Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Domaine Ste Croix – an English estate in the Corbières.


I keep seeing Liz and Jon Bowen from Domaine Ste Croix at various wine fairs, notably Millésime Bio, and on the last occasion at RAW, when I said, I am not going to taste your wines today.  We’ll make a plan for me to visit you in the Corbières, which will be much more rewarding, and fun, And indeed it was. 

First of all Liz explained how an English couple land up making wine in the Corbières.   She did a degree in agriculture and agricultural economics, but nothing particularly related to wine, and that led her to work in finance.  Jon read History and worked in various wine shops, and realised that it was what was in the bottle and how it got there that interested him, rather than selling the stuff.  So in 1996 he did the first full time wine making course at Plumpton College in Sussex  and then went on to spend a number of years dong contract winemaking, in France with various organic wine producers, and also in California and Australia, and after working with Pierre Clavel near Montpellier for a couple of years, they decided the time had come to buy something for themselves.

So they looked for old vines, namely Grenache Noir and Carignan, and limestone, and in the Languedoc as vineyards there are affordable.  The Minervois was a possibility, and also Roussillon, and then someone suggested the Corbières and that is where they found limestone with volcanic outcrops in the village of Fraisses des Corbières.  They bought a going concern.  The previous owner had delivered his grapes to the village coop and then to nearby Durban until that cooperative closed down in 1999.  His son helped him to build a winery, but was not interested in working with his father, so after four years it was time to sell.  So in 2004 Liz and Jon bought 15 hectares of vineyards, which they have reduced to 12, as well as a functioning cellar.   Liz explained that they have been organic right from the beginning, but that can be complicated if your neighbours are not, and no one else is in the village, so over the years they have managed to create about six islands of vines where there are no neighbours, by buying, swopping and selling  vineyards.   Jon is the winemaker, but Liz helps with blending and in the vineyards, and also does the paperwork.

Half their vineyards are old Carignan planted in 1900 and 1905, and they also have some Grenache Noir and Syrah, as well as Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris, from the 1940s, mixed up together, on two distinct vineyards, one of limestone and one of schist.    Illogically Grenache Gris is not recognised in the Corbières; it is deemed to be a mutation of Grenache Blanc, and so not considered a separate variety in the appellation regulations.  Five kilometres further south in Roussillon it is deemed to be a different variety.  Such are the intricacies of French wine legislation. 

Liz enthused about Carignan, which is still very much the grape variety of Corbières, even though the maximum percentage is fixed at 50%.  I also asked her about the putative cru of Durban.  It is really only the cooperatives, Embrès et Castelmaure and Cascastel that are interested in it.   There are not enough independent producers to give it any weight – and they don’t really need it.  And we talked about the market.  Liz observed that curiously it is difficult to sell to the UK – it is almost as though the buyers prefer to deal with French when they are buying French wine.  Happily, however,  Cambridge Wine have just taken them on.  The US market is much more lively, and willing to pay higher prices. 

We talked about organic and natural wine.   They have gradually moved to minimal SO2 for some wines, and no SO2 for another.  They began using cultured yeast as it was safer at the beginning, and then in 2007 tried out natural yeast, and from 2009 everything has been fermented with natural yeast.  They practice minimum intervention in both winery and vineyard.  This entails spending a lot of time in the vineyards checking to see if they need to treat, but not necessarily doing so.  Again in the cellar they are continuously tasting to check the evolution of their wines, and to see what needs to be done.  They may use a little sulphur at harvest, depending on the condition of the grapes and the weather, and maybe a little at bottling, especially for the export market, with uncertain transport conditions.  Liz does not really see a big difference  between organic and natural wines.   You chose and judge a wine by its flavour, not by the principle.  White wine should not look like lemonade, she laughingly observed.  And they are not biodynamic in the vineyard.  She is interested, but there is a lot to learn, and it needs to be done properly and it is very time consuming, with several constraints.    Sulphur dust is one of the cheapest way to treat the vines, used by most people in the village.  Weed control is the most difficult thing; they leave the grass to grow, which encourages the  bees, and they cut it when it is dying down anyway.    And then we did some tasting:

2014 La Serre, Vin de France – 12.00€  
The name comes from a hill in the village.  Grenache Blanc – 54%; Grenache Gris 40% Terret Gris 6% - planted in 1960.  Grown on schist and on limestone.  The wine is fermented ins stainless steel; they picked the grapes before 9 a.m. and keep them cool with dry ice, and then crush and press whole bunches, and the juice goes straight into the vat.  The fermentation temperature is maintained at 17˚ - 18˚C and the wine is left on its lees, and kept in stainless steel vats until it is bottled.  The Terret is made in the same way but kept separately.

Light colour.  The nose initially seemed rather closed, but  evolved beautifully during our tasting with some lovely herbal notes.   Terret adds acidity, proving that you can retain acidity in the white wines éof the area.   They pick one plot relatively early, and the second plot a week later, which adds more complexity.   I loved the firm mineral notes, and the nicely structure palate, with some herbal notes that developed in the glass, making for a long finish.  A lovely glass of wine.

2013 Pourboire Nature, Vin de France – 12.00€
Série électron Libre – their name for describing something a  bit different.  73% Carignan with 27% Syrah.   There is too much Carignan for it to be Corbières and  anyway it is atypical, and contains no sulphur.  They pick quite early to keep the freshness, and the acidity makes the addition of sulphur less necessary.  The grapes are destemmed and fermented in fibre glass vats, and the wine is bottled within 12 months.   It is a very vibrant colour, with a fresh red fruit nose, with some acidity and a streak of tannin on the palate.  It was very appealing, especially lightly chilled, with fresh fruit, and not at all wild or funky!  Liz observed that is no legal definition of natural wine.  It is up to each individual producer.

2012 Le Fournas, Corbières. – 9.00€
A lieu dit in the village relating to the old lime kilns.   45% Carignan with 28% Grenache Noir and 27% Syrah.   This wine accounts for half their production.   Aged in vat.  Quite a deep colour .  Youthful fruit.  Ripe red fruit, especially cherries.  Some tannin, but medium with fresh and rounded.

2012 Magneric, Corbières – 12.00€
After a lieu dit. 42% Carignan, 29% Grenache, 29% Syrah.  The percentages are on their back labels.  This wine is vinified in the same way as Le Fournas, but comes from older vines, so the grapes are destemmed and fermented, and then half of the juice is put into barrel, larger barrels, as they shift toward demi muids, but none are new.  They have a good source of second hand barrels, from Domaine Bertrand Bergé, whose wine they also enjoy drinking!  Firm spice on the palate,with a touch of oak, but nicely integrated, with body and weight, but not heavy.  A rounded finish.

I liked their back labels, with bullet points, to convey the essentials:  living soils – limestone – Carignan – Grenache – terroir – full tannins –elegance – delicious dark fruit – Syrah – 100 year vines – passion – wild herbs

2013 Carignan, Vin de France – 16.00€
92% Carignan, from 1905 with 8% Grenache from 1968.  14.5˚. Destemmed; fermented in tank, and then into wood for 18 months.  Liz explained that the Grenache fills in a couple of holes in the palate.  Deep young colour.  Quite a firm nose.  On the palate red fruit with some rustic tannins and some acidity.  A refreshing appeal. Carignan retains it acidity.  Medium weight.  Youthful and fresh.   A lovely example of the rustic elegance of Carignan.

2011 Celestre, Vin de France  -20€
Mainly Grenache Noir with 20% Mourvèdre.  They have just one plot of Mourvèdre.  20 months élevage.  14.5˚   Deep vibrant colour.  Rich liqueur cherries but with a tannic streak.  Structured and rounded, with youthful  potential.    

La Part des Anges Late Harvest 2010. Vin de France Série électron libre  – 20.00€
Carignan dominant, and not made every year.  it all depends on the weather.  75% Carignan with Syrah.  Picked two or three weeks later than the main harvest.   Half is crushed and fermented immediately, and half dried inside in a ventilated space and then crushed.  The fermentation starts and the two are put together and then spend two years in wood, making just one barrel – 800 bottles of 50 cls.  The juice stays on the skins for some time, but the wine  is not muté; the fermentation is stopped at 15˚ by adding so2 and then filtered, leaving about 90 gms/l of residual sugar. 

On the nose some oak and a touch of volatility.  And on the palate some tannins and some acidity and some ripe red fruit.   Carignan raisins better than Grenache and retains acidity.  They made it first just to see what they do with Carignan.  And suggested drinking it an apéro or with chocolate.  I favour the chocolate.  Liz mentioned that in this area traditionally everyone made a late harvest wine.  
And there were some large glass bonbons in  a corner which prompted the question: Aare you making a rancio.  Yes we are working on it.    That will be fun to try in due course. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Languedoc at The Wine Society

The Wine Society can always be relied upon to come up with interesting and unusual wines.   I may be biased as I joined the wine trade with the Wine Society – blame a glass of champagne at the job interview.     Last week they were taking advantage of the evening AGM, meaning that all the buyers would be in the country, to host a tasting, where each buyer had selected eight or so wines from their particular areas.  I always enjoy their tastings and their South of France buyer, Marcel Orford Williams has a keen nose for an interesting bottle or two.

I was particularly struck by the first natural wine they have put on their list, namely Corbières Le Hameau des Ollieux Nature, from a leading Corbières producer, Château Ollieux Romanis.   £9.25.   Medium depth of colour, with a vibrantly fresh nose, and packed with refreshing red fruit on the palate.  It was lighter and fresher and more elegant than more conventional Corbières, and quite delicious.  However, if there is one thing that I reproach natural wines, it is that they all, irrespective of provenance, have a tendency to a similarity of style.  The best have that delicious mouth-watering freshness, but that somehow seems to mask their origins.   And Marcel agreed with me.

I have long had a soft spot for Corsica and was delighted that Marcel had two wines from Corsica in his line-up.  2012 Domaine Arena from Patrimonio, Biancu Gentile - £22   Not cheap, but wines from Corsica are very rarely cheap.  Vermentino is the more usual grape variety of Corsica, but efforts are being made to revive some of the other varieties that are in danger of disappearing.  This Bianco Gentile has some delicately fragrant fruit on the nose, with more texture and weight on the palate, with an elegantly rounded finish.   Antoine Arena is indisputably one of the leading producers of Patrimonio.

And there was another Patrimonio, from a producer who was unknown to me, 2013 Clos Alivu.  - £12.95.  The grape variety is Nielluccio, otherwise known as Sangiovese, and the wine had some fresh sour cherry fruit on both and palate.   Elegant with a streak of tannin and a fresh finish. 

The final Midi wine came from Domaine du Bosc, a 2011 Petit Verdot, Pays d'Oc.  This estate is owned by Pierre Besinet, who was one of the pioneers of the region in the 1980s – he is now in his 80s.  For £7.50 it makes a jolly nice glass of wine, offering easy drinking, with some rounded fruit and ripe tannins, but not too heavy or sturdy.

And there were all sorts of other delights I could enthuse about, but since they come from elsewhere, I shall refrain.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Foncalieu and Atelier Prestige

Foncalieu, or to give the company its full name, Les Vignobles Foncalieu, was a familiar name to me, and it is certainly an important name in the Languedoc, but I have to admit that I really did not know very much about them.  However, after two days in the Languedoc last week, that has all changed. 

In a nutshell, Foncalieu was created in 1967, with the fusion of several cooperatives and the name comes from:  FONtiès d’Aude; CApendu, ALzonne and MontolIEU

Altogether they work with 5100 hectares of vines in three regions, namely Gascony, the Rhône Valley and the Languedoc and cover 20 appellations and vins de pays.   Two things stood out: they have a very strong quality motive and they are also very innovative.   They were the first to plant Sauvignon Gris in the Languedoc and now make both a white and a rosé from that grape variety.  They also have some Albariňo and Picpoul Noir for rosé, and at dinner on our last evening we drank a rosé that was a blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Viognier; the two grape varieties are co-fermented, with early picked Syrah and late picked Viognier.  To my knowledge I have never drunk that blend in a rosé before.

At the end of 2012 Foncalieu bought Château Haut Gléon in the Corbières near the village of Durban, for the simple reason that they wanted a flagship estate.  Haut Gléon already had a reputation for its white wine, which is unusual in the Corbières, and Foncalieu have continued to build on that.  Domaine Haut Gléon is a blend of Sauvignon, Bourboulenc and Chardonnay, while Château Haut Gléon is made from Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne.  There are two rosés, Domaine Haut Gléon Gris,  an IGP from the poetically named Vallée du Paradis made from Grenache Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc while Château Haut Gléon comes from the Languedoc varieties of Grenache Noir and Syrah.   There are three red wines.  Again the Domaine red is an IGP including some Grenache Noir and Syrah, as well as Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, while Château Haut Gléon is a Corbières from Syrah, Grenache Noir and Carignan, aged in barrel with some firm black fruit.  Notre Dame de Gléon, after the tiny chapel on the estate, is a selection of the best grapes and again a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan.

More unusual is their Atelier Prestige range, which they began in 2008, with the first real vintage in 2009.  The wine maker, Isabelle Pangault, talked about the way they chose the vineyards for these wines.  Obviously the terroir must be good, with vines in particularly good sites, but much also depends on the human approach.  They work with a very small number of winegrowers for each of the four wines, people who are possibly more daring and certainly more willing to take extra care of their vines.   They talked about épamprage – new term for me – when you remove any young buds from the trunk of the vine as they take energy from the shoots.   They also practice ébourgeonage (debudding), effeuillage, (removing leaves that shade the grapes) rebiochage – another new term entailing the removal of shoots between the main shoots, rather as you do for tomatoes, and they also do a green harvest, if necessary.  The aim is to show that it is possible for a cooperative to make high quality wine in the Languedoc.  The wine growers are paid per hectare, so the yield is not a significant issue for them financially. 

First we went to Puicheric in the Minervois where we met Romain Torrecilla who is one of two growers who produce the grapes for Le Lien, Minervois.  He has a plot of Syrah, grown on clay and limestone.  It was a windy spot on a May afternoon, and the Syrah’s fragile shoots certainly needed the support of the wires.    Romain has also planted truffle oaks, ten years ago, but he is still waiting for a crop. 

Marceau Lacombe is one of three growers who contribute to La Lumière, Corbières.  We admired his Mourvèdre, which gives freshness and spice to the Corbières.  They are gobelet vines, with tall upright shoots.  In contrast the adjoining Carignan vines looked much shaggier.  Isabelle talked about the natural low yield on this south facing vineyard, with one cluster per shoot.  The harvest is quite late, usually in mid-October.

I encouraged Marceau to reminisce over lunch.   He began helping with the harvest at the age of 10 and was driving a tractor at 14.  He is now 68, and his vines are his life.  He remembers working with a horse, and they got a caterpillar tractor about 50 years ago.   With a horse one family could live on 10 hectares, but these days you need 30 hectares to justify the machinery.   Also products like bouille bordelaise were much cheaper than those used today.  Officially Marceau is retired but he has a much younger sister and looks after her vines, as well as nurturing his own small plots of Mourvèdre and Carignan.   A day does not go by without being in his vineyard.  Three wines growers contribute to La Lumière, so we also admired Fabrice Oliver’s beautifully tended Syrah vines. However, Marceau was quite adamant:  Syrah is not from here and he doubts its suitability.   People are beginning to replant Carignan. 

Next we went to the Coteaux d’Ensérune, admiring en route the facade of the Languedoc’s oldest cooperative at Maraussan, with its stirring name, Les Vignerons Libres.  Myriam Roussel is one of eight growers who contribute to Les Illustres, Coteaux d’Ensérune, which is a blend of 60% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Malbec.  She has two hectares of Syrah for Les Illustres.   The vineyard is on a small hill, close to Béziers, with views of the cathedral, and you could just glimpse the sea in the distance. 

We finished at Michel Cazevieille’s vineyard in the south east corner St. Chinian where the soil is also clay and limestone.  He contributes three hectares, of Syrah and a little Grenache to Apogée, with a second grower providing a small amount of Syrah.  Michel talked about the soil, explaining that they analyse it every three years and add organic compost as needed.  It is important that the soil has structure and balance.   And he talked about their very finely tuned mechanical harvester which will remove any stray vegetation or shrivelled berries.

And then we tasted the four wines under the shade of a large mulberry tree.

2012 Le Lien, Minervois
A pure Syrah, all of which is aged in oak, of which 25% is new.  The oak treatment is very much adapted to the appellation and to the vintage.   Deep young colour with a rich rounded nose, quite a firm palate with black fruit and youthful tannins.  Quite sturdy and concentrated.   An observation was made that the quality of the harvest in the Minervois depends upon the wind.   I thought that Corbières was even windier, but maybe not. 

2012 Corbières, la Lumière
A blend of 30% Mourvèdre and 70% Syrah.   The fruit is firm and study, mainly black fruit with tight tannins, and a peppery note and some spice.  Youthful with masses of potential, as indeed has the whole range.  The vineyards are not far from the sea as the crow flies and so enjoy both sun and marine influence.    The grapes are given a three to five week maceration, and spend a year in 300 litre barrels, 80% new, with different toasting and from different coopers.

2012 L’Apogée, St Chinian
Two wine growers with a blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache Noir.  Deep young colour.  Firm sense youthful peppery fruit with a hint of vanilla.  A powerful 14 but more supple than the Corbières.  100% new oak – 300 litre barrels rather than barriques.

2012 Coteaux d’Ensérune, Les Illustres
60% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Malbec.  25% in new wood with 75% given an élevage in vat.   Medium weight palate.  Quite tannic but with a fresh note, with some fresh blackcurrant fruit.  Maybe more elegant than the traditional Languedoc appellations.   

The four wines made a fascinating comparison and were certainly fine examples of their appellations  They are intended for the on trade, but would retail at about £25,  or 19€  in France. 

For more information, do visit their website:

Monday, 1 June 2015

2015 Top 100 Languedoc

As a judge for the Top 100, I always appreciate the opportunity to taste the full 100 when the winners are showcased a few weeks later at the London Wine Fair.  It gives the complete overview that you do not see as a judge.   

What follows are some of the highlights

A couple of delicious bubbles, both Crémant de Limoux:
Domaine Delmas, Cuvée Passion, 2010
Lightly nutty, with fresh dry fruit and an elegant finish.

Domaine J Laurens. La Rose No 7, NV
A delicate pretty colour.   Quite rounded ripe and creamy with good acidity. 

The white selection inevitably included several examples of varietal  wines, Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Muscat, with Cave Saint Maurice winning a trophy of its IGP Cevennes, Viognier.  There was another trophy for a Chardonnay Roussanne blend Pays d’Oc, Domaine Larzac,Jeanjean’s Mas Neuf won a trophy for the 2014 Muscat Sec, with some fresh Muscat fruit.   There was trophy for a Limoux, a pure Chenin blanc, 2013 Caretas from Domaine Cathare, with a touch of honey balanced by firm acidity. And I was delighted that here was a Picpoul trophy for Domaine des Lauriers, 204 Picpoul de Pinet Classique with fresh sappy, salty fruit and good acidity. 

The more  rewarding whites came from the various blends   The best white of the competition went to les Domaine Auriol Châtelaine Saint Auriol 2014, a blend of 40% Marsanne and 40%  Roussanne with 10% each of Malvoisie and Grenache Blanc, given some partial oak ageing The nose is lightly rounded and the palate beautifully textured with white blossom fruit.  Nicely understated. 

2012 Le long du Parc, Château Daurion, from an estate near my Languedoc home, which made me think that I should go and visit, is a blend of Grenache blanc and Roussanne, with some oak ageing.  Again it was nicely rounded ,with quite a firm youthful structure and some ageing potential.  2014 Traditional Blanc from Château Viranel in St. Chinian was fresh and herbal

Two white wines from Château Puech Haut showed well, but at a price.  2014 Prestige and 2014 Tête de Belier. At €6 - €7.99 and €8-€11.99 ex cellars respectively they are not giving it away, compared to the wine from Domaines Auriol at an ex cellar price of €3- €3.99. 

There were just four rosés, of which for me the best was:
Domaine la Grange Classique Rose, Pays d’Oc, a blend of  Cinsaut and Syrah.  A pretty pale colour and some fresh fruit on the palate with a rounded finish.  

And now on to red wines.  Again the Bordeaux blends or varietals were sound, but for me unexciting.  The first highlight in the red line up came from les Vins Skalli, Fortant de France, Reserve des Grands Monts Carignan, Pays de l’Hérault.  It was quite rich and structured  on the nose and palate with some rustic red fruit on the palate.  A characterful gutsy Carignan.

The St Chinian coop of Roquebrun often fares well in tasting competitions and this was no exception. They won the trophy for the best red, with their Terrasses de Mayline 2014, with some rich supple balanced fruit, with soft tannins, giving easy drinking.  2014 Col d’Arribat, St Chinian Roquebrun, was another rounded, ripe spicy mouthful, while Terrasses de Balaussan was more solid and rounded, but again with ripe, black cherry fruit.  And a more humble Languedoc, Chemin des Olivettes, provided another characterful glass of wine, with structure and fruit. 

Faugères also showed well.  The coop was represented by 2013 Parfum des Schistes, their best cuvée of Faugères, with some light  spice.  Brigitte Chevalier’s 2012 les Bancels was elegant and spicy, with some depth; Mas Gabinèle was represented by their entry level, with some ripe fruit and rich supple palate, which won the Faugères trophy, while 2013 Rarissime, is more concentrated and textured.  2012 Clos du Fou, is the flagship wine of Château des Estanilles, with quite a solid, structured spicy nose and palate.   2007 Mas des Capitelles no 1 Faugères was quite firm and fresh with a ripe finish. 

A trophy went to the Terrasses du Larzac, to Domaine la Croix Chaptal, le Secret de Gellone, with some ripe rounded spicy fruit.   And there was a La Clape trophy for Château de Marmorières, Commanderie de St. Pierre la Garrigue 2013.  Of the selection of Minervois, I liked Château Tourril, Livia Gold 2013 best, with some firm peppery fruit and quite a structured palate, reminiscent of the Minervois scenery.  And Gerard Bertrand’s Château Laville Bertrou 2013 showed well with body and spice.

There were a handful of Corbières, including Château Pech Latt, 2014 Tamanova, which was structured and youthful.  There was a pair of Fitou, Domaine Bertrand Bergé, Ancestrale 2012, with some gutsy fruit, and Francois Lurton’s Château des Erles, which was rich and spicy.   And the line up finished with a handful of wines from Roussillon, including two trophies, Abbotts & Delaunay Reserve 2013 Côtes du Roussillon with rounded black fruit and some furry tannins, and Mas de la Devèze, Côtes du Roussillon Villages, with some solid fruit and a ripe palate with depth and structure.  Wine No 100 was a Maury Sec from Domaine la Toupie, Sur un Fil Rouge 2013 with quite  solid nose and a rich mouthful of ripe spice and a gutsy finish.   It made a good finale.

600 wines from 178 producers
19 trophies – I hope I mentioned them all
67 producers accounted for the Top 100
65  appellation and 35 IGP wines
68%  red – 27% white and 5% rosé.
30% varietala and 70% blends.

For a  full list of the Top 100 go to:

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Outsiders

The Outsiders is a friendly group of Languedoc producers, who do not originate from the region but from all four corners of the globe and other parts of France.   A group of them were in London earlier this month for what proved to be a great tasting.  I am not going to regurgitate my tasting notes for every single wine, but simply highlight a favourite from each producer.  And apologies, I completely omitted to make a note of prices.  

Domaine Ste Rose   2011 Roussanne Barrel Selection, Pays d’Oc
Ruth and Charles Simpson have made a bit of a speciality of Roussanne.   The wine is still very young and with some quite obvious oak, but it is classy oak, and will, from the experience of previous vintages, tone down nicely with some bottle age.  The wine is rich and textured, with layers of flavour, of white blossom, and will develop beautifully in bottle.

Rives Blanques  2012 Limoux, Dédicace, Chenin blanc.
I realise that I have developed something of soft spot for this wine, and the 2012 did not disappoint.  It is honeyed and nutty on the nose, with dry honeyed fruit on the palate, with balancing acidity and a long rich finish. It is drinking beautifully now, but will also age – see my earlier post about the ageability of white wines from the Languedoc.

Clos du Gravillas  2013 lo Viehl Carignan, Côtes du Brian.
A wine that shows just how good Carignan is, and why it is so deserving of a revival in its reputation.  Treat it properly, as Nicole and John Bojanowski do, and it responds beautifully.  This has a deep colour, with some firm peppery fruit on the nose, and firm but ripe berry fruit on the palate, and with a youthful note of tannin, and the benchmark rustic streak that is classic Carignan.   

Domaine de Cébène, Faugères, 2013 Felgaria
Brigitte Chevalier makes some of the most elegant Faugères and she is particularly enthusiastic about her Mourvèdre based cuvée.  So am I.  She was showing both 2012 and 2013 Felgaria.  2013 has a firm nose, with some ripe fruit and appealing youthful peppery spice on the palate.  The hallmark is elegance.

Château St. Jacques d’Albas, Minervois, 2013 le Garric
Graham Nutter has added a new wine to his range of Minervois, le Garric, made from young vines, and a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.  It has fresh peppery fruit on both nose and palate, with a youthful streak of tannin, making for some easy drinking.  Le Domaine and le Château de St. Jacques d’Albas are both more serious.   

Le Clos du Serres, 2013 le Saut du Poisson, Languedoc  
A blend of 60% Grenache Blanc with some Roussanne and Vermentino.  A small part of the Grenache is vinified in wood which fills out the palate nicely.  Fresh lemony white flowers on the nose, and an elegantly rounded palate.  Nicely textured with good fruit and fresh acidity. 

Domaine Modat, 2011 Sans Plus Attendre, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Caramany
This is mainly Syrah with a little Grenache Noir and Carignan, of which 60% is aged in demi muids. Philippe Modat began with barriques but has moved on to 500 litre barrels.  Good colour.  Firm and peppery on the nose, with ripe black fruit on the palate.  Ripe and peppery and youthful.  A full bodied mouthful of flavour. .

Domaine Turner-Pageot, 2013 la Rupture, Vin de France – 16.00€
I don’t normally like Sauvignon in the Midi, but there are exceptions to every generalisation and Manu Pageot’s 2013 La Rupture is one of them.   50% of the wine spent seven weeks on the skins and there is lots of firm stony mineral fruit on the nose and palate.  It is youthful, tight knit and structured and firmly mineral on the finish. 

Domaine Ste Hilaire, 2012 Silk Chardonnay, Pays d’Oc   15.00€
I have a soft spot for Ste Hilaire’s Vermentino and their 2014 has some appealing fresh lemony herbal notes on the nose and palate, with good acidity.  However, I was also taken by 2012 Chardonnay Silk, a reference to Jonathan James’career in the legal world.   Silk is lightly buttery on the nose and quite elegant and rounded on the palate, stylish with a good balance of fruit and understated oak. 

Domaine le Madura 2012 Classique Rouge
This is one of my favourite St. Chinian estates and it was difficult to decide whether to enthuse about the Classique or the Grand Vin, or indeed about red or white wine.   I’ve opted for 2012 Classique Rouge, with rounded ripe red fruit on the nose, and an elegant palate, with more red fruit and spice, and a fresh finish.

Château Beauregard Mirouze, Corbières Rosé Tradition – 7.00€
I’ll go for their rosé, partly because I have yet to mention a rosé, and secondly and more importantly because it is fresh and fruity, with notes of strawberries and a little vinosity on the finish.   In other words it is everything that a rosé should be, making perfect summer drinking.   It is a blend of macerated Syrah and pressed Grenache Noir.

Château d’Angles, la Clape, 2013 Classique, blanc – 9.50€
Another difficult choice here, red or white or even rosé.  Good white la Clape always has a fresh salinity and this is no exception.  You immediately sense that the vineyards are close to the sea, with an underlying salinity on both the nose and palate, with firm fruit and texture.  It is wonderfully satisfying.   The sappy, salty character is part of the charm of La Clape. 50% Bourboulenc, with 30% Grenache Blanc and some Marsanne and Roussanne.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Montpeyroux Caveaux Ouverts in 2015

Montpeyroux seems to be very unlucky with its choice of day for the annual caveaux ouverts.   For the third year running, the weather was distinctly unkind, for the third Sunday in April was wet, but happily not cold, and sandwiched by a sunny Saturday and Monday.   Conditions really did not allow for serious tasting.  We scuttled from cellar to cellar, saying hallo to friends, at Villa Dondona, Domaine d’Aupilhac, Mas d’Amile and so one.  Note taking was a tad minimalist. But what really remained in my mind at the end of the day was just how good the white wines are.  There were some real stars:

2013 Espérel from Villa Dondona had lovely herbal notes, reminiscent of ripe fennel, with quite a full palate, rounded with good acidity. and stacks of character. And the 2012 had filled out deliciously and settled down nicely.

Alba from Domaine du Joncas is a pure Grenache Gris, with herbal notes on the nose, and firm acidity and minerality on the palate.  It was fresh and youthful with a long finish and plenty of potential.

Mas d’Amile’s 2014 Terret Blanc is firm and mineral on the nose, with good weight on the palate.  The flavours are firm, with a mineral, volcanic note, and a rounded finish. 

Alain Chabanon had a pair of whites.  First we tried 2013 le Petit Trelans, which is a 70% Vermentino with some Chenin blanc.  It was fresh and herbal with a mineral note and some apricot fruit on the finish.  It spends a year in foudres and some time in vat.   In contrast 2011 Trelans has less Vermentino, with more Chenin blanc in the blend and is given a longer élevage.   The flavours are richer with more weight and texture, with good acidity and an elegant finish.

Sylvain Fadat's Cocalières blanc 2014 at Domaine d'Aupilhac was fresh and mineral with good acidity, while the 2008 – he always shows older vintages – made without any so2 was surprisingly youthful, rounded with a stony note and leesy flavours and softer acidity.  It was an intriguing finale to our tasting.

And then we restored ourselves with some warming Aligot, a wonderful combination of mashed potato and cheese, with a touch of garlic, eaten under the cover of the old market hall, and to the accompaniment of a local band.  I particularly admired a head of dreadlocks in the form of corks, and the agility of a stilt walker who was able to skip, as well as walk.  .  

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

2014 Faugères

The Comité des Vins du Languedoc organises a week of tastings of the new vintage, usually, as far as I am concerned, badly timed to coincide with the annual Decanter World Wine Awards.   This year things worked out slightly better and I was able to attend the Faugères tasting at the beginning of the week.

It was held at a rather draughty venue, a large marquee at Mas du Cheval, outside Lattes.  Not all the producers of Faugères were there, as not everyone was ready to show their 2014s.  Some wines were already in bottle, but not all.  Altogether I tried the wines from 20 estates, totalling some 109 wines. There is no doubt that the best are absolutely delicious with plenty of potential, from a challenging vintage with complicated weather during the harvest.  Highlights included wines from Mas d’Alezon, Ollier Taillefer, Ancienne Mercerie, Cébène and St. Antonin.   And the tasting also included three of the four new wine growers of the year, Mas Lou, Mas Nicolas and Domaine de l’Arbussèle.  Sadly Domaine de l’Epidaure was missing as Jérôme Vialla was suffering from flu. 

However, probably more interesting was a small tasting of Faugères vin de garde, of  wines from the very successful 2005 vintage.  This, with my very English approach to a wine tasting, was a very French affair.  A small core of the audience spent about an hour discussing four wines.  I had thought that we would taste far more wines, and did indeed manage to taste the wines shown at an earlier tasting, so altogether a total of eight 2005s.  Some were delicious and some had not aged well, or had initial winemaking faults.  Ten years less experience of how to use an oak barrel showed.   To my mind, the most pertinent comment of the tasting came from Bernard Vidal of Château la Liquière, when he observed:  the ability to age may be a characteristic of a wine, but is it necessarily an element of quality?   That certainly provoked food for thought. 

Those of us brought up on Bordeaux and Burgundy expect fine wine to age – it is definitely a quality that is an essential part of the appreciation of fine red wine, that it will evolve and develop greater nuances, depth and subtly with bottle age.  However,  in the Languedoc the tradition for ageing red wine in bottle is much less developed.  Quite simply it has not been part of the wine culture of the Midi.  Climatic conditions did not allow for it, unless you had an insulated cellar.  But gradually things are changing.  There is a realisation, especially as élevage in oak barrels is much better understood, that ageing can be a quality factor.  It does not apply to all wines.  Many are those whose youthful charm is their chief virtue, but there are those, with balance and concentration, which will develop with bottle age.   The selection of eight wines included some elegant evolution, such as Ancienne Mercerie’s la Couture, Mas d’Alezon’s Montfalette and Ollier Taillefer’s Castel Fossibus.  They represent yet another aspect of the myriad of flavours of the Languedoc.  

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Vinoteca at King's Cross

I don’t usually consider enthusing about a wine bar within the remit of this blog, but there are exceptions to every rule – and one is the new Vinoteca at King's Cross.   I’ve visited the other Vinoteca, in Farringdon, Beak Street, Marble Arch and Chiswick, for tastings, drinks and dinner, and have always enjoyed them, so was curious to see what they have done at Kings Cross.    Another reason possibly for not writing about Vinoteca is the lack of Languedoc wines on their list – they do have a couple, but only a couple, but there are so many other tempting things.   It is always good to drink outside one’s comfort zone from time to time, and Vinoteca’s ever changing wine list by the glass certainly offered plenty of interest and temptation.  So first we checked out a couple of glasses of fizz, their house champagne from Renard Barnier and  the 209 Gran Reserva Cava from Juve y Camps.

A week earlier in the Farringdon Vinoteca, I did enjoy a glass of white Corbières from the coop of Rocbère, but on this occasion it was a delicious Santorini, a sappy mineral Assyrtiko from a new producer Karamalengos that tempted.  The manager at the King's Cross Vinoteca, Gus Gluck has worked a vintage on Santorini, and is particularly enthusiastic about the island’s wines. And then we tried David Ramonteu’s Dada.  David’s father, Henri at Domaine Cauhape was one of the pioneers of the renaissance of Jurançon, and David went off to New Zealand, for a stage, and met a girl, and is currently making wine there.  He has no vineyards, but buys grapes, and for Dada they are an intriguing blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier and Gewürztraminer.  Even though Viognier and Gewurztraminer are pretty powerful flavours, neither variety dominated the blend.

Vinoteca is open from 7 a.m on weekdays, and 9 a.m. at the weekend, so it occured to my tasting / drinking buddy that if you were travelling to the Languedoc by train, you could set yourself up for the journey with breakfast, as Vinoteca is very conveniently situated for the Eurostar, and in their small shop, which replicates the wine bar list, you could buy a bottle to go with the picnic lunch that you might enjoy en route.  It is almost tempts me to take the train rather than the plane!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

White wines from the Languedoc do age

We had a bit of a crisis, when we arrived in the Languedoc as we discovered that we were in serious danger of running out of Blanquette de Limoux.  Happily that was  a problem that was easily solved, with a quick email to our friends Caryl and Jan Panman at Rives Blanques to arrange to drop in for a quick purchase.    But Caryl and Jan’s hospitality in the tasting room is such, that a quick drop is never works.  ‘We know you’d like some Blanquette, but you must try the Crémant too to make sure’.   We also wanted some white wine, so we checked out their Mauzac, with some dry honey and that characteristic bitter note of Mauzac.  I have always loved their Chenin Blanc, Dédicace, so we compared the 2012 and the 2011, and then Jan asked if we’d like to try the 2013, which they are not yet selling.  What a silly question.  Of course we would.  And we got to talking about how Chenin Blanc develops in bottle.  The 2011 has filled out beautifully, while the 2012 is still quite fresh and honeyed, and 2013 an awkward adolescent.  

And then Jan disappeared, to return with a dusty bottle of 2002 Dédicace, the Chenin Blanc of their very first vintage.   And what a treat it was.   If you need ammunition to prove that white wines from the Languedoc do age, this was it.   It is well known that Chenin Blanc ages well in the Loire Valley, so why not in Limoux too?     I could almost make a comparison with mature Chablis.  The colour was light golden, with no signs at all of oxidation.  There were notes of mousseron, lightly mushroomy notes on the nose that you also find in mature Chablis and the palate was very elegant with lots of nuances, with dry honey and balancing acidity.  It was a lovely mature glass of wine, on its plateau, but certainly not falling off it.   And extraordinary to think that it was a twelve year old white wine from the Languedoc.   

Friday, 10 April 2015

Villa Dondona with the Solicitors’ Wine Society

I had a fascinating evening the other day at The Solicitors’ Wine Society with Jo Lynch and André Suquet from Villa Dondona in  Montpeyroux.  Jo and André were presenting their wines, and I tagged along to add an extra commentary. 

We kicked off with:

2012 Cuvée Espérel, Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc.   -1100€
I’ve always had a soft spot for this wine, since the first vintage, the 2010, came out top in the Concours des Vins de la Vallée de l’Hérault.  It is a blend, mainly of Vermentino and Grenache Blanc, with a little Marsanne and Roussanne.  It always makes me think of the herbs of the garrigues, the crushed herbs of the Languedoc vineyards, with fennel, thyme and bay. It is delicate and fragrant, but not ethereal, with some fresh acidity and a long finish, and shows just how much the white wines of the Languedoc have improved.

2012 Chemin des Cayrades, IGP Hérault – 9.50€
A pure Carignan vinified by carbonic maceration.  A good deep young colour.  Nicely rustic red berry fruit on the nose, and on the palate ripe, rounded fruit, but with a tannic streak.  Kept in a vat so no wood.  Easy drinking.

Next we compared :

2011 Cuvée Dondona with 2011 Cuvée Oppidum

Cuvée Dondona  (12.00€) is a blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache, kept in vat rather than barrel.  Good colour.  Lovely ripe fruit on nose and palate.  Supple and rounded with a tannic streak.  Very harmonious.  It was drinking beautifully.

Cuvée Oppidum  (21.00€) is a blend of Mourvèdre and Syrah which have been aged in barrel for a year.  Deep colour; a firm nose and on the palate a firm structure, with some vanilla notes from the oak.  Youthful and sturdy, with plenty of ageing potential.

Then 2010 Cuvée Dondona, which was described as a recalcitrant, more reticent vintage, with a much firmer nose, and a more closed palate, with some tannic structure and youthful fruit, and possibly more ageing potential than 2011.

Then we compared two 2008s., which again provided another fascinating comparison.

Cuvée Dondona was beginning to age, with a savoury note on the nose and quite an elegant palate, with a hint of orange.  Medium weight and alongside Cuvée Oppidum, it had less depth.  In contrast Cuvée Oppidum  (23.00€) had evolved beautifully.  It had a deeper colour and quite a structured palate, with a tannic streak but the palate was very harmonious and balanced.  A perfect example of the benefit of subtle oak ageing.

2006 Cuvée Dondona had quite a firm nose, with some maturing leathery notes on the palate, which was quite supple.  I think it had reached its plateau and would not benefit from further ageing.

On the other hand 2005 Cuvée Oppidum still had quite a rich nose, with some oak.  There was quite a savoury note on the palate, with a sturdy streak of tannin and some spicy fruit.  Lots of intriguing nuances, possibly with some further ageing potential, and certainly a splendid example of the ability of the wines of the Languedoc to develop in bottle. 2005 was only Jo and André’s second vintage and they had no idea that it would be so successful.  The solicitors were thrilled.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Gérard Bertrand on A South of France Experience: Wine, Moon and Stars

I have reservations about autobiographies, especially when written by someone who has hardly reached middle age.  The cover too is somewhat off-putting – there is no doubt that Gérard Bertrand is immensely photogenic, but the photograph on the cover of his recently published autobiography is un peu trop .....  Actually on second thoughts, autobiography is not really the best description of this book for it is more a series of essays on various aspects of Gérard’s life and work. 

And I have to say that I found the text surprisingly engaging.  It has been very competently translated from the French edition: Le Vin à la belle étoile, by Jane Anson, who is best known for her own writing on Bordeaux.   It cannot have been an easy task, as French wine writing tends towards more poetic flights of fancy than the steady down-to-earth Anglo-Saxon approach.   Some of Gérard’s descriptions would have worked beautifully in French, while in English they have a tendency to cloy.  However, that said, the core of the book is very interesting, and Gérard, himself comes over as a very committed personality, and  not only to his own highly successful wine business, but also to the whole region of the Languedoc.  He writes very fluently about his belief in biodynamic viticulture, citing an example of a struggling vineyard that was transformed by biodynamic methods.    

Gérard not only writes about wine, but also about his early career in rugby.   His father’s sudden death in a car accident obviously made a big impact on his future ambitions.  I actually met Georges Bertrand, probably not long before the accident, and remember him for a highly illuminating tasting, a vertical of early vintages of his Corbières at Domaine de Villemajou, with his first experiments with oak ageing.  Georges was one of the first wine growers of the Midi to put his wine in barrel, back in 1979.  It was a fascinating tasting, illustrating some of the recent history of the Languedoc.  

In conclusion, Wine, Moon & Stars is well worth reading.  Gérard’s experience of the Languedoc, as he has added more estates to his portfolio, covers not only the heart of the business at Château l’Hospitalet, but stretches to Château la Sauvageonne in the Terrasses du Larzac, and Domaine de l’Aigle in Limoux, as well as to La Livinière, the source of his newest wine, Clos d’Oro.  He gives his own personal insight into each of these estates and I certainly found that the book added an extra dimension to my appreciation and understanding of the many facets of the Languedoc.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Domaine du Joncas

I’ve blogged about Domaine du Joncas before but not for a while, and so the Independent Winegrowers tasting was a great opportunity for an update, on what to my mind is one of the rising stars of Montpeyroux.

2014 Mont Baudile, Blanc, Canta  – 19.00€
The grape variety is Riesling, which Pascal informed me has been allowed in the Languedoc since 2008.  He doesn’t know of anyone else making a pure Riesling.  Jean-Louis Denois at Domaine de l’Aigle in Limoux used to make a tiny quantity of Riesling back in the 1990s, but he fell foul of the powers that be of the INAO.  More recently I’ve only ever come across it as a very small part of a blend.   This is certainly intriguing, not your classic Riesling, but with some honeyed notes on the nose and palate, and good acidity, with a certain texture on the palate.

2013 Languedoc Rosé, Nèbla  – 9.00€
Grenache and Syrah.  Pressurage direct.  Quite a vivid colour with some fresh fruit on the nose.  Very intense raspberry fruit on the palate.  Ripe and vinous.

2013 Montpeyroux, Joia – 12.50€
Grenache, Syrah and Cinsaut.  Smokey lightly leathery nose. Quite a fresh ripe palate, with red fruit.  Medium weight and elegant.  A lovely glass of wine.

2013 Terrasses du Larzac, Nèbla – 10.00€
Mourvèdre is the main variety, with Syrah and Grenache.  One third of the wine goes into seven year old barrels.  It is sturdier than the Joia, with a hint of wood, with quite firm fruit, but again with the same elegance.  Nicely crafted.

2013 Terrasses du Larzac, Obra – 25€
A blend of Syrah and Grenache, aged in stainless steel tank, concrete egg and oak barrel, a small foudre.  Quite a firm nose, with ripe fruit, and supple tannins. Nicely structured and beautifully balanced.   Very satisfying. 

And talking of Montpeyroux – a diary date.   The open cellars day in the village is well worth a visit as all the wine growers take part and you can wander round the village glass in hand with a choice of some twenty cellars.  This year the date is Sunday 19th April.  See you there.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Domaine de l’Argenteille

I tasted one of Roger Jeanjean’s wines on the Terrasses du Larzac walk last summer and so the Independent Winegrowers tasting in London provided the opportunity to try the complete range.   Roger Jeanjean – and No, he is not related to the Jeanjean 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, and then he inherited ten hectares of family vines that are situated between Jonquières and St. Saturnin.  So that was the moment to become a vigneron.  His range is en construction, as he put it.  He has pulled up some vines and bought some others.

2014 Languedoc Rosé – 7.00€
A blend of Mourvèdre 80% and Grenache 20% . Pressed grapes.  Light colour.  Fresh light dry fruit.  Nicely refreshing palate.

2014 Languedoc Rouge
A blend of Mourvèdre and Syrah,  Still in vat and intended for bottling in May.  Some attractive fruit on both nose and palate, but still rather adolescent, which is not surprising, but certainly with potential.

2013 Terrasses du Larzac Garric – 12.50€
30% each of Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan with 10% Grenache Noir.  20% aged in wood, so the nose is quite oaky and the wine needs to breathe.  The palate is quite solid and ripe with good tannins and a refreshing note that is so characteristic of the Terrasses du Larzac.

2012 Garric,
An identical blend, but quite a different vintage. Quite a firm rounded nose, and on the palate, medium weight, and quite fleshy with some acidity and tannin, and a satisfying balance.

2013 Terrasses du Larzac, les Roches des Fées
30% each of Grenache Noir and Carignan, with 40% Syrah.  A small percentage goes into wood.  This was a vat sample and will be bottled in May or June.  It was very rounded and ripe with a touch of vanilla.  A satisfyingly harmonious palate that promises well. 

I shall look forward to seeing how Roger’s wines develop and evolve. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Domaine de l'Hortus

Domaine de l’Hortus was one of the pioneering estates of the Pic St. Loup and continues to make some delicious wines.  I had an opportunity to tasted the current releases at their importer’s tasting, Bancroft Wines, in London last month.

2014 Loup y es-tu Blanc, Val de Montferrand
A pure Muscat à petits grains, with lightly grapey fruit on the nose, and even more so on the palate, balanced with good acidity.  Very refreshing.

2013 Bergerie de l’Hortus Blanc, Val de Montferrand
An intriguing blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Viognier, Roussanne, Petit Manseng, Chardonnay and Muscat.  Quite a firm, fresh nose and on the palate lots of nuances, with fresh acidity and youthful fruit.   Very intriguing.  It will be fascinating to see how it develops with bottle age.

2013 Grand Cuvée Blanc, Val de Montferrand
A blend of Viognier, Sauvignon and Chardonnay.   Barrel aged, and indeed quite rich and oaky on the nose, with rich fruit, concentration and texture on the palate.  You can taste the peachy Viognier fruit on the finish. 

2013 Le Loup dans la Bergerie, Val de Montferrand
A blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah and Merlot.  The aim is easy drinking fruit, and that is just what they have achieved, with a fresh nose, and rounded red fruit on the palate, with a refreshing streak of tannin.

2012 Bergerie de l’Hortus Rouge, Pic St. Loup – 11.00€
Two thirds Syrah with Mourvèdre and Grenache.  Quite rounded but firm fruit on the nose, and on the palate, nicely understated red fruit with a firm backbone of youthful structure.   Élevage mainly in vat.

2012 Grande Cuvée Rouge, Pic St. Loup
The same blend as Bergerie, but with a stricter selection of grapes, given eighteen months ageing in barrel.  Quite firm and smoky on the nose, with youthful oaky fruit on the palate.   Should develop well in bottle. 

And last week Yves Orliac sent me a link to a short film that a friendly filmmaker has produced about the estate.   I thought I would share it with you, for some great views of the Pic St. Loup and the meticulous work of planting a vineyard, as well as the discussion that goes into blending a wine.  Personally I thought the film could have done with some severe editing, but it is one man’s view of one estate in the Pic St. Loup, as Yves explains below: 

« Nadim Zeraïa, franco algérien, photographe& cinéaste, parcoure depuis sa tendre enfance les bords la Méditerranée, d’Alger à Montpellier, appareil photo sur l’épaule.
Fils d’ingénieur agronome, Nadim s’intéresse depuis toujours au monde agricole et plus particulièrement au monde viticole.
Suite à une rencontre fortuite avec l’un d’entre nous, il a voulu porter un regard sur l’importance de la viticulture sur les hauteurs de l’arrière pays montpelliérain, à savoir le Pic Saint Loup.
Durant une année entière, 2014, il a suivi les travaux au Domaine de l’Hortus. Il nous a accompagnés dans notre quotidien. Sa présence, son regard nous ont enrichis et grâce à lui, nous avons mis des mots sur nos pratiques. Nous sommes heureux de vous présenter le fruit de son travail et la concrétisation d’une réflexion : bon film !!! »

A brief synopsis explains that Nadim Zeraia has spent his life around the Mediterranean with a camera to hand and is particularly interested in the world of wine, and wanted to explore the hinterland of Montpellier and the Pic St Loup.  So during 2014 he followed the work at Domaine de l’Hortus and this is the result. 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Domaine Toupie

I have often enjoyed the vignerons independents tasting in Paris, but there is also a small version in London every year, which is good for a discovery or two, or an update.   So continuing the Roussillon theme of my previous post, but one, I was delighted to find Jérôme Collas from Domaine la Toupie at the tasting. His wine fared pretty well in Decanter's tasting, so unlike some of his confrères, he was not after my blood.  He explained how 2012 was his first vintage.  He is a trained oenologist, and used to work for the large cooperative, Mont Tauch in Tuchan, which once did so much to promote the wines of the Corbières, but has now fallen on hard times. Dominic George had already introduced me to one of Jérôme’s wines - see my post on Le Wine Shop from November. 

Jérôme has ten hectares, in four different plots, with quite different terroirs, with different soils, variations of limestone and schist,  and different aspects and altitudes, at Latour de France, in Maury behind Mas Amiel, dominated by the Cathar castle of Quéribus, and cooler vineyards at St Paul de Fenouillet, planted with Grenache Blanc, Syrah and Mourvèdre.  So it was a great opportunity to taste the range.

2014 Côtes Catalanes, Petit Salto
80% Grenache Gris, with Macabeu.  Aged in vat.  A pale colour, and quite a delicate nose with rounded white blossom on the palate.   Only recently bottled so needs to develop in bottle.

2013 Côtes du Roussillon blanc, Fine Fleur  – 10.00€
A blend of Grenache Gris, Macabeu and Carignan Blanc.  Spends six months in old wood.   Quite a firm stony nose, with some oak on the palate.  Rounded, textured and youthful.

2013 Côtes Catalanes Rosé Petit Frisson – 8.00€
Grenache Noir and Syrah.  Pressed juice and so a very pale delicate colour.  Delicate nose, but with more weight on the palate. Nicely balanced.

2013 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Pirouette – 8.10€
A blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah.  Carbonic maceration for the Syrah.  Quite a rounded ripe spicy nose and palate.  Warm but not heavy, with supple tannins.  Ripe and elegant, with a harmonious finish. 

2013 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Quatuor – 10.00€
Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan.  Medium colour.  Quite firm, slightly leathery nose, and on the palate.  A rounded finish.

2013 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Volte Face 
33% Mourvèdre,, 25% each Carignan and Syrah and the balance Grenache Noir.  Aged in oak for nine months.  Quite firm and structured, with a youthful oaky palate.  Firm tannins and tight knit with plenty of future potential.

2013 Maury Sec, Sur Un Fil 
70% Grenache with 25% Syrah and 5% Mourvèdre.  Aged in vat rather than barrel.  Deep colour.  Quite a sturdy nose.  Ripe rounded fruit on the palate, balanced by a streak of tannin.  Sunny and supple. 

2013 Maury Blanc, Tertio – 8.00€
Pure Macabeu and 15.  Light colour.  A rounded honeyed nose, and a note of pears and more honey on the palate.  Perfect with Roquefort, suggested Jérôme.  I couldn’t disagree.