Richard Mark James' wine & travel blog
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29 November 2012

Languedoc: Domaine Coston update, Terrasses du Larzac

You'll find my previous words of wisdom on this very much family affair - Joseph, Marie-Thérèse, Philippe and Jean-Marc Coston to be precise - and their generally pretty good range of wines on this page (notes posted 2006 and 2008). Wow, was that really four years already?! I caught up with Philippe or Jean-Marc (sorry, can't remember which one, they do look a little alike being, like erm, brothers...) earlier this year at Millésime Bio organic wine show in Montpellier (they have been bio since '99 actually) and tried their latest vintages, tasting-noted below. He took great relish in telling me they've recently replanted nine hectares (12 acres) of vine-land, which they acquired after the very high-profile failed Mondavi bid debacle to buy up the entire village area I think. Here we go...

2011 rosé (Mourvèdre, Carignan, Syrah) - clean and crisp style, quite taut zingy and steely finish. Nice with it though. €6 cellar door.
2010 Terrasses du Larzac red (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre) - enticing meaty edges with spicy minty wild herbs vs dark fruits, tight firm mouth-feel with subtle vs concentrated finish. Good stuff. €9
2009 Les Garigoles (Grenache, Syrah) - savoury vs rich mix, hints of oak grain on a dry solid palate, shows good balance of developing fruit, grip and weight on its still quite closed up finish. €16
2010 Les Garigoles (Grenache, Syrah) - richer and smokier than the 09, a tad more chocolate oak too but has more depth and structure, chewy savoury vs dark fruit finish with attractively textured tannins. Very good. €16

28 November 2012

Languedoc: Domaine de Roquemale, Grés de Montpellier

Valérie and Dominique Ibanez bought 11 ha (27 acres) of vines, some of them up to 60 years old, in the Roquemale valley (means something like "cursed rock," as the soils are indeed stoney around here) near Villeveyrac in the slightly schizophrenic Grés de Montpellier appellation (their vineyard lies to the west of the city, but the AOP area extends across to the other side of town too). There's a towards quirky mix of varieties planted here - Syrah, Grenache noir, gris and blanc; Cinsault, Alicante Bouschet, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Vermentino and some old-vine Servant (!?) - which have all been tended organically since 2008. The Ibanez's have also put a lot of work and €€ into doing up their sizeable old stone cellar in the village to combine mini-winery, tasting and sales area and a cosy room/apartment offering B&B. They hold 'open weekends' four times a year, if you're ever in the area and fancy a spot of tasting and vine gazing. All you need to know @ www.roquemale.com. I tasted these wines with Valérie at this year's Millésime Bio wine show.

2011 Les Cistes rosé (Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache) - attractive crisp and zingy style rosé with a touch of elegance too.
2011 Roq Blanc (Grenache gris and blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne Vermentino) - tasty exotic fruit with peach and mango aromas and nice yeast-lees edges, steely gummy notes too on the palate vs enticing fatter texture, subtle and complex vs full and rounded; drinking well now.
2010 Les Grés red (mostly Syrah + Grenache, no oak) - seductive fruity spicy Syrah characters with minty peppery black cherry fruit vs dry grip, lovely lingering fruit.
2010 Lema (mostly Grenache + Syrah, 20% of it barrel-aged) - a little closed up at first with smoky oak undertones, concentrated and more extracted mouth-feel, grippy tight tannic structure; less obvious and fruity than above but has longer finish and will probably end up more interesting.
2010 Male (not the highly scented JPG aftershave, but mostly Syrah with 50% new oak) - not too oaky though with dense extracted black cherry and chocolate flavours, attractive grainy vs rounded tannins with powerful tight finish; needs a bit of time to open up.

23 November 2012

South Africa part 3: Chenin blanc, Viognier, Grenache blanc, Semillon...

This third blast of "blurb & bottles" in my recent South African mini-series - see Part 2: "unusual" reds (well, some of them) (posted October) and Part 1 Pinot Noir (September) if that grabs you - takes a brief look at a few tasty white wines. And especially perennial favourite Chenin blanc, which I've gone on about before (goes to SA archive page) and no doubt will do again. This French variety has a long track record in the Cape and can make a dazzling array of quality dry to sweet wine styles, including some very sound sparkling wines too; as long as it's not too mass produced, which usually ends up as rather bland and characterless. Viognier is, like in most wine regions outside of France, a relative parvenu in South Africa; and winemakers here are beginning to show us what they can do with this more exotic and powerful grape, as a varietal wine or blended with Chenin and/or others such as Grenache blanc. The latter Catalan / southern French variety is also featuring more and more in the Cape wine-lands and, logically, seems to suit South Africa's warm/hot climate zones well. This merry band of whites was tried and tested on different occasions this year, some of them at the London Wine Fair a few months ago and the rest at home or on wine courses I've been running.

Bellingham 2011 The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc (14%) - tight and steely at first layered with a subtle creamier honeyed side, not very revealing when I tasted it (was too cold) but feels like it's got a bit of class underneath. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone (imported by DGB Europe) or $30-$50 USA.
Adi Badenhorst 2011 Secateurs Chenin Blanc, Swartland (14.5% alc) - lovely exotic honeyed character with cantaloupe melon fruit and oily rounded mouth-feel, fair weight too then steelier and spicier finish nicely counteracting its rich style. UK £9.75 James Nicholson (NI), £11.50 Swig (London). Older Badenhorst here.
Spier 2010 21 Gables Chenin Blanc (14%) - full-on Burgundy-esque buttery style with sweet fruit and creamy hazelnut flavours, nice weight and mouth-feel; good although could be Chardonnay! £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Jean Daneel 2011 Chenin Blanc (14%) - quite rich and toasty with hazelnut undertones, dry and steely palate though with intense long finish; still tasting young needing a few months bottle age probably, but promising. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Ken Forrester 2011 Reserve Chenin Blanc (14%) - Mr. Forrester is 'the daddy' of Chenin blanc (and makes a few own-labels in the UK such as Tesco's Finest CB), and this example shows his usual class. Quite restrained tight and zesty to start vs a weightier honeyed side, crisp long finish; needs time too to come together and open up.
Villiera 2011 Traditional Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc (13.3%) - aromatic juicy honey and melon with greengage edges, turning more buttery on the palate vs good bite and length; nice style. UK £7-£10 Crush Wines, US $14-$30, Eurozone €9-€15.
De Trafford Four V Chenin Blanc (14.68%) - fairly powerful stuff with rich honeyed fruit and texture, attractive nuttier finish too. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Beaumont 2011 Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc (12.5%) - not showing much at first, gets fuller and rounder though with nutty flavours, a hint of sweetness too vs lively yeast-lees notes. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Stellenrust 2010 '46' Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc (14%) - leesy nose, quite toasty and rich too with juicy honeyed melon fruit, nutty and crisp on the finish vs full and ripe. Another attractive style. UK: Bibendum Wines.
Bosman Family Vineyards 2010 Optenhorst Chenin Blanc (13.5%) - fairly lush with toasted hazelnut vs maturing savoury oaty notes, finishing with steely bite; attractive and quite classy. £10-£20 UK (Thierry's), €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.

Leeuwenkuil Family Reserve white 2011 (50% Chenin blanc, 20% Roussanne, 16% Grenache blanc, 10% Clairette blanche, 4% Verdelho; 13.5% alc.) - juicy honeyed and creamy with aromatic nutty side too, quite punchy vs very crisp (the acidity's a little hard actually) vs toasty rounded finish. Interesting though. UK £7-£10 New Generation Wines, US $14-$30, Eurozone €9-€15.
KWV 2010 The Mentor's Grenache Blanc (14.2%) - interesting quirky wine, big and punchy with enticing hazelnut vs herby notes, rounded and full-on vs crisper nutty finish. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Bellingham 2011 The Bernard Series Whole Bunch 'Grenache Blanc with Viognier' (14%) - rich and toasty with powerful palate, again has surprisingly tight and subtle finish after that full-on start; probably needs a bit of time to express itself. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone (imported by DGB Europe) or $30-$50 USA.
Bellingham 2011 The Bernard Series Hand-Picked Viognier (13.5%) - steelier more restrained style of Viognier with zesty lees notes vs lightly exotic aromatic fruit, tight and quite crisp finish vs touch of richness. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone (imported by DGB Europe) or $30-$50 USA.
Flagstone 2011 Word of Mouth Viognier (14.2%) - hints of floral apricot, again quite discreet at first yet powerful in the mouth; either a tad lacking or a little more elegant than is good for it?! UK £7-£10 Accolade Wines, US $14-$30, Eurozone €9-€15.
Escapades 2011 Semillon (14.5%) - a bit cold and closed up when I first tried it, develops toasty edges vs 'waxy' honeyed fruit, tight and fresh mouth-feel vs pretty full-on and rounded. Needs a few months?
Cloof 2010 The Very Vivacious Viognier, Darling (12.5%) - well, not very, but this is still an attractive lighter style of Viognier with floral peachy apricot notes and rounded easy-drinking palate. www.winesulike.co.uk £10.99

21 November 2012

Cahors: Malbec roadtrip part 1, Château Les Croisille - Château Combel La Serre - Château Tour de Miraval

Hostellerie Le Vert
Cahors: special wine touring report now available
You can get my special Cahors wine touring supplement as a PDF file, featuring all three parts of my Malbec road-trip trilogy posted on French Mediterranean Wine earlier this year, plus bonus winery profiles from this exciting region of south-west France (and any other recent in-depth features produced in this format). Yours condensed into a neat 20 page mini-mag PDF delivered by email: buy it for £3 - these specials are not free2view. Click on the title link above to find the PayPal buttons! UPDATED NOV. 2015: ten new organic wine estate profiles added.

This first tantalizing installment reporting from once-upon-a-time a little downtrodden but now groovy again Cahors, in deepest southwest France ("home of Malbec" as it likes to dub itself, with a certain amount of justification...), features three dynamic estates: Château Les Croisille, Château Combel La Serre and Château Tour de Miraval. I met Germain Croisille and Julien Ilbert from the first two over dinner at Hotel Le Terminus (opposite Cahors town rail station) in their highly recommended restaurant Le Balandre (links to site), where we tasted, talked and ate well. And I encountered Evelyne Demeaux-Lévy (pic.) from Tour de Miraval the following day in similar circumstances 'across the table'...
Get the full report to read on - follow the link at the top for payment...

Watch out for my further adventures of 'desperately seeking Malbec' in Cahors; featuring Châteaux du Cayrou, Famaey, Métairie Grande du Théron, Latuc (links to Part 2); and in Part 3 here: Haute-Serre, La Caminade, Armandiere, La Capelle Cabanac, La Bérangeraie, Clos Troteligotte and Vino Valie/Les Bouysses among others. Plus more restaurant and wine travel tips...

13 November 2012

Wine courses and tastings in Belfast 2013

These wine tasting events and courses, which I'm planning to run in Belfast in the first half of next year, are now up on the Wine Education Service website (link takes you there); including our Classic Wines of Southern France course. So get booking now to have some fun in 2013 tasting and learning about wine... or buy one as an alternative Christmas gift for a wine loving friend or family member!

Essential Wine Tasting 5 week course £125 five sessions
Tuesday evenings Feb 5, 12, 19, 26 and March 5.
Tuesday evenings April 23, 30 and May 7, 14 and 21.
More details about this course here: wine-education-service.co.uk/introductory

Classic Wines of Southern France 5 week course £150 five sessions
Tuesday evenings March 12, 19, 26 and April 2 & 9.
More details about this course here: wine-education-service.co.uk/intermediate

Classic Grape Varieties 5 week course £150 five sessions
Tuesday evenings May 28 and June 4, 11, 18 and 25.
More details about this course here: wine-education-service.co.uk/intermediate

One-day workshops Saturdays £75 for the day including lunch (and wine).
Grape to Glass Feb 2
Wines of France April 6.
More details about these workshops here: wine-education-service.co.uk/workshop

Tutored tastings Thursday evenings
March 28 Classic Grape Varieties - £30
May 30 Wines of Spain - £30
June 27 Champagne & Sparkling Wines - £35
Book these three tastings with Paypal:



Select tasting:



Overview and booking for courses and one-day workshops on the WES Belfast web page HEREOr go back to the homepage from there for details of wine courses and tastings running in London, Manchester, Aberdeen and other UK cities.

Wine courses and tastings in Belfast 2013

These wine tasting events and courses, which I'm planning to run in Belfast in the first half of next year, are now up on the Wine Education Service website (link takes you there). So get booking now to have some fun in 2013 tasting and learning about wine... or buy one as an alternative Christmas gift for a wine loving friend or family member!

Essential Wine Tasting 5 week course £125 five sessions
Tuesday evenings Feb 5, 12, 19, 26 and March 5.
Tuesday evenings April 23, 30 and May 7, 14 and 21.
More details about this course here: wine-education-service.co.uk/introductory

Classic Wines of Southern France 5 week course £150 five sessions
Tuesday evenings March 12, 19, 26 and April 2 & 9.
More details about this course here: wine-education-service.co.uk/intermediate

Classic Grape Varieties 5 week course £150 five sessions
Tuesday evenings May 28 and June 4, 11, 18 and 25.
More details about this course here: wine-education-service.co.uk/intermediate

One-day workshops Saturdays £75 for the day including lunch (and wine).
Grape to Glass Feb 2
Wines of France April 6.
More details about these workshops here: wine-education-service.co.uk/workshop

Tutored tastings Thursday evenings
March 28 Classic Grape Varieties - £30
May 30 Wines of Spain - £30
June 27 Champagne & Sparkling Wines - £35
Book these three tastings with Paypal:


Select tasting:



Overview and booking for courses and one-day workshops on the WES Belfast web page HEREOr go back to the homepage from there for details of wine courses and tastings running in London, Manchester, Aberdeen and other UK cities.

SUBSCRIBE FOR JUST £10!

YOU CAN NOW SUBSCRIBE (click there or on the Paypal button on the right) TO MY TWO WINE BLOGS USING PAYPAL FOR JUST £10 A YEAR (approx $17 or €12.50)! AND ADVERTISING HERE NOW ONLY COSTS £100 FOR 12 MONTHS (or equivalent in $/€). Go for it!

06 November 2012

Rioja: old and rare CVNE and Contino

I recently rediscovered and have just re-posted a rather nice Rioja blast from the past entitled "a tutored tasting of CVNE and Contino old and rare Riojas by winemaker Jesús Madrazo Mateo," (click there to view it) originally scribbled in 2001. Includes (at times slightly surreal) notes on elderly Viña Real and Imperial Gran Reserva reds and Contino Reservas with vintages going back to 1952. But quite a few from the best years of the 70s, 80s and 90s; as well as "an oddball finale" from 1939... Enjoy a little retro Rioja chic! Mind you, one or two of them were towards dodgy though.

05 November 2012

Rhône: Clos de Caveau, Vacqueyras

Bungener family
with all-singing all-dancing dog.
Henri Bungener has been running his 12-hectare (30 acre) vineyard organically since 1989, which is located all in one secluded sheltered spot up in the hills on the wild-side slopes of the Dentelles de Montmirail. You'll eventually find Clos de Caveau a couple of kilometres out of the little village of Vacqueyras (see closdecaveau.com for directions), which is about 25 miles north of Avignon and 15 miles east of Orange. And handily enough, they also own three different-sized holiday gites on or near the property if you fancy taking in a bit of fresh air and sunshine in the middle of Provencal nowhere. Henri's Vacqueyras reds are made from about two-thirds Grenache, one-third Syrah; and apparently are available in Switzerland, Germany, USA, UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, China, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan. That's useful then!

2008 Fruit Sauvage (Grenache, Syrah) - perhaps a tad past it and lean but it does have hints of nice savoury vs 'sweet' fruit still lurking underneath. €6.30 ex-cellars.
2009 Carmin Brillant (Grenache, Syrah) - aromatic ripe fruity nose, very firm yet peppery and has good depth of fruit, a touch extracted though in the end perhaps. €8.70 ex-cellars.
2007 Lao Muse (Grenache, Syrah) - smoky notes with a hint of oak too, concentrated maturing fruit showing lovely 'sweet/savoury' style and peppery edges, firm and gutsy vs delicious fruit. €18 ex-cellars.

Chile: a couple of "Carmeneres of the moment"

Juicy Carmenere
from en.wikipedia.org
There's a feature I wrote HERE on Chile's love/hate affair with Carmenere, or Carmenère to give it its French accent, told from leading winery De Martino's perspective about their trials, tribulations and eventual success with this quirky variety adopted more or less by accident. As that piece touches on, DNA tests in the early 1990s confirmed that much of what was believed to be Merlot was actually Carmenère, a once fairly common variety in Bordeaux before the phylloxera bug invasion destroyed vineyards in the 19th Century, but was never widely replanted. So, to cut a no doubt long story short, it ended up in Chile the following century when people brought over cuttings and seedlings of "Merlot" presumably. Chilean wineries were given a bit of time to sort out their blends and labelling, as there are now nearly 9000 hectares (over 22,000 acres) of it planted; and Carmenere started appearing on labels as a varietal or in blends from the mid 90s. De Martino's winemaker Marcelo Retamal commented at that tasting: "Fifteen years later, we've been trying to understand it and we're still learning!" Other wineries on that Chile archive page that seem to be doing good things with Carmenere include Ventisquero, Echeverría, Bisquertt and Errázuriz.
Anyway, back to the current Carmenere action and those two promised new wines, both of them supermarket own-labels actually. On a geeky linguistic note, from memory the Tesco wine had a grave accent and the Morrison's one didn't; read what you like into that!
2011 Carmenère Doña Dominga, Colchagua Valley (14%) - deep purple black colour, dense and vibrant youthful fruit with 'inky' dark plum notes edged with soy sauce aromas, that 'sweet/sour' flavour theme continues on the palate with fair concentration of rich vs tangy fruit, quite firm and fresh too with lingering red/black fruits and spicy red pepper tones. Different and good with it, needs a few months in bottle perhaps to calm down a bit. £8.49 Tesco Finest.
2010 Carmenere, Colchagua Valley (13.5%) - it doesn't say which winery made it (annoying that, as if Morrison's brewed it up in Bradford). Similarly dense colour and texture, this has a more obvious layer of vanilla oak that adds (sweeter) flavour and roundness, quite chunky and tasty though with nice ripe vs spicy/tangy undertones, firm vs rounded finish. Like the Tesco wine, this improved after being open for a day. Morrison's £6.99.
Industry body Wines of Chile launched a "Carmenere with curry" marketing initiative last year, and I can kind of see what they mean although not convinced it's a brilliant match. Depends on the dish, as hot chillis really clash with tannin in red wine whatever other suitable taste attributes it might have. However, the Morrison's Carmenere was pretty good with a fairly spicy beef burrito (bought in Asda funnily enough, who probably also do a Carmenere; I'll have to check...)