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

27 September 2010

Riesling of the moment: Juilen Frey

The Freys are organic winegrowers in Dambach la Ville, Alsace: I came across this towards sublime bottle in my local supermarket recently and thought it worth sharing, so to speak (none left now though).
2008 Julien Frey Riesling "Prestige" (12%) - enticing "chalky"  lime aromas mingle with maturing linseed oil tones; subtle and quite soft palate with citrus vs celery profile, gets tighter and fresher on its elegant finish. €7.75
More Alsace Rieslings here:
Picture = the Frey family from vinsfreybio.com

Corbières day-tripper

Three profiles/updates on new and established wine estates in the northern Roussillon, southern Corbières and Fitou "highlands" areas have been beamed up to sister ship FrenchMedWine.com: Domaine Bertrand-Bergé, Domaine Jones and Domaine du Grand Arc are in the limelight - follow those links for words and wine reviews.

22 September 2010

International Grenache Day

It's this Friday apparently, September 24th. I wouldn't want to start counting how many Grenache-based wines are talked about and reviewed on this blog or sister site Frenchmediterraneanwine.com. From full-on lush reds to lavish Port-like "vins doux naturels" both from "black" Grenache (noir) or Garnacha / Garnatxa, to exotic whites crafted from white Grenache (blanc) / Garnacha blanca and/or Grenache gris, a pinkish skinned relative that can also work for "grey" style rosés; to fruity rounded rosé / rosado / rosat itself made from the "black" version (and sparkling too...)
Still with me? Here are just a few, off the top of my head, that I've particularly enjoyed (sensibly of course) over the last couple of months (mostly from southern France and Spain although Grenache certainly can excel in Australia, California...):
2008 Mas Mudigliza Maury (see post below this one)
2007 Domaine La Fourmente Les Vieux Grenache des Garrigues, Visan (southern Rhone)
2005 Domaine du Chapitre (Ardèche)
2007 Llopart Rosé Cava
2005 Château des Estanilles Faugères Prestige
2007 Domaine Bertrand-Bergé Rivesaltes Tuilé Ma-ga
2009 La Chevalière Grenache
2008 Domaine de Fenouillet Faugères
2006 Mitchelton Crescent, Victoria
2009 Domaine Jones Grenache
2008 Domaine Treloar One Block red
2007 Les Manyes Terroir al Límit, Priorat
2006 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape "cuvée Cadette"
2007 Inferno Domaine Vinci, Roussillon
1980 Millésime Maury Mas Amiel, Roussillon...
Do a search for lots of links to features / guides / profiles including these and many more Grenache wines:
winewriting.com/search?q=Grenache
frenchmediterraneanwine.com/search?q=Grenache
Or click on any Grenache 'label' at the bottom of a post.
Photo = Grenache from vins-rhone.com

20 September 2010

Roussillon: Mas Mudigliza, St-Paul-de-Fenouillet

This slightly curiously named estate is Dimitri Glipa and Muriel Samson's fairly new operation based to the west of Maury. Not much on their site at the moment except this nice picture of an old casot, one of those cute little stone shelters you see around in the middle of vineyards, just waiting to be converted into a trendy little studio (I jest)... I tasted these two promising wines at the now internationally famous (I've mentioned it often enough!) and rocking Fenouillèdes show in late April 2009:

2007 Caudalouis white - floral 'mineral' notes turning honeyed and juicy with lightly toasty edges; very dry and crisp vs subtle yeast-lees and toasted texture. 85+
2007 Carminé red Côtes du Roussillon - lovely spicy nose with violet, dark cherry and chocolate tones; tasty 'sweet & savoury' palate with chunky but ripe tannins, powerful and fruity on the finish. 88-90

UPDATE summer/autumn 2010

To fill in the blanks on some of those unanswered questions above, I called in at Dimitri's cellar in Saint-Paul in July to catch up and taste the latest. He told me their vineyards are "mostly around St-Paul on the south side, although often north-facing as you head towards Maury... and some parcels in St-Arnac at altitude (south of Maury)..." US importers include Thomas Calder (based in Paris I think?), Garagiste wine in Seattle and R Wine in NYC (not sure if I've got that right?); and Champagne et Chateaux who sell to a number of independents around the UK.

2009 CaudaLouis vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (mostly Grenache gris + Macabeu 14.5% alc.) - toasty mealy and spicy vs floral apricot notes; nice rounded mouth-feel with subtle concentration, still quite woody with creamy lees edges vs zesty and lively; powerful too yet well-balanced and mineral on the finish. 87-89
2008 Carminé Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache Carignan Syrah 14.5% ) - delicious perfumed black cherry, liquorice and spice aromas; quite tight crunchy and fresh on the palate vs subtle richness with ripe cassis and wild berries, underlying vanilla coating too with power and dry/sweet tannins; fairly elegant actually despite that weight. 87-89
2007 Symbiosis Côtes du Roussillon (Carignan Syrah Grenache 14.5% ) - from schist soils at altitude. Richer darker and toastier with chocolate and coconut on the nose; big mouthful of lush fruit vs grippy yet textured tannins, tight toasty finish vs nice concentration and spice. Needs 1-2 years to open up. 89-91
2008 Symbiosis (more Syrah this vintage, barrel sample) - spicier coco nose, lighter crisper mouth-feel even with tight and grainy texture; subtle spicy berry fruit underneath, closes up on the finish. Less full-bodied than the 07 but less wood and nice bite too.
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. 88+
2009 Maury (from tank) - very black cherry and liquorice, more intense and lush with nice peppery touches; tasty sweet vs dry finish, promising.

20 Rue de Lesquerde, 66220 St-Paul-de-Fenouillet. Tel: 04 68 35 01 99.

Mas Mudigliza

Update on FMW.com: "This slightly curiously named estate is Dimitri Glipa and Muriel Samson's fairly new operation based in St-Paul-de-Fenouillet..." Featuring their 2009 CaudaLouis white, 2007 & 2008 Symbiosis red Côtes du Roussillon and 2008 & 2009 Maury. Click here for latest notes on these wines...


15 September 2010

Languedoc: Domaine Virgile Joly, Saint-Saturnin

Virgile Joly, with several years grape-growing and winemaking under his belt working at a few leading estates in France and Chile, founded his own winery in 2000. Starting out with just one hectare (2.5 acres) in the Saint-Saturnin area on the edge of the Larzac hills, the estate grew bigger the following year coupled with him fully implementing organic farming methods. It's now nearly 10 ha in size planted with white and red Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Cinsault (plus a couple of quirky unexpected varieties for their odd but nice liqueur wine: see below). Virgile's different vine-plots lie around three villages on pebbly slopes at between 100m and 400m above sea level. I met him and his Polish wife Magdalena in mid September 2010 at their harvest party in the winery, when they also test-drove the Vinolodge "prototype" to be launched next year: more on that here .

2008 Saturne white (Grenache blanc) - zesty green fruit with light peppery tones vs fuller juicier mouth-feel; attractive subtle and quite fresh length. Served a bit warm and probably time to move on to the 09, but nice enough style. 85
2009 Le Joly rosé (GrenacheSyrah) - attractive mix of creamy red fruits vs crunchy and crisp texture, a bit of oomph too (14.5%!) but it's not out of balance amazingly. Rosé for food and thought. 85+
2008 Le Joly Languedoc red (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan) - enticing liquorice and white pepper aromas; "sweet" vs dry mouth-feel with a touch of punch, fairly easy going and refreshing too actually, for a red. 85+

2007 Saturne red (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault) - peculiar earthy herbal red pepper notes (unripe? reduced?), powerful palate then slightly bitter finish. Not sure.

2003 Virgile red (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) - mature nose with liquorice and leather, spicy pruney and dried fruit aromas/flavours too; dark and rich mouthful, powerful with dry tannins vs attractive savoury finish. Good stuff for a heatwave 2003. 87-89
2004 Virgile white (Grenache blanc) - surprisingly good still with its old nutty Burgundy charm vs oily Riesling characters! Rounded mouth-feel with lightly toasted and hazelnut notes, quite lush vs a touch of fresh acidity underneath. 87-89
2004 Carthagène Vin de liqueur rosé (ChasselasServantCinsault, Syrah) - odd elderflower wine / old tawny Port combo, pink flowers and perfumed cherries; quite rich caramelised / oxidised with tangy vs punchy palate, sweet floral vs aged notes. Strange but nice! 87
These wines are available in wooden gift-boxes via their website (rather dear though).

Oct. 2011 UPDATE: click here for a note on their 2005 Virgile white.
And his latest vintages are discussed and tasted HERE (posted Dec. 2012)

22 rue du portail, 34725 Saint-Saturnin de Lucian. Tel: 04 67 44 52 21, www.domainevirgilejoly.com.


Languedoc: Château des Estanilles, Faugères

Château des Estanilles
New kid on the block Julien Seydoux (pic. right, obviously, next to the previous owner) is quite laid-back considering what he's taken on, an exciting-potential Faugères winery / 35 ha (85 acre) estate; with a little help from its well-established vineyard and name. He told me his philosophy wasn't so different from previous owner Michel Louison, although in the vineyard Julien's already on the way to organic certification and has been implementing changes in the cellar as well. "I'm getting rid of 70 barriques this year replacing them with more demi-muids (a larger 450 to 600 litre cask) for the malo-lactic fermentation and small wooden vats for the Grenache," he explained. "I'm not interested in making "natural wines" as such, as I want to be sure the wines will all age well with no unexpected problems. But I do go for minimum intervention after fermentation and using as little SO2 as possible." All sounds reasonable to me.
Julien also took me for a hairy spin up the steep (and rather muddy/slippery on that rainy mid-June day) south-facing Clos du Fou vineyard (runs up to 300m/1000ft), which Louison compactly planted with Syrah, much to the amazement of the locals at the time ("he must be mad" type comments hence the name), where you get a grand view of the vine-scape around Lenthéric. Julien exports to the UK (Terroir Languedoc and Yapp Bros) and Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada and Japan - see website for more info. A few notes on his wines follow - well, mostly his predecessor's actually as Julien only took the place over last year... As I said, I went there in June 2010, talked and tasted.


2007 Faugères blanc (Marsanne, Roussanne) - oily nutty maturing nose; rounded and mealy palate with aromatic floral honey flavours too, fair weight vs a touch mineral on the finish. Captivating little number. 85
2008 Le Rosé M (mostly Mourvèdre 15% alc. oak-aged!) - rather toasty and punchy, oily texture vs crisp bite vs alcohol vs toasted chocolate flavours. Odd but why not I s'pose. Not sure if Julien's going to carry on with this quirky style: he already does a classic unoaked rosé, which we didn't taste for some reason.
2007 Faugères Tradition (1/5 each Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignan 14% alc.) - ripe maturing and smoky with dominant black cherry notes; attractively lush and ripe mouth-feel with peppery vs "sweet/savoury" edges, light bitter twist and dry grip. €6 85+
2005 Faugères Prestige (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre 14.5% alc.) - complex "cheesy" tones underpinned by subtle vanilla oak and dark berry fruits; smoky and rich vs grippy and structured, touch of coco/choc tannins yet quite dry and austere still; has power, weight and richness to finish though. €9.50 87+
2007 Grande Cuvée (mostly Syrah 14.5% alc.) - lightly toasted chocolate again although it's pretty rich; "rubbery" oak dominates to start vs concentrated blackberry and cherry, punchy mouth-feel then tight firm and grippy with chocolate tannins on top; a touch extracted maybe but has lots of nice fruit too, taut and long vs big and textured. Needs time still. €16.50 88-90
2003 Grande Cuvée - more savoury and developed vs ripe cassis with herby edges; quite big and grippy with powerful streak, sweet vs dry texture; a bit too much vanilla/cloves/cinnamon still present from the oak vs chunky and concentrated finish. Not sure if it'll improve much, it's big and impressive but a bit forced and out of balance. 87
2006 Le Clos du Fou (Syrah 14.5% alc.) - showing quite a lot of smoky new oak still but it's lush and concentrated with much nicer tannins than above; still very structured and tight with better balance of power and wood texture vs "sweet/savoury" richness underneath. Wow. €24 90+

Lenthéric, 34480 Cabrerolles. Tel: 04 67 902 925, www.chateau-estanilles.com.

Château des Estanilles

New Languedoc "profile" on FrenchMedWine.com: Château des Estanilles in Faugères, taken over by Julien Seydoux last year, with seven wine reviews. Click here to go there!

14 September 2010

"Sud de France" now in London


Nothing to do with climate change, but a couple of "South of France" wine & food events coming up this weekend. First, there's a Sud de France market this Friday 17th September in Cavendish Square (London W1) in front of the Maison de la Région Languedoc-Roussillon, where you can taste a nice variety of wines from the region and sample olive oils, savoury snacks and biscuits. Wines worth checking out include sparkling Limoux from Sieur d'Arques in the seafood bar, Gérard Bertrand, Skalli, Sainte Cécile du Parc, Mont Tauch (all Languedoc), Domaine du Traginer, Château de Péna and La Coume du Roy (Roussillon - profiles on my other blog). If you miss that, there's another market on Saturday 18th in Duke of York Square, Chelsea. Both part of the "SdF" festival running until 30th September around London: more info @ festival-suddefrance.com. Photo from traginer.fr: profile on JF Deu (bottom right on his mobile!) on FMW, and why not taste his wines at the festival...

09 September 2010

Fizz of the moment: Royal Seyssel Brut

Obscure fizz of the moment perhaps: I had to do a google search to get the low-down on this bottle, lonely and neglected as it was on my local supermarket's dusty bottom shelf. Made by Varichon & Clerc from the Altesse variety in the not very well-known (!) Seyssel wine appellation nestling on the Rhone on the way up to the Alps in the Savoy region, this 2004 vintage has 12% alc. and was about €7.50 (latest vintages are dearer). What a find: vintage Champers, eat your heart out. This stuff was tasty and complex with lovely balance of toasty oat-cakey richness, maturing oily texture and refreshingly clean lively and elegant finish. Another quick search on the net also revealed plenty of stockists in the UK and US. Some useful info on this fizz brand can be found on Wink Lorch's blog here, a semi-resident Savoy wine (and Jura actually) knowledgeable person, and @ lambert-de-seyssel.com (the brand owner) where I pinched the picture from.