Monday, 24 August 2020

Clos du Temple 2019 - the Languedoc's most expensive rosé

It seems that rosé is on a role, being drunk more than ever before, and also being taken more seriously than ever before. A fellow MW and friend, Elizabeth Gabay, has written a whole book on rosé: Rosé, Understanding the Pink Revolution, published by Infinite Ideas. and wine makers worldwide are giving rosé much greater consideration.  Provence is setting the pace, with the palest of ethereal rosés, that almost look white, but it is the Languedoc that produces much more rosé than Provence.  Sasha Lichine at Château d’Esclans is the Provençal champion, with many others following in his wake. In the Languedoc it is Gérard Bertrand who is raising the bar for rosés and he has just released the second vintage of the Languedoc’s most expensive, by far, rosé, Clos du Temple 

I was lucky enough to be sent a sample bottle, and quite fortuitously, shortly after an MW webinar, chaired by Liz Gabay at which Gérard talked about Clos du Temple and his aspirations for rosé and about how the methods of production for rosé have evolved.  Gérard first began making rosé 25 years ago, when methods were pretty primitive, without much temperature control. Next he looked at different terroirs, and natural yeast, considering that organic viticulture reinforces the terroir.  There is no doubt that Clos du Temple is produced in some of the most stunning vineyards of the Languedoc, in the schist hillsides above the village of Cabrières, a village which already had a traditional reputation for its rosé. 

Gérard talked about the importance of the harvest date - it is not the same as for red wine. He considers Grenache to be the best grape variety for rosé in the Languedoc, not just Grenache Noir, but Gris and Blanc as well, and also considers the potential of Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Syrah.  Grenache gives sapidity, saltiness, complexity, but he favours blends. The schist and limestone of Clos du Temple provide freshness and minerality, while the finish and aftertaste are important too. 

For Clos de Temple, Gérard selects some very old vines, and dedicates them to rosé. They are at an altitude of 200 - 400 metres, giving small yields. The berries, once picked, are chilled for 24 hours, down to a temperature of 3C and that way the grapes gives off less colour and the grapes need less chilling during fermentation. There is some oak ageing, with a fermentation around 19 - 21C.  Any lower and you get technical aromas. A warmer temperature is better to express the terroir. You cannot ferment rosé in oak if the yield is too high; it is the same as for white wine; there must already be some structure in the wine. In fact there are really no differences between winemaking for white and for rosé wines. You must take care with acidity and use indigenous yeast which capture a sense of place. Made like this, there is no reason why rosé should not age, just like a white wine. 

There is no doubt that the wine is very impressive. It is a delicate palle colour. The blend also includes some Viognier and I found that made for a lightly peachy note on the nose, as well as some vanilla oakiness, from the oak ageing. The palate is rounded and ripe, with some raspberry fruit and a streak of tannin on the finish. But for some reason, the wine simply did not sing, and certainly not at the high retail price. You do not get much change from 200€. There was weight and there was complexity, but perhaps there was too much oak and rounded weight. I closed my eyes and wondered how I would like it if it were a white wine. And there is the problem, I am a Chablis girl at heart and this wine was more like a Meursault or a Puligny Montrachet. The rosé I really enjoy from among the many that Gérard produces, comes from vineyards in the Terrasses du Larzac, at Château la Sauvageonne, outside the village of St.Jean de la Blaquière. La Villa is also aged in oak, but it has a more incisive structure than Clos du Temple. And for me that makes it a more satisfying and possibly age worthy wine. I still have a bottle of 2018 Clos de Temple, so I am going to simply forget about it and give it, say, five years bottle age. Rendez-vous in 2025!

Sunday, 16 August 2020

The Vinifilles - a six pack for the summer

The Vinifilles are a lively group of women winemakers scattered all over the Languedoc, and also in Roussillon.  They get together for marketing purposes, often sharing stands at wine fairs and organising events together and they also exchange technical information.   It also has to be said that they are a lively group of women who have a lot of fun together, and provide mutual support in what can sometimes be a difficult situation.  This summer, with the help of the wine shop, L'Atelier du Vin, in Limoux, they have put together a box of six wines, for summer drinking, with a suggested recipe to accompany each wine in the box.   

Our good friends Jan and Caryl Panman came to dinner the other day, bearing the six pack for me to try.   And delicious the wines were too.  

2019 Château de l’Ou rosé, Côtes du Roussillon.
A blend of Syrah and Grenache Noir.  This is a serious rosé, in a smart bottle, with a pale colour and a rounded nose, with some raspberry  notes.  The palate is quite firm and structured, with elegance and some weight, and delicious fruit.  Nicely balanced.   An elegant food recipe, and Séverine's recipe was a ratatouille.  Séverine talked about cooling the grapes in a cool chamber before pressing them, saying that the technique makes for some interesting aromas.  She only uses the first pressings of the juice.  She considers rosé to be underrated as a food wine, and more difficult to make than either red or white.

A second rosé came from Clos des Nines, 2019 Niño, Vin de France.  This is mainly Cinsault, with 20% Grenache, which adds some depth.  Cinsault has large berries, and is picked early to retain the freshness and acidity.

A delicate salmon pink colour.  Quite a rounded nose with good fruit.  Quite a firm palate, with weight, fragrant red fruit and balancing acidity.   A nicely rounded finish.  Red mullet with some courgettes was Isabelle's choice of accompaniment here.

Bubbles were represented by Françoise Antech, from the family firm of Limoux producers, with Crémant de Limoux, Cuvée Eugénie.  A blend of 70% Chardonnay, with 10% Mauzac and 20% Chenin Blanc.  18 months on the lees.  I had not realised that Antech produce as many as 15 different sparkling wines, including wines aged in oak, and rosés.  Eugénie was the great-great-aunt of Françoise. 

Good mousse with a light colour.  A delicate nose.  Quite an elegant palate, with rounded floral notes and a touch of brioche.  A little weight and some appealing creaminess on the finish.   Françoise suggested a salad of prawns, avocado and pink grapefruit.  I definitely intend to try that.

The white wine in the selection came from the other Vinifille of Limoux, Caryl Panman of Château Rives Blanques, with 2018 Odyssée Chardonnay. Limoux, with its combination of Mediterranean and Atlantic climates, is the one place in the Languedoc which can produce elegant Chardonnay.  There is fresh fruit on the nose, with well integrated oak - Limoux must be fermented and aged in oak - and nicely balanced acidity on the palate, with a textured youthful mouthfeel.  An elegant finish, and a wine that will develop with bottle age.   Caryl’s recipe was a tuna salad, with some exotic Asian flavours.

Next came a pair of reds.
First was Domaine de Roquemale, 2019 Méli Mélo, Pays de l’Hérault.  From an estate in Villeveyrac70% Alicante Bouschet, with some Cinsault and Syrah.  I was amused when I opened the bottle, to find a smily face on the top of the cork.  Valerie Ibanez has a sense of fun.  Alicante is a teinturier grape and so given only a short maceration.  However, the wine  is still quite deep in colour, with some fresh red fruit on the nose, and lovely juicy fruit on palate, with an appealingly rustic note.   It is best served slightly chilled, and goes with a summery rice salad, with ham and feta cheese.

2019 Domaine la Jasse Castel, la Pimpanela, from an estate in Montpeyroux,  is a blend of 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 20% Cinsault and 10% Carignan.  It is deep in colour, with some rounded spicy fruit on the nose.  The palate is ripe and rounded with a streak of tannin.  The alcohol reaches 15º, but you simply do not taste it.   For this, Pascale suggested a kebab of magret de canard.

The box costs 82€ from L'Atelier du Vigneron and includes delivery to France, the UK and five other EU countries.   It's a bargain!   Order here

Saturday, 8 August 2020

La Grange de Bouys - what's new?

How wonderful to be back in a wine cellar again.  We drove down to our Languedoc house in the middle of July and our first cellar visit was to our neighbours just outside our village at La Grange de Bouys.  Stéphane and Florence Monmousseau have featured in this blog on previous occasions.

First we went to have a look at Stéphane’s grafted vines, for his new cuvée le Médiéval.   You lose just one year of production; the first year with the new variety the vine is generous as though it is making up for the previous year’s loss, and then it calms down.    Then the high summer temperatures drove us inside to a cool cellar for tasting.

2019 Florence Rosé,  Vin de France - 9€
20% Syrah with 80% Grenache Blanc.  Quite simply 20 boxes of one and 80 boxes of the other go into the press.  Stéphane is adamant that he does not want to do a charcoal fining to obtain the elusive pale colour of a Provence rosé; he prefers to blend white with red grapes.  The Syrah was picked a day earlier than the Grenache Blanc.  And the wine is indeed a very pretty colour, a pale salmon colour, with a ripe, rounded nose and a fresh dry palate, indeed much drier than the nose would lead you to expect. but with some substance.  Pronounced acidity balanced with fresh fruit.

2018 Confucius, AC Languedoc - 16.00€
A blend of  80% Grenache Blanc with 20% Clairette, fermented à la bourguignonne, with an élevage on lees in 600 litre demi-muids from the Austrian cooper, Stockinger, for 75% of the wine.  Blended in February.  A little colour, Quite a rounded nose and a nicely textured palate.  A hint of vanilla from the oak.  Good weight, length and balancing acidity.

2016 Carignan, Vin de France - 12.00€
1.5 hectares of old Carignan gives Stéphane just 5000 bottles.  The blend includes 15% Syrah, but that does not need to be mentioned on the label.  Only in stainless steel tank.  Stéphane does not like Carignan in wood, and I am not sure that I do either.   A peppery, spicy note from the Syrah balanced with some fresh red fruit and a nice streak of lively tannin.   The rusticity of Carignan with a satisfying freshness on the finish.

2018 St Andrieu, Pézenas - 15€
45% each of Syrah and Grenache, with 10% Cinsault.  25% in barrel.  Good colour.  Ripe spicy black fruit; rounded and ripe. A more silky palate than the Carignan, with a touch of oak.  Rich and concentrated.

Apparently Pézenas could have acquired an appellation communale without the need to mention Languedoc on the label, but the cooperatives account for 70% of the production of the appellation and they adamantly refused to accept the requirement to give up using weedkiller and instead plough between the rows.  Words failed me.   We were not even talking about having to buy an intercep to work between the vines,  Stéphane adamantly refuses to get involved in local wine politics - how wise…..….

2019 Médiéval, Vin de France - 16.50€
Just 2000 bottles.  From the grafted vines.  45% Aspiran, with Morastel, Terret Noir, Aramon, Cinsault and Oeillade.   Also 50 pieds of Mourvèdre.  We had a discussion about the age of the vines.  Here is a conundrum.  The roots are 16 year old Syrah; the buds came from 80 year old vines and they were grafted two years ago.  So how old are they?   A quarter of the wine is kept in 500 litres barrels for  five months.  Next year Stéphane would like to age it for longer.

The vines ripen late; the grapes were picked ten days after the Carignan, on 15th September,  and the wine is a modest 12 degrees.   Medium young colour.  Very fresh red fruit on both nose and palate.   Lots of nuances from the different cépages.   Lovely freshness combined with spice from the garrigues.  The Morastel gives pepperiness and the Aspiran balance.   Aspiran disappeared from the region as it does not produce enough alcohol or a high enough yield and the cooperatives didn’t like it.   A fresh speak of tannin.   Stéphane’s oenologist refers to this wine as an UFO, in French, Un Objet Volant Non Identifié!

2018 Le Fût Oublié, Vin de France - 20€
From both Grenache Noir and Grenache Blanc.  Quite a light colour.  Fresh stony nose.  Some cherry fruit.  Medium weight. Nice freshness with red fruit.  Picked a little early, and aged for two years - a forgotten barrel from 2018.

And this year Stéphane will make a Médiéval Blanc from Aspiran Gris, Aramon Gris, Clairette, Terret Gris and Blanc and Picpoul.   I can’t wait to try it this time next year.  

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Domaine du Météore's latest release

2019 Le Météore, Faugères Rosé - £15.50

it is the season for rosé, even though the weather in London has been generally  unseasonally chilly – we should have been planning rosé tastings during the sunniest month of May.  But never mind a bottle of Domaine du Météore’s new rosé was delivered the other day.   The blend consists of  50% Cinsault, 40% Grenache Noir and just 10% Mourvèdre, which would add some structure. Direct pressing, for lightly coloured juice and a cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks followed.   I liked it a lot, with a pretty pale colour and a delicate nose.  The palate is nicely balanced, youthful and elegant with fresh stony fruit, with hints of raspberry and some balancing acidity and structure.   It could be a food rosé or an aperitif, whichever is needed.  

I am looking forward to some cellar visits in France, now that quarantine restrictions have come to an end, and I hope to be to visit this estate and see the changes under the new ownership.