Friday, 29 May 2020

Domaine Danjou-Banessy with Cambridge Wine

This is a new Roussillon estate for me, run by two brothers, Sébastien and Benoît, who follow biodynamic methods.  One or two people had already recommended it as an interesting estate to visit, and then Stewart Travers at Cambridge Wine very kindly offered some samples.   I enjoyed what I tasted, so they are now on the wish list for a visit the next time I get to Roussillon, whenever that will be.  Meanwhile here are my tasting notes.  The wine names are the names of the specific vineyards.

2017 Côtes Catalanes Blanc, Coste - £17.40
A pure Macabeo, grown on clay and limestone in a plot called Les Terres Rouges.  The vines are between 10 and 30 years old, which is quite young for Macabeo vines.  Aged in old oak for ten to fourteen months.  Light colour. Fresh stony, lemony nose with firm acidity on the palate.    Very fresh and elegant, and nicely incisive on the finish.   A modest 11.5°

2017 Côtes Catalanes Blanc, Clos Escounils - £24.18
This comes from one plot, of just one hectare, a complantation of 100-year-old Grenache vines, Noir, Gris and Blanc.  Obviously the Grenache Noir is not used for this wine.  However, there is some depth in the colour.  The wine was fermented in large oak barrels, and aged for two years in the foudres. Quite a rounded nose, with some well integrated oak on both nose and palate, balanced with some firm fruit.  A nicely textured palate with some satisfying mouthfeel and some potential for ageing in bottle.

2017 Côtes Catalanes Rouge. Roboul - £17.46
A blend of 60% Mourvèdre with 40% Grenache.  Aged in old oak for twelve months.  Fairly light colour, with quite a fresh nose.  Initially it had what I call a natural edge, but that blew off with some air. On the palate the wine is fresh and juicy, with appealing ripe cherries and a balance of light tannin and acidity.

2017 Côtes Catalanes, la Truffière - £21.18
From 60-year-old vines, half Grenache and half Carignan, grown on schist. Medium colour.  Very perfumed, with red cherries on the nose. The palate is elegantly rounded, with ripe fragrant fruit, and a concentration of flavour, but without being heavy.  Nicely balanced, with a fresh finish.

2016 Côtes Catalanes, la Truffière - £24.99
An interesting vintage comparison.  Deeper colour.  More black fruit, rather than red fruit on the nose, with more concentration on the palate.  Ripe and rounded with a tannic streak.  Ripe black fruit, with balanced tannins and a long finish.  Probably longer lasting.

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2016 Côtes Catalanes, les Myrs  - £26.58
Pure Carignan.  The vines are over ninety years old, grown on black schist and the wine is aged for 20 months in old oak barrels.  Quite a deep colour.  An initial natural edge on both the nose and palate, which disappears with air. Fresh red fruit on the nose and on the palate, it is quite tannic and structured, with an initial dryness. However, the wine evolves in the glass and the ripe fruit comes to the fore, with an elegant finish.   12.5°.   One of those wines that keeps you guessing. 


Thursday, 21 May 2020

Domaine des Soulanes at Cambridge Wine

Cambridge Wine has one of the best lists of wines from the Languedoc and Roussillon of any independent wine merchant in the country.    Their Languedoc-Roussillon buyer, Stewart Travers, has won the prize of Sud de France specialist, and their list includes many of my favourite estates, too numerous to list here.  

Domaine des Soulanes is one of them, situated in the Agly valley just outside Maury, in the heart of Roussillon.  Daniel Lafitte is a Maurynat, born and bred in the village of Maury.  After a brief career as a Jaguar car mechanic, he worked for the previous owner of his vineyards, Jean Pull, learning from him as well as doing various stages. Jean was already farming organically in 1992, and when he retired in 2002, he sold 17 hectares of his 44 hectares to neighbouring Mas Amiel, and Daniel bought the rest, choosing the plots he particularly wanted to keep. Back in the 1990s, in common with all the wine growers of Roussillon, they made very little table wine or vin sec; the production was 90% fortified vin doux naturel, of which a large part was sold en vrac to Martini.  These days the balance has completely shifted, to 90% vin sec. However, Daniel gleefully remarked that one of his proudest moments, was selling some Maury to a wine shop in Portugal!

2018 Kaya Blanc, Côtes Catalanes - £14.04
30% each of Grenache Gris and Blanc, with 20% each Carignan Gris and Blanc, fermented in oak.  The Carignan adds acidity to the Grenache, and the schist of Maury also makes for a good level of acidity.  Very pale colour.  Youthful lemony notes on the nose, with fresh herbal fruit on the palate. Taut and lemony with juicy acidity, and a streak of oak.

2017 Kaya Blanc, Côtes Catalanes - £14.34
A slightly different blend with 50% each of Grenache, both Blanc and Gris, and 50% Carignan, again both Blanc and Gris.  A little more colour.  Firm stony mineral notes, and on the palate filling out, with long stony fruit, and a salty note, with a background streak of oak, which will disappear with bottle age.  Daniel wants his white wines to have ageing potential, and this does.  

2018 Cuvée Jean Pull, Côtes Catalanes - £10.92
Named after the previous owner.  A blend of Grenache and Carignan, with a little Syrah and a hint of Mourvèdre, fermented in a concrete vat.  A lovely perfumed nose, and on the palate, rounded and fresh with supple tannins.  Cherry liqueur fruit, and ripe without being heavy.  Perfect easy drinking.   

2017 Kaya Rouge, Côtes Catalanes - £12.60
A pure Carignan, with fresh red berry fruit, balanced with a streak of tannin and a fresh finish. Beautifully balanced and harmonious. It does not have the rustic notes that you sometimes find in Carignan.  A really lovely expression of the grape, showing just why the old vines are worth preserving, and why it deserves to be taken seriously. 

2017 Maury Grenat - £18.90
Pure Grenache.  Deep red colour.  Ripe berry fruit on the nose, and palate, with a fresh finish. Ripe and intense without being heavy, with rich fruit and a streak of tannin.  Daniel want the tannins to slip in behind the sugar, as he put it, so the wine is not too sweet. An extra 10 gms of sugar can mask the tannins.  It is all a question of the balance between sugar and alcohol.  And this is beautifully balanced.   Just bring on the dark chocolate!



Saturday, 9 May 2020

Domaine Gardiés and the Wine Society

The Wine Society has a spectacularly good range of wines from Roussillon, including some of the stars of the region, such as Domaine Gauby for vins secs, and wonderful old Rivesaltes from Domaine Rancy.  Other treats include a rich Collioure from Domaine Augustin, from the Parcé family who have done so much for Banyuls and Collioure over the generations.    They have also discovered Domaine Gardiés, whose wines really impressed me the first time I visited them last autumn.  I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours with Vincent Gardiès, including a visit to their vineyards in the hills outside the village of Vingrau.

2018 Côtes du Roussillon Blanc, les Glacières - £13.50 – magnum £29.00

Vincent Gardiés is convinced that Roussillon has enormous unfulfilled potential for white wines.   If this wine is anything to go by, I couldn’t possibly disagree.  A blend of Grenache, both Blanc and Gris, as well as Roussanne, Marsanne and a little Malvoisie de Roussillon, which is also known as Tourbat, all aged in foudres for eight to ten months.  Light colour.  A fresh fragrant nose, with lemony fruit and herbal notes, and on the palate rounded fruit with very good acidity.  It has a wonderful sapid quality, which leaves you wanting more. It is fresh and incisive, firm with a structured finish. And I would be intrigued to see how it ages.   

A pair of reds, demonstrated the contrasts of Roussillon, with a fresher, more elegant wine for earlier drinking, and a rich concentrated wine that would benefit from some bottle age.

2018 les Millères, Côtes du Roussillon Villages - £13.50
Les Millères is the first red wine of their range, which Vincent deems to be representative of the region, with freshness, fruit and structure, made from Syrah and Grenache grown in Vingrau, and Carignan and Mourvèdre from Espira de l’Agly.  Medium colour.  Light red fruit on the nose.  The palate is medium weight, fresh and nicely rounded with red fruit, supple tannins and a fresh finish.

2015 Clos des Vignes, Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Tautavel - £17.00
This is more serious, coming from old vines, both Grenache and Carignan, and aged for twelve months in barriques and demi-muids.  Deep colour. Ripe rounded, warm nose, with supple fruit.  Very Grenache, with some cherry liqueur notes.  On the palate lovely depth, with silky tannins, rounded and complete with ripe spice and concentration.  Very harmonious, with a satisfying mouthfeel.    The vines are in a clos, surrounded by small stone walls.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Roc des Anges at Les Caves de Pyrène

Marjorie and Stephane Gallet at Roc des Anges have been making some of the most elegant wines of Roussillon for nearly 20 years now.  Elegance really is the hallmark of their wines.  Their first vintage was 2001. She comes from the northern Rhône and met Stéphane while studying at Montpellier.  After graduation, he went to work at Mas Amiel, so looking for vines in Roussillon was the obvious choice for their own wine estate.  Côte Rôtie would have been much more expensive; 'but here in Roussillon everything is possible. And the schist is the same as in Côte Rôtie, but the climate is different'

Since 2014 they have a smart cellar, close to the village of Latour-de-France, with lots of concrete vats of various sizes, to accommodate their numerous different parcels of vines.  Altogether they have about 100 plots in just 35 hectares, at an altitude between 150 and 350 metres.  60 ares is a big plot for them.  Virtually all their vines are in Montner, with a few in Tautavel and also close to Calce. 

Their UK importers are the wonderfully eclectic company, Les Caves de Pyrène, who were very happy to supply a couple of samples for some research. both wines that really convey the tipicity of the estate.   I don't usually note alcohol levels, but these are worth mentioning as they are significantly lower than the average in Roussillon.

2018, Côtes Catalanes Blanc, Llum, meaning light in Catalan, is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Carignan Blanc and Macabeo, grown on schist and all picked together.  Light colour, with firm stony notes on the nose and palate, with fresh elegance and mineral tension and a long incisive finish.  It develops beautifully in the glass.   £26.49  12.5°

2018 Côtes Catalanes Rouge, Segna de Cor, is a blend of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah, from relatively young vines, again grown on schist, and aged in tank, is the epitome of elegance, with fresh peppery red fruit, spice and herbs.  It is beautifully harmonious, with some balancing acidity as well as tannin, with a fresh vibrant finish.   The name is an anagram of Roc des Anges, in case you are wondering.   13.5°  £17.99