Friday, 28 September 2012

Two good addresses

My new friend, Sue Style, writes a singularly tempting food blog – and was lamenting the dearth of decent restaurants and good food in the Languedoc, when she came by on a recent visit.  However there are two addresses that I would happily recommend to her.

L’Auberge du Presbytère in Vailhan

This little restaurant changed hands earlier this year and is now run by a young couple who are charming and enthusiastic.   And Madame was an interior designer in a previous life and has significantly improved the décor and lighting.  They keep the menu simple, a choice of three dishes per course, and the wine list is also small and pretty local.  I was there last Monday with a friend; we had the most delicious mussel and leek concoction – it was a bit more solid than a soup – followed some succulent pork from a pata negra pig, while my husband enjoyed some roast monkfish.   And to drink we enjoyed le Blanc 2011 from Turner Pageot, a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne, which was subtly rounded with elegant fruit, followed by a wine from an estate that is new to me, Le Mas de Mon Père at Arzens near Carcassonne.  Comme Toujours, is a blend of Syrah and Grenache, made with minimal sulphur dioxide, with some lovely fresh spicy fruit.  It went deliciously with both pork and monkfish. 

Côté Mas 

And at lunch time yesterday we tried Côté Mas, the new restaurant attached to domaine Paul Mas, on the route de Villeveyrac outside Montagnac.   The restaurant is light and airy, and there are two terraces for fine weather.  But autumn is coming in the Languedoc, so we were inside.   Again a short menu, on a blackboard, a choice of three or four dishes per course.   Jean-Claude Mas was around to explain that he had found a talented young chef, who had already worked in various top restaurants both in France and Japan, and there was indeed an oriental touch to his dishes.  I had a delicious pumpkin soup, garnished with a frothy mousse and an appetising piece of boudin noir, and for my main course a delicious salad of fresh leaves, while my friends enjoyed some cod with a tasty risotto on the side, and some cheese followed.   The list is naturally based on the wines from Domaines Paul Mas, but these include estates in Limoux and the Terrasses du Larzac, as well as more popular brands such as the arrogant Frog.  So we drank a Mauzac Limoux from Domaine Martinolles, which was fresh and understated and Alexaume from Domaine Crès-Ricards, a blend of merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Syrah, ICP Mont Baudile, which was rounded and spicy with a touch of tapenade.

Sue, please do come back and try them

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Chateau Spencer la Pujade

I meant to post this when I wrote it, in August, but it inadvertently got left on my French computer, so better late than never!

I ventured into the Aude to visit a new relatively new estate in the Corbières, Château Spencer la Pujade in the village of Ferrals-les-Corbières.  The property was bought in 2007 by Christopher Spencer.  Despite his name, he is half French and lives in Paris, where he works in finance.  And the purchase of vines in the Corbières was the fulfilment of a long-standing ambition. 

In his absence his régisseur Sébastien Bonneaud runs the estate.  Sébastien trained in Bordeaux and then worked at Domaine Oustric, where he made a variety of  IGP Cité de Carcassonne for Bernard Magrez.    He arrived at Spencer la Pujade in December 2011.  This estate could very much be summed up as work in progress. They have taken over a cellar in the village, with plans for renovation for barrel ageing and storage, and they are also planning a vinification cellar, tucked into the hillside overlooking their vineyards, provided they get planning permission.  

There is also work to be done in the vineyards.  Currently they have 24.5 hectares, planted with Carignan, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache as well as 42 ares of Clairette; eventually they plan to reach 30 hectares, and maybe plant some more white varieties.   Carignan represents 57% of their vineyard holdings, the youngest vines of Carignan are 31 years old, and the oldest 70.   All the vineyards are within the commune of Ferrals, bordering the cru of Boutenac, and most are in one large plot, in a magnificent amphitheatre.  At the beginning of August, the vérasion was starting; Syrah is quite advanced, and  Mourvèdre just getting going, while the Carignan still looks like green peas.   The soil is quite mixed; some clay, some gravel, some red sand.    And they also have 140 olive trees.

After a drive through the vineyards on a rather grey day – unusual for this time of year in the Languedoc – we adjourned to the village restaurant to taste:

2011 Le P’tit Spencer – 5.50€
Medium young colour; soft spicy nose, some ripe cherry fruit, soft and easy with a youthful backbone of stalky tannins.  Carignan, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache, aged in vat.  For easy drinking.  Sébastien was responsible for the assemblage but not the vinification.

2011 Carignan, IGP Hauterive.   7.00€
Elevage in vat. Good colour ; quite a rounded palate, with red berry fruit.  Medium weight.  A streak of tannin and a rustic note.  Classic vinification, rather than carbonic maceration.  It benefitted from being chilled on a warm, humid day. 

2010 Corbières – 9.50€
From all four grape varieties.  Syrah, aged in barrel,  accounts for 15%.  Quite a deep colour.  A firm nose with a touch of oak and vanilla.  Some spice on  the palate, with some fruit rouges.  Well integrated oak.  Quite a sturdy streak, with a rustic edge, typical of Corbières.

2008 Le Millésime – 22.00€
Only made in the best vintages.  80% Mourvèdre to 20% Syrah.   12 -14 months in barriques.  Good colour;  quite rounded oaky nose, and on the palate ripe and smoky, with ripe fruit and notes of tapenade.  A tad alcoholic at 14˚.  Quite a rounded finish.  The oak needs to become more integrated, but has not dried the fruit.

In conclusion, sound wines which have the potential to be even better, when Sébastien gets into his stride.  

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Impressions of the 2012 vintage

It’s that time of year again.  Traffic hazards in the Languedoc have multiplied and it is well-nigh impossible to drive anywhere without getting stuck behind a mechanical harvester or a large trailer full of grapes.    The locals seem to acquire a reckless approach to an unbroken white line in the middle of the road – if you can see, just whizz past …….

The usual question: how’s the harvest  has met with mixed reactions.  Up in the hills in St. Jean de la Blacquière, Jean-Baptiste Granier was about to start picking – on 14th September.  He said this was later than the previous three or four years, and more in keeping with the norm, while Gavin Crisfield has almost finished.  Both were happy; jean-Baptiste was looking forward to using his new cellar, and some spanking brand new equipment, and the grapes were looking healthy.  Gavin seemed very relaxed; quality was good, and quantity not bad either.  In fact I was witness to two happy vignerons, enthusing about 2012.  A moment to treasure. 

I spent last Friday morning picking grapes.  A 7.30 start was rewarded by banana cake and coffee mid-morning and a chance to catch up with some friends, as we tried to avoid snipping each other’s fingers as we worked down opposite sides of a row of Carignan.   And the Carignan was looking good; lovely healthy bunches, and it tasted good too – some sweet fruit.  The Cinsaut was little more problematic – some large juicy looking bunches, but closer inspection revealed in some instances that the grapes had compacted and turned rotten inside the bunch.  The offending grapes needed to be cut out – a messy exercise resulting in well-stained sticky fingers.   And there was an occasional case of oidium, which makes the grapes look slightly dusty, and rather unappetising.   

                                                               Grapes with oidium 

                                                                 A healthy bunch  

So in the middle of September most people have picked their white grapes and red grapes intended for rosé, and most agree that the quality is pretty good, but quantity does seem to be down.  I am not sure why.    Somebody said the sortie was not so good, compensating for a larger crop last year.   The weather during the summer has been pretty good.  Nights were cool in July, and the beginning of August was not too hot, but then things heated up for a week, with the heat wave broken by some rain, followed by fine weather at the beginning of September.

But now things are looking a bit iffy.   I was picking again this Friday morning, 21st September, under a grey sky, with our friends keen to get their red grapes safely into the cellar.   Everyone is watching the weather forecast with an element of tension.    It is not proving to be such an easy vintage.   

Friday, 21 September 2012

Domaine Moulinier

I was intrigued to return to Domaine Moulinier as I had not visited this estate for at least ten years.  They were building a new cellar at the time and I was given a tour of the vineyards by Pascal Moulinier.  This time I met his father, Guy, who explained that they have 22 hectares of vines altogether, on  three different terroirs grès or sandstone, from the primary era, so that they have found dinosaurs’ eggs in their vineyards; another block on schist, and the third on limestone and clay.   Guy observed that limestone resists drought well, whereas the schist is more filtrant and better draining.  They also have two hectares of Viognier, and their production of rosé has increased to account for a third of the total.    And there are also four hectares of olive trees.

Their cellars are in the village of Pierrerue, just outside the town of St. Chinian, and the Caroux dominates the skyline.    1994 was their first vintage.  Guy took his vines out of the coop when he inherited them from his father.  He had previously worked in the civil service for fifteen years.  He worked with the Miquel family at Château Cazal Viel to get some experience in vineyard and cellar and they lent his vats for his first vintage, in 1994.  The first vintage in this cellar was 2001.   It is all nicely streamlined.  Guy explained that all the grapes are hand-picked and destalked.  They have stainless steel tronconique vats and efficient cooling equipment, and a large barrel cellar, defying people who suggest that St. Chinian ne supporte pas le bois.  Guy observed that they wanted to copy the best of Bordeaux and Burgundy, so that meant barrel ageing.  They have yet to try larger demi-muids. 

First we admired fossils, including a shark  tooth and some dinosaur eggs on display in their tasting room and Guy began opening bottles.

2011 Viognier, Pays d’Oc – 7.00€
Ripe peachy palate, with some acidity.  In comparison the nose is more discreet. Quite characterful.

2011 St. Chinian rosé – 5.80€
They make two rosés, a Syrah Grenache blend and an almost pure Syrah, which this was.  Syrah is the main variety of the estate.  This rosé was made almost exclusively from pressed grapes.  Pale pink orange colour.  Quite a delicate dry nose, and on the palate rounded, with some herbal notes.  Good acidity.  Nice balance.  Dry ripe fruit on the finish.

And then on to reds, of which there are three:

2010 Cuvée Tradition – 6.30€
A short maceration – fifteen days, and no oak, nor filtration.  Medium colour.  Nice spice on the nose, with notes of the garrigues, with a broader palate.  Ripe red fruit, and an orange note on the finish.  Supple easy drinking.  The blend is 70% Syrah, 25% Grenache, and 5% Mourvèdre, from three different terroirs, with the percentages reflecting what is planted in the vineyards. 

2010 Les Sigillaires
A longer maceration of four weeks, and élevage in old barrels for about 12 months.  The oak is nicely integrated on the palate.  Some notes of tapenade, and a fresh finish.  Guy explained that the work in the vineyard is important for retaining freshness.  They pick quite early to retain acidity and to keep the alcohol at a reasonable level.  This is 13.5º.  The palate was quite subtle with different nuances, and a hint of orange and a n elegant finish. 

2009 Les Terrasses Grillées.
12 months élevage, including between 40 – 60% in new wood, depending on the characteristics of the vintage.  They do not want the wood tannins to overwhelm the grape tannins.  The maceration lasts five to seven weeks, depending again on the quality of the grapes.  Quite deep colour.  Quite tapenade on the nose – not obvious oak.  Some orange fruit, as well as red fruit on the palate, with a tannic edge.  A little sweet on the finish.  This was my least favourite wine.  But the overall style of Domaine Moulinier was one of easy drinkability.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Domaine Joncas

I  met Pascal Dallier at the Montpeyroux fête earlier this spring and had him earmarked for a cellar visit.   We went to his little cellar in Montpeyroux but since then he has just moved into a brand new cellar outside the village, just in time for the 2012 harvest. 

Wine making is a complete career change for Pascal.  He was a car concessionaire in Nancy, the elegant city that is the capital of Lorraine, with four showrooms, 120 employees and 40 million € turnover, dealing with Jaguar, Landrover, Ford and Kia, – and then the opportunity came for him to sell up and follow his dream.   He arranged to work with Alain Chabanon, one of the leading wine growers of Montpeyroux, and now considers Alain to be his guardian angel.  He also did some short courses or stages on biodynamics, and acquired three hectares of vines, and then two more which are under restructuration – currently lying fallow after the vines have been pulled up.    He has sown various herbs and grasses.   And he has just bought another three hectares, so Domaine Joncas consists of a total of eight hectares altogether, in three plots.   Joncas is the name of a canyon by the Mont Baudile, and describes a place where gorse grows, ajonc being the French for gorse.    

A conversation about land prices – in Pic St. Loup the cost is 25,000-30,000€ per hectare as opposed to 10-15,000€ in Montpeyroux.  Pascal looked from Sommières to St. Jean de Minervois and fell for Montpeyroux, observing that you do not find the precision and finesse of Montpeyroux in Pic St. Loup. 

Pascal has a very clear idea of what he wants to make – j’ai une vision de ce que je veux faire.   And he described his stance as somewhere between la conscience et le courageJoia is his first cuvée and 2011 his very first wine – a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah.  Deep colour; rounded nose.  Quite gourmand, with quite sweet ripe fruit, but with a good backbone of supple tannins.  Attractive spicy fruit and for early drinking.  Three quarters of the wine is kept in a stainless steel vat, and the rest in a concrete egg, It is neither fined nor filtered.   The 2011 is 12€ and will be labelled Montpeyroux.  And it reminded me very much of Alain Chabanon’s Campredon, another of my favourite Montpeyroux.

Pascal’s second wine is O Bra, Terrasses du Larzac – 20.00€.  It is 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache, a selection of the best grapes, aged in three different containers, a stainless steel vat, a concrete egg and a 10 hectolitre  foudre.  Pascal is adamant that he is not tempted by new wood.  ‘I fight to get the best grapes possible’ and he does not want to deform them with élevage in a small barrel.  It changes the taste too much.

We tasted the three components:
First from vat:  Deep colour.  Fresh ripe spice on the nose.  Quite a fleshy palate; rounded with good spicy succulent fruit and a wild garrigue note.  Sunshine and garrigue.

Now for the egg, a 6.75 hl container.  More closed nose, with more mineral notes.  Supple structure.  Rounded but fresher.  More constrained fruit on the nose. 

And finally the foudre, a new oval one, with no particular chauffe requested, made by Boutes in Narbonne.   Medium colour.  A touch of vanilla.  The oak brings out the spice, with more structure.  Less gouleyant than the stainless steel vat, with firmer tannins.  With the foudre Pascal is looking for some micro-oxygenation.  In contrast the wine from the vat becomes sweeter in the glass.  

It was a fascinating exercise illustrating the effect of the container – there were definite differences, not dramatic, but perceptible none the less, that would add complexity to the final blend.    Pascal has already worked out his blend, just 2% from the vat; 45% from the egg and 53% from the foudre, so he made that up for us to taste.  Quite deep colour. Quite sweet, spicy ripe fruit with a mineral streak and a certain structure.  Very good fruit.  It promises to be a lovely glass of wine. 

Pascal attaches great importance to his vineyards – the most important thing is produce un bel raisin, and he sorts the grapes in the vineyard at harvest.  He is planning to keep some plots organic, while transforming others into biodynamics to see what the difference is.  So after our tasting we went to look at a vineyard out of the village on the road to Arboras. It is a beautiful spot, wild and quite magical.  An electric fence keeps the wild boar out – and as well as red varieties, Pascal has some Grenache Gris and also some Riesling vines – Riesling is now allowed now in the Languedoc .  That promises well for a future white wine.  And a rosé, Nébla, will be made in 2012. . 

Friday, 7 September 2012

Domaine de Ravanes

This is not a new post, but a replacement, thanks to a technological hitch, or shall we just say that I pressed the wrong button and deleted the earlier post!  

I always enjoy visiting Marc Benin at Domaine de Ravanès, and have learnt that it is most unwise to have another cellar visit immediately afterwards, or indeed anything else pressing to do, as I will invariably be late, as Marc always produces extra wines to taste and has lots to say about them.   Marc, and his father Guy, were amongst the pioneers of Bordeaux grape varieties in the Languedoc, with their first commercial vintage in 1979.  Ravanès is outside the village of Thézan-les-Beziers, in the IGP of the Coteaux de Murviel. Marc has now reduced his vineyard to 32 hectares, down from 55..  The terroir is argilo-calcaire, clay and limestone and the vineyards are at quite a low altitude. 

2010 L’Ibis Blanc,  Vin de France – 5.50€
A blend of Grenache Blanc and Ugni Blanc – 50/50  The Grenache goes into wood and the Ugni Blanc is fermented in vat.  I found almonds and fennel on the nose, with good acidity and some more fennel on the palate.  A nice balance with a fresh finish, and some body.  A nice touch of originality. 

Observation from Marc that the bordelais négociants are selling off Cabernet and Merlot under the Vin de France label, so that Pays d’Oc is inevitably suffering.  The president of the Pays d’Oc Syndicat is apparently furious. 

And if you label your wine Vin de France, with no further geographical indication, you cannot use the word Domaine on the label, even if you are a Domaine.......

2011 Rosé, le Guépier – named after a bird that comes from Africa for the summer and catches wasps.  2/3 Cinsaut to 1/3 Merlot.  Pays d’Oc – 5.50€
Pale orange pink colour.  SaignéA nose redolent of strawberries and raspberries and even more so on the palate.  Rounded and fresh with a vinous finish.  This is not what Marc deprecatingly called un rosé de piscine – a swimming pool rosé

2010 Rosé le Guépier, Pays d’Oc
Light orange colour.  A dry nose.  Quite a firm herbal palate with some acidity.  Vinous with a certain structure.

2009   Rosé le le Guépier
Much deeper colour as the wine was only run off after two hours, so spent longer on the skins. Quite rounded and ripe, wit herbal notes. Vinous and heavier, with a slightly cloying finish.  Although it was intriguing to see that a rosé could age so well, I really preferred the youngest wine.

However, Marc loves experimenting, so then we tried Solera Ravanès, bottled in 2008.   A four year Solera, begun in 2004 and bottled in 2008.  The wine was quite oaky, but with a very satisfying texture and some mature fruit. A lovely balance.. Long and rich and very intriguing.  Marc used the barrels in which he had previously fermented his sweet wine, Qvinteszencia, so presumably that also contributed to the flavour.

And then we went on to red wines:

2009 Merlot Cabernet, Coteaux de Murviel – 6.00€
Some cassis fruit, but a slightly odd nose.  Needs to breathe – maybe a touch of reduction, and or brett.   Which prompted a discussion about where brett comes from.  Marc observed that you do not systematically get it in the same vat.  It may come from the vines.

2010 Petit Verdot – 9.50€
Élevage in vat, bottled 2012.  Marc used to call this wine Le Prime Verd, but now that the grape variety is allowed in the Languedoc, he can give it its proper name.  Good colour; rounded ripe but fresh fruit.  Quite textured. Good balance.  Youthful.  Supple tannins.  Very bordelais.  And very original.

2008 Petit Verdot.
Good colour.  Light, herbal nose, with some cassis.  Quite a fresh palate, but more vegetal, with come tannins.

2008 Cuvée Diogène.  11.50€
Not made every year.  60% Petit Verdot, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Good colour.  Young fruit on the nose.  Ripe cassis.  Nice depth with good balance on the palate. Rounded, youthful.  Good fruit. Elegant with harmonious tannins.   70% of the wine is given 18 months élevage in wood. 

2007 Les Gravières du Taurou – 26.00€
58% Petit Verdot / 42% Merlot, which was planted by Marc’s father Guy in 1972.  28 months in wood, 30% new.   Deep colour.  Quite dense smoky nose. Quite solid, dense ripe palate.  Smoky and cedary.  Lots of nuances, with some firm youthful tannins.

2006 Gravières – 25.00€
More Merlot than Petit Verdot in this vintage.  Quite a cedary nose.  Very elegant palate, with depth and length.   Elegant cedary fruit. Riper with more tannins than 2007.

2007 le Prime Verd – 27.00€
Pure Petit Verdot with 30 months in wood.  Deep colour.  A touch animal.  Rounded dense ripe fruit, with quite furry tannins.   Rounded and rich, and still very youthful, with a tannic streak balanced by good fruit.

2006 le Prime Verd – 30.00€
Deep colour.  Firmer, tighter nose. More elegant, but tauter.  Dry cassis fruit, with a lot of depth.  Elegant and refined.

1999  le Prime Verd
Deep young colour.  Young cedary cassis nose and on the palate elegant, youthful cedary fruit.  Great depth and length.  Beautifully balanced.  And tasting much younger than 13.

And why plant Petit Verdot?  The short answer was pour ça – it gives a spinal column to a wine, and also acidity.

And then we went onto white wines:

2010 le Renard Blanc, Coteaux de Murviel – 16.00€
80% Grenache Gris to 20% Macabeo, fermented in wood and aged for 12 months.  Light golden.  Notes of fennel on both nose and palate, balanced with very good acidity.  A lot of matière, rich, aniseed notes.  An amazing balance of acidity and minerality and fennel, with  a certain richness on the finish.  The Grenache is 75 years old and the Macabeo 80, from a vineyard that they bought in 2005.  .

2009 Le Renard Blanc – 16.00€
Light golden.  Nice resinous note on nose and palate.  A firm streak of acidity, with lots of nuances of subtle fruit.  Great length.  Marc admitted that he was inspired by Banyuls wine grower, Marc Parcé’s l’Argille. The yield is less than 20 hl/ha.  Macabeo produces very small berries and very few bunches, with a yield of 10 – 15 hl/ha

2007 Le Renard Blanc.
Quite golden,  quite solid and ripe with notes of oxygenation, rather than oxidation. Quite solid and rich and herbal with lots of nuances.  Ageing beautifully.

1998 l’Ille, Vendange Tardive, Ugni blanc, picked in November and December.  Five picking all together, from grapes with botrytis or passerillé.  Amber golden colour.  Very apricot on nose and palate.  Very smooth and unctuous with some fresh fruit and an edge of acidity, and a fresh finish. Very smooth. 75 gms/l of residual sugar.

MM (2000) Qvinteszencia de l’Ille  – 42€
Very intense, very concentrated, Unctuous and more like Vin Santo. With figs and dates.  150 gms/l of residual sugar and 76 months in wood.   And a grand  finale to our tasting.   Domaine de Ravanès deserves to be better known. 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Domaine de Montcalmes

Domaine de Montcalmès is a classic example of the new generation of wine growers in the Languedoc.     I’ve drunk their wines on occasions at the Mimosa in St. Guiraud on the recommendation of David Pugh and went for a cellar visit a few years ago.  And so it was time to go back.  A brother and sister run the estate, Frédéric and Murielle Pourtalié, with Guillaume Goujon helping in the cellar.  It was Guillaume who welcomed us.   Their cellar is in the village of Puéchabon, near Aniane, and the name Montcalmès comes from a nearby hamlet.

Until 1999 all the grapes went to the coop, in several surrounding villages, but Frédéric wanted to make his own wine.   He gained experience with various growers such as Alain Graillot in Crozes-Hermitage and closer to home, with Laurent Vailhé at La Grange des Pères in Aniane.  His first vintage was 1999, from 22 hectares of vines. He has replanted three hectares and now has a total of 25.  They are mostly in the commune of Puéchabon but also in St. Saturnin, St. Jean de Fos, Viols le Fort and Aniane, with about ten plots all together, and with quite a variety of different soils, with limestone, and galets roulées.  They are gradually converting to organic viticulture, beginning this year, so that 2015 will be their first fully organic vintage.  However, as Guillaume explained, their treatments were already bio, using only copper and sulphur, but it will entail a lot more work in the vineyard.  They now have an intercep to deal with the weeds within the rows of vines and they do some green harvesting, and try to maintain a good aeration of the vine shoots.  And the moon needs to be taken into consideration, especially when blending. 

First we tasted from barrel – rather as you do in a Burgundy wine grower’s cellar.

2011 Languedoc Blanc 
Equals parts of Marsanne and Roussanne, already blended in July 2012.  Will be bottled in 2013.  They usually buy second hand barrels as they do not like new wood, usually from Laurent Vailhé, and also Domaine Joblot in Burgundy. 
Light golden; herbal leesy nose. Quite rounded and leesy texture. Rounded ripe and rich.  Flavours of white blossom with lots of nuances.  Some citrus notes.  Harmonious with great  length.  They don’t block the malo.  The vines face west, on clay and limestone.  It will be a lovely glass of wine.

2010 Grenache
They will blend their 2010 reds after the 2012 harvest and bottle in February 2013, so there were examples of single varieties to taste.   This comes from Aniane, grown on galets roulées, so an immediate comparison with Châteauneuf du Pape.  Good colour.  Lovely ripe spicy,  liqueur cherry nose.  Very Grenache, and elegant Grenache at that.  Grenache gives finesse to a wine,  and it needs longer in oak, in order to digest the tannins of the oak.

2010 Grenache, grown on calcaire lacustre in Puéchabon.  The vineyard was planted in 1983 -84.  Much deeper colour and much more concentrated and structured, with a spinal cord of tannins.  The same barrels, from François Frères.  Fruits noirs, especially blackberries.  Very long,  rich and concentrated.  

2010 Syrah
Grown on galets roulées.  Quite tapenade; quite rich black fruits with some elegant, peppery notes.  The pepper develops in the glass,  Also some leathery notes, and lots of nuances. A ripe finish.

2010 Syrah
A different cuvee, grown in Puéchabon on calcaire lacustre.  Medium colour.  Much more elegant nose, more peppery and with quite a  peppery palate.  More structured with firm fruit.  Freshness and structure.

They get 20 hl/ha, a yield of 1.20 kilos per vine, with 5 – 6000 vines per hectares.  They use cordon royat pruning for Syrah, and gobelet for Grenache and Mourvèdre.  Gobelet works well on the galets as the grapes are nearer the soil and they absorb the reflected heat from the stones more easily.  And the soil under the galets is deep, which Mourvèdre appreciates.

2010 Mourvèdre
Grown on galets roulées.  Deep colour. Firm structured palate; some black fruit.   The scents of the garrigues. Quite firm tannins initially that soften.  Gentle vinification; initially it is very fruity, and then tannic and then it becomes more delicate, with ripe fruit and good tannin balance. 

They consider 2010 to be a good vintage with a lot of complexity and not too much alcohol.  2009 is more concentrated, and 2011 similar to 2010, but with less freshness. 2010 is a more balanced year. 

2011 Grenache on calcaire lacustre
Lightish red.  Perfumed fruit on the nose and a tannic steak on the palate.  Silky tannins and less acidity than 2010.

2011 Syrah – also on calcaire lacustre
Medium colour.  Some oak, but nice oak.  Attractive peppery notes.  Quite elegant ripe with peppery notes, a touch of black fruit on the finish.  Not yet absorbed any oak.  Guillaume explained that the ‘prise de bois’ took place after a  year and that the wine began to digest the oak after about eighteen months.  The oak regime is fairly similar for each variety, but they tend to use older barrels for Grenache.

2011 Mourvèdre on galets roulées
Quite deep colour. Quite rounded nose.  A certain structure on the palate, some viandé notes, with some fruit.  More alcoholic than the syrah..  Very gourmand, some cherry fruit with a tannic streak.

2010 Chardonnay, Pays de l’Herault.  16.00€
For this wine, they buy the grapes; pick them and vinify them themselves.  Grown on limestone, near St. Martin de Londre., where the climate is fresher, with cooler nights than around Puéchabon.  Aged in a demi-muids.  Elegantly buttery, and quite Burgundian style.  Maybe think St. Romain. 

2010 Viognier IGP Hérault – 16.00€
Again from bought grapes.  Lightly peachy nose; rich textured plate. Rounded; enough acidity. Nuances of exotic fruit.  Vinified in and kept in old wood.   A big difference in night and day time temperatures not only adds freshness to the wine, but enhances the colour of the reds.

2009 Blanc, bottled January 2012 -  21.00€
Quite firm fruit on the nose.  And on the palate rich with buttery leesy fruit.  Rich and  rounded, with soft acidity and length.  Quite a full bodied finish.  A little bit too heavy for my taste buds. The Roussanne gives aroma and the Marsanne finesse.   2004 was the first vintage of their white wine, and 1999 for the red.

2009 Coteaux du Languedoc – 21.00€
60% Syrah with 20% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre. 
Young colour; quite a perfumed nose with spicy cherries.  Spicy fruit on the palate, with a certain tannic structure.  Youthful and peppery.  Lots of nuances.  Some stony mineral nose.  Medium weight.  2009 was quite a hot vintage, but they have manage to retain the freshness and minerality.  Definite ageing potential.  And a great visit.

By way of a postscript, for dinner the following evening,  we opened a bottle of 2005, that we had bought on our previous visit.     And it was drinking beautifully; lots of nuances of flavour and complexity.  One of the great wines of the Languedoc.