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.