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01 February 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Vaquer, Tresserre

Domaine Vaquer
Having unearthed a bottle of their sublime 1991 Cuvée Fernand Vaquer ("wines of the moment" April 2006), a red Vin de Pays Catalan, in a posh wine shop in Perpignan; I felt a visit was in order. Frédérique Vaquer now runs this distinctive estate located in Tresserre off the main road to Le Boulou and Spain. Frédérique described their philosophy as "looking for finesse, a lighter elegant style rather than extracted and rich... more like Burgundy that will age." I like their wines, which certainly are different (and quite pricey) and unashamedly labelled Vin de Pays, as they're not very interested in appellation rules or conforming to what's supposed to be typical of the area (actually, things have changed just a little since then - see update below). They also offer several old vintages of reds and whites even: read on for updates... 
Tasted June 2006:
2002 L'Exception blanc (Macabeu Grenache Blanc, 14%) - toasty but not too much, adding coconut spice to its complex oily texture and richness, fresh acidity and nice length. €14.50 89
1995 Blanc de Blancs Tradition (Macabeu) - mature oily aromas, oxidised fruit with steely backbone; interesting although a bit old. €8 85
2002 L'Exigence rouge (Grenache) - nice plum and liquorice nose, mature 'sweet' fruit v meaty spice, firmer rounded palate, elegant v powerful finish. €9
87+2004 L'Expression rouge (Carignan) - shows good depth of fruit and concentration, quite volatile but complex and unusual (see re-tasting below). €12 87-89
2003 Cuvée Bernard Vaquer (Carignan Grenache Syrah) - developed intricate wild herb, black cherry and liquorice tones; nice soft fruit with leather notes, rounded easy tannins and light dry finish. €7.50 88-90
1985 rouge - a little old and oxidising but its complex meaty characters, soft liquorice fruit and subtle finish give it charm; much better with food too. €18 89
2005 Muscat de Rivesaltes - very zesty floral nose with white peach and citrus notes, nice extract, intense v sweet length with balanced finish. €9 90
1995 Post-Scriptum, Rivesaltes Tuilé (Grenache) - appealing cooked red fruit nose with interesting oxidised pecan nut tones, rich and sweet yet very fruity, finishing with a touch and tannin and alcohol to balance. €13 89
Vieux Rivesaltes ambré (Grenache gris & blanc, Macabeu)  - intriguing Madeira like aromas, walnut tang with toffee richness, not too heavy thanks to subtle length. €13
90+

Vaquer update October 2008
A long overdue re-visit to effervescent Frédérique Vaquer's cosy garage (literally) tasting shop, on a lovely sunny mid-October afternoon I may add, yielded the following notes and comments from a somewhat extensive and remarkable tasting. The wines below are 'classified' Vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (out of choice rather than representing any preconceived ideas on quality or whatever) unless otherwise stated. However, Frédérique's L'Exception red is now AOC Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres, from the 2005 vintage, as she decided to demarcate certain plots accordingly to make a statement blend of varieties.
2007 L'Ephémère rosé (Syrah Carignan 13.5%) – pretty serious style, still vibrant with tangy raspberry and redcurrant fruit v creamy & full mouth-feel; very dry refreshing finish with a lightly bitter twist of tannin, nice food rosé as perhaps a tad 'big' to drink on its own. €5.80 87+
2006 Exigence (Grenache 14%) - delicious smoky black cherry and liquorice, spicy and savoury underpinned by lovely fruit; powerful yet with nice subtle tannins, finishing with elegant fresh length. €9.50
88-902006 L'Expression (Carignan 13%) – smokier and more complex, liquorice v herbal edges; delicious fruit and refreshing style, makes you want more; firmer tannins than above yet lovely depth and finish. €26 magnum. 90-92
2004 L'Expression (Carignan 13%) – a tad oxidised (already opened) but again shows that richness v freshness thing, dry bite v fruity depth; less vibrant than the 06 although turning nicely savoury with leather and dried fruit edges. €12 89-91
2005 L'Exception Les Aspres (Grenache Cinsault Syrah 14%) - very tasty with attractive depth of rich dark spicy fruit v savoury edges; weighty yet elegant, closes up on the finish with subtle dry texture v lush length. Promising. 90-92
2001 L'Exception (mostly Carignan 14%) – smoky savoury meaty aromas with sexy almost salty dark chocolate undertones, bitter liquorice and dried herbs / fruits too; quite big and grippy still, although would drink very nicely now with game or a mature cheese like Gruyere. €14.50 89-91
2007 L'Extrait Rivesaltes Grenat (Grenache mûté sur grain: meaning the fortifying spirit is added while still fermenting with the crushed berries before pressing, and bottled young, similar to the way they make vintage Port) - delicious blackberry/cherry, very fruity and crunchy; lively and powerful palate (17%), luscious and sweet but with nice bite and style. €11 88+
1995 Post-Scriptum Rivesaltes (Grenache) - aged for much longer in cask. Complex mature cheesy notes layered with toffee and pecan; ageing fig and burnt chocolate flavours yet still has some freshness, long and stylish with a bit of bite making it seem less sweet on the finish. €13 90+
Rivesaltes ambré Hors d'Age 'solera' (Grenache gris & blanc, Macabeu 16.5%)  - the base is 20+ year-old wines with younger ones added (like old sherry or tawny Port). Intricate Madeira like aromas, rich toffee and resiny fruit on the palate but not cloying, pecan and walnut flavours v refreshing bite and length; stays with you,  mature cheesy v pruney v nutty aftertaste. 92-94
2007 Muscat de Rivesaltes (16.5%) - fragrant and quite fine, grapey Muscat aromas; sweet v bitter citrus peel edges, floral and fresh v dried apricot richness; has more depth and unctuousness than most. €9 89
1985 Blanc de Blancs Tradition, Vin de Pays Catalan (Macabeu 13%) - intriguing kind of old Burgundy v mature Riesling v Fino sherry style, oily rounded and toasted nutty; a bit over the hill although nice with fried trout fillet.
1986 Blanc de Blancs Tradition (Macabeu 13%) - strangely, more oxidised than the 85 with a rather bitter finish; past it I'm afraid but worth trying anyway!

Winter 2009:
1986 rouge - attractive mature Burgundy style with dried "sweet" red fruits turning very savoury, cheesy and intricate; velvety mouthfeel with delicious liquorice vs meaty flavours, gets older in the glass and beginning to fade quite quickly, so enjoy it now as it's not going to keep much longer. Still very nice though. 90
The Winery in London stocks several Vaquer wines:
click here to go to their site.

1 Rue des Ecoles, 66300 Tresserre
. By appointment only: tel 04 68 38 89 53, fax 04 68 38 84 42; domainevaquer@terre-net.fr.

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