Friday, 26 June 2020

Mas Gabriel – a webinar and zoom tasting with Winefunding

Planting a new vineyard is an expensive undertaking and an investment for the future.   Happily there is an organisation called WineFunding, which helps small wine growers to fund that kind of investment.   In return, the investors become part of a select club of supporters, and receive wine at an advantageous price.  It’s bit like the theatrical angels investing in a future production.   So the other day Deborah Core presented her wines to some of the people who had supported them through WineFunding and asked me if I would like to join the zoom meeting.     

First she explained that they had particularly wanted to plant their new vineyards using massal selection, taking cuttings from their existing vineyards, rather than buying clones from a nursery.   Massal selection makes for greater variety of flavour and complexity in a vineyard, not to mention greater resistance to disease.   Vines selected by clonal selection  tend to be very consistent, so that they react in identical fashion to any problem in the vineyard, whereas massal selection vines are much more diverse.  A vine nursery took the cuttings and grafted the vines.  They are gobelet, bush vines, each with its own supporting post – making 3500 posts for 3500 vines; with 50 ares of Cinsault and 25 ares of Grenache Noir.

And then we tasted some wines, which had been sent out to the attendees ahead of the zoom meeting.  

2019 Champs des Bluets, Languedoc Blanc -16.00€
A blend of 80% Vermentino with 10% each of Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris.    2014 was the first vintage of this second cuvée of white wine. 30% of the blend has been aged in acacia, rather than oak, which Deborah considers to be more gentle than oak. The barrels are not new and they do not mark the wine in the same way as oak.  The colour is pale, and the nose delicate, with a hint of pear.  On the palate there is fresh fruit, balanced by good acidity and what the French call ‘un joli amer’, a refreshing bitterness that is typical of Vermentino.   The palate is nicely rounded with some satisfying weight on the finish.

2018 Les Trois Terrasses, Pays de l’Hérault - 12.00€
So called as the grapes come from three adjacent terraces.   The principal variety is Carignan, blended with some Syrah and Grenache. The Carignan vines are at least fifty, if not 65 years old.   The wine is aged in a cement vat.  Deep young colour.  Fresh spice and red fruit on the nose, with more fresh fruit on the palate.  There is a firm fresh streak of tannin, which gives the wine structure, balanced by some flesh from the Grenache.    I love the fresh finish of the Carignan, making it a very refreshing wine.   Carignan is often criticised for being a tad rustic; this belies that generalisation with an elegant finish.   And it illustrates just how much Carignan is improving, and how it deserves to be taken seriously.  

2017 Clos des Lièvres, Pézenas - 17.50€
A blend of 75% Syrah, with 25% Grenache.  Aged for 12 months in 5000 litres demi-muids.  15% new oak.  Deep young colour.   An intriguing contrast with Trois Terraces.  The palate is richer and fleshier, with a touch of pepper from the Syrah.  There is rounded weight and youthful fruit. Although it was drinking well on the night – we subsequently finished the bottle with a coq au vin – it is definitely a wine that will develop with bottle age.



Sunday, 21 June 2020

Château d’Anglès – the latest vintages

Château d'Anglès has enjoyed a considerable revival in its fortunes over the last few years, since the Fabre family arrived there from Bordeaux in 2002.   Eric Fabre had been the technical director of Château Lafite but he wanted to do his own thing and he chose to come to La Clape as he was particularly interested in the potential for Mourvèdre in the area, seeing similarities with Bandol.  Eric has reunited the two estates of Château Rivière Haute and Château Rivière Basse, and called them Anglès after a local landowner, Barthélèmy Etienne d’Anglès, whose family owned both estates for over a hundred years after the French RevolutionTheir vineyards are less than two kilometres from the sea so you always have some cooling sea breezes.  The cellars have been modernised and streamlined and you can sense a bordelais approach.  For their red and white wines, they make a Cuvée Classique and a Grand Vin. 

Vianney, Eric’s son, who is now working with his father, very kindly sent me bottles of the most recent vintages.   So this is what I tasted.

2019 La Clape Classique Blanc - 12.90€
A blend of 50% Bourboulenc, 30% Grenache Blanc and 20% Roussanne. Some lees stirring in concrete vats for four to five months. A little colour.  A salty tang on both the nose and palate, with firm fresh fruit.  A nicely rounded finish.  A touch of exotic fruit on the palate, but essentially there are the refreshing salty notes from the maritime influence.

2017 La Clape Grand Vin Blanc - 22.50€
A blend of 40% Bourboulenc, 30% Grenache, and 30% Marsanne.  The Bourboulenc vines are 80 years old.   Fermented and aged in wood, with some lees stirring for 5 – 6 months.  A little more depth of colour than the Cuvée Classique. A nicely buttery, oaky nose – I don’t usually like overt oak, but this is classy oak and it has made for a very appealing nose. There is oak on the palate too, but with considerable depth of flavour.  The wine is rich and youthful, with a good long finish.  Very stylish.   Anglès usually hold back a white vintage to release ten years later, proving indisputably the ageing potential of white La Clape.

2019 Classique Rosé, AOC Languedoc - 12.90€
Rosé is not part of the appellation of La Clape, hence the appellation Languedoc for this very elegant rosé.  A blend of 40% Mourvèdre, 30% Cinsault and 30% Syrah. Direct pressing and some lees stirring, in concrete vats, for three months.  Very pale colour, almost white, but not quite.  A hint of raspberry on the nose.  Some ripe raspberry fruit on the palate, but dry, structured and youthful, with a fresh finish.  A serious food rosé that will evolve a little more in the bottle.  

2018 La Clape, Classique Rouge - 12.90€
A blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre.   Aged in vat for eighteen months.   Quite a deep young colour.  Rounded spice and garrigues notes on the nose, and a hint of orange.  A fresh, spicy palate.  Medium weight with a refreshing streak of tannin, and some peppery notes.  Rounded red fruit.  Easy drinking with good depth, and length.

2017 La Clape Grand Vin Rouge - 22.50€
A blend of 55% Mourvèdre and 25% Syrah, which are aged in oak for 12 months and 20% Grenache, aged in cement vat.  Deep colour. On the nose a subtle veneer of oak, with some spicy fruit.   The palate is rounded, with good depth and length, with more weight and body than the Classique Cuvée.  There are youthful tannins; the wine is drinking well with a substantial dish – ours was coq au vin – but it also has ageing potential.  A very satisfying finish.   And a lovely range of wines.  

Friday, 12 June 2020

Domaine Lafage - a small selection

Domaine Lafage is based at Mas Miraflors, outside Canet-en-Roussillon.   Altogether the business includes three estates, the largest near the sea, as well as 20 hectares in les Aspres, and in 2007 they have bought the estate of St Roch in Maury, which has its own cellar.  In addition, there is a recent purchase of 17 hectares in St. Paul-de-Fenouillet for white wine, and another acquisition in Rivesaltes is being converted to organic viticulture, making a total of 260 hectares.   Their beginnings were small.  1995 was Jean-Marc and Eliane’s first vintage, just 1000 bottles of a Muscat de Rivesaltes.  Then in 2001 Jean-Marc took over the family vineyards and acquired Mas Miraflors in 2006.   The Lafage family came from Maury; Jean-Marc’s grandfather was one of four brothers, three of whom settled in Canet, and one stayed in Maury at Domaine du Dernier Bastion.  

They make an extensive range of wines, from the simple entry level to the more complex.  A few came my way recently.    

2019 Côté Est, Pay d’Oc – 7.90€
A blend of 50% Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris, with 30% Chardonnay and 20% Roussanne.   The Grenache are 60 years old and the vines are planted east /west, which helps maintain a cooler temperature and some freshness.  Each grape variety is fermented separately, and given some ageing on the fine lees.  The aim is easy drinking, as it partners Côté Rose and the red Côté Sud, as the entry level to the range, but even at that level it demonstrates the success of Roussillon for producing white wine.  The colour is light and the nose is fresh and pity, with the same pithiness on the palate, and some stony fruit.  It is nicely rounded, with what the French call un joli amer on the finish – a nice bitterness.   There are moments in French wine tasting when bitterness can be a quality, which of course it never is in English.   Appealing and refreshing.

2018 Authentique, Côtes du Roussillon – 9.60€
A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan from different terroirs, and the aim is a wine that is truly representative of Roussillon.   Most of the wine is aged in vat, but about 20% spends twelve months in French oak.   Deep colour. Ripe black fruit on the nose, and on the palate a hint of vanilla and a streak of tannin, with ripe rounded fleshy fruit.  14.5° but it carries its alcohol well and does not taste alcoholic or heavy; on the contrary.   Quite simply, it is a jolly nice glass of wine that is authentically Roussillon.  

2019 Le Rétro, Vin de France – 10.00€
Carignan, Lledoner Pelut, Grenache Noir and Grenache Gris.  There is a story on the website about a wine made from the grapes picked at the end of the harvest in early October.  They were not suitable for vin doux, and instead served to make a refreshing everyday wine.  Bright light red in colour, with perfumed fresh fruit.  A touch of acidity and tannin with good fruit and a fresh finish.  Quite light in the mouth and indeed a modest 12.5°.  Served slightly chilled, it could be termed Roussillon’s answer to Beaujolais, and I say that, liking Beaujolais.


Saturday, 6 June 2020

Taronja – an orange wine from Roussillon

Taronja is a joint project between Jean- Marc Lafage of Domaine Lafage, outside Perpignan, and Justin Howard-Sneyd MW of Domaine of the Bee.  Justin has vineyards, but no cellar, and so he makes his wine chez Lafage. And in 2017 they had the idea of producing an orange wine.  Taronja, which means orange in Catalan, comes mainly from Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc, with a little Muscat and even less Viognier.   In 2018 there were four barrel fermentations, two with whole bunches, one carbonic maceration and one with destemmed grapes.  The fermentation took place in open top 500 litres barrels and then the juice was left to macerate on the skins and stalks for two weeks after afterwards.  The wine was protected from oxidation with dry ice and then aged in neutral barriques for eight months.  There was a light filtration, but no fining before bottling.

Thanks to bottles arriving from Jean-Marc in Roussillon and Bibendum in London, I was able to compare the 2018 and the 2019 vintages.    They made an intriguing comparison.   

2019 : The colour was a light pink, with the colour coming from the Grenache Gris which turns slightly pink as it ripens.  The nose was fresh and rounded, and on the palate there were hints of the peachiness of the Viognier and the perfume of Muscat.  There was a youthful freshness, balanced by some dry tannins, and some pithy fruit with a refreshing finish.  14°

2018 : More orange pink in colour, with a firmer, dryer nose and a firm but fresh palate, with some tannic notes.  The wine had lost the youthful peachy notes of the 2019 and developed more complexity and other nuances.   It was an appealing combination of freshness and fruit, with some elegant tannins. And it proved its versatility, by answering the conundrum of what to drink with a pasta sauce with egg and home-grown asparagus, two notoriously difficult things to accompany any wine.  Taranja simply came up trumps!