Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Carignan and Cinsault in Chile

I have just had three wonderful weeks in Chile, first of all some holiday, exploring parts of  the Atacama Desert and the Chilean Lake District, as well as a little time in Valparaiso, which is wonderfully vibrant city with an exciting and quite unexpected culture of street art.   A new series of murals were specifically inspired by wine.   

After the holiday came the work, an intensive week with 29 other Masters of Wine, discovering or re-discovering the main wine regions of the country.   It had been fifteen years since my last visit to Chile and it was fascinating to see how the wine industry has changed and developed.   Vineyards are being planted further north, further south and at higher altitudes, with the boundaries being pushed in all directions.  Cool climate is a catch phrase, with vineyards benefitting from the cooling Pacific Ocean and the cool winds coming off the Andes.   And where Bordeaux grape varieties were once the main focus of Chile, they are now re-discovering old plantings of Carignan and Cinsault.  And that explains how I can write about Chile in a blog on the Languedoc!  Both Cinsault and Carignan were brought Chile by the French in the 19thcentury. 

Another significant change is the development of  smaller  wineries. The Chile wine industry is no longer dominated by the big producers.  There is an organisation called MOVI, the Movement of Independent Wine growers or El Movimiento de Viñateros Independientes,  which groups 34 wineries from all over the country.   Members are invited to join, based on the quality of their winemaking, and I suspect simply how well they fit into the group. They must be hands on wine makers, producing good wines. Essentially, they are a marketing organisation, representing each other at tastings and so on.   And at a tasting of MOVI wines they provided my introduction to some very enjoyable Carignan and Cinsault. 

2016 B. Wines Carae is a dry-farmed Carignan, made from 80-year-old vines in the Maule valley.  Medium colour; with a dry structured nose and the palate some red fruit balanced with tannins, and a nicely rustic note on the finish.  Carignan does not work in irrigated vineyards – it explodes; it must be dry farmed and some people are grafting it on to old Pais vines, which was the original grape variety of Chile, introduced by the Spanish missionaries.  

Other MOVI wines included Dagaz Cinsaut from Itata, from 50-year-old dry farmed bush vines, from the estate of Tierras de Pumanque, set up by Marco Puyo, who had worked for larger companies before starting making wine on his own account estate.  The wine was beautifully fragrant and perfumed with a streak of tannin.

However, it was a seminar on Old Vines that really highlighted the quality and potential of Cinsault and Carignan in Chile.   There is an organisation called Vigno which represents a group of fifteen producers of Carignan.  The vines are mostly in the Maule valley and Vigno insists on a minimum age of 30-year-old vines, dry farmed bush vines, and a minimum of 85% of Carignan in the wine, with two years ageing.  Apparently Vigno began as a lunch club!

Brett Jackson, the winemaker at Valdevieso talked about making Carignan.  He gives the grapes a cold soak for two or three days, and ferments in open top vats, and runs the juice off the skins fairly quickly. Having begun with ageing all the cuvée in barrel, he has now reduced that to just a quarter of the cuvée. With two years ageing, the acidity softens.  He also observed that 20 years ago Carignan was not a recognised grape variety in Chile.

P S Garcia were one the pioneers of Vigno, with 60-year-old vines.  Their 2015 Carignan was deep in colour, with quite dense red fruit and some oak, as well as a touch of acidity.  The wine was structured and need time.  

Gillmore was a new name to me, offering a rounded, harmonious glass of wine, made from 70 – 80-year-old vines, with good structure and some weight on the palate, balanced with ripe fruit.  

Underraga makes a field blend of 92% Carignan, balanced with some Cinsault, from 60-year-old vines.  The nose was quite firm and structured, and the palate rounded with some oak and fruit.

Oldfjell, produces Orzado Carignan from the Cauquenes Valley which is part of the larger Maule valley. They have 100-year-old bush vines, and made the observation that the smaller wine growers are starting to believe n Carignan.  When Oldfjell made their first Carignan in 2001, nobody else was making it and it didn’t sell.  But they persisted.  

And we were told that Marcelo Retamal at the De Martino winery was the first to bottle Cinsault, with a maiden vintage in 2011.  He uses old terracotta amphora as a fermentation vessel and the flavour of the  2016 vintage from cooler Itata was fragrant with fresh cherry fruit and a streak of balancing tannin.

After the seminar on old vines we drove from the outskirts of Concepción into the countryside to Guarilhue, where a group of wine growers hosted a tasting, and also a barbecue.  The countryside of Itata is quite different from other areas, much greener, with rich vegetation and undulating hills, with forests of pines and eucalyptus, as well as vineyards, of mostly ungrafted bush vines.

A wine from Longavi, with the cheerful name of Glup, comes from 40-year-old Cinsault with fresh red fruit and a streak of tannin.  Lovely perfumed cherry flavours.  It had spent eight months in old foudres, with no fining or filtering.

Other wines included Pedro Parra y Familia, Imaginador and Leo Erazo, Hermano Piedra, both from Itata. Indeed, most of the Cinsault in Chile is grown in Itata.  The oldest vines date from the end of the 1930s, and are planted on their own roots. Old vines adapt better to the current drought – which is a prevailing issue in Chile at the moment.   There is no specific definition of old vines. 

More highlights included Cinsault del Cerro, from Pandolfi Price, with six months in barrel, was quite a structured Cinsaut with firm cherry fruit.

Cinsault Tres C was deep in colour, with rounded ripe fruit, fresh and fragrant from 50-year-old vines.

Trifulca, produced a Cinsault from 83-year-old vines, with perfumed fruit and a streak of tannin after eight months in old wood.  

Rogue Wine with a 2018 Cinsault, using an open basket press, with rounded ripe fruit.

Las Curvas, another Cinsaut grown on granite, with delicate fruit.

And the final taste of Cinsault was at Montes, in the Apalta Valley, the opening wine at a lunch cooked by the talented chef, Francis Mullmann.  Made from grapes grown in Itata, it was fresh and fragrant, with 20% carbonic maceration and simply perfect with an empanada. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

The Languedoc around the autumn tastings

Out of the Box – Young Importers Tasting  - 
Prices for this tasting are per bottle, duty paid and delivered, ex VAT

The Young Importers are a group of six with an eclectic and original range of wines.  Naturally I concentrated on Languedoc-Roussillon but I did allow myself several deviations, especially to Greece with Maltby and Greek, as a good Assyrtiko is difficult to resist.  

Carte Blanche has recently taken on the agency for my good friend Catherine Roque at Mas d’Alezon in Faugères.

2017 Faugères Presbytère - £13.95
A blend of Cinsault and Grenache.  Medium colour.  Elegant subtle fruit  on the nose, and on the palate, supple spice, with an elegant streak of tannin. Medium weight.  

2017 Faugères, Montfalette - £17.95
A blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache Noir.  Medium colour.  Altogether much more structured, on both nose and palate, with firm fruit and tannins, but always with an elegant finish.  Nicely satisfying.  Drinking well now, but would also age.

Swig were showing:

2015, Château de Durfort, Corbières - £9.65
a blend of Syrah and Grenache Noir.  Medium depth of colour.  A lovely ripe, rounded, spicy nose.  And plenty of spice on the palate, balanced with a backbone of tannin.  Eminently easy-drinking, conjuring up the warmth of the Midi in a glass.  

2018 Domaine de l’Horizon, Côtes Catalanes, Mar y Muntanya - £14.30
A blend of 45% each of Grenache Noir and Carignan with 10% Grenache Noir.  Appealing spice on the nose with fresh red fruit on the palate. Medium weight and an elegant finish. 

266 Wines
This company was started up as recently as March 2019.
2017 Domaine des Enfants, Côtes Catalanes,  Tabula Rasa - £15.63
A blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Macabeo and Carignan blanc.  This is a stunning example of just how much the white wines of Roussillon have improved, with a light colour, quite a closed nose and on the palate some elegant floral fruit and a satisfying balance of acidity. 

2017 Domaine des Enfants, le Jouet - £10.39
A blend of Lledoner Pelut, Grenache Noir, Carignan and Syrah.  Medium colour.  Quite a ripe nose, and on the palate good fruit, but I also thought I detected a note of volatility.

2016 Faugères, Domaine Binet-Jacquet, Réserve - £15.26
A blend of all five grape varieties of the appellation, namely Cinsault, Carignan, Syrah, Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre.  Good colour; quite a firm nose, tight knit and needing to breathe.  And on the palate a touch reductive, but quite intriguing. 

Ellis of Richmond hosted a tasting that they termed Wines with a Conscience, showing wines that were Biodynamic, Organic or Sustainable.

The sole organic wines from the Languedoc came from Domaine des Trinités, made by Simon Coulshaw, who learnt his winemaking at Plumpton in East Sussex.  He has vineyards in two appellations 

2016 Pézenas, le Pech Mégé - £9.95
A blend of 60% Grenache Noir, 30% Syrah and 10% Carignan.  The label says: élaboré de façon naturelle – in other words, with minimum use of sulphur.  Medium colour, with rich spice on both the nose and palate, but with a slight edge of acidity on the finish.

2015 Faugères, le Portail - £9.95
A blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache Noir and 10% Carignan,  Nicely rounded nose and palate, with some appealing ripe fruit. A balancing streak of tannin.  It tasted more harmonious than the Pézenas, and was drinking beautifully.  

There was also a sustainable wine from Château Pennautier, the main property of the Lorgeril family, in Cabardès, one of the cooler areas of the Languedoc.
Marquis de Pennautier, Chardonnay, Pays d’Oc - £10.25
Lightly buttery nose, and rounded, rich and leesy on the palate with good mouthfeel and texture.  

Waitrose, at their autumn tasting, had a few Languedoc offerings:
2018 Calmel & Joseph Villa Blanche Pinot Noir, Pays d’Oc - £8.99
Quite alight colour. Delicate fresh raspberry fruit on the nose and palate.  Some balancing fresh acidity.  Very refreshing, served slightly chilled.

2017 Corbières, Château de Caraguilhes - £0.99
A blend of  45% Grenache noir, 30% Syrah and 25% Carignan.  One of the several organic estates of the Corbières.  Aged n concrete vat for six months.
Medium colour; lightly spicy nose, and palate.  Nicely harmonious, with a dry leathery note on the finish.   

2018 Château Maris, Minervois, Savoir Vieillir - £16.99
70% Syrah balanced by 30% Grenache Noir.  The wine was aged in 50 hectolitres foudres or in concrete tanks.  Quite a deep colour, with a firm dry nose.  More fleshy on the palate, with some ripe cherry fruit.  Quite savoury.  A tad alcoholic on the finish, and it does register 14.5º.

2016 Château Maris, Minervois la Livinière, les Planels - £17.99
Deep colour. Firm peppery nose and palate, with notes of tapenade and black olive.  Quite firm and structured, youthful and tight knit.  A wine to age, with promising potential.

2018 Voyage du Sud, Vermentino, Pays d’Oc - £5.99
From the Cebazan cooperative in St. Chinian.  Fresh sappy nose and palate; fresh and pithy with a rounded finish.  Good value.

Calmel & Joseph, Villa Blanche Terret Blanc, Pays d’Oc - £8.49
Light colour. Quite firm and stony on the nose and palate.  Firm rather than crisp, with a flinty nose.   This is one of the old grape varieties of the Languedoc, which deserves a revival in its reputation.  

2018 Laurent Miquel Vendanges Nocturnes, Pays d’Oc, Viognier - £9.39
Rounded and peachy on nose and palate.  Exuding ripe fruit.  If you like Viognier, you will love this.  

NV Crémant de Limoux, Cuvée Royale Brut - £11.99
A blend of 60% Chardonnay, 25% Chenin Blanc, 10% Mauzac and 5% Pinot Noir.   Quite ripe and soft on the nose, with a soft fruity palate.  Easy drinking, but a little  too simple for the appellation.  I would have liked more depth.

This is quite a large group of independent wine merchants who work together, to benefit from the economies of scales for marketing and purchasing.  

Paul Gordon from Domaine la Sarabande in Faugères was there, providing a good opportunity for a catch up on his range.

2018 Pink Swine, Vin de France - £12.99
A rosé from Grenache and Cinsault, and just 11.5º.  Medium colour; quite fresh and crisp with some raspberry fruit.

2016 Misterioso - £12.99
A blend of Grenache Noir and Syrah.  Quite rounded on the nose and palate.  Some fresh spicy fruit.  Medium weight with a fresh finish.

2014 les Rabasses - £14.99
Syrah and Mourvèdre. Good colour.  Fruity nose, with some leathery notes.  Very good spicy fruit on the palate.  Rounded and drinking beautifully, with a little bottle age. 

2016 Les Rabasses
Les Rabasses is the name of the vineyard.  It means land that is difficult to work.  Good deep colour.  More elegant on the nose and palate than the 2014, with some elegant spice balanced with quite obvious tannins.  Medium weight.

2017 Bousigue - £24.99
A high proportion of Mourvèdre.  Whole bunches, with no destemming.  Medium colour.  Quite firm and structured.  Good fruit. Elegantly structure, with satisfying length and depth.  

2016 Les Espinasses - £32.99
Based on Syrah.  Whole bunches.  Natural yeast.  Deep colour. Quite concentrated peppery notes on the nose.   Intense fruit on the palate. Some gamey notes.  The fruit is balanced by some fresh acidity as well as tannin.  Very satisfying.  

And the tasting finished with Las Jardins, the name of the vineyard, based on Grenache, aged in barrel. Some lovely spice, with a touch of liquorice and a fresh finish, with elegant cherry notes.  This is a new cuvée made from very ripe Grenache.  

And I also tasted the wines of Domaine les Caizergues, an estate in the Terrasses du Larzac, outside the village of Brissac, near Ganges, that was bought by an English couple a year or two ago.   Pat Middleton was there to show their wine.  Their first vintage was  2017.  Ganges was known for its silk production, and so the names of the various cuvées at Caizergues have a link with the silk industry.  

Les Tisserands were the weavers; les Magnerelles were the people who raised the silk worms and amorier is the Occitan for mulberry trees.

2018 Les Tisserands blanc, IGP St Guilhem-le-Désert - £11.99
A blend of 80% Viognier to 20% Sauvignon.  Rounded and peachy with a note of ginger.  Refreshing, without any oak

2018 Les Magnarelles, Languedoc blanc - £15.99
A blend of 60% Grenache Blanc, and 20% each of Marsanne and Vermentino.  Fresh dry nose, and on the palate quite firm fruit, with some white blossom and good balancing acidity.  

2018 Les Magnarelles Languedoc Rosé - £11.99
A blend of Grenache Noir and Carignan.  Pressed.  Light colour with some dry, rounded fruit on both nose and palate.  Nicely refreshing with good acidity.

2018 Les Magnarelles Rouge, Languedoc Rouge - £15.99
Quite a vivid young colour. Ripe smoky fruit on the nose, with some tannin and ripe confit fruit on the palate.

2016 les Tisserands IGP - £11.50
Quite firm and structured on the nose, with quite a lean edge on the palate.  

2015 Les Amoriers, Terrasses du Larzac - £16.50
Quite a solid, structured mouthful of dry oak and fruit.   These last wines were made by the previous owners and I expect to see some improvement with the newer vintages.  Jean Natoli advises.  

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Domaine du Météore,

This leading Faugères estate changed hands in 2017 when it was sold to two London doctors, Paul Jenkins and Paul Jarman, who have long had a dream to own a wine estate.  And they have employed Vincent Balansa as their winemaker.  His previous career includes time at Clos Marie in Pic St Loup, where Christophe Peyruis gave him inspiration for white wine, as well as at Domaine Gauby, Clos des Fées and Le Soula in Roussillon, after studies in Montpellier.    And there really is a meteor crater on the estate in the pretty Faugères village of Cabrerolles with a 70 ares vineyard in the bottom.  Another unusual aspect of Domaine de Météore is that it is one of only two wine estates to have vineyards in the adjoining appellations of Faugères and St. Chinian.  The other is Moulin de Ciffre, where the vineyards are side by side, and you can see the actual fault line that represents the boundary between the two appellations.  

A recent tasting in London showed the new wines.  Vincent’s first complete vintage was only last year, but he was there in time to blend earlier vintages, making subtle changes in the style.

2018 Léonides Blanc, Faugères Blanc – sold out!
Ablend of Roussanne, Vermentino and Viognier, with some nicely rounded herbal fruit, mouth-filling with a slightly bitter finish.  

2018 Lyrides Blanc, Faugères Blanc - £28.50
A barrel sample.  A demi-muid of Vermentino blended with a demi-muid of Roussanne, given 12 months in barrel, with very little bâtonnage.  The wine will be bottled very shortly.  The oak is still very present on the nose, but the palate has some rich fruit and good balancing acidity.  There is some satisfying texture and mouthfeel with a long finish.  It promises well, and in 2019, the blend will include some Clairette.

2016 Léonides Rouge, Faugères Rouge - £13.30
Blended rather than vinified by Vincent.  Aged in vat rather than barrel.  A blend of Syrah Grenache Noir and Cinsault.  The Cinsault makes for a more elegant palate, changing the original blend slightly.  Deep young colour.  Quite a firm nose with a rich leathery note.  And on the palate ripe and rounded with spicy  fruit.  Nicely balanced. 

2017 Carignides, Vin de France  - £17.50
No prizes for guessing that this is a pure Carignan, and a very elegant example of that sometimes rather rustic grape variety.  The grapes come from both St. Chinian and Faugères, from 55-year-old vines, so Vin de France is the simplest category for a blend of appellations.  Deep young colour.   Quite a firm nose, with some red fruit.  And on the palate nicely balanced fruit and silky tannins.   It is a classic vinification, with no carbonic maceration, with some ageing in vat.  Drinking beautifully.

2016 Perséides, Faugères Rouge - £15.50
There is a high percentage of Grenache Noir, with some Syrah, in this wine, which has two and a half years in demi-muids.  At the moment, the oak is quite obvious on the palate,  and there is also a firm oaky streak on the palate, but with plenty of fruit underneath, which will develop in bottle as the oak fades.  Good potential.  Definitely a wine to age.

2016 Lyrides Faugères Rouge - £28.50
A sélection parcellaire, of 80% Syrah with some Mourvèdre, and also aged in demi-muids for two and a half years.  A long maceration of seven to eight weeks.  The nose is quite firm and solid, and on the palate, there is a certain spiciness and a firm structure.  There is concentrated elegance, and indeed I found it more elegant than Perséides.

2015 Parangon St Chinian Roquebrun  - £25.50
This is essentially the same blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre, but with a drop of Grenache Noir and the same long maceration and ageing.  The vineyards are eight kilometres apart, and although the method is the same, the taste is different, as although the soil of Roquebrun, like Faugères, is based on schist, the schist is different, with more clay. There were firm tannins, with some peppery fruit, and the wine seemed to have more body and weight.   The Faugères was more elegant, while the St Chinian was denser, making a fascinating comparison.  And of course, with the year’s difference in vintage, it is not an exact comparison.