Friday, 31 May 2019

Clos Centeilles

It has been a little while since I tasted with Patricia Domergue, so refreshed with tea after the Livinage tasting, we repaired to Patricia’s smart new tasting caveau, with its view of the tiny chapel of Centeilles amidst the vines.

First came her sparkling wine, Scintilha made for the first time in 2016.  It is an original blend of Ribeyrenc Gris, Clairette, Blanche and Rose and Piquepoul Gris.  It spends twelve months on the lees, and a Limoux prestateur does the disgorgement for her.  It is a Brut Nature, so no dosage.  A little colour, and lightly herbal notes on the nose.  Quite a rounded, solid palate.  Very Mediterranean and very southern, with fine bubbles, and a dry finish, but certainly not acidic.  Just the thing if you are looking for some unusual bubbles.

2016 Mosaique de Centeilles - 19€
with apologies for the list, a blend of Grenache Gris, Clairette Blanche, Clairette Rose, Piquepoul Gris, Terret Gris, Carignan Gris, Ribeyrenc Gris, Grenache blanc and Picaradin.  As you will appreciate, Patricia is passionate about the old grape varieties of the region, and very anxious and determined that they are preserved.  A little colour and some intriguing herbal notes on both nose and palate.  Nicely textured with good acidity.  Lots of nuances.  A wine that keeps you guessing and tasting.  

2016 C de Centeilles - 19.00€
A blend of Ribeyrenc Blanc, and Gris and Araignan.   Patricia is the last person to have Ribeyrenc Blanc.  Her cuttings came from the research station at Vassal and their vines have sadly since died.  Unfortunately she is not allowed to sell any cuttings, as the plants are virused, but she is now working on missal selection for them.  For Alain Carboneau, one of the great pioneering personalities of the Languedoc, Ribeyrenc Blanc is the greatest white variety of the region.  It would indeed be sad if it were to disappear.  A little colour.  Quite firm dry fruit on both nose and palate, but with more weight and opulence than the Mosaique de Centeilles.   Very good length.  Richer, more concentrated than the Mosaique even though it is made in the same way, with some bâtonnage.  

Altogether Patricia has 23 different grape varieties.  

2017 Le Part de Anges - 10.50€
50% Carignan and 50% Ribeyrenc Noir.  Light red in colour.  Lightly fruity with a fresh tannic streak.  Red fruit and liquorice on the palate.  Easy drinking summer red.

2015 Carignanisme - 11.00€
A pure Carignan, made by carbonic maceration, with rustic cherry fruit, a hint of liquorice  and a streak of tannin.  Medium weight and refreshing.

2014 Campagne de Centeilles  - 13.15€
Cinsaut with 10% Syrah.  Medium colour.  Quite perfumed and rich on the nose with red fruit on the palate. A light steak of tannin and a fresh finish.    Patricia has enthused about Cinsaut as a grape for red wine for years, a lone voice when everyone else said it was only good for rosé.  Now things are changing.   

Patricia alway sells her wine with some bottle age.  The conditions of the 2014vintage made for wines with body and fruit.  

2014 C de Centeilles - 15.50€
60% Piquepoul Noir with Ribeyrenc Noir, Oeillade and Morastel.   Medium colour.  Very perfumed and fresh.  Some acidity and tannic, balancing cherry fruit.  Very intriguing.  A wine with lots of nuances on the palate.

2014 Clos de Centeilles - 19.00€
One third each of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache, with 5% of other varieties.  Between 5 and 10% is aged in wood.  Some leathery notes. Quite herbal with notes of the garrigues.   Mature and characterful.  Quite an elegant finish.

2008 Capitelle de Centeilles - 24.00€
Pure Cinsaut.  Quite an evolved colour, with notes of dry garrigues on the nose.  Quite elegantly rich on the palate, with spice and more garrigues, and a touch of alcohol on the finish.

And the last taste was a vat sample, a new wine, as yet not named, and a blend of 70% Mourvèdre with 30% Piquepoul Noir, with a deep colour and peppery perfumed fruit on the nose and lots of cherry fruit on the palate, balanced with fresh spice, and some weight.  It promises well.  

Monday, 27 May 2019

Domaine de la Senche

Domaine de la Senche was the very first Minervois estate I ever visited, back in1983, when it was the property of the Foncompret  family.  Since then the vineyards have been sold to Domaine Maris and the Château de Gourgazaud, and then in 2008 Guy and Liz bought the run down house and a defunct cellar, with old magnificent foudres and a tiny plot of vines at the back of the house.   It is in the village of La Livinière, on the edge of the circulade.

Guy has always wanted to be a wine grower,  but first he worked in the hotel industry, in Dubai.  When he retired, they spent five years looking for vineyards and a wine estate.  They wanted something that was rundown, so that they could create a new reputation, and in an area with potential for a cru.  They also wanted shops nearby and an international airport, and looked from Tavel to northern Spain and after five year, found Domaine de la Senche., buying it in 2008.  They came to live here in 2012, buying vineyards and initially sent their grapes to the coop, and then made their first wine in 2014, from just under 4 hectares of vines, in 12 different plots.   They also have 350 olive trees.  

They have Grenache and Syrah, Carignan and some Cinsaut, but no Mourvèdre, and for white wine Vermentino and Muscat.   Guy went Plumpton to learn, as he put it, how to drive a tractor and they also studied at the university of Suze-la-Rousse.  And they have not looked back.  'It is the best decision I ever made', enthused Guy, and Liz agreed. They do as much as possible by hand.  Their La Livinière is fermented in barrel; you have to remove the grape skins by hand - they don’t take off the top of the barrel, as some people to do.  And they have kept the old foudres; they are part of the Languedoc’s history.  They have a tiny pneumatic press, and Guy said, 'we just keep tasting the juice, and stop when we don’t like the taste'.  He has learnt a lot from Maurice Puccini, a winegrower in the village who was one of the founders of La Livinière.  He taught Guy how to prune, and kept telling him to taste, rather than to read analyses.

Our tasting started with 2018 Cuvée Wyn, Minervois Blanc - 7.50€
Named after an old friend.  A blend of Vermentino, Muscat and Grenache Blanc.  A little lees contact.  Light delicate nose;  fresh and fragrant and lightly herbal.  

2018 Rosé, Minervois  LOTI, for Liz, Lady of the Isles, who was born on the Scottish island of Burra, 7,50€
40% Cinsaut to 60% Syrah.  Direct pressing. Delicate light pink colour. Delicate fresh dry raspberry.  Fresh acidity balancing fresh fruit.  Refreshing.  
2017 Hibou, Coteaux de Peyriac - 7.50€
A pure Syrah and an entry level red, fermented in vat and bottled in the spring.  Ripe spice, cassis and pepper.  Red fruit and supple tannins.  Easy drinking

2016 Papeta, Minervois  - 11.00€  
The occitan for grandfather and a tribute to Guy’s father.  60% Syrah, 35% Carignan and about  5% Grenache Noir.  The Grenache links the two varieties and takes away any edges.  Fermented and aged in vat and bottled in April and then given some bottle age before sale.  Good colour.  Rounded nose with dry spice.  A supple palate with a streak of tannin.  Youthful freshness and fruit. Medium weight.

2017 Cuvée Sòmi, La Livinière - 21€
Somi is a dream in Occitan; their dream to make a cru. Eighteen months in vat and barrel and just bottled when I tasted it.   Deep colour.  Chocolatey oak nose, with some firm youthful tannins.  Youthful spice and fruit and rounded, mouth filling and long.   Oak still quite present so need time.

A friendly visit.   I enjoyed Guy and Liz’s enthusiasm and wish them une très bonne continuation.  

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Domaine Rouanet Montcélèbre

I was invited to taste for this year’s selection of wines to show off the character and quality of Minervois La Liviniere, so it was an excuse for a visit to the Minervois.  It is apparently the 20th anniversary of the tasting, the first being in 1999.

First we went to see Audrey Rouanet at Domaine Rouanet-Montcélèbre outside the village of Cesseras.  She is the new kid on the block of La Liviniere, making her first wines in 2012, and her first La Liviniere in 2016, which was selected for the La Livinage last year.   Audrey’s father had bought a rundown estate in 1987; he had pulled up vines and replanted and sold his wine en vrac to Val d’Orbieu.  And when he announced in 2002 that he intended to sell the property, Audrey said; that is out of the question.  She had known since the age of 15 that she wanted to be an oenologist and that is what she studied at Bordeaux.  She has then went on to work in the Napa Valley, and also in the Loire Valley, as well as for the research station, INRA, in Colmar.  That was followed by a stage with Beaucastel in Châteauneuf du Pape and then two years with Avignonesi in Montepulciano and then she came home to the Minervois is 2012 in time to make her first vintage that year.    She began with just 3000 bottles, and is gradually increasing her production in bottle.  Altogether she has 12 hectares at Montcélèbre and another ten hectares at Olonzac, with Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsaut, as well as Merlot and Cabernet Franc which are sold en vrac.  And for white wine, there is Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Roussanne, and a little Chardonnay, Colombard and Viognier.   The difference in harvest dates between Olonzac, with vines on the plain and Montceleste with vines in the hills is fifteen days.   Audrey has gradually converted her vines to organic viticulture, and also follows the principles of an organisation called Bee Friendly, but  she does not have any hives of her own yet.   Her small cellar is equipped with open concrete vats for her red wine, which makes them suitable for pigeage.

Audrey has 7.5 hectares which could be classified as La Livinière but for the moment she has only declared 4.5 hectares.  She wanted to start with a very good vintage, so waited until she felt confident, with the 2016 harvest.  Before tasting, we went to admire the dramatic scenery of the gorge of the river Cesse, sheer cliffs with caves in the rock face, taking a track that was once used by miners of the nearly phosphate mines.   Apparently there is a cave on three levels, with paintings that are even older than those of Lascaux.  They are closed; you may only apply to see them if you have an academic reason.  And there is also a large colony of protected bats, which may not be disturbed.    Audrey has a plot of Carignan planted in 1973, but most of the rest of her vineyards were planted in 1987 - 1990.  They lie at about 300 metres, in limestone soil.

Back to the cellar to taste.  We began with her white wine, Alveoline, Minervois Blanc  - 9.20€ - made from Grenache Blanc, Rolle, and Roussanne.  It was fresh and fragrant, with  a rounded palate, and a nice bitterness on the finish.  There is also a range of Pays d’Oc Se Canta, but we were there to taste La Livinière, the wines chosen for the Livinage last year.

2016 Château de Gourgazaud
A blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Mourvèdre, with12 months élevage in barrel, of which a quarter are renewed each year.  Ripe spicy nose, with plummy fruit and a rounded palate with integrated oak.  Medium weight.  Quite firm dry streak on the finish and still quite youthful, with a spicy finish.

2016 Borealis - Audrey’s wine
A blend of 30% Grenache Noir and 70% Syrah.  Fresh dry peppery spice, on nose and palate.  A touch of oak.  Well integrated.  Nicely crafted palate, with firm elegant fruit and a long finish.  A great start.

2015 Ste Eulalie, la Cantilène - sadly this was corked, and there was no second bottle.

2014 Clos des Roques
80% Carignan to 20% Mourvèdre, an unusual blend.  The Carignan was planted in 1955, and the Mourvèdre in 1989.   Vines at an altitude of 180 metres in  small terraces, amounting to about half a hectare and producing enough wine for just four barrels.  The grapes are handpicked, and given some  pigeage.  Medium colour.  Rounded red fruit on the nose and some fresh leathery notes.  Elegant concentration on the palate.  A satisfyingly long finish.

2012 Cuvée Alliance, from the Minervois cooperatives
80% Syrah, 20% Grenache Noir and a littler Carignan.  Good colour.  Ripe spice on the nose and palate.  Quite supple fruit,  with a firm streak of tannin on the finish.   Maturing nicely.   And then a local organic traiteur produced a delicious range of tapas to fortify us for the La Livinage tasting in the afternoon.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Domaine Rives-Blanques

I never fail to enjoy my visits to Jan and Caryl Panman at Rives-Blanques.  They always have something different or new to taste.  This time it was the new blend of 2018 Dédicace, their pure Chenin Blanc.  Pierre Roque, who helps with blending, had visited the previous day and they had tasted all the barrels of Chenin, and put together the final wine, prior to bottling later this month.   There is no new oak, but a touch of oak inevitably lingered on the nose and palate, but underneath, there was dry honey and some satisfying texture in the mouth.  I know from experience that this wine will age beautifully .

However, 2018 was a difficult vintage.  They had mildew and hail.  And there are wines they will not make, notably Trilogie and Crémant de Limoux, and there will be very little IGP Chardonnay.  Apparently it was the worst outbreak of mildew for 70 years, with rain until the end of June and then a very hot summer.

Then we were able to enjoy a mini-vertical of Trilogie, their Limoux that is a blend of all three grape varieties.  The bottles had been opened the previous day, for Pierre’s benefit;  we had timed our visit well.

2017 Trilogie, mainly Chardonnay and Chenin with a little Mauzac, was light golden, with some herbal fruit on the palate, lightly rounded and nicely textured with good acidity.  2017 was a difficult vintage because of the frost, which is pretty unusual in the region.  The summer was hot and the grapes ripened quickly.   

2015, was a very dry year, with some heat wave conditions during the summer.  The wine was firm and dry, with a salty note, with a balancing hint of honey.    They observed that Trilogie is always a challenge to blend, as the barrels can vary so much; essentially they are choosing the best of the year.

2013 Quite golden in colour and quite a broad mature palate, with texture and acidity.  Both saline and honeyed flavours.  2013 was a cool year, with a late harvest, at the end of September for still wines.

2017 Occitanie, Mauzac
Light golden colour. A herbal, honeyed nose, with a hint oak.  Rounded and firm, with dry honeyed and acidity.  Rich and concentrated, with rounded texture. They are replanting some Mauzac, choosing several different clones, to make for more diversity.  There is a big difference in harvest dates, for the still and sparkling wine.  They pick for the Blanquette at 10-11º and for the table wine at 13º, about a month later.   Apparently recent DNA analysis has shown that Mauzac is not related to any other variety; you find it in Gaillac and Limoux and no where else.  

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Domaine Hautes Terres

From Domaine Mouscaillo, we wandered up through the village to the top of the hill to Domaine Terres-Hautes, with its cellars just by the château.   Gilles and his compagne, Geneviève, gave us a friendly welcome and tasting.

Gilles now has 13 hectares of vines in ten small plots.  He bought a plot of Mauzac a couple of years ago and so that he has 4 hectares of 47 year old vines.  There are three levels to his range.  Les Autres Terres, both red and white, includes young vines and pressed juice, with an emphasis on fruit, and wines with less acidity.  Then there are the appellations wines, Chardonnay and Chenin, aged in foudres, barriques and demi-muids, and then there are some special cuvées.    Gilles is a creative winemaker.

A Pét Nat, a pure Mauzac, bottled at the harvest with 25 gms/l, so a méthode ancestrale, is in the pipeline.  It was still sur lattes and will be disgorged at the end of April.   

2017 Cuvée Céleste - 26€- is a pure Chenin Blanc, fermented and elevé in foudres, for ten months, followed by ten months in bottle.   It had firm dry honey on the nose, with some lovely fruit on the palate, balanced by good acidity.  Gilles used indigenous yeast, and does not add anything, only sulphur, if absolutely necessary.

2017 Cuvée Louis, a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Chenin Blanc is aged in demi-muids and barrel, and blended together a month before bottling  It was quite firm, with stony fruit, more Chardonnay than Chenin, but an intriguing balance.  

NV Cuvée Josephine - 16.00€ - is his Crémant, a blend of 60% chardonnay, 30% Chenin Blanc and 10% Mauzac, depending on the vintage, a Brut Nature with no added dosage, and disgorged in March 2019.  Gilles observed the it is important to know when the wine is disgorged.  The base wine, from the 2016 vintage,  spent eighteen months in barrel and was ripe and honeyed, with some oak influence, with character and depth.   It was rich and characterful.  

L’Ancestrale a pure Mauzac was quite rounded, with leafy herbal notes and dry honey on the palate.  

The red Cuvée Louis is a blend of Malbec, aged in vat, and Merlot and Cabernet Franc, in barrel.  The vines are 10 - 15 years old, planted on argilo-calcaire, and éboulis calcaires.  Gilles observed that he plants each variety on the best terroir for it - Chardonnay is best on a north facing slope; Mauzac likes poor soil, limestone, and does well in drought.  The wine was a deep young colour, with a rich ripe nose, with rich concentrated fruit and some underlying oak.  

Gilles is also making a pure Mauzac, and commented that other more traditional varieties, such as Terret, Clairette and Macabeo were once grown in Limoux, but disappeared when the region began to concentrate on sparkling wine at the expense of still wine.  

My final question was: what about the idea of a cru for Roquetaillade?  That apparently is on hold, as the powers that be would want a cru for each of the four climatic zones of Limoux, Antan, Oceanique, Mediterrannée and so Roquetaillade would represent the Haute Vallée de l’Aude and encompass a larger area than the village itself.  For the moment it is a question of wait and see.