Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Faugères Fête

My good friend Michele Solans who works hard to spread the word about the appellation of Faugères, particularly wants the word spread about the Grand St. Jean, which is the annual Faugères fête.  This year will be the 20th fête and it will be held on Sunday 13th July.  If you have never been to the Grand St. Jean, as it is called, do go,  as it is great fun, and provides a great opportunity to taste lots of different wines, with each vigneron pouring their own wines, so a good opportunity for a chat too.  Entry is 3€ for a tasting glass, and it lasts all day from 10 a.m to 7 p.m.   There is also a lunch and some evening entertainment.  For more details check out the website www.faugeres.com

Friday, 20 June 2014

Highlights from the Top 100 Languedoc-Roussillon

Competitions like this are only as good as the entrants.   The 100 wines that were selected came from 69 producers.  At times the selection seems to be dominated by the big players, the likes of Jean-Claude Mas and Gérard Bertrand, not to mention various cooperatives.  Sometimes I wish the smaller, less well known wine growers would see it for the opportunity that it is.  A trophy here could get your wines very much better known on the difficult export market.   Anyway what follows is a snapshot of some of the highlights.

NV Domaine Rosier, Blanquette de Limoux
I’ve not encountered this estate before, and their website was remarkably uninformative, so I can’t tell you more. The palate was light and lemony with some fresh fruit and acidity.   But a week later I got to taste a whole range of delicious Blanquette and Crémant at a Sud de France tasting at the French Ambassador’s Residence.  There was a particularly delicious Cuvée Heritage 2010 with some rich leesy fruit.  I am promising myself another visit to Limoux to investigate further.  The old family firm of Antech also performed well, with both a Blanquette and a Crémant.  

As the statistics showed, white wines did particularly well, with white wines accounting for 40% of the Top 100, against a regional production of only 13%.   I am skipping notes on a host of Chardonnay as I do find Chardonnay from the Midi singularly uninspiring – there’s nothing wrong with them, but just not much to really enthuse about.  More exciting were wines with more southern characteristics.    Viognier can produce good results in the Midi.  I particularly like 2013 Domaine de Castelnau, L’Ile, Pays d’Oc with some lovely peachy fruit.  It was fresh and rounded and very appealing.  This estate also won a trophy for its L’Epicerie de Castelnau, a blend of Colombard and Muscat à petits grains, which was pithy with dry honey.   And the Best White trophy went to Laurent Miquel, another large producer, but he does seem to have a very special knack with Viognier, as shown in his 2012 Verité Viognier, with some peachy fruit and depth, with a touch of oak.   Domaine de la Rencontre has a lovely Muscat Sec, Pays l’Hérault, with fresh pithy grapey fruit.  They are a great example of a new and up and coming small producer, with great energy and emerging talent.

I have a soft spot for Domaine Félines Jourdan’s Picpoul, although this time it was their Roussanne  95% and Picpoul 5% blend that featured in the line up, while les Costières de Pomerols Picpoul de Pinet from Naked Wine won the Picpoul trophy for fresh salty fruit. 

There were some other lovely examples of white wine, with intriguing blends of grape varieties.    2012 Château Bas d’Aumelas, is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier, which was round and fragrant.  2013 Château Puech Haut, Prestige, a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne and Carignan Gris was rich and leesy with some white blossom on the palate.  Château des Estanilles Inverso, is a blend of  Marsanne and Roussanne, with some fragrant fruit.   There was an intriguing Minervois from Château de Paraza, a blend of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc which was delicate and floral.  And another Minervois from Château Tourril, a more or less pure Roussanne, with some rich leesy fruit and some oak.. This is another estate that is new to me, that I also encountered a week later at the Sud de France tasting.  Limoux also featured, mostly with wines from the Coop, Sieur d’Arques, but also Domaine Cathare, Melhorier, yet another new name, and a pure Chardonnay with rounded characterful leesy fruit.  On the strength of this one wine which won a trophy, this estate is another reason to visit Limoux.  And the final white was a textured and characterful Côtes du Roussillon De Ci De La from Domaine Modat, a blend of Grenache Blanc and Gris with some Macabeu and a mouthful of rich leesy fruit.

Rosés were poorly represented.  For some reason they did not shine at the tasting, but the trophy winner, Château de Lascaux, a blend of Cinsaut, Grenache Blanc and Syrah was delicate and fresh.  This Pic St. Loup estate was supported by a couple of rosés from the coop at St. Mathieu de Tréviers, Les Coteaux du Pic.

And now on to reds:  Highlights came from the Cave de Roquebrun, which came up with four very convincing wines, of which my favourite was Chemin des Olivettes with lovely spicy tapenade fruit.  2012 Domaine de Cébène Felgaria was showing deliciously with elegant spicy fruit.  There were a pair of wines from Mas Gabinèle, in Faugères, Rarissime and Inaccessible, which were finely crafted with stylish flavours,  Faugères was on a winning run, with yet another wine Château des Estanilles, Raison d’Etre.  

Corbières showed well.  I also liked 2011 Château du Vieux Parc, Sélection Rouge, a blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah with some rugged fruit and rich flavours.  Château Ollieux Romanis Atal Sia was another serious Corbières, with rich gutsy flavours.  And the winner of the  Best Red of was Mas Amiel, Vers le Nord.  The decision is a democratic vote; I was actually a dissenter here and I do not know which wine was the runner up.  This Maury Sec, a blend of Grenache with a dollop of Syrah, was rich and redolent of ripe liqueur cherries.

As for dessert wines, I also enjoyed two further offerings from Mas Amiel, their Muscat de Rivesaltes, which was fresh and honeyed with a grapey finish, and their 2011 Maury which was redolent of ripe black fruit and spice.  The trophy for the best fortified wine went to Le Manoir des Schistes, 2009 Maury with intense fruit from 80 year old Grenache vines.    So all in all, lots of delicious wines in the Top 100. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Languedoc grape varieties in Chile.

Chile has a great ambassador for its wines, Master of Wine Peter Richards who drinks and breathes Chile and writes and talks about it on every possible occasion.  He presented a seminar at the recent London Wine Fair.  His theme was Chile, Regionality and Innovation and his enthusiasm was infectious.  There were at least three wines that I wanted to go out and buy straight away.   One was a Pinot Noir, so not within the scope of this blog, but the other two had a distinctly Languedoc flavour.

2012 Errazuriz The Blend Collection from the Aconcagua Valley.  A blend of 50% Marsanne, 38% Roussanne and 12% Viognier.  Retail price £33 and imported by Hatch Mansfield.  

Peter used this wine to demonstrate the success of Mediterranean blends in Chile and to show how Roussanne and Marsanne are gaining in importance there.  These vines were planted in 1999, so they are still fairly young.  The Marsanne provides structure and extract, Roussanne freshness and Viognier some perfume.   And the result was delicious. Light golden colour.  Some leafy notes; some floral notes and a leesy note on the nose.  There is a little oak ageing, but nothing too obvious, so that the palate is rounded with good acidity and really appealing mouth feel, textured and harmonious, youthful and balanced.     It would be fascinating to drink alongside a similar blend from the Languedoc.

 2013 Montes Wines Outer Limits Cinsaut from the Itata valley.   $15.99 retail and the UK importer is Liberty Wines. 

The blend is 85% Cinsaut with a dollop of Mourvèdre.  This wine had that lovely fresh cherry fruit that I associate with Cinsaut.  Quite a deep young colour, and ripe fresh fruit on both the nose and palate, with some appealing spice, and a streak of tannin and some acidity to the finish, which provides the freshness.   

Again Peter chose this wine for its innovative features.  With their range Outer Limits, Montes are encouraging their winemakers to experiment, and Itata is a region that we shall hear more of.   This Cinsaut is not intended to be an ambitious wine, but something delicious to drink.  I even wondered if it would have been even more delicious without the Mourvèdre.

 2011 Morandé Mediterráneo del Maule, a blend of 54% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 4% Marsanne, 20% Carignan and 3% Roussanne.  £22.29 – UK importer Barwell and Jones. 

This was fascinating.  The Marsanne and Syrah were co-fermented, as were the Carignan and Roussanne.  2011 was the first vintage of this wine, and again Peter showed it to illustrate Chile’s potential for Mediterranean grape varieties.  Deep young colour, with quite a closed young nose, with pepper, perfume and oak on the palate. The palate is still very intense and youthful with dense red fruit and youthful tannins.  It will be intriguing to see how it develops.

 All three wines show Chile’s potential for Mediterranean grape varieties, illustrating a shift away from the varieties of Bordeaux.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Languedoc around the tastings - Part III - Majestic

2013 Pied Tanqué Blanc, Vin de France  - £5.49
A blend of Terret, Ugni Blanc and Colombard.  Slightly honeyed nose. Soft and lightly aromatic, but really a bit non-descript  Pied Tanqué is apparently the original name of the game pétanque, and means anchored feet. 

2013 Symbiose Piquepoul Sauvignon, Cuvée Florence - £7.64
Half Picpoul half Sauvignon.  Quite firm and pithy with a dry salty note, but I couldn’t help feeling that both would have been better off without the other.

2013 Villemarin Picpoul de Pinet - £7.64
This comes from the Pinet coop. It is delicate and fresh with a salty tang.  Medium weight.  Bring on the seafood. 

2013 Paul Mas Vermentino, Pays d’Oc  - £7.64
Light colour. Quite a firm dry nose, and light rounded palate, with fresh sappy fruit.  A sound example of Vermentino

2013 Chardonnay Réserve Spéciale, Gérard Bertrand.  - £7.49
I am not sure where these grape comes from, but Gerard Bertrand is one of the big players of the Languedoc, with vineyards all over the region.    And this simply confirmed my prejudices about Chardonnay in the Midi.  Dry oak and the nose and palate, and just a bit flat and lacking in oomph or depth.

2013 Pied Tanqué Rosé, Vin de France - £5.49
Cinsaut with a little Grenache.  Pale colour and slightly sweet and a bit stewed.  Not my idea of rosé.

2013 Pied Tanqué Rouge Vin de France - £5.49
A blend of Carignan, Grenache and a little Merlot. I couldn’t work up much enthusiasm for this either. The nose is quite ripe, with some soft fruit on the palate, and a light tannic streak, but it finishes a little thin in the mouth.

2013 Domaine Ferrandière, Pays d’Oc, Pinot Noir - £9.99
From the village of Aigues-Vives.  Aged in oak for four months.  Light fresh fruit on the nose.  Dry raspberry fruit on the palate.  Mediumweight.  Easy drinking and a good example of a variety that can be particularly tricky in the Languedoc. 

2013 Paul Mas Merlot, Pays d’Oc -  £8.99
Quite rounded rip and plumy.  Soft fruit and a tad confected on the finish. 

2013 Alain Grignon Carignan Vieilles Vignes, Pays de l’Herault - £7.99
Quit ripe rounded supple fruit, with an acidic edge.  I’ve had better old Carignan.

2011 Esprit de Pennautier, Cabardès - £19.99
Cabardès is where the varieties of the south meet those of Bordeaux.  This is a blend of Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in French oak for at least 12 months.  Heavy bottle.  Quite solid dense oak on the nose. Quite a ripe rounded sturdy palate.   It needs time. 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Languedoc around the tastings Part II - Waitrose

Quite a large selection from  Waitrose; some good, some less exciting. 

2013 Villa Blanche Pinot Noir Pays d’Oc, Calmel & Joseph - £8.99
Pinot Noir sourced in Limoux.  Medium colour.  Quite a ripe fresh nose and on the palate some rounded ripe fruit.  Good varietal character, fresh strawberry fruit with a streak of tannin.   A refreshing summer red.

2013 Montgravet Cabernet Merlot, Vin de France - £5.99
A rounded nose with some spicy cassis.  Goes a bit jammy on the palate, with a streak of tannin.   The Midi is not the best place for Bordeaux grape varieties, with exceptions of course.

2013 Waitrose Southern French Grenache, Pays d’Oc - £7.99
Pure Grenache from a block of old vines in the Gard. Ripe perfumed fruit on nose and palate, but finishes a little jammy. 

2012 Bijou Cuvée Sophie Valrose, Cabrières - £7.99
From the Cabrières coop which does a pretty good job for its appellation.  Quite a firm nose, and on the palate some slightly dusty warm fruit, with a touch of garrigues, and a sturdy finish.

2012 Domaine Marie, Faugères - £8.49
Do not confuse this with Clos Marie from Pic St. Loup.  This comes from a négociant in Perpignan.  And has some soft easy spice, making for easy drinking, but with no great depth.  I would have expected better Faugères from Waitrose.  

2012 Château de Caraguilhes, Corbières - £9.99
Quite a deep colour, with solid rounded gusty nose, and on the palate ripe tapenade and black cherry fruit. Ripe and supple with good spice and some balancing tannin.  Lovely warming Corbières.

2012 Gourmandises Cabernet Sauvignon, Pays d’Oc - £8.99
Pure Cabernet Sauvignon with some rounded blackcurrant fruit on the nose, and sweet ripe palate with a streak of tannin.  The sort of wine I could happily live without.   Not at all gourmand

2013 Costières de Nimes, Esprit des Trois Terres  - £7.79
A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.  This was delicious.  Lovely ripe rounded spicy fruit, with supple tannins.   Easy drinking.

And one of the best Syrahs of the tasting came not from the Midi but from South Africa:. 

2012 Mullineux Syrah, Swartland. - £18.99  
It is of course rather more expensive than any of the Midi offerings.  Medium colour.  Solid spicy fruit on nose and palate.  Some leathery notes.  Rich, ripe and characterful.  And a stunning example of the growing success of southern varieties in the Cape. 
2013 Montgravet Rosé, Vin de France - £5.99
A pure Cinsaut. Light colour, light fresh nose and palate.  Soft easy fruity drinking and good value.   

2013 Domaine Sainte Rose, Pays d’Oc, Coquille d’Oc - £7.49
40%  each of Grenache and Syrah, with 20% Mourvèdre.   Pale orange pink.  Light nose.  Quite crisp and fresh on the palate with good acidity, and refreshing dry raspberry fruit.   A lovely glass of rosé.

2013 Cabrières rosé, Cuvée Sophie Valrose.   - £8.49
50% Cinsaut with 40% Grenache and 10% Syrah.   The original reputation of Cabrières is based on rosé.  Light colour.  Lightly rounded nose and palate, with rounded raspberry fruit on the palate, and a rounded vinous finish.   Nicely satisfying.

2013 Waitrose Southern French Sauvignon Blanc. Pays d’Oc  - £7.99
Sauvignon with a touch of Vermentino grown in the Bassin de Thau.  Firm pithy fruit on nose and palate.   Definitely more Sauvignon than Vermentino, with good varietal character and good value.  An exception to my rule that Sauvignon does not do well in the Midi.

2013 Côte  Mas, Vermentino, Pays d’Oc - £8.49
Yet another offering from Jean-Claude Mas, though the only one in this tasting.  Quite solid and sappy on the nose; rounded, ripe and supple on the palate.  

2013 Picpoul de Pinet, Domaines Félines –Jourdan  - £8.99
A lovely example of Picpoul de Pinet.  Fresh and pithy with lovely sappy, salty fruit.

2013 Viognier, Laurent Miquel, Vendanges Nocturnes, Pays d’Oc - £8.99
Grapes picked in the cool of the night.  Quite a ripe peachy fruit with good balancing acidity and a touch of ginger.   Medium weight, so less opulent than some Viognier.

Majestic coming up next.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Languedoc around the tastings; part I

The Languedoc around the tastings 

A variety of tastings in the last few weeks have thrown up some very drinkable Languedoc wines, and others that were not so appealing.


The best here was:

2011 Les Fiefs d’Aupenac, St. Chinian Roquebrun - £14.99
The Roquebrun coop really works well for its appellation and this is a stunning example of their talent.   A blend of 60% Syrah, with 20% each of Grenache and Mourvèdre. Quite a deep colour and on the nose some black fruit and tapenade.  The palate is rounded and ripe, with a firm tannic streak, rich and mouth filling.  Good warming gutsy wine, and just the thing for a cool summer’s evening.

There were two other offerings

2013 Château Portal, Cuvée les Molières, Minervois - £10.99
50 % Syrah, 25% Grenache and 25% Carignan, with six months ageing in oak.  I found this a bit too sweet, with an edge of acidity as well as tannin.    It is probably just too young and still rather adolescence.

And I thought the same about 2013 Domaine de la Madeleine, Côtes Catalanes, with 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, which was rich and sweet. 


2013 Picpoul de Pinet.   -  £8.00
Quite soft and rounded, with some stony fruit. Easy drinking, but no great depth.

Languedoc White 2013 Taste the Difference  - £8.00
40%  Grenache, 30% Marsanne and 30% Vermentino from the ubiquitous Jean Claude Mas.  As you will see, he features quite a lot in these tastings.   A small part of the blend has been in oak.  The nose is quite floral, with white blossom and the palate is soft and rounded, with gentle fruit.  Easy drinking.

2013 Elegant Frog Viognier - £8.75
From Jean Claude Mas again and a good example of the variety, with some firm peachy fruit on both nose and palate.  A small percentage of the wine is fermented and aged in oak to give a bit more depth.

Languedoc Red 2013 Taste the Difference. - £8.00
A blend of 35% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 20% Carignan and 10% Mourvèdre.  - £8.00
Yet another offering from |Jean-Claude Mas.  I would have expected more, in fact to be able to taste the difference.  This was ripe and sweet, with 2 gms/l residual sugar and also a streak of stalky tannin.  Come on; you can do better than that.  Maybe it is too young, but the residual sugar makes it cloying and unbalanced.

More in a day or two, and I do not want to overwhelm you with one large post.  

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Stone, Vine & Sun for Languedoc Wines

The Winchester wine merchant, Stone Vine & Sun makes Languedoc-Roussillon a bit of a speciality.   Here are some highlights from their recent London tasting.

It kicked off to a good start with a pair of sparklers:

NV Domaine J. Laurens, Blanquette de L:Imoux Brut, le Moulin, - £12.75
Very good mousse. Rounded creamy freshness on the nose and palate.  Very good acidity.  Fresh and frothy.

2011 Crémant de Limoux Brut, les Graimenous  - £13.95
From the same producer.  Quite rounded creamy nutty fruit and on the palate rounded ripe and lightly nutty.  The pair illustrated the difference between Blanquette and Crémant de Limoux. 

And now for some white:

2013 Creyssels, Picpoul de Pinet.  - £8.75
There are times when I think I can’t get enough of this grape variety.  Firm stony nose.  Quite rounded sappy fruit.  Fresh and rounded.  

2013 Château des Karantes, Languedoc blanc, Bergerie - £11.50
A blend of Bourboulenc and Marsanne.  Rounded white flowers on the nose.  Quite a fragrant palate.  Ripe rounded and herbal with a salty notes and some satisfying depth.  A lovely glass of wine, showing the underrated potential of the Languedoc for white wine.

2012 Domaine Begude, Exotique Haute Vallée de l’Aude. - £11.25
The only clue as to the grape variety is a discreet GV on the side of the back label, to indicate a grape that is more commonly grown in Austria, Grüner Veltliner.  And it is a very good example of the variety.  Quite a fragrant nose, with some spicy herbal fruit, acidity and nice mouth feel.   Well done James for thinking outside the Languedoc box.   

2013 Domaine la Croix Belle, Champs des Lys, Côtes de Thongue - £9.75
A blend of Grenache Blanc and Viognier.  Quite rounded and fragrant and on the palate, with rounded peachy fruit and soft acidity.

2012 Domaines Belles Pierres, Les Clauzes de Jo - £12/.25
A blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier.  Quite a soft ripe nose.  Well integrated oak.  Nicely perfumed palate with a rounded finish.

A small selection of rosés included:

2013 Preignes le Vieux, Reserve Rosé, Coteaux du Libron - £7.50
Light colour.  Light fresh nose.  Lightly perfumed raspberry fruit.  A refreshing rosé.

2013 Domaine du Météore Faugères Rosée, les Léonides - £9.95
Light pink.  Fragrant herbal garrigues fruit on nose and palate. Good acidity with fresh fruit.  A lovely rosé. 

Stars amongst the reds:

2012 Château des Karantes, Languedoc Rouge, Terres des Karantes - £9.50
Young colour. Rounded ripe fruit on the nose, and on the palate quite solid tapenade fruit with a firm tannin streak.  This estate is better known for La Clape.

2011 Château des Karantes, La Clape -   £18.50
Deep colour. Quite a firm palate.  Quite ripe but quite elegant, with well integrated oak on the palate.  A tannic streak balancing appealing fruit.  Still quite youthful.

2011 Corbières Domaine du Grand Arc, Cuvée de Quarante - £11.50
Medium colour. Quite solid oak on nose and palate.  Quite sturdy with firm fruit.  Solid dense and youthful with ageing potential.

2009 Domaine du Météore, Faugères, les Orionides - £12.50
They really do have a vineyard at the bottom of a meteor crater.  Deep colour. Quite rich spicy nose.  Medium weight with dry spice.   Meaty and rich and characterful. 

2011 Domaine Fontanel, Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Cistes - £14.50
Medium colour.  Rich spicy fruit on the nose, and on the palate more ripe fruit, with a streak of tannin.  Mouth filling, ripe and warm. 

And a couple of lovely sweet wines to conclude.

2001 Domaine Fontanel, Rivesaltes Ambré  - £15.50
Amber colour.  Lightly nutty on the palate and quite sweet nutty fruit on the palate.  Delicious

2011 Domaine Fontanel, Maury - £17.50

Quite a deep young colour.  Ripe sweet orange and red fruit on nose and palate.  Ripe with some acidity and tannin and a fresh sweet finish.     We should drink more of these lovely dessert wines from the south.