Friday, 29 January 2016

Domaine Picaro's

One of the excitements of ten days in the Languedoc  over New Year was the discovery of a new wine estate in my own adopted village.     Wine quality in Roujan is definitely beginning to look up.   As mentioned in a previous post, a wine from Domaine Picaro’s was amongst the Pays d’Oc Collection for 2015.  So I had to go and visit and see for myself. 

Pierre and Caroline have their cellar in the chemin de Pézenas.  Pierre Rouillé comes from a long-established Roujan family; his grandfather had the traditional Languedoc cellar with large foudres, while his father preferred to put his vines into the Roujan coop.  Pierre studied oenology at Dijon and then together he and Caroline went to work in Chile, in the Maule valley for three years.  When they returned to France, they wanted to create something from the family vines, and their first cuvée was born, Amano, a blend of Syrah and Grenache, handmade, as the name implies, with meticulous attention to detail.  They had a tiny basket press, which has now been upgraded to the smallest of pneumatic presses, and they destalk all the bunches by hand and then put the wine into feuillettes, which are even smaller than barriques and more commonly found in Chablis than in the Languedoc.  They do have a larger demi-muid as well.  

So of their ten hectares, seven are in the village coop, and three produce two wines, in tiny quantities.   They are gradually replanting and renovating their vineyards, and apart from Grenache Noir, Syrah and Carignan they also have some more international varieties, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, as well as Muscat à petits grains and an old vineyard of Grenache Blanc.   They also have some land they could clear and replant, and their next project is a white wine.

2014 Plurielles,  (11.00€)  which featured in the Pays d’Oc Collection, tasted just as good in their cellar. This was their first vintage.  It is a blend of 50% Syrah, with 25% each of Grenache Noir and Carignan, with some traditional vinification and some carbonic maceration.   They wanted some accessible fruit, and that is just what they have achieved, a wine with very appealing red fruit, with acidity as well as tannin and an elegant balance.  The Carignan vines are now 40 years old, and beginning to become interesting, as Caroline observed.

2012 Amano (25.00€) is a more serious proposition, with 50 % Grenache Noir and 50% Syrah, aged in wood, some new and some older, for ten months.  Both nose and palate are quite solid and rounded, but there is ripe fruit, with a touch of vanilla and some well integrated oak balancing the fruit, and again and elegant freshness on the finish.  Caroline explained how they work on a very long gentle extraction, with a four weeks maceration, as opposed to two for the Plurielles.  Destemming by hand also makes for very gentle handling, and gives more richness and concentration of flavour.     Undoubtedly this will benefit from some bottle age.    The quantities are tiny, just 1500 bottles of Amano and 3500 of les Plurielles.

And we finished with some 2015 vat samples:  a sturdy Grenache wit h ripe red fruit and tannins; a ripe perfumed Carignan  with some cherry fruit, and a firm spicy Syrah.  It all promises well for the future.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Winners from Decanter Magazine’s World Wine Awards at Le Wine Shop

What follows should have been published in bbbMidi during the autumn, but as that has not happened, for reasons I know not why, I thought I might as well post the article before Dom George has sold out of all the wines in question.
After ten years or so, Decanter Magazine’s annual World Wine Awards is now a well established competition, attracting over 10,000 entries from all round the world.  But why hold a competition? Sarah Kemp, the publisher of the magazine is emphatic.  She has her readers at heart, insisting that there is huge demand for recommendations, from a trusted source.  And it provides a magnificent snapshot of the wine market at that moment in time, recording each participating country’s successes.  Sarah also observed how democratic wine competitions are.  Everyone has a chance, provided you can afford the entrance fee in the first place, and it is not always the big names that win.  For some of the newer wine producing countries, or simply new producers, a wine competition can provide a useful marker. 
And that of course leads to the thorny question: how reliable and consistent is a judging panel?   There are many elements that come into play.   There is some discussion as to whether wines are affected by the bio-rhythms of the biodynamic calendar, with the suggestion that you should only taste wine on fruit days when it is showing at its best.  On a root day it will be much less expressive.   This may be a little far-fetched, or maybe not.   And certainly taste is affected by what has gone before, so that a blockbuster of a wine that is stuffed with alcohol and oak, will completely overwhelm a more delicate and subtle wine.   People do refer to ‘competition wines’, the wines that perform well, with a punch of flavour at the first taste. 
And judges are only human; we all have good days and off days, irrespective of personal preferences, so that consistency can be tricky to obtain.  A panel of three or more judges, as for Decanter, will help avoid any wildly varying assessments and should achieve an element of consistency.   As we all know, tasting is a very inexact science.   And objectivity is something to which we can aspire, but may not necessarily obtain.   Personal taste and preferences inevitably come into play, but despite that, I firmly believe that in a well-organised competition, outstanding quality will shine out and the right wines will win the gold medals. 
So here are some of the best of the Languedoc from this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards, all stocked at Le Wine Shop in Pézenas, or you could buy them directly from the producer. 
2014 Château Rives-Blanques, Odyssée, Limoux  (Silver medal)   - 12.50€
A little colour, from the barrel ageing.  A lightly buttery note on the nose and quite a rich palate, with some firm balancing acidity.  Nice texture and mouth feel and still quite youthful.  Limoux, with its slightly cooler climate, is one of the best places for Chardonnay in the Languedoc, with an appellation that demands ageing in barrel for the still white wines.  And this example comes from one of my favourite Limoux producers, an estate owned by an Irish-Dutch couple, Caryl and Jan Panman, who turned to wine for a second career.
2012 La Clape, Château Camplazens, Reserve, (Silver medal) – 12.00€ 
Quite a deep colour. Ripe spice and black fruit on the nose, and on the palate lots of rich fruit, with a balancing streak of tannin.  Full and textured with a dry leathery finish.  La Clape, just outside Narbonne, now has its own appellation.  And Château Camplazens is well worth a visit for the new tasting area, decorated with Simon Fletcher’s dramatic murals.  
2012 Minervois, Château de Gourgazaud, Réserve  (Silver Medal).   10.95€
Medium colour.  Quite firm dry leather spice on the nose and on the palate more leathery notes, with dry spice.  Youthful with good depth of flavour.  This wine has a strong sense of place, recalling the wild scenery of the Minervois hills. 
2011 Ste Cécile du Parc, Pézenas  (Silver Medal) – 25.00€
From a relatively new producer outside Pézenas.  The vineyards around Pézenas now form one of the crus of the Languedoc.  Good deep colour. A rich sturdy oaky nose and an intense palate, with firm tannins and youthful fruit.  Considerable depth and a long finish.  How will it age, I wonder?  
2012 Plan de l’Homme, Habilis, Terrasses du Larzac (Gold medal)  – 12.50€ 
Deep colour.  Firm spice on the nose and quite a rich palate. with stylish dry leather notes.  Rounded, ripe and rich with lots of depth and nuances of flavour, and a lovely long ripe finish.   Plan de l’Homme belongs to Rémi Duchemin, who first made his reputation in the Pic St. Loup at Domaine Mortiès, and at Plan de l’Homme  he has gone on to even better things. 
2012 Faugères, Domaine Ollier Taillefer, Grande Réserve   (Trophy)- 10.50€
This won the Languedoc red wine trophy, chosen from the gold medals, and quite rightly so.  It is an absolute classic example of the appeal of the Languedoc and the character of Faugères, and comes from one of the first estates to put Faugères in bottle.  There is some lovely rich spice balanced by a stony note of minerality, with a fresh finish.  Beautifully elegant and great value at 10.50€

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Pays d’Oc Collection 2015

Every year since 2007 the Pays d’Oc syndicat has organised a tasting to select the best of the Pays d’Oc which will represent the ‘appellation’ at various wine fairs and shows during the forthcoming year.  The idea is to showcase the best that the Pays d’Oc can offer, with wines chosen by a jury of not just French but also tasters from China, England, North America and Holland.  This year 320 wines were submitted, which were reduced to 56 in a first tasting, and then to 24 to make up the Collection 2015.  And those are the wines that I tasted a couple of weeks ago.  There were some surprises in the line-up – no pure Syrah, or pure Vermentino; only one rosé.  Most of the usual big names were present, but there were also some small unknown names, which was very satisfying.

So here goes with my tasting notes:
Domaine de l’Engarran, Cuvée la Lionne, 2014 Sauvignon – 9.40€
Light golden colour; quite a delicate nose, with a firm stony palate and a good acidity balance with the fruit.  Not especially Sauvignon on the nose, but the palate is a restrained example of a southern Sauvignon, with a nicely refreshing finish.

Serre de Guery, Cuvée l’Intelligence, 2014 Viognier  -6.50€
From Château Guery in Azille, in the Minervois.  Lightly peachy and more so on the palate, but a fresh style with good acidity and a nicely rounded finish.   Good varietal character, but not overwhelming for a Viognier.

Domaine de Puilacher, 2014 Chardonnay – 12.00€
Some French oak for the élevage.  Light golden, and lightly oaky nose and palate.  The oak dries the palate a bit too much for my taste, especially on the finish. 

Vignobles Lorgeril, Cuvée Marquis de Pennautier, Terroirs d’Altitude 2013 Chardonnay  - 10.30€
A proportion of this wine was fermented in wood, with some bâtonnage.  I found it fresher and more buttery on the nose than the previous wine.  Good acidity on the palate, with some rounded fruit and satisfying texture.  A dry but not a drying finish.

Domaine de Valensac, Entre Nous 2014 – 6.50€
From an estate in Florensac.  An intriguing blend of Sauvignon and Petit Manseng, with a small proportion of the Petit Manseng aged in wood.   The blend works very well, with the Petit Manseng providing hints of honey on the nose and palate, balanced with some pithy fruit from the Sauvignon.  Good acidity and a fresh finish. 

Domaine Condamine Bertrand, Cuvée Elixir 2014   - 12.00€
A blend of Roussanne and Viognier, with élevage in wood.  Light golden colour.  White blossom on the nose and palate.  They couldn’t tell me the precise proportions but it tastes as though there is very little Viognier, just enough to add some weight, but very little peachy fruit.  But a nicely rounded wine with some texture and well integrated oak.

Domaine de Tholomiès, Cuvée la Chapelle 2014 – 7.00€
A blend of Chardonnay and Viognier.  From Minervois la Livinière.  This estate has been bought by Grands Chais de France.  A peachy note, on nose and palate but quite a dry flat finish. Not very inspiring.

Les Vignerons de la Méditerranée, Cuvée Mythique 2014 – 8.00€
This is the flagship wine of the Vignerons Val d’Orbieu which is a large group of producers, and now part of an even larger organisation called Vinadeis.  A blend of Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc kept in stainless steel.  Some herbal notes on both nose and palate.  Quite rounded with good balancing acidity.  Fresh with a sympa southern note of white blossom. 

Domaine l’Ostal Cazes 2013 – 12.00€
Blend of 75% Viognier, 10% Marsanne and 10% Roussanne.  Élevage in wood, with a little of the Viognier fermented in wood.   An estate in Minervois la Livinière owned by Jean-Michel Cazes of Bordeaux fame.  Some dry peachy fruit on the nose, with more on the palate, with some white blossom.  Quite a structured palate.  The wood dominates the palate at the moment, but there is good acidity too, and a youthful finish.  This might develop in bottle. 

Domaine du Grand Chemin, Cuvée Anthus  – 9,80€
From an estate in the Gard.  A blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon and Vermentino with six months ageing in 400 litre barrels.  Light golden colour.  A lot of nuances.  Quite fresh acidity and quite mouth filling on the palate.  Youthful.  Some oak on the finish, but generally rather intriguing and original.  I would have like to have spent more time with it.

Les Costières de Pomérols, Cuvée Beauvignac, Muscat à petits grains 2014 – 5.00€
From one of the leading Picpoul de Pinet coops.  Fresh pithy Muscat fruit, and even more so on the palate, with a hint of sweetness on the finish, avoiding the bitterness you sometimes get with Muscat.  Fresh and understated, and quite elegant for a Muscat.

Domaine du Grand Chemin, Cuvée l’Incroyable  rosé 2014 – 9.40€
A blend of Cinsaut and Pinot Noir.  Pressed grapes.  Orange pink colour and quite a delicate nose, with a rounded palate that finishes a touch flat.  Not very expressive, and tiring a little.  The new vintage will be available in a couple of months.

Chapoutier, Marius Grenache 2014 – 6.35€
Medium colour. Ripe cherry nose and palate.  Quite fresh with a youthful tannic streak, with refreshing fruit.  Easy drinking,

2013 Fortant de France, Pinot Noir.  Terroir de Collines – 6.00€
Medium colour. Quite delicate raspberry fruit on nose.  Light fruit on the palate. Fresh and elegant with a dry finish, and a touch of wood.  I am not generally that keen on Pinot Noir in the Languedoc, but this is an exception. 

Les Vignes de l ‘Arque, Cuvée les Boissières, 2013 Merlot – 7.95€
From near Alès in the Gard,.  Quite a deep young colour.  Quite rounded plummy fruit on nose and palate.  Some tannin balanced by ripe black fruit.   Quite full-bodied and quite youthful with tannin on the finish. 

Domaine Gayda, Figure Libre, Cabernet Franc 2013 – 15.00€
Deep colour.  Some ripe red fruit.  Very Cabernet Franc.  Fresh, with youthful tannins.  Medium weight.  Fresh red fruit.  Very good balance.  The oak is very well integrated.  A lovely glass of wine.  I liked this a lot.   For more info about Gayda, see my post from last autumn. 

Domaine de Brau, 2013 ‘ PURE Cabernet Franc’– 8.50€
From Villemoustaussou in Cabardès, near Carcassonne.   No oak.  Medium colour.  Quite tight red fruit and quite firm and structured on the palate.  Youthful and fresh, but also less ripe than the wine from Gayda.  A sympathique comparison.  Both have their place. 

Domaines Paul Mas,  Cuvée Astelia, Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – 29.90€
Aged 70% in American oak and 30% in French oak, for six months.    Deep colour. Quite solid rounded ripe oak and cassis fruit.  Quite a sturdy wine and characterful, but quite firm tannins that need to soften and a touch alcoholic on the finish.  Needs time. 

Domaine de la Jasse, Tête de cuvée de la Jasse 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.   – 15.00€
12 months in wood.  Quite a deep young colour.  Quite concentrated nose with cassis and some firm tannins. Is there enough acidity too? A bit flat on the finish with some drying oak.   Lacks elegance.

Picaro’s Cuvée Plurielle, 2014 – 11.00€
A blend of Syrah Grenache and Carignan, aged in vat.   All the Carignan and half the Syrah is vinified by maceration carbonic and the rest, the Grenache Noir and half the Syrah with a classic vinification.   Lovely fresh ripe fruit and spice.  Medium weight.   A very appealing glass of wine, and it comes from my adopted village of Roujan, so I’ve planned a cellar visit to find out more- watch this space.

Domaine les Yeuses, Cuvée Ȏ d’Yeuses 2013 - 9.20€
Marselan and Cabernet Franc from an estate near Mèze.  Quite a deep colour.  Quite rounded with some fresh fruit and spice.  The balance of the two grape varieties works very well , with some nicely integrated oak giving some structure,  Medium weight with good fruit.

Clos Sorian, Cuvée MG 2010 – 9.00€
80% Merlot with 20% Grenache.  Quite solid and rounded with good tannins.  The Merlot gives some structure with the Grenache providing some flesh and body.  A fresh finish with no wood.  Firm and youthful. 

Domaine de Bachellery, Ballade en Straminer – 9.90€
The name is another way of telling you that the grape variety is Gewurztraminer, which used not to be allowed in the Languedoc.   These days it features on the official list of authorised grape varieties. Rounded spice and quite rich, and although the fiche technique says blanc doux, the wine is not that sweet and does not say so on the label.  It is simply rounded and rich with some ripe spice.  And a rare example of Gewürztraminer in the Languedoc, with good varietal character.

Les Vignes de l’Arque, Cuvée Saveur d’Automne – 12.00€
This does say doux on the label.  It comes from Viognier that was picked late and then fermented and aged in oak for nine months.  Golden colour.  Quite rich, rounded and intense on the nose, and palate, balanced with some acidity.  Ripe and peachy, with good mouth feel, rich with good weight.  And a very satisfying finale to the tasting.   And another good discovery. 

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Domaine Jones in London

Katie Jones was in London last month and showing her most recent vintages at the Maison du Languedoc one evening, so I popped in for a quick update.  In fact Katie gave quite a comprehensive and entertaining presentation of her wines, relating anecdotes about life in a small French village off the beaten track.  Three things occupy the villagers of Tuchan, namely rugby, wine and la chasse.   Wild boar are particularly partial to ripe Muscat grapes.   And Katie talked about buying her first vineyards – blame her parents, who happened to mention that they rather fancied having a vineyard in the south of France.   And since that first purchase, she has gradually acquired several plots of old vines.

2014 Jones Blanc,  Grenache Gris Côtes Catalanes
Rounded leafy herbal fruit on both nose and palate.   Quite a firm youthful finish, but with lovely acidity and nicely mouth filling.  I am becoming ever more enthusiastic about Grenache Gris; it really is an exciting grape variety.  13.5

2014 Carignan Gris, Vieilles Vignes.
Quite a delicate nose, with quite firm fruit on the palate.  Again very good acidity; that is what Carignan is known for, giving good structure and freshness.   A lovely example of a forgotten grape variety, that is even rarer than Carignan Blanc.  Fully deserving of a revival.  13

2014 Maccabeu Vieilles Vignes
Light dry herbal nose; quite delicate.  A rounded palate, with some body and soft fruit, with a firm finish.    It is unusual to have Maccabeu as a single varietal, but this works very well.  14

2013 Jones Rouge, Grenache Noir, Côtes Catalanes
Medium red colour.  Fresh cherry fruit on the nose.  Medium weight palate, with more fresh cherry fruit, and a touch of pepper.  Young and fresh and lightly spicy.  

2013 Fitou
A blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah.  Medium colour.  Quite rich peppery fruit on the nose and quite a firm sturdy palate.  Gusty and concentrated, with firm stony minerality.  Youthful and characterful with plenty of potential.  14.5

2013 Carignan Noir, Côtes Catalanes.
Quite a deep young colour.  Quite a firm sturdy nose and palate.  Sturdy ripe red fruit.  Firm tannins, youthful spice.  Good weight and nicely balanced. 

In short, six splendidly characterful wines.   Do check out Katie’s website and consider joining her wine club La Gare du Vin Club

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Mas d’Albo

After tasting one of Fabien Azema’s wines at the Maison des Vins in St. Chinian, I was keen to visit the estate, which is just outside the village of Roquebrun.  The name comes from his great grandfather, who was called Albo, and the estate now totals 11 hectares, in 22 different plots, at an altitude of 350 metres, all in the hamlet of Ceps outside Roquebrun.

As for grape varieties, they have the usual reds of  the Languedoc, but no Cinsaut, and for white wine Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne, but those vineyards are not classified St Chinian.    An error when the appellation was created in 1982 and the comment was made that if all such errors were rectified, the appellation would increase by 300 hectares.

The vines have been in the family for several generations.  Fabien’s grandfather was a member of the cooperative, and  his father bottled his first wine in 2004 and removed the vines from the coop.  Fabien officially took over the estate when his father retired in 2014, but judging from a brief appearance, retirement is the last thing on his father’s mind.  Fabien had initially worked in education, with children with special needs, and then returned to wine.    Part of their production is sold to the négoce, as they gradually attempt to increase the percentage sold in bottle.    We settled down  in their welcoming tasting room, to taste through the range.  There is an interesting display of sundry items that they have found in their vineyards, fossils and other artefacts.

2014 Languedoc Blanc, Louis – 7.00€
Roussanne, with a drop of Grenache Blanc.  You do need two grape varieties to make appellation Languedoc.   The vines are on schist, but are not not St. Chinian,  and the grapes are handpicked.  Some lees stirring in vat gives some weight and body to the wine.  Mineral nose, with firm tight knit fruit on the palate.  Some white flowers and a hint of honey on the finish.  Louis is Fabien’s nephew, born on the last day of the harvest  in 2014.  

2014 Viognier, Pays d’Oc – 8.00
Similar vinification to the Roussanne, with some lees stirring, but a lower yield of 20-25 hls/ha, as opposed to 30 hl/ha.    A little peach and apricot on the nose.  Good acidity, delicate peachy fruit with some weight, from the bâtonnage, on the palate and a fresh  finish.   Fabien wants wines with length. 
Asked about viticulture, he replied 'lutte raisonnée plus'.  Their vineyards are very stony, and it is impossible to use an intercep, the machine used to weed between the vines.  Also they have lots of small plots, and if the neighbours are not organic too, it can be problematic   But they till the vines as much as possible.  

2014 Or Blanc, Languedoc – 12.00€
A blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Grenache blanc.  The Roussanne is given three months élevage in wood.  A little colour. Quite a rounded nose, with a touch of oak and on the palate quite rich and mouth filling,with some weight and satisfying texture.  And a long finish.  It is bottled soon after blending.

2014 St. Chinian rosé -5.50€
A blend of 40% each of Syrah and Grenache Noir, with 20% Mourvèdre.  All pressed.  A delicate pretty pink, with a delicate nose.  Quite a rounded palate, quite full with raspberry and strawberry fruit.  A little weight on the finish.  The wine develops nicely in the glass.

2012 St. Chinian, Cuvée Augustin – 7.50€
Named after another nephew.  One third each of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, blended at the beginning of December after the malo.    A little carbonic maceration on the Syrah and 18 months élevage in vat.  Good colour.  Fabien wants spice and freshness and that is what he has achieved with some ripe spice on the nose, with firm fruit on the palate.  Medium weight. He observed that the  Mourvèdre gives some peppery notes.  Quite a long finish.

2012 St. Chinian Le Pérarol – 7.50€
A traditional  blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan.  The name of the plot, and an attractive label with the silhouette of the Caroux that dominates the vineyards of St. Chinian.  18 months élevage, including a little oak for the Carignan, for 12 months, to patiner un petit peu.  It is well integrated.  Medium colour.  Quite a firm nose, with some mineral fruit on the palate, with good balance.  ‘Very schist’ observed Nelly from la Maison des Vins.   Nicely rounded and elegant with a long finish.  I really liked this and it is great value.  A relatively short maceration of 15 – 20 days.

2010 St Chinian Or Brun – 14.00€ 
A play on words.  It could be Roquebrun, but is not. The Orb is the river that flows through Roquebrun, so Or Brun.   Mainly Syrah with a drop of Carignan and Mourvèdre.  12 months in older barriques. Good deep colour.  Quite a firm sturdy nose and palate, quite a solid, dense palate, but with good fruit and the oak is well integrated.  Quite a firm sturdy youthful finish.  Needs time.  13.5˚ The Syrah is given three weeks carbonic maceration and the Carignan and Mourvèdre enjoy a classic fermentation.  The carbonic maceration makes the wine more volouté.  The soil is quite acid, so they add lime to balance the pH.

2012 St. Chinian Or Brun
A longer maceration and the oak is more present,.  Quite solid and rounded, with firmer oak and more weight on the palate.   On the day the 2010 was showing better,   Obviously there is also a question of age. 

And then we tasted a couple of 2013s, a fresher and later vintage than 2012.  The whites were picked on 15th September, and the reds on 21st

2013 Augustin
Fresh red fruit; very supple and very aromatic.  A touch confit on the finish.   The aim of this wine is an emphasis on the fruit.  And that is exactly what there is.

2013 Le Pérarol
Quite a firm youthful nose, with fresh red fruit and spice.  An elegant backbone of tannin.  A certain mineral finish and very good balance.

And we finished with 2013 Moelleux Vin de France
A blend of Grenache blanc and Muscat, picked when they were very ripe, a potential 15˚, with the finished wine 13˚.  The fermentation is stopped by chilling, leaving 50 gms/l residual sugar.  Very perfumed Muscat fruit on both nose and palate, rounded sweetness, with a slightly bitter hint and also a hit of fennel.  

And projects for the future ?  To improve quality and increase sales in bottle. 

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Domaine Guiraud

Or to give it its full title, Domaine Boissezon-Guiraud. 

Pomplia Guiraud explained that they had had problems with Château Guiraud in Sauternes, even though Guiraud is her husband’s family name and the family have been in Roquebrun for 200 years.   And as well as vineyards in Roquebrun, they also have vineyards in the nearby village of Causse-et-Veyran, and that is where Boissezon comes in, with a wedding some fifty years ago.  Altogether they have 58 hectares, one third in Roquebrun and two thirds in Causse-et-Veyran.   Pomplia comes from Romania; she met Michel Guiraud when he was there on holiday.  He took over the family estate thirty years ago, and began bottling his wine about twenty years ago.   And they make a diverse range of wines, which we tasted in the old cellar. 

2014 Les Hirondelles, Pays de l’Hérault  - 7.00€
A pure Sauvignon. Classic fermentation.  Fresh pithy fruit on the nose and rounded Sauvignon fruit on the palate, with some varietal character.  A pleasant glass of wine, without any great depth.

2014 Les Petits Cailloux, Pays de l’Hérault – 5.50€
White blossom on the nose.  Rounded ripe palate, with some texture and mouth feel.  Fresh fruit. Medium weight and easy drinking.
And with this 2015 harvest they will make a St. Chinian Blanc for the first time  from Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache blanc. 

2014 Rosé, La Dame Rose, Pays de l’Hérault – 5.50€
A blend of Mourvèdre and Cinsaut that could equally well be a St. Chinian. Light colour.  Light fruit on the nose and quite a rounded palate, with some ripe fruit, dry raspberries.  All saigné.  The Mourvèdre gives it some structure making it a food rosé.   From vineyards in Roquebrun.   

2013 Grenache Noir, Sans Pareil, Pays de l’Hérault – 5.50€
Not made in 2014 as there was not enough Grenache, as the vines suffered from drought in Causse-et-Veyran.  Nor are all the vines in Causse-et-Veyran are classified as St Chinian.  Medium young colour. Soft ripe fruit on both the nose and palate.  Quite ripe and spicy, soft and fleshy and a slightly jammy note on the finish.  Easy drinking.  

2014 Les Cerises, St. Chinian – 7.00€
From Roquebrun, but it doesn’t say so on the label.  55% Syrah with Grenache Noir, Carignan and Cinsaut.   Medium colour.  Quite soft ripe fruit on the nose.  Quite rounded and spicy; easy drinking. 
They practice lutte raisonnée rather than organic viticulture.  They have just three employees and would need several more if they were to be organic.

2014 St Chinian.  Comme à Cayenne – 9.50€
Each wine always comes from the same plot each year, and this plot, called Brusse Noir, is particularly difficult to work, with very stony soil.  Hence the reference to French Guyana where convicts were sent for forced labour.  This is a blend of 85% Grenache Noir and 15% Carignan, picked together and fermented together.  Medium colour; quite ripe spicy nose.  Medium weight palate.  A touch of rustic tannin from the Carignan.  Aged in vat .  Refreshing drinking. 

2011 Château Boissezon-Guiraud, St. Chinian – 7.00€
From the clay and limestone soil of Causse-et-Veyran.  A blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir, Carignan and Cinsaut.  Élevage in vat.  Medium colour.  Lightly smoky and a bit stalky on the nose.  Better palate with some appealing peppery fruit.  A touch confit on the finish.

2012 La Suite dans les Idées, St. Chinian – 11.00€
Mainly Mourvèdre, with some Grenache and Carignan.  Aged in vat.   They seem to have a slightly ambivalent attitude to oak barrels, using them up to 2006 and then trying again in 2012.  Quite solid ripe fruit.  Quite concentrated, with a sweet note, and also a slightly green note.   Like virtually everyone else in Roquebrun, they don’t mention Roquebrun on the label, observing that it is not very well known, so doesn’t really add anything – though Pomplia did now admit that they were beginning to have second thoughts.

2012 Cap Nègre,  Pays de l’Hérault – 10.00€
This is the name of plot.  A pure Alicante Bouschet, from 30 year old vines.   Quite solid and sturdy with black fruit on the nose.  Quite tannic and dense.  Aged in vat.   An amusing back label written in medical terms ,  suggesting a moderate consumption and that it would go well with black chocolate.

2010 Terre Promise, St. Chinian – 15.00€
85% Syrah, 15% Carignan.  Aged in  vat.   For some reason I did not find this very harmonious.   There was sturdy fruit and some peppery spice, but with an awkward edge on the finish.  Maybe it needs a bit more bottle age. 

And projects  for the future?  Maybe another rosé, as well as a white St. Chinian.  And maybe a new red cuvée.  They are full of ideas.   And then we went to see some of the vineyards on the outskirts of the village.  

Monday, 4 January 2016

New Year's Eve in the Languedoc

New Year’s Eve in the Languedoc turned out to be a day with three completely different wine experiences.

First stop, Domaine Ollier-Taillefer in Fos to taste their new cuvée, Le Rêve de Noé, but you can’t pop in to Françoise Ollier’s friendly cellar and taste just one wine.  First we compared 2012 and 2011 Grande Réserve.  2012 is elegant and spicy, while 2011 is richer and more concentrated.  Next came their oaked cuvée Castel Fossibus, with a similar vintage difference, and then we broached Le Rêve de Noé.  

Françoise explained that in 2013 their Mourvèdre was perfectly ripe, and the grapes were so good that they deserved a careful élevage in a new oak barrel.  But she and her brother Luc do not like mono-cépages, so they added a barrel of particularly good Syrah that was also aged in a new barrel, to make just 800 bottles and 60 magnums.  There will be none in 2014, but they have made it again in 2015.   And it is a serious glass of wine, beautifully balanced and harmonious with fruit and oak, and not at all heavy, despite an alcohol level of 15.5˚. It combines concentration and elegance, with a lovely long lingering finish, and will age beautifully.  It is an excellent addition to their range.

Early evening found us visiting a friend with a fractured pelvis in the hospital in Clermont l’Hérault.  Her supper arrived, and her eyes lit up.  It came with a glass of red wine – you don’t get that on the National Health, we commented.  And then she tried the wine and her face said it all.  So purely out of professional curiosity, I had to try it too.   Frankly, and sadly, it was mean and lean; an example of the kind of wine that once gave the Languedoc such a bad reputation.   Today with the improvements in viticulture and wine making, there is no excuse for such wine.  We promised to bring a bottle with us the next time we visited.

And then on to dinner with friends, to enjoy as it turned out, some of the best of the Languedoc.  A welcoming glass of 2013 J Laurens Les Graimenous, Crémant de Limoux, which was fresh and creamy.  A glass of Domaine Barroubio’s Muscat de St. Jjean de Minervois went beautifully with some foie gras; it was fresh, honeyed and lemony.   With an elegant prawn or three, we enjoyed 2007 Pas de l’Escalette Blanc.  Julien Zernott is a particularly talented white wine maker, and this was delicious, evolving nicely, but still very youthful with good acidity and some mineral notes.  Who said that Languedoc whites do not age?   Next was 2002 Chloé from Jean-Louis Denois in Limoux, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet.  Again this was drinking beautifully, nicely mature and rounded with some ripe cassis fruit and a harmonious finish. And the finale was a Rivesaltes Tuilé from Domaine des Chênes.  Alain Razungles is one of the most talented wine makers of Roussillon and he has a way with sweet wines.  This was delicious, lightly chilled, and tasted of red fruit and figs with a touch of spice.   A great way to end the year. 

Happy New Year – Bonne Année!!