WineWriting.com & French Mediterranean Wine
Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

24 February 2007

California: Clos du Val - Napa

Hardly a new discovery - at the grand age of 35, CDV is almost an old timer by Californian standards (well, I mean relative to the many new new wineries rather than the handful of 19th Century candidates) - but their wines retain a nice European-esque charm and elegance (not that I'm biased towards Euro wines). They also have extensive vineyards in Carneros (pic. above), source of some very enticing Pinot. Mind you, I didn't like their 04 Zinfandel though. Wines below sampled at Boutinot's tasting in the Tower of London (mind your head once again) in Feb 2007:

2004 Pinot Noir - delicate perfumed morello cherry aromas with savoury edges, lovely fruit intensity v tight fresh length. £15.50 92
2003 Merlot (plus a little of both Cabernets) - gamey nose with light red pepper tones, chunky tannins and power v herbal fruit finish. £14.50 87-89
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon - inky herbal edges to its rich chunky palate, again shows light cedar and leaf characters on a riper rounder whole with very firm tannins. £16.50 90
1996 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - mature savoury leather-tinged fruit, dry grip set on nice developing fruit finish. £31.50 90-92

14 February 2007

Spain: Rioja free zone!

That's probably a good way of making sure I don't get invited to Rioja. Not that I have anything against them - far from it, there are some outstanding wineries in the region making lovely wines. But, when faced with an enormous amount of bottles up for tasting at the Wines from Spain annual bash in London (Feb 2007), I decided to shun Spain's best known area in search of a few different things. Something newer or sexier perhaps. So in this report, you'll find around 25 red and rosé wines - or rather rosado, or rosat from Catalonia - made mostly from the Garnacha, Monastrell and Tempranillo varieties (with a few French grapes thrown in) coming from regions such as Toro, Jumilla, Yecla, Alicante, Ribera del Duero, Campo de Borja, Navarra and Terra Alta. For more info, the link on each of these headings takes you to the relevant bit on Wines from Spain's website.
Click here to discover lots more Spain on this site.

Toro
This very up-and-coming region is found to the west of Ribera del Duero in Castilla and Leon (click on each of the dark blue region titles in caps for more info on Wines from Spain's website). Winemakers are doing exciting things with Tinta de Toro, the local name for Tempranillo, and so far charging reasonable prices for the results.
Covitoro
2004 Cañus Verus, Viñas Viejas (Tinta de Toro = Tempranillo) - vanilla and cedar notes backed up by ripe plummy fruit, grip and power to finish. £8-£10 87
2005 T Rosado (Tempranillo Garnacha) - creamy redcurrant and raspberry aromas, quite chunky and weighty (13.5%) with a touch of tannin v fresh length. £5 85
Quinta el Refugio
2005 Tinto (Tempranillo) - more serious wine (but not price), lightly rustic fruit v very firm build, yet rounded on the finish too. £5-£6 89-91
2004 Vetus (Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon) - quite extracted and dry tannins but again has lush dark fruit and power on the finish. £10-£15 89

Jumilla
I like wines from Jumilla (located in Murcia in the southeast), especially those based on the region's wonderful Monastrell grape variety. Another area once known for bulk wine, there are many new wineries worth checking out. The fact that Torres has bought vineyards here must say something about potential quality.
Bodegas Juan Gil
2006 Monastrell - nice juicy ripe black cherry and olive notes, light tannins and savoury finish. £5-£6 87-89
2004 Silver Label Monastrell - more extracted and leathery, liquorice fruit v firm framework, tangy black olive finish. £8-£10 90
Casa de la Ermita
2004 Monasterio de Santa Ana (Monastrell) - black cherry and olive with meaty herbal tones, the 14%+ alcohol is quite noticeable but the wine has character. £5 85-87
2001 Reserva (Monastrell Cabernet Syrah) - savoury black olive and ripe black cherry with liquorice edges; nice texture and weight, firm v rich fruit. £12 90+

Navarra
Neighbouring Rioja in north-eastern Spain, Basque-side, Navarra seems to have established its own identity with often successful red blends of Bordeaux and Spanish varieties, as well as some of the country's best rosados. Wineries need to watch any excessive penchant on the style and price front!
Bodega 1877
2002 Altoro
crianza (Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon) - smoky plum with vanilla undertones, maturing ripe fruit v solid grip. £6-£8 89
Bodegas Ochoa
2005 Lágrima Rosado (Garnacha Cabernet Sauvignon) - delicate fruit, quite tight and fresh v good balance of weight and crunchy red fruits. £8 87
Bodegas Otazu
2000 Altar (Cabernet Sauvignon Tempranillo Merlot) - spicy oak on a quite rich and extracted palate, shows concentration and grip with attractive maturing fruit underneath. £21 88-90
Bodegas Iñaki Nuñez
2003 Pago de Cirsus, Selección de Familia (Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot) - new wood v rich yet elegant fruit, chunky modern blackberry with a touch of finesse too. Good but £35? 89+

Ribera del Duero
Hailed as one of the most exciting regions along with Priorat, Ribera's almost cult status has lead to sometimes very high prices and over-the-top winemaking (see Valtravieso's VT below for an example of an impressive competition wine, although not the most exaggerated by any stretch). Having said that, there are many superb wines with controlled extraction and oak usage at more reasonable prices, as you can see below.
Bodegas Ismael Arroyo
2004 Mesoneros de Castilla roble (Tinto Fino = Tempranillo) - big yet elegant wine showing dark fruit and dry tannins v fair alcohol and fresh bite; good concentration and balance, value too (for this expensive region). £6-£8 92+?
2001 Valsotillo Reserva (Tempranillo) - more farmyard and meaty soup in tone and texture, maturing savoury fruit v firm yet rounded framework. £15+ 89-91
Pago de los Capellanes
2005 Tinto roble (Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot) - juicier with cassis and plum notes, very firm and powerful balanced by lovely fruit. £10-£15 90-92
2003 El Nogal (Tempranillo) - smoky leather aromas with meaty prune undertones, vanilla oak backdrop with power and extracted tannins. Wow but a little unbalanced. £15+ 89
Bodegas Valtravieso
2005 Dominio de Nogara
(Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot) - ripe perfumed black cherry with light leather notes, firm tight mouth-feel with fresh elegant style too. £8 87-89
2004 VT
Vendimia Seleccionada (Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot) - broody nose leads to rich extracted palate, very firm and dry with ripe fruit and oak roundness. Impressive to taste but difficult to drink? £38 87
Bodegas Félix Callejo
2003 Selección Familia
(Tempranillo) - a bit strange: perfumed vanilla v meaty aromas; big and grippy, quite extracted but it works somehow. £20 87
Cillar de Silos
2003 Torre Silo (Tempranillo) - nice chunky fruit with background oak, savoury development v grip and length. £25 89-91

Priorat
Catalonia's most famous, highish-altitude region needs little introduction (click on the title to zoom to the WFS website); and for some reason, I only tasted one wine whose winery provenance is also a bit of a mystery...
2004 Osmin
- rich chunky fruit and texture, quite oaky but not too much. 88-90

Yecla
This small region adjoins Jumilla in Murcia province and similarly is fast becoming a source of delicious good-value Mediterranean reds.
Bodega Castano
2002 Pozuelo crianza (Monastrell Cabernet Sauvignon Tempranillo) - smoky earthy nose with ripe creamy fruit, attractive grip and elegant length. £6-£8 87-89

Campo de Borja
Head south from Navarra into Aragon and you'll find this still obscure wine area, where Garnacha in particular appears to be shaping their promising future. I haven't tried many wines from here but Borsao below is a pretty reliable name.
Borsao
2005 Tres Picos Garnacha - spicy oak v rich ripe fruit, nice dry grip on the perhaps a bit too oaky finish. 85-87

Alicante
Located not far from Valencia, Alicante also has large plantings of yummy Monastrell; although I appear to have picked one of the dearest wines from this talented and otherwise good-value region!
Bodegas Sierra Salinas
2003 Mira Salinas (Monastrell Garnacha Cabernet Sauvignon) - quite tight and firm mouth-feel with vibrant black olive and liquorice fruit, powerful finish. £15+ 89

Terra Alta
One of Catalonia's least known areas, in contrast, found to the west of Priorat. Traditional and French varieties seem to work well together, and this region has one or two very good co-operatives who offer rich 'modern' Med reds at affordable prices.
Celler Pinol
2005 Sacra Natura (Cariñena Tempranillo Syrah Cabernet, organic) - meaty chunky wine with grip and power (14%), nice dark fruit in the background. £10 87-89

Conca de Barberà
This region poised above Tarragona (west of Barcelona) came to the limelight quite a few years ago but still doesn't exactly trip off the tongue. However, it's home to one of Torres' flagship estate wines that incorporates obscure local varieties making a comeback.
Torres
2001 Grans Muralles (Monastrell Garnacha Garró Samsó Cariñena) - Garró and Samsó are old lost Catalan varieties that Torres has resurrected. Smoky complex nose with 'sweet' and savoury mix, grip power and length on the palate. £45 88-90

02 February 2007

Portugal: Caves Aliança

Profile and tasting notes are here (Portugal archive page, scroll down)...

01 February 2007

Organically focused on Corsica: Abbatucci & Granajolo

Corsica was one of my three main themes to stay organically focused at the Millésime Bio 2007 showcase, held in Narbonne (Languedoc) a few days ago (the other two were Alsace and Tuscany: that link takes you to the other two-thirds of the wines on WineWriting.com). Read my reports on Millésime Bio 2006 and 2005 for a slightly less eclectic selection of wines and comments on organic viticulture. Plus winners (honoured or should've been) and views from last year's Signature Bio competition.

CORSICA

Okay, there were only two estates from Beauty Island at the MB show - maybe the only ones farmed organically? - so hardly representative. Domaine Comte Abbatucci is now run according to biodynamic principles: whatever the methods, it's recognised as one of the best producers, which I agree with wholeheartedly. Jean-Charles Abbatucci has been experimenting with 18 previously vanished Corsican varieties with some interesting results - see my notes on his 2006 white vat samples. And his red Faustine blend is delicious: he had three different vintages at the tasting.
On the other hand, Domaine de Granajolo perhaps exemplifies the disappointment I've felt before with Corsican wines - admittedly it's been a few years since I've been there though. Or their reds at least, which lack real ripeness and generosity. I'm not sure why: are the varieties planted in the wrong sites or the growing techniques unsuitable or do they just pick too early? Either way, when will Corsica as a whole fulfil what appears to be such great potential? While you're mulling over these cumbersome questions, enjoy the wines:

Comte Abbatucci - Casalabriva

2006 Vermentinu (tank sample) - nice concentration v aromatic fruit, zesty v ripe and rounded; unusual. 87-89
2006 rosé (tank sample: Barbarossa Sciacarellu) - floral redcurrant, very zesty with nice extract and fresh length. 87-89
2006 white blend 1 (I didn't write the grape names down and couldn't find them on their website) - banana and peach notes lead to a creamy concentrated palate and fresh length; interesting. 87+
2006 white blend 2 - zesty extract v rich fruit, quite yeasty at the moment yet should be good. 87+
2005 cuvée Faustine, Ajaccio AOC (Sciacarellu Niellucciu and a touch of old vine Carignan) - smoky ripe Italianesque raisin and liquorice fruit, soft fruity mouth-feel v quite firm and fresh, nice power v elegance. 89-91
2004 cuvée Faustine (Sciacarellu Niellucciu and a touch of old vine Carignan) - less smoky, more structured yet similar in character, nice grip v ripeness. 90-92
2003 cuvée Faustine (Sciacarellu Niellucciu and a touch of old vine Carignan) - more developed and complex on the nose, quite rich 'tar' tones v firm and fresh, power v lovely fruit. 92


By the way, if you're feeling well-off, you can drink Abbatucci's wines in Gordon Ramsay's London restaurants.

ABBATUCCI WINES TASTED PREVIOUSLY (biodynamic wines report May 2006).



Domaine de Granajolo - Ste Lucie de Porto-Vecchio

2005 blanc
, Corse Porto-Vecchio AOC - fresh perfumed and zesty with lemon and banana notes, tight steely finish. 87
2005 cuvée Monika rosé (Niellucciu) - nice creamy fruit showing toffee-like edges v tart raspberry flavours, weighty v appealing freshness. 87
2003 cuvée Monika rouge (Syrah Niellucciu) - herbal red pepper tones v rustic richness, tannins are a bit hard but this has more generous fruit than the two 04 reds I tried. 83-85


LATEST ON GRANAJOLO HERE (profile, 2009 reds and 2011 white and rosé...)

Organically focused on Alsace Riesling, Corsica & Tuscany

A little eclectic, I realise: these were my three main themes to stay organically focused at the Millésime Bio 2007 showcase, held in Narbonne (Languedoc) in January. Read my reports on Millésime Bio 2006 and 2005 for a slightly less eclectic selection of wines and comments on organic viticulture. Plus winners (honoured or should've been) and views from last year's Signature Bio competition.

Alsace Riesling

Why Riesling? Apart from being a personal favourite, this taxing variety can excel in parts of Alsace. But the key to success isn't as simple as turn and open; more like a multi-toothed double lock. I've tasted quite a few Alsace Rieslings in my time, and the cheaper ones sourced from high yielding vineyards aren't generally worth it. As you can see here, the best wines often come from excellent sites - not necessarily so-called Grands Crus, some of which are ignored by certain producers - and/or old vines (vieilles vignes).
There's also controversy over winemaking styles: some insist on totally dry Rieslings, or as near as, for full flavour expression - except those specialities deliberately made from late picked (vendange/s tardive/s) or botrytised (grains nobles) grapes - others prefer to leave some residual sugar for a 'softer' wine. I tend to get turned on by the extremes: very dry, zesty and mineral or super rich, oily and sweet, yet still fresh. Well, usually anyway...

Dominique Frey - Dambach la Ville
2005 Vieilles Vignes - zesty mineral v ripe citrus notes, showing a little sulphur dioxide perhaps but it's youthful and that should dissipate; quite concentrated 'celery' fruit with subtle tight acidity, a bit closed at the moment. 87

André Stentz - Wettolsheim
2005 Rosenberg - nicely ripe nose, almost late picked character (this is a warm site); concentrated and rounded with linseed oil notes v 'chalky' acidity on the finish. 89
2004 Vendange Tardive - more raisiny and richer with mineral petrol tones, spicy and musky too; attractive balanced length. 89

Eugene Meyer - Bergholtz
2002 Cuvée Sélectionnée - nice perfumed petrol-like aromas, quite full palate with crisp acidity, mineral extract and good length. 89-91
2003 Grand Cru Spiegel - ripe v zesty, a little sweetness countered by firm acidity, weighty finish too; needs time. 90-92

Jean-Pierre Frick - Pfaffenheim
2005 Bihl - a bit closed on the nose; ripe citrus palate v tight green fruit and zingy acid structure. 87-89
2002 Cuvée Précieuse - developed and oily, almost creamy; tight fresh backdrop v mature fruit on its good length. 89-91

Clément Klur - Katzenthal
2005 Katz - appealing ripe kiwi fruit with celeriac edges, well balanced fruit ripeness v mineral acidity. 89
2004 Klur - linseed/petrol notes with raisin edges, 'sweet' maturing fruit v mineral and fresh finish. 89
2004 Wineck Schlossberg - similar character to above but more intense and richer, concentrated and powerful v lively lime zing. 92-94

André Kleinknecht - Mittelbergheim
2005 - perfumed zesty and mineral, grapefruit and yeast-lees undertones; closed up but promising. 87+
2003 Grand Cru Kirchberg de barr - ripe lemons, expressive Riesling purity; quite rich and rounded then dry, crisp, mineral and spicy; just beginning to open up. 90+
More AK wines here.

Sylvie Spielmann - Bergheim
2002 Engelgarten - floral with oily development, quite elegant v concentrated ripe fruit; fairly mature yet still shows fresh mineral length. 87
2002 Grand Cru Kanzlerberg - much more intense Riesling character, lime and mineral tones; very long and fresh v maturing fruit depth, lovely. 94-96
2001 Grand Cru Kanzlerberg - more petrolly and mineral, very dry with intense crisp acid structure; wow. 94

Pierre-Paul Humbrecht - Pfaffenheim
2005 - zesty delicate 'chalky' floral tones, fuller mouth-feel v fresh acidity and tight length; needs 6 months, nice dry style. 89
2003 Abondance - attractive Riesling nose, linseed and lime; ripe with a touch of residual sugar, has nice freshness too and maturing fruit on the finish. 89

Julien Meyer - Nothalten
2005 Nature - a bit closed to start, opens out to 'celery' v citrus fruit, tight and zippy with long dry finish. 89-91
2005 Zellberg - tighter still then creamier and riper actually, very fresh acidity and mineralised fruit. Wow. 90-92
2005 Grittermatte - again closed nose then ripeness on the palate v intense acidity and zesty extract, quite powerful too with very dry finish. 92-94
2004 Grand Cru Muenchberg - more developed and petrolly, good concentration and roundness v steely bite and length, bit of oomph too. 92-94

Frédéric Geschickt - Ammerschwihr
2004 Vieilles Vignes - quite pungent celeriac tones v ripe concentrated fruit, nice zesty texture and length with lively acidity. 89
2004 Kaefferkopf - tighter mineral style with elegant zesty finish; less obvious needing 6 months to a year to express itself. 89-91
2004 Wineck Schlossberg - tighter still with its firm acid structure v gentle ripeness, elegant fresh finish yet developing oiliness too. 88-90
2002 Wineck Schlossberg - more developed and kerosene-like with floral white peach tones, maturing raisin fruit v tight acidity and mineral length. 92-94

Jean Becker - Riquewihr
2004 Lerchenberg - pretty intense Riesling character, fruity v tight mouth-feel with quite dry finish. 87-89
2004 Grand Cru Froehn - more closed up and 'limestone' than above, fresh and elegant finish. 89+
2002 Kronenbourg - very nice 'minerality' and maturing fruit, tight acidity on its quite long finish. 89-91

CORSICA
Okay, there were only two estates from Beauty Island at the MB show - maybe the only ones farmed organically? - so hardly representative. Domaine Comte Abbatucci is now run according to biodynamic principles: whatever the methods, it's recognised as one of the best producers, which I agree with wholeheartedly. Jean-Charles Abbatucci has been experimenting with 18 previously vanished Corsican varieties with some interesting results - see my notes on his 2006 white vat samples. And his red Faustine blend is delicious: he had three different vintages at the tasting.
On the other hand, Domaine de Granajolo perhaps exemplifies the disappointment I've felt before with Corsican wines - admittedly it's been a few years since I've been there though. Or their reds at least, which lack real ripeness and generosity. I'm not sure why: are the varieties planted in the wrong sites or the growing techniques unsuitable or do they just pick too early? Either way, when will Corsica as a whole fulfil what appears to be such great potential? While you're mulling over these cumbersome questions, enjoy the wines:

Comte Abbatucci - Casalabriva
2006 Vermentinu (tank sample) - nice concentration v aromatic fruit, zesty v ripe and rounded; unusual. 87-89
2006 rosé (tank sample: Barbarossa Sciacarellu) - floral redcurrant, very zesty with nice extract and fresh length. 87-89
2006 white blend 1 (I didn't write the grape names down and couldn't find them on their website) - banana and peach notes lead to a creamy concentrated palate and fresh length; interesting. 87+
2006 white blend 2 - zesty extract v rich fruit, quite yeasty at the moment yet should be good. 87+
2005 cuvée Faustine, Ajaccio AOC (Sciacarellu Niellucciu and a touch of old vine Carignan) - smoky ripe Italianesque raisin and liquorice fruit, soft fruity mouth-feel v quite firm and fresh, nice power v elegance. 89-91
2004 cuvée Faustine (Sciacarellu Niellucciu and a touch of old vine Carignan) - less smoky, more structured yet similar in character, nice grip v ripeness. 90-92
2003 cuvée Faustine (Sciacarellu Niellucciu and a touch of old vine Carignan) - more developed and complex on the nose, quite rich 'tar' tones v firm and fresh, power v lovely fruit. 92
By the way, if you're feeling well-off, you can drink Abbatucci's wines in Gordon Ramsay's London restaurants.

Domaine de Granajolo - Ste Lucie de Porto-Vecchio
2005 blanc
, Corse Porto-Vecchio AOC - fresh perfumed and zesty with lemon and banana notes, tight steely finish. 87
2005 cuvée Monika rosé (Niellucciu) - nice creamy fruit showing toffee-like edges v tart raspberry flavours, weighty v appealing freshness. 87
2003 cuvée Monika rouge (Syrah Niellucciu) - herbal red pepper tones v rustic richness, tannins are a bit hard but this has more generous fruit than the two 04 reds I tried. 83-85

TUSCANY

There was a handful of organic Tuscan estates at the tasting that illustrated quite a diversity of 'modern' and traditional styles, as well as quality it has to be said. However, some were very good and typical of everything you'd want from an attractive, made-for-food red wine shaped by seductive Sangiovese and other local grapes. Having said that, I also liked one or two of the 'international' / Italian varietal blends: a little restraint on the new oak front is still required though...

Casina di Cornia - Castellina in Chianti
2000 Chianti Classico Riserva, Vignala Casina - maturing rustic fruit with liquorice and morello cherry notes, very firm and fresh mouth-feel backed up by quite soft fruit and powerful length. Very Tuscan. 88-90

Poggio Trevvalle - Campagnatico
2004 Morellino (= Sangiovese) di Scansano, Larcille - aromatic cherry and smoke notes, quite concentrated and rich v firm tannins and powerful finish, lingering light cedar oak and 'sweet & savoury' Sangiovese fruit. 87-89
2004 Montecucco rosso (Sangiovese Merlot Cabernet) - more closed up on the nose, chunky earthy and lush with tobacco and cedar undertones. 88

Azienda Agricola Casale - Colle di Val d'Elsa
2001 Chianti Colli Senesi - maturing resin, raisin and morello aromas; soft earthy fruit with liquorice backdrop v dry grip and elegant finish. 87-89
1999 Riserva - richer smokier fruit, pretty tannic palate yet with lovely liquorice v savoury fruit. 89-91

Fattoria Majnoni Guicciardini - Vico d'Elsa
2003 Chianti - light cedar notes lead to richer tobacco and sweet cherry palate, dry firm coating v ripeness and smokiness. 87
2004 - more rustic and peppery yet leaner, firmer mouth-feel; nice fruit, grip and power, tight closed length. 89
2004 Riserva - less obvious on the nose, concentrated and very firm with attractive chocolate oak coating but it's mostly fruit on the finish. Needs a few years. 92
Both Majnoni and Casale also make sensational olive oil.

Fattoria Lavacchio - Pontassieve
2004 Chianti Rufina, Cedro - elegant wild herb scented morello and liquorice notes, tight structure layered with subtle fruit, firm dry length. 88
2004 Chianti Rufina Riserva (Sangiovese etc plus 10% Merlot) - richer plummier aromas with a touch of choco oak, very firm and quite powerful yet showing nice smoky lush fruit underneath. 90-92
2003 Fontegalli (Sangiovese Cabernet) - full on more 'contemporary' style, cassis and light tobacco tones; powerful 14.5% alcohol combines with firm dry tannins, wow. A bit too much alcohol but otherwise good. 90

Roussillon: La Coume du Roy, Maury

The de Volontat-Bachelet family has a shop down on the main road coming into Maury, but the real fun goes on in the cellar up the hill. At least, fun to watch Jean-Francois ("a bit crazy") clamber around behind and on top of huge old casks drawing off samples of different ages and styles of Maury wines, and tasting them just as they come - the vintage dates below are correct by the way. He amusingly described himself as "only the husband and winemaker, my wife's (Agnès) the owner," who is in fact the sixth generation owner of these cramped cellars (built in 1932) and 25 ha (62 acres) that provide those precious grapes.Demijohns of ageing Maury from www.vinsduroussillon.comThere are essentially two styles of Maury - on a basic level: in reality, there are almost as many as any producer wishes to make! (Same principle for Banyuls, more or less) - both using mainly the same variety: Grenache noir (and Macabeu, Grenache blanc and/or Grenache gris for the rarer white). The more (or less) oxidised, aged one where (for red) the grapes undergo a 4-5 day maceration on skins (or less even) and short fermentation to obtain colour and desired sugar level, then are pressed and the juice fortified with spirit (leaving about 100 grams/litre residual sugar). The other style is said to date from around the mid 1980s: "muté sur grains," meaning the entire must with the berries macerating in it is fortified, stopping fermentation with around 80-85 g/l RS; followed by 2 to 4 weeks maceration on the skins before pressing (avoiding oxidation), which gives much richer colour and tannins. This type of Banyuls is sometimes bottled relatively soon, depending on the exact style you want - after a period in vat or filled-up barriques - and sometimes aged a little longer in bottle before release (so, technically similar to Vintage or Late Bottled Vintage Port, depending on if and how long in barrel). Whereas the traditional approach is to mature it in vats and/or large old casks, and usually not topped up, or even glass demijohns outside, to promote oxidation, like e.g. Banyuls "Grand Cru" or Tawny Port styles.
Coume du Roy also make Muscat de Rivesaltes and a little Côtes du Roussillon Villages red. As for Maury, there's often a story behind each of the great vintages kept back and when they're transferred from cask. There's still a tiny bit left of the original 1880 (see note below); the 1939 was replaced by the 2000, their daughter's birth date; the 01 with the 98, the year they took over the property etc. Apparently up to 10% of the wine is lost per year in evaporation. Apart from doing 35 wine shows in France every year,
Jean-Francois is active in the US, Japan, Belgium and Denmark. They also "sell a lot to British tourists but very little in the UK," he said, proving that people do like unfamiliar wines once they've tried them. 

Tasted 4th Sept 2006:
2004 Maury from vat ('muté sur grain') - lovely spicy blackberry fruit, aromatic and rich with light leather notes; power v sweetness v nice bite. €10 87+
2004 Maury from vat (traditional) - more subdued with more chocolate and leather, lighter palate with alcohol and sugar less integrated at this stage.
1998 ('muté sur grain') - browning colour, nice pecan and caramel notes turning into richer pruney fruit tinged with Madeira-type complexity; wild mint edges mix with lush sweetness v tannin dryness, plus oily pure fruit finish. €12.40 50cl 90-92
1932 - orangey brown, very interesting
volatile Madeira-type nose with toffee and orange peel edges; the 16.6% alcohol seems more obvious here, but this is delicious with its savoury v sweet, old yet youthful class. €190 50cl 95+
1880 - wow: liquid treacle, dark and thick; very volatile with coconut notes, incredibly rich molasses and caramelised raisins with dense lush finish; extraordinary stuff, seems pathetically futile to give it a score!

Tasted Feb 2007:
2003 Maury (17%) - enticing developing savoury leather notes on top of spicy liquorice and prune, rich earthy chocolate palate with nice bite of tannins and alcohol keeping check on the sweetness. Drinking now but plenty of life in it yet.
90+

13 Route de Cucugnan, 66460
Maury. Tel: 04 68 59 67 58, mobile 06 86 49 39 52, 04 68 59 02 11 (shop); www.lacoumeduroy.com