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

17 December 2009

Roussillon 'red of the mo': Mastrío

Domaine Mastrío - Bélesta
A towards-festive bottle of red worthy of anyone's attention, a 2007 'elegant' (does what it says on the label) old-vine Carignan specialty by Mastrío:

2007 Elégant Carignan vieilles vignes vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (13.5%) - aromatic, floral even, blueberry fruit on nose and palate; shows nice elegance vs intensity, rich and ripe vs spicy with subtle oak notes; attractive texture and length too. 90+

Mastrió is a new-ish estate in the Bélesta back-lands: more words to follow...

A couple of new "wines of the moment"...

One white and one red towards-festive bottles: 2008 Grüner Veltliner Pfaffl (goes to "wotm" 2005-10 page) and 2007 Elégant Carignan Mastrió (takes you to their blurb on FMW).

16 December 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Rossignol, Passa

Pascal Rossignol
Pascal Rossignol (which means nightingale, pic.) and his wife Fabienne have 25 hectares (62 acres) of vineyards in Les Aspres zone just outside the village of Passa, west of the A9 motorway between Perpignan and the Spanish border. Originally co-operative growers, they decided to do their own thing and built a cellar and visitor centre a few years ago to focus on quality estate wines.

Tasted Feb/March 06:
2002
Côtes du Roussillon Futs de Chene (Syrah, Grenache & Carignan, 14%) - needs a little air to open up, developing earthy plum fruit with light red pepper notes; quite firm and chunky tannins yet also has good depth of fruit for this vintage, rounded out by a touch of chocolate oak. €7.50 87
2004 Muscat d'Alexandrie sec Vin de Pays d'Oc (Muscat, 13%) - yet another nice example (see below) of a fresh, dry, crisp and mineral Muscat; this one has aniseed characters too and is quite concentrated with elegant length, try with Thai food. €4.20 87

2004 Côtes du Roussillon rosé (Syrah & Grenache, 13%) - gentle ripe red fruit cocktail with elegant acidity adding freshness. €4.50 85-87
2004 Côtes du Roussillon rouge - attractive young berry fruit combines with lightly dry tannins to produce a nice red for drinking with simple food. 83-85
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres 'Bérénice' (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre & Carignan) - just bottled when I tasted it, so the spicy aromatic oak is a little dominant at the moment; however, this has attractive texture and elegant depth of perfumed fruit underneath, subtle length too. 87-89
2003 Côtes du Roussillon Futs de Chene 'Le Graal' (Syrah, Grenache & Carignan, 14%) - some complex sulphide notes on the otherwise closed nose, powerful concentrated and grippy mouthfeel; very young, needs at least 2 years to show itself. 89+

Tasted June 2007:
2006 Muscat sec, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (13.5%) - floral grape and white peach aromas with light aniseed notes; soft yet full palate, nice and fresh but rounded too. €4.50 87+
2005 Côtes du Roussillon rouge (Syrah Carignan Grenache 14%) - attractive perfumed spicy plum and black cherry nose; nice juicy ripe fruit v lightly dry bite and grip, rounded and soft v power too. €5 87
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres Bérénice (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre & Carignan) - vanilla coco oak tinged with spicy floral cherry fruit; medium depth, rounded v extracted grip. Quite elegant I guess but seems a bit simple and obvious in terms of overdone new oak v depth of fruit. €9.50 however! 85-87

Update 2009/2010 I went to see the ever cordial Pascal and Fabienne in mid December 09 to catch up and taste their latest releases. Having started down the organic pathway a few years ago, 2009 is their first certified organic vintage.
2008 Muscat sec vin de pays - elegant grapey Muscat aromas with honeysuckle and aniseed too; fuller and oilier on the palate with nutty edges, nice juicy crisp finish; easy tasty dry white. 80-85
2008 Schistes Côtes du Roussillon (mostly Syrah + Grenache & Carignan from their higher altitude vineyard near Oms, 14%) - attractive pure spicy fruit showing lots of black cherry and white pepper; enticing fruity Syrah style with a bit of grip and depth, refreshing bite on the finish too. 87
2007 Bérénice Les Aspres 
Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan) - a touch estery/banana-ish on the nose with grainy oak tones, quite concentrated though showing good depth; it hasn't really come together yet although has rounded tannins and attractive finish. Leave it for 6-12 months to mellow out. 87+
2006 Graal Côtes du Roussillon (Mourvèdre + Carignan & Syrah) - quite aromatic cherry and black olive on the nose; fairly oaky palate yet with dense fruit and gripping tannins, big mouthful but well-handled and promising too. 89+
2009 Muscat de Noel - deliciously fresh and Muscat-y, luscious and sweet vs citrus peel bite and tang. Try with blue cheeses. 85
2004 Rivesaltes Ambré - turning walnut-ty and spicy with its Madeira-like undertones; tangy vs rich and oily, intricate and cheesy then a bit of oomph to finish; needs a few years to come together although it is nice now actually. 87-89
2007 Rivesaltes Grenat (Grenache 17%) - quite youthful and closed up (it was rather cold as well); vibrant black cherry fruit in the mouth, fairly lush then firm and punchy. A bit young at the moment but attractive style. 85+

Plus the latest medal winner is HERE (World Grenache Competition 2013).

Route de Villemolaque, 66300 Passa. Tel/fax: 04 68 38 83 17; domaine.rossignol@free.fr, domainerossignol.fr.

15 December 2009

Good match with "brandade"...

This wine went pretty well with brandade de morue (salt cod + potato + olive oil + garlic mash) tonight, admittedly a frozen one but still tasty: 2005 Domaine Mouscaillo Chardonnay from the hills south of Limoux, western Languedoc. Vertical tasting notes (2004 to 2008) will follow plus estate profile: check out that 'Winery A to Z'...

Good match with "brandade": Mouscaillo Chardonnay

This wine went pretty well with brandade de morue (salt cod + potato + olive oil + garlic mash) tonight, admittedly a frozen one but still tasty: 2005 Domaine Mouscaillo Chardonnay from the hills south of Limoux, western Languedoc. Vertical tasting notes (2004 to 2008) plus estate profile on my other blog.

13 December 2009

Yawn: yet another luxury "spec edit" Champagne

Champagne Gosset has launched one of those "luxury positioned" (like perfume or posh luggage) champers just in time for Christmas! This "limited edition special cuvée" (well, you'd hope so really) is "a blend of 12 Grands Crus and Premiers Crus from 2004 and 2002." I'd imagine it's very nice and must be a bargain (not) at £85 (unless a British supermarket gets hold of it and allegedly starts giving it away along with those other too-good-to-be-true offers flying around). Mind you, since it's banker bonus season again, no doubt posh champers like this will be flowing merrily anyway.

11 December 2009

Lost sheep and sweeties

After telling off sweet Muscat producers in my "Maury" post below and following on from ewes' milk cheese and wine pairing under "Twitter" below that; these wines are actually pretty good with arguably France's best-known sheep cheese, the blue tangy salty Roquefort. There's a great generic TV ad in France for this cheese, by the way. Kind of wild windy rustic and mystical. I did already post this as a "comment" but it doesn't seem to show up without clicking on a link. Oh well...

Wine Travel Guides special offer

As well as "the huge amount of information now free to view on our website," explains owner & publisher Wink Lorch, there's a special discount on Gold Membership (allows you unlimited access including downloadable PDF files of all guides, which aren't free) running until 9th January 2010. Simply "use the promotional code D2GIFT1209 to purchase Gold Membership for only £20 (around US$34) instead of £29. Copy and paste it into the box on the "Gift Membership" page and click enter." So, get planning that wine and food trip now! Guides cover most of France's wine regions plus Tuscany and Rioja. I'm the contributor/writer for Languedoc & Roussillon, by the way, just to state any "interest" if there is any as such (I'm freelance not an employee, I mean). Go to www.winetravelguides.com.

"Wine tasting supper" in Maury

In the unlikely event you're passing through the village of Maury (north Roussillon) on a Friday or Saturday in December, call in at the Maison du Terroir (on the right on the way in from Estagel before the co-op) at teatime (what a quaintly English word) for a bite to eat and taste some of the local wines with the winemakers. Sounds like fun. Today and tomorrow the focus is on Vins Doux Naturels (mostly rich red Maury I'd imagine) including new release "Christmas" Muscat. The latter can be very nice but too often an overpriced example of canny marketing. Ho hum. Anyway, the "gouter de Noel" costs €6 with snacks made by chef Pascal Borrell.

09 December 2009

Twitter

Following the herd like a lost sheep, I'm now on twitter.com/WineWriting too. Nothing wrong with that though, I like ewes' milk cheeses actually. Hmm, I think there could be a "great wine & cheese" matches post coming on...
Update - I've abandoned twitter, good for celeb gossip but not much else (never say never though)...

"Making dangerous predictions..."

This was the title of Tim Atkin MW's column in UK drinks retailing fortnightly Off Licence News on 20th November. In quick summary: sommelier, wine guide author and TV personality Matt Skinner appears to have got his fingers burnt in his just-released "the Juice 2010" by recommending "a number of New World wines from the 2009 vintage that he could not have seen before the book's deadline in May." His defence was "...some of the wines he included... are consistently good from year to year." I don't know Matt nor have I read any of his books, but Tim's quite right to point out that he's on rather dodgy ground here in retaining credibility with readers. But what grabbed my attention more is the "excuse" forwarded by the publisher: "this was a way to get around long lead times and potential public disappointment," as in the past apparently "several of Skinner's choices had sold out before the book hit the shelves." Indeed, talk about accidentally admitting this style of paper guide now seems more or less pointless, thanks to the traditional publishing process itself! As Tim concluded, "Why not put the whole thing online to make it more immediate and up to date?" Then again, if you're reading this and agreeing, you already know where the future / present lies for wine writing!

08 December 2009

Bordeaux: Côtes de Bourg and Listrac-Médoc

"Côtes de where? Not the favourite coastal or riverbank hang-out for Jean-Luc Picard's scariest enemy, but a lesser-known "Right Bank" Bordeaux appellation. Somehow, it's surprisingly easy to get your geography in a twist on this side of the river and forget you're actually opposite Margaux "just across" the water..." Notes on 40 wines overall including these favourites: Châteaux Fougas, Clos du Piat, Relais de la Poste, Coulée de Bayon, Améthyste de Génibon, Haut-Guiraud, Labadie... plus thoughts on image, tasting grapes, Malbec and wine travel tips..." "...And savour some of the imperial grandeur and wines of these four handsome properties in Listrac-Médoc: Château Fourcas-Dupré, Château Fonréaud, Château Lestage and Château Fourcas-Hosten..." Click here to find out more (goes to my big Bordeaux page)...

06 December 2009

Languedoc & Roussillon "Intersud" trade body

I recently noticed on French wine business website www.vitisphere.com that the French government has now stuck the boot in telling the far-too-many wine trade associations in the south to get their act together (they've been going through the motions for about 5 years). Most of them already agreed a few years ago it's a good idea and "Intersud" technically already exists, and they're mysteriously promoting the Sud de France "brand" regardless (no doubt by another separate and well-funded body). Yet it seems the CIVL (Languedoc wines), CIVR (Roussillon), Vins de Pays d'Oc and the other VDP, vin de table etc. wine producers all still prefer to keep their own little organisation totalling several directors, presidents, marketing, PR etc. doing their own little thing (gravy rather than wine train). They'll never conquer export markets unless they unite under one real banner, not just "a good idea" on paper, same goes for France too where producers are failing to get new wine drinkers on-board. I appreciate there are sensitive issues here as some people might lose their jobs in the amalgamation process. But why all the big fanfare all those years ago, yet since then nothing's really happened apart from a lot of meetings and expensive advertising campaigns for Sud de France etc! Lots more background on this on my other blog: frenchcataloniawine.

04 December 2009

"Updated regularly or occasionally as fits the mood...not exactly a wine of the week or month but could be...hopefully more spontaneous than that..."

I've just posted my latest Wines of the moment: click on that link and scroll down to Dec. 2009 for a few groovy winter finds: 2008 Rasiguères rosé - 2008 Pinot Noir Rotisserie - 2005 Carinyana Puig-Parahÿ. Anybody tasted these recently or anything similar?

Blog blast-off!

Check in here to stay updated on what's new on winewriting.com... and post your comments of course! Plus I'll be airing any intriguing winey news or goings-on that might or might not be worth discussing further, as and when I put my "Mr. Angry" hat on...

02 December 2009

Languedoc: Domaine de Mouscaillo, Limoux

The lost wee village of Roquetaillade really does feel like it's at the end of the road/world, perched up in the handsome hills south of Limoux at the southern end of the appellation area. There are a few good producers based around here including Marie-Claire and Pierre Fort at Domaine Mouscaillo (some of their vines border Domaine de l'Aigle, for example, now owned by the Gérard Bertrand group), whose 4.5 ha/13 acres of vineyards climb up gentle slopes to 400m/1300 feet in altitude. Mainly two varieties and two exposures: the Chardonnay faces north and the Pinot Noir south, more or less (the surging terrain here isn't as black-and-white chiselled out as that). There's "a tiny bit of Chenin and Mauzac too," as Pierre explained on my visit in December 2009.
The Forts returned to the south after many years at the helm of rather well-known Château de Tracy in Pouilly-Fumé (central vineyards, inner Loire valley). Pierre is also quietly optimistic about the future for Pinot planted in prime sites, although it's taken time to find its feet and they only have less than one hectare at the moment! I tend to agree, as you'll see from my notes below and comments made elsewhere on Languedoc producers experimenting with Pinot. Expanding briefly on winemaking techniques used for the Chardy, he told me they "ferment in demi-muids (450 litre barrels of varying ages) with lees-stirring, then leave it until after the following harvest." As for vintage 2009, "we picked from 1 to 12 September. It was hot from June onwards and we had to pick quickly, so acidity is lower than usual but it's not too alcoholic either." I tried a few promising 2009s from cask and all vintages back to 2004, their first actually, in descending order:

09 "younger vines" Chardy - lovely grapefruit and spicy floral notes; turning bready and creamy vs juicy and dry, just a touch of fresh acidity on the finish.
09 "older vines" Chardy - touch toastier and more structured, more powerful too yet with mineral bite, juicy citrus fruit and nice length.
09 "old vines" Chardy (malolactic fermentation done) - richer with more prominent yeast-lees notes vs again attractive juicy citrus zest, then more buttery on the finish vs finer acidity.
09 "old vines" Chardy (no malo-lactic) - much crunchier and fresher with pure lemony fruit, nice bite and length.
These lots of Chardy all end up in the final blend, in differing proportions, as Mouscaillo only does one label.
2009 Pinot Noir (older cask) - attractive perfumed cherry and spicy notes, expressive Pinot style; touch more savoury on the palate with freshness and light grip.
09 Pinot Noir (new barrique) - more structured and firmer tannins, spicier but still has plenty of Pinot character and depth too.
2008 Pinot Noir (from vat) - delicate and quite intricate again showing those perfumed floral cherry tones, subtle creamy depth and "sweet/savoury" flavours; lively and fairly firm finish with nice length. Give it a bit of time in bottle and we'll see. 87(+)
2007 Pinot - richer darker red fruits on the nose; firmer mouthfeel closing up to a pretty structured finish vs elegant perfumed fruit underneath. Needs 2-3 years to open up although again hints at some quality PN touches. 86-88
2008 white Limoux (about to be bottled) - quite honeyed and peachy vs spicy toasted edges; fairly powerful mouthfeel vs refreshing acidity adding mineral bite, then toastier fatter finish. 88+
2007 white - richer and more open with background toast notes, pineapple, peach and citrus too; quite creamy and oily, still a bit toasty on the palate, but it's concentrated and turning nutty too with nice weight on the finish vs fairly crisp acidity actually. 89-91
2006 white - maturing yeasty creamy notes vs background spice; oily and rounded mouthfeel vs attractive refreshing twist, less concentrated with grainier texture although drinking quite well now. 87+
2005 white - delicious buttery Burgundian nose, complex with hazelnut and oaty/leesy development; powerful and full yet tighter than the 06 in the end vs exotic, oily and nutty; good balance with a touch of class even if it's quite toasty/woody still, as there's lots going on plus that attractive maturing and rich vs vibrant finish. 90+
2004 white - oddly the nose is less open at first and toastier perhaps; quite fat and creamy vs a tad more awkward wood on the palate, although does show some depth vs fresh mineral finish. 87

UPDATES: latest vintages etc. here (Limoux report, April 2011).
2014: some news and latest vintages to follow soon...

6 rue du Frêne, 11300 Roquetaillade. Tel: 04 68 31 38 25 / 06 78 93 37 61, mouscaillo.com.

Roussillon: Domaine Puig-Parahÿ, Passa

UPDATED DEC 2012 (see below).


It's true that some European wine estates like to brag about how long they've been messing around in vineyards, but I've not come across (m)any who claim to have records going back to 1446! Latest generation is the charming Georges Puig (pictured), who's been running the show here since 1994. The estate takes in lightly elevated (sloping up to 200-250m altitude) vines old and new all around Passa in particular spots called Fort Saint-Pierre, Sant Lluc and nearby Mas de Miserys (sounds suitably Catalan, dour I mean. Oops!). The Puig-Parahÿ family has the most extraordinary collection of old Rivesaltes VDN wines imaginable - as you'll see from the 1945 below, although the "catalogue" apparently goes back into the 19th Century. Some in bottle, some in vat and some still in cask, as I discovered on a delightful little tour (of history too it felt like, especially as you get the impression Georges' family owns, or used to own, most of the village). Georges has good distribution in the US (Village Wine Imports NYC and also Virginia, Colorado and California: email him for details), UK (Richards Walford and Rare Wine), Tokyo (the Vine) and Germany.

I was lucky enough to taste these wines with him at his place in December 2009:
2008 Sant-Lluc del Puig white vin de pays d'Oc (Macabeu, Grenache blanc, Grenache gris 13.5%) - fresh pear fruit with oily zesty edges; juicy and crisp vs rounded with a bit of weight. Nice style. $10-$15 in the US. 85
2002 Sant-Lluc del Puig white - oxidising nose with oily mineral notes in a mature Riesling way; oily nutty palate still showing good acidity keeping it alive, wacky but good. 87
2008 rosé - attractive raspberry/strawberry fruit with light lees notes; creamy mouthfeel vs juicy and crisp, nice texture, weight and fruit then refreshing bite. $10-$15 85+
2005 Georges Syrah vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (13.5%) - turning meaty and smoky with peppery dark fruit hints; quite rich with ripe liquorice vs firm coating of tannins vs nice weight, finishing with "sweet" vs meaty flavours. More old-fashioned style but nice with it. $13-$15 85-87
2006 Georges Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache, Carignan, Syrah) - similarly smoky peppery nose although shows more liquorice and "Grenache" style; chunky grippy yet lush mouthfeel, the tannins are a tad rustic and dry but it's an appealing soupy mouthful of dark fruit too. 87
2007 Georges Côtes du Roussillon - the nose is a touch closed but this is fruitier and spicier than the 06; livelier and more upfront blackberry and damson fruit on the palate, juicy and rich vs attractive grip and spice. Needs 6 months to open up. 88+
2005 Rivesaltes red Vin Doux Naturel (90% Grenache + Syrah) - beginning to turn oxidised, nutty and Porty with dried cherries and liquorice; quite concentrated and extracted but does have nice balance of lush fruit, dry tannins and alcohol; good finish, tightening up with quite complex, chunky fruit. 87-89
1993 Rivesaltes red (in vat) - turning meaty with touches of Madeira-type complexity, tobacco and cough mixture too; tangy pecan nut palate with dry vs sweet texture, long intricate finish again showing good balance of delicious tasty old vs lively dried fruits. 90
1981 Rivesaltes red (in cask still!) - treacle tart aromas with volatile spicy minty notes; very intense pecans and dried raspberries, appealing bitter twist vs lush mouthfeel then savoury finish. Wow. 90-92
1971 Rivesaltes red - treacle and molasses notes with dark brown/orange tinges, roast walnuts and wood resin too, a tad dusty perhaps (or was that the glass?); rich and sweet vs meaty oxidised, long and unusual flavours, again cough mixture with dried spice undertones. Odd but good! 92+?
1945 Rivesaltes red - extraordinary nose, old oxidised and meaty vs lovely pecan nut and prunes; mouth-filling tasty and tangy flavours, the alcohol's perhaps a tad fiery now but it has an amazing thick palate-coating; doesn't taste as old as this with long liquorice, 'tar' and roast chestnut finish. 95+


Updated 2012: the exuberant Georges was at Millésime Bio wine show in Montpellier tasting just one lonely-looking red, since “it's the only one (vineyard) now certified (organic)... I'm switching some of them over plot by plot (out of a whopping 71 ha/177 acres in total).” Watch this long space then...
2011 Carinyane de Perpignane – juicy jammy and spicy, fresh crunchy berry palate vs sweeter blue red and black fruity combo on its attractive finish. Good+

66300 Passa. Phone: 04 68 38 88 77 / mobile: 06 14 55 71 71, g.puigparahy@free.fr, www.puig-parahy.fr.

01 December 2009

Roussillon: Domaine de Bila-Haut / Chapoutier, Latour-de-France

The big name and big heart of Michel Chapoutier made a relatively discreet move on the Roussillon more than 10 years ago, with his maiden vintage in 2001. Their operation is based in and around the village of Latour-de-France: Bila-Haut now amounts to 65 hectares (160 acres) of their own vineyards here and ten in Lesquerde, the latter eventually becoming the source of a new Côtes du Roussillon Villages ‘Lesquerde’ red label. These plantings are supplemented by grapes purchased from other trusted growers in the area and further south too: a Banyuls and a red Rivesaltes Vin Doux Naturel have been added to the range more recently (I’ve yet to taste these though). Chapoutier’s arrival must have helped in convincing any lingering sceptics, if there were/are any left, that there really are some superb old vineyards in the Agly Valley stretching across the Roussillon's ragged northern reaches. An ideal spot, it would seem (dry and windy), for implementing the company's global philosophy and farming policy of organic/biodynamic winegrowing.
As for the two tasty, although not exactly spectacular, reds reviewed below in December 2009, they're sourced from different parcels with different soils and aspect: gneiss, black and brown schist and limestone, just to hit you with a bit of geology; although these ancient soils do look the part with their variable texture and colour. Certain vineyards are higher lying than others too; and the first wine doesn't see any wood during winemaking, whereas the second has a longer maceration on the grape skins and half of it is aged in casks. The US importer of Domaine Bila-Haut wines is HB Wine Merchants, and Mentzendorff & Co. in London. www.chapoutier.com.

2008 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Carignan 13.5%) - attractive vibrant aromatic fruit and spice, black cherry with liquorice and wilder smoky notes too; juicy and quite lush showing nice weight vs refreshing bite and dry chalky tannins; young obviously but drinking quite well now. Fairly straightforward and gluggable wine and not bad with cannelloni, which the next day (the wine not the pasta) opened up to a fruitier, more peppery, unoaked Crozes-Hermitage look-alike! France on-line shop price €7.50. In the UK: £8 Armit Wines, Bordeaux Index, Genesis Wines. 85-87
The latest medal winning vintage of this wine (2010) is HERE (World Grenache Competition 2013).
2007 Occultum Lapidem Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour-de-France (Syrah Grenache Carignan 14.5%) - richer smokier and denser than above, although has plenty of nice earthy/minty dark fruits, liquorice and meaty/leather/tobacco tones; chunky and lush mouth-feel with light wood grain texture vs rounded tannins, attractive weight and power (and higher alcohol!), spicy vs grippy vs rich fruit on the finish. France on-line €11. UK: £13 Roberson's, Quintessentially Wine. 89+?

M. Chapoutier, Tain l'Hermitage



Apart from their all-encompassing Rhone Valley presence and portfolio (just about everywhere from north to south), Michel Chapoutier has his largely organic/biodynamic fingers in other pies, notably the Roussillon (see link below), Australia (Victoria and South Australia) and Portugal (Estremadura). However, the company is perhaps best known as "the biggest landowner in Hermitage," as it says in their corporate blurb, that somewhat sought-after appellation where they have 34 hectares/85 acres. So, they make a few different wines sourced from these revered, and pretty awesome hillside vineyards. The two below, tasted in December 2009, fit into their 'prestige' range meaning they're Chapoutier's most famous, and dearest, Hermitage "cru" labels: the white comes from three plots with different soils and aspects called "Le Méal", "Les Murets" and "Chante-Alouette" itself; and the red from "Les Bessards", "Le Méal" and "Les Greffieux."

2006 Chante-Alouette white Hermitage (Marsanne 14.5%) - exotic and lightly toasted nose with apricot, honeysuckle and oily/nutty aromas; similar flavours and mouthfeel, pretty big rounded "oxidative" style with nice dry bite and a touch of not unattractive wood texture in the background. Wow, definitely a foodie drinking quite well now although I'm sure it'll develop further as, after that wonderful nose and initial flavours, it closes up a bit on the finish. Next day: creamier, honeyed and more hazelnuttty with oily texture and nice oomph. Fr online €37; UK £36 Tanners, the Wine Society. 90+
2006 Monier de la Sizeranne red Hermitage (Syrah 14%) - wild smoky complex nose with meaty/animal notes, white pepper and dark black cherry, damson and liquorice; lush fruit vs dry grainy coating on the palate, ballsy and mouth-filling followed by attractive bite and length, actually fairly subtle finish closing up giving the impression it needs 2-3 years to express itself better. This was confirmed after 2 days open, as it really opened up showing more liquorice and dark fruits, turning meatier and savoury with dry tannins vs sweet fruit and peppery undertones. Fr online €49; UK £45 Edencroft Fine Wine, Tanners, the Wine Society. 89-91

Click here for a couple of Chapoutier's Roussillon reds and here for a bit of Crozes stuff. Not surprisingly, their wines are well-distributed around the world. More @ www.chapoutier.com.

30 November 2009

Mas Amiel - Roussillon

I've posted a new profile on Mas Amiel and 10+ wine reviews (including a sublime, 93-95 point 1980 Maury) here, the first chapter in my Roussillon guides. A little taster: "Arguably the most famous name in the Maury area (and suitably celeb prices to match, you might be cheeky enough to add), Mas Amiel has been owned by Bordeaux magnate Olivier Decelle... since 1999..." Updated October 2010 with even more reviews...

20 November 2009

Languedoc: La Grange d'Aïn, Faugères

La Grange d'Aïn

Cédric Saur's family owns and runs the quite well-known Château Haut-Fabrègues near Cabrerolles, found in the middle of nowhere in deepest Faugères country. La Grange d'Aïn is Cédric's baby, 12 hectares (30 acres) of plum old vineyards planted with Grenache, Carignan and Syrah and farmed organically. He's making some pretty serious reds showing lots of fruit extract, big tannins, power and occasionally oak. Nevertheless, they're very well-made, tasty, full of character and obviously built from true quality fruit and a hand-made approach, rather than just show-stopping competition wines you wouldn't actually want to drink. These three were sampled at the Millésime Bio organic wine show (Perpignan Jan 2008). More info to follow as he's definitely on my Faugères-visiting list (along with another dozen or so...): see below below in fact!
2004 Le Penchant du Cerisier Faugères (mostly Carignan +Grenache, 2 years in barriques) - rich smoky nose, very ripe and dense fruit with tobacco edges; really solid framework although finishing with attractive liquorice and spice flavours to balance. €12 90-92
2006 Le Cèdre Faugères (mostly Grenache + Carignan) - similarly smoky and ripe profile with dense structure, although a tad fruitier v solid tannins and hallmark liquorice & tobacco flavours. €11 88-90
2003 Les Mimosas (old vine Syrah, 4 years in barriques!) - plush oily raisin fruit coated with lots of coconut tannins; the wood is a bit intrusive and overall the wine a bit too extracted, but it's certainly impressive and quirky. 87-89?

 Update: I called in on Cédric on a dull and cold November's day, 2009, and tried the latest vintages. We talked a little about it really means to "go organic", and he said some interesting things apart from the obvious "environmentally friendly" reasons. Briefly paraphrased, the most important shift in thinking for him is "the way it made/makes him look at growing grapes and making wine in a totally new light... once you remove that guaranteed efficiency (from synthetic products)," Cédric mused, "you have to work the vineyard in a very different way." Basically, much more plot by plot watching and analysing how each variety or vine reacts in each location; whether there's a problem and how to deal with it, or whether you should just leave it alone. Food for thought... La Grange d'Aïn wines are now quite big in China, I'm told, as well as certain Paris restaurants.
2007 Le Cèdre Faugères (mostly Grenache + Carignan 14.5%) - dark cherry with a tad of choco oak, turning riper and spicier with meatier edges; lush smoky and peppery, quite concentrated and structured, big mouthful vs "sweet" vs firm yet attractive texture and finish. Underlying lightly volatile complex notes too (he only adds a little SO2 at bottling). 89+
2007 Le Penchant du Cérisier Faugères (80% Carignan +Grenache 14.5%) - less obvious on the nose, although again has meaty / leather tinges; vibrant blueberry and damson fruit, spicy and grippy mouthfeel with lively length, "sweet/savoury" finish with more of it than the above; delicious crunchy vs ripe berry with fine dry bite. 90-92
2003 Les Mimosas (mostly Syrah 14.5%) - spent four years in barrel but it only has a lightly dusty coconut coating vs meaty, leathery and smoked bacon tones; dry texture yet there's lots of ripe dried fruits and real depth of character plus a wilder side; chunky vs maturing finish. 90-92
2007 Le Penchant du Cérisier (3-litre bottle, bottled with no SO2 from "our favourite barrel!") - actually more open and smokier, perhaps the oak is a tad more upfront and grainy; but has attractive chunky powerful vs lush mouthfeel with blackberry fruit, grippy texture and firmer coating on the finish.90+
2003 Le Penchant du Cérisier (their first vintage) - reductive sulphide notes but has complex leather and dried fruit underneath; quite rustic although I like its delicious richness vs concentrated and firm feel, leaving a nice coating on the finish; actually well-balanced for a 2003 (alcohol/acidity/concentration/tannins). 88-90


Fontanilles, Lenthéric near 34480 Cabrerolles. Tel: 06 12 10 31 02, cedricsaur@hotmail.comwww.cookandwine.com.

02 November 2009

Languedoc: Château La Liquière, Faugères

Château La Liquière

La Liquière, all 60 ha/150 acres of it, occupies a rather picturesque spot up on the undulating hills around Cabrerolles, the rustic Cévennes foothills, in the northwest corner of the increasingly exciting Faugères appellation. The Vidal-Dumoulin family's vines, quivering across trim wavy terraces at 150-350m altitude (500-1000+ feet) and embedded in schist, stones and clay, are in the process of being converted over to certified organic growing. Meaning they already are practising it, and have been for a while I believe, but have to wait another couple of years to get the official bit of paper (recycled no doubt). These wines were tasted in situ (in the refurbished old-stone caveau, open usual office hours for tastings and sales: see website below for more info) with Francois Vidal in November 2009:


2008 Les Amandiers white Coteaux du Languedoc (Grenache blancRoussanneViognierTerretVermentino 13%) - floral and slightly exotic with yeast-lees edges; quite rich and oily mouthfeel vs nice crisp bite, balance and length. €6 85+
2008 Cistus white Faugères (Grenache blancRoussanne,Vermentino 14%) - lightly toasty and spicy wood notes on the nose but still has plenty of lovely aromatic honeyed fruit; juicy and crisp vs weighty, good depth and balance too. €10 87-89
2008 Les Amandiers rosé (CinsaultMourvèdreGrenache 13%) - elegant floral cherry blossom aromas; juicier and creamier red-fruit palate with strawberry vs crisp and refreshing finish. €6 85+
2008 Les Amandiers red (GrenacheCarignanSyrahMourvèdre13.5%) - lightly smoky while very fruity with dried fruits, black cherry and liquorice plus a touch of black olive even; very attractive juicy fruity mouthfeel more serious finish showing grip, crunchy fruits and bite and a bit of weight. €6 87
2007 "Vieilles Vignes" Faugères (GrenacheCarignan 14%) - smokier and quite complex, very ripe then turning savoury/tobacco-ish; attractive dry texture vs lush maturing fruit, then closes up on the finish. €8.30 88+?
2007 Nos Racines Faugères (oldest Carignan plus splash ofGrenache 14%) - rich "tar"/tobacco, ripe fruit and olive tones; pretty concentrated yet has appealing lively side and subtle tannins, long and quite fine finish. €11 90+
2006 Cistus Faugères (Syrah barrique-aged, Grenache,Mourvèdre, Carignan 14%) - complex maturing fruit on the nose, turning meaty with spicy edges; lush chunky and concentrated but again has nice balance, firmer structure and more powerful than above vs soft dark fruit and understated chocolate oak texture; lovely tasty lingering flavours. €14 92+


Latest 
Liquière vintages tasted here ("Faugeres Focus" April 2011) and here ("2009 vintage report" June 2010).


Liquière wines are available from the Wine Society in the UK; and via Bonhomie Wine Imports, New Jersey, Ideal Wine, Boston, and also in California.

La Liquière, 34480 Cabrerolles. Tel: 04 67 90 29 20, www.chateaulaliquiere.com.


01 November 2009

Bordeaux: Côtes de Bourg and Listrac-Médoc

"Côtes de where? Not the favourite coastal or riverbank hang-out for Jean-Luc Picard's scariest enemy, but a lesser-known 'Right Bank' Bordeaux appellation. Somehow, it's surprisingly easy to get your geography in a twist on this side of the river and forget you're actually opposite Margaux 'just across' the water..."
Read it here.

Roussillon: Domaine des Enfants, Maury

Photo by Ron Scherl
There are more children (see 'Les Enfants Sauvages' too) found a little up the hill in Maury off the Cucugnan road (almost next door to Dept 66): Swiss-owned Domaine des Enfants is another great-potential 'start-up' estate. When I called by in late 2009, Marcel Bühler was brewing up his third vintage in his compact cellar, formerly owned by Serge Rousse (of the sadly defunct Domaine Terre Rousse). This was gleaned from 20 ha (50 acres) split across seven sites (half the vines around Maury plus Caramany, Cassagne, Rassiguere and Latour-de-France) with a variety of soil types (schist, granite, gneiss, 'terra rossa'...) and alarmingly low final yields of eight hl/ha. "We pick late then really select through (the fruit)," Marcel clarified, "we must've chucked away a quarter of it this year. Everything's very manual as the vineyards are old, so I've got two horses... No herbicides are used and I'm going for organic certification in 2010."
Marcel's background was in Zurich banking; he then studied wine-growing / -making at Germany's esteemed Geisenheim university. "I looked (at vineyards) in the Languedoc, in the Montpeyroux and Pic St-Loup areas, and Priorat and elsewhere in Spain... but it was all too expensive. Then I stopped off in the Roussillon and met Jean Pla (former proprietor of Le Pichenouille wine shop & restaurant in Maury and vineyard land broker)..." Dom des Enfants wines are mostly sold in Switzerland and Germany at the moment, by (e)mail order or at Jean's place above. Marcel, like other newcomers aiming high, has priced the wines at a pretty ambitious level: €18, €36 and €55. For those who can afford, they are very good it has to be said - all these were tank or barrel samples:

2008 Les Enfants Perdus (Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Lladoner Pelut) - lifted currant and berry notes, floral and spicy turning to liquorice; subtle oak backdrop vs lovely fruit then nice fresh bite. 87+
2008 Carignan - oakier but it's lush vs spicy with chocolate tannins, pretty concentrated and powerful wrapped in nice rounded and pure finish. 89+
2008 Grenache - meatier and more savoury with very ripe liquorice and black pepper undertones; subtle oak again adding texture vs intense black fruits, power and chocolate oak finish although that should blend in nicely. 90+
2008 Syrah - very dark and spicy nose with wild herb / minty edges; very concentrated and intense, fleshy vs dry texture. Yum. 90+

Varietals for the "mid to top wines... with 14 to 16 months in barrel":
2008 Carignan - even more intense, crunchy and spicy fruit with the oak more upfront but layered with lovely rich blueberry and liquorice. 91+
2008 Syrah - toastier with more chocolate but again has superb fruit, pure and spicy with ripe dark vs savoury touches; fair oomph and tasty tannins on its impressive length. 92+
2008 Grenache - more floral with 'garrigue' notes vs chocolate texture, again delicious intense liquorice, pepper and dark berries; more elegant than the above perhaps. 92+

2008 white (Carignan blanc, Grenache gris, Grenache blanc, Macabeu) - honeyed and flowery with very light toast, rounded and exotic vs spicy; quite big vs refreshing bite, attractive clean finish. 87+
And this red over lunch at the above-mentioned Pichenouille in November 09:
2007 Les Enfants Perdus (14.5%) - oaky at first turning rich and tasty with bite vs rounded mouthfeel and power, that dark chocolate oak melts in after a bit; well-made, concentrated and chunky but not overblown at all. 89+

Route de Cucugnan, 66460 Maury: www.domaine-des-enfants.com where I pinched the photo from.

30 October 2009

Roussillon: Domaine of the Bee, Maury


What's all this English then, you might be wondering? Bit of a giveaway but the name has a certain ring to it. The people behind the Bee are Justin Howard-Sneyd MW "biggest nose" (I quote from their website), aka former head of Waitrose wine buying then Direct Wines/Laithwaite's, and long-time enthusiast for south of France wines; Philippe Sacerdot "biggest brains" and Justin's wife Amanda "biggest hair." Back in 2003, a second family trip to the Maury area (so the story goes...) instilled a minor obsession to buy a few plots of vines, which now total nearly 4 hectares of old Grenache and Carignan, "about the size of 5 football pitches" (not being a soccer type, it never occurred to me to use that comparison to explain ha but it does the trick).
These exposed (big wind and sun) vineyard parcels are managed by Richard Case at Domaine de la Pertuisane, who also makes the wine at his / American partner's new mega-winery up the hill from Maury (more on that to follow...). I say 'wine' as there's only one so far, hence the single tasting note below on the promising 2007 vintage. Before that, the grapes went into various Pertuisane wines. There's a lot of blah blah said about yields in this area (and just about everywhere really), but they sum it up quite neatly on the site referring to quantity produced in 07: "Imagine a square 4 metres by 4 metres with one bottle sitting in the middle. That's roughly the yield that these ancient vines give us." Anyway, this translates as the wine costing £16-£20 a bottle depending on how many and whether you buy it in the UK or France. More details from www.domaineofthebee.com, where there's even an honest FAQ justifying "why is it so expensive?" I like your nerve!

Tasted in late October 2009:
2007 Domaine of the Bee vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Grenache, Carignan 15%) - a dusting of coconut oak layered with very ripe dark fruits; spicy and chunky mouthfeel with dry vs quite soft texture, rich and powerful yet balanced with fairly intense but not too huge finish. 87-89

UPDATE: November 2011. Click here for the latest buzzings-on at the Bee camp including a note on their recently released and rather tasty 2009 vintage red. More updates to follow e.g. the Bee has since moved wineries to Chateau Saint Roch just outside Maury.

01 October 2009

Roussillon: Domaine de l'Edre, Vingrau

Pascal Dieunidou and Jacques Castany are almost "old-timers" (relative to the many young-gun estates now around, I mean), having joined forces and vineyards in the Vingrau area eight years ago. 2002 was the first year they decided to take the winemaking plunge and actually make their own wine (one), although they've both had a few plots of vines for longer than that and previously delivered their grapes to the local co-op. Jacques' father also used to be a co-op grower and Pascal started "lending a hand" (as it says on their site, see link below) tending a friend's vineyard in 1999. And it all took off from there, as the story goes... Edre does have a pretty good reputation among in-the-know fans of small-production Roussillon wines, and my notes seem to confirm that. They now make two red blends and a very good white too. I tasted two vintages of one of the reds back in October 2009:
2007 "Carrément rouge" Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah/Grenache/Carignan 15%) - herbal funky edges on the nose underlined by spicy Syrah-dominated fruit; ripe liquorice flavours vs firm dry texture, pretty powerful finish but it's concentrated. 88(+)
2008 "Carrément rouge" - spicy minty aromas vs gorgeous lush fruit and mouthfeel, juicy and dark finishing with attractive "sweet" yet savoury profile. Yum. 90
And previously, tasted at the
6th Fenouillèdes wine show 2006:
2005 Côtes du Roussillon blanc - yeasty and fat start leads to fresh mineral poise, crisp and dry v rich mouth-feel. 87-89
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Carignan) - rich vibrant blackberry fruit with chocolate oak texture, firm closed up finish but it reveals more with a little aeration, dense and powerful (14.5%) yet has nice bite too. Needs time. 87-89

81 rue du Maréchal Joffre, 66600 Vingrau. By appointment only, phone numbers are on www.edre.fr

Roussillon: Saint-Bacchus Awards 2009

Words
The award-winning wines gleaned from this annual French Catalan taste-off were this year (2009) billed as "the finest representation of the Roussillon region," which it probably isn't although for sure there are some good wines to pick from here. As in any competition, the winners are only as good as the wines submitted in the first place and, I assume as I don't know what the original 'pre-selected' line-up was, it appears the majority of the Roussillon's best growers and winemakers didn't/don't actually enter the Saint-Bacchus. Why don't they? Instead of moaning that it's a PR stunt for co-ops and big wineries (paraphrasing what I've heard from more than one source, and admittedly there's apparently a minimum volume requirement for any wine entered), they should put their wine where their mouth is, so to speak, so in the end it does truly represent "the region's finest." By the way, this rant certainly isn't a criticism of the tasters (I know and respect some of them) nor judging process; wine judges can only give their verdict on the bottles put in front of them. Just a missed opportunity maybe due to local wine politics! So, why not allow any wine regardless of the quantity available?
Talking of judges, just to fill you in a little on how the competition works... 158 wines out of 327 submitted (see what I mean, not that many) were singled out in Perpignan last April by local winemakers, sommeliers and wine merchants. These were then sent to London the following month to be tasted blind by an "international" panel (eight different nationalities I'm told) at the Maison de la Région Languedoc-Roussillon (yes, they've blown a load of money on some swanky premises in the West End), who picked 21 winners. I tasted all of these in September 2009, not blind and mostly in the kitchen over dinner by the way! See my notes & reviews opposite, for what it's worth... Many thanks to the CIVR (Roussillon wine industry body) for the samples, who are doing a bit of a St-Bacchus autumn road-show around France and further afield: more info from www.vinsduroussillon.com.

Wines
In no particular order, apart from colour/style and when they were opened... Search through the 'Winery A to Z' (right) for lots more wines from most of these wineries.

White
 
2008 Le Petit Blanc de Saint Roch, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (13%) - tastes like a closet dry Muscat (doesn't specify the grapes although it's actually 50/50 Muscat/Sauvignon blanc) with floral, grapey, orange peel notes; not bad weight and roundness, oily texture and a bit of depth vs crisp and dry, fairly simple style but attractive. €6 cellar door. 83-85
2008 Cuvée Centenaire Domaine Lafage, Côtes du Roussillon ( Grenache blanc & Roussanne 13.5%) - well-made "New Worldy" white with just a hint of oak, quite fat and creamy with "sweet" fruit vs lovely fresh mineral bite; juicy yeast-lees notes vs crisp and dry finish, nice balance and style. €8.50 cellar door, £9.50 Bibendum Wines, London; US: European Cellars, Charlotte NC. 87-89
2008 Viognier Arnaud de Villeneuve, vin de pays d'Oc (13%) - leaner zingy style showing very lightly exotic peach and pear fruit vs juicy crisp mouthfeel; not very Viognier in the end, although it's a refreshing wine and went well with a quite strong chicken curry actually! £6.99 Liberty Wines, London. 80-85
2008 Collioure Cornet & Cie (Cave Abbé Rous, mostly Grenache grisRoussanne, Marsanne, Vermentino 14%) - the second time I've tried this wine and I can't really get on with it I'm afraid: perhaps less oaky than I remember and juicier, oilier and more mineral although still rather toasted; powerful with a touch of crispness on the finish, but it's quite charred too vs not enough "fat" for me. Mind you, my neighbours liked it so there you go. €11.50 cellar door, £8.99 M&S (from November).
2008 Côtes du Roussillon Château Rombeau (14%) - peachier and spicier style with creamy lees notes too; more exotic and richer vs lightly toasted flavour/texture; honeyed leesy creamy palate vs crisp bite and spicy bitter edges, pretty weighty mouthfeel too. Perhaps better even after being open for 24 hours. €7.50 cellar door. 87+

Rosé
 
2008 Rosé des Vents Château de Caladroy, Côtes du Roussillon (GrenacheCarignanSyrah 13%) - full-on rounded fruity "vinous" style (as the French say) with lots of raspberry fruit and rose petal edges; chunky mouthfull with a tad of tannin even vs dry crisp finish. Well-made gourmet rosé. €6.50 cellar door and French supermarkets/wine shops, US importer: Vintage 59, Washington DC. 87+
2008 Parfum de Vignes Domaine Lafage, Côtes du Roussillon ( SyrahGrenacheCarignan 13%) - quite full and "chunky" with attractive rounded creamy strawberry fruit vs fresher edges and food-friendly weight; perhaps lacks a bit of zing though. €8.50 cellar door, £8.25 Bibendum. 85+
2008 "Rozy" Dom Brial, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Syrah & Muscat 13%) - quite aromatic Muscaty nose, moves on to a leaner Provence style palate showing nice light floral red fruits, oily mouthfeel and dry bite; keep it well chilled though. €5.50 cellar door. 80-83
 
Red
 
2007 "Colline Matisse" Le Dominicain, Collioure ( Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan 14.5%) - a touch reduced / vegetal to start vs "sweet" liquorice and black cherry; mouth-filling and fairly soft, a bit clunky and unbalanced but it's an attractive enough, big-hearted style. €7 cellar door. 85
2006 "Le Grand A" Domaine Arguti, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (GrenacheCarignanSyrah 14.5%) - well-made polished style, powerful and peppery with maturing dark fruits vs coconut oak spice and textured tannins; drinking quite well with e.g. fillet steak although it's a bit too punchy and warm on its own. Leave it till winter. However, it does have attractive dry vs lush fruity texture vs savoury flavours; the next day, it was meatier with more savoury/leather notes vs that "sweet" dark fruit and the oak merging into it better; quite nice tannins with a bitter twist, although I still found the alcohol a touch dominant, definitely a big food wine. 89+
2007 "Les Audacieux" Pierre Audonnet Domaine Piquemal, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes ( Merlot Syrah Grenache 13.5%) - smoky spicy liquorice aromas mingle with earthy herbal red pepper tones; turning into blackcurrant and plum with darker cherry and chocolate, chunky fruity style underpinned by a bit of grip and power; tasty and savoury vs "sweet" and spicy, nice now although has a good 2-3 years in it yet. US: Beaune Imports, Berkeley CA and Idela Wines & Spirit co. Inc, Medford MA. 87-89
2007 "Kerbuccio" Château Saint-Roch Domaine Lafage, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache, SyrahMourvèdre 15%) - dense rich colour and nose, very powerful with white pepper, liquorice, black cherry and damsons vs light background oak; juicy plump fruity palate vs dry and firm texture although rounded "chocolate" tannins adding light oak texture too (much more subtle than previous vintages); that 15% is pretty punchy and peppery on the finish, putting it out of balance (at the moment anyway) but difficult not to be seduced by its lush fruit vs dry coating. €23 cellar door, £18.95 Harrods; US: European Cellars, Charlotte NC. 89+
2006 "Soleil Rouge" Mas Baux, Côtes du Roussillon (Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache 14.5%) - has certain charm with maturing smoky raisiny fruit and leafy cassis (funny mix of ripe vs not very); dry tannins vs savoury black olive flavours on the palate, the alcohol is a bit overpowering vs lack of concentration and lushness. Quirky style that gets better with food after airing, although perhaps still lacks substance over power. €12 cellar door, US: Small Production Wines, Portland OR. 85+
2007 "Cuvée Alexandre" Domaine St. Sébastien, Collioure (14.5%) - punchy and spicy with quite attractive "sweet" liquorice fruit and hint of vanilla oak; big rounded palate, again lacks a bit of depth vs that %, although improves over 24 hours turning smoother, less fiery and strangely more chocolate oaky; again quite a nice foodie in the end. 87

VINS DOUX NATURELS

2008 Muscat de Rivesaltes Château L'Esparrou - hmm, I don't get it: I've tried much better Muscat de Rivesaltes than this! When first opened, a bit odd, simple and "chemistry lab" (sugar, alcohol, aromas...) without really coming together. But it got better with aeration turning into, well, a rather heavy sweet Muscat... €8 cellar door.
1974 Terrassous "Rancio" Cave de Terrats/Vignobles de Constance Rivesaltes Ambré "Hors d'Age" ( Grenache blanc & gris 15.5%) - yes, the vintage is right. Very complex oxidised pecan-nutty aromas with lightly cheesy Madeira-like edges; coconut sweetness vs tangy toasted nuts on the palate, turning more treacly yet with subtle cut underneath; very long and smooth sweet/sour finish with caramel and intense roasted pecan/hazelnut flavours. Keeps well in the fridge so tasted again and again: toffee apple and baked nuts, quite intensely sweet yet it gets more intricate, nuttier and tangier too. €35 cellar door. 93-95
2003 "Camille Descossy" Le Dominicain Banyuls "Grand Cru" ( Grenache 16.5%) - coffee and cherry liqueur aromas, perhaps not as oxidised as and much redder than some BGC although is characteristically dried and wild herby; the % is quite punchy supported by lush liquorice and quite firm coating, savoury vs sweet with nice cut and maturing leather and cough mixture notes! Leaves lovely dried fruit, coffee and meaty aromas in the glass and turns more savoury, toasted and complex after a few days open; smoother and less fiery too with a bit of bite vs liquorice and dried fruits. Kind of between LBV and Tawny in style. €13.50 cellar door. 90+
1993 Muscat de Rivesaltes Château les Pins / Dom Brial (15.5%) - its quite big ullage didn't really seem to have affected this unusual "oxidative" Muscat style: golden brown/amber colour, oxidised cooked marmalade fruit character; oily and exotic orange peel vs sweet nut notes, odd but very attractive with the alcohol nicely melted into its caramelised citrus and clove finish. Complex lingering sweet vs tangy flavours, turning more quince and dried apricots after a day or so open, really quite delicious and intricate fruit/citrus cake wine! €9.20 cellar door, US importer: La Ville Imports. 90-92
2005 Banyuls "Muté sur Grains Mise Tardive" Cornet & Cie ( Grenache 16%) - very different from the "Grand Cru" wine above, this "modern" LBV style ("mise tardive" means this) shows vibrant extracted blackberry and plum fruit with touches of sweet oak; nice lush palate vs good grip and power. Very attractive, although ironically it doesn't really keep for long after opening as it oxidised quite quickly! About €18 cellar door and on-line merchants, Michael Jobling Wines UK and several distributors in the US (see www.abberous.com). 89
1995 Maury "Vieille Réserve" Vignerons de Maury ( Grenache 16%) - ...whereas this one is pretty indestructible! Fragrant caramelised molasses touches and squashed dried raspberries, intricate "red Madeira" style with liquorice and brown sugar flavours vs tangy walnut, light bite of tannins and nice cut; sweet kirsch layered with marinated dried olive and mature cheese notes, not so sweet thanks to those tangy savoury flavours and lingering alcohol underneath keeping it alive. Gets richer/sweeter yet better too after opening (keeps well in the fridge actually), turning more toffee-ish and pecan pie vs complex and old; surprisingly good with apple crumble or a nice mature Cantal (cheese from the Auvergne). €13.70 cellar door. 91-93
1990 Rivesaltes Tuilé Domaine Cazes ( Grenache 16.5%) - in fact, this is "red Madeira"! Very complex pecan/walnut/hazelnut nose with molasses and dried raspberry too; rich caramel vs nice bite of alcohol/tannins, perhaps tastes drier (and certainly older) than the Maury although probably isn't, lovely tangy oxidised fruit and powerful long tasty finish. Coming back to it (again keep it in the fridge): still quite complex in a 20 year-old Tawny kind-of way, sweeter and perhaps becomes less interesting and less alive than the Maury in the end. €19 cellar door. 89-91

All rights © Richard Mark James October 2009