Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Vignerons Independents come to London

A small group of French Independent Wine Growers came to London earlier in the month, so I checked out those from the Languedoc.

First stop was Julie and Pierre Viudes from Domaine de la Rencontre who make delicious Muscat de Mireval and drier Pays de l’Hérault.   2012 Rencontre was fresh and pithy, with a touch of honey and grapey fruit; Philosophe,  which Julie described as Entre Deux, with 28 gms /l residual sugar was lightly honeyed with fresh acidity.  Eclat comes from young vines and was honeyed with weight and body on the palate, while l’Hédoniste from older vines was rounded and grapey with fresh honey, and surprisingly less concentrated and explosive than Eclat. 

Constance Rerolle was pouring a selection of the wines of the Château de l’Engarran, Grès de Montpellier.  I particularly liked the 2011 Château de l’Engarran, a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre.   Deep colour; a rounded nose and on the palate quite rich with good matière, weight and fruit, and well integrated oak after 18 months in wood.

Next I saw Philippe Modat from Domaine Modat in Roussillon.   It had been a while since I tasted his wines, so a good opportunity for an update.

2012 Côtes du Roussillon blanc, De-ci –de-là .  13.00€
Grenache Maccabeu.  Partly vinified in new oak.  Light nose.  Nicely textured palate, with rounded fruit.  A hint of fennel and a fresh finish.

2011 Côtes du Roussillon, Caramany, Comme Avant -13.00€
Syrah, Grenache, Carignan.  Medium colour. Quite firm spice on nose.  A ripe palate, with some tarry fruit and tannins.  Youthful   Two years ageing in old wood.

2011 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Caramany,  Sans plus attendre.  16.00€
Grenache, Syrah Carignan,  45% aged in wood.  Rich spicy nose and on the palate, rich and sweet. Riper and fleshier than Comme Avant

2010 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Caramany, le Plus Joli.  – 38€
Syrah 85% with Carignan planted in 1930.  Élevage in barrique. Quite solid with vanilla on the nose.  Youthful ripe and rich, and balanced.  Lots of fruit, and weight.

Things are evolving.  Philippe has been organic since 2007, but will not actually be registered as organic until this year.  And then it takes a further year to register as biodynamic with Demeter.  He has given up using new wood on this red wine and enthused about the Austrian cooper, Stockinger, who I recently came across for the first time in Faugères.

There was a Malepère producer, Domaine Rose et Paul.   I liked a simple Pays d’Oc Merlot best, with some ripe plummy fruit making for easy drinking at 5.50€

Rémi Duchemin was one of two partners who created Mas Mortiès in the Pic St. Loup and is now making wine in the Terrasses du Larzac at Le Plan de l’Homme.  He has vineyards in St. Jean de la Blaquière.  His first vintage was 2009.

2012 Florès, Languedoc  - 9.00€
Roussanne  10% Grenache  Quite rounded herbal fruit, with notes of fennel on both nose and palate.  Quite intriguing.

2011 Alpha, Languedoc  - 21.00€
Roussanne with 20 % Grenache – picked 10 to 14 days later than for Florès.  Uses an acacia barrel Light colour.  Quite solid nose, with a wood impact.   Good acidity, with quite a fresh palate. 

2012 Florès red, Languedoc - 9.00€
Oeillade, rather than Cinsau.t with Syrah and Grenache, aged in vat.   Medium colour.  Quite fresh perfumed fruit and ripe cherry fruit on the palate.  Very refreshing.

Habilis, Terrasses du Larzac – 14.00€
Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, old vines and very low yields.  Medium colour.  Quite firm red fruit, on the palate, structured, red fruit and a fresh finish.

2011 Sapiens, Terrasses du Larzac – 18€
75% Syrah, Grenache and Carignan   In two to three year old wood.  Deep colour.  Firm nose.  Quite solid rounded ripe and rich, with well integrated oak.

2011 Alpha, Terrasses du Larzac – 24€
70% Syrah, Grenache and Carignan.  A proportion of  carbonic maceration and some new oak.  Deep colour.  Quite solid and rounded, with ripe fruit.  Very good body, but not heavy.  Lovely fruit.

Rémi is keen on Syrah, so it dominants his  two top cuvées.  A note to go and visit.

Chateau de Lancyre in the Pic St. Loup
There was a  perfumed white wine, a blend of Roussanne 80% with some Marsanne and Viognier.  The rosé was crisp and fresh and there were four different reds, which were mostly quite soft and perfumed.  I liked the 2012 Pic St. Loup best, with a deep colour and rounded harmonious fruit on nose and palate and some appealing spice.  The blend was two thirds Syrah to one third Grenache, from vines planted in the 1970s, and aged in vat.   9.80€

Domaine St. Martin in the village of Leuc makes IGP  Cité de Carcassonne and Pays d’Oc.  There was a pure Chasan that was lightly peachy, and a Marselan Merlot blend that was too oaky for my taste buds.  Another unusual blend was Chenanson Caladoc, and a Merlot Caladoc blend was fruity and easy.

Marie Fabre Teisserenc was pouring fines from the family estates, Famille Fabre in Boutenac.  There were some quite gutsy Corbières, but best of all was a Pays d’Oc Sauvignon, with good minerality and acidity and pungent Sauvignon fruit.  and for just 5.40€  I don’t usually like Sauvignon from the Midi, but it was refreshing to have my prejudices upset.

Domaine la Provenquière in Capestang produces a large range of Pays d’Oc   There was a sympathique 2011 Syrah; a Cabernet Franc Merlot had some rounded fruit and a  rosé from Cinsaut, Syrah and Grenache was fresh and crisp with a touch of raspberry, and there was a lightly sappy Vermentino, to mention just a few of the many wines that Brigitte Robert was showing.  This is a large estate with 150 hectares.

And after that I allowed myself a deviation or two to Corsica, the Jura and Beaujolais.  

Friday, 21 February 2014

A vertical tasting of Le Soula

I love vertical tastings, and when they finish with a jeroboam, that is even better.   Le Soula is one of the estates that has helped create the reputation of the Agly valley.   When the first wine made in 2001, the vin de pays, Côtes des Fenouillèdes still existed; sadly it has since been incorporated into the much larger and less distinctive Côtes Catalanes, which covers most of Roussillon.  The name Fenouillèdes was particularly appropriate as wild fennel is a significant part of the vegetation of the garrigues, and it is no coincidence that many of the white wines have more than a hint of fennel and aniseed on the nose.   The estate of Le Soula comprises 23 hectares, with the vineyards at an altitude of 350 – 600 metres.   Le Soula is an Occitan term, meaning south, sun, or south facing slope, as the translator fancies.   However, the nights are always cool at that altitude.  The estate has been organic since the beginning and is now biodynamic, with the observation biodynamics help develop a resistance to oxidation in the wine.

It was Gérard Gauby who first discovered these abandoned vineyards back in the late 1990s and in 2001 he formed a partnership with his British importers Richards Walford  to create a new estate.   Gérard made the first wine, and then Thomas Lubbe took over, and since 2007, the winemaker has been Gerald Stanley.

I followed Mark Walford’s advice to taste the red wines first, kicking off with

2010 Le Soula 
We were given very precise blends, which I will share with you.  71% Carignan, 25% Syrah and 4% Grenache Noir.  Yield 13 hl/as.  20 months élevage in tank, new and old French 500 litre barrels.   Medium colour.  Quite a firm nose; with some garrigues and a touch of balsamic.  The wine is still very youthful.  A hint of oak.  Some firm tannins and some acidity.  Quite peppery;  a certain rustic note, and a touch of elegance on the finish.   The alcohol level is always around 13 – 13.5.

67% Carignan, 30% Syrah and 3% Grenache Noir.   18 h/ha.  Twenty months in tank, foudres and old French 500 litre barrels.  Medium colour.  I found a slightly viandé animal note on the nose which slightly disturbed me, and also on the palate.  But there was also some red fruit and some supple tannins.  Medium weight and an elegant finish.

55% Carignan, 35% Syrah 10% Grenache.  14 hl/ha  21 months ageing in tank, new and old 500 litre barrel.  Medium colour.  Quite a firm nose.  Quite a tight knit firm palate.  Some peppery spicy fruit.  Quite structured with some tannin.  Medium weight.

41% Syrah, 40% Carignan. 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Cabernet Sauvignon was in the original vineyard but has since been pulled up as it was considered too domineering in the blend, nor is it indigenous to Roussillon viticulture.   18 hl/ha.  21 months ageing in foudres and 500 litre French oak barrels.   Medium colour.  Quite firm fruit on the nose, while the palate has filled out.  Quite sturdy, Medium weight, A fresh finish. 

45% Carignan, 20% Grenache Noir, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah.  17 hl/ha.  Fourteen months in foudres and 500 litre French oak.  Medium colour.  Quite rounded ripe fruit on the nose ,and on the palate some nicely evolved ripe fruit, with some furry but soft tannins.  Medium weight.

2002 in jeroboam.  Mark explained.  ‘This was our worst year ever, it rained heavily, but now the wine has come round from what initially seemed a very unpromising start. Quite a deep colour.  Quite a solid dense furry confit nose.  And on the palate quite solid and surprisingly tannic, but with some rounded ripe fruit, and some attractive evolution.   In fact this served to illustrate how much more elegant the wines have become over the years.

And now for the whites:

2010 Le Soula
59% Macabeu, 18% Sauvignon blanc, 13% Grenache blanc, 6% Chardonnay, 3% Malvoisie du Roussillon (otherwise known as Torbato) and just 1% Vermentino.  21 hl/ha  21 months ageing in tank and new and old French 500 litre barrels.  Light golden, quite rounded, quite herbal and leesy with a hint of fennel.  On the palate quite textured and rounded with ripe fruit balanced with fresh acidity.  Lots of nuances.  Still very young.

54% Sauvignon blanc, 27% Macabeu, 10% Grenache 6% Chardonnay, 3% Grenache Gris, Vermentino, Marsanne and Roussanne.  20 hl/ha.  Eight months in tank and new and old oak.  Light golden,  Elegant herbal and fennel notes.  Quite rounded.  Soft oaky notes.  Quite textured and layered palate.  Youthful.

38% Sauvignon, 35% Macabeu, 19% Vermentino 6% Grenache Blanc and Gris, 2% Marsanne, Roussanne, Malvoisie du Roussillon and Chardonnay.  15 hl/h.  Fifteen months élevage.  Light golden, quite a firm slightly resinous nose, and also on the palate, quite solidly so, with some oaky leesy notes, and quite a honeyed finish.

45% Sauvignon blanc, 15% Grenache blanc, 15% Marsanne and Roussanne 15% Macabeu, 5% Grenache Gris 5% Malvoisie.  20 hl/ha  Fifteen months ageing in new and old French oak 500 litre barrels.  Light golden colour.  Quite perfumed, rich and oaky on the nose, and on the palate, quite rounded leesy.  Ripe honeyed balanced with very good acidity.  Quite textured.

30% Sauvignon blanc, 25% Grenache blanc, 25% Marsanne and Roussanne, 10% Macabeu and 10% Malvoisie.  19 hl/ha.  Ten months in new and old French 500 litre barrels.  In a magnum  Quite golden.  Quite a rich ripe nose.  Characterful palate.  Quite leesy and rich with firm acidity and quite a powerful finish.

No details of the blend.  A very intriguing nose.  Quite firm and fresh.  Very slatey, mineral and tight knit palate.  Very good acidity.  Quite youthful, yet with a note of maturity.  Very intriguing and absolutely delicious.

L10 : La macération du Soula,  Terroir d’altitude, Vin des Fenouillèdes.  A white wine, but with no details of the blend.  The winemaking entailed two weeks on the skins, which gives it a bit of colour, making a lightly orange colour.  Minimal use of sulphur.  Very intriguing, with lots of nuances.  An orange note on the nose.  Quite perfumed, with firm acidity on the palate.   An opportunity for Gerard to experiment.   And a grand finale to the tasting.  

Monday, 17 February 2014

Carignan: la Belle Endormie se réveille – or The Sleeping Beauty awakes.

That was the title of a conference organised by wine writer, and Carignan enthusiast, Michel Smith, at Millésime Bio.   I have a soft spot for old Carignan, so I was delighted to have the chance to listen to various people enthusing about Carignan, and lots of good points were made, and then there was a tasting opportunity afterwards.

Michel kicked off by observing that when he was writing his book about Corbières, published by Jacques Legrand in 1996, the best wines were dominated by Carignan.  The problem is that a lot of Carignan is not planted in good sites, nor are the best clones used.  However, there has been a distinct renaissance of Carignan, so that a lot of old vineyards have been saved, with a growing number of pure Carignan cuvées produced in Languedoc Roussillon.  He thought as many as 300. 

The origins of Carignan are Spanish, and it is found all round the Mediterranean, in Sardinia, Israel and even Egypt, and was extensively planted in the Midi with the redevelopment of the vineyards after the phylloxera crisis.   At one time there would have been 300,000 hectares in France, responsible for what was rudely known as le gros rouge, with yields on the fertile coastal plans reaching 150 – 160 hl/ha.

These days Carignan is at its best in places like the Agly valley, Montpeyroux and around Pézenas, where it produces much more modest yields.  There are currently about 5 – 6000 hectares in production, and it is being replanted.   

Next speaker was Sylvain Fadat from Domaine d’Aupilhac in Montpeyroux.  He was been producing Carignan for 30 years, as his first vineyard was a vineyard of Carignan, and he did not have enough money to replant it with Syrah.  And he came to recognise its qualities. It is all a question of balance.  It can suffer from an excessive of oak, and from yields that are too high, or too low.  And the vines do not necessarily have to be old to make good wine.   Carignan is benefitting from improvements in viticulture.  These days Sylvain sell his Carignan for more than his Montpeyroux! 

Marjorie Gallet from Roc des Anges in Roussillon has old Carignan on her estate, that was planted in 1903, for vin doux.  Her village Montner produced base wine for Byrrh.   At first nobody wanted old Carignan vines, but these days if there is some Carignan for sale, at least three or four people are competing for it.    She called it the cépage identitaire of the Midi.  It retains freshness, and can resist wind, which is significant in an area where the wind blows hard.   It also adapts well to a variety of soils.

Bernard Vidal from La Liquière in Faugères described himself as a Carignanist on the schist of Faugères.  He has continued to plant Carignan. When the appellation of Faugères was created, people thought improvements would come with the so-called cépages améliorateurs such as Syrah and Mourvèdre.  In fact that has proved the wrong path, because ‘we did not modify our work in the vineyard and the cellar to improve Carignan’.  Consequently a lot of Carignan was pulled up, and replaced with Syrah, with the result that ‘we began to lose our identity’.   He was adamant. ‘Carignan is our originality in Faugères’; it loves the schist, the acidity, the altitude, and the strata of schist allow its deep roots to reach water.   ‘Carignan is part of our identity’.

Jean Natoli has worked as a consultant oenologist for 30 years.  ‘At once time it seemed that all the malheurs came from Carignan, and that it should be eradicated.  The appellation regulations still continue to limit Carignan, whereas in some areas it is ridiculous to do that.  We should preserve as much diversity as possible, or else we shall run the risk of losing it.   However, Carignan should not be planted just anywhere. It is not uniformly good’.   He also mentioned Carignan blanc.  ‘Do not forget it.  It is easier than Carignan Noir to understand, and has aroma and acidity’.   And there is also Carignan Gris.  ‘Communication about Carignan is what is needed’.

And since this was a French conference, naturally food featured, with a chef, Bruno, giving us serving suggestions.  Carignan Blanc, with its ageing potential, would be delicious with white meat and cream sauces, and mushroom.  And for Carignan Noir, which encompasses several different styles, you need to consider the age of the wine.  More powerful meat dishes would favour a young Carignan.   Personally one of my favourite combinations is unoaked Carignan with barbecued sausages.

So it was all very positive, and there was no devil’s advocate to point out the defects and disadvantages of Carignan.  I think of my friend Daniel Domergue who used to make delicious old Carignan, called Carignanissme at Clos Centeilles, who observed rather disparagingly:  ‘if you can make good wine from Carignan, just think how much better wine you can make from another grape variety.’ 

And the proceedings concluded with a small tasting of various Carignan.

Mas Gabriel Clos des Papillons, with some herbal fruit.

 Clos du Gravillas 2011 Lo Viehl, was rich and ripe with supple tannins and fresh red fruit.

2013 1903 Carignan was a vat sample with sweet ripe fruit.

Sylvain 's 1997 Le Carignan showed its ageing potential with some smoky vegetal notes on the nose and cedary fruit on the palate. 

Bernard Vidal’s Nos Racines 2012 was fresh with ripe fruit and supple tannins, while 2011 Stella Nova was firm and gutsy, as was Domaine Sainte Croix 2012 from the Corbières.

For more on Carignan, go to  and look for Carignan Story

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Le St. Georges in Palavas les Flots

An invitation to a wine growers’ dinner was a great opportunity to discover a new restaurant.   Paul Courtaux was one of the two partners who ran L’Entre-Pots in Pézenas for a number of years, during which time they established a reputation as the best restaurant in the town.  And then it was time to move on.  And Paul has resurfaced at Le St. Georges in Palavas les Flots. . 

The amuses –bouches were delicious,  a tart of octopus, a bowl of télines, a local oyster in some delicately flavoured jelly, and a samosa, its stuffing a take on a tielle, from Pézenas, accompanied by Entre Deux Vins, a blend of Sauvignon and Petit Manseng.  In the crowd, I never found out who the producer was.  It was refreshing with the nibbles, but nothing more.
Then we sat down to enjoy some bellota ham with anchovy toast, razor clams, and a rillette of sardines, accompanied by 2011 Clos des Vignes blanc, a blend of Grenache blanc and Grenache Gris from Domaine Gardiés in the Côtes du Roussillon.  It was rich and rounded, with some lovely texture and went very well with the powerful flavours of the hors d’oeuvre.     (

The fish course was an intriguing combination, a langoustine with a small piece of quail, with some spinach in a broth flavoured with Banyuls.  And to go with that we drank. 2012 Cuvée les Claviers from Domaine de Garance, Vin de France.  It is a blend of Ugni Blanc and Grenache Gris, with some rich nutty fruit and a certain resinous quality, with a firm dry finish.

Next came a tournedos of pork, with a Roseval potato and Jerusalem artichoke mash, and very tasty it was too, beautifully complimented by Nathalie and François Caumette’s Faugères from Domaine de l’Ancienne Mercerie. 2011 Les Petits Mains, with its high percentage of Carignan was youthful and smoky, with that appealing rustic note that Carignan can so nicely impart.  However, if I were being hyper-critical, it was a tad too young, and the 2010 would have been even better.

And then I have to admit that I skipped dessert and a 1981 Rivesaltes Ambré from Domaine Gardiés as a lift back into Montpellier called, and after a long day at Millésime Bio, it was too tempting an offer to refuse.   But based on that one experience, I would certainly make another  journey to Palavas to eat at Le Saint Georges.  

Le Saint Georges,
4 Bd du Maréchal Foch,
34250 Palavas les Flots.
Tel : 04 67 68 31 38.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Impressions of Millésime Bio 2014

I have slight reservations about large wine fairs, but somehow Millésime Bio is different.   For a start everyone is there for the same reason – they believe fervently in organic viticulture, which generates an inspiring buzz of enthusiasm.  And it is wonderfully egalitarian.  No one is allowed a fancy stand.  You get a table with a pristine white table cloth; unlimited clean glasses and unlimited ice – and that is it.   So you can find Jeanjean, one of the biggest players of Languedoc, bang opposite Domaine Ste Cécile du Parc, which is one of the newest producers, with a first organic vintage in 2013.   

And the fair had grown since last year, when it fitted into two halls.  This year it had spilled over into a third hall.   And although there are probably more Languedoc Roussillon producers than any other region, other appellations and countries are well represented.  I allowed myself deviations into Tuscany with Sassotondo,  Chablis with Hélène and Didier Defaix.  A friend recommended a Côte Roannaise producer, Domaine des Pothiers, for some delicious Gamay as well as an unusual Pinot Gris.  And I could not resist Richard Doughty’s wonderfully honeyed Saussignac from Domaine Richard by way of a final bonne bouche.

As for Languedoc highlights, things kicked off on Sunday evening with The Outsiders’ tasting.  Some, but by no means all,  are organic – and there were some lovely wines.   See my previous post.   Michael Smith had organised a conference on Carignan – more on that anon.   I tasted the Languedoc prize winners from the annual competition, Challenge Millésime Bio, and there was a wine growers’ dinner at a new restaurant in Palavas-les-Flots. 

But above all it is a great opportunity to catch up with the latest vintages of old favourites and to try some new producers.  Amongst old favourites I counted Domaine Monplézy, but with two new wines, Plaisirs Blanc and Emoción Rosé.   Domaine Begude in Limoux has a new wine, a Grüner Veltliner, a grape variety that is more usually found in Austria.  Château de Lascaux, long established in the Pic St. Loup was pouring a stunning 2012 Cuvée Carra. 

I enjoyed the first organic wines from Chateau Ste Cécile du Parc as well as some lovely St. Chinian from Domaine Borie la Vitarèle – it is age since I did a cellar visit there.  Pierre Clavel was showing a very stylish range of wines – he now has vineyards in Pic St. Loup, as well as Méjanelle, and straight Languedoc AC.  Jean-Louis Denois, one of the maverick wine makers of Limoux was in fine voice, with wines to accompany his opinions. 

Villa Symposia in Aspiran is now owned by Eric Prisette, who used to make wine in Bordeaux at Château Rol Valentin.  I enjoyed a catch up with Hugo at Les Clos Perdus in the Corbières and with Thierry Hazard at Domaine de la Marfée, and promised Bertie Eden at Château Maris in the Minervois that  I would go and see his new cellar. 

Remy Pédreno at Roc d’Anglade was pouring an intriguing Reserva Especial No 2, a blend of four vintages, made almost as a solera.  Just 240 bottles are imported to the UK.  And his more conventional 2012 rouge promises beautifully.  2011 Le Démon du Midi from Villa Tempora also promises well, as do some serious 2013s from Domaine la Tour Boisée in the Minervois.  2013 is their first vintage as organic wine growers and they were ticked off for having bottles of the 2012 vintage on their table, just to show the labels, even though they were not open, in order to show the presentation    

I tasted a relative newcomer to St. Georges d’Orques, Mas de la Rime and the wines of the not so new owners of Domaine Mortiès in the Pic St. Loup.  And I allowed myself several very enjoyable deviations into Provence, for Château d’Estoublon and Château Romanin in les Baux, Domaine de Valdition in the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and Château Léoube in the Côtes de Provence and, last but least, Château la Canorgue,  once a pioneering, but now a well-established estate in the Côtes du Lubéron.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Outsiders in Montpellier in 2014

The Outsiders, a disparate group of wine growers who do not originate from the Languedoc, were in Montpellier the evening before Millésime Bio.  Some are organic, but not all, so they decided to host a tasting to get us in the mood for the salon the next day. Most are estates that I already know, but it was a great opportunity to taste some new vintages. 

I naturally gravitated towards white wine and fizz first. 

Château Rives-Blanques
2013 Chardonnay – Chenin IGP – 5.00€
Dry honey on both nose and palate, with some fresh acidity.  Still a touch adolescent but that is to be expected.

2102 Odyssée, Limoux,
Ripe rounded nutty fruit on nose.  Good fruit with a nicely textured palate.  Very satisfying.

2012 Occitania, Limoux,
Lightly grassy, rounded nose.  A nicely textured palate, with youthfully layers of flavour.

2011 Dédicace, Limoux
Chenin Blanc.
Dry honey; lovely honey.  Delicious.  The palate is filling out. 

2011 Blanquette de Limoux
90% Mauzac 10% Chenin and Chardonnay
Quite a rich yeasty rounded nose.  Ripe rounded palate with some honey.  Quite rich and nicely mouth filling.

2011 Crémant de Limoux. 
Elegantly creamy on both nose and palate.  Just as I would expect it to be.

Château d’Anglès

2011 Classique Blanc, La Clape
50% Bourboulenc, 30% Grenache, 10% Roussanne, 10% Marsanne. 
Lightly herbal nose, with some fresh sappy fruit and some weight on the palate.  Very good acidity and a satisfying salty note.   A lovely glass of wine.

2011 Grand Vin white, La Clape
40%  Bourboulenc, 20 % each of Grenache,  Roussanne and Marsanne
The Bourboulenc is 75 years old, planted by a previous owner, Jean Segura, who pioneered La Clape Blanc at a time when people thought the Languedoc was completely unsuitable for white wine production.  Rounded nose, with understated oak.  And on the palate, fresh and rich, and beautifully balanced.  Hints of honey and fennel, and a certain weight on the palate.

2010 Classique red, La Clape
20% Mourvèdre and 40% each of Syrah and Grenache. 
Medium colour.  Ripe juicy fruit on the nose and on the palate an appealing freshness, with supple red fruit and a streak of tannin and a long finish

2009 Grand Vin red, La Clape
55% Mourvèdre with 25% Syrah, 15% Grenache and 5% Carignan.  The Grenache is aged in tank, and the other varieties in barrel.  Deep colour. Very good depth on both nose and palate.  Some oak, with rich youthful spicy fruit.  A tannic streak, with ageing potential.  Very elegant.

Domaine Turner Pageot

2012 Le Blanc, Languedoc. 
80% Roussanne with 20% Marsanne
Some intriguing herbal notes on nose and palate.  Quite ripe, with good balancing acidity.

2012 La Rupture, Vin de France,
Sauvignon Blanc.
Quite firm and mineral on both nose and palate.  Very good acidity; firm fruit and stony minerality.

2012 Vin Clairet
70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre.
A very bright pink.  Rounded raspberry fruit on nose and palate.  Very fresh fruit, with some texture on the palate.

2010 Carmine
70% Syrah; 30% Mourvèdre.
I much  preferred the palate to the nose, which was a bit eggy.  Rounded youthful fruit; quite rich and solid with furry tannins.

Mas Foulaquier

2012 la Chouette blanche, Languedoc
70% Grenache Blanc, 30% Rolle and Bourboulenc
I found this a bit unbalanced.  A ripe rather sweet nose, and on the palate quite appley and rounded.

2012 l’Orphée, Pic St. Loup
50% Grenache, 50% Syrah. 
Quite a structured nose.  Ripe palate with red fruit and some furry tannins, and a slight prickle which was a bit disconcerting.

2011 Le Petit Duc, Pic St. Loup
90% Grenache, 10% Syrah.  I thought that Pic St. Loup was supposed to be predominantly Syrah, but I suppose it depends on what is in your vineyard.
Quite a deep young colour.  Quite sturdy, firm fruit on the nose.  A ripe rounded rich palate.

2011 Gran’T Pic St. Loup
50%  Carignan and 50% Grenache – old vines.
Deep young colour.  Ripe solid nose and some furry red fruit on the palate.  My tasting notes seem to have given up a bit at this point.

Clos du Gravillas

2012 L’Inattendu, Minervois Blanc
80% Grenache, 20% Maccabeu
Quite firm fresh nose.  Fresh fruit and good acidity on the palate.  Herbal notes and a certain sappy quality.  Nicely balanced.

2012 Mademoiselle Lily, Côtes du Brian Blanc
50% Terret 5o% Viognier.
Quite soft and peachy, with some sweetness and balancing acidity.

2011 Lo Viehl, Carignan de 100 ans.  Côtes du Brian rouge
Deep colour.  Solid dense ripe nose.  Élevage in new barrels.  Ripe black and red fruit. Quite tannic and very youthful.  Very promising.

2011 Rendez-vous sur la lune.  Minervois
50% Carignan 50% Syrah
Very deep colour. Ripe rounded red fruit, and on the palate.  Furry tannins.  Very characterful..  This is John and Nicole’s first red Minervois as they bought three more hectares, in order to get some more Terret, but it came with Cinsaut and Syrah which they will keep, so that they can now make Minervois rouge, and some Grenache that is being pulled up.  Apparently there are moves afoot to present Cazelles as a potential cru of the Minervois.  There are about a dozen growers involved, seven or eight of whom form a solid core of support for the project.

And to finish 2012 Muscat, with nicely perfumed fruit on nose and palate.  Deliciously grapey.

Domaine Le Clos du Serres

2011 Le Saut du Poisson, Languedoc
70% Grenache blanc, 20% Vermentino and Roussanne.
Lightly herbal with a touch of oak, and on the palate  intriguingly herbal and oaky, balanced with some good fruit.  Youthful.

2012 Le Clos,  Languedoc
30% Oeillade, 30% Cinsaut, 20% Syrah, 20% Grenache
Good deep colour.   Some lovely fruit on the palate.  Rounded and dense, solid ripe black cherries.

2012 Le Blaca, Terrasses du Larzac
70% Syrah, with 15% Grenache and Carignan. 
Some smoky oak on the nose, with good solid ripe perfumed fruit on the palate.  Ripe vanilla and some structure.  Promises well.

2011 Mollard & Fillon  Terrasses du Larzac
30% Syrah, 32% Grenache, 21% /Cinsaut, 17% Carignan 
Medium colour.  Rounded ripe fruit.  Quite silky and smooth.

They were only supposed to have four wines, but somehow others appeared .......
2012 Mollard & Fillon Terrasses du Larzac
Quite solid dense nose, with furry tannins, and ripe rounded red fruit.  Very youthful

2012 Les Maros
Deep colour, Quite solid, ripe and rounded nose and palate.  Lots of black fruit.

2013 Rosé, about to be bottled.
Light and fresh, delicate and elegant.

Domaine Treloar  

2012 La Terre Promise, Côtes Catalanes Blanc
60% Grenache Gris, 30% Maccabeu, 10% Carignan
Quite rounded nose,  Herbal notes on the palate, with some fresh fruit.  Good acidity and texture.

2011 Motus, Côtes du Roussillon
90% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache
Quite rich and oaky on the nose, and on the palate also ripe and oaky, with black fruit and tannins.  Plenty of potential.

One Block Grenache 2011, Côtes Catalanes red
60% Grenache, 40% Lladoner Pelut
Dark colour. Solid rounded black fruit on the nose, and rounded ripe fruit  on the palate.  Rich and dense.

2012 Muscat de Rivesaltes,
Muscat à  petits grains.
Fresh and grapey; ripe and rounded; and very refreshing

Domaine de Saumarez

2012 S’blanc Coteaux du Languedoc
50% Grenache blanc, 40% Marsanne, 10% Roussanne
Soft and rounded on both nose and plate, but with some acidity.  Very easy drinking.

2012 S’Rouge Coteaux du Languedoc
60% Grenache, 40% Syrah
Medium red colour.  Rounded ripe soft fruit on nose and palate.  Medium weight with a fresh finish.  Again easy drinking

2011 Trinitas Grès de Montpellier
One third each of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah.  Co-fermented.
Quite a deep colour.  Quite solid and rounded on both nose and palate.  Ripe fruit and quite a dense textured palate.

2011 Aaleien, Coteaux du Languedoc.    The name describes the stones in the vineyard, lumps of clay and limestone with quartz.
90%  Syrah, 10% Grenache
Deep colour.  Quite dry and smoky, with a certain sweetness

Domaine Sainte Croix

2012 La Serre, Vin de France
60% Grenache Blanc, 40% Grenache Gris
And why is it Vin de France.  You need two varieties for Corbières, and in this context Grenache Gris is not considered to be a different grape variety ....... no comment!
Anyway I liked the wine, with appealing herbal notes on the nose, and more rounded herbal fruit on the palate.

2010 Le Fournas, Corbières
45% Carignan, 28% Grenache, 22% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre
Medium colour.  Quite a rounded nose.  Quite a soft rounded palate, with ripe fruit, but lacked a bit of grip.

2012 Pourboire Nature, Vin de France
70% Carignan, 15% each of Syrah and Grenache.  And why is this Vin de France?    The maximum amount of Carignan allowed in Corbières is 50%..... It is made from wild yeast with no S02 and the grapes are picked quite early.  Acidity is a protective factor.  Quite fresh red fruit.  Medium weight.  Rounded ripe fruit.  A nice glass of wine.

2010 Celéstra Corbières
90% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre.
Dee ]p colour, some oak and more so on palate.  Quite solid and dense.  Plenty of potential.

Château Combebelle

2008 St. Chinian, Henri 
100%  Syrah. Maturing colour.  Dry leathery notes, with some red fruit and a streak of acidity.  A bit of an edge.  Not very harmonious

2010 St. Chinian,
70% Syrah, 30% Grenache
Quite a solid, rounded tarry palate.

2012 St. Chinian les Fleurs Sauvages,
70& Syrah, 30% Grenache
Medium colour.  Rounded fruit on the nose, and ripe fruit with some tannin on the palate.  

2012 St/. Chinian, Olive
80% Syrah, 20% Grenache.
Medium colour.  A ripe sweet nose and on the palate, some ripe fruit, but finishes a bit jammy, with an edgy streak of acidity.

Domaine de Cébène

2012 Ex Arena  IGP Oc
85% Grenache 15% Mourvèdre
Rounded perfumed fruit, and on the palate.  Supple tannins.  A lovely glass of wine.

2011 les Bancèls, Faugères rouge
Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan.
Still very young. Solid rounded fruit, with some furry tannins

2012 les Bancèls
Quite a closed nose, but with some rounded fruit, on nose and palate. Quite fresh and elegant on the palate, with some attractive red fruit.

2012 Belle Lurette, Faugères
70% Carignan with Grenache and Mourvèdre
Quite a firm smoky nose, and on the palate quite rounded with good texture and balance, and some fresh acidity.

2011 Felgaria, Faugères
Mourvèdre, Syrah
Quite solid rounded spicy fruit on the nose, and on the palate quite a solid dense palate, with firm fruit and tannin.  Still very youthful

2010 Felgaria.
Again quite a solid firm nose, and on the palate rounded ripe smoky red fruit. Beginning to evolve.

Château St. Jacques d’Albas

2008 La Chapelle St. Jacques, Minervois
96% Syrah, 4% Grenache
Solid dense ripe fruit.  Still quite oaky, with rounded ripe fruit on the palate

2010 Chateau St. Jacques d’Albas, Minervois
60% Syrah, 40% Grenache
Deep colour.  Solid smoky oak on nose and black.  Ripe black fruit. Rounded with good fruit and body.

2010 Le Domaine, Minervois
60% Syrah, 20% each of Mourvèdre and Grenache.
Rounded ripe smoky nose.  Good fruit on the palate. Medium weight with attractive spice and a satisfying balance.

2012 Le Petit St. Jacques, Pays d’Oc
50% Cabernet, 50% Grenache
Deep colour. Rounded cassis on the nose, and some ripe rounded fruit on the palate.

2011 Les Garrigues 
Rounded ripe sweet red fruit..   Easy drinking

And a rince bouche to finish the tasting:
2012 Rosé with  a light nose and fresh ripe s strawberry fruit and good acidity.

Apologies for lack of prices  They weren’t supplied on the tasting sheet, and there were too many people at the tasting to keep asking ........     

Monday, 3 February 2014

Antic Wine

A deviation to the Languedoc via Lyon.  It was the weekend of the annual wine fair in Ampuis, a great show case for Côte Rôtie and other nearby appellations, with some 60 wine growers showing their most recent vintages.  And Lyon is a great city for eating, known above all for its bouchons, the typical restaurants, offering classic lyonnaise cuisine, quenelles and andouillettes and other copious dishes.  I can highly recommend Le Garet.  But as in most bouchons the wine list is pretty limited, with a choice of a couple of Beaujolais and a Côte du Rhône or two.  

However, Lyon boasts one of the best wine shops in France,  Antic Wine in the old town.  It is a glorious Aladdins treasure trove of a shop, a long thin shop packed with bottles and cases.   You can trip down some precarious stone steps to an arched cellar, and squeeze your way past wooden boxes of claret and Romanée Conti.   There are bins of bottles, and lining the wall a row of empties, delicious names that display George dos Santos enthusiasm.  I spotted Haut Brion, Clos Ste Hune, Gaja to name but three.   

Georges has had a varied career, including a spell in London.  He is passionate and opinionated, and absolutely committed to the cause of fine wine.   There's no wine list - though we happened to time our visit with the annual stock taking.  I asked about the Languedoc  - Grange des Pères was the first name Georges mentioned.  I spotted magnums of Mas de Daumas Gassac, la Peira from the Terrasses du Larzac, Mas Bruguière from the Pic St Loup and other tempting goodies and ended up buying a bottle of Jean-Michel Alquier's Sauvignon for friends for dinner. 

And we were in luck, Georges had some open bottles, and despite the stock-taking was prepared to chat and taste.    There were a couple of vintages of Clos Signadore's Patrimonio, the 2012 with fresh red fruit, and a more leathery and evolved 2007. Alain Graillot's Crozes Hermitage was firm and peppery.  A mystery bottle turned out to be a table wine from the Douro with rich red fruit, and even more of a mystery was a bottle of Vosne Romanée from René Engel of uncertain vintage. And a name that was completely new to me was Michel Gallety from the Coteaux Vivarais, with rich dense fruit from old Grenache vines.    So if you are Lyon, do pop in.  You never know what you might discover in an Aladdins cave.

Antic Wine, 19 rue du Boeuf, Lyon 69005
04 78 37 08 96