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27 September 2011

Languedoc: Domaine de Cabrol, Cabardès

"Sally shovelling grape
skins out of a vat."
From domainedecabrol.fr
UPDATE: always a pleasure to have the chance to try or re-try one of Claude's lovely reds, which I did recently and is tasting-noted below and "scored" using my newfangled 1 to 3 system, as opposed to ye oldie 100-point thing for the wines below that sampled in situ when I visited him on the estate on the wilder side of Cabardès country back in April 2008. Anyway, just goes to show that Cabrol is probably one of the leading 'wineries' in this area.
Tasted on the 'Sud de France' stand at the London Wine Trade Fair:
2007 Vent d'Est (60% Syrah, 30% Cabernet, 10% Grenache) - complex herbal Syrah edges with very attractive dark vs crunchy fruit profile, lush and concentrated with 'tar' and liquorice notes vs underlying lively cassis, tight firm and powerful finish. Classy stuff. 2-3 £15 Seabright & Seabright, London. 

And this is what I said and tried three and a half years ago:
Claude Carayol and his team work 21 handsome hectares of vines planted on this elevated - up to 300 metres / 950 feet altitude in parts - sprawling estate (the remaining 100 or so ha are scented scrubland and forest), out of which they coax a handful of exciting red wines. The most representative are perhaps the following three rich solid blends: Vent d’Ouest, or West Wind made mainly from Cabernet Sauvignon, Vent d’Est - East Wind with Syrah predominating - and the dense age-worthy La Dérive; which are up there among the Cabardès appellation’s best wines (as long as you like chunky tannins) and reflect its philosophy in terms of varieties chosen and the sites each one performs best in.
Finding the domaine can be tricky: access is through an old gated wall on the left off the D118 road heading north from Carcassonne towards Mazamet, just after the village of Villegailhenc (bit of a mouthful that one), where vineyards and landscape begin to get sparser and wilder before merging into the ominous Montagne Noire (Black Mountain obviously). See website below for more details on going there, but basically they're open for tasting from 11am-12pm (except in winter) and 5-7pm every day (earlier in the summer) including Saturdays: ring first anyway. Claude sells his wines mostly to wine merchants and restaurants in France, so is probably as yet undiscovered in English speaking wine circles... (see update above, he now has a UK importer at least).
2005 Vent d'Est (mostly Syrah 13.5%) - attractively floral, rustic tinged black cherry nose; moves on to tight, firm and fresh mouth-feel layered with dark chocolate and cherry fruit; needs a little time to open up. 89+
2003 Vent d'Ouest (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon) - nice herbal cassis and mint aromas with peppery undertones; dense palate, grippy v lush, 'sweet' v bitter twist; still pretty chunky and concentrated. 90+
2003 La Dérive (Cabernets, Syrah, Grenache) - smoky and liquoricey, again dense and extracted but it works, rich fruit v very firm tannins then savoury tang on the finish; wow, still youthful really. 92+

11600 Aragon. Tel: 04 68 77 19 06, cc@domainedecabrol.fr, domainedecabrol.fr.


Latest on Cabardès here (report June 2012).

23 September 2011

International Grenache Day

It's today folks. My other blog, by its very French Mediterranean nature, is crammed full of Grenache based wines and talk. Just follow that link and skim through the latest posts to find several very recommendable wines made from one of my favourite red varieties: e.g. Galatée Cotes du Roussillon Villages by Piquemal, “Mais où est donc Ornicar” Minervois by Sénat, L’Extreme from the Côtes Catalanes by Les Clos Perdus and so on... Plus wine tasting & touring features such as "Banyuls & Maury, sweet seductive Roussillon," with the spotlight firmly on those delicious Port-style fortified reds made from, you guessed it, mega Grenache.
There are also a few Grenache-themed pieces on this blog: such as "Australia: Grenache" penned with enthusiasm back in June and quite a bit of Spanish wine blogging/reviewing, such as Borsao's seductive Tres Picos from Campo de Borja region in this post; or 2009 San Valentín Garnacha by Torres dug up at the recent Belfast Wine Festival.
So, go forth and purchase, taste, enjoy, talk about and share a tasty warming red carved from purest red Grenache. Unless you fancy a full-bodied white made from white Grenache or rosé from "grey" Grenache, that is...


International Grenache Day

It's today folks. This blog, by its very French Mediterranean nature, is crammed full of Grenache based wines and talk. Just skim through the latest posts below to find several very recommendable wines made from one of my favourite red varieties: e.g. Galatée Cotes du Roussillon Villages by Piquemal, “Mais où est donc Ornicar” Minervois by Sénat, L’Extreme from the Côtes Catalanes by Les Clos Perdus and so on... Plus wine tasting & touring features such as "Banyuls & Maury, sweet seductive Roussillon," with the spotlight firmly on those delicious Port-style fortified reds made from, you guessed it, mega Grenache.
There are also a few Grenache-themed pieces on winewriting.blogspot.com: such as "Australia: Grenache" penned with enthusiasm back in June and quite a bit of Spanish wine blogging/reviewing, such as Borsao's seductive Tres Picos from Campo de Borja region in this post; or 2009 San Valentín Garnacha by Torres dug up at the recent Belfast Wine Festival.
So, please go forth and purchase, taste, enjoy, talk about and share a tasty warming red carved from purest red Grenache. Unless you fancy a full-bodied white made from white Grenache or rosé from "grey" Grenache, that is...

22 September 2011

Champers vs English fizz

From gusbourne.com
Another idea for a mini-theme came to mind while sampling some nice fizz at London-based wine merchant Armit's recent tasting. They import the rather superlative Champagnes of Pierre Gimonnet et Fils and had them lined up alongside an English sparkling newcomer - relatively, their first "commercial" vintage was 2006 which wasn't released until the end of last year - from Kent called Gusbourne Estate in Appledore. And the verdict? Well, as you'll see below, my notes and "scores" on the excitingly simple 1 to 3 scale for all five wines are pretty much on a par. So, well done Gusbourne especially since they've only been making "Champagne style" fizz (same varieties, same ageing methods I'd guess) for six vintages, including the one they're probably picking now or about to. Classy wines although, as is the "problem" with these very small production, new-kid-on-the-block boutique English sparkling wine houses, the prices are more or less the same as the Gimonnet Champagnes. Not really a criticism - good luck in the current retail climate - just an observation, as I'm sure they've invested a lot of money into the estate and winery. Must go there sometime...
This reminds me to focus a bit more on English sparkling wines; it's been a while since I tried e.g. Ridgeview, Nyetimber, Camel, who all produce lovely fizz. There's a newish "does what it says on the label" website too covering the whole 'topic' with handy on-line shop: sparklingenglishwine.com


Cuis 1er Cru Brut NV ChampagneGimonnet - classic balance of bread-y yeasty notes, a bit of roundness and texture vs nice steely bite. 2 £30
Gastronome Brut 2006 Vintage Champagne, Gimonnet - toastier vs tarter profile, fine and tight style with long tasty finish, still seems quite young really. 2+ £32
Fleuron 1er Cru Brut 2005 Vintage Champagne, Gimonnet - delicious bread-y nose with oat cake tones, rich vs tight mouth-feel with fresher acidity vs more of those enticing biscuit flavours. 2+ £36 


Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2006 (100% Chardonnay) - bread-y and lightly toasty vs nutty crisp side, subtle balance style and length. 2 £25-£30
Gusbourne Sparkling Rosé 2008 (Chardy, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier) - toasty with hints of chocolate and sweet red fruits vs crisp bite and dry texture, quite toasty finish but it's very tasty and different. 2 £25-£32

LATEST ON ENGLISH WINE HERE.

21 September 2011

Roussillon: Domaine Piquemal, Espira-de-l'Agly


The now pretty well-established Piquemal estate originally dates from the early 20th Century and comes to 50 ha (125 acres) lying across the Agly Valley in the beautiful untamed northern Roussillon. The family started replanting and acquiring vineyards in the 1970s, and restoring those old bush vine plots worth keeping, which lie on typically varied soils: "from one parcel to another, the earth changes notably from red to black to white," as they describe on their site, thanks to lots of lovely chalk/clay splashes and marl with chunky schist. Enough of the geology talk, ed...
As one of the area's pioneers in many ways, they bottled their first own-estate wines back in 1983 (as opposed to delivering grapes to a co-op or bulk vintner presumably), and have just built a shiny new winery outside of 'town' (not much choice really in Espira: no room between the houses and streets in this typical tight oldie Catalan village). The team comprises Annie and Pierre, who still like to keep a watchful eye over their 'kids' running the estate: Franck the winemaker and daughter Marie-Pierre, who looks after sales & marketing in France and export markets. Eyes right for enlightenment on those 1, 2, 3 "scores"...

Tasted May 2011 on the Sud de France stand at the London Wine Trade Fair:

2008 Galatée Cotes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) - nice chunky Grenache-led style, powerful and rich vs firm and concentrated. 2+ £16.95 UK distributor: Seabright & Seabright.
2007 Pygmalion Cotes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) - herbal 'reductive' and peppery nose, quite punchy and lush on the palate, impressive/extracted style in the end. £16.95 UK distributor: Seabright & Seabright.

From the Saint-Bacchus awards 2009:
2007 "Les Audacieux" Pierre Audonnet vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Merlot Syrah Grenache 13.5%) - smoky spicy liquorice aromas mingle with earthy herbal red pepper tones; turning into blackcurrant and plum with darker cherry and chocolate, chunky fruity style underpinned by a bit of grip and power; tasty and savoury vs "sweet" and spicy, nice now although has a good 2-3 years in it yet. 87-89
US importers: Beaune Imports, Berkeley CA and Idela Wines & Spirit co. Inc, Medford MA.

At a 100th anniversary commemorative event of the Winegrowers' Revolt held in November 2007 in the region:
2000 cuvée Justin Piquemal Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes – smoky and spicy with rich tar and meaty edges, concentrated v maturing finish. 90-92

Chile: Syrah / Shiraz

An aloof themed tasting table sat, literally, on a raised stage at the recent Wines of Chile annual London bash, dramatically billed as “Sensational Syrah”; but I think the Haydn-esque fanfare for fab Syrah from Chile is a little premature. Out of nearly 50 wines tasted, I found it quite hard going to find enough star Syrah / Shiraz to warrant this trail-blazing title; or even a decent amount of good attractive wines showing varietal character and reasonably priced (a lot of cloud-cuckoo-land RRPs in this line-up, it has to be said). Looking back through my tasting sheet, notes like “a bit extracted,” “too oaky,” “lacks charm” or “heavy handed” keep cropping up.
However, certain well- and lesser-known wineries did shine through, so here’s my twenty-something pick for what it’s worth (including a couple of Syrahs that weren’t ‘on the table’ but lurking elsewhere in the venue). On a stylistic, or marketing note perhaps, most of these wines are labelled Syrah rather than Shiraz: I guess this means Chile’s winemakers are modelling themselves on Europe or California rather than Australia?

Viña San Pedro ‘1865’ Limited Edition Syrah 2008, Elquí region (14% alc.) - quite rich and smoky fruit, dark lush profile showing better oak integration and nice texture, quite punchy yet balanced with spicy vs rustic edges. Dear though at £20. UK importer: Les Grands Chais de France.

Viña San Pedro ‘Kankana del Elquí’ Syrah 2007 (14% alc.) - fairly complex herbal berry tones with meaty edges, liquorice and leather mix with concentrated berry fruit, dry powerful mouth-feel, quite extracted but good. Silly price though at £35.

De Martino Single Vineyard Syrah ‘Alto Los Toros’ 2008, Elquí (14.5%) - quite tight and closed up, firm textured yet concentrated with sweet blackberry fruit vs lightly savoury notes; still pretty solid, grippy and powerful vs nice lush mouth-feel too. £23 Les Caves de Pyrene.
Lots more De Martino here (Carmenere vertical and feature).

Viña Tabalí Reserva Syrah 2010, Limarí region (14.5%) - youthful and ‘inky’ with a touch of aok, tight firm palate showing hints of chocolate oak, fair length though with sweet fruit vs dry tannins, closes up on the finish. Fair value: £9.49 Boutinot Ltd.
Viña Tabalí ‘Payen’ 2007, Limarí (mostly Syrah, 14% alc.) - herby peppery nose with wild black fruits, subtle oak on a very concentrated palate, dry vs sweet texture and liquorice vs meaty finish. One of the best ones I tasted (pic. above). £15 Boutinot.
More Tabalí and profile here.


Von Siebenthal ‘Carabantes’ 2008, Aconcagua region (85% Syrah/10% Cab Sauv/5% Petit Verdot, 14.5% alc., organic) - better fruit with berries and spice vs nice meaty edges, chunky firm and punchy mouth-feel with a bit of character finally. £19.75 New Generation wines, D. Byrne & Co, Wimbledon Wine Cellars.

Errázuriz ‘Aconcagua Costa’ Single Vineyard Syrah 2010 (13.5%) - red pepper tones vs quite lush black cherry/berry fruit, big spicy mouthful then firm tight finish, needs a bit of time to open up. £20 Hatch Mansfield.
Errázuriz ‘La Cumbre’ Syrah 2007, Aconcagua (97% Syrah, 3% Petit Verdot, 14.5% alc) - similar profile to above but more intense, more new oak and more oomph; quite fine grained texture, still closed up really, promising although expensive. £52 Wimbledon Wine Cellars, slurp.co.uk

Marqués de Casa Concha Syrah 2008, Buin-Maipo region (96% Syrah, 4% Carmenere, 14.5% alc) - quite oaky at first but this has attractive black fruits with smoky edges, liquorice hints too vs chunky tannins and rounded weighty finish. £10.99 Corkscrew Wines, Nethergate Wines, Tanners Wines, Villeneuve wines, Corks Out, Farr Vintners, Harrods, everywine.co.uk, Bablake Wines.


Santa Carolina ‘Specialties’ Syrah 2009, Maipo (14%) - enticing herby spicy berry nose, quite concentrated lush and powerful, touch of choc oak and grip vs dark fruit finish. £15 Justerini & Brooks.

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard ‘Canelo’ Syrah 2009, Leyda region (14%) - smoky blackberry aromas, lively fruit vs grip vs subtle oak texture, powerful yet rounded; at last, a bit of class and Syrah style. Good value for quality too @ £10. Great Western Wine Co.

Matetic Vineyards ‘Corralillo’ Syrah 2009, San Antonio region (organic/biodynamic, 14.5%) - fairly firm and tight vs pretty concentrated with sweet vs peppery profile, black cherry and plum fruit underneath; again well balanced and stylish. £14.30 Armit Wines.
Matetic Vineyards Syrah 2008, San Antonio (organic/biodynamic, 14%) - wild edged with spicy black cherry and berry, punchy and grippy vs lovely fruit, has more new oak but not over the top. £37 Armit Wines.
Matetic Vineyards ‘EQ’ Syrah 2010, San Antonio (organic/biodynamic, 14%) - smoky bacon tones layered with spicy black fruits, nice tannins and weight, a tad over-oaked perhaps but it’s quite concentrated and has good depth of fruit. £15+ Armit Wines.
More Matetic here.

Anakena ONA Syrah 2009, Peumo - Cachapoal (14%) - peppery and herby vs savoury notes, lush and punchy but concentrated, firm vs sweet fruit; a bit classier and more Syrah like. £10.25 Stratford’s Wine Agencies.

Caliterra ‘Tributo’ Shiraz 2009, Colchagua (91 Syrah, 5 Malbec, 4 Petit Verdot, 14% alc.) - hints of attractive smoky lush character, dark choc notes on its firm vs rounded palate, black fruit finish. £10 everywine.co.uk

Ventisquero ‘Grey’ Syrah 2009, Apalta - Colchagua (14.5%) - more aromatic and spicy, hints of grainy coconut oak, tight and firm mouth-feel, a bit controlled but could be good a year or so on. Restaurants only: imported by PLB Group.

Morandé Gran Reserva Syrah 2008, Maule (14.5%) - touches of attractive spicy cherry fruit vs coco oak grain, lively and powerful though with sweet dark cherry finish. Restaurants only: imported by Barwell & Jones.

15 September 2011

Italy: south by northwest

So to speak... but I do enjoy a nice little movie reference pun every now and then (answers on an e-card please, a clue: Cary Grant snapping his fingers at a waiter at the wrong moment...). London based wine merchant Armit has a bit of a reputation for its posh Italian wines (and just posh wines full-stop actually), e.g. luxury-priced Gaja; and I tried a few recently so decided to theme it up, posting-wise, starting with Italy. Because, well, why not when there are seductive red and white wines like these out there waiting to be discovered. The selection I've tasting-noted below does indeed run from the glorious south (Salento) via the solid middle (Tuscany) to the unexpected northeast (Valpolicella) then heads way out west (Liguria and Piemonte). Plus a bonus island red thrown in from Sardinia, as you do. And you know what to do for more about 1, 2, 3...

Red
2007 Salice Salentino Riserva, Puglia - Cantele (Negroamaro/Malvasia Nero, 13% alc.): perfumed nose enhanced by pruney dried fruit notes, smoky and lush palate with dry vs sweet texture, fairly mature and very attractive now with tasty savoury finish. 1+ £9.85
2008 Montessu; Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardinia - Agricola Punica (14%): sunshine wine with dried figs, hints of tobacco and savoury meaty edges; powerful grippy mouth-feel balanced by nice maturing fruit, tasty traditional Med style. 2 £15.99

2008 Promis, Ca'Marcanda, Tuscany - Gaja (Merlot/Syrah/Sangiovese, 14%): smoky rustic vs herbal peppery notes, quite rich dark fruits and punchy weight vs 'inky' peppery, tight vs maturing finish showing subtle concentration. Good oldie style. 2 £25
2008 Magari, Ca'Marcanda, Tuscany - Gaja (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, 14.5%): more Morello cherry and less earthy, again quite concentrated and lush with dark plum and a touch of chocolate oak, finer and more textured although has a bit more oomph too; fairly classy. 2+ £32.17
2004 Ca'Marcanda; Bolgheri, Tuscany - Gaja (Merlot, Cab Sauv & Cab Franc, 14.5%): complex savoury nose with liquorice and earthy tobacco tinges, rich dark and concentrated palate with smoky edges, punchy and lively still with underlying grip and acidity. 2-3 £67.17
2009 Le Volte, Tuscany - Tenuta dell'Ornellaia (13.5%): smoky dried fruit aromas, lush cherry fruit with sweet vs dry mouth-feel, maturing edges and attractive drinking now. 1+ £15.17
2009 Le Difese, Tuscany - Tenuta San Guido (14%): smoky Morello nose, dried fruits, liquorice vs tobacco hints; powerful vs fresh, layered with sweet maturing earthy fruit. 1+ £15.37
2009 Guidalberto, Tuscany - Tenuta San Guido (Cab Sauv/Merlot, 14%): sweeter fruit although it seems 1-2 years younger, intense and concentrated, stylish balanced palate with power and bite and delicious long finish. Yum. 2-3 £27.17
2006 Sugarille; Brunello di Montalcino, Pieve di Santa Restituta, Tuscany - Gaja (Sangiovese, 15%): lovely coffee and tobacco notes vs dried cherry fruit, a touch of coco/chocolate on the palate adding roundness to its punchy lively firmer side, the alcohol's a tad warm but this is very concentrated and tasty. 2 £89


2005 Valpolicella Superiore - Romano dal Forno (Rondinella/Molinara, 15%): "lightly appasite" it said on the backlabel, meaning towards Amarone style I think. Seductive smoky dark fruits with hints of chocolate and cedar, lush vs tangy palate with cassis vs prune fruit profile, still pretty solid and impressive yet balanced too. 2-3 £61
2006 Barolo, Piemonte - Giacomo Fenocchio: pretty classic Nebbiolo profile with maturing dried fruits and 'cheesy' edges, soft vs firm palate and tasty savoury finish. 1-2 £29


White
2010 Vermentino; Colli di Luni, Liguria - Cantine Lunae (12.5%): zesty zingy citrus with peachy apricot hints, tasty and refreshing with nutty vs 'mineral' intensity, roundish yet crisp finish. Nice style. 1-2 £12.99
2010 Roero Arneis, Piemonte - Bruno Giacosa (12.5%): aromatic nutty nose, tighter more 'mineral' palate, juicy and lees-y too with fresh acidity. Dear though at £21. 1
I didn't like this guy's reds by the way...


More 'themes' on the way from this tasting: Pinot Noir, Champers vs English fizz, classic Rioja, Quinta da Falorca (Portugal), a couple of enticing red Rhones & white Burgundies...
 

13 September 2011

Languedoc: Charlotte & Jean-Baptiste Sénat, Minervois

The Sénat's wine estate comes to 15 organically tended ha (37 acres) lying near the lost village of Trausse-Minervois almost in the shadow of the brooding Montagne Noire range. As their 'had enough, jack it in and start afresh' story goes, Charlotte and Jean-Baptiste Sénat upped and left a cosy Parisian life in 1995 to take on some abandoned vineyards and old cellar owned by the family in stunningly isolated Minervois country. Les Caves de Pyrène ship these wines into the UK, which retail for about £10 to £15; or €10 and €13 cellar door if you get the chance to check them out first-hand.

2009 “La Nine” red Minervois (Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsault) - quite rich and punchy with tight tannins and structured palate, earthy vs sweet fruit mix, needs time to open up.
2010 “Mais où est donc Ornicar” red Minervois (Grenache 50%, Cinsault 25%, Mourvèdre 25%) - odd spicy Beaujolais cum Loire style although laced with sunshine, different anyway.

10 September 2011

Languedoc: Domaine d’Aupilhac, Montpeyroux

Sylvain Fadat (pic.) is the latest in a long line to steer the now organically certified ship (with biodynamic bits thrown in too), with five centuries of grape-growing under the family's belt apparently, although they 'only' built their own little winery/cellar in 1989. Most of the vineyard lies on southwest facing terraces on a site actually called "Aupilhac," where Carignan and Mourvèdre dominate; and the rest of the vines are found on a northwest facing slope called "Les Cocalières" at an altitude of 350 metres (1150 feet), where Syrah is king. This panoramic setting overlooks the old-as-time village of Montpeyroux, where they also have on-site holiday gite accommodation for rent: see aupilhac.net for details. These wines are shipped by Les Caves de Pyrène and cost about £10 to £15, or €9 to €13 cellar door. Understanding my "scoring" is as easy as 1, 2, 3... see right-hand column.

2010 “Les Servières” red vin de pays de l’Hérault (100 year-old Cinsault) - floral tangy cassis and blueberry notes, crunchy vs ripe and spicy vs ‘sweet’ profile; different. 1+
2008 “Les Truffières” red Languedoc "Montpeyroux" (Carignan, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsault) - sweet and floral nose/palate with intense minty spicy tones, firm closed up tannins with a little fresh acidity too, long elegant finish. 2

09 September 2011

Languedoc: Domaine Ledogar, Corbières

From dynamicvines.com/producer/domaine-ledogar
Xavier Ledogar took over running this 22 hectare (55 acre) estate in 1997, which gently sprawls around the rather quiet village of Ferrals-les-Corbières. He's now working entirely with back-breaking, and very time-consuming, biodynamic techniques focusing particularly on organic fertilizers (bullshit, obviously, or sheep or donkey even as he does use a handsome couple as vineyard workers: follow the link under the pic above then click on "more photos"...), herbal and plant ‘teas’ (used as natural insecticide sprays), while closely watching those lunar cycles, man... These three wines are available via their UK importer Dynamic Vines priced from approx £6 to £15. Usual comment applies to mysterious 1, 2, 3...

2008 “Tout Nature” red vin de table (Mourvèdre, Carignan, Grenache, Syrah; no SO2) - meaty baked edges, rich vs crunchy fruit, lovely intense mouth-feel with subtle grip and lively finish. 2
2006 Corbières-Boutenac red (Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre) - herby edges vs maturing and liquorice tones, still grippy palate with hints of cedary oak, lush vs tight profile; not so sure, lacks charm perhaps. 1
2010 white Corbières (Chenin Blanc, Macabeu, Grenache Blanc & Gris) - honey vs apple aromas, intense and concentrated vs rounded and oily texture. Yum. 2

05 September 2011

Languedoc: Clos Fantine, Faugères

The Andrieu family is the brains and brawn behind Clos Fantine, one of several high-quality estates dotted around the ‘village’ of Cabrerolles in the generally exciting Faugères appellation lying to the north of Béziers. They say their red wines see very "natural" handling as they're made with wild yeasts, no added sulphur dioxide and not fined or filtered, which can be a bit risky but the result speaks for itself here. Their extraordinary white is fashioned from the disappearing Terret variety, which you find here and there in isolated spots in the Languedoc and can make eyebrow-raising full-flavoured dry white wines, as you can see from my glowing note below. The downside of rarity and lovely quirkiness is a hefty price tag: this white goes for about £15-£20 from importer Les Caves de Pyrène, among one or two other wine merchants in London, while their enticing red is nearer £10…
2009 “Valcabrières” white (Terret) - oxidising style vs peach and dried apricot aromas/flavours, ‘sappy’ too; rich intense mouth-feel, concentrated yet elegant, quirky stuff. 2-3
2009 “Tradition” red Faugères (Mourvèdre, Carignan, Grenache) - quite ‘baked’ tones but this has lush ripe liquorice fruit, meaty and concentrated palate with solid yet still rounded tannins, pretty intense finish. 2
As usual, more on "1, 2, 3" on the right...

Spain: Bobal, Monastrell, Garnacha, Tempranillo

This loosely connected lightening-tour tasting of half-a-dozen reds takes in a couple or so “modern classics,” kind of, ranging from northern Spain and heading towards the southeast coast, and all mostly made from sunny Med-red grape varieties. These wines are available from independent wine stores and on-line retailers supplied by UK importer and agent boutinot.com (more info there, they do also sell certain wines in the US): I've now updated it with a few outlets and approx prices. For total wisdom regarding my back-to-basics 1 - 2 - 3 "scoring system", just move your eyes a few cm to the right.
Miguel Gil

2009 Pasión de Bobal Utiel-Requena region (near Valencia: Bobal is native to this area) - juicy black fruits and spices, nice and lively mouth-feel, quite punchy too vs soft tannins. 1+
£11 Virginwines.co.uk, Selfridges, D. Byrne.
2009 Juan Gil Monastrell (= Mourvèdre/Mataro), Jumilla region - full-of-beans 'modern' red with spicy blackberry fruit and a touch of vanilla oak, again has that attractive rounded vs punchy combo. 2
£8 Noel Young, Great Grog.
2008 Clio Monastrell/Cabernet Sauvignon, Jumilla - still quite oaky yet has spicy attention-grabbing style with rich concentrated palate, dry vs sweet tannins/fruit to finish. 2
£35 Noel Young, Hanging Ditch.
2008 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha, Campo de Borja - also quite smoky oaky vs juicy liquorice, peppery too with oomph and supple tannins, chocolatey yet lush-fruity mouth-feel. 2
£13 Wines of Interest, Woodwinters.
2009 Borsao Mítico Garnacha, Campo de Borja - enticing juicy vs chunky Grenache style, spicy and powerful vs sweet liquorice finish. 1+
£6 Asda
2009 Mesomeros de Castilla, Ribera del Duero - fairly tight and closed up, grainy texture vs intense berry fruit, fiery finish almost vs solid tannins, needs 6 to 12 months to express itself better but promising. 2
£9 Virginwines.co.uk, PW Amps.

04 September 2011

Belfast Wine Festival, the aftermath…

Belfast's first Wine Festival appeared to go swingingly last Bank Holiday Monday at St. George's market, which proved a perfectly satisfactory venue for the show (light enough, laid-back, has a lived-in food&drinkie feel to it). As I mentioned in my previous post, Olly Smith was on hand to liven up a couple of tastings with his usual enthusiasm or throw in wine matching tips for the chef demos that also took place live. There were a few good food stands there too, including Spanish caterer Tapitas who did a tasty wee platter of tapas for a fiver (paella, cured ham, chorizo, tortilla...) and the Co. Down Honey Farm (Crossgar) matching it with goats' cheese, sweet wines etc.
One small criticism perhaps: seems a tad mean to charge £16.50 entry, then another £5 if people wanted to try a further wave of ten wines (and then another fiver for the big samplers...). I appreciate the organiser would want to make a decent profit and it's not wise to let people 'try' as many as they like... But why not, e.g. put out more tip-buckets and encourage punters that they don't have to drain every drop in their glass (naive, moi)?! I've knocked up notes on my twenty-something favourite wines deemed to be very good for one reason or another: post a comment if you agree or disagree, or with yours…

Torres' Fransola vineyard, Upper Penedès
Whites
Italy: 2009 Primo Bianco Vermentino di Sardegna (13% alc.) – lovely example of the usually pleasant-surprise Vermentino grape variety, with floral honeysuckle aromas and peachy lightly tropical fruit notes, weighty vs elegant mouth-feel, tasty and intense finish. £10.99
France: 2009 Patrick Piuze Petit Chablis (Chardonnay, 12.5% alc.) – riper and fruitier (and less expensive) than a still good 2008 Chablis on show (by Domaine des Marronniers), this has nice classic creamy vs quite ‘mineral’ profile, attractive juicy fruit with good bite and zest. £14.99
2010 La Croix Gratiot Roussanne, Domaine Sainte Croix, Languedoc (13.5%) – quite rich with perfumed honey blossom and subtle toasty / yeast lees edges, nice balance of oomph and interesting flavours as the Roussanne grape often delivers. £9.49
South Africa: 2010 Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest Riesling, Elgin (the most southerly region on the coast, 10.5% alc.) - gorgeous linseed-oily and honeyed tones, rich sweet palate with dried apricot, pineapple, honey and citrus flavour combo vs attractive underlying fresh acidity. £12.49 half-bottle.
Spain: Torres 2009 Waltraud Riesling, Penedès (13%) - Torres must be the only one in Spain to plant Riesling (?), up in the hills northwest of Barcelona (see photo above taken from torres.es), and what a result! Floral 'mineral' style, quite intense and definitely Riesling-like showing hints of ripe citrus and oily development on nose/palate with enticing 'chalky' bite. £9.99


Rosé: Torres 2010 De Casta rosado, Catalunya (13.5%) - much simpler wine than above, and totally different of course, but this typical Catalan rosé is always enjoyable vintage after vintage. Ripe perfumed raspberry and rose petal notes, quite full-on mouth-feel with rounded vs crisp finish. £7.99


Reds
Italy: 2010 Gran Sasso Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (the grape, the region) - tasty chunky red with liquorice tones and hints of coconut, powerful firm palate with well-integrated oak and ripe vs dry finish, good stuff. £9.99
2005 Allegrini La Poja, Verona (100% Corvina variety from a single vineyard, 14.5%) - complex maturing nose with savoury and old-wood tones, has a fair kick and acidity too lending nice bite to its grip, quite fine actually with attractive maturing fruit. £57!
2007 Allegrini Amarone Classico (same area as above, different grapes and winemaking 15.5%) - full-on style with maturing fig, date and liquorice fruit; grippy vs sweet-fruit palate, pretty classic Amarone style, tastes rounder and older than the above, funnily enough. £49
South Africa: 2010 Ernie Els Big Easy, Western Cape (Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Viognier; 14.5%) - some varietal blend that, giving a punchy spicy red with herby minty tones vs dark fruits and liquorice, concentrated solid mouth-feel with 'sweet/savoury' profile and plenty of flavour; very South African but 'modern' if you follow me. £14.99
2008 Glenelly Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch (14.5%) - hints of coconut oak layered with concentrated 'inky' cassis fruit, quite extracted tannins vs rich liquorice too, big smoky and lush vs tangy finish. Pretty serious stuff, successful SA / Bordeaux combo (the owner was a top chateau owning nob from the latter). £10.99
2008 Glenelly Lady May Stellenbosch (91% Cabernet Sauvignon & 9% Petit Verdot, to be precise! 14.5% alc.) - even more Pauillac leaning, leafy vs spicy new-oak edges, concentrated firm and tight palate vs tasty long finish and lingering 'sweet/savoury' fruit. Wow. I'd perhaps prefer a touch more ripeness / less austere style although classy stuff. £25
2008 Spice Route Mourvèdre (14.5%) - spicy minty nose with a bit of slightly clunky oak, this has good substance though with again those herbal red pepper tones vs punchy dark fruit palate and chocolate oak texture. £9.99


All the wines above were supplied by Nick's Wines (Belfast, on-line) / Harry's Road Fine Wines (wholesale to restaurants). 
These reds below are available from Mundus Wine Company (Belfast):
Australia: 2008 Crackerjack Riverbend Shiraz/Viognier, Victoria (14%) - oak spice and black pepper notes plus sweet black cherry and blackberry; rounded mouth-feel with sweet fruit vs oomph and dry grip, aromatic too on the finish and fairly classy in the end. £11.99
2008 Nick Faldo Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra/South Australia (made by Katnook Estate, 13.5%) - cassis and coconut on the nose, quite intense palate with 'sweet/savoury' fruit, attractive tannins and punch vs tasty maturing and subtle too.
2007 O'Leary Walker Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills/S. Australia (12.5%) - elegant and juicy with typical 'sweet/savoury' perfumed Pinot style, fresh bite and a bit of oomph too, quite fine and long on the finish. £15.99
2003 O'Leary Walker The Ghan Sleeper Reserve Shiraz, Southern Flinders Ranges/S. Aus (15%) - delicious maturing meaty nose with liquorice and spice too, complex and big chewy mouthful, lush and concentrated, powerful yet with soft tannins; tasty foodie red with lots of flavours. £25


And a trio of tantalizing reds from Nouveau Wines (Groomsport):
Argentina: Pascual Toso 2009 Malbec, Mendoza region (14%) - spicy and punchy, hints of oak layered with red and black fruits, rounded tannins and 'sweet/savoury' finish. £10.25
South Africa: Simonsig Pinotage 2008 - smoky maturing complex nose with liquorice notes too, lively tangy mouth-feel vs lusher smoother side, powerful finish with 'earthy'/'tar' characters even! £10.25
Spain: 2008 Carlos Serres Old Vines Tempranillo, Rioja (13%) - light oak tones enhanced by developing savoury meaty and dried fruit, intense concentrated palate with rich maturing finish. Classy. £9.99


France: Chateau de la Ligne, Bordeaux - owned by N. Ireland businessman Terry Cross, more info and stockists @ chateaudelaligne.com - 2008: slightly leafy blackcurranty nose, quite smooth and tasty, fairly light but has substance too for not a great vintage. 2007: also a difficult year in Bordeaux weather-wise, this is a touch richer and firmer with a bit more oak, well-balanced though and more closed up than the 08 actually. £12.99


Finally, back to Spain and a couple of Torres reds:
2009 San Valentín Garnacha (14%) - aromatic ripe Grenache style with juicy cherry fruit and liquorice, soft vs punchy mouth-feel; attractive sweet vs dry texture, powerful yet very drinkable! £7.99
2007 Celeste Crianza, Ribero del Duero (relatively new wine and territory for Torres, this is probably mostly made from Tempranillo in this increasingly trendy region of northern-central Spain; 13.5% alc.) - scented cedar-y aromas with ripe berry and cassis fruit, quite lush and structured yet elegant and stylish, even if a little too Rioja like. £12.99 


Anyway, enough of my ramblings: see you there next year. I might think about doing a tutored tasting or something like that, if the organiser is game on. Watch this futuristic space...

01 September 2011

Bordeaux: Château de la Ligne

"Chateau de la Ligne is owned by Northern Ireland businessman Terry Cross..."
Full post is HERE (scroll down a little)...