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

27 November 2013

Languedoc: Jean-Louis Denois, Roquetaillade

I posted comments and info back in April about Jean-Louis Denois' "no added sulphite" wines from his northern Roussillon vineyards HERE, including a little background on the man, how these wines came about and what attracted him to the St-Paul and Caudiès de Fenouillet area. I've since added a few new notes to that profile too on other wines sourced from these Agly valley plots, such as two vintages of his smart Saint Louis Syrah. This time, the spotlight focuses in on some of the sparkling, white and red wines that have helped build his south-of-France reputation, which come from his elevated 'Upper Aude valley' vineyards in the lost villages of Roquetaillade (called la Borde-Longue) and Magrie (la Métairie d’Alon) lying within the Limoux appellation (he doesn't label all of them as that though for various reasons). This is where Jean-Louis' Languedoc 'adventure' began, as the story goes...
Born into a long-established Champagne family, Jean Louis studied winemaking and business, then went to work for Boschendal in South Africa making 'Cap Classique' fizz. He also travelled around Australia, New Zealand and the US to take in what else was going on in the wider wine world. When he returned to France, he created a sparkling wine brand sourced from just outside the Champagne area that was big in the USA apparently. He bought his first Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards in Limoux country in the late 1980s, followed by planting Champagne clones of Pinot in the early 90s to make fine sparkling wines. This expanding estate was to become the now relatively famous Domaine de l'Aigle, which was sold to Antonin Rodet and now belongs to the Gérard Bertrand group. This cooler spot, with some vineyards lying at over 300 metres above sea level, was also considered a good place for making later ripening finer styles of Cabernet (both) and Merlot; and are part of a total of "57 parcels," as Jean Louis describes his patchwork estate, including the aforementioned Roussillon sites. More @ www.jldenois.com.

Domaine de la Borde-Longue (Roquetaillade) – 'Haute Vallée de l'Aude'
2011 La Bourdette Cabernet Franc (13.5%) - nice 'sweet/savoury' fruit, berries with 'soy sauce' tones; dry and firm vs rounded too with a touch more obvious oak than the Syrah say. 2nd day – that oak has blended into the wine better, ripe rounded texture vs structured and 'fresh' tannins, well balanced and quite elegant with a little weight and light coconut grain. Also needs a bit longer to open up.
2010 La Bourdette Cabernet Sauvignon (14.5%) - enticing dark cassis and cherry with earthy liquorice notes vs maturing savoury vs coco oak edges, lovely concentrated fruit with light coco vs dark choc texture, sweet vs savoury too with a fair kick and dry vs supple tannins. Long balanced and quite elegant / classy despite that alcohol, tightens up with a touch of freshness, light dry bite and lingering dark liquorice vs savoury fruit. Lovely wine, drinking well now although should improve a little more. €12
2008 Reserve Merlot - a bit oaky to start (surprising after 5 years) although has nice smooth tannins, quite rich plum and chocolate flavours, dry vs rounded profile; was even okay with a Chinese pork dish. Turns more savoury after being open, showing liquorice and a wilder earthy fruit side, nice tannin texture and depth of fruit vs chocolate oak edges; more 'volatile' and oxidised after two days open (not surprisingly).

2006 Pinot Noir brut Vin Mousseux de Qualité élaboré en Méthode Traditionnelle' (12%). Intricate toasted nut and Fino notes on the nose, baked oats straw and honey vs floral red fruity mix, chocolate and bread tones too; rich toasty nutty and yeasty flavours, concentrated with fine tight acid structure still, fresh and dry vs all those lingering complex aged flavours, delicious and classy. Maturing vs still young, will keep longer yet it's lovely now; tastes like Vintage Bolly.
JLD Pinot Noir Chardonnay Brut (50-50, aged 2+ years on the lees, 'disgorged' Oct. 2012, 12.5% abv) - lovely elegant mousse and yeasty biscuit nose, rich vs elegant mouth-feel, tasty oat biscuit and toasty nutty flavours vs subtle crisp dry finish with mouthwatering bite. Yum, very elegant and drinkable. €11
Chardonnay Extra Brut - very fizzy, less toasty and dry maybe than the Pinot Chardy, fruitier and more honeyed with delicate biscuit honeysuckle and nutty tones; nice fruit with light yeast notes, quite crisp and delicate with a bit of roundness and 'sweet/savoury' oat flavours. €10

2009 Grande Cuvée Limoux rouge (65% Merlot + both Cabernets & Malbec, 14% abv) - chocolate and coconut tones vs maturing savoury fruit, prune liquorice and leather vs sweet berry and cassis. Quite lush with ripe dark fruit vs cedar notes, concentrated and powerful yet showing fairly fine balance, rounded chocolate texture vs dry bitter twist and a hint of freshness, ripe and maturing vs still lively and structured. Drinking well now - good with venison steak - but will keep too as it's quite big and firm still vs 'sweet' and rounded. 2nd day - a touch more rustic and savoury/meaty, oak is more integrated with nice ripe dark berry fruit, full-on yet rounded, good bite yet developing. €10
2010 Grande Cuvée Limoux blanc (Chardonnay, Chenin blanc, 12.8% abv) - quite oaky vs nice nutty and aniseed notes, rounded vs fresh with medium body, oily honeyed side vs crisper white peach and citrus vs nutty toasty oaty flavours. A few hours open: gets oilier and nuttier with appley crispness still vs ripe and rounded. €10
2010 Sainte Marie Limoux (single site Chardonnay, 400m altitude) - toastier and richer than the Grande Cuvée, coconut honey and oatmeal with light grainy texture vs nutty and rounded, quite concentrated with a little bite and exotic ripe fruit (pineapple, peach) vs dusty coconut oak and fairly big mouthful. Quite coconut oaky but has rich honeyed fruit and lees-y buttery depth with nutty development. €15

2012 Les Oliviers white Sud de France (blend of mostly Chardonnay plus a little Muscat from the Fenouillèdes and some Chenin from Roquetaillade; 11.8%, organic) - nice aromatic nose, floral and grapey vs peach and citrus, dry crisp and elegant palate with attractive simple tasty fruit and zesty 'chalky' finish. €7
More of his wines from the northern Roussillon HERE.

14 November 2013

Beers of the moment: Whitewater vs Whitechapel

Or Dobbin vs Porter, Kilkeel vs Kent, Ireland vs England if you like... Described as a "ruby porter style beer," which does pretty much sum up Clotworthy Dobbin (5.0% abv, £1.79 a bottle I think in Asda Northern Ireland stores and widely available elsewhere over here) brewed by the Whitewater Brewery found a little inland from Kilkeel in the southern Co. Down countryside. Not quite as rich and dark as a full-on stout but definitely in that malty 'porter' ilk, smoother perhaps too. Surprisingly nice with curry actually. I also like that short and sweet ingredient list - malt, barley, hops, water, yeast - i.e no unnecessary rubbish in it for a change. Whitewater produces a good range of various beer styles overall from Belfast Lager to this one to maltier still.

Well-known, and probably much larger Kent brewer Shepherd Neame makes ASDA's 'Extra Special' Whitechapel Porter Ale (5.2% abv, £1.80), which is lush and chocolatey with attractive bitter-sweet finish. More quaffable than say Guinness, and more interesting perhaps with a different array of flavours. Just about works with (dark) chocolate, this is a tasty slow-sipping by-the-radiator ale that would go well with winter stews.

12 November 2013

Champagne & Sparkling wine tasting Dec 3 Belfast

WineWriting.com Richard Mark James' wine blog: Champagne & Sparkling wine tasting Dec 3 Belfast: "Don't miss the bubbling-with-excitement Wine Education Service NI Champagne & Sparkling wine tutored tasting..." CLICK ABOVE to view details on my other blog. Will probably include a fine sparkling Limoux...

Champagne & Sparkling wine tasting Dec 3 Belfast

From www.champagne.fr
Don't miss the bubbling-with-excitement Wine Education Service NI Champagne & Sparkling wine tutored tasting evening, rolling out and upwards on Tuesday December 3 (7 to 9 pm) at the Ramada Encore in Belfast City Centre. Your fizzed up host RMJ will take you on "...a fizzy world tour through France with classic Champagne and other fine sparklers, then comparing with the ever popular Cava (something different and better than usual though...), Italian 'new kid on the block' Prosecco, passing through the southern hemisphere e.g. Australia, New Zealand, and ending up in England..." (you'll be surprised if you haven't tried top English fizz). Tickets are just £30 per person and can be booked via the link on this page: wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast, where you'll also find the detailed program for the first half of next year. Or pay by PayPal using the button below (and for other tastings next year too). And if you're a regular user of Local Wine Events.com, you can get in touch with me from this page: www.localwineevents.com.


Select tasting:


Next year's scheduled WES NI courses and events include: Essential Wine Tasting five-week course and Grape to Glass one-day workshop (Feb 2014), Tour de France tasting (March), Wines of Italy Sat. workshop (April), Aus & New Zealand tasting (May) and Syrah/Shiraz tasting (June). More info: wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast.

08 November 2013

More Roussillon winery updates

On these three "out there" one-man band estates (more or less):

Domaine des Balmettes (Cases-de-Pène) featuring Lucien "Lulu" Salani's (pic.) intense 2011 Les Figuiers Syrah...
Domaine Rivaton (Latour-de-France) with Fred Rivaton's Rage against the Machine white...
Domaine des Trois Orris (Tarérach) by Joep Graler - know anyone else who does a Chenanson aged in acacia and chestnut barrels?!

And "coming soonish" (okay, I've been saying that for two years), the Roussillon wild wine country touring guide. Updated, rewritten, restructured and repackaged; available in three formats (e-book, print-on-demand paperback and simple PDF doc). Just have to finish the damn thing first!

07 November 2013

Roussillon: Domaine Modat, Cassagnes

Overseen/run by father/son Henri and Philippe Modat, who are originally from the Roussillon and "came back to the old country and took over some old family vines," after various high-profile legal and business careers in Paris. The estate was thus established in 2007, which comes to 20-something hectares (50+acres) in the Cassagnes area (circled by the villages of Montner, Latour, Rasiguères and Bélesta) lying on a "200 to 300 metre altitude plateau." The main intro page on their website (goes there) doesn't mention some of the white varieties I was told are in the 'de-ci de-là' blend - maybe because they really are picked "from here and there," as the name implies, from the odd white vine mixed in with the reds - but does say that four ha of Grenache blanc, Viognier and Roussanne were planted in 2009. Anyway, the dominant grapes by far are Syrah and Carignan, some of the latter dating from 1905 and 1930. Under the guidance of vineyard manager Laurent Abet, they're in the process of converting over to organics, with all the usual 'green' practices and philosophy that involves. Their groovy eco-friendly cellar, fitted with solar panels supplying more than enough electricity to power the winery, they claim, was built in 2008, the year of the Modat family's maiden vintage.


From facebook.com/pages/Domaine-Modat
As suggested above, Philippe's wines have quirky personal, and rather cute, names with reds dominating the field; the ones profiled here are labelled under the Cotes du Roussillon Villages Caramany sub-appellation, which includes Cassagnes (don't ask). Hence 'comme avant' (“like before” or “in the old days"), 'sans plus attendre' (“without waiting any longer” or “without further ado” perhaps) and “the nicest one” or 'le plus joli'... These wines are available in the UK and Ireland from James Nicholson (= the second pair of prices in £ and € - the first € price quoted is cellar door or delivered in France). Going there: “Les Plas”, 66720 Cassagnes. Phone 04 68 54 39 14.

2010 comme avant (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan from some of the oldest vines bearing the best fruit; half of it aged in new oak for 16 months) - perfumed sweet liquorice with white pepper and wild flower notes, nice 'chalky' tannins and bite vs rounded texture, weight and power; subtle aromatic fruit on its very attractive finish. €12 cellar door. JN Wine £14.99 / €21.80

2010 sans plus attendre (70% Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) - a bit closed up and delicate even at first, tight 'fresh' tannins with a hint of oak grain, nice ripe berry fruit and spice; tightens up on its fairly elegant yet powerful finish (sounds like a contradiction to me, ed.). €14.50 cellar door. JN Wine £17.50 / €23.49
And this is what I said about the same wine the first time I tasted it in a different setting, while judging at this year's International Grenache Competition (Gold medal winner):
Sans plus attendre 2010 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Caramany - attractive white pepper, sweet cherry and liquorice; firm vs rounded with powerful yet balanced finished. 90

2009 le plus joli (2/3 Syrah, 1/3 Carignan, old vines in the highest sites) - pretty heavy on the coconut to start vs that lush dark fruit again, the oak lingers a little vs very structured and tight wine still for a 2009; attractive tannin texture though, would like to try it again when it's opened up more. Dear too at €38 cellar door.

2011 de-ci de-là white (Carignan blanc, Grenache blanc and gris, Macabeu; 5 months in oak) - toasty vs exotic peachy fruit, has a touch of freshness and 'salty' bite too vs rounder finish, a little elegance vs power and weight. €12 cellar door. JN Wine £14.99 / €21.80

05 November 2013

Argentina: Cabernet & Tempranillo (plus a sparkling wine)

"'Malbec from Argentina' is hogging the fashion limelight nowadays, and a good deal of this sizeable country's vineyard area on the simplest level; and Syrah has also now invaded the varietal catwalk here. But we shouldn't forget another better-known mainstay red variety, and often more successful in quality, consistency and style terms; good old Cabernet Sauvignon..."

Buy my full-works 12-page Argentina report for just £2.50 (less than $4 or €3.50) using the PayPal button below, including wines from and comments on: Zuccardi, Trapiche, Schroeder, Toso, Fournier, Bosca, Lurton, Alpamanta, Bousquet, Dona Paula, Catena, Andeluna; and Alta Vista, Salentein, Callia, Sophenia, La Riojana, Torino, Sta Anna, Trivento, Masi, Sta Julia, Viñalta, Las Moras also featured in recent articles on Malbec and Torrontés as well.
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