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30 June 2010

R & L "wines of the moment" 2005-2010

Originally posted on WineWriting.com: "Updated regularly or occasionally as fits the mood, these everyday wines, new releases and sporadic superstars caught my attention for one reason or another. Not exactly a wine of the week or month but could be: hopefully more spontaneous than that." From June 2010 onwards, all "wines of the moment" have been featured directly on both blogs as individual posts, as it seemed like a much better idea!


Summer 2010
2009 Château La Grave red Minervois (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) - vibrant spicy black cherry, cassis and liquorice; juicy, fairly easy with soft-ish palate and nice fruity finish. €5.90 cellar door, £6.95 Stone Vine & Sun. 85+

Spring 2010
2007 Castel Fossibus red Faugères Domaine Ollier Taillefer (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre 13.5%) - spicy floral herby vs vibrant black cherry notes underlined by a touch of smoky development; well-handled mix of light oak spice, good fruit and attractive tannins on the palate. €12.50 87-89
2007 Expression Brut Crémant de Limoux Antech (Mauzac, Chardonnay, Chenin 12%) - quite fine fizz (especially at this price) with subtle toasted yeast tones vs creamier fruit vs quite zingy citrus; elegant bubbles with nice bready vs fruity vs oily, off-dry finish. €5.50 87

2009 Côtes du Roussillon rosé Château Pézilla (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan 13%) - vivid deep red cherry colour preempts its lively aromatic red cherry and raspberry fruit; zesty juicy palate, nice fruity finish vs crisp twist. €3.30 85
2007 Carnache Corbières-Boutenac Château Maylandie (Carignan/Grenache 13.5%) - black cherry, damson and cassis with smoky spicy tones, hints of tobacco and light vanilla/coconut too; attractive thick coating of dark chocolate, berries, liquorice and chunky dry tannins; quite concentrated and powerful with dense fruit, sweet vs meaty finish and lively, light coconut grip. Needs a few months in bottle to round out a little, yet pretty promising. March. 89-91
Profile on Maylandie and more tasting notes here.

Winter 2009/2010
2006 Cuvée l'olivette Pic-Saint-Loup Clos Marie (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) - smoky and lush showing nice depth and weight, pretty chunky tannins adding dry texture and bitter twist/bite; fair oomph and grip vs dark cherry liquorice and tobacco, needs a year or so to come together fully. Turns a tad rustic and leather-tinged with very firm framework, but its solid trad Languedoc style seduces you in the end. A bit dear though @ €12.50. 88
2008 "One Block" Côtes du Roussillon Domaine Treloar (mostly Grenache, Syrah 13.5%) - nice upfront chunky, spicy and lightly smoky style; showing lush dark cherry and liquorice vs tad of spicy wood texture and dry grip, then lively peppery dried black fruit finish. Approx €7.50 France, €9.50 Germany, £10 UK. 87+
Profile on Treloar and lots more wines here.
2008 Tautavel Côtes du Roussillon Villages Domaine des Trois Vallées (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) - quite chocolate oaky to start, but it has nice rich fruit too showing liquorice and spicy floral notes; attractive combo of dry grip and refreshing bite on the finish. 87+
2007 Elégant Carignan
"vieilles vignes" Domaine Mastrió 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 newish Roussillon estate (Bélesta): profile to follow...
2005 Carinyana 1878 Domaine Puig-Parahÿ Roussillon (very old Carignan 14.5%) - a touch stewed/oxidised although attractively mature and meaty/savoury with caramel and tobacco notes too; quirky old style turning more attractive with a bit of air (despite its apparent rapid development) with nice soft liquorice finish vs peppery notes too. 85+
Above wine discovered at a Domaine Treloar wine club "themed" tasting evening. It also prompted me to go and see Georges Puig down in Passa: full profile and tasting notes including a red Rivesaltes (Vin Doux Naturel) from 1945!
2008 Trémoine de Rasiguères rosé Côtes du Roussillon (13.5%) - less chunky and red than the 2007 but still a big fruity winter rosé, with weighty oily mouthfeel vs lively refreshing red fruit finish and light bitter twist too. €5.90 87

Autumn 2009
2008 Terrassous rosé Vignerons de Terrats Côtes du Roussillon (13%) - quite chunky vs creamy red fruit cocktail making this a good all-round foodie rosé style; rounded and oily with wild cherry fruit and refreshing dry finish. €4.50 87
2008 "Vieilles Vignes"
rosé Arnaud de Villeneuve Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre 13%) - pretty red rosé, fairly full bodied rounded style with quite lush raspberry/strawberry fruit and "vinous" oily mouthfeel vs dry and crisp. €4+ 85
Lots more Roussillon rosés here.


Summer 2009
2008 Muscat sec Domaine de l'Arca vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (12.5%) - simple but well-done, attractive aromatic dry Muscat style with grapey citrus characters; yet also has nice zesty, floral and mineral / oily notes and texture giving it an almost Riesling like profile. €3.90 Casino. 80-85
More Muscat here...
These two reds were discovered at a Domaine Treloar wine club "themed" tasting:
2005 Minervois rouge Château de Puicheric - quite rich blackberry nose with spicy tones and a hint of toasty oak; well-made with a bit of character and nice fruit, weight and rounded tannins; turning more savoury with airing vs underlying liquorice 'sweetness'. Drink now although may improve for another year or two. €6.99 87+
2003 Minervois rouge Domaine Lignon - maturing smoky notes with tobacco and leather vs herby edges, fairly intricate mix turning more rustic and liquoricey; lush smooth mouthfeel with tasty savoury finish, quite punchy alcohol (although not over the top for a heat-wave 2003) but otherwise has concentrated lingering flavours and complex long finish. €11 89-91
More Minervois here and browse down the winery A to Z too.


Winter / spring 2009
2004 Faugères Château Haut Fabrègues (Grenache Mourvèdre Syrah 13.5%) - smoky maturing nose showing 'sweet' black fruits & damsons with shades of leather, liquorice and baked wild herbs too; quite rustic and 'inky' but it's nicely thick-textured with dense fruit and quite dry yet softening tannins; attractive drinking now, probably at its best although not lacking in substance and raw character. €5.50 87+
More Saur family wines here (La Grange d'Aïn).
2001 Corbières rouge Domaine de la Grange - complex and smoky with herbal dried fruits, roast beef and black olives too; quite concentrated and tasty with savoury leather notes, still slightly firm tannins v 'sweet' mature fruit, nice liquorice v meaty gravy finish. Drinking very nicely now although it's not going to die tomorrow. €6 Cave de St-Guilhem in Cabestany (nr. Perpignan), tasted Feb. 2009 at Domaine Treloar's Wine Club. 90+
More Corbières.
2008 Côtes du Roussillon rosé Dom Brial / Cave de Baixas (Syrah Grenache 13%) - classic storming Roussillon rosé style, deep coloured with a light touch of tannin adding dry texture; 'winey' aromatic and crunchy red fruits with rose petal edges, juicy and zingy with chunky fruity mouth-feel and full dry finish. Nice foodie (e.g. hake fillet in Provencal sauce). €4.19 87+
More Brial here.

Winter 2008
2006 Cuvée des Hospices Catalans Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Guy Anderson Wines / Domaine Cazes (Carignan Grenache Syrah 14.5%) - attractive fragrant black cherry, cassis and blueberry with liquorice overtones and lightly earthy/peppery notes; punchy palate with lively juicy fruit v light bitter chocolate tannins adding a bit of grip, otherwise it's quite soft with a warming finish. Gets smoother and richer with 24 hours airing and less earthy / peppery. Nice with lamb steak or roasted Mediterranean vegetables; and even a chunky piece of fresh, pepper-crusted tuna. £8.99 Thresher - buy 2 get the 3rd free (= £5.99). 87-89

Autumn 2008
2007 Côtes du Roussillon blanc Mas Llaro / Maison Lafage (13%) - nice dry white with a bit of character and weight too: floral nutty notes v oilier texture, still quite fresh. €3.20 83-85
More Lafage here.
2007 Côtes du Roussillon rouge Domaine de la Chique / Hervé Bizeul & Associés (Grenache Carignan 13.5%) - countersigned by Mr. Clos des Fées (Roussillon, "F") himself, this is well-made and tasty with plenty of ripe black fruits with dark chocolate, fig and coffee undertones; fair weight and grip but nice fruity drinking at the same time. €4.95 87
2007 Collioure Tradition: Jacques Py, Domaine de la Marquise (14%) - spicy vibrant and floral black fruits with liquorice, light leather notes and dark chocolate edges; big powerful mouthful with nice depth and style, dry v ripe tannins / texture, 'sweet' v savoury touches; not so subtle perhaps but I like its immediate fruit and chunky structure. €6 89

Summer+ 2008
2007 Le Rosé de Terrassous Côtes du Roussillon, Les Vignerons de Terrats (13%) - fairly chunky red fruity style with nice food-demanding weight, turning rounded and slick with underlying wild red fruit and biscuit notes; still alive and well. €4 87
2007 Ressac Viognier Vin de Pays d'Oc, Cave de Florensac (12.5%) - attractively lively and aromatic still with lightly exotic apricot and citrus fruits; oily v juicy mouth-feel, a lighter style of Viognier with nice fruit; went well with a fish Jalfezi curry. €4.99. 85+

Spring - summer 2008
2007 Trémoine de Rasiguères rosé, Côtes du Roussillon (14%) - nearer red than rosé in colour, this has chunky aromatic & spicy raspberry/strawberry/cherry fruit with lovely oily texture, pretty potent alcohol yet fresh dry finish too. Serious quintessential Roussillon foodie rosé, it went well with two different restaurant duck dishes; also try with anchovies, grilled Med veggies etc. 87+

Winter 2007/08
2005 Les Serrottes, Vin de Pays d'Oc: La Grange de Quatre Sous (Hildegard Horat-Diop) - very appealing mix of cassis (I think there's some Cab in it?), black cherry, light liquorice and earthy smoky undertones; concentrated and lush palate v firm tannins and commanding mouth-feel (14.5%), tight but not rigid finish with nice coating of fruit v dry grip. Thanks to Isabelle Champart for giving me this bottle and thereby discovering this estate. 88-90
Update 2010: more wines and info on Grange 4 Sous here (Languedoc, "G").

Summer/autumn 2007
2005 Caramany Sélection Vieilles Vignes, Côtes du Roussillon Villages, les Vignerons de Cassagnes-Bélesta (14.5%) - light coconut and cinnamon toasted notes v floral dark cherries and liquorice; powerful, firm and dry palate v lush fruit with dark chocolate twist. A little clumsy perhaps, but a good mouthful of wine for €5. 87
2006 Le Rosé de Terrassous
, Côtes du Roussillon, les Vignerons de Terrats (13%) - lively raspberry fruit and full body v elegant, fresh and attractive style. €3-€4 87
Tête de Cuvée Crémant de Limoux, Marquis de Dompey (AKA Divin'Aude, 12.5%) - inconsistency on the cork front - some bottles slightly musty - but when it's right, this is great value for €3.49 (good old Lidl): attractive creamy yeasty apple and pineapple flavours dissolve into its frothy, invigorating and off-dry whole. 87
2005 Sélection des Vignerons de Maury
, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Carignan 13%) - nice vibrant spicy perfumed black cherry and liquorice aromas lead on to a juicy smoky palate v solid dry grip; good balance between power and quite fine finish. Went down well with fillet steak. €3.50-€4 87-89
2004 Cuvée des Fontanilles Fitou, Domaine du Capitat (13%) - quite rustic and leathery but has nice fruit and grip underneath, then a more elegant finish than it first suggests. €4 83-85
2006 Côtes du Roussillon rosé, Cave des Vignerons de Lesquerde (Syrah Grenache Cinsault Carignan 13%) - pretty typical Roussillon rosé style with plenty of red fruits v zesty dry finish. €3.50 85
2006 Arnaud de Villeneuve vieilles vignes blanc, Côtes du Roussillon (Macabeu Grenache Blanc Malvoisie 13%) - surprisingly nice, dry white wine offering all the zingy freshness you'd want in one mouthful (although it loses its appeal slightly if served anything but cold); coupled with fairly weighty, oily texture. 83-85

April 2007
2006
Minervois blanc, Jean d'Alibert, Languedoc (Grenache Blanc Marsanne 13%, screwcap) - attractive mix of zesty citrus and honeyed roundness, zingy crisp and mineral v fatter texture too. Under €3 87

March 2007
2006 Rasiguères rosé, Vignerons Catalans; Côtes du Roussillon (13.5%) - the latest vintage of this serious rosé doesn't disappoint: deep pink/light cherry colour, youthful fresh and lively with subtle rose petal and morello cherry tones; very zingy with crisp bite and tight length, citrus v red fruit weight v lively finish. Needs a couple of months to fill out. Try with prawn and spinach madras. €4.50 87-89

January 2007
2002 Tradition Côtes du Roussillon Château las Collas (13.5%) - attractive raisin and fig fruit edged with earthy maturing notes and tangier purple plum; quite concentrated and rich v extracted coating of dry tannins, good depth and balance for a 2002 (lesser vintage in the south), still grippy yet has plenty of ripeness and earthy developed fruit. Good with spicy Turkish sausages (beef and mustard). €6 87-90

November-December 2006
2004 Merlot, Vignobles de Carsac, vin de pays d'Oc (13.5%) - smoky plummy fruit set against light toasty notes, full and quite lush yet has attractive bitter twist too. 85+
2004 La Roque, Domaine la Pléiade, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Carignan, 13.5%) - attractive black cherry and liquorice fruit with light leather and cedar, plummy and quite lush mouth-feel v dry firm finish. Bargain at €3: 87+
2000 Côtes du Roussillon, Domaine de l'Auris (mostly Syrah, 12.5%) - attractive traditional style with maturing, earthy leather notes and minty cassis; dried black cherry fruit turning savoury on a fairly elegant palate, light dry tannin on the finish. €4 87

September-October 06
2004 Picpoul de Pinet, Mas Puech, Languedoc (12.5%) - delicious complex dry white, zesty v oily & concentrated with long mineral finish. 87+
2005 Dom Brial rosé, Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah Grenache, 13.5%) - textbook weightier Roussillon rosé with big fruit and texture yet fresh crisp finish. 87+
2005 Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Domaine Bousquet (Syrah Carignan, 13.5%) - youthful purple with fresh floral black cherry fruit, up-front and attractive; juicy fruit & soft mouth-feel v light tannin texture, drinking well already but worth keeping for a year. Great value at €3.75: 87
2005 Caramany Côtes du Roussillon Villages, les Vignerons Catalans (Syrah Carignan Grenache, 13%) - deep purple ("smoke on the water...") black colour, very fruity with white pepper and earthy notes, very light oak backdrop; fairly rich and ripe black & red fruits, firm tight & elegant finish. 87+
2003 Cuvée des Presbytes, Caramany Côtes du Roussillon Villages; Vignerons de Cassagnes-Bélesta - lovely peppery pure blackberry/cherry fruit, quite rich and rounded with tobacco edges and dry grip; well-balanced attractive wine. €10 for half bottle in a restaurant: 87-89
2006 Primeur Catalan Syrah-Merlot, vin de pays d'Oc (13%) - pleasant enough, Beaujolais nouveau type - but with more oomph - fruity quaffer; not really my taste, I prefer the white below. 75-80
2006 Primeur Catalan Muscat-Viognier, vin de pays d'Oc (13%) - the latest funkily packaged release from those cunning Vignerons Catalans is very floral and zingy with nice grapey apricot notes, crisp and refreshing; drink it cold "juste comme ça," as the French might say... 83-85
2005 Chardonnay, Mas Sauvy, Vin de Pays d'Oc (13%) - expressive tasty Chardy with plenty of peach and pear fruit, lightly buttery then fresh and crisp. €5.50 87+

July-August 06
2005 Le Pot rosé, Dom Brial/Vignerons de Baixas, Vin de Pays d'Oc (Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon 12.5%) - the 05 is up to the usual standard: lots of raspberry and redcurrant fruit, quite weighty and concentrated finishing zesty and dry. €3.50 87
2001 Côtes du Roussillon rouge, Domaine du Mas Alart (13%) - complex maturing meaty tones layered on liquorice and red pepper fruit, soft and ready to drink with a little dry tannin left to finish. Approx €4.50 89
Fruité Salvat - bright funky easy-drinking range from Domaine Salvat in the Fenouillèdes region, Roussillon: 2005 red, white and rosé Vins de Pays, well made straightforward enjoyment wines. €2.70 80-85
2005 Rosé de la Chevalière, Laroche, Vin de Pays d'Oc (12.5%) - sunny and fruity v fresher zingy tones, easy-drinking and good with simple food. 85

May-June 06
2005 Le Rosé de Terrassous, Cave de Terrats, Côtes du Roussillon (French Catalonia) - fresh aromatic roses and red fruits, tight elegant palate, zesty and dry. €3.82 Auchan 87+
2005 Chasse du Pape Syrah rosé, Gabriel Meffre, Vin de Pays d'Oc (12.5%) - attractive red-leaning style, medium weight v zingy very dry finish. £4.99 Asda & Sainsbury's (on offer at £3.99 from 21st June to 18th July at JS) 85+
2005 Rasiguères rosé, Vignerons de Planèzes-Rasiguères, Côtes du Roussillon (13.5%) - serious and chunky, aromatic rich fruit with fresh acidity and touch of dry tannin, weighty and long; food rosé. €4.50 89


April 06
2003 Latour de France
, Vignerons Catalans, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache & Syrah, 13%) - nice example of rich smoky liquorice Grenache with a bit of Syrah perfume and dry grip, quite powerful yet fairly soft too. €4.60 85-87

1991 Cuvée Fernand Vaquer red, Frédérique et Bernard Vaquer, Vin de Pays Catalan (Carignan Grenache 13%) - mature smoky nose with seductive fig and savoury notes, soft ripe fruit and tannins, still showing elegant concentration and signs of life; drinking nicely now but won't do it any harm by keeping for another 1-2 years even. €10-12 90+
More Vaquer here.
2005 Minervois blanc, Jean d'Alibert, Languedoc (Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc & Roussanne, 12.5%) - attractive perfumed citrus and white peach aromas and flavours, zesty floral and crisp with lively finish. Screw capped (still rare in France), very good value. €2.50 85-87

February 06
2004 Trémoine de Rasiguères rosé, Vignerons de Planèzes-Rasiguères, Côtes du Roussillon (13%) - redder than rosé with full bodied spiced strawberry fruit, shows a tad of dry grip too; a food rosé rather than a quaffer, try with sardines or anchovies. €5 85
2004 Muscat d'Alexandrie sec, Domaine Rossignol, Vin de Pays d'Oc (Muscat, 13%) - yet another exciting example (see below) of a dry, crisp and mineral Muscat; this one is quite concentrated too with good length, try with Thai food. €4 89

December 05 - January 06
2005 Blanc de Blancs de Terrassous
, Vignerons de Terrats (Grenache Blanc Vermentino Macabeo 13%) - tight and steely at this stage, subtle zesty intensity v attractive oily nutty tones, crisp and dry. 88
2005 Muscat Sec, René Sahonet
, Vin de Pays Côtes Catalanes (Muscat, 12.5%) - sound example of this crisp dry style that Roussillon growers are proving very good at; lots of fresh aromatic grapey Muscat fruit, also shows a bit of bite and bitter orange characters on the finish. €3.75 87
2005 Le Primeur Dry Muscat Sec, Dom Brial/Vignerons de Baixas, Vin de Pays d'Oc (Muscat, 13%) - located up the road up bit from the above, shows similar approach and intensity, perhaps a little more concentrated and classy. €4 88
2004 Le Pot rosé, Dom Brial/Vignerons de Baixas, Vin de Pays d'Oc (Syrah & Cabernet Sauvignon) - attractive compote of raspberry and redcurrant fruit, quite weighty mouthfeel, finishing crisper and dry. €3.50 87

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Domaine de Vézian, Vin de Pays Côtes Catalanes (Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5%) - pretty chunky and earthy blackcurrant/cherry fruit wrapped in quite firm tannins, perhaps a touch unripe in the end but still has some charm. €3-4 85
2004 Minervois blanc, Château d'Agel, Languedoc (Macabeu & Muscat, 13%) - a pleasant surprise, given that Minervois isn't famous for whites: fairly rich oily textured palate balanced by lively aromatic fruit. €3-4 88
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Mas Jaume (Carignan, Grenache & Syrah, 14%) - upfront chunky black cherry, raisin and wild herbs; quite big in the mouth yet ends up softer and rounded. €3-4 87
2004 'Fenouill' rosé, Domaine Salvat, Vin de Pays Côtes Catalanes (Syrah & Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5%) - jammy ripe raspberry and strawberry fruit; juicy, rounded and dry finish. €3.50 85

27 June 2010

La Distillerie restaurant - Saint Marcel sur Aude

Just unearthed their shiny black & silver card (must sort out that huge pile of business cards some day...): I went to this "smart minimalist" place back in March with a big party of Minervois (goes to my 2009 Languedoc vintage report) winemakers and other wine scribblers, educators, importers etc. The owners have nicely refitted this former distillery leaving a sense of industrial space without it feeling like a warehouse. The food was good - we had a set double-ducky menu, simple yet pretty classic - and their site says they do a €12 lunchtime menu, which is difficult to find in France anymore. From memory, you can get a good deal evenings too with a menu at about €20 I think; and they also do tapas etc. My favourite Minervois wines with the meal: 2001 Château Bonhomme "Les Alaterres" red, 2007 Château Tourril red and textbook sweetie 2008 Domaine Barroubio Muscat de St-Jean-de-Minervois. Chemin des coopératives, 11120 Saint Marcel sur Aude. Tel: 04 68 33 38 56, ladistillerierestaurant.com.

La Distillerie restaurant

Just unearthed their shiny black & silver card (must sort out that huge pile of business cards some day...): I went to this "smart minimalist" place back in March with a big party of Minervois (goes to my 2009 Languedoc vintage report on FMW.com) winemakers and other wine scribblers, educators, importers etc. The owners have nicely refitted this former distillery leaving a sense of industrial space without it feeling like a warehouse. The food was good - we had a set double-ducky menu, simple yet pretty classic - and their site says they do a €12 lunchtime menu, which is difficult to find in France anymore. From memory, you can get a good deal evenings too with a menu at about €20 I think; and they also do tapas etc. My favourite Minervois wines with the meal: 2001 Château Bonhomme "Les Alaterres" red, 2007 Château Tourril red and textbook sweetie 2008 Domaine Barroubio Muscat de St-Jean-de-Minervois. Chemin des coopératives, 11120 Saint Marcel sur Aude. Tel: 04 68 33 38 56, ladistillerierestaurant.com.

26 June 2010

Spain: Llopart Cava - Upper Penedès

Or "Alt" in Catalan: the Can Llopart wine estate is indeed lost up in the Penedes hills a few kilometres south of Sant Sadurni (and about 45 minutes west of Barcelona, or two hours if you time it wrong traffic wise like I did) with vineyards planted from 370 to 420 metres altitude (1300 ft above sea level). The elegantly landscaped winery and old family villa lying a little higher up, surrounded by 85 ha (210 acres) of handsome terraced vineyards (planted with Catalan and French varieties), do make a pretty picture as you'll see from the sumptuous photos on their website (link at bottom. This peaceful spot has lovely views all around, and you quickly forget you're not that far from the not-so-pretty western side of Barcelona with its big airport, heavy industry, towering new development etc.
Llopart is still very much a family affair - they all appear to have a role whether office, cellar or vineyard - as I discovered in late June 2010 when tasting with Jesi Llopart i Llopart (the full family name) and soon met her brother and dad. There's a 14th Century Latin document displayed on the wall mentioning an ancestor (Leopardi, whose name's used for one of their Cava cuvées: see notes below) who was allocated some vineyards here; and they first made bottle-fermented wines in the late 19th Century. Fascinating stuff, I hear you say, but what are the wines like now? I first tried their Cava range back in 2008 and was very impressed, so it was good to have the opportunity to call in and taste them again in situ; confirming they really do give you quality and style (and hence the prices starting at €10 a bottle in Spain).
"We're now almost entirely certified organic," Jesi added, "but we've always only ever used sulphur and copper sulphate treatments (sanctioned by organic viticulture regs) in the vineyard." She continued: "We usually start picking in mid August, which is later than elsewhere in the region... the Cavas are aged from 18 months to five years on the lees, with an average of about three years (i.e. longer than most), and we shake up the lees half way through (adds extra flavour complexity)." Their Brut Nature styles (= "zero dosage"), which I'm particularly fond of if done well, are very dry and even the Brut Cavas have half as much residual sugar (RS) as many producers' (and Champagnes too, by the way). US importer Fine Estates from Spain in Massachusetts lists the Leopardi and rosé; and some of their wines are available in Belgium, Germany and Japan (but not the UK at the moment unfortunately).

2009 Vitis (Xarel.lo, Subirat Parent, Muscat 12% alc.) - juicy lees-tinged and aromatic with banana and grape notes; turning to greener fruit edges with crisp juicy and gummy mouth-feel, quite zingy finish although not so dry. 80+
2009 Clos dels Fossils (mostly Chardonnay + Xarel.lo 12.5% alc.) - very light creamy oak vs peachy and slightly exotic fruit; zesty and crisp with subtle lees notes, refreshing and quite elegant finish. 85+
2007 Cava Reserva Brut Nature (Macabeu Xarel.lo Parellada Chardonnay, 11.5% alc., 2 g/l RS, 2+ years lees-ageing) - subtle toasted oat cake vs aniseed notes; clean crisp and intense palate with attractive subtle acidity, turns a touch toastier and richer to finish vs crisp and very refreshing. 89+
2004 Leopardi Gran Reserva Brut Nature (Macabeu Xarel.lo Parellada Chardonnay, 12% alc., 4+ years, 2 g/l RS) - enticingly toasty oily nose, richer and "sweeter" profile than above (although not sweet) vs still very crisp vs oily finish; has more flavour perhaps but somehow a bit flatter too in the end, lacks the poise of some of the others. 89+?
2005 Imperial Gran Reserva Brut (Macabeu Xarel.lo Parellada, 3.5+ years, 5 g/l RS) - pretty toasty with fruit cake and chocolate aromas/flavours vs fine and intense with refreshing acidity; quite mouth-coating and textured yet still surprisingly nimble with only 11.5% alc. Nice balance and class. 90+
2004 Ex-Vite Gran Reserva Brut (old vine Xarel.lo & Macabeu, 12% alc., 5+ years incl. some barrel ageing and reserve wines, 6 g/l RS) - rich and creamy nose and palate, oily and rounded with yeasty bite and again fresh acid underneath; delicious oat cake and chocolate finish vs elegant cut, wow. A foodie Cava: dessert or main course even I'd say! 94
2006 Microcosmos Reserva Rosé Brut Nature (85% Pinot Noir 15% Monastrell, 12% alc., 2+ years, 2 g/l RS) - attractive mix of yeasty intensity, ripe red fruit cocktail and cherry cake; tight crisp mouth-feel with light red fruit bitter twist, long and lively finish. Delicious. 92+
2007 Rosé Brut (Monastrell Garnacha Pinot Noir, 11.5% alc., 18+ months, 7 g/l RS) - lovely fruity style, a tad sweeter than above although still lively and quite crisp; nice strawberry and oat biscuit to finish vs intense and refreshing. 89+
2006 Castell de Subirats Tinto Selección (Merlot, Ull de Llebre = Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon 13.5% alc.) - touches of coconut and vanilla oak on the nose vs maturing savoury notes, smoky vs cassis and soy sauce too on the palate; fairly concentrated and soft textured vs a bit of grip with nice balance; attractive style with "sweet/savoury" finish and underlying oomph too. 88+


24 June 2010

Spain: Llopart, al Límit, Ijalba, Parra-Jimenez, Parxet/Alella/Tionio, Bonastre, Ètim, Palacio Vega, Raimat

Llopart Cava - Upper Penedès

Or "Alt" in Catalan: the Can Llopart wine estate is indeed lost up in the Penedes hills a few kilometres south of Sant Sadurni (and about 45 minutes west of Barcelona, or two hours if you time it wrong traffic wise like I did) with vineyards planted from 370 to 420 metres altitude (1300 ft above sea level). The elegantly landscaped winery and old family villa lying a little higher up, surrounded by 85 ha (210 acres) of handsome terraced vineyards (planted with Catalan and French varieties), do make a pretty picture as you'll see from the sumptuous photos on their website (link at bottom. This peaceful spot has lovely views all around, and you quickly forget you're not that far from the not-so-pretty western side of Barcelona with its big airport, heavy industry, towering new development etc.
Llopart is still very much a family affair - they all appear to have a role whether office, cellar or vineyard - as I discovered in late June 2010 when tasting with Jesi Llopart i Llopart (the full family name) and soon met her brother and dad. There's a 14th Century Latin document displayed on the wall mentioning an ancestor (Leopardi, whose name's used for one of their Cava cuvées: see notes below) who was allocated some vineyards here; and they first made bottle-fermented wines in the late 19th Century. Fascinating stuff, I hear you say, but what are the wines like now? I first tried their Cava range back in 2008 and was very impressed, so it was good to have the opportunity to call in and taste them again in situ; confirming they really do give you quality and style (and hence the prices starting at €10 a bottle in Spain).
"We're now almost entirely certified organic," Jesi added, "but we've always only ever used sulphur and copper sulphate treatments (sanctioned by organic viticulture regs) in the vineyard." She continued: "We usually start picking in mid August, which is later than elsewhere in the region... the Cavas are aged from 18 months to five years on the lees, with an average of about three years (i.e. longer than most), and we shake up the lees half way through (adds extra flavour complexity)." Their Brut Nature styles (= "zero dosage"), which I'm particularly fond of if done well, are very dry and even the Brut Cavas have half as much residual sugar (RS) as many producers' (and Champagnes too, by the way). US importer Fine Estates from Spain in Massachusetts lists the Leopardi and rosé; and some of their wines are available in Belgium, Germany and Japan (but not the UK at the moment unfortunately).
2009 Vitis (Xarel.lo, Subirat Parent, Muscat 12% alc.) - juicy lees-tinged and aromatic with banana and grape notes; turning to greener fruit edges with crisp juicy and gummy mouth-feel, quite zingy finish although not so dry. 80+
2009 Clos dels Fossils (mostly Chardonnay + Xarel.lo 12.5% alc.) - very light creamy oak vs peachy and slightly exotic fruit; zesty and crisp with subtle lees notes, refreshing and quite elegant finish. 85+
2007 Cava Reserva Brut Nature (Macabeu Xarel.lo Parellada Chardonnay, 11.5% alc., 2 g/l RS, 2+ years lees-ageing) - subtle toasted oat cake vs aniseed notes; clean crisp and intense palate with attractive subtle acidity, turns a touch toastier and richer to finish vs crisp and very refreshing. 89+
2004 Leopardi Gran Reserva Brut Nature (Macabeu Xarel.lo Parellada Chardonnay, 12% alc., 4+ years, 2 g/l RS) - enticingly toasty oily nose, richer and "sweeter" profile than above (although not sweet) vs still very crisp vs oily finish; has more flavour perhaps but somehow a bit flatter too in the end, lacks the poise of some of the others. 89+?
2005 Imperial Gran Reserva Brut (Macabeu Xarel.lo Parellada, 3.5+ years, 5 g/l RS) - pretty toasty with fruit cake and chocolate aromas/flavours vs fine and intense with refreshing acidity; quite mouth-coating and textured yet still surprisingly nimble with only 11.5% alc. Nice balance and class. 90+
2004 Ex-Vite Gran Reserva Brut (old vine Xarel.lo & Macabeu, 12% alc., 5+ years incl. some barrel ageing and reserve wines, 6 g/l RS) - rich and creamy nose and palate, oily and rounded with yeasty bite and again fresh acid underneath; delicious oat cake and chocolate finish vs elegant cut, wow. A foodie Cava: dessert or main course even I'd say! 94
2006 Microcosmos Reserva Rosé Brut Nature (85% Pinot Noir 15% Monastrell, 12% alc., 2+ years, 2 g/l RS) - attractive mix of yeasty intensity, ripe red fruit cocktail and cherry cake; tight crisp mouth-feel with light red fruit bitter twist, long and lively finish. Delicious. 92+
2007 Rosé Brut (Monastrell Garnacha Pinot Noir, 11.5% alc., 18+ months, 7 g/l RS) - lovely fruity style, a tad sweeter than above although still lively and quite crisp; nice strawberry and oat biscuit to finish vs intense and refreshing. 89+
2006 Castell de Subirats Tinto Selección (Merlot, Ull de Llebre = Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon 13.5% alc.) - touches of coconut and vanilla oak on the nose vs maturing savoury notes, smoky vs cassis and soy sauce too on the palate; fairly concentrated and soft textured vs a bit of grip with nice balance; attractive style with "sweet/savoury" finish and underlying oomph too. 88+
Previous vintages of Llopart here (Cava guide). www.llopart.es

Terroir al Límit - Priorat

This 15-ha (37-acre) estate is in its final year of converting over to organics and is comprised of spectacularly located parcels of old Grenache and Carignan, which clamber up the slopes around the village of Torroja up to 800 metres altitude (2600 feet). It's owned by Dominik A. Huber and leading South African winemaker Eben Sadie. Tasted at Millésime Bio organic wine show 2010:
2007 Torroja (Garnacha, Carineña 14%) - a touch of wood on the nose but quite elegantly done actually, showing attractive "sweet" vs floral fruit and spice; fairly full and long finish. 87
2007 Arbossar (Carineña 14%) - again has background oak notes, leaner and firmer palate although feels bigger too; still enough of that enticing ripe blue/black fruit lingering vs tight length. 88
2007 Dits del Terra (Carineña 14%) - a tad more oak still, although this one's more concentrated and lush vs solid tannins and refreshing bite too; also has that characteristic tense long finish. 89
2007 Les Manyes (Garnacha at 800m, 14%) - more liquorice and spice notes layered with more wood, nice concentration vs tight mouthfeel; less charming now perhaps and a bit punchy on the finish, but once again I like that freshness and taut edge. 89+
2007 Les Tosses (Carineña at 650m, 14%) - wow, tight and crunchy vs punchy mouthfeel; a tad more oak too vs lovely thick fruit coating and very intense, taut, youthful finish. 90+
www.terroir-al-limit.com

Viña Ijalba - Rioja
Founded by Dionisio Ruiz Ijalba in 1975 on the site of an abandoned mine, I'm told, the estate now comes to a sizeable 80 ha (200 acres) of organically farmed vineyards lying around Logrono, San Vicente and Valle del Oja. Peculiarities include plantings of, and varietal wines made from, the indigenous and virtually vanished varieties Maturana Blanca and Tinta, which apparently are referred to in written records dating from 1622... so, you can put that one in your wine-geek fact-finding notepad. The modern wood and brick winery (pic.) is also certified as "environmentally friendly," man. Discovered at the 2010 Millésime Bio show in Montpellier, these wines are distributed in the UK by veteran organic house Vintage Roots and via these importers in the US: Small Vineyards (WA), Baron Francois (NY) and Wine Wise (CA).
2009 Genolí white (Viura) - nice intense juicy green vs exotic fruity with yeast-lees edges, "sweet" vs crisp finish. 85+
2009 Maturana Blanca - more intense still with crisp and juicy vs fatter mouthfeel; unusual. 87+
2009 Aloque rosado (Tempranillo, Garnacha) - fruity and crisp with creamier gluggable finish. 85+
2008 Livor (Tempranillo) - a touch 'reduced' on the nose but has lively crunchy berry fruit vs sweeter liquorice notes; attractive bit of grip and more savoury / peppery on the finish. 87
2005 Dionisio Ruiz Ijalba (Maturana Tinta) - more savoury nose with a dusting of coconut oak; rich ripe liquorice flavours with spicy smoky tones, dark fruit vs dry texture and solid firm finish. 90+
2007 Graciano - funky peppery nose, quite concentrated palate with smoky dark fruit adding nice lush mouthfeel, light oak tones and fair power too. 89+
2005 Crianza (Tempranillo, Graciano) - more "modern" with obvious coconut and vanilla vs lively berry and smoky / savoury flavours too. 87
www.ijalba.com

Bodegas Parra Jimenez - La Mancha

Aka "vinos ecológicos de autor," as it says on their website, or "signature organic wines" guessing from my very mediocre Spanish. Brothers Francisco, Javier and Luis Parra-Jimenez (pictured) started the ball rolling by converting their vineyards over to organic farming in 1993, which was virtually unheard of in the Castilla-La Mancha region at the time. So, 1996 marked the first "officially organic" vintage from their substantial holdings in Las Mesas area, which lies roughly between Madrid and Albacete and directly west of (although a long way from) Valencia. Finca Cuesta Colorá is comprised of 46 hectares (114 acres) of 30 year-old Tempranillo; Finca Arriburra has 5.5 (14) of former Airén vineyards replanted with Sauvignon Blanc (strange choice perhaps given the climate here?); and Finca Entresendas, at 900m altitude (nearly 3000 feet above sea level), is planted with old-vine (60 y-o) Tempranillo and Graciano, plus a trio of more or less predictable French varieties (see below), with a further 50 ha devoted to growing organic garlic and truffle trees! The brothers originally made their wines in the old family cellar but then built a new pink-terracotta winery called Cuesta Colorá, with a few neoclassical swirly bits in case it wasn't loud enough, full of shiny stainless steel and oak barrels... I tried these promising wines at Millésime Bio wine show in Montpellier, January 2010:
2009 Sauvignon Blanc/Moscatel - refreshing clean and aromatic green vs grapey flavours, simple dryish and crisp. 80+
2009 Camino rosado (Tempranillo) - lively and crunchy fruity, nice juicy red fruits vs zingy dry bite. 85
2004 Reserva (mostly Tempranillo) - attractive maturing leather and meaty notes vs ripe dark plum and coffee; turning sweet/savoury on the finish with firm vs rounded tannins, drinking quite well now although should last a bit longer yet. 87+
2001 Gran Reserva (Tempranillo, Graciano, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot) - "sweet" maturing nose with light tobacco and spice; still solid mouthfeel vs plenty of dried fruits, enticing "traditional vs modern" style (to use that cliché). 88+
2004 "OM" Crianza, Manuel de la Osa (Tempranillo, Graciano, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot)  - toasty vs dark ripe fruit, liquorice vs leather tones; pretty concentrated/extracted with toasty chocolate flavour/texture, but also has appealing lush sweet fruit layered on top and a bit of controlled oomph too (14.5%but carries it well). About €30 in restaurants. 90
www.bodegasparrajimenez.com

Parxet / Marqués de Alella / Bodegas Tionio - Catalunya & Ribera del Duero
The Parxet group's head office and Cava cellars are found (although not that easily, it's better to approach from the motorway than the coast road from the south, otherwise you can miss the only sign and get lost in the town's old backstreets. I'm told clearer signposting is on the cards along with the future new shop and tasting room) in Tiana, which is just northeast of Barcelona above, although merges into, the town of Mongat. The latter also virtually merges into the Barcelona suburbs and, going up the coast, into El Masnou, which in turn merges into Alella itself behind it. So you get a rapid condensed layering of beach, train, road, town, hills and vineyards that remarkably characterises this coastal stretch and the compact Alella wine region within it. Thanks to gradual urban expansion, its vineyards only amount to about 300 hectares (750 acres) nowadays; although, once you start exploring away from the sea, the landscape quickly turns less populated with very steep roads (sometimes just earthy tracks so watch out when there are storms, these quickly turn into downhill streams!) winding through woodland and elevated vineyards, even if dissected by motorway.
Parxet has 200 ha of vineyards, all in DO Alella so basically two-thirds of the planted area, in a few different sites from nearer the sea up to Santa Maria de Martorelles at a few hundred metres altitude, where their Marqués de Alella winery is located producing three distinctive white wines. By the way, a little red and rosé Alella are made by others but the area's justifiably better known for its whites. Otherwise their grapes are transformed into pretty classy Cava sold under the Parxet label, named after this charming 18th-Century Mas. The story goes that the Suñol family has been making wine there since then, although Cava production is relatively youthful having started in 1920; today Ramon Raventós runs the show. They also own 22 hectares near Peñafiel in the heart of Ribera del Duero country, with a cellar in nearby Pesquera de Duero; and more recently have gone into partnership in Rioja to make a red called Basagoiti (I've not tried this yet).
Click here for tasting notes on Parxet Cavas or here for more info on all their wineries: www.parxet.es. These wines were tasted in situ in June 2008:
2007 Marqués de Alella (Pansa Blanca = Xarel.lo 12%) - aromatic, gummy and zesty with hints of yeast-lees and grapefruit; crisp v rounded mouth-feel leading to off-dry, attractive finish. About €5. 85-87
2007 Pansa Blanca/Xarel.lo Marqués de Alella (13%) - leesier and riper, concentrated and peachy too with complex yeasty undertones and incisive bite; nice balance and style, richness v crisp length. 88-90
2004 Tionio Crianza, Ribera del Duero (Tinta Fina = Tempranillo, 14 months in French oak) - attractive maturing rustic and savoury tones v vibrant blackcurrant/berry; more obvious spicy coconut oak on the palate, but it's lush and concentrated enough with firm fine tannins; good depth v grip, maturing fruit and length. 90+

Can Bonastre winery & resort - Catalunya
I don't know who owns Finca Can Bonastre de Santa Magdalena, to give it its full title, but they've certainly spent a fortune on this superb looking winery and hotel complex. I've not been there but the glossy brochure says it all: I thought I'd try their red wines, when I came across the flash stand at Alimentaria in Barcelona (March 2008), to see if there was any substance behind the money. As you can see from my notes below, the answer is yes; I'll have to follow up with a visit. This 50 hectare (120 acre) vineyard - plus the same again of woodland - nestles up in the hills, at 300 metres (950 feet) altitude on average, near a place called Masquefa quite a few km northwest of Barcelona, off the long road to Lleida, Montserrat and the Pyrenees. The 5-star hotel has twelve rooms, a restaurant, spa and heliport too, in case you were thinking of taking your chopper for a spin. More info at www.canbonastre.com.
2005 Nara Crianza (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah 13.5%) - rich colour with dark fruit and smoky/cedar oak on the nose (but not much); quite extracted although it has plenty of fruit to counter those pretty firm tannins, tight and powerful length. Needs two to three years to blossom. 90
2006 Can Bonastre Pinot Noir (13.5%) - perfumed and smoky/savoury notes mingle with very ripe lush fruit v fresh bite of acidity; quite solid and powerful v perfumed cherry and violet flavours, nice wine and a bit different. 90
2005 Can Bonastre Crianza (Merlot, Cabernets Sauvignon & Franc, Syrah 13.5%) - a touch more cedary but has lots of ripe plum and cassis fruit with smoky edges; firmer palate showing trademark power v 'sweet' fruit and background oak, more concentrated perhaps although has nice balance and style. 88+
2004 Erumir Crianza (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo 13.5%) - lightly smoky with herbal cassis notes and a touch of oak; quite firm and powerful, has an off-putting slightly reductive character or something similar? 85

Ètim - Catalunya
Otherwise known as Agrícola Falset-Marçà, two small town co-operatives that merged nearly ten years ago to form this go-getting winery in the very up-and-coming Montsant D.O or appellation, found a bit to the west of and inland from Tarragona. The Montsant region seems to be positioning itself as the new Priorat, without the elevated prices hopefully, which it borders and has a few things in common with its better-known neighbour: namely plenty of old-vine red Garnacha, or Garnatxa in Catalan (Grenache obviously) and Carineña (or Samsó, Mazuelo or Carignan) and suitably wild hilly terrain.
Ètim's range, including delicious olive oil as well, is pretty impressive overall, which I sampled at Alimentaria in Barcelona, March 2008, although they need to be careful with the new oak on some of their reds IMHO. The wines are gathering rave reviews across the Atlantic (shipped by Olé Imports, NY) - funnily enough my ratings are similar to those on Robert Parker's website, by pure coincidence - and are available in the UK via their agent/importer Bibendum, based in London. More info at www.etim.es.
2006 Ètim Blanco (white Grenache 14%) - lightly yeasty toasty notes with rich spicy exotic fruit on top, rounded and full-on finishing with a touch of fresh 'chalkiness' v fat texture. 87+
2007 Ètim Rosat (mostly Garnacha plus a splash of Syrah 14%) - very deep colour and light yeast lees on the nose, mega fruity with lush raspberry and cherry, serious weight and a touch of dry tannin too. Wow: food is required! 90
2004 Old Vines Garnacha (+ 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% alc.) - aromatic oak underpinned by lovely Grenache fruit, showing liquorice and tobacco on a firm powerful palate, but it has nice ripeness and depth and subtle cedar tones too. 89+
2004 Castell de Falset (Garnacha Carignan Cabernet Sauvignon) - again shows that cedary oak supplemented by rich smoky fruit, concentrated mouth-feel with lush dark fruits and pruney edges, very grippy yet rounded and long. 90-92
2004 L'Esparver (90% single vineyard with mixed plantings of 90+ year-old Garnacha Carignan plus Merlot and Cab Sauv) - rather oaky but it's very concentrated and lush with tobacco, ripe cassis, plenty of oomph but overly cedary finish. Another wow wine, although pity about that wood. 90+
Oli d'Oliva Extra Virgin - gorgeous rich golden colour and fresh ripe olive flavours, perfumed and tangy on its pure tasty finish.

Palacio de la Vega - Navarra

One of the leading Bodegas in northeast Spain, Palacio de la Vega has been a personal favourite for many years; although I was surprised to find out from their annoying 'Flash' website that it's only been going since 1991. The winery's now owned by mega giant Pernod Ricard, which isn't necessarily a bad thing when you look at some of their other wine brands (Champagne Mumm, Etchart in Argentina, Australia's Wyndham Estate as well as the slightly better-known Jacobs Creek). Anyway, I haven't yet visited PDLV's vineyards and cellars - must pop down to Navarra one of these days - but thought the wines below, bought in various Spanish supermarkets, were worth sharing (if you can still get the 99 Reserva in the UK or US?). They also show that a mix of Spanish and so-called international varieties can work well together when grown in a suitable environment, which seems to be the case in Navarra. Tasted Sept-Dec 2006:
2002 Crianza (Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5%) - slight sulphide (?) aromas when first opened but it develops nice smoky cassis notes underpinned with cedar oak; full, quite rich & rustic mouth-feel v tangy tight length, quite powerful yet balanced, firm tannins v maturing fruit. 87-89
2005 Rosado (Garnacha Cabernet Sauvignon, 13%) - full-on chunky raspberry and strawberry fruit, ripe and rounded v subtle acidity and tight length. 87+
1999 Reserva Tempranillo (13%) - enticing developed earthy peppery notes v light vanilla and black cherry; concentrated blueberry fruit with background layer of oak, nice texture and maturity v still firm-ish tannins and fresh bite. A complete wine showing balance and style, drinking now yet I think will improve for another couple of years; try with pasta in a cépes & aioli sauce. €6-7 90-92

Raimat - Catalonia
Raimat, owned by the Cava group Codorníu, practically invented the Costers del Segre DO zone in Catalonia. The adventure began back in 1914, when the Raventós family bought 3200 hectares of barren land in Lleida...
Tasted between Oct 2005 and Jan 2006:
2001 Clamor red (Cabernet Sauvignon & Tempranillo, 13%) - smooth maturing style that nicely mixes traditional Rioja and Bordeaux, smoky silky Pinot Noir-like fruit with firmer, leather-tinged yet vanilla-rounded finish. €5-6 89
2004 Rosado (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon & Pinot Noir, 12.5%) - unusual and superb rosé, with full bodied quite fat strawberry palate leading to balanced classy finish. 89
Brut Nature Mètode Tradicional (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Xarello, 12%) - this really quite fine and flavoursome sparkling wine, shaped by similar production methods to Champagne, comes from outside the Cava area. Fairly rich, buttery and tropical fruit gives way to developing yeasty complexity with fresh, dry and elegant length. Brut Nature means no added dosage, i.e. not sweetened with less than 5 grams natural residual sugar; so pretty dry to you and me. 90+Tasted June 2006:
2005 rosado/rosat Casal Raimat (Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot, 13%) - not sure if this is just the new vintage with change of name and packaging, or a different wine. Anyway, it's good stuff as usual, quite rich and full yet aromatic and fresh. 87+
2005 Casal Raimat blanco - distinctive white, nice mix of juicy fat fruit with yeast-lees intensity and crisp length. 87+
Tasted July 2006:
2003 Clamor crianza (Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Tempranillo 13.5%) - again shows that subtle mix of smoky rustic tones and complex berry fruit, silky mouthfeel, although firmer and bigger than the 2001; all layered with not too much vanilla oak flavour. €5+ 89+ Tasted October 2007:
2006 Casal Raimat
rosado (Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot, 13%) - vibrant raspberry and blueberry fruit, weighty with light grip even v fresh and zesty. 87+


20 June 2010

Roussillon: Domaine Treloar, Trouillas

LATEST UPDATE ON TRELOAR HERE (May 2013).

Yorkshireman Jonathan Hesford and his New Zealander wife Rachel (Treloar is her maiden name) set up this promising estate in 2006. Having narrowly escaped NYC's tragic 9/11 disaster, the family left for New Zealand seeking pastures new. Jonathan studied viticulture and winemaking then worked for leading Kiwi winery Neudorf; a few years later they ended up in the Roussillon, lured by its inexpensive vine-land and warm climate, to fulfil their dream as the story goes.
Jonathan's approach is refreshingly honest, technical yet down-to-earth: "I just like to show people what I do in the vineyard, instead of banging on about special terroir." And, in response to the rather laboured topic of the region's generally meagre yields (and the slightly mysterious way this is officially measured, administered and communicated, from a consumer rather than rigid production point of view): "There's too much emphasis on yield, low yield = quality is rubbish." As well as entirely rational views on the Roussillon's AOC structure, similar to those echoed elsewhere in this guide, especially relating to the Aspres zone (they have one parcel of Syrah classified within this): "...valid concept but too broad, I want to make the best wine I can and tailor it to suit customers... too much variation in quality... OK for co-ops and merchants, not much good for people like me..."
Treloar consists of 10 ha (25 acres) split between two main chunks located on the gentle slopes surrounding the village of Trouillas, where the couple have renovated a huge old stone cellar and converted part of it into their house fitted with a tasting/function room. They also do lunches booked in advance, vineyard tours and a variety of tasting events: see website below for details.
The first batch of wines below was 'sampled' over a summer 2007 BBQ and again over lunch during the vintage (I helped pick a few bunches of Mourvèdre by the way).

And read on for several updates since then: latest notes were posted summer 2010.

2006 One Block Muscat Vin de Pays d'Oc (Muscat à petits grains, 12.5%) - enticing nose with floral grapey grapefruit and orange peel tones, fuller creamier mouth-feel v aromatic and crisp. Nice with ewe's milk cheese. 87
2006 Muscat of Alexandria Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes (12.5%) - less aromatic and more mineral in style with light yeast lees and citrus notes, again quite rounded and oily v fresh acidity. 80-85
2006 One Block Grenache Vin de Pays d'Oc (14%) - attractive ripe fruit aromas with spicy edges; solid palate showing very light coco oak in the background adding a touch of texture, quite rich juicy fruit, rounded tannins and a tad of alcohol weight. Needs a little aeration to soften it up: a few more months in bottle should bring all the elements together better. Good with grilled Catalan sausages or chorizo type cold meats. 87+


Updates 2008: the most recent tasting at a successful charity art exhibition/sale held at the winery in late March (will become an annual event I'm told), along with finished and currently available bottlings of their red blends.
2006 One Block Muscat - nice floral orange peel and grapey aromas, still quite lively v soft elegant finish; very drinkable. 87
2006 One Block Grenache - soft and aromatic with spicy liquorice and cherry tones, a touch of dry grip from otherwise supple tannins and quite powerful finish. 87
2006 Three Peaks Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - named after the view from the vineyard, so to speak. Attractive lively black cherry/currant fruit v chunky tannins, hints of chocolate oak with dry v rounded texture, nice balance and style. 89
2006 Le Secret (mostly Syrah 13.5%) - a bit more oak than above layered with black cherry and spice, showing a little maturing savoury edge too; dry grip v 'sweet' texture, less chunky than the 3 Peaks but again has nice style and length. 87-89
2006 Tahi Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah Mourvèdre Grenache) - quite oaky at the moment yet has pretty rich fruit, solid framework v 'sweet' textured tannins; powerful but balanced, chocolate and spice v dark fruit on its tight finish. Needs 1 to 2 years to come out a bit. 90+
2006 Muscat de Rivesaltes - fresh and clean Muscat style, quite a kick on the palate but this helps cut through the sweetness; drier than most MdR. 85


Tasted July 2008:
2006 Motus (mostly Mourvèdre still in barrel but will be bottled soon) - this slightly experimental 'secret' batch (there's not much of it) shows dark brooding colour, lovely smoky tobacco and liquorice aromas with savoury and a touch animal undertones; chunky and concentrated with 'sweet' v savoury fruit, fairly gripping tannins and powerful framework; something different for red wine enthusiasts, it has a long intriguing finish. 90+
I also tasted various 2007 whites and reds from tank and barrel, which all show promise and confirm that 2007 is a very good vintage in the Roussillon (and the Languedoc and Provence too from the ones I've tried), unlike much of the rest of France.

Mid October 2008:
2007 One Block Muscat - light, fragrant and refreshing with 'mineral' style and bite; less 'grapey' or 'Muscaty' than the 06, but this is a nice easy-drinking dry white. 85
2007 Grenache Gris / Carignan Blanc / Macabeu (from the barrel it was fermenting in) - creamy yeast-lees fatness with lively white peach and pear flavours, fresh and quite fine with good weight too. Will report back on the finished wine.
2007 One Block Grenache? (from vat, could be called something else with a bit of Syrah blended in) - delicious lively dark cherry and liquorice notes, fruity v grip and weight; perhaps less chunky/powerful than the 06 but has very nice pure fruit. 87
2007 Côtes du Roussillon? ('base' wine from Syrah plus unoaked Mourvèdre and Grenache) - aromatic ripe blackberry/cherry/cassis, savoury edges on the palate v liquorice 'sweetness'; firm tannins and full-bodied offset again by that lovely fruit. 88-90?


And the finished articles February 2009:
2007 One Block white Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes (Muscat 12%) - the name's changed but the wine hasn't much: nice and aromatic, fresh and dry with a touch of roundness/oiliness too; actually smells & tastes more Muscat-y than before. €6.50 85+
2007 La Terre Promise Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes (mostly Macabeu 12%) - fairly accomplished style, this dry foodie white (nice with hake and roast potatoes) combines bruised apple and pear fruit with lightly oaky yet nutty and oily aromas/flavours/textures; attractive weight considering the alcohol isn't high, with fresh v toasty & rounded finish. €9 87
Summer 2009: the 2007 One Block red ended up as a mostly Grenache, Côtes du Roussillon blend and is a nice chunky spicy fruity number drinking well now: 87+ I'd say. And that one-off 2006 Motus majority Mourvèdre red has delivered its promise as noted earlier: concentrated, firm and dry yet rounded with developing meaty/savoury fruit finish. Same "score" as previously (above)...
For euro prices and UK, Irish, Canadian and US stockists, check out their website.


2010 updates
January - new red vintages:
2008 One Block red Côtes du Roussillon (mostly Grenache, Syrah 13.5%) - nice upfront chunky, spicy and lightly smoky style; showing lush dark cherry and liquorice vs tad of spicy wood texture and dry grip, then lively peppery dried black fruit finish. €7.85 France, €9.50 Germany, £10 UK. 87+
2007 Motus Côtes du Roussillon (80% Mourvèdre) - fair bit of spicy vanilla oak at the moment but plenty of blackberry/olive fruit underneath plus enticing meaty tones; lush and concentrated with "sweet vs savoury" profile, gripping tannins but more rounded than the 2006; nice oomph and depth, more successful than the 06 actually (which I did also like a lot, see above) showing promise and the kind of finish that makes you want to drink more... 90-92


Latest: "retrospective" tasting
A great opportunity this summer to (re)taste all of Jon and Rachel's vintages since the beginning, 2006 to 2008, at the winery with quite a crowd of keen customers and locals (their following appears to be growing and growing). They now have holiday accommodation available too, having done up the two-bedroom "Cellarmaster's House" alongside: see website for details. Wines noted below: refer to prices, grape varieties etc. above if not stated.
2008 One Block red - light spicy oak notes with smoky "volatile" edges, spicy vs ripe black fruits and liquorice too; quite soft now yet still has a bit of nice grip and oomph vs subtle bitter twist / refreshing bite. 87
2007 One Block red - richer and darker cherry fruit, punchier too with bigger tannins vs peppery liquorice profile; nice chunky mouthful to finish. 87-89
2006 One Block red - smokier and more savoury nose; juicy palate yet quite mature vs a touch of bite and freshness still, less intense than the 07 but finishes with attractive meaty edges. 85-87
2006 Three Peaks red - similarly maturing "sweet/savoury" style, although a richer denser wine; still quite firm, structured and concentrated actually with spicy punchy finish vs developed ripe fruit. 88+
2007 Three Peaks red - showing a bit more oak vs vibrant ripe cherry and liquorice fruit with smoky touches; nice rich "sweet/savoury" palate with dry yet rounded tannins, again has smoky edges and power on its attractive finish. €8.50 89-91
2008 Le Ciel Vide (majority Carignan) - a new wine this vintage with quite rustic nose to start, moving on to enticing perfumed blue fruit cocktail; nice bite and drinkability. €6.49 85+
2007 Le Secret (majority Syrah) - quite closed up still hinting at currants, black cherries and mint; tight firm mouth-feel with good concentration, power and depth of fruit; finishes with dry coated texture, needs more time to open up. €12 90+
2006 Le Secret - much more forward and mature with savoury aromas/flavours vs still solid palate; a tad extracted perhaps although still has nice fruit and style. 87
2007 Motus (majority Mourvèdre) - touches of oak vs meaty black olive notes; ripe and resin-y in the mouth vs spicy grainy texture, subtle concentration with punchy and slightly closed/awkward finish at the moment. Promising though. €12 90+
2006 Motus - grainy edges vs maturing fruit, resin-y dark and smoky too; more seductive now with its "sweet/savoury" profile. 89+
2007 Tahi - dark lush and ripe nose/palate, a tad toastier too; concentrated vs extracted but not overdone, pretty powerful and at sorts at the mo, although definitely shows good depth of "sweet" fruit vs chunky tight finish. €17 92+
2006 Tahi - complex maturing "sweet/savoury" character, nice dry tannins vs rounded weighty and concentrated; tasty meaty vs liquorice finish. 89-91
2008 La Terre Promise white - oily hazelnut notes, nice "Burgundy" style actually with rounded and creamy palate vs lightly toasty vs fresh bite vs some weight underneath; obviously 08 was a good white wine vintage too! €10 89+
2007 La Terre Promise white - Riesling like oily nose, moving on to buttery hazelnuts vs slightly dusty wood tones; mature finish although there's still a hint of fresh acidity. 85-87
2006 One Block Muscat - still surprisingly nice actually, aromatic and herby vs rounded mouth-feel, drink up now though.
2008 One Block Muscat - attractive grapey aromas/flavours vs greener fruit, creamy lees edges and crisp bite still. €7.25 85


LATEST ON TRELOAR HERE (May 2013).

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