Friday, 27 May 2016

Aimé Guibert

I was very sad to read last week that Aimé Guibert had died, at the age of 91.  With the creation of Mas de Daumas Gassac, Aimé was undoubtedly one of the great pioneers of the Languedoc, helping to bring the region into the modern era. The story of how Aimé discovered that he was sitting on a viticultural gold mine is well known; Mas de Daumas Gassac was bought as a holiday home but with advice from the geologist Henri Enjalbert, and from Professor Emile Peynaud, it quickly became one the leading estates of the Languedoc during the 1980s.     

Aimé was an articulate and confident exponent of his wine; he had come to the Languedoc from the tanning industry in Millau, and saw the Languedoc with new eyes, appreciating the possibilities it had to offer.  More importantly he took advantage of them, and even more significantly he had the financial means to do so.   In doing so he has contributed enormously to the dramatic change in the image of the Languedoc that took place towards the end of the last century.  Aimé also set a new level of expectation concerning price, especially for what on the label is a simple vin de pays de l’Hérault.  He showed that the category was irrelevant; it was quality that counted and in the early days Mas de Daumas was able to command consistently higher prices than any other Languedoc estate, and it set an example for others to follow, which they have done.   He demonstrated that the higher, but not excessive prices, gave wine growers the possibility to invest in better cellar facilities and new vineyards.   The Languedoc could move on from cheap wine.    

Aimé is also known for his stand against the incursions of Robert Mondavi into the Languedoc, as recorded in Jonathan Nossiter’s film Mondovino.  Whether Aimé fought for the right cause or not, is open for discussion.   What is in no doubt is the energy and passion with which he applied himself to the cause.  And Mondavi retired from the field.   

Samuel Guibert, who takes over the running of Mas de Daumas Gassac, with his siblings, Roman, Gaël and Basile quotes his father as saying:  One can only give two things to one’s children: roots and wings.   And that is what Samuel strongly feels that his father has done. 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

A Languedoc moment at the Château de Pennautier

Every year the CIVL, or to give it its full name, the Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins du Languedoc, organises a week of tasting and visits for the appellations of the Languedoc, with the main aim to show off the new vintage.  This year everything took place in or around Carcassonne, so I went over for a couple of events.  In the afternoon, I concentrated on La Clape, and in particular on some lovely whites.   I am not going to bore you with a whole lot of tasting notes,  but just highlight a few names, such Mas de Soleilla, Château d’Anglès, Domaine Pech Redon, Mire l’Etang, Sarrat de Goundry.  I love the fresh saline notes of white La Clape, which all of these wines showed.  There were some fine reds too, Mas Soleilla les Bartelles, Domaine Ricardelle, Château d’Anglès, both the Grand Vin and the Cuvée Classique, among others.

And the following morning I checked out some Fitou, which for some reason is an appellation that I don’t often get to taste.  Château de Montmal from Mont Tauch was showing well, as were wines from Domaine Bertrand Bergé, but they did seem to be quite a mixed bag, with some rather drying leathery fruit in some cases, or heavy-handed use of oak.  The best were fresh and peppery with spicy flavours.  There was scope for an in-depth look at Corbières, but by then my taste buds were flagging.  I did however, taste a couple of Minervois, 2014 les Fontanilles from Anne Gros, which was elegantly and spicy, as befits a Burgundian winemaker;  2014 Clos du Gravillas Rendez-Vous sur la Lune was showing well with some fresh peppery fruit, and 2010 C de Centeilles from Picpoul Noir, Ribeyrenc Noir and Oeillade was rounded with some fresh firm flavours, and an intriguing example of an attempt to revive long forgotten grape varieties.  .

But the highlight of the event was undoubtedly the evening at Château Pennautier, a 17th century château that is the property of the de Lorgeril family, in the appellation of Cabardès.   First we had a quick look at the streamlined modern cellar and then the aperitif was served on the terrace so that we could admire the elegant architecture, and fine proportions of the château, and enjoy various rosés from Cabardès.   This was not the moment for detailed tasting notes, and my notebook failed me.   

And then we went inside for a small concert before dinner.  This really was magical, with a string trio, Trio Borsalino, playing Vivaldi’s Spring from the Four Seasons, and then a selection of film music and other tunes.  The château was the perfect setting.  A delicious dinner cooked by Jean-Marc Boyer from the restaurant, Puits du Trésor, was served with more Cabardès.  Cabardès is where the Mediterranean meets the grape varieties of Bordeaux and there is an immediate contrast with the wines of neighbouring Minervois.  My notes were pretty cursory, but highlights included wines from Domaine de Cazaban with Demoiselle Claire, a blend of Syrah and Merlot, with some spice and tannin.   2013 Château Pennautier, Terres d’Altitude was elegant with fresh fruit and balancing tannins.   I found I favoured fruit rather than oaky tannins.  But the real high point of the evening was undoubtedly the music in elegant surroundings, making a memorable Languedoc moment.  

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Montpeyroux Toutes Caves Ouvertes 2016

I always enjoy the Montpeyroux open cellars day but once again, sadly, the weather was not too good, and really not conducive to open air tasting.  And we also had to take a friend to the airport, so our visit was quite short and focused on a few favourites.  I don’t think that there were any new estates this year.

A brief hallo to Jo and André at Villa Dondona.  Jo was enthusing about the ageability of her whites, and showing 2012 Espérel, with some leafy honeyed fruit on the nose, and more herbal notes on the palate, with a good balance of acidity.  And the 2010 Espérel has evolved beautifully, proving Jo's point, with dry herbal notes on the nose, and rounded leafy honeyed fruit on the palate.  It had developed a lovely depth after a couple of years more bottle age.

And her 2010 Montpeyroux was rich and satisfying, with some oak on the nose and some wonderfully rounded ripe black fruit and tapenade on the palate, with balancing freshness of acidity on the finish.   Another lovely glass of wine.

Then we popped in to see Amélie d’Hurlaborde of Mas d'Amile.  Her stand is always very popular, so it was quite difficult to taste in the crush.  2015 Terret Blanc was rich and nutty with firm acidity.  2014 Vieux Carignan was rounded and smoky with some red fruit and a fresh finish, showing just why Carignan deserves its revival in the Languedoc.   2014 Montpeyroux was firm and smoky with youthful fruit and some dry spice on the finish.

I always enjoy Alain Chabanon’s white wines and this year was no exception.  2015 Petit Trelans, was dry and herbal, fresh and sappy, with a slightly dusty note on the finish, and 2012 Trelans, which spends a year in large barrel as well as two in vat, with more Chenin blanc than Vermentino, was beautifully rounded with dry honey, and ripe fruit, and nicely balanced finish.

His 2014 Montpeyroux Campredon was drinking well too, with fresh ripe fruit and a touch of spice, making for some good easy drinking.

And we finished up in Sylvain Fadat’s cellar for 2015 Aupilhac Blanc, with lovely herbal notes and fresh citrus acidity.  2014 Cocalières was rounded, stony and mineral, tight knit with more weight than the Aupilhac.

2015 les Servières Cinsaut was a great expression of that variety, which is becoming increasingly popular for red wine.  This was fresh and perfumed on the nose, and on the palate, ripe and fresh and rounded.

2012 Le Carignan was firm and structured with good fruit, and some rustic charm.  And to show how well Carignan ages, Sylvain had opened three older vintages.  2004 had a surprisingly youthful nose, given its age, and was ripe and rounded with balancing acidity and tannin.  2002 was firm and smoky, with more supple, soyeux, silky  tannins, while the 1998 has some mushroomy sous bois notes on the nose, and elegant fruit on the palate with some acidity and supple tannins.  It was drinking very well, and far from fading.

                                    And the occasion would be incomplete without musicians.

Monday, 2 May 2016

An update on Domaine Monplézy

I always enjoy tasting at Monplézy as Anne Sutra de Germa has a lovely sense of humour, and her wines are good too!   And she has a welcoming tasting caveau by the cellar.  So I went round for an update last week.  Anne’s son, Benoit, is now in charge of the wine-making, though still with the help of his parents, and he has developed some new cuvées.   Anne now has 22 hectares in production, making an average total of 60,000 bottles pa.

2015 Canon Huppé, Viognier, Côtes  de Thongue- 7.50€
The name is a play on words.  All Anne’s labels have a hoopoe, so huppé could be the adjective from hoopoe, but in fact it means chic and a canon is the slang for a glass of wine.   And most of the names of her cuvées play on the meaning of Monplézy, Mont Plaisir or a hill of pleasure.  This was nicely peachy with the characteristics of Viognier, with a dry finish, making for some easy undemanding drinking.

2015 Plaisirs Interdits, Côtes de Thongue – 7.50€
A blend of Vermentino, Sauvignon, Muscat, Grenache Blanc and just a touch of Viognier.  Soft ripe Muscat fruit on the nose, with some balancing acidity on the palate.  Quite rounded with a firm streak on the finish.   Anne observed that making a blend works rather as it does with ingredients in the kitchen, with the aromas all complimenting each other.  But people find it easier to understand single varietals. 

2013 Felicité Blanc, Côtes de Thongue – 14.00€
A blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier, fermented in wood, and then given six months ageing in wood.   You do notice the oak on the nose, and even more so on the palate, but there is good fruit under the oak, which should develop nicely in bottle.  I could certainly detect some peachy notes from the Viognier. 

2014 Emocion, Côtes de Thongue, - 12.00€
A blend of equal parts of Sauvignon, fermented in stainless steel vats, and Viognier, fermented in wood.  Although there is a wood component, the impact on both nose and palate is less obvious than for Felicite.  There is some rich rounded fruit from the Viognier, which the Sauvignon balances with some refreshing vivacity.  Very satisfying texture and mouth feel.

And then onto rosé, with 2014 Plaisirs Interdits  Côtes de Thongue – 6.00€ 
A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsaut.  Mainly Grenache and saigné.  Quite a bright pink colour, with fresh dry strawberry nose and fresh fruit balanced by good acidity on the palate.

2015 Plaisirs Interdits, Côtes de Thongue.
There is less Syrah in this 2015, than in the 2014, which makes for a much lighter gris colour.  In 2014 they had problems with rain, with the grapes bursting before they were properly ripe.  2015 is more balanced, but still very young and needs to fill out a little.  Essentially it is fresh and elegant.

2015 Plaisirs Rosé, Languedoc – 6.50€
Mainly Cinsaut with some Grenache and Syrah.  A light colour; fresh fruit on the nose and palate.  Delicate and rounded.

2014 Emocion, Languedoc – 12.00€
Mainly Grenache with some Cinsaut and Syrah.  Bâtonné and kept in Marsanne barrels for one month.  Quite a firm nose, and on the palate firm fruit with some oak.  A rosé with body and weight.

2015 Emocion
Quite a delicate nose, with firm youthful fruit.  Very good acidity.  Very fresh and youthful on the finish.  Will fill out a little with some bottle age.

2015 Canon Huppé Rouge, Côtes de Thongue – 6.50€
A pure Cinsaut, and the second vintage of this wine.  They made just 5000 bottles of it in 2014, and it disappeared comme des petits pains as the French say; like hot cakes.  It is intended for easy drinking and that is just what it achieves.  Medium colour.  Fresh red fruit.  Rounded with fresh acidity and some appealing perfume.  Serve slightly chilled.

2014 Plaisirs Interdits, Côtes de Thongue
A blend of Merlot, Marselan and Carignan.  Medium colour.  Ripe rounded fruit on nose and palate, with a tannic streak, especially on the finish.  Quite rounded cassis.

2015 Plaisirs Rouge, Languedoc – 8.00€
Carignan, Grenache, Syrah and Cinsaut.  With the emphasis on fruit.  Medium colour.  Young spicy fruit on the nose and palate, with balancing tannin and a youthful finish.  Easy drinking, but a little more serious than the Canon Huppé.   Pleasure is its aim, and it succeeds. 

2013 Felicité, Pézenas - 14.00€
Grenache, Carignan and Syrah, with 12 months in wood.  Young colour.  Rounded and ripe, with some oak on the nose, and well integrated oak on the palate, nicely balanced with good fruit.   Very successful.  20% of the wine is kept in vat rather than barrel, making it less oak than previous vintages.  Lovely concentrated spicy fruit.

2013 Emocion, Pézenas – 21.00€
95% Syrah with some Carignan.  In wood for 12 months.  Deep colour.  Solid rich nose, with oak and spice.  Quite a powerful finish.  Very youthful.  Needs time in bottle.

2014 Délice, Vin de France – 22.00€

Pure Grenache Noir picked late October.   Ripe spice, sweet and rich, with notes of cinnamon, cloves and fruitcake.  A delicious finale.