Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Outsiders

The Outsiders is a friendly group of Languedoc producers, who do not originate from the region but from all four corners of the globe and other parts of France.   A group of them were in London earlier this month for what proved to be a great tasting.  I am not going to regurgitate my tasting notes for every single wine, but simply highlight a favourite from each producer.  And apologies, I completely omitted to make a note of prices.  

Domaine Ste Rose   2011 Roussanne Barrel Selection, Pays d’Oc
Ruth and Charles Simpson have made a bit of a speciality of Roussanne.   The wine is still very young and with some quite obvious oak, but it is classy oak, and will, from the experience of previous vintages, tone down nicely with some bottle age.  The wine is rich and textured, with layers of flavour, of white blossom, and will develop beautifully in bottle.

Rives Blanques  2012 Limoux, Dédicace, Chenin blanc.
I realise that I have developed something of soft spot for this wine, and the 2012 did not disappoint.  It is honeyed and nutty on the nose, with dry honeyed fruit on the palate, with balancing acidity and a long rich finish. It is drinking beautifully now, but will also age – see my earlier post about the ageability of white wines from the Languedoc.

Clos du Gravillas  2013 lo Viehl Carignan, Côtes du Brian.
A wine that shows just how good Carignan is, and why it is so deserving of a revival in its reputation.  Treat it properly, as Nicole and John Bojanowski do, and it responds beautifully.  This has a deep colour, with some firm peppery fruit on the nose, and firm but ripe berry fruit on the palate, and with a youthful note of tannin, and the benchmark rustic streak that is classic Carignan.   

Domaine de Cébène, Faugères, 2013 Felgaria
Brigitte Chevalier makes some of the most elegant Faugères and she is particularly enthusiastic about her Mourvèdre based cuvée.  So am I.  She was showing both 2012 and 2013 Felgaria.  2013 has a firm nose, with some ripe fruit and appealing youthful peppery spice on the palate.  The hallmark is elegance.

Château St. Jacques d’Albas, Minervois, 2013 le Garric
Graham Nutter has added a new wine to his range of Minervois, le Garric, made from young vines, and a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.  It has fresh peppery fruit on both nose and palate, with a youthful streak of tannin, making for some easy drinking.  Le Domaine and le Château de St. Jacques d’Albas are both more serious.   

Le Clos du Serres, 2013 le Saut du Poisson, Languedoc  
A blend of 60% Grenache Blanc with some Roussanne and Vermentino.  A small part of the Grenache is vinified in wood which fills out the palate nicely.  Fresh lemony white flowers on the nose, and an elegantly rounded palate.  Nicely textured with good fruit and fresh acidity. 

Domaine Modat, 2011 Sans Plus Attendre, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Caramany
This is mainly Syrah with a little Grenache Noir and Carignan, of which 60% is aged in demi muids. Philippe Modat began with barriques but has moved on to 500 litre barrels.  Good colour.  Firm and peppery on the nose, with ripe black fruit on the palate.  Ripe and peppery and youthful.  A full bodied mouthful of flavour. .

Domaine Turner-Pageot, 2013 la Rupture, Vin de France – 16.00€
I don’t normally like Sauvignon in the Midi, but there are exceptions to every generalisation and Manu Pageot’s 2013 La Rupture is one of them.   50% of the wine spent seven weeks on the skins and there is lots of firm stony mineral fruit on the nose and palate.  It is youthful, tight knit and structured and firmly mineral on the finish. 

Domaine Ste Hilaire, 2012 Silk Chardonnay, Pays d’Oc   15.00€
I have a soft spot for Ste Hilaire’s Vermentino and their 2014 has some appealing fresh lemony herbal notes on the nose and palate, with good acidity.  However, I was also taken by 2012 Chardonnay Silk, a reference to Jonathan James’career in the legal world.   Silk is lightly buttery on the nose and quite elegant and rounded on the palate, stylish with a good balance of fruit and understated oak. 

Domaine le Madura 2012 Classique Rouge
This is one of my favourite St. Chinian estates and it was difficult to decide whether to enthuse about the Classique or the Grand Vin, or indeed about red or white wine.   I’ve opted for 2012 Classique Rouge, with rounded ripe red fruit on the nose, and an elegant palate, with more red fruit and spice, and a fresh finish.

Château Beauregard Mirouze, Corbières Rosé Tradition – 7.00€
I’ll go for their rosé, partly because I have yet to mention a rosé, and secondly and more importantly because it is fresh and fruity, with notes of strawberries and a little vinosity on the finish.   In other words it is everything that a rosé should be, making perfect summer drinking.   It is a blend of macerated Syrah and pressed Grenache Noir.

Château d’Angles, la Clape, 2013 Classique, blanc – 9.50€
Another difficult choice here, red or white or even rosé.  Good white la Clape always has a fresh salinity and this is no exception.  You immediately sense that the vineyards are close to the sea, with an underlying salinity on both the nose and palate, with firm fruit and texture.  It is wonderfully satisfying.   The sappy, salty character is part of the charm of La Clape. 50% Bourboulenc, with 30% Grenache Blanc and some Marsanne and Roussanne.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Montpeyroux Caveaux Ouverts in 2015

Montpeyroux seems to be very unlucky with its choice of day for the annual caveaux ouverts.   For the third year running, the weather was distinctly unkind, for the third Sunday in April was wet, but happily not cold, and sandwiched by a sunny Saturday and Monday.   Conditions really did not allow for serious tasting.  We scuttled from cellar to cellar, saying hallo to friends, at Villa Dondona, Domaine d’Aupilhac, Mas d’Amile and so one.  Note taking was a tad minimalist. But what really remained in my mind at the end of the day was just how good the white wines are.  There were some real stars:

2013 Espérel from Villa Dondona had lovely herbal notes, reminiscent of ripe fennel, with quite a full palate, rounded with good acidity. and stacks of character. And the 2012 had filled out deliciously and settled down nicely.

Alba from Domaine du Joncas is a pure Grenache Gris, with herbal notes on the nose, and firm acidity and minerality on the palate.  It was fresh and youthful with a long finish and plenty of potential.

Mas d’Amile’s 2014 Terret Blanc is firm and mineral on the nose, with good weight on the palate.  The flavours are firm, with a mineral, volcanic note, and a rounded finish. 

Alain Chabanon had a pair of whites.  First we tried 2013 le Petit Trelans, which is a 70% Vermentino with some Chenin blanc.  It was fresh and herbal with a mineral note and some apricot fruit on the finish.  It spends a year in foudres and some time in vat.   In contrast 2011 Trelans has less Vermentino, with more Chenin blanc in the blend and is given a longer élevage.   The flavours are richer with more weight and texture, with good acidity and an elegant finish.

Sylvain Fadat's Cocalières blanc 2014 at Domaine d'Aupilhac was fresh and mineral with good acidity, while the 2008 – he always shows older vintages – made without any so2 was surprisingly youthful, rounded with a stony note and leesy flavours and softer acidity.  It was an intriguing finale to our tasting.

And then we restored ourselves with some warming Aligot, a wonderful combination of mashed potato and cheese, with a touch of garlic, eaten under the cover of the old market hall, and to the accompaniment of a local band.  I particularly admired a head of dreadlocks in the form of corks, and the agility of a stilt walker who was able to skip, as well as walk.  .  

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

2014 Faugères

The Comité des Vins du Languedoc organises a week of tastings of the new vintage, usually, as far as I am concerned, badly timed to coincide with the annual Decanter World Wine Awards.   This year things worked out slightly better and I was able to attend the Faugères tasting at the beginning of the week.

It was held at a rather draughty venue, a large marquee at Mas du Cheval, outside Lattes.  Not all the producers of Faugères were there, as not everyone was ready to show their 2014s.  Some wines were already in bottle, but not all.  Altogether I tried the wines from 20 estates, totalling some 109 wines. There is no doubt that the best are absolutely delicious with plenty of potential, from a challenging vintage with complicated weather during the harvest.  Highlights included wines from Mas d’Alezon, Ollier Taillefer, Ancienne Mercerie, Cébène and St. Antonin.   And the tasting also included three of the four new wine growers of the year, Mas Lou, Mas Nicolas and Domaine de l’Arbussèle.  Sadly Domaine de l’Epidaure was missing as Jérôme Vialla was suffering from flu. 

However, probably more interesting was a small tasting of Faugères vin de garde, of  wines from the very successful 2005 vintage.  This, with my very English approach to a wine tasting, was a very French affair.  A small core of the audience spent about an hour discussing four wines.  I had thought that we would taste far more wines, and did indeed manage to taste the wines shown at an earlier tasting, so altogether a total of eight 2005s.  Some were delicious and some had not aged well, or had initial winemaking faults.  Ten years less experience of how to use an oak barrel showed.   To my mind, the most pertinent comment of the tasting came from Bernard Vidal of Château la Liquière, when he observed:  the ability to age may be a characteristic of a wine, but is it necessarily an element of quality?   That certainly provoked food for thought. 

Those of us brought up on Bordeaux and Burgundy expect fine wine to age – it is definitely a quality that is an essential part of the appreciation of fine red wine, that it will evolve and develop greater nuances, depth and subtly with bottle age.  However,  in the Languedoc the tradition for ageing red wine in bottle is much less developed.  Quite simply it has not been part of the wine culture of the Midi.  Climatic conditions did not allow for it, unless you had an insulated cellar.  But gradually things are changing.  There is a realisation, especially as élevage in oak barrels is much better understood, that ageing can be a quality factor.  It does not apply to all wines.  Many are those whose youthful charm is their chief virtue, but there are those, with balance and concentration, which will develop with bottle age.   The selection of eight wines included some elegant evolution, such as Ancienne Mercerie’s la Couture, Mas d’Alezon’s Montfalette and Ollier Taillefer’s Castel Fossibus.  They represent yet another aspect of the myriad of flavours of the Languedoc.