Friday, 9 February 2018

Gérard Bertrand - an update

Hallgarten are the UK agents for Gérard Bertrand, so their recent tasting provided a good opportunity for an update on the not inconsiderable range from his various estates scattered over the Languedoc.

NV Code Rouge, Crémant de Limoux 
Presented in an eye-catching red bottle.  A blend of 60% Chardonnay, 30% Chenin Blanc and 10% Mauzac.  Aged on the lees for a minimum of three years, with 8 gms/l dosage.  A rounded creamy nose, with supple ripe rounded fruit on the palate.   Nicely balanced and easy to drink.

2016 Picpoul de Pinet.
This comes from bought grapes rather than their own vineyards.  Quite a rounded nose, and on the palate the benchmark saltiness of Picpoul with a firm finish and good balancing acidity.

2017 Chardonnay ‘Naturalys’, Pays d’Oc
30% of the cuvée is aged in barrel for six months.  Light easy fruit on the nose and quite supple and softly buttery on the palate.  This is their organic cuvée.

2017 Muscat ‘Prima Nature’ Pays d’Oc
Very fresh grapey nose, and on the palate rounded and grapey with a firm pithy note and the slightly bitter finish that is the hallmark of Muscat.  From organic vineyards and made without the addition of any sulphur.

2017 Syrah ‘Prima Nature’ Pays d’Oc
Medium depth of colour.  Young perfumed fruit on the nose, and on the palate some young rather raw tannins, but with underlying ripe fruit and some juiciness.  Again, without any added sulphur.

2017 Gris Blanc Pays d’Oc
A pure Grenache Gris.  Quite a soft rounded palate, and still a touch amylic, with boiled sweets on the nose.  A dry finish.

2017 Or et Azur Bee-Friendly Rosé, AOP Languedoc
A blend of equal parts of Grenache Noir and Cinsaut.  Light pink colour.  Still a bit amylic on the nose, but quite full and rounded on the palate, with good fruit.

2016 Château la Sauvageonne, Languedoc blanc.
A blend of 50% Vermentino, 40% Grenache blanc and 10% Viognier, partially aged in barrel for six months.  Buttery oak on the nose and quite solid and mouth filling on the palate.  The oak is still too obvious for my taste buds

2016 Château la Sauvageonne, La Villa rosé, Pays d’Oc
A blend of 65% Grenache, 25% Mourvèdre, 7% Vermentino and 3% Viognier, of which a proportion is fermented in oak.  A pretty gris colour, and quite a delicate but firm nose, with some restrained fruit on the palate.   Quite structured, elegant and stylish.  This is a serious rosé.

2014 Château la Sauvageonne, Pica Broca, Terrasses du Larzac
A blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache, aged for 12 – 16 months in new French barriques, which makes it rather solidly oaky on the nose and palate, but with some ripe rounded fruit underneath the oak.  Needs time.

2013 Château la Sauvageonne, Grand Vin, Terrasses du Larzac
50% Syrah, 35% Grenache, 8% Mourvèdre and 7% Carignan, aged in French oak for 12 months.  Quite a firm structured nose and palate.  Tight knit, youthful concentrated fruit.  Again, needs time, but promises well.

2017 Domaine de Cigalus blanc, Aude Hauterive
70% Chardonnay, 20% Viognier, 10% Sauvignon blanc, of which 70% is fermented in French oak.   Quite a rounded nose with lots of nuances.  Quite a ripe fleshy palate, with peachy notes and a dry finish with a streak of tannin from the oak. 

2016 Domaine de Cigalus rouge, Aude Hauterive
A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon 30% Syrah, 20% Merlot and 5% each of Grenache and Carignan so a mix of bordelais and Languedoc flavours with a rounded ripe nose and on the palate, ripe spice, some cassis and a streak of tannin.

2014 Clos d’Ora, Minervois la Livinière
A blend of 45% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre and 10% Carignan, aged for 12 months in French oak barriques.  Medium colour.  The nose is quite firm and closed with oaky overtones.  The palate is medium weight, quite firm and structured with herbal notes and other nuances, as well as some attractive evolution.  But at £149.91 plus VAT is it really worth it?   However, I admire Gérard’s chutzpah for aiming high, as Aimé Guibert did with Mas de Daumas Gassac back in the 1980s. 

2014 la Viala, Minervois la Livinière
60% Syrah, 25% Grenache 15% Carignan aged for a minimum of 12 months in new French oak barriques.  Quite a deep colour.  A rounded ripe spicy nose.  Lightly oaky palate, but quite an intense finish, with ageing potential.  And only about a third the price of Clos d’Ora.

2015 La Forge Corbières Boutenac
A blend of equal parts of Carignan and Syrah, aged for 12 months in barriques.
A deep colour.  Quite solid firm oak on the nose.  Dense ripe fruit on the palate with a firm streak of tannin. 

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Saperavi in the Languedoc

One of the things I love about the Languedoc is the element of the unexpected.  You never quite know what you might encounter.   After the Masters of Wine trip to Georgia in 2016, I was interviewed by the Georgian wine magazine Hvino News, and commented that I had yet to meet a wine grower from the Languedoc who wanted to try Saperavi, which is the main grape variety of Georgia, but why not?  

So imagine my surprise last Tuesday when I attended the annual Hallgarten Druitt tasting whose portfolio, without exaggeration, covers the whole world, and there was a Saperavi from the Languedoc.  Hallgarten are the agents for Château de Campuget, one of the long-established producers of the Costières de Nimes and Frank-Lin Dalle was pouring their range of IGP and Costières de Nimes.  And then he produced a Saperavi.  It completely took me by surprise.  Why Saperavi?  ‘It’s for fun; we were looking for something different and we are learning about it’.  They planted two hectares in 2013, on an experimental basis.  It is not yet authorised and is labelled Vin de France.  There are apparently only about 15 hectares altogether in the Languedoc.  Frank-Lin didn't know who else has it, and surfing the net failed to produce any answers.   Can anyone out there help?

So, what did it taste like?  I have enjoyed the peppery flavours of Saperavi on a couple of visits to Georgia, and I was not disappointed by this example.  It is fermented and vinified in tank, so does not see any oak and the flavours were very fresh.  The colour is bright and deep, with some solid perfumed fruit on the nose, with ripe berry fruit and a firm streak of tannin on the palate, and a fresh finish.   I thought it a very convincing start.  For this first vintage, they made just 3000 bottles and it is not yet commercially available, but well worth a mention for curiosity’s sake. 

Friday, 12 January 2018

Pays d’Oc Collection 2017

The former Vin de Pays d’Oc, now just called Pays d’Oc, has clocked up thirty years and the initial offering of 24 grape varieties (9 red and 15 white) has grown to an extraordinary 58, which illustrate the rich diversity of the south of France.   Pay d’Oc also accounts for half the production of the entire Languedoc.  Among the grape varieties, there are the classics of the Languedoc, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre.  Surprisingly perhaps, Carignan has only recently been accepted as a single variety, illustrating that it was once despised and is now enjoying a huge revival in its fortunes.  There are of course the varieties of Bordeaux, Cabernets, Merlot, a growing amount of Petit Verdot, as well as previously spurned varieties like Aramon and Alicante.  For whites, Sauvignon and Chardonnay are important, as well as ever growing amount of Viognier; Terret Blanc and Carignan Blanc are making a comeback, and the latest newcomer is Albariño.   

Each summer the annual Collection is chosen to represent the Pays d'Oc and illustrate its quality for the ensuring 12 months.  In 2017, 28 wines were chosen, and what follows are some of the highlights.

2016 Domaine la Fadèze, Terret Blanc. 
Light colour; a light fresh pithy nose and on the palate lightly rounded with some stony fruit.  A fresh finish.  No great depth, but an eminently drinkable glass of wine.

2016 Sauvignon, Famille Guilhem-Malviès
This comes from the Malepère, one of the cooler regions of the Languedoc.  Light colour, and a light stony nose, and on the palate very good varietal character, with firm acidity and stony mineral fruit.  For a southern Sauvignon, it is not too ripe

2016 Premier Rolle, Domaine d’Aigues-Belles
A Rolle or Vermentino from the eastern Languedoc, close to the Pic St. Loup.  A rounded nose, with texture and weight on the palate, balanced with acidity.  A touch of oak slightly flattens the finish, but nonetheless a sound example of the grape variety.

2016 les Jamelles Gewürztraminer
Light colour.  Very perfumed Nivea cream nose and on the palate opulent perfumed fruit, with the benchmark Gewürztraminer spice, balanced by good acidity, and a hint of sweetness on the finish.   Classic varietal character.

2016 Domaine Ventenac, Cuvée de Marie, Colombard Chenin
Light colour and a fresh nose.  A fresh pithy palate with a hint of honey, good acidity and a rounded finish.  From Cabardès, so a cooler area where Colombard performs well.  You more commonly find it in Côtes de Gascogne.

2016 Le Versant Viognier
This was my favourite of the various Viognier, with some peachy fruit balanced, with good acidity.  Medium weight

2016 Solas, Albariño, Laurent Miquel
Laurent Miquel is successfully pioneering Albariño in the Languedoc, at Domaine les Auxines in the hills up above the village of Lagrasse.  This has some understated but convincing varietal character on both nose and palate, with distinctive peachy notes. 

2016 Domaine Rives-Blanques, 90% Chardonnay - 10% Chenin blanc. 
Light colour,  A delicate nose and a rounded palate, with balanced acidity.  Nicely crafted and understated.  Easy drinking

2016 Villa Blanche, Chardonnay, Calmel and Joseph
This was the best of the Chardonnays, with a light colour, a lightly buttery nose and a rounded palate, with mouthfeel and texture and some leesy notes.  Very satisfying.

Sadly, my bottle of Domaine Gayda’s Chenin blanc Figure Libre was corked, but the Cabernet Franc Figure Libre from Domaine Gayda was delicious.   Cabernet Franc performs really well in the south, and this had some ripe cherry fruit on nose and palate, with supple tannins.  A wonderful explosion of fruit that leapt out of the glass, balanced by a restraining streak of tannin.

There were a pair of Pinot Noir, showing that in certain parts of the Languedoc, Pinot Noir can be very successful.  Laurent Miquel’s 2016 Solas was light in colour, with fresh perfumed fruit on the nose and palate, with some acidity and tannin.  It made a refreshing drink without any great depth.

2016 Pinot Noir, Anne de Joyeuse
This is from the smaller of the two Limoux cooperatives, a wine with more structure, deeper in colour with ripe fruit and some oak on the palate, with more tannin and depth. 

2016 Les Yeuses, Marselan and Cabernet Franc
Deep young colour, with some rounded spice.  Very supple, with soft tannins, for easy drinking.  Goes a hint jammy on the finish.  

Among the Bordeaux blends, I like Anne de Joyeuse, 2016 Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon, with rounded fruit, and a firm tannin streak.  Nicely balanced. 

There were a pair of Petit Verdot, of which I preferred Domaine de Valensac, 2015, Entre Nous, with a deep colour, some spice on the nose and a structured palate.  It was elegant and fresh. 

And best of the Syrah was Domaine les Yeuses, 2015, with some peppery fruit on the nose and medium weight with accessible uncomplicated fruit on the palate.  A cheerful glass of the warm south.