organises an annual  balade vigneronne.  This is the first time that I have been in the Languedoc in mid-May and able to take part.  This year it was centred on the village of Fleury d’Aude, on the eastern edge of the appellation.   The countryside is gently undulating, rather than dramatically mountainous, as it is in the heart of the Massif de la Clape, and given the inclement weather, I think I was rather relieved that we were not too far from civilisation.     We awoke to torrential rain and thunder in the Hérault, but a phone call to Susan Close at Camplazens reassured me that the rain was calming in the Aude.  Nonetheless we went prepared for the worst……  and were incredibly lucky.   The rain stayed off until we were back at our starting point, the Cave Cooperative de Fleury d’Aude.    You are issued with essential equipment at the start of the walk; wine glass, knife and fork; meal tickets; list of wines – and a sunhat.  That Sunday mine eventually doubled up as a rain hat, keeping the water off my glasses.       

We set off from the coop to our first étape, where a mise en bouche was served, a delicious cream of cauliflower with a coulis of prawns.  But first some tasting:   What follows are highlights – I have omitted any wines that I did not enjoy.

2010 Château Ricardelle Blanc Combemale – 8.00€
A blend of Roussanne, Grenache blanc, Vermentino and Picpoul.    Light colour; delicately fresh nose, delicious and fragrant on the palate.   Again this is not the occasion for detailed tasting notes, but a balade like this is a great opportunity for gaining an overall impression and for spotting estates to visit, and also which to ignore.   And also for catching on the local news.

2011 Château Mire l’Etang Blanc, Aimée de Coigny – 7.00€
Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Bourboulenc – Bourboulenc being the essential grape variety of la Clape Blanc.  Quite a fragrant nose, lemony, citrus notes.  Youthful with fresh acidity.

2011 Château Capitoul, Rocaille – 6.00€
Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier and Bourboulenc.  Quite a  fragrant nose. Quite a firm palate with a peachy note from the Viognier.  A slightly bitter finish. 

The track took us through vineyards and garrigues; there were some beautiful pyramid orchids and other wild flowers.    Our entrée was a gateau d’oeuf aux morilles, with a salad.

From the Fleury coop La Vendémiaire blanc, les Arbres blancs 2010 – 4.90€
Light, delicate and fresh nose.  Lemony fresh fruit on the palate.  Nice acidity balance.  And good value.

2011 Chateau Moyau rosé – 6.00€
Here it was a nice surprise to find old acquaintances, Susan and Peter Munday pouring the wine.  They used to have vineyards in the Corbières at Domaine des Chandelles, and are now managing Moyau for the absentee Swiss owner.
Fresh nose with a touch of raspberry.  Nice balance of fruit and acidity.  Nicely vinous with a fresh finish.

2010 Château Rouquette sur Mer  Esprit Terroir rouge – 8.00€
Mid colour; ripe nose,  very garrigues.  Ripe rounded palate, with supple tannins.  The Midi at its sunniest.

2009 Mas du Soleilla, la Rupture – 13.00€
A blend of Bourboulenc, aged in vat, with two barrels of Roussanne.  Quite solid and rounded on the nose, with a touch of oak.  Very good acidity.  Youthful with plenty of potential for future development.

2011 Vignoble Moujan, red, D’ici et d’ailleurs -
A blend of Cinsaut, Grenache, Syrah and Carignan in vat.    The first vintage under new ownership.  Very bright colour.  Youthful oak on the nose.  Patrick Mazzoleni  explained that he is the new owner  and there is a lot to do as the estate had been a bit neglected by the previous owners.     And the wine is not really ready;  but this was a premier essaie.  Very youthful, with potential .  Worth watching.

A gentle track  through vines and garrigues to the fish course, a carré de saumon mi-cuit with some broad beans and buttered bean, ham and basil.  The salmon was delicious, cooked to perfection.  And there was a selection of pink and white wines to go with it.

2011 Château Abbaye des Mongs blanc, Augustine – 8.00€
An estate near Gruissan.  I’ve not come across this estate before; their first vintage was 1995.  90% Bourboulenc, with 6 months in oak.  Quite lemony and oaky on the nose.  Medium weight.  Good balance of fruit and fresh acidity on the finish.  Oak nicely integrated on the palate. 

2011 Domaine Sarrat de Goundy, Cuvée du Planteur – 6.00€
Another estate that was new to me.  First vintage 2003. Pale colour; delicate and fresh, with very good acidity.  Nice depth.   Delicious.

2011 Chateau Capitoul, Rosé Rocaille – 6.00€
One third of each of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsaut.  Half pressed and half saigné.  Some depth of colour. Light nose, but quite a rounded vinous palate.  Ripe strawberries. Full and rounded.

2011 Château la Négly, Brise Marine  - 8.00€ - 9.00€
70% Bourboulenc and 30% Roussanne.  Light colour.  Quite a firm nose.  Quite herbal, lemony and fresh.   Nicely balanced.

More vineyards and past an old capitelle to the meat course.   A delicious piece of poitrine de porc, sage flavoured jus, potatoes and red onions cooked in duck fat.  Succulent meat and a lovely selection of red wines to go with it, bar a couple of disappontments, which I won’t mention

2008 Chateau d’Anglès, Grand Vin Rouge – 15.00€
Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache.  Quite a young oaky nose.  Quite a solid rounded palate, with oak and fruit.  Youthful with a lot of body and weight,  and plenty of potential.

2009 Château Abbaye des Monges, Augustine. – 8.00€
10% élevage in wood. Quite a rounded nose.; nice touch of spice.  Medium weight.  Nicely balanced.

Domaine Maury, L’Insoupçonné – 15.00€
80% Syrah with 20% Mourvèdre. Half the Syrah was fermented by maceration carbonique and half a classic fermentation.    Paul Maury’s first vintage, and what a great start.   Very tapenade on the nose.  Rounded spice with quite a fleshy palate.  Eighteen months élevage.   He has 5 hectares of La Clape, with a cellar at Sallèles d’Aude. 

2009 Mas du Soleilla, Les Chailles – 15.00€
Medium colour.  I thought there was some oak on the nose, but Peter Wildbolz assured me  there was none.  Quite rounded ripe palate.  Good body.  Quite ripe and dense.  Needs time.  With plenty of potential.  As it happened we had drunk the 2003 a few days earlier, and it was still very youthful, but with the warmth of the vintage. 

The cheese course was a selection of goats cheese, from Mas Combebelle, with some delicious local honey from La Cité des Abeilles et des Fleurs  at Domaine d’Aubian at Cuxac d’Aude.

2009 Domaine de l’Angel – 6.00€.  
A new name for me, but an old estate.  The first vintage under new ownership was 2004.  Half Bourboulenc, half Grenache blanc.  Very floral nose with herbs and citrus notes on the palate.  Fresh and mineral and a great choice with the goats cheese.

2009 Château Camplazens, la Garrigue - 9.00€
Medium colour.  Ripe rounded spicy fruit on nose and palate.  Very tapenade.  Soft tannins and a ripe finish, and all too drinkable.

The route took us back to the coop at Fleury for dessert and coffee, and the rain drops began to fall.  Dessert was sablé biscuit with a dollop of a pistachio almond cream on top.  And there were three dessert wines or Cartagène.

Chateau Ricardelle, Cartagène.  – 10.00€
Quite ripe and grapey, with nutty biscuity notes.

Cave de Gruissan, a red Cartagène,  8.00€ - which was rich and raisiny, with a dry finish.

Domaine Sarrat de Goundy, Vendanges  Surmûries, Trobaïritz – 18.00€
Late harvest Roussanne, honeyed ; with a touch of oak.  Medium weight and quite a dry finish.  But I am not sure that La Clape is really very suitable terrain for dessert wines.     

And then it was time to turn for home, savouring some new discoveries and enjoying more familiar wines, and with a feeling of relief that the weather had been, relatively, kind to us.     

The meal was provided by Restaurant La Table in Narbonne.  and it was certainly one of the best balade lunches that I have enjoyed.  

Sunday, 3 June 2012


Natural wine is one of those terms that seems to have acquired a lot more significance in the last couple of years.  This is not the place for a precise definition.    As I understand it, wine growers who make natural wine, work as simply as possible.  They cultivate their vineyards organically or biodynamically, and in the cellar they favour minimum intervention, so natural yeast, no fining and filtering, and as little SO2 as possible.     It goes without saying that cellar hygiene has to be impeccable.    And does the wine taste different?   Maybe.  The flavours might be fresher, purer and more precise, but as there are good and bad ‘conventional’ wine growers, so are there also good and bad natural wine growers.    There were two large natural wine fairs in London in May, but instead I got to go to a small fair in the village of Colombières-sur-Orb in the Haute Vallée of the Hérault.

It was a lovely sunny morning and the event began with a ballade around the vineyards of Axel Prűfer of Domaine du Temps des Cerises.   We first took a track along what was the old Roman road, past a cluster of Provence orchids, and past other wild flowers, over a fast flowing stream.  Axel  talked about his work in the vineyard; it was a small vineyard of old Carignan and Grenache, with stubby little vines.  He allows the grass to grow, to encourage the natural cycle.  I have never seen such a carpet of serapia or tongue orchids – they were completely unexpected – and for further entertainment there were readings, wine related, from Omar Khayyam; Moliere’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme and from Le Vin Bourru by a local author, Jean-Claude Carrière. 

And at the end of the vineyard there were a number of upturned barrels, with bottles – and an opportunity for some interesting encounters.   But as with outdoor wine fairs, tasting conditions are not ideal; you are with a crowd of people, everyone jostling for a taste – and no one has thought to bring a list of the wines that they are showing, so you are scribbling down unfamiliar names from labels.   And I’ve not always noted price or vintage, so apologies for any gaps and mis-spellings.

Julien Peyras in Paulhan – his first vintage was 2007 and he has three hectares.
2010 Lo Terrau – he favours Occitan names -   a blend of 50% Grenache and 25% Syrah and Carignan.   12 – 14 months in wood.
Deep colour. Quite a dense nose.  Quite solid ripe fruit on nose.  As well as fruit, quite furry tannins and a touch of VA on the palate.
2010 Coste Fére
60% Syrah, 40% Carignan.  14 months ageing
Deep colour.  Quite solid rounded nose.  More soyeux and silky, but also more body, with ripe berry fruit on the palate.

Le Casot des Mailloles
2011 Le Blanc - Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Vermentino.  Some skin maceration.  Light colour.  Orange notes on the nose.  Nutty,  orange and ginger fruit on the palate.  Very stony; salty.  Intriguing.
 El Nino
Grenache Gris, Carignan and Syrah, in vat.  Very perfumed fruit.. Orange notes on the nose.  Some acidity; some tannin, some fruit and an elegant balance.

Next was Bernhard Bellahsen  from Domaine Fontedicto– see an earlier posting for more details.  And on the day his wines stood out in the crowd.
2008 Coulisse
Quite sold rounded and ripe nose.  And on the palate ripe but supple tannins.  Rounded fruit, with a mineral note.
2005 Promise
Quite firm nose  quite rounded palate.  Ripe palate with supple tannins.  Lovely balance and drinking beautifully.

Mylène Bru was a new name for me.  Her family come from the Corbières; she is based in Sète, and she has four and a half hectares of vines  at St. Pargoire.   Her first vintage was 2008.  She is bright and vivacious.
Lady Chasselas, Vin de France.   Chasselas is not often used as a wine grape in France – You might find it in Pouilly sur- Loire, and more commonly  in Savoie, where it is called Fendant, and much more extensively across the border in Switzerland,
This was delicate and fragrant with a fresh, dry finish.
2010 Far Ouest – 15.00€
A blend of Carignan, Syrah, Grenache and Cinsaut, with 8 months élevage in vat.
Light red colour; rounded nose; quite a stony mineral note on the palate.  Very garrigues.

Domaine la Fontude with François Aubry
2011 Jour de Fête,  Terret blanc
Fresh orange note on the nose.  Very good acidity.  Very fresh with tight minerality on the palate.  Very intriguing.
2010 Amarèl
Carignan with 20% Terret Gris.  The Terret gives suppleness to the Carignan. Quite rounded fruit with fresh supple tannins.  Medium weight.  Nice balance. 

Opi d’Aqui – a blend of 2010 and 2011 vintage – and the first wine of this estate based in Vendémian.
Equal parts of Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon.  No SO2.   Quite rounded nose, with ripe cherry fruit.   Attractive spice and liquorice on the palate.  A touch of volatility but quite a fresh finish.  I’ve scribbled down the wine growers’ names as P. Formentin and H Coumont. 

Next were the wines of Axel Prűfer, of Domaine du Temps des Cerises, in whose vineyards the fete was taking place.  He favours imaginative wine names.
La Peur du Rouge is a Chardonnay.  Rounded and ripe with soft fruit and acidity and a stony, tannic streak on the finish.  The vineyard is on the high plateau, or causse above Bédarieux.
2011 Avanti Popolo. The Carignan from the vineyard here, with a little Grenache.  Light red colour. Ripe fruit on the nose.  Very gouleyant and drinkable on the palate with a touch of acidity.  Very elegant. 
2011 Fou du Roi, from the adjoining vineyard   One third each of Carignan, Cinsaut and Grenache.  Quite firm nose.  A fresh palate with tannin and acidity, and a touch of volatility on the finish.
Un pas de côté – comes from vines near Colombières sur Orb.  40% each Merlot and Grenache, with Carignan, Aramon and Cinsaut.    Quite a rounded dense nose.  Quite ripe and rounded on the palate with fresh fruit.  Very elegant, and with more depth than the previous two reds.
2011 Les Lendemains qui chantent
Ripe rounded with fresh cherry fruit.  Beautifully balanced palate, rounded and ripe.  Very elegant. Delicious.  Grenache Noir on granite.

Hautes Terres de Comberousse, an estate which specialises in white wines, with vineyards outside the village of Cournonterral.
Cupidone, Vin de France  Quite fresh, with good acidity; lemony honeyed palate with some texture.   Mainly Chasan, with some Chardonnay
2011 Sauvagine, Coteaux du Languedoc.  Quite leesy with what I  call fermentation aromas, which I find slightly off putting.  Some fruit underneath.  A blend of Grenache and Rolle.
2009 Rocaillat, Coteaux du Languedoc.
Roussanne, Rolle and Grenache.  A touch of oak.  Quite rounded and ripe with a hint of honey.  Some leesy notes.  Quite intriguing.

Clos Fantine in Faugères
2011 Terret blanc, from 80 year old vines.  Quite fresh orange notes on the nose.  Quite perfumed –and at that moment the neighbouring stand proffered a piece of Catalan ham.  A good combination.
2011 Lanterne Rouge, a blend of Cinsaut and Aramon
Cherry fruit on the nose.  Medium weight palate, Elegant fruit with a tannic steak.  Quite intriguing.
Medium colour.  Quite a rounded nose.  Quite a sturdy palate; quite firm and tannic with a touch of volatility. 

Yannick Pelletier at St. Nazaire-de-Ladarez in St. Chinian.
2009 L’R de Rien, Terret blanc
Very orange in colour.  I assume I mean the colour rather than nose, as my handwriting is beginning to deteriorate at this point.  Quite rounded ripe palate, with good body and mouth feel and a tannic steak.
2010 L’Oiselet
Grenache and Cinsaut and a little Carignan.  Quite spicy nose.  Ripe rounded spicy orange fruit on the palate.  Supple tannins.  Medium weight. 
2009 L’Engoulevent
A blend of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah in vat.  I found this rather curious. There was more volatility than I am comfortable with, and quite firm tannins, with a dry finish.
2010 Coccigrues – Yannick explained that a coccigrue is like a chimera, an imaginary animal.  Old vines of Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre.  The Mourvèdre is kept in wood, and the Grenache and Carignan in vat.  This was quite fresh and spicy on the nose, but with quite a lot of orange fruit on the palate – too much for my taste.

And then we spotted Ivo Ferreira from Domaine de l’Escarpolette in Montpeyroux.  See my earlier post on the caves ouvertes in Montpeyroux.   A quick taste of three wines that were showing deliciously, and I have a cellar visit arranged for next week, so more on Ivo and l’Escarpolette in due course.