Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Organic wines at the Maison du Languedoc

Some highlights from a recent tasting

Maison Albert which is the owner of Château Auris in the Corbières as well as Château les Bugadelles, which has recently been promoted from simple Languedoc AOP to La Clape.   For some reason the property was excluded when the original delimitation was done for  La Clape.  So Château  Bugadelles produced its first la Clape in 2016, ands very good it is too, a red wine that is a blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah and Mourvèdre, with firm spice on the nose and palate, and some ageing potential. For the moment they cannot make white La Clape as they do not have any Bourboulenc and need 40% for the appellation.

Les Domaines  Auriol.
This is a company set up by Claude Vialade, and her son, Jordi Salvagnac, was pouring his mother’s wine.  They have vineyards and also buy grapes, to make an extensive range of Languedoc wines.  2015 Montmija Corbières, from Syrah, Grenache and 50% Carignan Noir, had some rugged spicy fruit on both nose and palate.   Château Gabaron from Faugères, with Grenache Noir, Syrah and Mourvèdre, was elegantly spicy with youthful freshness on the finish.  Chant de l’Ame from the Terrasses du Larzac, from Carignan, Syrah, Grenache and Cinsaut, had some rounded fruit with silky tannins and a fresh finish.

Mas des Quernes
Here Pierre Natoli was pouring his father, Jean’s wines.   As well as varietal Pays d’Oc there were a couple of Terrasses du Larzac, les Ruches, from Mourvèdre, Carignan and Grenache Noir, with rounded fruit, from an élevage in vat. La Villa Romaine from Carignan, Mourvèdre and Grenache, aged in barrel for 12 month, was sturdier with a tannic streak, balanced by rounded spicy fruit and an elegant finish.  Finally 2016 Les Petits Travers was an AOP Languedoc from Cinsaut, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, with light cherry fruit and a fresh finish.  It was lighter than the two Terrasses du Larzac.

Les Chemins de Bassac
This estate in Puimisson has recently changed hands and now belongs to Bruno and Thama Trigueiro, who have recently returned to France from Brazil.  And they specifically wanted an organic wine estate, and found les Chemins de Bassac in the village of Puimisson in the Côtes de Thongue.   The previous owners, Isa and Remy, are continuing to advise them and they also use the same oenologist, and for the moment make the same range of wines.   Their 2016 Rosé Côtes de Thongue, their very first vintage, was firm and fresh with a crisp finish. 

Mas du Novi
it is always nice to have one’s prejudices upset.  I had a memory of an earlier visit to Mas du Novi of rather solid oaky wines that tended to lack charm.  The wines are now made by Thierry Thomas, since 2011 and he has effected some successful changes, reducing the amount of oak, with a more finely  tuned élevage, so that the wines are significantly more elegant.  I particularly liked the Grès de Montpellier O de Novi, from 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache Noir, aged in vat, with some firm fruit and an elegant structure.

Clos des Vins d’Amour
2016 Maury. A lovely example of a young Maury, with fresh red fruit, and more tannin than sugar.  It was fortified to leave 85 gms/l residual sugar - the minimum is 70 gms/l, and there was some ripe fruit and an appealing freshness on the finish.

And now that Occitanie includes parts of south west France I could not resist trying a couple of wines from the Vignerons du Brulhois, the  cooperative responsible for most the wines from the little known appellation of Brulhois near Agen.  I went there in the mid-1980s when I was researching French Country Wines and I am happy to report that the quality of the wines has soared.  2016 Domaine Bel Casse from Merlot, Fer Servadou and Tannat has some lovely fresh fruit, with some herbal notes and an elegant balance of tannin.  The Fer Servadou, which is very much a grape variety of the south west, gave it a nicely original touch.  

Monday, 16 October 2017

The Languedoc with les Caves de Pyrène

That excellent wine emporium, Les Caves de Pyrene is always a good source of wines from the south, and their portfolio tasting a couple of weeks ago did not disappoint.   What follows is what they were showing, a nicely eclectic range of delicious things. 

Mas Montel, Pays d’Oc, 2016 La Petite Syrah - £9.40
Light red colour. Soft peppery fruit on nose and palate.  Easy simple Syrah with a fresh finish.

Moulin de Gassac 2016 Pinot Noir - £10.70
You could call this the second label of Mas de Daumas Gassac, from local grapes that they buy, rather than grow.   Pinot Noir is particularly tricky in the south, but this works very nicely, with soft dry, raspberry fruit on the palate.  Medium weight, with no great depth, but elegant with a fresh finish.

NV Crémant de Limoux, Les Hautes Terres, Joséphine - £23.65
Quite a rounded leesy nose with some yeast autolysis, and an underlying nuttiness from a few months ageing in barrel.  Gilles Azam was a pioneer of barrel-aged Creémant, inspired by the champagne producer, André Salosses.   Good depth on the palate with nutty notes.  A Crémant with character from an up-and-coming producer.

2016 Minervois, Arbalète, Domaine Jean-Baptiste Senat - £15.60
A blend of Grenache and Syrah.  Medium colour.  Quite rounded ripe fruit on the nose, and on the palate, supple with a streak of tannin.  Some ripe cherry fruit from the Grenache Noir.

2016 Clos du Gravillas, Emmenez-moi au bout de Terret. - £17.70
As you might surmise from the name, the grape variety is Terret, which is beginning to enjoy something of a revival in the Languedoc.  It has the great advantage of producing good acidity in hot growing conditions.  This wine has a firm stony nose, and on the palate, there is indeed a lot of acidity, with firm stony mineral notes.  Very pure.  

2016 Vin d’Oeillades, Thierry Navarre – £13.35
Thierry Navarre is the leading independent wine grower of the village of Roquebrun, which is one of the crus of St. Chinian.  He is particularly enthusiastic about some of the neglected grape varieties of the Languedoc, such as Oeillade, which is related to Cinsaut.  The colour is light red, with lovely perfumed, fragrant fruit on the nose and more elegant red fruit on the palate, with a stylish finish.

2014 Faugères Tradition, Clos Fantine -£17.60
Corinne Andrieu at Clos Fantine is one of the more natural wine makers of Faugères, and I will say that this wine has a slightly ‘funky’ note.  There is a hint of VA, but here is also some intriguing fruit.  I suspect the bottle probably needed more aeration than it was getting at the tasting.

2015 Pic St Loup, L’Orphée, Mas Foulaquier - £18.15
A youthful Pic St Loup with fragrant elegant fruit on the nose and a rounded supple palate, with less tannin than some.

2015 Languedoc blanc, Domaine d’Aupilhac - £18.35
Sylvain Fadat is one of the leading growers of the small village of Montpeyroux and makes his white wine from a blend of Vermentino. Grenache blanc, Clairette and Ugni blanc.  The colour is quite golden, and the wine is ripe and rounded on the palate with some intriguing leesy notes on the nose.  A fresh elegant finish.

2016 Côtes du Roussillon, Domaine des Foulards Rouges, Frida Rouge - £25.45

From equal parts of Grenache and Carignan.  Quite a rounded spicy nose, with quite a full-bodied palate, in an elegant way.  A refreshing note on the palate.  Surprisingly juicy.  A youthful finish. 

In conclusion, a lovely range of wines.  it was one of those tastings that I really enjoyed.  

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Languedoc in UK wine shops

The Maison du Languedoc, or to give it its full name the Maison de la Région Occitanie/Pyrénées-Méditerranée hosted a brilliant tasting last week, showing an enormous selection of the wines from the Languedoc that are available on UK wine merchants and supermarket shelves.    As you might expect, the likes of Gérard Bertrand, Domaines Paul Mas, the Cave de Roquebrun and Domaine Ste Rose were well-represented, but there was also plenty to discover, from smaller, independent wine growers.   What follows are some highlights among the 154 bottles that were open.    The one disappointment was that very few people attended the tasting – it was one of those busy days when the tasting calendar was crammed.  And may I say that I certainly did not taste all 154 wines, partly as they included a few wines from the Pyrénées-Méditerranée, such as Gaillac and Cahors.

Starting off with a pair of Picpoul that were unfamiliar, and then a favourite:

2016 Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine de Morin-Langaran – Corney & Barrow - £9.50
Light stony nose and quite a fragrant rounded, supple palate.

2016 Picpoul de Pinet, Château Petit Roubie – Vintage Roots - £9.95
Quite a firm salty nose, with some fresh acidity and stony fruit on the palate. 

2016 Picpoul de Pinet Château St Martin de la Garrigue – Laithwaites - £13.99
This is a Picpoul with depth and character, with firm salty notes on both nose and palate.  More weight on the palate than the  preceding two wines. 

And to my surprise I found a couple of Chardonnay that I liked, but from a producer who has links with Chablis

2016 Chardonnay de la Chevalière, Mas de la Chevalière, Pays d’Oc – Liberty Wines - £11.99
Lightly leesy notes and a lightly buttery nose and palate.  Nicely understated, with good acidity. 

2014 Mas de la Chevalière, Vignoble Peyroli, Liberty Wines - £15.99
This comes from some of the most northern and coolest vineyards of the Languedoc, near Lunas, and is rich and leesy after some ageing in an oak barrel.  Nicely textured and very satisfying. 

2016 Domaine d’Aigues Belles, Le Blanc, Chardonnay – Your Sommelier - £17.80
From an estate that was new to me, at Brouzet-les-Quissac, near the Pic St. Loup.  The wine has lovely varietal character, with nicely understated oak and leesy Chardonnay flavours.  Finely crafted. 

2016 Mas Cristine, Côtes du Roussillon – Clark Foyster Wines - £18.00
A blend of Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Macabeo and a little Roussanne.  Quite a firm lemony nose, with a rounded fragrant palate.  Satisfying mouthfeel and textured.   Amply illustrating the success of Grenache Gris and Macabeo for white wine in Roussillon.

2012 Le Soula, Côtes Catalanes – Uncorked, FMW Wines, Justerini & Brooks - £29.00
A blend of Macabeo, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne.  Quite a rich, firm slatey nose and stony.  Firm stony fruit, with good acidity.  Textured, youthful.  Lots of nuances. 

2016 Terret Blanc, Calmel & Joseph, Pays d’Oc – Waitrose Exclusive - £8.49
Good to see that this indigenous Languedoc variety is even attracting supermarket interest.  The flavours are firm and tight, with refreshing acidity and a stony freshness. 

2016 Château de Valflaunès, Pourquoi Pas? – The Wine Society - £10.50
A blend of predominantly Roussanne, with Marsanne and some Vermentino.  A rounded nose with some hints of white blossom, and a  lightly nutty palate, with some well-integrated oak. 

2015 Laurent Miquel, Albariño, Pays d’Aude – Waitrose - £11.49 
Laurent Miquel is the pioneer of Albariño in the Languedoc. You would normally find it in Galicia, but Laurent has planted it in the Corbières hills above Lagrasse.  Lightly peachy fruit on the nose.  A rounded fragrant palate, with convincing varietal character. 

2015 Mas Gabriel, Clos des Papillons, Pays de l’Hérault – The Wine Society - £13.50
From 85% Carignan blanc, another indigenous variety that is becoming more popular, thanks to its high acidity levels and ability to sustain drought, and some Vermentino.  This is fresh and structured with some herbal notes and an elegant palate.  A fresh finish. 

2016 Faugères, Domaine du Météore, les Léonides – Stone Vine & Son - £13.50
A blend, predominantly of Roussanne, with Vermentino and some Clairette.  Quite ripe and rounded white blossom on the nose, with an elegant palate.  Youthful acidity and nicely textured.

Next a pair of rosés :

2016 Piquepoul Rosé, Coteaux d’Ensérune, Vignobles Foncalieu – Ellis of Richmond , Love Wine - £11.85
Another unusual grape variety.  We are all familiar with Piquepoul blanc, but not with Piquepoul Noir.  As a rosé it makes a fresh fragrant wine with good acidity and some hints of raspberry fruit. 

2016 Château de Lascaux, Garrigue Rosé – Your Sommelier - £12.50
A blend of Cinsaut, Grenache Noir and Syrah.  Very pretty delicate colour, lightly fragrant fruit and a delicate palate, with good acidity and an elegant finish.  From a leading Pic St Loup estate. 

And now for some reds:

2016 Corbières, Domaine St Auriol – Waitrose - £6.99
A blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah and Carignan.  Great value for money.  Spicy rugged ripe fruit on both and palate.  

2014 Domaine la Tasque, Carignan, Pays d’Aude – The Wine Society - £14.50
Carignan with a splash of Syrah, made by a fellow MW Juliet Bruce-Jones.  This is her first serious vintage, with just two hectares of vines in the Minervois.   I like Carignan and this is nicely characterful, with a fresh finish. 

2015 The Society’s Corbières – The Wine Society - £7.75
More good value Corbières, from a leading Corbières estate of Château Ollieux-Romanis.  Rounded ripe fruit on the nose and palate, with hints of tapenade.  Nicely mouth filling. 

2015 Minervois, Château Villerambert, les Truffiers – Laithwaites - £12.99
Syrah, Grenache and Carignan.  Rounded ripe spicy fruit on nose and palate, with good mouthfeel.   A lovely glass of wine from a highly reputable estate.

2014 Languedoc, Domaine les Grandes Costes, Musardises – Laithwaites - £14.99
The blend comprises 60% Cinsaut with 20% each of Grenache Noir and Syrah.  The Cinsaut dominates the palate so that the fruit is deliciously elegant and fragrant.  Another lovely glass of wine, from a Pic St. Loup producer.

2013 Château Maris, le Carignan de Maris, Coteaux de Peyriac – Vintage Roots - £10.95
Another characterful Carignan from a leading Minervois producer, outside the village of La Livinière.  Medium weight but quite rounded with some firm fruit.  

2014 Languedoc, Château de Lascaux, Garrigue rouge – Vintage Roots - £11.75
A blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre, with rounded spicy fruit.

2014 Pic St. Loup, Château de Lascaux, Carra – Vintage Roots - £14.75
A blend of 60% Syrah with 40% Grenache Noir.  Elegant spice on both nose and palate, with supple tannins.  Beautifully balanced, with elegance of the cooler climate of the Pic St. Loup.

2015 St Chinian, Mas Champart, Côte d’Arbo – Berry Bros & Rudd - £15.50
From a leading St. Chinian producer.  A blend of 35% Syrah, 30% Grenache, Noir, 25%  Carignan and 10% Mourvèdre.  Elegance is the hallmark of this wine, with supple tannins and youthful spicy fruit.

2014 Corbières, Domaine de la Cendrillon, Classique – Tanners Wines - £12.30
A blend of Grenache and Syrah with 15% Mourvèdre.  Ripe spicy fruit on both nose and palate, with a nicely rounded finish.  Conjures up the warm south, but without being heavy.

2012 Corbières, Domaine de la Cendrillon, Inédite – Tanners Wines - £16.50
From 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache Noir and 20% Mourvèdre.  Rounded spicy fruit, and with more depth than the Classique, and ripe cherry flavours from the Grenache, and attractive development on the palate. 

2016 Collioure, Coume del Mas, Schistes – Clark Foyster Wines  - £25.00
The notes say pure Grenache, which surprises me for a Collioure, but the flavours are redolent of ripe cherries that characterise that grape variety.  It is rich and elegantly rounded on the finish. 

2011 Le Soula Rouge, Côtes Catalanes – Hedonism, Woodwinters, Berry Bros & Rudd - £26.50
60% Carignan, with Syrah and a little Grenache.  Medium colour, with quite a firm structured nose.  A characterful palate; some viandé notes but with a distinct freshness on the palate, as well as a streak of tannin, the result of higher altitude vineyards and biodynamic viticulture. 

2012 Terrasses du Larzac, Mas Jullien, Carlan – Berry Bros & Rudd  - £31.50
A great finale to the tasting, from one of the Languedoc’s most thoughtful winemakers.  Elegantly leathery flavours, developing some attractive mature notes on the palate.   Subtle  and elegant. A delicious glass of wine.  I was beginning to run out of adjectives by this time!