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Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

11 November 2005

A breath of fresh air in Bordeaux?

Jean-Christophe Mau, fussy sorter
Eighteen bright ‘young guns’ have formed a new producers’ association and launched their promotional campaign for the UK, called Bordeaux Oxygène. What is particularly noticeable and novel for Bordeaux is that it’s not obviously based on an elitist hierarchy or specific appellations. It does include top-ranked Saint-Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classé estates such as Angélus and Beau-Séjour Bécot, but there are also Châteaux from Côtes de Francs – Marsau owned by Dourthe – Thibault Despagne’s Tour de Mirambeau Bordeaux Supérieur and Ch. Preuillac (Médoc) and Ch. Brown (Pessac-Léognan), both represented by Jean-Christophe Mau. They are all youthful and enthusiastic – Mau joked he is the oldest (I don't know how old he is but younger than me probably!) – although perhaps not lacking in funds. The group also includes the daughters of Michel Rolland (Stéphanie Rolland-Lesage at Le Bon Pasteur, Pomerol) and the owners of Smith Haut-Lafitte (Alice Cathiard-Tourbier); and Mathieu Chadronnier, son of Dourthe boss Jean-Marie. Bordeaux Oxygène’s president Benoit Trocard, of Clos Dubreuil in Saint-Emilion, commented: “A revolution in Bordeaux isn’t possible. Our parents and ancestors worked and achieved things for Bordeaux; it’s our turn to get out there, head on with the competition from top wines that aren’t necessarily from Bordeaux.” Their initial focus is Europe and in particular the UK, Switzerland and Belgium with plans to hold targeted tastings this winter and next spring - “to get moving, keep moving, not wait,” as vice-president Jean-Christophe Mau put it.

For further details try contacting the elected secretary Sylvie Courselle at Château Thieuley (Bordeaux Supérieur). The other producers involved are: Malartic-Lagravière (Pessac-Léognan); Clos du Clocher, Château Rouget (Pomerol); Clos Fourtet, Grand Mayne (Saint-Emilion); Château Brillette (Moulis); La Lagune, Loudenne (Médoc); and Ch. Nairac (Sauternes). Let’s hope they don’t shorten Bordeaux Oxygène to its initials for English speaking countries, as they had in the original press file…
A version of this story appeared in the UK trade paper Off Licence News, 11th November 2005. Tasting feature from the same trip here: Pessac-Léognan, Saint-Emilion and Pomerol

01 November 2005

Spain: Castillo de Perelada, Cava / Empordà-Costa Brava

Castillo de Perelada: Cava / Empordà-Costa Brava
Empordà-Costa Brava is a small wine region in the northeast corner of Catalonia, in the heart of which you'll find the attractive town of Peralada (Catalan spelling) not too far from Figueres, home of the magnificent eggs-and-baguettes Dalí museum. You can visit the old Castillo de Perelada cellars, where they still age their top of the range wines, but the main winemaking facilities are in Girona and Villafranca. They also have a nice wine shop and café, so you can stock up after a guided tour and posh lunch in the casino, or inexpensive one at the restaurant in the square across the road! I think they're producing some of the finest Cavas you'll find anywhere, as well as a good range of reds, whites and rosés. Tasted Sept-Nov 2005:

 
Cava Brut Reserva non-vintage (NV) (Macabeu Parellada Xarello) - Subtle floral almond biscuit aromas, more chocolatey on the palate with crisp dry and tight length. Nice with chocolate and coconut sponge. €4 88
 Cava Brut Rosado NV (Monastrell Garnacha) - Deliciously frothy summer fruit cocktail, leading to fresh choco-nutty off-dry finish. €4.50 90
 
2002 Cava Brut Nature (Macabeu Parellada Xarello) - You'll think it's Champagne: really quite refined with subtle intensity of yeasty oily almond flavours, crisp elegant length and very dry refreshing finish. About €6-7 a bottle! 90+
 2004 Blanc de Blancs (Garnacha Blanca Macabeu Chardonnay 12.5%) - Offers good depth of nutty and oily fruit v zesty citrus edge; aromatic start then fills out on the palate to more buttery and peachy, yet finishes crisp and long. Bargain at €3.  87
 Blanc Pescador Vino de Aguja NV (11.5%) - Refreshingly unusual dry white showing crisp yeasty gummy fruit with nutty mineral notes, slightly sparkling too with light elegant finish. Seafood delight. 85
 
2004 Rosado (Cariñena Garnacha Tempranillo 13%) - Quite fine rosé showing lovely raspberry and rose petal aromas, medium-full weight of fruit finishing more elegant, crisp and dry. About €3 87
 
2002 Tinto Crianza (Garnacha Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 13%) - Try with smoked bacon and spinach pasta: developing smoky leather notes underneath a savoury damson and raisin heart, medium-full in the mouth with dry grip and a vanilla-oak coating. €4 87


Latest Perelada wines here (Spanish "wines of the moment") and here (Cava guide).


01 October 2005

Australia: De Bortoli, Yarra Valley

De Bortoli - Yarra Valley
Some new releases from this leading Victorian winery, as in the Australian state, obviously, rather than demonstrating prudish 19th Century tendencies. Tasted Oct 2005:
2004 Estate Grown Chardonnay, Yarra Valley (13%) - More complex nose than the Gulf Station showing lightly toasted oats and vanilla notes plus richer buttery pineapple fruit as well; weighty start becoming more elegant on the finish, with better balance of fresh acidity v concentration of 'sweet' fruit. Also more interesting the following day. 90
2003 Estate Grown Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley (13.5%) - Delicious elusive Pinot aromas: perfumed 'sweet and sour' red cherry v savoury backdrop, complex just-ripe pungency v silky fruit and tannins, nice fresh length and style. Good with Catalan sausages (rich and porky). £13.99 in the UK. 92+
2004 Estate Grown Shiraz Viognier, Yarra Valley (13.5%) - Attractively restrained style showing ripe smoky black fruits with light earthy leather edges, soft mouthfeel finishing with subtle dry grip and perfumed fruit. 90
2004 Gulf Station Chardonnay (13%) - Bright and fresh lemony nose with a mealy backdrop, a bit sweet and sour in terms of ripe exotic fruit v bite of acidity and alcohol, but gets better after being open for a while; perhaps less in your face than some but still a bit simple. 85
2005 Gulf Station Semillon - Sauvignon - Immensely aromatic and zingy: fresh gooseberries and kiwis set against a more exotic fruit background, zippy fresh and crisp palate length; a bit one-dimensional perhaps but lively little number nevertheless. 87

All the latest from Australia is here.

30 September 2005

Bordeaux: Pessac-Léognan, Pomerol & Saint-Emilion Vintage 2005

Château Smith Haut Lafitte
smith-haut-lafitte.com

Bordeaux: Pessac-Léognan, Pomerol & Saint-Emilion Vintage 2005

Château Smith Haut Lafitte
smith-haut-lafitte.com
I was fortunate enough to be invited by Bordeaux wine company and vineyard owner Yvon Mau at the end of September 2005 to catch the action of the harvest in full swing. We visited an interesting cross-section of Châteaux, not just their properties, including world-famous names, up-and-coming estates and some that have recently changed hands, and a ground-breaking maverick. Namely, and not necessarily in that order: Smith Haut-Lafitte, Brown (the Mau family's latest purchase), Taillefer, Beauséjour, Haut-Bailly, Romer (Sauternes actually) and Val d'Or owned by Philippe Bardet, who's invented an extraordinary sorting machine (uh oh, geek alert...).
We also had the opportunity to chat and taste over dinner with the growers/winemakers/business people involved in this marketing initiative (click on the lead to read the story elsewhere on this blog):
A breath of fresh air in Bordeaux? "Eighteen bright ‘young guns’ have formed a new producers’ association and launched their promotional campaign for the UK, called Bordeaux Oxygène..."
This trip confirmed vintage 2005 is looking good, and it's certainly created a buzz of excitement among buyers and press around the world (egged on by producers keen to pump up their prices, it has to be said). Here are my notes on some of the wines we tried including comments on a few fermenting 2005s.

Château Taillefer - Pomerol
2005 Merlot parcel (3-4 grams per litre of sugar remaining) - lovely black/purple colour, nice structure v ripeness, fresh acid bite v plump cherry fruit. 12-15 days skin maceration to follow (28/9/05).
2003 Château Taillefer - quite forward showing attractive black cherry fruit and spicy oak, subtly firm structure with dry tannins yet approachable fruit; good depth v elegance, further nuances develop as it opens up with the oak becoming more background. Drinking from now onwards, should blossom in a couple of years and more. 89-91
2002 - maturing savoury black/red fruits lightly layered with coconut oak, quite full and concentrated for a 2002 with firm but not unattractive tannins; approachable now but should improve over the next few years. 88-90
2001 - more classic style with greater concentration, power and weight; cedary and inky blackcurrant and plum fruit v solid rounded tannins, classy length and poise; drinking now but should improve over 5-10 years. 92-94
1995 (excellent in Pomerol: regular rainfall then dry, early picking producing rich yet balanced wines) - delicate mature fruit with ripe cassis notes, elegant and concentrated, still youthful with lovely texture, well balanced fruit v tannins v oak, fine length. Yum, drink it now! 92-94

Château Val d'Or - St. Emilion Grand Cru
Both approx. 70-75% Merlot, 20%+ Cabernet Franc and max 5% Cabernet Sauvignon:
2000
 - developing brown-ish shades, delicious smoky complex nose showing ripe v minty fruit and a touch of chocolate oak; more liquorice tinged on the palate, good depth and firm bite with rounded texture, very ripe fruit with leather notes. 90-92
2001 - attractive fruit with floral leafy undertones, not as big as the 2000 but tighter and livelier, very gripping tannins yet has nice balance and elegant length. 92-94

Château Haut Bailly - Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé de Graves
2003 - Subtle toasty chocolate oak combines with rich black cherry and lightly leafy undertones; fair depth and concentration, pretty firm texture yet elegant and tight finish; needs a few years to open up. 87-89
2002 - more rustic, smoke and tobacco aromas and less leafy; still quite taut and youthful set against nice blackcurrant fruit, more structured than the 03 in terms of acidity and austere tannins; less appealing now but time will tell... 85-87
2001 - sexier, more complex nose with cassis, light leafy notes and background oak; developing earthy tobacco characters lead to richer bright fruit, dry textured bite yet very attractive and supple tannins, fine and long. 92+

Château Smith Haut-Lafitte - Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé de Graves
2005 Sauvignon Blanc (from cask, nearly dry at 13.5) - attractive citrus fruit depth, zesty acidity and subtle yeasty intensity. Usually blended 90-10 with Sauvignon Gris (vat) - white grapefruit and spice, more exotic richer palate yet less intense and zesty.
1999 blanc - toasty background with mature oily aromas and texture on citrus fruit bodywork, rounded melted mouthfeel yet still alive and fresh. 90+
2001 rouge - delicious maturing smoky nose with ripe fruit v delicately leafy and chocolate oak, black fruits and leather; rounded v firm palate with nice depth and coating of fruit, inky v fine, subtle grip and length. 93-95
1995 - smokier still with muted red pepper notes, lighter mouthfeel with dry grip yet fine fruit underneath; drink now but no hurry. 89-90
1998 - quite rich and sexy, smoky maturity v minty intricacy; firmer palate yet has fine acid/tannin structure and length; again drinking now but will develop much further. 92-94

Château Brown - Pessac-Léognan
2001 rouge - ripe smoky black cherry and cassis with complex mint/herb nuances and very background oak; meaty tobacco notes on the palate, rounded fruit v cedar coating, firm grip and tight acidity create a quite austere finish. 90
2002 - earthy v leafy nose, not as forthcoming as the 01 with grippy austere finish; difficult, might round out. 85+
2003 - warmer liquorice and jam aromas with light cedar and leaf backdrop; richer black cherry fruit then hard firm length; not very appealing at the moment but has substance on the finish. 87+
2004 blanc (Sémillon & Sauvignon Blanc) - lovely pure citrus, pear and white peach with floral perfume and very light toasty yeast lees notes; rich and rounded with buttered toast backdrop, then fresh tight acid structure and stylish length. 90-92
2003 (70-30% as above) - fatter and creamier with more obvious oak, rich tropical fruit as well on a big palate, lower acidity yet still has some mineral bite. 87-89

Château Romer, 2003 Sauternes - multilayered apricot and fig fruit with musky spice and mushroom notes, very light subtle oak on lovely rich sweet texture; has good cut and freshness for 03 with 14% alcohol adding weight to impressive length. 90+

Bordeaux Oxygène launch 29th Sept 2005



Château Thieuley, 2004 Cuvée Francis Courselle blanc - elegant mixture of toasted cedar and citrus fruit, fat v crisp mouthfeel. 87
Château le Bon Pasteur, 2002 Pomerol - quite lush and smoky with raisin and plum fruit, finishing with tighter grip and length, elegantly textured too. 92
Château la Fleur de Bouard, 2001 Lalande-de-Pomerol - pretty rich and rustic, displaying complex development with firm texture v nice ripe dark fruit. 92+
Château Loudenne, 2004 Pink de Loudenne, Bordeaux rosé - lots of fresh aromatic juicy strawberry, redcurrant and raspberry fruit; good weight and structure v crisp length. 87+
Château Rouget, 1999 Pomerol - still quite firm and unrevealing but develops a more generous palate after opening up a little. 87+
Clos Dubreuil, 2002 St-Emilion Grand Cru - ripe and smoky flavours v solid, more austere finish; nevertheless, fine textured and becomes softer with aeration. 90+
Château Malartic-Lagravière, 2001 Graves Grand Cru Classé - delicious rich tobacco tinged fruit set on a firm framework, yet finely textured too. 94-96
Château Tour de Mirambeau, 2002 Bordeaux blanc Cuvée Passion - yeast lees and butter notes lead on to a pretty toasty palate, which gets fresher with underlying citrus and ripe peach; powerful and long, needs the right food! 89
Clos du Clocher, 1998 Pomerol - maturing complex aromas of light red pepper v rich ripe black cherry, full dry palate with rounded tannins. 95
Clos Fourtet, 1996 St-Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classé - soft and quite mature with elegance and intricate flavours. 92-94
Château Nairac, 1995 Sauternes Cru Classé - super sexy nose displaying rich oily honey notes with exotic spicy botrytis fruit; big mouthful of dried apricots and honey yet with a fine green fruit centre and fresh acidity, gorgeously drinkable too. 95-97

26 September 2005

Roussillon: Château Planères, St-Jean-Lasseille

This 60 hectare estate (150 acres) is located just outside the village of Saint-Jean-Lasseille, off the N9 road between Perpignan and Le Boulou, stalked by the Albères mountains which mark the Franco-Spanish border. Their top reds are now classified Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres. Tasted 26/9/05:
 
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Prestige blanc (Macabeu, Grenache Blanc, Malvoisie & Vermentino) - shows complex yeast-lees notes, much tighter and more concentrated palate than their basic white; good fresh intensity and finish. 85+
2003 La Romanie blanc (mostly Malvoisie) - butter and coconut dominate (10 months in cask with lees stirring) yet it's fresh too, offering nice weight of fruit v toasty character; different, needs food. 87+
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Prestige rosé (Syrah, Cinsault & Grenache) - lots of rose petal and ripe red fruits, particularly straw/raspberry; lovely concentration and depth with a light touch of tannin even. 87+
2003 Côtes du Roussillon Prestige (Mourvèdre, Syrah & Grenache) - nice smoky 'sweet' fruit with background oak, ripe and supple then structured finish with dry grip v appealing fruit. €6 88+
2003 La Coume d'Ars (a lieu dit or specific plot, 50% 100 year old Carignan, 30% 45 yo Grenache & Syrah) - earthier bigger and chunkier with attractive dark fruit background and firm tannins. 88+
2003 La Romanie les Aspres (Syrah, Mourvèdre & Grenache) - spicy coconut overtones lead to a tight palate of peppery black fruits, pretty firm yet elegant and long; needs time to develop. 90

Rivesaltes Grenat - quite oxidised style but has plenty of sweet Grenache fruit v dry tannins, nice finish too. 85+
2004 Muscat de Rivesaltes Excellence (16%) - very floral, grape and orange peel aromas lead on to lots of fresh sweet fruit (65 grams per litre residual sugar) finishing with crisp bite of acidity and alcohol; lovely style. 90

15 September 2005

Destination Champagne by Philippe Boucheron

Frustrated by publishers who couldn't handle the concept of a cross-genre book, Philippe set up his own company 'Wine Destination Publications' to get this recommended Champagne travel guide on the shelves. I agree with his comment that "wine tourism publications (is) a market sector that has... been largely ignored." I guess narrow-minded wine specialist or travel guide publishers thought book retailers wouldn't know where to put it in the shop - under wine, travel or restaurant guides? Anyway, who cares: this is rather useful if you're going on a trip to Champagne. Enthusiasm for and years of experience of the region's wines, historical insights, travelling tips and maps, where to eat and stay; it contains plenty of information without being too long and is good read too. Perhaps a little pricey at £18.99 but at least Philippe will be the main beneficiary (after the bank no doubt), rather than a huge indifferent publishing company. He also has plans to release Destination Bordeaux and others in this series. Available "from all good bookshops," as the flyer says: further info from www.destinationchampagne.com

02 August 2005

Aldi Greek wines

Aldi Greek wines

Could do much better. These wines aren't very recommendable: not terrible but rather average. I've tasted more characterful Greek wines - admittedly more expensive than their £3.99 price tag. The reds are generally over-oaked and a little bitter; the white is probably the best one of the four. Anyway, here goes... tasted August 2005.
Click here for Aldi Posh wines - more like it (page temporarily missing).
2003 Goumenissa red (Xynomavro Negoska 12.5%) - Goumenissa is the region by the way. The 'best' of the 3 reds: still a tad unripe in the background but this is fruitier, rounder, less oaky and more 'winey', even if a bit basic. £3.99 80
2004 Mantina white, Peloponnese (100% Moscophilero 11%) - Pleasant enough aromatic floral v nutty oily fruit, mineral touches and freshness on the off-dry finish. £3.99 80
2003 Naoussa red, Macedonia (Xynomavro 12%) - Spicy cinnamon oak covering, pleasant enough but lacks fruit and body, finishes a little tart as well. £3.99 75
2003 Nemea red, Peloponnese, Nemea valley (Agiorgitiko 12%) - A bit less oaky than the Naoussa showing better depth of fruit and roundness, but still somewhat non-descript. £3.99 77

01 August 2005

Mountain Valley - Montenegro

Mountain Valley - Montenegro

To be brutally honest, the reds in this range go from average to pretty good but the whites are a waste of space, at least the samples I tasted - see my comments in each of the tasting notes. All the wines come from Plantaze's vineyards in the Lake Skadar region, located between the Adriatic coast and surrounding mountains (hence the name no doubt). With a bit of work in the vineyard and winery (and on the pricing), I'm sure we'll be seeing more and better from Montenegro. Tasted August 2005:
2004 Chardonnay - This wasn't good: faulty winemaking or something has left a heavy handed sulphur character; and that bitter finish implies unripe grapes and/or too much skin contact or badly acidified wine. No chance at £5.49. Under 70
2004 K white (11.5%) - Clean towards neutral and, like the Chardy (although not as marked), sulphur dominated with a bitter finish. 75
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (12.5%) - Simple 'Vin de Pays' type showing black cherry / currant fruit, soft-ish palate v dry coating on the finish. OK but at £5.99... 80
2004 Sauvignon Blanc - Not faulty at least, this is just about OK with some floral and citrus characters; but too boring to ask £5.49 for it. 75
2004 Merlot (12%) - Attractive enough Merlot style offering spicy biscuity plum fruit, reasonably fleshy mouthfeel with light bite of tannins. Again not bad but put it up against a Merlot from France or Chile at the same price... 84
2003 V red (Vranac 12.5%) - Similar soupy rustic style to the Vranac but richer and riper, shows quite good depth of fruit although, for me, the finish becomes slightly rough after a while. £7.49 84
2003 Vranac - Not bad at all actually: maturing rustic leather aromas with nice peppery undertones, fairly smooth and ripe finish. £5.49 85

17 July 2005

World Wide Trophy for Best Sparkling Wine goes to...England

RidgeView Merret Bloomsbury 2002 snatched the award in the International Wine and Spirit Competition 2005. This blend of Champagne varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier is made at the vineyard and winery situated north of Ditchling in Sussex. The estate currently produces between 40 – 50,000 bottles a year, and is a family business set up by Mike and Christine Roberts only in 1994; their son Simon shares the winemaking. RidgeView’s sparkling wines are named after Christopher Merret, who apparently recorded making traditional method sparkling wine in 16th Century London with the Royal Society 30 years before Dom Pérignon in Champagne. Open Monday to Saturday 11am to 4.30pm for sales and tastings, their wines are also stocked by Waitrose, Sunday Times Wine Club, the Wine Society and independent specialists around the country. Further info: tel 01444 241441, ridgeviewestate@aol.com or www.ridgeview.co.uk
Tasting notes of Merret older vintages might be resurrected at some point...

01 July 2005

Portugal: Porto Solene, Douro valley

Porto Solene

These two new ports from Quinta de São Cristóvão look the part with stylish elegant picture label, flat-shouldered 50cl bottle in clear glass and little black coffin box. Unfortunately I couldn't find a picture to copy on the internet! Bottled in 2004, the Ruby is aged for around 6-7 years and the Tawny 8-9 years, and both offer pretty good quality and classic styles with lovely youthful fruit (perhaps too so, it needs a couple of years further ageing to integrate the alcohol) in the case of the former and more mature rich nuttiness from the latter. Tasted July 2005:
Ruby Special Reserve NV, Douro valley (20%) - A little fiery and youthful, but this has plenty of lively and quite concentrated plum and blackberry fruit underneath to please, rounded off with light touches of earthy leather and some dry tannin to offset the sweetness. Try with mature hard cheeses (not Stilton or similar blue). 87
Tawny Special Reserve NV, Douro valley (20%) - Serve chilled: seductive roasted pecan nut fruit adds tanginess to the aged molasses sweetness, with 20% alcohol also lending some balance; keep chilled as it gets a bit sickly once warm. 87

Lots more Port & Douro here.

30 May 2005

Monastrell - Mourvèdre - Mataro strikes back!

Or a tasting trip to Jumilla, South Africa and Australia. Monastrell - Mourvèdre - Mataro: the three most common passports this great grape variety travels under. You'll find lots more tastings of M-based wines and info on the mega Bandol page of my other blog (opens in new window as do the following links:) and this Pic St-Loup feature, as well as articles ("Understanding Mourvèdre," originally written for Wine Business Monthly in the US) and news items. Anyway, I've also included wines below where Mourvèdre is blended with other grapes - such as Tempranillo, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz, Cabernet even - or wines made entirely from those varieties, because they were worth mentioning too... Tasted May 2005 at the London wine trade fair.

SPAIN - JUMILLA

Finca Omblancas

2003 was the first vintage from this winery-to-watch, and amazingly their Delaín  wine was made from 3 year old vines.
2003 Delaín (Monastrell, 13.5%) - quite smoky and full-bodied, shows nice ripe liquorice and herb flavours leading to fairly structured, firm and powerful palate with good length. 87
2003 Denuño Monastrell - lovely complex 'sweet' berry fruit with liquorice and herb notes; quite concentrated, lush and ripe v meaty framework. 88-90

Bodegas Valle del Carche
2004 Vega Carche Monastrell  - nice ripe fruit with reasonable depth and a touch of tannin in the mouth. 85
2004 Tempranillo - more structured with grippier and fresher palate yet has generous rounded fruit too, tangy v liquorice. 87
2000 Reserva (TempranilloCabernet Sauvignon & Syrah) - shows more upfront oak layered with lovely savoury tobacco v ripe berry fruit, nice depth and style with firm well-textured mouthfeel, power and class. 90-92

Casa de la Ermita
2004 Monastrell (organic) - delicious ripe and savoury fruit, raisins v firm tannins and smoky long finish. 90
2002 Crianza (TempranilloMonastrell & Cabernet Sauvignon) - smoky maturing complex nose, again offers lovely ripeness v structured backdrop with elegant length. 92

Casa Castillo
2004 Vendimia (Monastrell & Tempranillo) - attractive 'modern' juicy fruit style, quite chunky and grippy on the palate showing fair concentration. 87
2001 Las Gravas (MonastrellSyrah Cabernet Sauvignon) - complex, grilled and developed fruit; very firm yet has richness and depth too. 90+

Bodegas Salzillo
2002 Zenizate Crianza (Monastrell) - concentrated with lovely coating of ripe yet savoury fruit and firm, nicely maturing tannins. 89+
2004 rosado (Monastrell) - attractive chunky fruit displaying ripe raspberry and strawberry, weighty finish. 87
2003 Camelot Dulce Monastrell ("Knights of the Round Table...on second thoughts, let's not go to Camelot; it's a silly place..." Guess the movie? Email me and you'll win...my respect) - very rich, oxidised and meaty set against loads of raisin and liquorice fruit, with balancing bite on the long complex finish. 90+
N.B: the Dulce, sweet style is made from very late picked Monastrell grapes fermented to 11%, fortified with spirit to about 15% and aged in old casks. This leaves at least 50 grams/litre of natural sugar.

Bodegas Bleda
2004 Castillo de Jumilla Monastrell rosado  - earthier style than rosé above with very deep colour, nice fruit and a touch of dry grip on the powerful palate.87
2004 Monastrell - ripe pure berry and tobacco fruit, luscious black cherry palate with a bit of tannin adding framework. 87
2000 Reserva (Monastrell & Tempranillo) - mint and cigar notes lead to mature savoury v ripe 'sweet' flavours, tight structure and power v lingering dried black fruits. 90
2002 Divus (Monastrell) - cedar new oak aromas but shows ripe rustic complexity too, very concentrated with good balance of oak, firm tannins and fruit. 92+

Bodegas Viña Elena
2002 Pacheco Crianza (Monastrell) - rich dried fruits on the nose then firm savoury texture, quite powerful and concentrated. 90

Bodegas Agapito Rico
2004 Carchelo (Monastrell) - nice juicy 'modern' style fruit, rich black cherry flavours then firmer finish. 87

Three more Dulce Monastrells:
2003 Nuestra Se
ñora de la Encarnacion - complex oxidised nose with very minty yet savoury nuances, concentrated sweet liquorice fruit with bite of tannins, acidity and alcohol. 89
2003 Alce
ño, Pedro Luis Martínez - amazing blackberry fruit with slight 'rancio' characters, firm tannins yet long fruity finish. 92+
2000 
Bodegas Olivares - minty wild herb aromas with black cherry and dark chocolate, super concentration v bite of tannins and alcohol (16%); fab. 95

SOUTH AFRICA
These 3 wines were all made by Charles Back.
2004 Spice Route Mourvèdre
, Swartland - shows quite a bit of spicy oak but also vibrant berry and herb fruit underneath, good depth on a tight rounded framework. 89
2004 Fairview Mourvèdre (+10% Shiraz) - nice spicy berry fruit leads to a gamier palate, attractive ripe tannins add a touch of grip to the fair depth of fruit. 872004 Charles Back Shiraz-Mourvèdre - lively spicy black fruit nose, liquorice v gamey background flavours, tight and firm yet nicely rounded. 89

AUSTRALIA

Mitchelton, Victoria
2002 Crescent Shiraz-Mourvèdre-Grenache
 - plenty of coconut spiced oak, tight concentrated and firm palate; needs time although perhaps too much oak for the fruit to really develop? 89
2002 Parish Shiraz-Viognier - meatier more savoury fruit, rich and dark with lovely depth, firm and powerful yet elegant length too. 92+
2003 Shiraz - more delicate style with herby berry fruit and creamy wood, firm dry tannins v lingering 'sweetness'. 87

D'Arenberg, McLaren Vale
2002 The 28 Road Mourvèdre - attractively smoky ripe & minty berry fruit, a touch of background oak adds chocolate flavours too; firm and powerful, tightly textured finish. 89+
2003 The Cadenzia Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvèdre (+ Viognier) - more berry-ish and open, liquorice Grenache fruit leads to structured yet perfumed mouthfeel! 87
2003 The Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viognier - delicious aromatic, pure spicy Syrah nose lifted by a touch of background choco oak; nice ripe texture and fruit extract without being too heavy. 89+
2002 The Dead Arm Shiraz - herbal intensity set against very ripe fruit, subtle concentration v textured oak, dry yet ripe finish, big but not too. 90+
2003 The Dead Arm Shiraz - very perfumed blackberry and herb fruit, the oak isn't very integrated at the moment but this has sumptuous depth and tight firm finish. 92+

20 May 2005

Tannat: Madiran v Uruguay

In fact, more than just Madiran v Uruguay: there are also some very good reds from the lesser known Côtes de St-Mont appellation, also in southwest France. All the Uruguayan wines tasted are 100% Tannat (although many do blends as well), whereas the south-western French ranged from 60% upwards. My top three were: 1er Cru Garage Tannat from Familia Deicas, Cuvée Charles de Baatz from Domaine Berthoumieu, and Château Bouscassé/Alain Brumont's Madiran Vieilles Vignes. Read on...
But first, I'll subject you to just a bit of background on the Tannat variety. André Dubosq of les Producteurs Plaimont said they work 2000 hectares (nearly 5000 acres) of Tannat out of 4000 total. DNA testing has shed some light on its origins, and it's certainly one of the oldest varieties in France. They thought the Phoenicians originally brought it, but it seems likely to be related to wild vines of the Pyrenees and was named Tannat in perhaps the 16th or 17th Centuries. It later resisted well to the phylloxera pest and produced good yields so became favoured. At low yields it can make superb quality, and is a more even performer than the Cabernets in the Madiran area. Merlot is a relatively recent introduction for blending. Most of the people and vines in Uruguay "are of European stock," Daniel Pisano jested (for example Basque and Italian), "and Tannat chose us!" His ancestors started with Italian varieties but switched to Tannat, foreseeing a great match with climate and soil. He believes there's about the same surface area of the variety in Uruguay; exact figures weren't then available because of fast-increasing plantings.
As for the different vintages, I didn't find any of the French 2002s recommendable; this was a difficult cooler vintage across the south of France. In contrast, 2002 was described as a very concentrated year in Uruguay, and their 2004s show uniform potential, apart from any over-oaked wines (a consistent criticism I'm afraid). There were no older Tannats from Uruguay in this tasting so I can't comment on ageing ability, although I have tried before one or two lovely mature reds from the leading producers (e.g. Pisano Family). Back in France, obviously 2001 and 1998 were star quality vintages in this region, and we were told 2004 was much more balanced than very hot 2003. Climatically, there are similarities with about the same rainfall (and no irrigation), although Madiran is usually hotter in the summer; in Uruguay it rarely goes over 30 degrees centigrade with even temps of 25-ish into March/April (that's late summer/early autumn remember) yet 12-14 at night.
Daniel Pisano neatly summed up the event (held in May 2005) and their philosophy of international co-operation: "We feel like brothers, even if we're competing for a place in your stomachs!"

Uruguay

2004 Don Prospero Tannat, Pizzorno - nice cherry and raspberry flavours lead to firm yet fruity textured mouthfeel; needs 6-12 months to express itself better, should be good. 85-87
2004 Tannat, Varela Zarranz - unusual meaty v black cherry nose, savoury tangy palate, pretty firm and chunky but has good length and a touch of elegance too. 87
2004 Rio de los Pajaros Tannat, Pisano - strong spicy chocolate oak aromas continue onto the mouth, shows good depth of lively peppery black fruits though, quite concentrated v grippy with rounded texture; pity about the overly toasty finish, would be better if the oak was toned down. 87
2004 Inicio Tannat, Omar Perco - ripe red / blackcurrant notes set the scene for a 'sweet' v savoury palate, solid tannins yet attractive fruit and style. 85-87
2004 Reserva Tannat, Bouza - closed nose, new oak; lots of choco oak on the palate, shame as it shows nice concentration and ripeness, big yet well textured tannins; time will tell whether the oak merges together. 87
2004 1er Cru Garage Tannat, Familia Deicas - also not revealing much on the meaty edged nose, very concentrated and firm with attractive savoury v blackberry fruit; powerful finish needing time to integrate, although the oak is much better handled. 92
2002 Casa Filgueira Tannat Roble, Filgueira - lovely ripe black cherry nose with meat juice undertones, very grippy and extracted, but this has good depth of fruit and rounder sweeter then savoury finish. 90
2002 Solar del Paso Tannat, Vinicola Aurora - maturing colour and aromas with interesting mint, leather and liquorice notes; ripe berry fruit with background vanilla oak, soft with quite light tannins v tangier bite, elegant and straightforward; drink now. 85

France

2003 Madiran, Maestria - vibrant purple, more 'modern' spicy black cherry fruit, upfront and attractive; darker plum and soy sauce palate, quite firm but has nice fruit, medium body and length. 85
2001 Côtes de St-Mont, Château Sabazan - complex roast meat v black cherry notes with background oak, very solid tannins but shows lovely concentration, might v elegance and long finish. 90
2001 Cuvée Charles de Baatz Madiran, Domaine Berthoumieu - intriguingly sexy nose offering similar savoury black fruits with smoky complexity; very, very firm supported by chunky fruit and a touch of oak, adding attractive texture and fine length. 92-94
2001 Côtes de St-Mont, Le Faite (top site, oldest vines) - nice mix of concentrated fruit - black cherry and liquorice - and a layer of oak; tight structure and bite sweetened by the fruit and oak, well balanced despite the dry tannins and power. 90
2001 Madiran, Château Mascaras (70% Tannat, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cab Sauvignon) - more elegant and restrained style, firm tannins with soft liquorice fruit and long dry finish; definitely a roast duck wine. 89
2000 Madiran Plénitude, Producteurs Plaimont
- maturing rustic notes v lightly stalky v rich black fruits; big structured tannins with appealing textured savoury fruit carrying through onto the finish. 87
1999 Madiran, Château Viella-Village - lightly rustic/sulphide aromas, brooding nose; rigid and concentrated, slightly stalky yet rich mouthful at the same time; probably won't develop much more v that extraction. 87
1998 Madiran Vieilles Vignes, Château Bouscassé (Alain Brumont) - smoky intricate ominous nose; displays delicious balance of maturing fruit, chunky tannins and elegant length, leather and ripe black plums. 93-95
1996 Côtes de St-Mont, Château Sabazan - a tad dusty perhaps, smoky earthy mint & liquorice aromas, 'sweet v savoury' black fruits; mature fruit and dry tannins on the palate, attractive drinking, at its peak. 87
1993 Madiran, Château Crouseilles - old and meaty v liquorice and leather, dry tannins but nice mature 'sweet' fruit too; at its peak, needs food. 89-90

20 April 2005

St. Innocent Anden Chardonnay 'guaranteed' to match asparagus!

I quote from their website: "Try Anden Chardonnay with grilled chicken, the classic lobster, or even foods as flavorful as duck breast. For reasons that I can not explain, the Chardonnays from this site are fantastic with ASPARAGUS. Yes, the bane of wine, it actually brings out the fruit and tastes lovely. If I am wrong, call me up, I'll replace the bottle. Enjoy!" The wine's made from Dijon clone Chardonnay grown in St. Innocent's Anden Vineyard, which overlooks the Willamette Valley from the hills west of Salem, Oregon. More details here. The winery also makes Pinots Noir, Gris and Blanc and sparkling wines.
This whole asparagus and wine thing was brought to my attention by Michael Sherwood of quirky website cum virtual resto Sub Rosa: here you'll find mouth-watering recipe tips and wine suggestions. Also read Mike's article "Oregon Wine Dinner - the Asparagus Challenge" on the Avalon Wine site.

14 March 2005

Faugères Saint-Chinian Coteaux du Languedoc tasting

Notes and ratings on 35 wines selected from the "Meet the winegrowers" tasting held at Mas de Saporta in Montpellier, 14th March 2005. More info on these regions and producers in reports written for UK trade paper Off Licence News (scroll down), including the latest developments in the Languedoc and Roussillon.

Faugères

2003 La Closeraie, Abbaye Sylva Plana (Grenache Syrah Carignan) - Nice pure spicy Syrah fruit comes through on the nose, blackberry/currant; shows good bite v softness on the finish. 85-87
2003 La Longe de l'Abbé, Abbaye Sylva Plana - Has a tad more weight and extract than la Closeraie, plus a touch of wood adds texture; grip v black fruits, finishing a little bitter perhaps. 85-87
2003 Florentin Abbal, Domaine Valambelle (Syrah Cinsault Mourvèdre) - Floral spice on the nose, soft black fruits in the mouth set against firm grip and mineral bite, again shows elegance on the finish. 87-89
2003 L'Angolet, Domaine Valambelle (Syrah Carignan Mourvèdre) - More perfumed style with dominant Syrah spicy medicine notes, quite concentrated showing elegant grip v nice fruit. 85-87
2003 Les Petites Mains, Domaine de l'Ancienne Mercerie - Attractive 'sweet' herbal fruit, has soft mouthfeel yet firm tannins at the same time. 87-89

Saint-Chinian

2002 Clos de la Simonette, Mas Champart (70% Mourvèdre + Grenache) - Displays pretty good balance of firmness and forward fruit, tight elegant finish too. 87-89
2003 Clos de la Simonette, Mas Champart (vat sample, 70% Mourvèdre + Grenache) - Shows promising classic mix of firm yet rounded tannins and lovely ripe sweet fruit within a chunky framework. 89-91
2002 Causse de Bousquet, Mas Champart (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre Carignan) - Also shows some of the nice concentrated black fruits of the C d'A but this has firmer leaner structure. 85-87
2003 Côte d'Arbo, Mas Champart (Vat sample Syrah Grenache Carignan) - Offers youthful chunky black cherry fruit, not finished or together but shows promise.
2001 Gabrielle de Spinola, Château Coujan (45% Mourvèdre) - Attractive sweet fruit offering black cherry and liquorice, once again nicely textured dry v ripe tannins. 87
2001 Ile de Corail, Château Coujan (100% Mourvèdre) - Slightly baked/oxidised on the nose, rich and rustic tobacco style with meaty character, good concentration with firm yet ripe and round tannins. 89
2000 Grand Vin, Domaine de la Madura - Quite chunky, herbal and spicy with firm still closed palate; more extracted than their cuvée classique, but it works well here showing nice roundness too. 90
2001 Grand Vin, Domaine de la Madura - Chunky like the 2000, this vintage offers more black fruit coating coupled with solid tannins and depth of fruit; closes up on the finish showing promising future. 90-92
2002 Les Grés, Borie La Vitarele (Syrah Mourvèdre) - Thick liquorice fruit set against beefy tannins, needs a bit of time to develop but shows promise. 89
2003 Terres Blanches, Borie La Vitarele (Mostly Grenache) - Ripe plum and liquorice fruit, earthy warm style with a touch of finesse and bite on the finish. 89

Coteaux du Languedoc

Grés de Montpellier
2002 L'Ecrit Vin, Domaine Faurmarie (50% Mourvèdre + Syrah Grenache) - Spicy and grippy offering attractive fruit and firm structure with elegant long finish.89
2003 les Mathilles, Domaine Faurmarie - Nice pure spicy fruit with liquorice and blackberry tones, balanced palate showing softness and grip together. 87-89
2001 Cuvée l'Espérance, Mas Domergue - The nose is a bit 'reductive'/sulphide, but it has nice spicy ripe liquorice palate with good concentration and soft finish.87
2001 Grande Cuvée, Domaine Ellul-Ferrières (Grenache Mourvèdre 14.5%) - Also displays slight sulphide aromas (complexity?) and tangy blackcurrants but has richer blackberry fruit as well, thicker texture than the Romarins with more grip yet rounder palate thanks to hints of vanilla from the oak; the quite high alcohol is well integrated. 87-89
2001 Les Romarins, Domaine Ellul-Ferrières (14.5%) - Touches of maturing game, spice and liquorice alongside tart blackcurrant fruit; ripeness v tangy freshness on the palate, grip v liquorice and chocolate, austere bite too lending length. 87

Pic Saint-Loup
2002 Cuvée Sainte Agnès, Ermitage du Pic St-Loup (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - More concentrated and firm-structured than their regular red, this has nice ripe black cherry fruit and well balanced finish. 87
2003 RoséErmitage du Pic St-Loup (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - Quite rich and serious, a touch volatile and oxidised but it works with this food-friendly rosé. 85

St-Georges d'Orques
2001 La Tour et Carascaude, Château de Fourques (Grenache Syrah) - Herbal blackcurrant fruit also showing a 'sweeter' side, firm yet ripe palate, quite complex and long. 89

Montpeyroux
1999 Les Marnes Bleues, Domaine Saint Andrieu (70% Mourvèdre) - Meaty maturity set against very firm palate, but there's plenty of ripe fruit and power as well. 88-90
2001 La Séranne, Domaine Saint Andrieu (30-40% Mourvèdre and Carignan) - Quite rustic and soupy, ripe and rich with touches of spicy herbs set against black fruits and liquorice, nice grip to finish. 87-89
2000 L'yeuse noire, Domaine Saint Andrieu (50% Mourvèdre) - aged in barriques: reductive/sulphide complexity on the nose, again very rustic but also very ripe liquorice fruit, soft dry tannins and herby finish. 89

Latest Saint Andrieu here.

Picpoul de Pinet
2003 la Font du Loup, Mas Saint Antoine (Picpoul) - More intense than their 'basic' P de P (this is made from later picked grapes sourced from an older parcel), lovely balance of zingy mineral bite and ripe oily fruit. 90
2003 Château de Pinet - Broader and fatter than their Dom. Peyrolle Picpoul, this is quite rich and smoky in fact but still retaining that essential crisp mineral edge. 85-87
2004 Château de Pinet - Displays spicy celeriac notes, very concentrated fruit v yeast-lees intensity, tight steely finish. 90
2004 Domaine Félines Jourdan - Classic style showing zesty extract and mineral bite on its very dry finish. 87-89

La Clape
2003 Les Chailles, Mas du Soleilla (Grenache Syrah) - Unfortunate name for a wine region! Very ripe - perhaps a little too, to the detriment of some balancing grip - soft black fruits and liquorice, attractive now. 85+

Terres de Sommières
2001 Les Myrthes, Mas Mouriès - Shows quite a bit of coconut and spice oak but has good depth of fruit and texture underneath. 89+

2004 Vin de Pays d'Oc blanc, Mas Mouriès (Grenache Blanc Ugni Blanc Sauvignon Blanc, tank sample) - Nice zesty mineral edges, crisp v concentrated style. 85+
Latest Mouries: follow link in the winery A to Z, right.

2003 Coteaux du Languedoc blanc, Mas Saint Antoine (Grenache Blanc Roussanne) - Nice with salmon. Starts with mineral crispness turning to oily texture, good steely v ripe style. 85-87
2004 Lucian blanc, Vignerons de Saint-Saturnin (Grenache Blanc Bourboulenc Marsanne 13%) - Offers attractive ripe white peach and citrus fruit tempered by floral crisp mineral finish. 85-87

10 March 2005

Violent demonstrations in Montpellier

Violent demonstrations in Montpellier
"Protesters clashed violently with police in Montpellier as up to 8,000 wine growers demonstrated against the latest government measures..." Decanter.com news alert 10/3/2005: click on the title above to go to their webpage. Original tamer story by your faithful correspondent is copied below (well, I was there in the thick of it after all...)

A reported 4500 wine growers from the Languedoc-Roussillon and the southern Rhône turned out yesterday in Montpellier to protest against the latest government measures and show solidarity in the face of escalating economic hardship. The €70 million rescue plan tabled by the Minister of Agriculture Dominique Bussereau has been widely criticised for not going far enough to support struggling French vignerons. Philippe Vergnes, representing the event organisers and president of one of the growers unions in the Aude, called on the government to “pay up so we can get over the worst. This region has given a lot in the past, it’s time to give something back to small producers.” He added: “if we’re guilty of anything, then it’s because there are too many of us. If market forces are to take over, help those get out of the business, if they want to, and those who wish to stay, roll up their sleeves and get out of this mess.”
The supermarket chains were also slammed as “the biggest racket going,” along with the government’s anti-alcohol measures: “This attack on consumption has lead to the worst crisis in history.” Growers present were also demanding the right to publicise the positive aspects of moderate wine consumption. A delegation from the Languedoc-Roussillon is due to meet the Minister of Agriculture on 22nd March. The demonstration started peacefully in Place Peyrou by the Arc de Triomphe, where speeches were held before the march down the hill to the station and back up through La Comédie. However, by the time the throng reached the town hall armed with nothing more than placards (sporting slogans such as “Chirac what a let-down” and “Get to work Bussereau”), firecrackers and a petition, skirmishes broke out apparently provoked by the heavy-handed police presence attempting to disperse the crowd.

04 March 2005

Languedoc: Pic Saint-Loup daytrip

Pic Saint-Loup - March 2005


In further pursuit of Mourvèdre but not forgetting Grenache and Syrah of course... A few great wines discovered on a day trip to Château La Roque, Mas de Mortiès and Domaine de l’Hortus. All dotted here and there in the wild terrain north of Montpellier, watched over by the eponymous peak (650 metres high). Read this for more info and tasting notes: Vinisud 2004 - Pic Saint-Loup (post to follow...) or visit the PSL website.

Château La Roque
1998 Cuvée Mourvèdre (plus a splash of Grenache, all around 13%) - attractive complex mix of ripe sweet liquorice & berry fruit and maturing gamey savoury characters; again nice ripeness, softness and elegance on the finish set against a touch of grip, spice and bite. 92
2001 Cuvée Mourvèdre - chocolate and spice notes mix with complex rustic tones, ripe black fruits v firmer structure than the 02 or 03 (bordering on a touch bitter), long tight finish. Needs time. 90+
2002 Cuvée Mourvèdre - rainy vintage: maturing smoky aromas, shows good fruit ripeness and spicy notes, lighter and less concentrated than the 2003, drinking well now. 86
2003 Cuvée Mourvèdre - Very ripe, perfumed/floral liquorice and black cherry fruit with complex earthy notes; quite elegant and soft with subtle bite and length. 90+2003 Cuvée Clos des Bénédictins (Rolle Roussanne Marsanne barrique fermented) - Offers a touch more cream and weight than the 'tradition' white, yet has lovely citrus lift and aromatic length. 87
2003 Cuvée Tradition blanc (Grenache Blanc Rolle Marsanne Roussanne Viognier) - Attractive mix of aromatic and honeyed fruit, slightly exotic style leading to steelier mineral bite, nice zingy length. 87
2002 Cupa Numismae (61% Syrah 39% Mourvèdre) - Displaying quite a bit of coconut, spice and vanilla on the nose; firm framework v riper black fruits and more spice layered with oak, tight and quite long; perhaps too much wood. 85

Domaine de l’Hortus
2002 Grande Cuvée (55% Mourvèdre, 35% Syrah, 10% Grenache) - Quite light and forward (pretty typical for the wet 2002 vintage) yet shows reasonable fruit and ripeness v a firmer edge, attractive drinking now. 85
2003 Grande Cuvée
 (50% Mourvèdre, 40% Syrah, 10% Grenache tasted from barrique) - spicy and toasty at the moment (should be bottled soon) with textured tannins and tight finish; should be good. 87+

Mas de Mortiès
2001 Que Sera Sera (50-50 Mourvèdre Syrah) - Complex smoky ripe black cherry and olive, open and attractive nose; rich texture with leather and dried herbs, good depth of fruit v grip, powerful yet elegant too. 90

30 January 2005

Food and Fine Wine opens in Manchester

Well, on Oxford Road Altrincham at least. The store is the second to be opened by Directors Adrian Walsh and Peter Wozencroft, with its sister branch in Sheffield. As the name says, it will stock a range of specialist foods such as foie gras and salamis and also serve light snacks and platters. Wine tasting sessions held weekly "allow people to try a range of wines from Cloudy Bay to Mouton Rothschild (can't see them opening many bottles of that...), learn the background to wine and how to complement wines with different foods." Wine tasting evenings can also be arranged for small private parties - for more information phone Ali or Rick on 0161 926 8001 or visit foodandfinewine.com. The next three tasting sessions will be Californian wines on the 1st February, Italian wines on the 15th February and Southern France with winemaker Berti Eden on the 11th March.

Languedoc: Le Petit Domaine de Gimios, St-Jean de Minervois

Le Petit Domaine de Gimios

Not far out of St-Jean de Minervois, taking a left off the winding road to St-Chinian, you’ll eventually find Anne-Marie Lavaysse's indeed little estate lost on the untamed final frontier between Minervois and St-Chinian country. Anne-Marie is quite a personality with a penchant for making ‘table wines’ from quirky blends, such as Carignan, Aramon, Grenache, Cinsault and Alicante. She also doesn’t use any sulphur dioxide in winemaking and farms biodynamically, of course (see www.bio-dynamie.org)! These two were tasted at Millésime Bio 2005, so not exactly up-to-date but I liked her off-the-wall-ness: I'll go there next time I go for a spin in this wonderful neck of the woods.


Rouge de Causse vieilles vignes, Vin de Table (Carignan Aramon Grenache Cinsault Alicante) - actually 2003 vintage but she's not interested in AOC rules, also doesn't use sulphur or SO2 anywhere. 'Sweet' liquorice and dark chocolate, dry tannins supported by lovely ripeness; delicious fruit v firm structure, unusual. 88-90
2000 Vin de Liqueur (Muscat petits grains, 115 gr/litre residual sugar) - lovely honey and maturing dried fruits, intense bite v that sweetness, long and refined. 90+


Gimios, 34360 Saint-Jean-de-Minervois. Tel: 04 67 38 26 10.

Fenouillèdes wine trip - Roussillon January 2005

Old vine Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre & Syrah-powered reds; a few interesting dry whites and Muscats; plus fab Vins Doux Naturels (sweet fortified white, amber and red wines) from Fenouillèdes country. This beautifully rugged, northwest corner of the Roussillon forms the 'border' between French Catalonia and the Pyrenees and Corbières hills. Most of these wines were tasted blind and others in the growers' cellars during an eye-opening trip in cold, crisp yet sunny Jan 2005. More Fenouillèdes here (6th wine show), here (wine travel article) and by flicking through the Roussillon winery A to Z linked on the right.

Côtes du Roussillon and Villages
 
2003 Domaine Hylari - Perfumed spice plus a hint of oak, chunky blackberry/cherry fruit, concentrated yet pretty firm and closed up on the finish at the moment; however, shows nice bite, elegance and ripeness with well handled oak. 87-89
2003 Cuvée des Schistes, Vignerons de Cassagnes-Belesta - Enticing floral liquorice nose, attractive soft fruit followed by firm tight finish and good length too. 90
2003 Bastoul, Domaine des Soulanes - Rather firm and closed up at first; however, it certainly seems to have subtle fruit concentration at heart, with fair power too without being heavily extracted. 87-89
2001 Domaine Salvat - Very ripe toffee fruit scented with violets too, attractive 'sweet' texture leads to firmer finish, not so concentrated but shows a bit of finesse. 89-91
2003 Domaine Terre Rousse - 'Tar' and ripe plum fruit with rustic edges, firmly structured yet also has attractive texture and weight. 87-89
2004 Domaine Barriot (barrel samples pre-blending) - Shows good pure fruit and concentration, a light touch of spicy chocolate oak adds texture to the firmly structured yet attractive mouthfeel, stylish balanced length. Look forward to retasting the finished bottled wine, could be a 90 pointer.
2001 Tautavel Prieurée, Domaine Fontanel - Lovely nose offering ripe smoky fruit and herbs, shows a touch of wood but it works, firm yet rounded tannins, power yet a touch of elegance too on the finish. 89-91
2004 Domaine du Possible (vat sample) - Pretty forward on the nose showing ripe and rustic liquorice fruit, nice grip and length on the palate. 87
2004 Domaine Rivaton (vat sample) - Quite chunky fruit and structure, tight long finish, shows promise. 89
2003 Dona Baissas Prestige - Lovely ripe fruit with herbal and rustic edges, firm rounded tannins finishing with a touch of elegance too. 90
2004 Jean Louis Majoral (vat sample)  - Aromatic pure fruit, good texture and concentration, very firm tannins but well handled overall. 89
2003 L'Alba, Domaine Tribouley - Peppery farmy nose, shows good concentration and finely grippy tannins. 89-91
Latest Tribouley here.
2003 Le Ciste, Domaine Laguerre - Aromatic fruit and very firm grip, yet this has concentration and roundness on the palate; shows potential. 89
2003 Pesquié, Domaine Jorel - Sweet raspberry fruit aromas, juicy yet firm palate, attractive style drinking now. 87-89
2002 Clos del Rey - Pretty rich extracted fruit and chocolate oak, firm in the mouth yet nicely textured; perhaps a little too extracted but this has much better concentration than most of the 2002s. 87
2003 Latour de France, Domaine de la Balmière - Smoky and rustic offering attractive fruit, good concentration and lingering balanced grip. 89-91
2003 Symphonie, Domaine des Collines des Vents - Enticing ripe fruit with lavender notes, leading to firm tannins in the mouth yet with underlying sweetness; has power and elegance too. 89-91
2003 Tramontana, Domaine de la Capeillette - Sensuous black cherry fruit, the palate's rather closed up but overall it's well balanced and promising. 89-91
2003 Trois Pierres, Domaine de l'Ausseil - Attractive smoky nose with menthol undertones, very grippy yet shows concentrated fruit, tight structure and good length. Should improve with a little bottle age. 89
2003 Voluptas, Domaine Semper - Very fruity on the nose and not overtly oaky; tighter palate and more chocolate textured, pretty firm yet mineral too, very light toast and liquorice on the finish; dry bite bordering on being a little extracted, but there's freshness there too despite the rather heavy 15+% alc. 87
 
Whites
 
2004 Vin de Pays (VDP), Domaine Terre Rousse - honeysuckle with light creamy tones, concentrated with mineral intensity balancing the malo-lactic fatness; lovely. 90+
2004 Côtes du Roussillon (CDR), Domaine des Vents - oily aromas lead to a zingy palate, weighty and textured yet crisp and long. 88-90
2004 VDP, Mas Karolina - zesty citrus style, perfumed and quite rich with nice bite. 87-89
2002 CDR, Domaine de la Serre - Aniseed and mineral notes, concentrated and complex with long finish. 88+
2004 Corbières, Domaine du Grand Arc - Lifted citrus Sauvignon Blanc-esque style, zingy with nice extract and length. 87+
2003 Terra Novo, Vignerons de Maury - Lightly toasty with dominant aniseed characters, has good weight of fruit v zing and length. 87+
2004 VDP, Domaine Arguti - Perfumed anise on the nose boosted by light cream and toast, tight and long palate; a bit closed up but could be good. 88+
2003 Muscat sec, Domaine Jouret - very perfumed Muscat style with citrus peel notes, zesty and crisp length. 87-89
2004 Muscat sec, Domaine de la Balmière - a bit closed on the nose, gummy extract with crisp citrus depth. 87
 
Vins Doux Naturels
 
Rivesaltes Hors d'Age, Dona Baissas - lovely aged richness and pecan nut character, elegant bite counteracts the sweetness with the alcohol also cutting through the finish nicely. 92-94
1991 Rivesaltes Ambré, Domaine du Rancy - rich complex toffee fruit with a lingering coating of sweet baked nuts; wow. 90-92
1997 Rivesaltes Ambré, Domaine Hylari - quite intense toffee and walnut notes, shows attractive bite and length v warming sweetness. 90
Latest Hylari here.
2002 Rivesaltes Grenat, Domaine de l'Ausseil - a little closed on the nose but shows attractive chunky black fruits and tannins, sweetness v grip; quite young but will develop nicely. 92
1983 Chabert de Barbera, Cave de Maury - volatile mature tawny style, nutty and tangy; Port like but grippier with sweetness and firmness on the finish; lovely aged character lingers. 90
2003 Maury, Preceptorie de Centernach - ripe spicy fruit with tobacco tones, good grip and balance, tight and concentrated. 90
2003 L'Oursoulette Grenat, Domaine Comelade - lots of raspberry jam on the nose then turning tobacco and spice, elegant palate with nice dry coating of tannins v sweetness. 90
2004 Muscat de Rivesaltes, Domaine des Vents - very floral and honeyed too, zingy with zesty concentration v sweetness, long finish. 90
2004 Muscat de Rivesaltes, Domaine Andreu - quite zingy and concentrated v sweet grapey fruit, lightly zesty with lively bite. 87
2004 Muscat de Rivesaltes, Vignerons de Lesquerde - again shows tight zingy mouthfeel v richer sweetness, stylish elegant finish. 87