Richard Mark James' wine & travel blog
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30 March 2013

Italy: Tuscany - San Polino, Brunello di Montalcino

According to their site, Luigi Fabbro, Katia Nussbaum and family practise "permaculture and biodynamic-organic farming..." at their four hectare estate (10 acres divided roughly into two thirds / one third of vines and olives, which are made into their own extra-virgin olive oil) up in the pretty Montalcino hills. I've never seen or heard the former term used by a winery before, which apparently implies an element of sustainable design or building within a self-sufficient and environmentally friendly farming model (man). The vineyard is planted entirely with the Sangiovese grape, and their first Brunello, as they call this variety here or rather the local 'clone' of it, was released in 2001 following several years of restoration and replanting work between 1991 and 1998. Winemaker and viticulturist Alberto Gjilaska, originally from Albania, has been on the team since those early days. Importers include Integrity Wines in the US, Vintage Roots (£ prices below) and Dynamic Vines in the UK; € prices quoted are approx. cellar door. So, chill out and enjoy the view (copied from www.sanpolino.it)!


2011 Sant Antimo Rosso di Montalcino - lovely fruity vs 'inky' red with dark morello cherry flavours, easy going and tasty. €7
2008 Brunello di Montalcino - light toasted coconut tones, rich vs firm palate, quite extracted and chewy yet has nice tannins and plenty of ripe 'sweet/savoury' fruit, some fresh acidity lingering too on its balanced long finish. €20 £27-£30
2008 Brunello di Montalcino Helichrysum - perfumed floral wild herb and minty notes vs dried fruits, attractive maturing fruit yet still firm and dry mouth-feel, tasty concentrated 'sweet/savoury' finish. €30 £52
2007 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva - similar profile but more developed and softer, lovely dried fruits with meaty edges, still structured with subtle concentration but riper tannins and long finish.

29 March 2013

Burgundy: Les Champs de l'Abbaye, Côte Chalonnaise

Photo from www.rawfair.com
Alain and Isabelle Hasard (which means chance or coincidence in French, appropriately perhaps as I did indeed just happen to stop by at their table at Millésime Bio organic wine show a few weeks ago in Montpellier, France) own a few little vineyards in different sites in the Côte de Beaune and (mainly) Côte Chalonnaise (the latter being that chunk roughly in the middle of Burgundy's wine-lands, between the Beaune and Macon vineyard areas). They're based in the hilltop village of Aluze - and have two vineyards here called Clos de Roches and Les Gardes - which lies to the southwest of Rully where they have one plot called Les Cailloux, and slightly northwest of Mercurey where they own two more sites called La Brigadière and Les Marcoeurs. Les Sous Roches in Monthélie (between Volnay and Meursault) completes the Hasard family's patchwork picture; and they also make sparkling wine in addition to the whites and reds sourced from the aforementioned appellations. They've been certified organic - or rather their vineyards have! - since 1999 and are "inspired by biodynamics." I like their nice and simple explanation of organic farming and why they do it: "It teaches us to search for the origins of problems that may arise rather than simply treat the consequences, and to establish harmony rather than fight against it." Otherwise, it looks like their winemaking is pretty traditional and towards 'minimal intervention' (to use a rather overused cliché) for both reds and whites, which in general are aged in 25% to 50% of new oak barrels, "because our wines are so concentrated," as it says modestly in their profile blurb! These are bottled "without fining and filtration... our wines are living products." Here's what I thought of them then:

2010 Rully blanc Les Cailloux (Chardonnay) - enticing creamy vs citrus fruit with a touch of toasted oak, quite subtle and elegant with fresh acidity vs some weight too; still a bit closed up, quite fine and needs more time.
2011 Rully blanc Les Cailloux (Chardonnay) - more aromatic with nutty and peachy fruit, more forward than the 2010 and a touch richer and more buttery already, showing subtle toasty notes vs freshness too. Attractive now actually.
2011 Mercurey blanc La Brigadière (Chardonnay) - a tad richer and fuller with peachy vs toasty flavours, again it's quite delicate and tight on the palate, promising though.
2011 Mercurey rouge La Brigadière (Pinot Noir) - subtle red fruits with lightly funky edges, juicy and soft with a little grip and elegant fresh acidity. Nice wine, drinking well now.

Raeburn Fine Wines (Edinburgh and London) imports their range into the UK, priced at £21.50-£22.50 for some of the wines tasted above or earlier vintages; Leon Stolarski also expressed an interest in them on his blog following a trip there. They cost about €15-€20 cellar door; and you can get some of them in Dublin too according to www.sourgrapes.ie (from about €15). They export to "the US and Far East..." as well, Alain told me at the fair: contact him on alainhasard@wanadoo.fr for more details.

26 March 2013

Rhône: Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine fair 6-7 April

This season-teasing Grenache-tastic wine event, called 'Les Printemps de Châteauneuf-du-Pape' ("Spring time for..." I won't carry on singing the words to this inappropriate number from a famous Mel Brooks' film, but that's the way my drifting mind works, especially as it's still winter here: answers on a postcard blah...), will feature over 80 estates and wineries and takes place on 6th and 7th April. Sounds like a good idea!
More info: lesprintempsdechateauneufdupape.fr
Recent Châteauneuf on this blog: World Grenache Competition part 2
La Célestière, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
See side bar links for more.

Roussillon: Le Scarabée, Sorède



This bijou-scale vineyard lies a couple of kilometres from the sea in different spots along the sometimes brooding sometimes radiant Albères hills, which draw the Fauviste border with Spain in the southeastern chunk of the Pyrénées Orientales. Treated organically since the beginning of her adventure in 2007, which owner-grower-winemaker Isabelle Frère admits is time-consuming “intensive” work, since certain of her plots of mostly old vines were “virtually abandoned” and “knew only (synthetic) herbicides and fertilisers for almost all of their life.” This is why she's made a “difficult choice” to focus on one parcel each year to “do the full works on,” as it's very labour-intensive. Good to see there are some EU grants available though to encourage growers to go the extra kilometre required to convert to organics, around 350 Euros per hectare apparently, even if this “doesn't help much.”
As for varieties planted, two-thirds of the Carignan in Le Scarabée (a kind of beetle by the way), or about 2000 vines, is 80 years old, which is tilled by horse and Isabelle says she has “a bit of a soft spot for.” This is used for the Murmûre label, while the other 0.5 hectares, 20 to 70 years old, tops up Volubile, Le P’tit Scarabée red and Sur un nuage. These are found near the village of St André between Argelès and Sorède, where the cellar is. There's also 1 ha (2.47 acres incidentally) of 10 year-old Grenache rubbing trunks with the Carignan here, as well as a small 40 year-old parcel to the west near Laroque–des-Albères, “on loan from a retired grower... this has always been ploughed.” This helps beef up Isabelle's Sur un nuage and Murmûre cuvées.
You'll find about 1 hectare of the 'grey' Grenache variety too, some of it mixed in with the Carignan (that's how they originally planted in the old VDN field-blend days), which livens up Le P’tit Scarabée rosé. There's a small amount more 70 year-old gris in the sandy St André area, which goes into red P’tit Scarabée and La folie Juvénile, as well as some 40 year-old found just west of here near St. Genis des Fontaines, which lurks around in a little Macabeu vineyard destined for Isabelle's Pied’nez white wine.
The Syrah is similarly parcelled into three plots in the St. André zone: one is the source for P’tit scarabée rosé and red, another - also 20 years old but "less vigorous" - for Volubile and Murmûre; and the third, and largest, a "big problem" parcel of young vines that "came with the lot", which Isabelle green-harvests severely to make La Folie Juvénile, although she hopes it will eventually produce very good grapes. I didn't like all her wines though, but that's life I guess. Les Caves de Pyrène (London area) sells this range for about £10 to £20 a bottle; the wines are available in Canada (Quebec) too hence the CA$ prices. And Isabelle is a friendly person to call in on if you're touring this area: Moli d’en Cassanyes, 66690 Sorède. Mobile 06 14 73 34 80, isabellefrere@hotmail.fr, www.laremise.fr (photo taken from there).

2010 Le Petit Scarabée – nice and easy fruity style with funky smoky and liquorice notes, soft palate with just a hint of dry grip. CA$22
2010 Sur un Nuage – similar profile although shows more depth with lusher vs firmer palate and still has attractive tannins though. CA$25
2011 Murmure – pretty intense, grippy with crunchy blueberry vs lusher darker fruit, savoury rustic edges with nice length though. €16 (France)
2010 Murmure – more developed savoury smoky notes vs concentrated lush cherry fruit underneath, firm and tight mouth-feel still; more closed up than the 11 actually, powerful with good depth and attractive rounded tannins.

21 March 2013

Roussillon: Domaine du Possible, Lansac


Loïc Roure acquired 6½ hectares of vines (16 acres) while taking over the abandoned co-op winery building in Lansac back in 2003, which needed a thorough clean-up and refit with new equipment and now also houses a top-floor apartment and art studio. The first plots he found were/are in Latour-de-France followed by a few more in neighbouring Rasiguères, Bélesta, Cassagnes and Lesquerde; and another four ha were purchased more recently in Caudiès-de-Fenouillèdes a dozen kilometres to the wild west on the Aude 'frontier'. Which must be a handful to manage spread out over a fairly wide area, and especially perhaps since these vineyards have been certified organic since 2007. The varietal breakdown is 4.5 ha of Carignan (some over 100 years old), 2.6 ha Grenache, 1.3 ha Syrah and some Mourvèdre too; and for whites (coming to just one ha although averaging 50+ years), mostly Macabeu with a little Carignan gris, Grenache blanc and Grenache gris.
Loïc's background is both atypical and typical, in the sense of how some young winegrowers who've settled in the Roussillon over the past five to ten years don't have the 'classic' wine industry CV. After a long stint at Amnesty International in Lyon, he decided he'd like to open a wine bar so started by working in a restaurant, which led him to doing a sommelier course including a work-placement at Thierry Allemand's winery in Cornas (northern Rhone Valley), which convinced him this was what he really wanted to do. Jump forwards through time to those aforementioned treasured vine parcels and disused cellar in deepest Fenouillèdes country, where he was also “inspired by Cyril Fhal (Clos du Rouge Gorge) and Jean Louis Tribouley(both in Latour-de-France),” who'd established their own estates just before he did.
Loïc's views on a 'natural' approach to vineyards and winemaking seem level-headed enough. He says he was “more militant about this (not using 'chemicals') in the beginning,” and being “completely opposed to using any sulphur. But you evolve: I wanted to make wine, and I wanted it to be good! So now I use a bit of sulphur if I have to... The more experienced you are, the better you get at things... I've become less of a fundamentalist but also have got better at using less sulphur!” If SO2 is added at bottling, he uses less than 10mg/l for reds and 20mg for the white (which is in-line with other 'naturalists', about less than 10% of what is/was traditionally used). He applies certain plant-based preparations as well, claiming to be “very open minded in experimenting in the vines... I like the idea of biodynamics but in no way claim to be part of it.”
Loïc prefers to label his wines as Côtes du Roussillon, as he believes it fits them, and the area he finds himself in, better than the 'Cotes Catalanes' designation for example. Their names show a friendly play on words, such as the Franco-Shakespearean 'Tout Bu or Not Tout Bu' (ho ho). I met him at last year's Real Wine Fair in London, where his wines are sold by Roberson Wine (prices cited below in £: photo above from www.robersonwine.com/blog). And Louis/Dressner Selections is his New York City agent (see louisdressner.comwhere I borrowed a few choice quotes from an interview with him). Our tasting paths also crossed back in 2005, on my first proper visit to the Fenouillèdes wine-lands when I tried what must have been his first or second vintage, a vat sample of the pretty decent and wild fruity 2004. To go and see Loïc at the winery: the address is the same as Edouard Laffitte below; phone 04 68 92 52 78 and loic.roure@laposte.net.

2010 Cours Toujours white (Macabeu, Carignan gris) – appley nutty and intense nose, creamier more rounded palate with lovely hazelnut flavours vs crisp mineral bite. £16.95
2011 Le Fruit du Hasard (Carignan and Syrah from Caudiès) – lively spicy fruity Nouveau-styled red, tasty quaffer with a bit of length and depth too. £14.95
2011 Tout Bu or Not Tout Bu (“mostly Syrah I buy from friends...”) - minty dark cherry, more structured and powerful wine with delicious fruit and length. £14.95, €10 (France on-line).
2011 C'est Pas La Mer à Boire (majority Grenache + Syrah, Carignan) – juicy spicy berry with liquorice, fuller punchier style with smoky rich fruit vs tight and firm; nice wine, needs food. £17.95
2011 L'Herbe Tendre Pet Nat rosé (Grenache & Syrah, lightly sparkling from second fermentation in bottle without being disgorged = it's cloudy too!) - delicious light red fruits with intense yeasty/toasty flavours and crisp lively finish. Different! £13.80, €11
2011 Charivari (Carignan) – quite rustic nose but has lively berry fruit too lending a little bite, a tad 'soupy' and rustic but it just about works. £12.50, €11.50
2010 Couma Acò (mostly Syrah) – light coconut flavour and texture underlined by lush dark fruit with smoky edges, powerful grippier and more 'serious' finish.


2004 Domaine du Possible (vat sample) - Pretty forward on the nose showing ripe and rustic liquorice fruit, nice grip and length on the palate. From my first trip to Fenouillèdes country in 2005 (link goes to report on that)...


20 March 2013

Roussillon: Le Bout du Monde, Lansac



Edouard Laffitte was a co-op winemaker in Estézargues (a wee town between Avignon and Nimes) before he bought six or seven disparate hectares of vines at “the end of the world” as he calls it - the name of the estate that is, rather than some mythical spot evoked by Wim Wenders' movie or U2's title song from it - near Lansac, which is found a few kilometres southwest of Maury down the meandering little road heading towards Trilla or Caramany. Edouard has three granite-laden plots here in Lansac in fact - where he shares the former co-op cellar bought by Loïc Roure of Domaine du Possible (profile to follow) - two nestling on that much talked-about flaky schist characteristic of the Rasiguères area (and said to work especially well for Syrah), and nearly two more near Cassagnes a little further south peppered with trickier to pronounce 'gneiss' (“gn...” rather than “nice” I believe: it's a kind of striped metamorphic rock, man). These plots lie at from 150 to 400 metres (500 to 1300 feet) altitude, which helps lend a slightly cooler edge to those hot summer days and nights and hence “limit the alcohol,” as Edouard states is his aim on his website domaineleboutdumonde.sitew.com (where I took the photo from); and the vineyards are organically farmed. Apparently the wines aren't fined or filtered, as is fashionable perhaps in 'natural' circles, but this non-technique doesn't appear to have done any harm to the wines I've tried.
His London area distributor is Les Caves de Pyrène, and the wines are also available from e.g. Ellis Wharton Wines in Cornwall. A US importer is Selection Massale in California. Where to find him in situ: 13 Avenue des Platanes, 66720 Lansac. Mobile 06 77 50 94 22, edouard.laffitte@laposte.net

2011 L'Echappée Belle (Syrah) – peppery and 'inky' with cherry and liquorice notes, fruity palate with soft tannins, nice pure and spicy style.
2011 Tam Tam Côtes du Roussillon (mostly Syrah from schist + Carignan/Grenache) – richer and more intense with more liquorice than pepper flavours, firmer mouth-feel yet still has attractive tannins and tasty youthful fruit. UK £15
2011 Hop' La (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah) – 'tarter' and tighter profile initially with lively palate and nice fruit showing quite dark vs savoury vs spicy finish. US $18
2011 L'Ecume des Jours (Lladoner Pelut, Carignan) – again it's lively and spicy with sweet vs tart fruit mix, less expressive on the finish mingling lush vs bitter twist. Not so obvious. US $19
2011 Avec le Temps (Carignan) – spicy blueberry fruit, fresh bite and length vs sweeter liquorice side, spicy quite intense finish.
2009 La Luce Côtes du Roussillon (mostly Grenache) – more developed with 'volatile' tones, quite rich and concentrated with peppery punchy mouth-feel, attarctive 'sweet/savoury' finish and length.

18 March 2013

Roussillon: Clos du Rouge Gorge, Latour-de-France

Cyril Fhal landed in Latour land over ten years ago, having worked at two small estates in the Anjou and Saumur wine regions, where he became committed to the idea of working organically. He's one of now a dozen organic independent growers in the village (half of them are on this blog) and is known for putting in a good deal of painstaking hours in the vineyard, with the aim of enticing “very pure juice” from his grapes, as he put it. The 'Red Neck' vineyard comes to just six patchwork hectares (15 acres) of old vines (50 to 100 years old) on elevated rocky slopes dotted around Latour-de-France, half of which is senior-citizen Carignan nestling up against Grenache, Cinsault and Maccabeu. Cyril is in the “no or low sulphite” camp, and his wines do have some of those quirky 'natural' winemaking edges; but there's an elegant fresher side to them too with some intriguing tasty flavours. By the way, his 'young vines' red is apparently made from 25 year-old Grenache, which isn't very young in vine terms and perhaps gives you a glimpse of where he's coming from.
These (admittedly rather expensive) wines are available from Vine Trail in the UK - where I borrowed some of this info from, as it seems Cyril is far too busy, or wise perhaps, to have a website, blog or Facebook page; though I did meet him at last year's Real Wine Fair in London. The £GBP prices below are for a mixed case, €uros an average on-line price in France and $ price at Chambers Street Wines, NYC. Going there: 6 place Marcel Vié. Phone: 04 68 29 16 37, cyrilfhal@gmail.com.

2008 white Côtes Catalanes (Macabeu) – nutty appley lightly oxidised style, but this wine is tasty and quite long on the finish with an attractive mix of 'mineral' and rounded sensations. £18.25, €20
2010 Jeunes Vignes red Côtes Catalanes (Grenache) – light rustic-edged red, again has some of those apple/cider tones but is soft elegant and tasty in the end; quite light but it flows, man. Not great value @ £17.85, €18.50.
2007 Vieilles Vignes red Côtes Catalanes (mostly Carignan with Grenache) – similar profile on the nose but more concentrated with lush vs tarter blue fruit characters, grippy fresh palate yet has nice texture and interesting flavours. £23.50, €30, $33

14 March 2013

Languedoc: Clos du Gravillas update

The latest from Nicole and John Bojanowski in St-Jean de Minervois is HEREincluding a couple of new-ish wines: a white made from Terret gris and a 'Fino' style based on flor-aged Grenache blanc... (original post August 2011 with updates from 2007 to now).

11 March 2013

Grenache: Australia - Seppeltsfield & Kilikanoon

Nathan Waks oiling his cello with
Grenache: www.kilikanoon.com.au
You've guessed it... "aka further adventures from the World Grenache Competition..." held in France a few weeks ago, where I was one of the (many) judges. This time, the limelight neatly shifts continents to Australia and a guy called Nathan Waks in particular, who came over from Oz for the event and brought a few Grenache wines and some interesting stories with him. Nathan, who speaks pretty fluent French by the way (much to the pleasant surprise of the probably majority French audience), I guess thanks to a career as a professional musician having travelled extensively around Europe on tour, is one of the owners and directors of these two wineries and associated brands; the rather famous Seppeltsfield in the Barossa Valley and perhaps less well-known Kilikanoon in the Clare Valley. The latter was only established in 1997 by Kevin Mitchell; the former purchased (literally lock, stock and barrel by the sound of it) from the Fosters Group in 2007, although has been around since the mid 19th Century...
Seppeltsfield specialises in fortified Grenache-based wines, some of them very old indeed. Nathan told us they have over 100 ha (250 acres) of "mostly old Grenache, about 50 to 80 and some 100+ year-old ungrafted bush vines, as there's no phylloxera in South Australia." There's also Shiraz plus some of the Port variety Touriga and Sherry variety Palomino planted here. The historic winery was built in 1888 and was then the world's largest 'gravity-flow' winery (now the norm for most new-build cellars where you have the space to do it, constructed into cut-out hillsides or huge excavated holes to create different levels/heights to allow a natural winemaking process going from top to bottom), with 120 concrete open-fermenters on six storeys! There are seven million litres stored here, "although not all ours - some of it is Penfolds, which was Fosters' when they sold it... complicated..." There are all sorts of styles found there; some are aged in "loft-like (spaces) for a 100 years, or in corrugated iron (sheds), which get very hot and cold (over the course of the year) so the wine gets very oxidized, with lots of evaporation; sometimes it reduces down to 10%-15% of the original amount. It's not very economical!" he explained.
Presumably that's why they sell the 100 year-old (see my note on their extraordinary treacley and intense 1913 Para below) for $1000 (Aus) a bottle! Production of this wine started in 1878, "and we still have every vintage for over 130 years." Other fortified wines they make include classic Tawny styles such as their Para Grand Tawny (also see below) - from Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre with a minimum average age of 10 years, "although much older due to the solera system we use (as for Sherry production), but we can't prove it..." - and Colheita wines too (Vintage Tawny). At Kilikanoon in Clare, they make two varietal Grenache reds (plus a couple of GSM / SG blends and a rosé), one of which won a Gold medal in the competition - again, I've tasting-noted these below. I've also got a bottle of their 2009 Riesling under the stairs - will report back with my impressions on that (I'm keeping it for a special tasting). These wines are distributed by Negociants International in Australia, so presumably are via their UK and US offices too: more info @ www.seppeltsfield.com.au.

1913 Seppeltsfield Para ("100 years in oak", 21% alc.) - bizarre cocktail of cooked molasses, red Madeira and roasted/charred walnuts; very rich sweet and intense, super concentrated and long on the palate with power, warmth and very complex flavours. Wow: not sure I'll be able to taste anything else after this!
Para Grand Tawny (20% alc.) - aromatic and nutty with intense rich nose and palate, again some of those complex aged/oxidized flavours with a bit of oomph and extracted caramel finish; delicious. About $30.
2009 Kilikanoon The Prodigal Grenache - touches of oak with savoury and peppery edges, ripe sweet fruit vs grainy firm and solid mouth-feel still; good wine. Gold medal. $30
2009 Kilikanoon The Duke Grenache - still showing a fair bit of oak but this is richer yet firmer too with attractive sweet vs peppery fruit, nice grip and power on the finish. $59

Other World Grenache Competition medal winners from Australia (all three Silver medal)The Absconder 2010, Wirra Wirra Vineyards, McLaren Vale; The Blewitt Springs Grenache 2009, D'Arenberg, McLaren Vale; Yangarra High Sands Grenache 2010, Jackson Wine Estates Australia, McLaren Vale.
More on the WGC on my blogs: part 1 (overview), part 2 (Roussillon & Chateauneuf-du-Pape), part 3 (Cannonau di Sardegna), part 4 (Spain). And a couple from South Africa here.
Lots more on Australian Grenache there (Sept. 2012)

07 March 2013

Provence: Château des Launes

2011 Château des Launes white (85% Rolle, 15% Ugni blanc; 13.5% alc.) - aromatic floral and lees-edged, quite intense crisp and fresh with grapefruit vs oily honeyed flavours/texture, has a bit of weight too on its long stylish finish. Approx €11.50 cellar door/on-line (see website below for world distributors).
2011 Château des Launes rosé (75 Cinsault, 25 Grenache; 13%) - delicate and zesty with attractive citrus and rose petal aromas/flavours, crisp mouth-feel with lees-y bite and texture and a little roundness on the finish too. €9.50
2008 Cuvée Thomas red (70 Syrah, 30 Cabernet Sauvignon; 13%) - smoky edges with meaty and dark fruit, firm grip vs ripe and rounded on the palate, structured 'serious' finish with concentrated solid mouth-feel vs smoky maturing fruit. €13
2008 Cuvée Spéciale red (70 Syrah, 30 Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.5%) - more pencil shaving/coconut oak on the nose, rich and solid though with grainy texture, extracted and concentrated layered with lush ripe fruit and firm tannins, then tasty savoury finish too. Again pretty serious wine although quite dear at €19.50 (that's trendy Provence for you, although it's on offer on their site for about €11.75 when I looked, as are some of the others reviewed here).


This pretty estate lies in the Côtes de Provence appellation in the spectacular Massif des Maures national park area, about 10 kilometres inland from Saint Tropez heading towards Le Luc. It was renovated and replanted by the Dielesen family in 2005, who've obviously invested heavily here with a new winery, on-site holiday accommodation and a riding school too: check out www.chateaudeslaunes.com for more on that (I pinched the photo off there by the way). I tasted their wines in London last year.

02 March 2013

Languedoc: Sainte Cécile du Parc update

"Stéphane Mouton and Christine Mouton Bertoli created this 'new' estate in 2005, which is found between Pézenas and the little village of Caux..."
With the 2009 vintage of two of their Coteaux du Languedoc reds tasting-noted: Notes d'Orphée and Sonatina both made from Syrah and old Cinsault vines... CLICK HERE to read my updated profile (originally scribbled in 2010).

Wine Education Service courses & tastings March - May

UPDATED 12/3
There are four Wine Education Service NI events scheduled in Belfast city centre over the next few weeks, tutored by RMJ:
'Essential Wine Tasting' 5 week course £125 for five sessions
Rescheduled: Tuesday evenings May 28 and June 4, 11, 18, 25. More details about this course here:
'Classic Grape Varieties' Thursday 28 March 7-9 p.m - £30
NEW! 'Wines of Southern France' Tuesday 30 April - £35
More info on above two tutored tastings HERE (scroll down a little).
One-day wine workshop £85 for the day including lunch - 'Le Tour de France' Saturday April 6. More details about this and other workshops here:
wine-education-service.co.uk/workshop
Full listing of wine tastings and courses running in Belfast to June 2013 and on-line booking are here: www.wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast

And forthcoming Wine Education Service events at different venues in London, Aberdeen, Brighton and Manchester include:
Five and eight-week introductory courses; intermediate courses on France, Classic Grape Varieties and Italy; special interest courses on Burgundy and Scotch Whisky; as well as a variety of Saturday workshops and evening tutored tastings. Full details of London events are here: wine-education-service.co.uk/course-dates with links to other cities on that page.


01 March 2013

Southern Rhône: +50% Grenache half-dozen

Here's another gratuitous Grenache mini-feature, this time focusing on six or seven Grenache-laden reds (re)discovered at a tasting last year, although these vintages (2010 and 2009, both very good) are probably still on sale. I've picked out a few I thought were pretty typical of the kind of lush spicy sunshine red you'd expect and want from the southern Rhone valley, from widely available to 'specialist merchant' and costing £7 to £15 in the UK.

Les Dauphins Réserve 2010 Côtes du Rhône, Celliers des Dauphins (60% Grenache, 40% Syrah; 13.5% alc.) - nice juicy ripe sweet Grenache fruit with spicy cherry undertones, quite soft and easy-going, attractive style. £6.99 Dedicated Wines (widely available).
Belleruche 2010 Côtes du Rhône, M. Chapoutier (50 Grenache, 50 Syrah; 13.5% alc.) - well-known name and label, this is similar to the above wine although more extracted and firmer, yet layered with nice sweet fruit. £9.50 Mentzendorff.
Les Coteaux 2009 Côtes du Rhône Villages, Boutinot (85 Grenache, 15 Syrah; 14% alc.) - quite rich and spicy with lush liquorice and blackberry fruit, punchy and grippy palate vs plenty of lovely soft dark fruit. £8.90 Boutinot.
Réserve du Crouzau 2010 Côtes du Rhône Villages Saint Gervais, Vignobles Foncalieu (80 Grenache, 20 Syrah; 14.5% alc.) - attractive Grenache nose and palate, rich and ripe vs powerful and peppery, tasty sweet fruit vs grip on its weighty finish. £7.99 The City Beverage Company, Hennings Wine Merchants.
Vacqueyras 2010, Domaine de la Soleiade (55 Grenache, 45 Syrah) - more perfumed and minty even, black cherry and liquorice with smoky edges too, concentrated powerful and firm with delicious ripe fruit. £13.10 Charles Taylor.
Les Pierres du Vallat 2010 Gigondas, Vignerons de Caractère (60 Grenache, 30 Syrah, 10 Mourvèdre14.5% alc.) - showing similar wild herb/minty edges, gripping chunky and concentrated vs dark fruit and peppery tones, fair weight with attractive dry tannins vs sweet fruit finish. £14.50 Charles Taylor, €17.60 cellar door. Bottle shot copied from vigneronsdecaractere.com.
Les Plans 2010 Vin de Pays du Vaucluse, Domaine Santa Duc (50 Grenache, 25 Syrah, 15 Merlot, 10 Cabernet13.5% alc.) - meaty savoury notes, pretty solid chunky mouth-feel yet has nice 'sweet/savoury' fruit on the finish. £8.75 Bancroft Wines.