Friday, 27 March 2015

Gérard Bertrand on A South of France Experience: Wine, Moon and Stars

I have reservations about autobiographies, especially when written by someone who has hardly reached middle age.  The cover too is somewhat off-putting – there is no doubt that Gérard Bertrand is immensely photogenic, but the photograph on the cover of his recently published autobiography is un peu trop .....  Actually on second thoughts, autobiography is not really the best description of this book for it is more a series of essays on various aspects of Gérard’s life and work. 

And I have to say that I found the text surprisingly engaging.  It has been very competently translated from the French edition: Le Vin à la belle étoile, by Jane Anson, who is best known for her own writing on Bordeaux.   It cannot have been an easy task, as French wine writing tends towards more poetic flights of fancy than the steady down-to-earth Anglo-Saxon approach.   Some of Gérard’s descriptions would have worked beautifully in French, while in English they have a tendency to cloy.  However, that said, the core of the book is very interesting, and Gérard, himself comes over as a very committed personality, and  not only to his own highly successful wine business, but also to the whole region of the Languedoc.  He writes very fluently about his belief in biodynamic viticulture, citing an example of a struggling vineyard that was transformed by biodynamic methods.    

Gérard not only writes about wine, but also about his early career in rugby.   His father’s sudden death in a car accident obviously made a big impact on his future ambitions.  I actually met Georges Bertrand, probably not long before the accident, and remember him for a highly illuminating tasting, a vertical of early vintages of his Corbières at Domaine de Villemajou, with his first experiments with oak ageing.  Georges was one of the first wine growers of the Midi to put his wine in barrel, back in 1979.  It was a fascinating tasting, illustrating some of the recent history of the Languedoc.  

In conclusion, Wine, Moon & Stars is well worth reading.  Gérard’s experience of the Languedoc, as he has added more estates to his portfolio, covers not only the heart of the business at Château l’Hospitalet, but stretches to Château la Sauvageonne in the Terrasses du Larzac, and Domaine de l’Aigle in Limoux, as well as to La Livinière, the source of his newest wine, Clos d’Oro.  He gives his own personal insight into each of these estates and I certainly found that the book added an extra dimension to my appreciation and understanding of the many facets of the Languedoc.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Domaine du Joncas

I’ve blogged about Domaine du Joncas before but not for a while, and so the Independent Winegrowers tasting was a great opportunity for an update, on what to my mind is one of the rising stars of Montpeyroux.

2014 Mont Baudile, Blanc, Canta  – 19.00€
The grape variety is Riesling, which Pascal informed me has been allowed in the Languedoc since 2008.  He doesn’t know of anyone else making a pure Riesling.  Jean-Louis Denois at Domaine de l’Aigle in Limoux used to make a tiny quantity of Riesling back in the 1990s, but he fell foul of the powers that be of the INAO.  More recently I’ve only ever come across it as a very small part of a blend.   This is certainly intriguing, not your classic Riesling, but with some honeyed notes on the nose and palate, and good acidity, with a certain texture on the palate.

2013 Languedoc Rosé, Nèbla  – 9.00€
Grenache and Syrah.  Pressurage direct.  Quite a vivid colour with some fresh fruit on the nose.  Very intense raspberry fruit on the palate.  Ripe and vinous.

2013 Montpeyroux, Joia – 12.50€
Grenache, Syrah and Cinsaut.  Smokey lightly leathery nose. Quite a fresh ripe palate, with red fruit.  Medium weight and elegant.  A lovely glass of wine.

2013 Terrasses du Larzac, Nèbla – 10.00€
Mourvèdre is the main variety, with Syrah and Grenache.  One third of the wine goes into seven year old barrels.  It is sturdier than the Joia, with a hint of wood, with quite firm fruit, but again with the same elegance.  Nicely crafted.

2013 Terrasses du Larzac, Obra – 25€
A blend of Syrah and Grenache, aged in stainless steel tank, concrete egg and oak barrel, a small foudre.  Quite a firm nose, with ripe fruit, and supple tannins. Nicely structured and beautifully balanced.   Very satisfying. 

And talking of Montpeyroux – a diary date.   The open cellars day in the village is well worth a visit as all the wine growers take part and you can wander round the village glass in hand with a choice of some twenty cellars.  This year the date is Sunday 19th April.  See you there.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Domaine de l’Argenteille

I tasted one of Roger Jeanjean’s wines on the Terrasses du Larzac walk last summer and so the Independent Winegrowers tasting in London provided the opportunity to try the complete range.   Roger Jeanjean – and No, he is not related to the Jeanjean who are one of the largest producers of the Languedoc – has had a varied wine trade career.  He is a qualified oenologist and was director of the cooperative in the Hérault village of Gabian for a number of years and then set up his own négociant business, Millésime Sud, and then he inherited ten hectares of family vines that are situated between Jonquières and St. Saturnin.  So that was the moment to become a vigneron.  His range is en construction, as he put it.  He has pulled up some vines and bought some others.

2014 Languedoc Rosé – 7.00€
A blend of Mourvèdre 80% and Grenache 20% . Pressed grapes.  Light colour.  Fresh light dry fruit.  Nicely refreshing palate.

2014 Languedoc Rouge
A blend of Mourvèdre and Syrah,  Still in vat and intended for bottling in May.  Some attractive fruit on both nose and palate, but still rather adolescent, which is not surprising, but certainly with potential.

2013 Terrasses du Larzac Garric – 12.50€
30% each of Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan with 10% Grenache Noir.  20% aged in wood, so the nose is quite oaky and the wine needs to breathe.  The palate is quite solid and ripe with good tannins and a refreshing note that is so characteristic of the Terrasses du Larzac.

2012 Garric,
An identical blend, but quite a different vintage. Quite a firm rounded nose, and on the palate, medium weight, and quite fleshy with some acidity and tannin, and a satisfying balance.

2013 Terrasses du Larzac, les Roches des Fées
30% each of Grenache Noir and Carignan, with 40% Syrah.  A small percentage goes into wood.  This was a vat sample and will be bottled in May or June.  It was very rounded and ripe with a touch of vanilla.  A satisfyingly harmonious palate that promises well. 

I shall look forward to seeing how Roger’s wines develop and evolve. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Domaine de l'Hortus

Domaine de l’Hortus was one of the pioneering estates of the Pic St. Loup and continues to make some delicious wines.  I had an opportunity to tasted the current releases at their importer’s tasting, Bancroft Wines, in London last month.

2014 Loup y es-tu Blanc, Val de Montferrand
A pure Muscat à petits grains, with lightly grapey fruit on the nose, and even more so on the palate, balanced with good acidity.  Very refreshing.

2013 Bergerie de l’Hortus Blanc, Val de Montferrand
An intriguing blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Viognier, Roussanne, Petit Manseng, Chardonnay and Muscat.  Quite a firm, fresh nose and on the palate lots of nuances, with fresh acidity and youthful fruit.   Very intriguing.  It will be fascinating to see how it develops with bottle age.

2013 Grand Cuvée Blanc, Val de Montferrand
A blend of Viognier, Sauvignon and Chardonnay.   Barrel aged, and indeed quite rich and oaky on the nose, with rich fruit, concentration and texture on the palate.  You can taste the peachy Viognier fruit on the finish. 

2013 Le Loup dans la Bergerie, Val de Montferrand
A blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah and Merlot.  The aim is easy drinking fruit, and that is just what they have achieved, with a fresh nose, and rounded red fruit on the palate, with a refreshing streak of tannin.

2012 Bergerie de l’Hortus Rouge, Pic St. Loup – 11.00€
Two thirds Syrah with Mourvèdre and Grenache.  Quite rounded but firm fruit on the nose, and on the palate, nicely understated red fruit with a firm backbone of youthful structure.   Élevage mainly in vat.

2012 Grande Cuvée Rouge, Pic St. Loup
The same blend as Bergerie, but with a stricter selection of grapes, given eighteen months ageing in barrel.  Quite firm and smoky on the nose, with youthful oaky fruit on the palate.   Should develop well in bottle. 

And last week Yves Orliac sent me a link to a short film that a friendly filmmaker has produced about the estate.   I thought I would share it with you, for some great views of the Pic St. Loup and the meticulous work of planting a vineyard, as well as the discussion that goes into blending a wine.  Personally I thought the film could have done with some severe editing, but it is one man’s view of one estate in the Pic St. Loup, as Yves explains below: 

« Nadim Zeraïa, franco algérien, photographe& cinéaste, parcoure depuis sa tendre enfance les bords la Méditerranée, d’Alger à Montpellier, appareil photo sur l’épaule.
Fils d’ingénieur agronome, Nadim s’intéresse depuis toujours au monde agricole et plus particulièrement au monde viticole.
Suite à une rencontre fortuite avec l’un d’entre nous, il a voulu porter un regard sur l’importance de la viticulture sur les hauteurs de l’arrière pays montpelliérain, à savoir le Pic Saint Loup.
Durant une année entière, 2014, il a suivi les travaux au Domaine de l’Hortus. Il nous a accompagnés dans notre quotidien. Sa présence, son regard nous ont enrichis et grâce à lui, nous avons mis des mots sur nos pratiques. Nous sommes heureux de vous présenter le fruit de son travail et la concrétisation d’une réflexion : bon film !!! »

A brief synopsis explains that Nadim Zeraia has spent his life around the Mediterranean with a camera to hand and is particularly interested in the world of wine, and wanted to explore the hinterland of Montpellier and the Pic St Loup.  So during 2014 he followed the work at Domaine de l’Hortus and this is the result. 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Domaine Toupie

I have often enjoyed the vignerons independents tasting in Paris, but there is also a small version in London every year, which is good for a discovery or two, or an update.   So continuing the Roussillon theme of my previous post, but one, I was delighted to find Jérôme Collas from Domaine la Toupie at the tasting. His wine fared pretty well in Decanter's tasting, so unlike some of his confrères, he was not after my blood.  He explained how 2012 was his first vintage.  He is a trained oenologist, and used to work for the large cooperative, Mont Tauch in Tuchan, which once did so much to promote the wines of the Corbières, but has now fallen on hard times. Dominic George had already introduced me to one of Jérôme’s wines - see my post on Le Wine Shop from November. 

Jérôme has ten hectares, in four different plots, with quite different terroirs, with different soils, variations of limestone and schist,  and different aspects and altitudes, at Latour de France, in Maury behind Mas Amiel, dominated by the Cathar castle of Quéribus, and cooler vineyards at St Paul de Fenouillet, planted with Grenache Blanc, Syrah and Mourvèdre.  So it was a great opportunity to taste the range.

2014 Côtes Catalanes, Petit Salto
80% Grenache Gris, with Macabeu.  Aged in vat.  A pale colour, and quite a delicate nose with rounded white blossom on the palate.   Only recently bottled so needs to develop in bottle.

2013 Côtes du Roussillon blanc, Fine Fleur  – 10.00€
A blend of Grenache Gris, Macabeu and Carignan Blanc.  Spends six months in old wood.   Quite a firm stony nose, with some oak on the palate.  Rounded, textured and youthful.

2013 Côtes Catalanes Rosé Petit Frisson – 8.00€
Grenache Noir and Syrah.  Pressed juice and so a very pale delicate colour.  Delicate nose, but with more weight on the palate. Nicely balanced.

2013 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Pirouette – 8.10€
A blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah.  Carbonic maceration for the Syrah.  Quite a rounded ripe spicy nose and palate.  Warm but not heavy, with supple tannins.  Ripe and elegant, with a harmonious finish. 

2013 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Quatuor – 10.00€
Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan.  Medium colour.  Quite firm, slightly leathery nose, and on the palate.  A rounded finish.

2013 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Volte Face 
33% Mourvèdre,, 25% each Carignan and Syrah and the balance Grenache Noir.  Aged in oak for nine months.  Quite firm and structured, with a youthful oaky palate.  Firm tannins and tight knit with plenty of future potential.

2013 Maury Sec, Sur Un Fil 
70% Grenache with 25% Syrah and 5% Mourvèdre.  Aged in vat rather than barrel.  Deep colour.  Quite a sturdy nose.  Ripe rounded fruit on the palate, balanced by a streak of tannin.  Sunny and supple. 

2013 Maury Blanc, Tertio – 8.00€
Pure Macabeu and 15.  Light colour.  A rounded honeyed nose, and a note of pears and more honey on the palate.  Perfect with Roquefort, suggested Jérôme.  I couldn’t disagree.