Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Maury Tuilé for some Christmas cheer


I have spent much of this year thinking and writing about Roussillon, rather than the Languedoc, researching a book on the region that is due to appear in the spring.    One of the delights of Roussillon is the vin doux naturel, the delicious fortified wines of Maury, Banyuls and Rivesaltes. And one of the enigmas is: why are these wines not more popular, when they are so delicious?   And they are perfect for this time of the year, providing warmth and spice on a grey day.  They go with mince pies and Christmas pudding, with Stilton and walnuts, or are perfect for sipping on their own.   And they represent extraordinary value.   Berry Bros are selling Maury 1928 Solera, produced by the village cooperative of Maury for £19.95 for a 50 cl bottle.    The wine comes from a solera that was started in 1928.   The grape variety is Grenache Noir, which will have been aged in barrel for over number of years so that the colour evolves and become tuilé or tawny and the wine develops a wonderful dry nutty nose, reminiscent of walnuts, with some rounded rich red fruit, balanced with a firm bite on the finish, and a streak of alcohol.   


Vin doux comes in various forms and colours.  There are younger fresher wines, Grenat or Rimage, made without any contact with oxygen, which you might equate to a ruby port.   And then there are the oxidative wines that spend several, even many years in barrel which are often left outside so that they are exposed to the elements and extremes of temperature, both heat and cold.   Alternatively, they might be left in an attic, again subjected to extremes of temperature, so that the flavours concentrate, as the angels take their share, with the gentle evaporation of the wine.    If made from white grapes, they will turn ambré or amber with age, and if made from red grapes, they will become tuilé or tawny.  So if you are looking for an original Christmas drink, do try a vin doux.  You will not be disappointed.   


This will be my last post of the year, so may I take this opportunity to wish you a Happy Christmas with some good bottles, and followed by a very much better 2021 than 2020.

Friday, 4 December 2020

Domaine de l’Argenteille


I had tasted Roger Jeanjean’s wines a while ago, in fact a number of years ago, at a wine fair in London, but had never managed to visit his estate, and then suddenly, out of the blue in the summer, an email arrived, asking if I would like to try his wines  again.  Of course, the answer was yes, and bottles duly arrived. 


Roger Jeanjean – and No, he is not related to the Jeanjean family who are one of the largest producers of the Languedoc – has had a varied wine trade career.  He is a qualified oenologist and was director of the cooperative in the Hérault village of Gabian for a number of years and then set up his own négociant business, Millésime Sud.  Then he inherited ten hectares of family vines that are situated between Jonquières and St. Saturnin, in the appellation of the Terrasses du Larzac.  So that was the moment to become a vigneron.  In his recent email, Roger told me that his son Victor is now taking over the wine-making, while he is concentrating on the commercial side of things.


So this is what I tasted:

 2019 Rosé Ostrea, Languedoc St Saturnin - 8.00€

A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.   A pale pink orange colour.  A rounded nose and palate, with some dry fruit and some satisfying weight.  Very nicely balanced, making this a good food rosé, with some substance and staying power. 


2018 Le Canyon du Diable, Languedoc  - 7.00€

A blend of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache Noir.   Good young colour.  Ripe spicy red fruit on the nose, and quite sweet ripe fruit on the palate, with a streak of tannin and a fresh finish.  I thought there might have been a hint of oak, but no.  However, I was slightly put off by the heavy bottle. If I were wanting to do some weight lifting, I would rather go to the gym! 



2018 Garric, Terrasses du Larzac – 13.00€

A garric is a kermes oak, an evergreen oak, which grows in the garrigues.  Good colour.  Rounded ripe nose and palate.  A nicely harmonious palate, elegant and rounded with some sweet fruit and a fresh finish, characteristic of the Terrasses du Larzac, balanced by a streak of tannin


2018 Tramontane, Terrasses du Larzac – 11.00€

A blend of 45% Syrah, 30% Grenache Noir, 25% Carignan

Deep colour. Firmer, spicier nose, and drier on the palate, a tighter palate, more knit together.  More structured, with more obvious tannins but also more elegant. Youthful with plenty of potential.  My favourite of the three Terrasses du Larzac.

 2017 Les Secrets du Rocher, Terrasses du Larzac, élevé en fût – 16.00€

A blend of 40% Syrah and 30% each of Grenache and Mourvèdre, aged in medium toasted barrels for 12 months, and then finished off in an egg shaped Flextank, which is made of neutral plastic, which allows for the same level of oxygenation as a barrel, but without any oak effect.   Deep colour.  Quite a firm structured nose, with noticeable oak.  On the palate, some vanilla, as well as fruit.  Quite full-bodied with some weight, and ageing potential.  Well-made.  The oak will tone down with some bottle development.


2018 103 Carignan Vieilles Vignes, IGP St Guilhem-le-Désert - 9.00€

From vines planted in 1950.  The grapes were picked on 29th September, and the wine racked off the skins on 10th December, in other words, a maceration of 103 days, hence the name of the wine, ensuring that the cap of grape skins rests emerged for the whole time.  The malo-lactic fermentation takes place on the skins.  Quite a deep colour, with fresh red fruit on the nose.  However, the palate seemed quite lean in comparison to the nose, and on first taste, I thought there might have been some oak, but no.  The only wine Roger ages in oak is Les Secrets du Rocher.  A touch rustic on the finish, but I like my Carignan with a touch of rusticity.  


A very interesting range of wines that certainly made me want to visit the estate.  I would love to see Roger’s vineyards and meet Victor and have a conversation about his wine-making, and the use of the Flextanks, just as soon as it is possible to return to the Languedoc and cellar visits are feasible once again.