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

25 June 2012

Roussillon: Domaine Carle-Courty, Millas

Véronique and Frédéric Carle set up shop, vines and cellar in 1995, leaving their legal and accounting careers happily behind them (still, must be handy experience for getting to grips with local wine politics, admin and economics!), up on the slopes of the Força Réal hill overlooking Millas and other surrounding villages (over 500 metres altitude or about 1550 feet). Twelve out of 15 grape-producing (rather than cats...) hectares (they've been planting more Grenache 'black' and 'grey', as they say in French) have been organic since 2002. Força Réal is a stunning spot and great vantage point to take in the lie of the land of parcelled vineyards, olive groves, wild woodland and rocky outcrops around here. There's a signposted route off the Estagel road leading up to one of those view and info points; and a couple of other estates worth checking out up here too: Domaine Força-Réal and Domaine Boucabeille (profile and wine notes to follow).

2009 Camps Bernats Côtes du Roussillon white (Roussanne, Macabeu, Grenache gris) - quite toasty vs nicely oily and rich, attractive peachy fruit too with creamy and nutty finish. Good stuff, mature now.
2011 Arbosseres rosé (mostly Syrah + Grenache) - full-on colour and red fruity style, quite rich and rounded vs crisp finish. Nice foodie rosé.
2009 Cuvée Marion Côtes du Roussillon red (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre) - enticing dark fruit tinged with subtle oak, punchy and grippy mouth-feel vs lush and ripe, concentrated too. Very good.
2008 Cuvée Quentin Côtes du Roussillon Villages (more Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre) - richer smokier and a tad toastier, concentrated and powerful with solid firm backdrop, closes up on the long finish. Fairly wow.


Photo copied from www.sud-de-france.com, as they don't appear to have their own site yet; but you can email them on domaine.carlecourty@orange.fr if you wanted to call in and taste or find out where to get their wines. These four were tasted at this year's Millésime Bio wine show in Montpellier, where I talked to Frédéric.

France: the Southwest has moved...

Southwest France (Cahors, Madiran, Gascony & Armagnac, Bergerac etc.) has been teleported across to my other blog frenchmediterraneanwine.com (goes to SW archive page on that site) lock stock and barrels; and Bordeaux has now been too. Not very "Mediterranean" I know, but these wines, winemakers and wine-lands arguably have something in common with the broader South (sunshine? Doh.) than with genteel Bordeaux, although I've moved that region over there too to refocus everything French in one place (eventually)...

22 June 2012

Australia: Riesling

Petaluma Hanlin Hill
Vineyard Clare Valley
Riesling again, you might possibly be thinking - click on any of these links to read previous words on Aus Riesling and from elsewhere: Germany: Reichsrat von Buhl "Grand Cru" tastingBlue Nun: retro chic & Indian food, Austria: Weingut Sepp Moser, Eastern Slovenia: "taking on New Zealand", Wolf in sheep's clothing (Alsace), San Antonio, Chile: Casa Marín & Matetic Vineyards, Mosel: some things age better than others, Belfast Wine Festival, the aftermath…, Winery snapshots: Australia, Chile: Leyda, Australia: Riesling (Clare Valley, Tasmania...), Germany: mega Riesling, Terrassen-Mosel, Austria (cont.)... And probably even more if you can be bothered looking. A little obsessive, isn't it.
Back to Australia: the VIP line-up reviewed below was up for (mostly blind) tasting at a recent Wine Australia Ireland event in Dublin. Stepping into the bottle-filled room, it seemed like a good idea and difficult to resist. I'd also had an early start, so 20-odd lively Rieslings were a great pick-me-up for my palate. As you'll see, it goes to show the standard for Riesling in Australia is pretty high with only one or two wines not showing so well (but still good anyway). Certain regions stood out in particular - Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills (both in South Australia), Great Southern (Western Australia) - and certain wineries e.g. Grosset, Petaluma, Lehmann, Plantagenet, Mt Horricks, Leasingham. And there are wines here for anyone who likes their dry whites with a bit of quirky character, from easier drinking now to serious austere styles destined for bottle-ageing and Riesling die-hards. Prices (euro) and distributors are for Ireland, but most of these wines will also be available in the UK, USA etc. I'd imagine.

2009 Peter Lehmann, Barossa Valley - Honeysuckle peach and zesty citrus notes, quite delicate with subtle lime fruit vs steely bite vs oily texture. Drinking nicely. €10-€12 Comans, Dublin.
2009 De Bortoli Windy Peak, Victoria - Floral and oily with zesty lemon, fairly complex with elegant lime and zingy mouth-feel then oily development on its quite soft and attractive finish. €12-15 Febvre, Dublin.
2010 Yalumba Y series, South Australia - More closed up, floral and 'chalky' with tight zingy palate, has white peach and citrus edges with crisp length and a bit of weight too. €12-15 Cassidy Wines, Dublin.
2010 Wirra Wirra Lost Watch, Adelaide Hills - Limey vs 'chalky' nose and palate, pretty intense with it showing nice crisp vs concentrated combo, tasty and vibrant with some oily maturity as well. Fair class. €20+ Tindal Wines, Dublin.
2010 Plantagenet, Great Southern - Floral with lime and peach tones vs oily 'chalky' edges, reasonably soft and delicate yet crisp and intense, refreshing citrus vs oily finish. Classy. €15-18 Liberty Wines, Dublin.
2010 Thorn Clarke Milton Park, Eden Valley - Similar lime, orange peel and peach flower profile; oily mineral mouth-feel with enticing zing and 'chalky' finish vs lively fruit and some roundness too. €12-15 Febvre.
2010 Grant Burge, Eden Valley - Lively lime fruit vs oily Riesling development, not sure if it's very subtle or lacking something, a tad 'hot' too in the end? €18-20 Gilbeys, Dublin.
2010 Pewsey Vale, Eden Valley - Slightly richer and more exotic style with ripe kiwi and lime, soft yet mineral palate with tangy fresh length. Cassidy's.
2009 Thorn Clarke Terra Barossa, Eden Valley - Limier vs oilier and maturing too vs ripe green fruits and lime, 'chalky' oily texture and attractive fruit to finish. €15-18 Febvre.
2009 St. Hallett, Eden Valley - Quite full-on honeysuckle and lime vs developing oily tones, almost toasty and nutty even vs crisp mineral and delicate finish. €12-15 Gilbeys.
2007 Peter Lehmann, Eden Valley - Similar profile, quite oily and mature, a touch blowsy and fading maybe although again it's subtle and elegant too. Drink now. €15-18 Comans.
2003 Peter Lehmann Wigan Reserve, Eden Valley - Ripe oily and developed with underlying floral lime fruit, taking on toasty nutty edges with understated concentration; lovely mature Riesling fruit, delicate 'chalky' touches and elegant acidity still. Yum. €20+ Comans.
2010 Jacobs Creek Steingarten, Barossa - Tantalizing oily vs limey nose, 'chalky' zesty mouth-feel vs maturing notes, restrained vs developing flavours, very crisp almost clunky acidity but overall has nice style. €20+ Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard, Dublin.
2011 Wakefield Estate, Clare Valley - Herbal lime hints vs 'chalky' and mineral, maturing oily vs zesty flavours/texture; again fairly fine with delicate acidity, drinking well now too. Findlater Wine & Spirit Group, Dublin.
2011 Knappstein Handpicked, Clare Valley - 'Sweeter' more exotic style vs lime aromas underneath, tighter crisp mouth-feel vs a little weight and oily roundness; good although a bit short perhaps. €15-18 Gilbeys.
2011 Mount Horricks Watervale, Clare Valley - 'Reductive' lees edges, moving on to steely tight crisp and dry mouth-feel, unrevealing with intense mineral bite and long zingy citrus finish. Promising. €20+ Liberty Wines.
2011 Grosset 'Springvale' Watervale, Clare Valley - Zesty floral nose, intense steely palate, 'stoney' with eye-watering acidity vs delicate juicy citrus and very crisp very long finish. Wow. €20+ Liberty Wines.
2011 Grosset Polish Hill, Clare Valley - Lees-y reductive notes, very 'chalky' and zesty, lively intense crisp austere style with almost salty tang layered with juicy citrus. Needs time! €20+ Liberty Wines.
2008 Leasingham Bin 7, Clare Valley - Fragrant floral vs intense lime notes, lively acidity vs oily mineral characters, concentrated zesty citrus vs towards toasty tones on its long finish. Good stuff. €15-18 Barry & Fitzwilliam, Cork.
2006 Petaluma, Clare Valley - Perfumed and floral with peach and lime flower, intense zesty palate vs lovely oily maturing characters, rounded texture vs crisp bite; beautiful wine, still young even. €18-20 Gilbey's.
2005 Wakefield Jaraman, Clare & Eden Valley - Yeast-lees tones vs Riesling oily vs perfumed with white peach and lime aromas/flavours, builds up to toasty maturing linseed oil finish vs very crisp bite, subtle concentration too; fairly stylish, although the acidity jars a little in the end. €20+ Findlater's.

19 June 2012

Languedoc: Gérard Bertrand update, La Clape

These two tasty Gérard Bertrand 2010 reds, from his estate winery up in the wild-scented La Clape wine-lands a stone's throw from Narbonne Plage (if you have a strong arm at least), were tasting-noted and ticked by yours truly in the Languedoc a few weeks ago...
L'Hospitalitas (mostly Mourvèdre and Syrah I think) - enticing garrigue aromas, those elusive wacky sunburned wild herb characters, combined with dark cherry, cassis and liquorice; has a touch of toasty chocolate oak too adding 'sweeter' texture (rather than swamping it) to its firm and long finish. Promising, very good.
Art de Vivre (Syrah Mourvèdre Grenache) - similar profile, shows less depth of fruit perhaps and is less rounded, although it was a bit closed up; still has that lovely wild aromatic Clape thing going on though. Good+


Previous GB wines, profiles and comments:
gerard bertrand grand vin with more links to more pages (including reviews of older vintages of the first red here).
Latest news gleaned from www.vitisphere.com: he's now set up a US import company with distribution handled by Southern Wine & Spirits, Glazer’s, Young’s Market and M.S. Walker.

Other recent stuff on La Clape:

18 June 2012

Italy: "whites of the moment"

Asda "Extra Special" Fiano
Asda has been making an effort with its Italian white wines stocking a few lesser-known ones from Sicily, the mainland south and north. A nutty floral example is their 2011 Extra Special Fiano (13% alcohol) made by Cantine Settosoli in Sicily, which offers great value and taste for a fiver on offer. Try their slightly more exotic 2011 Extra Special Falanghina (12.5%) from Puglia too, also from the deep south and £5 at the moment. Or 2011 Lugana (13%) from the Lake Garda area in the north, a little dearer at £6.98 but has plenty of flavour and style for the money. Lidl can surprise too if you look beyond Pinot Grigio, Soave et al: give their 2011 Vernaccia di San Gimignano (12.5%) a go for £4.99, an elegant zesty white from Tuscany.
Updated:
July 2012: Asda now has their 2011 Extra Special Gavi on promo for a fiver, a delicate floral citrus-y and lightly chalky-textured dry white from Piedmont in the northwest.
August 2012: Tesco has been punting out the Inycon "Limited Edition" 2010 Grillo (12.5% alc.) - another native Sicilian white variety and possibly the most exciting one wine-wise - for £4.49, which is definitely worth investing in with its towards exotic fruit and texture with yeast-lees edges and fresh dry bite.

Italy: Ciró, obscure "red of the mo"

Ah yes, Ciró, one of my favourite red tipples actually... While browsing Lidl Ireland's fairly limited Italian wine selection (apart from all the usual suspects) this weekend gone, I came across this mysterious bottle from Ciró in the Calabria region - that's Italy's 'toe' reaching out to give Sicily a kick. What a pleasant surprise too: it sounded vaguely familiar as something commendably obscure from the south, so I had to give it a go to take to a dinner party. Made from the local Gaglioppo grape variety, this 2009 Riserva weighed in at 13.5% alcohol with dense colour, rich earthy dried black cherry and raisin aromas / flavours with wild herb edges; smoky and lush with ripe dark fruit encased in attractive firm vs rounded tannins, lingering wild 'sweet' vs meaty finish.
€7.99 in Ireland, £5.99 on offer in Lidl UK stores. By the way, here's a fascinating "everything you need to know about..." page on About.com; or there's even a Ciró wine Facebook page.

15 June 2012

Southwest: Château Lacapelle Cabanac, Cahors

Updated Jan 2013 (see below).

Okay, so Cahors isn't terribly Mediterranean (nor is the Rhone Valley, actually, but I have to put them on one blog or the other and at least there they have grape varieties in common with the rest of the Med-side south) and is distinctly "south-west" (varieties/climate indicative of or indigenous to the Bordeaux region and down/inland from that Atlantic-side corner of France). But I was pre-empting a just-been-made decision to broaden this blog's scope to a wider southern chunk of France (and eventually France overall possibly) by including this new winery profile on this site.
Anyway, after that essentially irrelevant intro paragraph, I rather like Cahors and its Malbec based red wines; and I came across Château Lacapelle-Cabanac at this year's Millésime Bio organic wine show going back a few months. Owner-growers Philippe Vérax and Thierry Simon have been doing it organically since 2005, and their handsome 20 ha (50 acre) property is found in a microscopic village that shares the same name to the west of Cahors town. Their address is simply "le Château, Lacapelle-Cabanac..." Like that, shouldn't be too hard to find then. Their vineyards are planted on this area's distinctive chalky scrubland at 300 metres altitude (nearly 1000 feet), where there's also a bit of Merlot. More @ www.lacapelle-cabanac.com, where you'll find distributors in Europe, North America and Australia even.

2010 Tradition Cahors (80-20 Malbec-Merlot) - a touch reduced/baked on the nose, 'inky' and concentrated with meaty vs dark fruit combo, nice rounded tannins with rich vs crunchy vs peppery finish. Good in the end. €6.45 cellar door.
2007 Prestige Cahors (90-10 Malbec-Merlot, 14-18 months oak ageing) - toasty coconut notes and grainy texture, more concentrated though with grippy still structured mouth-feel vs developing savoury edges. Good+ €8.85.
2007 'Malbec XL' Cahors (100% Malbec, 2 years in oak) - showing lots of smoky bacon oak, rich extracted and concentrated palate; still surprisingly young and closed up, good but is that oak ever going to fully melt in? €13

UPDATE
I caught up with Philippe on a late autumn 2012 wine touring trip around the heart of Malbec country itself, at the 'Cahors Malbec Lounge', a groovy wine bar cum office for the producers' association in the town centre... Follow this links for tasters of my three-part report:
Cahors: Malbec roadtrip part 1 Château Les Croisille - Château Combel La Serre - Château Tour de Miraval (contains links to these posts):
Cahors: Malbec roadtrip part 2 - Châteaux du Cayrou, Famaey, Métairie Grande du Théron, Latuc.
Cahors: Malbec roadtrip part 3 - Châteaux Haute-Serre, La Caminade, Armandière...

Anyway, I (re)sampled these vintages of his three reds:
2011 Cahors (12.5%) - aromatic and crunchy red fruits, fresh and firm palate with nice elegant fruit, lighter style this vintage.
2007 Prestige - coconut overtones, rich and extracted, concentrated though with powerful grippy mouth-feel layered with maturing dark vs herby fruit; the oak has melted in a little, long firm finish.
2009 Malbec XL - dense dark colour, pretty coconut oaky vs rich ripe plum fruit with spicy herb edges, powerful and extracted with gripping structured palate, young and not very revealing; too much new oak though, he does like to extract! Try it again in a year or two... €14

Cahors: special wine touring report now updated
November 2015
You can get my special Cahors wine touring supplement as a PDF file, featuring all three parts of my Malbec roadtrip trilogy posted on French Mediterranean Wine earlier this year, plus bonus winery profiles from this exciting region of south-west France AND new profiles and notes on ten organic estates including Lacapelle-Cabanac's latest (added Nov. 2015). Yours condensed into a neat 20 page mini-mag PDF with photos delivered by email for just £3 (about $4.50 or €4.20) - this report isn't available on the site. Click on the title link above to find that PayPal button!

Cider: Aspall, Suffolk and McCann's, Co. Armagh

Tried a bottle of these two quite different ciders recently (when it was hot a couple of weeks ago...), both available at Asda stores. Aspall in Suffolk prefers ye oldie spelling of cyder, as this indeed old-fashioned style is pretty full-on with 7% alcohol and intensely appley yeasty flavour, crisp and dry vs fair body as I said. Made from organic apples too. Definitely a food cider I'd say, pork being the obvious dish that springs to mind although should also go well with mature or blue cheeses. £1.50 on offer. More @ www.aspall.co.uk.

Northern Ireland apple and pear growers and juice and cider maker P McCann and Sons are based in rural Co. Armagh: "the apple county of Ireland," according their website mccannapples.co.uk. This 6% alcohol "traditional country cider" is softer and 'fruitier' than Aspall's, nicely refreshing with again lovely appley flavour but has 'sweeter' edges (it's still quite dry though). £2 for a larger bottle.

Latest post on cider here:
Cider: Duché de Longueville 'Gros Oeillet', Normandy (June 2013):
"Another post in my occasional series on quality ciders that have crossed my apple-strewn path, which brings us to the curious Gros Oeillet variety mentioned in the title that I'm told makes up at least 90% of this "naturally sparkling craft cider." Funny enough, this means either 'big eyelet' in French, as in curtain rings, or 'large carnation', as in oversized buttonhole filler..." Click on the red title.

Sud de France Festival London

... Has blasted off. Check out this link for all Languedoc-Roussillon wine & food events taking place until the end of the month:
festival-suddefrance.com/London

12 June 2012

Languedoc: Cabardès

First off, you'll find what I attempted to say about Cabardès last year immediately below, more or less, as that original post disappeared into the lost land of curious Blogger memory blackouts (not repeated since it has to be said). So, I've dug up these notes again and, just for the thrill of it, decided to pitch them against this year's incisive ramblings on Cabardès gleaned from a trip to the Languedoc just a few weeks ago (notes and thoughts from that one are below below). "Confused? You will be..."
"...Cabardès' trademark is a slightly wacky mix of Mediterranean, Rhone and Southwest grape varieties, which has a certain logic being out there in the wild west of the Languedoc... These weren't all the reds on tasting, as I’ve excluded quite a few 2008s that just weren’t that good: I suspect it’s a bit of a lean & mean vintage in the area and certainly not one to push the oak and/or extraction, as many winemakers did. From what I’ve tried so far of the 2009s and 2010s (the latter mostly unfinished samples on that occasion) though, things are looking much better in Cabardès country..." Discover it on a map and in situ lying discreetly to the north of Carcassonne, by the way.


Syrah budding from flickr.com/photos/mroconnell
aka Ryan @ ovineyards.com
Château de Jouclary tradition 2008 – enticing herbal minty vs maturing savoury aromas, leafy edges vs sweeter side, elegant and quite tasty now.
Château de Jouclary tradition 2010 – leafy tones vs darker plummy side, quite grippy yet has vibrant fruit, closes up on the finish but looks promising.

Domaine O’Vineyards Proprietor’s Reserve 2008 (40% Merlot 40% Syrah  20% Cabernet Sauvignon) – lots of choc and vanilla, grainy texture and tannins, some nice fruit vs leafy/cedary edges but it’s a bit swamped in oak; maybe its true nature will emerge, as it's quite good, but the winemaking seems a touch 'pushed'.
O’Vineyards Trah Lah Lah 2008 (2/3 Merlot 1/3 Cabernet) - again quite vanilla-y although also has appealing maturing berry fruit with savoury edges, attractive soft tannins too.
O’Vineyards Proprietor’s Reserve 2006 (as above) - better, enticing savoury notes with dark vs cedary fruit and complex herbal berry flavours, still quite firmly structured with that oak nicely melted in. Very good.
Château de Pennautier Terroirs d’Altitude 2008 – cedary/leafy vs nice cassis and cherry fruit, lightly creamy edges vs currant and cassis, quite firm and fresh but it works.
Château de Pennautier 2009 - smokier ripe side vs leafy edges, quite lush and tasty with full-on tannins, a tad extracted but that smoky vs tangy fruit does linger along with fair oomph. Good.
Château de Pennautier 2010 – quite closed up, more concentrated with vibrant blackberry/cherry, big mouthful of tannins vs sweet fruit, dark vs tangier side, should be very good.
Château de Pennautier L’Esprit Grand Vin 2008 – showing more cedary oak vs richer and more intense profile, cassis and light liquorice, spicy and punchy with firmer tighter mouth-feel, closes up with solid dry finish. Very good.
Château de Caumette Hauts-Lorgeril Collection d’Altitude 2008 – a bit richer and meatier than their “Mont Peyroux” 2008, fair concentration with solid tannins but this time rounder, tight and fresh with lusher fruit. Good.
Château de Caumette Guillaume de J… 2008 – minty herby cassis and black cherry, maturing edges; much richer and sweeter on the palate, power vs grip vs nice fruit. Good stuff.
Vignerons du Triangle d’Or Amethyste 2008 – cedary/leafy nose vs plum and blackcurrant, fruity vs chunky mouth-feel, quite nice although straightforward.
Domaine de Cazaban-Mengus Demoiselle Claire 2009 – leafy vs smoky, chunky fruity and initially impressive, tightens up; maybe lacks a little substance in the end.
Domaine de Cazaban-Mengus Les Petites Rangées 2009 – similar nose, more intricate perhaps, richer palate with attractive ripe vs smoky and plummy cassis fruit, firm but round tannins, tight dry finish with underlying sweeter/punchy side.
Domaine de Cazaban-Mengus Domaine de Cazaban 2009 – richer still, more oak but it's nicely lush and smoky, concentrated with spicy tobacco and savoury edges vs chunky tannins and sweet fruit, power and length. Lovely.
Domaine de Cazaban-Mengus 2010 – not giving much away, has that 'sweet vs savoury' thing with big yet rounded tannins, power and tight firm finish. Again very good.
Mas Ventenac 2010 – minty and cassis/cherry, quite solid and rich with firm vs rounded finish, tannins are still a bit hard but again has nice vibrant fruit.

Moving swiftly back to 2012 and the most recent/older vintages scrutinized plus a few Cabardès wine folk encountered over tasting and lunch (late April): Wenny Tari of Château de Brau, Anne Marandon-Maurel of Château Salitis and Ryan O'Connell from Domaine O'Vineyards...
Interesting to note perhaps, following on from what I said above about those 2008s, that there weren't any from this vintage on the Cab tasting table this time. Meaning: all sold or producers weren't chuffed enough to put them on show? Nothing wrong with a little idle speculation at least. But the 09s and 10s (now bottled) sampled here do confirm what I felt last year (although the tannins on some 09s also now seem rather dry, across the region). I was among those who praised 2008 initially, in general, as two or three years ago the wines were looking OK. Now I've changed my mind a little - again generally as there are some good 08 wines out there of course, as featured above and elsewhere on this blog - despite people constantly defending the vintage applying the obsessive tag of "freshness" to the wines, translating literally (fraicheur, trendy word nowadays referring to more elegant reds). Well, fine: nobody likes overly heavy or un-elegant reds, but I'm not sure we should be looking in the Languedoc ad nauseum for "fresh" light red wines? Especially if that really means unripe, lean and charmless... Anyway, these Cabardès reds, rosés and whites range from nice to very good+ :

Rosé - all 2011

Lorgeril/Château de Pennautier - nice enough rosé, lacks a bit of zing maybe.
Sesquières - better, quirky red pepper type aromas (Cabernet Franc?) moving on to a creamier palate vs crisp red fruits and fresh bite. Good.
Château Jouclary - clean crisp and tighter in the 'Provence' style, showing nice bite and zing.
Château de Brau (Syrah, Cabernet Franc) - 'winey' (sounds meaningless in English when talking about wine, but the French do refer to fuller fruitier rosé styles as vineux) oily and rounded with ripe red fruits vs fresher crisper finish. Good although already turning a bit old?

White - 2011

Château Salitis Viognier - odd almost 'botrytised' character, ripe and aromatic with exotic vs green fruit flavours, tasty enough in the end especially with food.

Red

2007

Château de Brau Le Suc - red pepper hints vs smoky maturing notes, coconut grain texture vs red/black fruits, quite firm still yet developing savoury flavours, attractive bitter twist vs plummy fruit.
Cave La Malepère Révolution - rather oak soaked but there's some attractive chunky fruit underneath.
O’Vineyards Stranger (Merlot) - resiny oaky nose with lush plummy fruit, a bit too much vanilla although has attractive savoury development too, grainy vs sweet textured; kinda ripe Pomerol style, although I'd prefer less oak.

2009

Château du Donjon L'Autre - sweet cherry and liquorice, grippy vs ripe mouth-feel, attractive style.
Château de Pennautier Terroirs d'Altitude - lush and smoky start with fair depth, tannins are a little bitter although it has good fruit.
Château Jouclary Guillaume de Jouclary - cedary oak touches vs nice ripe dark cherry and cassis, lush vs grippy palate, structured and powerful finish. Very good.
Château Jouclary Les Amandiers - more closed up, concentrated with grainy texture showing red pepper vs darker fruit, again extracted but not too much, long and tasty in the end. Very good.
Sesquières cuvée du chene - quirky mix of sweet fruit and herby red pepper, maturing oily palate with liquorice vs firmer and fresher side. Good.
Château de Brau Cuvée Exquise - rustic and 'soupy' vs crunchier fruit too, grippy and concentrated, quite rustic but has good depth.

2010

Foncalieu - Château Saint Agel - modern fruity / oaky combo, not bad depth in the end.
Château de Pennautier - quite rich and smoky, solid and grippy vs attractive ripe fruit, closes up on a structured finish; promising.
Château de Brau - pretty grippy and tight on the palate, structured and concentrated with nice fruit underneath. Good.
Sesquières cuvée Prestige - again offers that mix of red peppery and dark cherry fruit, firm and extracted mouth-feel yet rounded and ripe underneath. Good.
Château Salitis Equinoxe (Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Grenache) - attractive lush fruity style with good depth and grip, tasty finish with dark smoky flavours. €8.50 cellar door.
Château Salitis Cuvée des Dieux (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache) - enticing ripe dark fruit, concentrated vs grippy vs rounded, smoky tobacco edges vs black plum fruit. Good stuff. €9.50

Finally, more in-depth profiles on a few leading Cabardès wineries (some of them featured above) with notes on previous vintages can be found here:
Profile on O'Vineyards will follow soon-ish (honest)...

08 June 2012

Sicily: Valdibella, Camporeale


Valdibella is a mini co-operative winery set up in the late 90s, although the local 'crops' - grapes (mostly indigenous varieties), almonds (apparently there are 90 types grown in this region) and olives - have been farmed organically here for longer, as sustainable nature is the members' central common ethos. The company is also a community spirited employer and lobbying organization that supports "young people in difficulty" and the Addiopizzo movement against "mafia rackets," as it says on their site. Its six members include Massimiliano Solano, Luigi Montalbano, Gioacchino Accardo, Pietro Scardino and Filippo Giglione, who between them own 38 ha (95 acres) of undulating vineyards around Camporeale and Monreale, on the western side of Sicily inland from Palermo, planted on slopes up to 500 metres (1640 feet above sea level). The people at the co-op have also written their own biodiversity and winemaking charter - see www.valdibella.com - including a low or no sulphite policy, which is a tricky path to tip-toe down and not entirely successful in all of the wines I tried, although some of them are deliciously quirky with it. They're rather proud of their Catarratto too, an old and widely-planted Sicilian white variety, which you'll find here as 50 year-old bush vines and made into three different wines. Same story for Perricone, an almost extinct red grape vine indigenous to western Sicily. Encountered at this year's Millesime Bio organic wine show in Montpellier.


2010 Isolano (100% Catarratto "Extra Lucido") - appley nutty 'natural' style with lovely bite and intense finish.
2011 Ariddu (Grillo) - wild yeast-leesy nose, fairly rich mouth-feel vs crisp mineral bite and citrus fruits, concentrated and lively finish. Yum, very nice white.
2010 Acamante (Perricone) - perfumed and peppery with floral cherry notes, tasty palate with quite soft vs dry tannins. Different and good with it.
2011 Respiro (Nero d'Avola, no SO2 hence the name presumably meaning "breath") - a little baked/oxidised and meaty on the nose vs ripe dark fruit combo, attractive supple tannins. Was a vat sample though so might not have travelled well!
2010 Respiro - similar nose although fruitier vs those developed meaty edges, concentrated chunky mouth-feel vs rounded tannins. Good stuff.
2010 Jaki (50-50 Cabernet Sauvignon-Nero d'Avola) - dark 'tar' like aromas, rich extracted palate with again those nice tannins, very ripe oily character almost vs enticing savoury meaty maturing edges. Wow, a bit odd but delicious with it.

07 June 2012

Rhone: Domaine Coteaux des Travers, Rasteau


And not forgetting Cairanne too: they grow four ha (10 acres) of vines in that neighbouring village sub-appellation to Rasteau and ten in the perhaps now better-known latter (if you see what I mean), where they make regular reds and fortified Vin Doux Naturel reds both centered on sumptuous Grenache. The team here is headed up by Robert Charavin, whose family wine roots go back to the Revolution I'm told. They recently turned fully organic in 2010, the first "official" vintage tasting-noted below at this year's Millésime Bio wine show held in Montpellier, and have since set off down the more mystic path towards biodynamism. Two of these reds (not sure which two...) cost €10.80 a bottle cellar door; and this estate is well represented in North America, the UK and Ireland: see www.coteaux-des-travers.com for distributors and some nice photos as below.
2010 Cuvée Marine white Côtes du Rhône (Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache blanc, Viognier) - nice oily honeyed nose and palate vs juicy fruit, quite soft and exotic vs light 'mineral' bite. Good stuff.
2010 Cairanne Côtes du Rhône Villages (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah) - peppery vs liquorice aromas/flavours, again it's quite soft on the palate vs punchy spicy finish; a touch baked perhaps but has nice Grenache style.
2010 Rasteau Réserve (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) - spicy peppery nose, richer liquorice-tinged Grenache fruit in the mouth and more structured too vs nicely rounded tannins; firm vs peppery vs concentrated finish. Lovely hearty red typical of what you'd want from this area.
2010 Rasteau Prestige (Grenache, Syrah: older vines, fermented in large cone-shaped wooden vats) - tighter and more structured, peppery and punchy mouth-feel then closes up on the finish; needs a couple of years to come out of its shell. Should be very good though.

France: Centre-Loire, Pinot rosé and red

sancerre-roblin.com 
The next in this nail-biting mini-series - see my Centre-Loire "silex" tasting - brings about a seasonal change of colour and grape variety, and highlights a handful of lesser-known wines from this part of central-northern France. Rosés from Sancerre, Menetou-Salon et al seem to have made headway in recent years gaining listings in some supermarkets even; but the reds are still fairly rare outside of France or specialist independent wine shops. The main variety behind these wines, that dear old friend Pinot Noir, only comes to about 20% of what's planted in the region; plus there's a tiny bit of Pinot Gris too in Reuilly used for rosé (thanks to the pinkish hue on its skin). I've included a lot less of the reds than I actually tasted (in London a few weeks ago), as disappointingly too many of them were a little lean on flavour and lacked charm or excitement. Which does make you question whether Pinot Noir for reds has a great future here, if it only really produces high-standard wines in particular vintages or sites? Then again, I guess they can always make nice rosé out of it every year! I've added names of UK importers or ex-cellar prices where available.

Rosé

Domaine Claude Lafond 2011 Reuilly - juicy and zesty with light yeast-lees undertones, hints of rose petal aromas although this basically tastes like a good white wine. Charles Sydney.
Domaine Cordaillat 2011 Reuilly - similar pale style, perhaps more intense on the palate with attractive lively finish. Theatre of Wines.
Domaine Cirotte 2011 Sancerre - crisp juicy leesy mouth-feel layered with subtle red fruits, long and zingy with fair extract too. Quite classy rosé. €5.60
Domaine Bernard Reverdy et Fils 2011 Sancerre - a tad redder in colour vs green fruit edges, lively juicy finish. Nice style. Goedhuis & Co.

Red

Domaine de Chatenoy 2010 Menetou-Salon - shows attractive Pinot character, quite delicate and mouth-watering with light grip and freshness vs subtle underlying red fruit. Good. Enotria Cellars.
Domaine Pellé Morogues 2010, Menetou-Salon - a touch 'reduced' on the nose, moving on to a fairly concentrated palate with subtle savoury cherry fruit, refreshing bite on the finish; lacks a little charm maybe but nice enough.
Domaine Teiller 2010, Menetou-Salon - juicy delicate red with light 'sweet/savoury' profile, not bad Pinot style although perhaps too subtle for its own good!? Yapp Brothers.
Gérard Millet 2011, Sancerre - a bit fuller in the mouth vs tangy 'sweet/savoury' flavours, lively finish with elegant fruit too. Good.
Domaine Matthias et Emile Roblin 2010, Sancerre - aromatic floral cherry with truffle notes even, quite concentrated yet refreshing, juicy and elegant length. Easily my favourite in this line-up: very good. €6.70 ex-cellar.
Daniel Chotard 2010, Sancerre - hints of 'sweet/savoury' Pinot character, shows fair concentration vs tight and delicate; finishes a touch lean perhaps although still quite good. Richards Walford.
Domaine André Vatan 2010, Sancerre - understated 'sweet/savoury' vs violet notes, attractive dry texture vs ripe red fruits vs fresh bite too. Pretty good. Yapp Brothers.
Domaine Philippe Raimbault 2009, Sancerre - hints of maturing 'sweet/savoury' style, it's a little over-extracted but has enticing perfumed fruit finish too. MH Wines, Bijou Bottles, Griffinwell.


There's a Sancerre vertical tasting HERE (2005 to 1996)...