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

28 November 2010

Couple of Cavas

Both of these excellent value (well, in Spain at least) trad-method (bottle-fermented) sparklers were acquired and enjoyed following a little raid across the border:
Freixenet Excelencia Brut Nature (11.5% alc. Grapes: Macabeu, Xarel.lo, Parellada) - not sure if this Freixenet label makes it out of the country? Dry crisp style with elegant almond biscuit nuances, floral vs oily touches and light refreshing finish. €3-€4
Bach Rosé Brut (12%, Monastrell/Garnacha/Pinot Noir) - very attractive red-fruity profile with bready chocolatey edges, rounded and off-dry but still quite crisp and lively though. €3.50

21 November 2010

Roussillon "red of the mo" by La Balmière

2006 Espoir Côtes du Roussillon Villages
Domaine de la Balmière, Latour de France.
Attractive maturing style: quite smoky, rustic-edged even, although has enticing dried black fruit profile and peppery vs 'sweet/savoury' finish; still fairly solid yet rounded tannins, drinking well now. Probably a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Grenache. About €6.
More Balmière wines and a few words here.
Photo = Laurent Marquier from domainedelabalmiere.com.

Roussillon "red of the mo" by La Balmière

2006 Espoir Côtes du Roussillon Villages - Domaine de la Balmière, Latour de France.
Attractive maturing style: quite smoky, rustic-edged even, although has enticing dried black fruit profile and peppery vs "sweet/savoury" finish; still fairly solid yet rounded tannins, drinking well now. Probably a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Grenache. About €6.
More Balmière wines and a few words on FrenchMediterraneanWine.com.

14 November 2010

"Primeur" and "nouveau"... wine or chemistry experiment?

With Beaujolais Nouveau 2010 lurking ominously around the corner, and after recently reading some blatantly one-sided pro-wine business propaganda telling everyone to go out and buy a new "primeur wine" (French websites / magazines Terre des Vins and Vitisphere, just to get myself threatened with legal action...); I thought it might be worth asking if anyone else has found some of these wines virtually undrinkable? Admittedly, some are nice enough, such as the 2010 Colombelle white I tried recently by Producteurs Plaimont in Gascony: in a mega aromatic boiled-sweet bubble-gummy estery zingy zesty crisp fruity kind of way (although, at €4 to €4.50 in France, not exactly a bargain). But most of these autumn "new wines" I've tasted over the years just taste like a winemaking / chemistry experiment and don't come together at all like, well, wine. Unless you left them for six months, so what's the point?! Well, great cash flow for the producer for a start... sold and banked before Christmas of the same year. OK, so maybe I'll buy one red and one rosé primeur/nouveau 2010 vintage to substantiate my rantings. Watch this space, if I can be bothered...

"Primeur" and "nouveau"... wine or chemistry experiment?

With Beaujolais Nouveau 2010 lurking ominously around the corner, and after recently reading some blatantly one-sided pro-wine business propaganda telling everyone to go out and buy a new "primeur wine" (French websites / magazines Terre des Vins and Vitisphere, just to get myself threatened with legal action...); I thought it might be worth asking if anyone else has found some of these wines virtually undrinkable? Admittedly, some are nice enough, such as the 2010 Colombelle white I tried recently by Producteurs Plaimont in Gascony: in a mega aromatic boiled-sweet bubble-gummy estery zingy zesty crisp fruity kind of way (although, at €4 to €4.50 in France, not exactly a bargain). But most of these autumn "new wines" I've tasted over the years just taste like a winemaking / chemistry experiment and don't come together at all like, well, wine. Unless you left them for six months, so what's the point?! Well, great cash flow for the producer for a start... sold and banked before Christmas of the same year. OK, so maybe I'll buy one red and one rosé primeur/nouveau 2010 vintage to substantiate my rantings. Watch this space, if I can be bothered...

11 November 2010

Roussillon: Château Lauriga, Thuir

Jacqueline Clar's locally well-established Lauriga comes to 60 hectares (150 acres) of vines spread all around the cute old-Catalan 'Mas' style wine cellar buildings, office and house (part of which is being done up into a tasting / function room), which is pretty sizeable round these parts and where there aren't that many wine estates, except for e.g. their neighbour Domaine Nivet-Galinier. Syrah occupies the lion's share of plantings and hence the make-up of their quite large range, supplemented by the other usual red and white Med / Catalan varieties; plus a good dollop of Merlot too (which actually produces a very attractive easy-drinking wine here - see below). And, as they're lacking a bit of Grenache to make a red Vin Doux Naturel, Jacqueline's recently gone into partnership with a grower in Maury to produce their own young fruity "muté sur grain" style VDN (click here for more info in a feature on Maury & Banyuls). Lauriga currently exports to a few mainland European countries (e.g. Germany, Belgium, Netherlands), but they have plans, with a little help perhaps from new sales manager Maxime Séjourné, to try and crack English speaking wine-quaffing markets! Anyway, if you're in the area, it's well signposted off the Perpignan - Thuir road, heading towards Ponteilla.

I tried these wines in situ in November 2010:
2008 Soleil Blanc de Lauriga vin de pays d'Oc (Grenache blanc & gris 14%) - lightly nutty "oxidative" notes layered with some coconut oak; nice rounded and oily texture vs quite toasty oak, although it's fairly concentrated, juicy and powerful too. A foodie white for sure, a touch too much oak for my taste but it does have attractive texture with it. €10 85+?
2009 Domaine Lauriga Grenache gris rosé vin de pays d'Oc (12.5%) - aromatic and juicy, light crisp profile and finish; attractive "pale" rosé style. €5.90 80+
2009 Château Lauriga Côtes du Roussillon rosé (Syrah, Grenache 13.5%) - very different style with full-on cherry colour, richer red fruit side and "winey" full-bodied mouth-feel; oily vs fruity texture then crisp vs weighty finish. Versatile dinner rosé: e.g. salmon, cured ham, tortilla, vegetable dishes. €5.90 87

2009 Domaine Lauriga Merlot vin de pays (13.5%) - lovely black cherry and ripe plum nose with lightly herby edges; juicy and quite concentrated actually with subtle tannins and chocolate flavours even (there's no oak though), fruity vs more serious finish. 85+ €6
2007 Cadet de Lauriga Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah, Carignan, Grenache 13%) - also no oak: enticing smoky notes with rich cherry fruit; attractive ripe mouth-feel vs light bitter twist of tannins, spicy and fruity vs a bit of weight and grip. €6 85+
2005 Château Lauriga Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache Syrah 13.5%) - very different nose with richer and more Grenache liquorice and spice character, also showing a touch of coconut oak and savoury maturing edges; nice balance and style, turning meaty with subtle oak texture and solid fruit backdrop. 87-89 €12
2008 Cuvée Prestige René Clar Côtes du Roussillon (mostly their oldest Syrah 14%) - 14 months in barriques (2/3 new oak) and it does show at the moment: pretty cedar-y on the nose; nice concentrated "sweet" dark cherry fruit though vs rounded tannins, good bite and freshness almost too; coconut texture and finish, needs a few years to let that oak blend in better, could turn into something quite fine. €22 90?
2008 Muscat de Rivesaltes (Muscat petits grains) - quite subtle orangey Muscat nose vs oily developing side; tasty and aromatic, not too sweet, towards crisp even, vs luscious finish. Bit dear at €12 85
2009 Maury (Grenache) - attractive fruity "new wave" style, plummy nose with leather edges; very fruity and lush palate with liquorice and choco vs nice kick and bit of grip. Attractive style. €14 85+
Château Lauriga Rivesaltes Ambré Hors d'Age (Grenache blanc, Macabeu and a splash of Muscat petits grains; blend of 12 to 14 year-old wines) - hints of coconut and rich oxidised hazelnut, caramel and spicy citrus marmalade too; complex "Madeira" vs Tawny characters, tangier finish cuts through the palate nicely. €18 89-91

Traverse de Ponteilla, 66350 Thuir. Tel: 04 68 53 26 73, www.lauriga.com.

08 November 2010

Rioja duet

Lagunilla is a well-known and widely distributed Rioja brand, but I recently retried their Crianza 2007 and Reserva 2005 reds and found them both attractive, warming (in that good with hearty food in early winter way) and good value. Based on blends of the Tempranillo (mostly) and Garnacha (=Grenache) varieties, the Crianza (red and black label) is medium-bodied and smooth-textured with that distinctive traditional Rioja character of sweet vs crunchy berry fruit, a hint of vanilla oak and a bit of that nice "cheesy" savoury maturing side. The Reserva (blue and black label) is a shade richer and smokier, and more "volatile" too (acetic acid notes, which can make a wine more complex or ruin it if not properly handled). Both are about 13% alcohol, and were €4 and €5.50 respectively bought on promotion in Spain - and in one of those discount border-town type supermarkets, so usually more expensive than that no doubt.

Organic half-truths

You might've noticed a slight organic slant on these pages and on WineWriting.com. But I'm getting a bit fed up with reading organic winery websites and brochures, or people writing about organic winegrowing even, claiming they "don't use any chemicals." Let's just stop misleading wine enthusiasts about what organic winegrowing is and isn't (admittedly I did recently read one site using the more accurate terms "no pesticides or herbicides," which implies artificial and nasty). Copper and sulphur based "products" might be considered "natural chemicals" - they are elements found in nature and the human organism in tiny amounts - but let's not forget they are also rather toxic if you use too much, for people and the earth. Potions such as copper sulphate solution are sanctioned under organic farming regulations (read on for more on that), so please start communicating the message better to those interested and explain what you use and why. Even so-called "natural" winemakers do use these, although certain people experiment with e.g. SO2 (sulphur dioxide)-free winemaking, some more successfully than others. Ever had one of those wines where the overriding smell / flavour is like real cider, even a red? Or that initially enticing rustic character is perhaps just a little too developed (invaded by brettanomyces, a wild "spoilage" yeast)?
Anyway, it's perhaps worth rehashing, to add a little detail, something I wrote after Millésime Bio organic wine show in 2006 (and I've been going every year since: see this blurb with links to profiles on two dozen hot organic producers), which still holds true enough:
"Organic: what and why? A few facts and thoughts... Organic doesn't necessarily mean guaranteed or better quality, but overall wine quality is now much higher than say ten years ago. Organic growers rightly claim it's more about a whole way of life, and there's little doubt that this philosophy, coupled with fussy attention in the vineyard, can produce superb grapes. Here are a few facts about certified organic status (said to be more strictly controlled than for "conventional" appellation regs) to highlight the main points: The conversion period is three years so commitment and dedication are required, especially as the vines are probably more vulnerable during this transition stage. No synthetic or systemic (which penetrate into the plant's organism and deep into the soil) chemicals or fertilisers are used in the vineyard, but "natural chemical" substances such as copper sulphate solution (against mildew) and sulphur dioxide (a preservative among other uses) are permitted. However, max levels of SO2 in winemaking are sometimes half that for non-organic (although not always). The idea is to foster living soil, biodiversity in the vineyard and hence naturally healthy vines. It goes without saying that genetically engineered vines and winemaking products, such as GM yeast, are not tolerated. Some organic winemakers might use standard commercial yeasts if necessary; but e.g. full-Monty biodynamic growers wouldn't normally add them, as indigenous yeasts on the grapes are considered part of the terroir. The whole philosophy should carry through down the line, in terms of managing winery waste, water supply, carbon emissions, packaging etc. At the end of the day, it doesn't make a lot of sense to go on about the importance of your terroir, yet systematically destroy it with potent chemicals!" There, I got that off my chest...

Organic half-truths

You might have noticed a slight organic slant on these pages and on WineWriting.com. But I'm getting a bit fed up with reading organic winery websites and brochures, or people writing about organic winegrowing even, claiming they "don't use any chemicals." Let's just stop misleading wine enthusiasts about what organic winegrowing is and isn't (admittedly I did recently read one site using the more accurate terms "no pesticides or herbicides," which implies artificial and nasty). Copper and sulphur based "products" might be considered "natural chemicals" - they are elements found in nature and the human organism in tiny amounts - but let's not forget they are also rather toxic if you use too much, for people and the earth. Potions such as copper sulphate solution are sanctioned under organic farming regulations (read on for more on that), so please start communicating the message better to those interested and explain what you use and why. Even so-called "natural" winemakers do use these, although certain people experiment with e.g. SO2 (sulphur dioxide)-free winemaking, some more successfully than others. Ever had one of those wines where the overriding smell / flavour is like real cider, even a red? Or that initially enticing rustic character is perhaps just a little too developed (invaded by brettanomyces, a wild "spoilage" yeast)?
Anyway, it's perhaps worth rehashing, to add a little detail, something I wrote after Millésime Bio organic wine show in 2006 (and I've been going every year since: see this blurb on my other site with links to profiles on two dozen hot organic producers), which still holds true enough:
"Organic: what and why? A few facts and thoughts... Organic doesn't necessarily mean guaranteed or better quality, but overall wine quality is now much higher than say ten years ago. Organic growers rightly claim it's more about a whole way of life, and there's little doubt that this philosophy, coupled with fussy attention in the vineyard, can produce superb grapes. Here are a few facts about certified organic status (said to be more strictly controlled than for "conventional" appellation regs) to highlight the main points: The conversion period is three years so commitment and dedication are required, especially as the vines are probably more vulnerable during this transition stage. No synthetic or systemic (which penetrate into the plant's organism and deep into the soil) chemicals or fertilisers are used in the vineyard, but "natural chemical" substances such as copper sulphate solution (against mildew) and sulphur dioxide (a preservative among other uses) are permitted. However, max levels of SO2 in winemaking are sometimes half that for non-organic (although not always). The idea is to foster living soil, biodiversity in the vineyard and hence naturally healthy vines. It goes without saying that genetically engineered vines and winemaking products, such as GM yeast, are not tolerated. Some organic winemakers might use standard commercial yeasts if necessary; but e.g. full-Monty biodynamic growers wouldn't normally add them, as indigenous yeasts on the grapes are considered part of the terroir. The whole philosophy should carry through down the line, in terms of managing winery waste, water supply, carbon emissions, packaging etc. At the end of the day, it doesn't make a lot of sense to go on about the importance of your terroir, yet systematically destroy it with potent chemicals!" There, I got that off my chest...

04 November 2010

2009 Château Cazeaux, "red of the moment"

This not exactly "classic" Bordeaux red, although probably a typical 2009 and certainly none the worse for it, is surprisingly lush and full-bodied (14%) with enticing black cherry, damson and cassis - and liquorice notes even - yet still underpinned by lightly cedar-y and "inky" edges. Nice fruity and rounded mouth-feel vs quite thick and firm tannins, which are also ripe and attractively textured; it's drinking OK now although best left for a year or two to let it open up. From this property in the Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux appellation, and a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. About €6 from memory in Carrefour's recent "wine fair" promotion. Photo = Château Cazeaux from chateau-cazeaux.com.

2009 Château Cazeaux, "red of the moment"

Has moved HERE (click please)...

03 November 2010

Banyuls & Maury: sweet seductive red Roussillon

New wine tasting & touring feature published on FrenchMediterraneanWine: "My pick of some (25) of these red (and a few white) Vins Doux Naturels or vins mutés, as they're called in French: literally "natural sweet wines" or fortified wines, tasted in early October on a whirlwind tour of leading estates in north and south Roussillon. Plus words on how these delicious Grenache based wines are made and their different styles." Featured wineries: Amiel, Coume Mas, La Rectorie, Serrelongue, Soulanes, Tour Vieille, Vinci, Coume Majou, Mudigliza; and a new-release Maury from Mont Tauch...

01 November 2010

France: Roussillon - Banyuls and Maury, "sweet seductive red Roussillon..."

Wine tasting & touring: "Banyuls & Maury, sweet seductive red Roussillon..."
Featuring Mas Amiel, Coume Mas, La Rectorie, Serrelongue, Soulanes, Tour Vieille, Vinci, Coume Majou, Mudigliza...

"My pick of some (25) of these red (and a few white) Vins Doux Naturels or vins mutés, as they're called in French: literally "natural sweet wines" or fortified wines, tasted in early October on a whirlwind tour of leading estates in north and south Roussillon. Plus words on how these delicious Grenache based wines are made and their different styles." Featured wineries: Amiel, Coume Mas, La Rectorie, Serrelongue, Soulanes, Tour Vieille, Vinci, Coume Majou, Mudigliza; and a new-release Maury from Mont Tauch.

Demijohns outside at Mas Amiel, by Vi Erickson
Much as I like Port in its differing forms, what gives Banyuls and Maury (also named after the places they come from) the edge, for my palate at least, is the simple fact that they're a touch less alcoholic: 16%-17% (sometimes a bit more such as La Tour Vieille's sublime "Meditation Wine" reviewed below) as opposed to around 20% for Port. And it's difficult to resist the charm that seductive Grenache somehow brings to these Vins Doux Naturels (VDNs) or vins mutés: "natural sweet wines" or fortified wines. Anyway, as for a few educational words about these sumptuous stonking reds (mostly): I wrote the following paragraph previously in a blurb on La Coume du Roy, who produce pretty much all imaginable styles of Maury from "modern" to extremely old, which attempts to summarise the differences in grape handling, winemaking and maturation.
"There are essentially two styles of Maury, on a basic level; in reality, there are almost as many as any producer wishes to make! (Ed: same principle for Banyuls, although clearly a different climate by the sea unlike Maury further north, inland and in a valley). Both use mainly the same variety: "black" Grenache as the French call it; and Macabeu, Grenache blanc and/or Grenache gris for the rarer white. The more (or less depending on the cuvée, release date etc.) oxidised aged one, where (for red) the grapes undergo a 4-5 day maceration on skins (or less even) and short fermentation to obtain some colour and desired sugar level; then are pressed and the juice fortified with spirit (leaving about 100 grams/litre residual sugar on average). The other style is said to date from around the mid 1980s: muté sur grains, meaning the entire must with the crushed berries still 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 contact with oxygen), which gives much richer colour and tannins. This type of "modern" Banyuls/Maury is usually bottled relatively soon, depending on the specific (sub)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 and Late Bottled Vintage Port, or Ruby for lower-priced blends), depending on if and how long in barrel. Whereas, the traditional approach is to mature the wine in large old casks and/or vats, and not usually topped up, or even glass demijohns outside, to promote oxidation; like e.g. Banyuls 'Grand Cru' or Tawny Port styles."
Entrance to Domaine de la Rectorie,  by Vi Erickson 
Pierre Parcé at La Rectorie in Banyuls-sur-mer (above) shed some interesting light on how the Parcé brothers, after taking on the family vineyards in the 1980s, came to influence the launch of those "new-wave" Banyuls VDNs. Paraphrasing his words: firstly, by understanding some of the reasons why the traditional oxidised styles continued to be made and history behind them. Part of the reason was the totally isolated nature of many of the area's vineyards at that time with no access roads. This often dictated having to pick all the grapes in one spot in one go and loading them up in a cart under the hot sun, while everything was picked; as it was just too awkward to go back and forth to the cellar several times to unload. Hence, when the grapes did finally arrive, they weren't exactly in the best health; so the skins were discarded quickly by pressing off the must after a short time fermenting, if at all, and fortifying it as soon as possible. The resultant low-colour wines were then aged for long periods of time, in big old casks that weren't topped up and/or outside in demijohns even to promote oxidative ageing, to compensate for any faults and create complex flavours from the maturation process itself (as long as not left too long...)
The "new thinking" already gathering more momentum in the 80s went along the lines of "what if..." Given that grapes could now be delivered to the cellar as and when you wanted them, coupled with much better equipment and technical winemaking know-how; meaning the skins are in perfect condition and can be fermented with the must, like making a regular red wine, to extract colour and tannins. This must is then "muté sur grains", i.e. the fortifying spirit added onto the fermenting berries before pressing. This has an added advantage, as alcohol actually promotes greater extraction while the must is left to macerate. After pressing, the juice is typically, depending on the desired style, protected from oxygen by transfer into inert tanks before bottling or into barrels that are kept filled to the brim. These wines are thus similar to vintage or late bottled vintage Ports, for example, rather than the long cask-aged, oxidised styles that are closer to Tawnies.
Another simply commercial reason for developing young fruity "muté sur grains" Banyuls wines, was to be able to sell them much sooner. As the Parcé's were pretty much starting from scratch, they had no old maturing stocks like the big co-ops have always had (and some of their wines are very good, it has to be said); and it obviously takes a lot of time and investment to store VDN wines for as long as it takes before they get really interesting. After starting the ball rolling, and extending the above-mentioned winemaking logic to those old-fashioned Banyuls styles (and, as I said, sometimes just plain too old); what if they made a deliberately oxidised, complex wine using grapes that were in perfect condition to begin with? The result: La Rectorie's extraordinary L'Oublée (see note below)...

WINES

To start, a word about wine "scores." You'll notice a departure from the usual "100-point" system proliferated across the site, as I just got plain bored of the latter narrow, although admittedly widely recognised, way of "assessing" wines. So, I've continued the schoolteacher theme here that I dreamed up a few months ago for a feature on the Ardèche, which uses a simpler scheme with one to three ticks, as below, echoing those already popular "star" ratings you see around. Still best to actually read my notes and comments at the end of the day, if that's not too dull. And, inevitably, I ended up giving some half-marks as well represented by a tick in brackets! These wines were sampled in October 2010 (unless stated otherwise) at the winery or at home.

√ = good √ √ = very good √ √ √ = fabulous

MAURY

Scan down the Roussillon A to Z list for more wines and profiles on these producers including where to buy them. Prices quoted here are cellar door in euros or £ / $ retail in the UK or US.


White
Domaine des Soulanes 2009 Maury (Grenache blanc/gris with 90 grams/litre residual sugar (RS)) - enticing "mineral" vs sweet profile, could be interesting after a bit of time in bottle. √ €9 £11.75
Mas Amiel 2008 Maury (Grenache gris 110g/l RS, 15.5% alc.) - enticing mix of juicy, "mineral/stoney" and sweet aromas/flavours; fairly crisp and fresh underneath vs rich white/yellow fruits, a bit closed up but should turn into a very nice pudding or cheese wine. √ €15+
Domaine Serrelongue 2010 Maury (Grenache gris/Grenache blanc: from cask and not ready yet, obviously!) - lots of aromatic pear fruit, turning rich in the mouth with tasty honey notes vs refreshing acidity and cut; long finish with enticing zesty citrus vs sweetness (about 100g/l residual sugar). Should be good. √

Red
Domaine des Soulanes
2009 Maury (Grenache) - lovely wild-fruit nose with blackberry and liquorice; good balance of sugar, dry tannins and cut of alcohol. √ €11 $24.99 £11.75
Maury "Hors d'Age" (Grenache blend of wines from 1992, 1993 & 1994) - complex toffeed ageing notes on the nose with lush liquorice coating in the mouth; very long and caramelised vs lovely savoury richness. √ √ $41.99
Mas Amiel
2006 Vintage Reserve Maury (Grenache) - seductively rich with savoury edges and light oak texture; again shows good balance of grip, lush black fruits and sugar; quite complex too. √ €20
L09 Vintage Privilege (Grenache passerillé = dried on the vine) - OK, so it's not technically Maury but... very raisin-ed and intense, intriguing and addictive too; pure blackberry and syrup aromas/flavours vs attractive dry tannins vs complex earthy tones. Wow, a one-off. √ √
Maury Prestige 15 Ans d'Age (Years Old on average) - beautiful "old Tawny" nose with molasses/treacle notes and cooked plums; meaty oxidised profile vs dark chocolate vs bite and cut vs intense "sweet/savoury" finish, roasted coffee and nuts too. √ √ √ €23
Click here for more Mas Amiel reviews and background including their superlative 1990, 1980 and 1969 vintages.
Domaine Serrelongue 2008 Maury (Grenache 80-90 RS) - lots of sweet black fruits underpinned by light wood texture, has nice freshness and tight tannins too making it quite restrained in style. €10 √
Domaine Vinci 2008 Inferno (Grenache 5 RS) - another non-Maury (and not even sweet, although it almost should be) sneaked into this feature, as "you know it makes sense." Very ripe and powerful nose, peppery and Port-y almost; crazy wine, punchy and rich with lots of liquorice and pepper plus a touch of underlying wood grain. Wow: very popular with the Brits, I'm told! A bit OTT on its own but worth a go, has plenty of flavour for sure in a dry Maury way! √ √ About €20 or £25
Cave Mont Tauch 2001 Réserve Maury (Grenache 16%) - treacle toffee liquorice and prune vs quirky "gassy" oxidised maturing nose with Bovril gravy, toasted coffee beans and leather tones; sweet smooth palate with a bit of kick (but not OTT) then more savoury finish with some lingering dry tannins. 2nd tasting (this wine kept quite well for a week, and the last drop was used for a very nice sauce): less "quirky" and "cheesy" with more toffee and raspberry cordial vs savoury/leather edges; smooth and sweet still with that light kick and touch of tannin, nice "sweet/savoury" finish. √ UK: £7.49 37.5cl at Morrison's.
Coume Majou 2008 Jolo Maury (98 y-o Grenache 17% alc.) - lovely dark fruits, damson and blackberry, beginning to turn tobacco-y; attractive bite and solid tannins, not very sweet actually with lively mouth-feel; a bit fiery at the moment but it's a delicious concentrated "vintage" style Maury. Tasted in March 2010. √ √
Mas Mudigliza (tasted summer 2010)
2008 Maury - delicious ripe black cherry fruit with savoury leather edges; tannins softening up nicely although still has good bite vs sweetness (75-80 g/l residual sugar = less than many Maurys), youthful fiery finish vs lovely balance of "sweet/savoury" fruit. √ √
2009 Maury (from tank) - very black cherry and liquorice, more intense and lush with nice peppery touches; tasty sweet vs dry finish, promising.
BANYULS

White
Domaine La Tour Vieille 2008 Banyuls (Grenache blanc & gris) - nutty and honeyed with integrated wood grain tones; attractive fruit and texture vs punchy alcohol, sweet vs "mineral" finish. Promising. √ €10 50cl
Domaine La Rectorie L'Oublée (Grenache gris 16.5%): pressed straightaway, fermented then fortified, 10+ years ageing in large tuns then barriques outside before bottling. Quite brownish/red in colour, very different nose with nutty (walnut/pecan) vs dried raspberry/apricot/sultana profile; nutty tangy vs sweet raisin and sultana flavours, delicious complex and lingering finish. √ √ √

Red
Domaine La Tour Vieille
2006 Banyuls Vendanges (mostly Grenache) - lightly oxidised with meaty edges vs damson and liquorice; plum jam flavours vs savoury and quite mature finish. √ €10 50cl
2006 Banyuls Rimage mise tardive (three and a half years in casks filled up to the top) - spicier with more coconut oak apparent vs rich "sweet/savoury" fruit; grippier more powerful mouth-feel then quite tight on the finish actually, surprising young still and impressive. √ √ €15
Banyuls Reserva (4-5 years ageing) - more caramelised nose with cooked raspberry jam aromas, kind of Madeira/Tawny cross springs to mind; big tannins still vs rich fruit, complex tasty and savoury finish although it's pretty sweet though too. √ √ (√) €13
Cuvée Francis Cantié - roasted coffee beans and strawberry jam on the nose, pretty intense in the mouth with nuttier characters then a bit more of a kick too; but that attractive "sweet/savoury" thing takes over and it's surprisingly subtle in the end. √ √ €15 50cl
Vin de Méditation (Solera-style, 18%) - amazingly intricate "red Madeira" nose, very intense and nutty; sweet raspberry and pecan nut flavours, finishing with very different profile to that initial nose as new aromas/flavours keep rolling across your tongue. Wow. √ √ √ €50 50cl
Coume del Mas
2007 Galateo Banyuls (Grenache, 16% & 100g RS) - lovely black fruits with meaty edges; attractive fruity "winey" flavours and texture, still firm and powerful softened by cherry liqueur notes and sweetness. Available in 6cl or 10cl flasks. √ €15 50cl
2007 Quintessence Banyuls (Grenache, 16.5% & 80g RS) - richer, more complex and a touch oakier with more savoury / oxidised edges; more oomph and extracted lush fruit vs big tannins adding dry bite, closes up on the finish. √ √ (√) €26 50cl
2009 Quintessence Banyuls (Grenache low-yielding 70-80 year-old vines, barrel sample) - deep purple/black colour, still showing a bit of toasty chocolate oak vs very rich "Black Forest Gateau" fruit; solid firm mouth-feel, almost "fresh" despite its sweet finish balanced by grippy tannins. Lovely. √ √
Domaine La Rectorie
2008 Banyuls Rimage "mise précoce" (Grenache 16.5%) - which means early bottling: after fortifying "sur grains," this had a further 2-week maceration on skins then pressed, held in vats briefly then bottled. Delicious dark chocolate and black cherry with violet aromas too; rich and sweet vs firm and spicy, nice lush vs tight and grippy finish. √ €11 50cl
2007 Cuvée Léon Parcé Banyuls (Grenache 16.5%) - initially same winemaking as above but then goes into (full) casks for 18 months. Similar fruit profile but meatier / more savoury; chunkier tannins too somehow although rounder as well, nice sweet vs structured mouth-feel with chocolate undercurrent. √ √

Related features:
St-Bacchus Awards 2009 including a trio of star Banyuls/Maury co-operative wines: "Camille Descossy" Le Dominicain, "Mise Tardive" Cornet & Cie, "Vieille Réserve" Vignerons de Maury.
Other recommended Banyuls and Maury producers on my "Roussillon - French Catalonia" pages: Berta-Maillol, Mas Blanc, Calvet-Thunevin, Fontanel, Mas Lavail, Clos Paulilles, Piétri-Géraud, Pouderoux, La Préceptorie, Saint-Roch, Schistes, Traginer.
A few more sexy red VDN stylists under the Rivesaltes appellation: Caladroy, Casenove, Cazes, Comelade, Hylari, Puig-Parahÿ, Rossignol, Rouaud, Sarda Malet, Valmy, Vaquer.
More generic info @ vinsduroussillon.com

All rights © Richard Mark James November 2010