Richard Mark James' wine & travel blog
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30 September 2013

Roussillon: Domaine La Bòria, Trilla

Stoned in the Fenouillèdes
from laboria.fr
Vincent Balansa set sail on this “participative estate” project – there are several 'partners' or 'investors' who also muck in in vineyard, winery and beyond apparently – in 2009 when some old co-op vineyards in the Trilla, Caramany and Trévillach area, due to be ripped up or abandoned as the local co-operative had sadly closed down, came up for sale as a take-it-or-leave-it opportunity. These time-resilient vines, among them some over one hundred years young, lie on varied chunky soils pretty commonly found in this neck of the woods (gneiss, granite, marble, marl anyone) at between 400 and 600 metres altitude, “the highest part of the (upper) Fenouillèdes,” or “the Limoux of the Roussillon” as Vincent puts it rhetorically. There are also a few disparate parcels in Prats de Sournia, Caudiès and Saint-Paul de Fenouillet, as is the fashion with these young energetic winemakers who obviously don't mind putting in the kilometre-age.

After a period of apprenticeship with an impressive collection of top domaine owners across the south - Christophe Peyrus at Clos Marie in Pic St-Loup, Claude Serra at Villa Serra in Minervois, Gérard Gauby of that eponymous property and Le Soula (review to follow) and with Hervé Bizeul at Clos des Fées in the Roussillon – Vincent felt he had enough experience and confidence to embark down the alternative rocky road to biodynamics. The idea: to make “living wines,” as has become a bit of a cliché but we'll forgive him in this instance, as the results so far are tasty enough for sure. Vincent calls it “country logic, or rather an attempt at updating it, 21st century version. We're not making up anything new but acknowledging what the old folks have passed on to us...” Kind of paying homage to them too as “the village's only remaining working vineyard / farm...” There's a lot more detail on Vincent's site - click on the link under the photo.

2010 Merci red (Syrah/Grenache from Caramany and Carignan/Cinsault from Trilla, SO2 only added at bottling) - perfumed sweet vs herby notes with ripe berries, wilder 'volatile' edges, finishing with a bit of bite and subtle length.
2009 Nova white (Macabeu, Vermentino from Trilla) - lightly toasty coconut vs aromatic ripe apricot fruit, textured/rounded yet still fresh, tasty finish with a light touch of oak grain.
2009 Nova red (Syrah, 100 year-old Carignan from Trilla) - lightly funky and 'volatile' vs ripe sweet wild flower/herb notes (garrigue), nice tannins and fresh bite too, again tasty with ripe vs crunchy fruit profile.

26 September 2013

Spain: a couple of Riojas of the moment

Further to A trio of Rioja posted a few months ago, and mucho mas outlined on the Spain archive page here, my terminal fascination with one of the world's favourite red wines continues featuring a couple of Riojas available in the UK in Co-op and Lidl stores (the ones equipped with their 'wine cellar' range, so not all of them). By coincidence, they're both 2008 vintage, which is 'officially' rated as 'very good' and with a touch of elegance too by my reckoning...

Soligamar Reserva 2008 Ortega Ezquerro (80% Tempranillo with Garnacha and Mazuelo from two 600 metre altitude vineyards, 24 months in new French oak; 14% abv) - smoky vanilla notes with sweet berry and cassis fruits, intricate maturing savoury touches vs still quite solid and firm, concentrated and rich vs nice dry texture, fairly big mouthful vs a certain freshness and elegance. The second day open saw more savoury, balsamic and 'cheesy' notes developing, smoother too with attractive sweet fruit/oak combo, still structured and alive as well. Very nice Rioja. £9.99 Lidl

Marqués de Válido Reserva 2008 Bodegas Muriel (Tempranillo, 13% abv) - similar in some ways to above with its smoked vanilla oak notes (although less oaky) and maturing sweet berry fruits, a touch lighter perhaps (maybe it doesn't have any Garnacha in it...) though has subtle concentration and balance, pretty classic style with mature savoury balsamic finish layered with sweet vs smoky fruit/oak. Surprisingly good with the chilli beef & veg stew thing I made (up as I went along), thanks to those generally soft tannins, smooth texture and sweet/smoky taste combo. Real bargain at the moment at the Co-op - £5.49 instead of 'usual' price of £10.99!

24 September 2013

Roussillon: Sylvain Respaut, Montner

Grape treading party from facebook.com/DomaineRespaut
Sylvain Respaut describes himself as an "Agly valley apiqueron," which, for those of you who can't find this word in their handy Collins Robert or Larousse dic, is naturally a play on two French words, "apiculteur" and "vigneron" i.e. beekeeper and winegrower combined. Since that's what he does: the honey farm (the Roussillon is also well-known for artisan honey production), called Cara'miel, is found near the village of Caramany in deepest Fenouillèdes country and was started in 2007 "with 200 hives mainly populated with a local bee variety called the 'black bee'." (If they're the same ones I'm thinking of, which I used to get buzzing around my lavender plant on my terrace when I lived in the region, they're enormous... Ed.) Organic farming was introduced in 2009, and Sylvain caught the grape bug in 2011 with the purchase of 4 ha of vines in the Montner area. More about bees, honey and his wines on caramiel.fr or check out his FB page link under the photo.
2011 was the first vintage, so we could see these wines developing more depth and character with time, hopefully, although they're attractive drinking now. Sylvain also makes a white called 'Zumo' from old Grenache gris in addition to the three wines I tasted, which are simply labelled as 'Vin de France' and subjected to, or rather not, 'natural' winemaking such as wild yeast fermentation etc.

2012 Tangerine (Chardonnay) - citrus and orange peel notes, quite crisp and 'mineral' on the palate vs nice peachy fruit.
2011 Plein Les Ceps (Grenache made by 'carbonic maceration') - fairly light and elegant for Grenache, perfumed fruit with a riper more liquorice side, soft and easygoing finish.
2011 Gorgorlou (Grenache and 100 year-old Carignan) - richer and funkier, chunky fruity palate, quite soft; again lacks a bit of depth but it's nice now. 

'Essential Wine Tasting' course Belfast Oct-Nov.

New dates: the next Wine Education Service NI Essential Wine Tasting course is now scheduled on Tuesday evenings from 15 October to 12 November 2013. More info on this five evening course here: wine-education-service.co.uk/introductory - cost £125 for 5 sessions: book here.

20 September 2013

Wines of South America tasting - Belfast 3 October

Wine Education Service NI event hosted by RMJ: Wines of South America tutored tasting on Thursday evening 3rd October. "We'll taste and talk about eight premium wines from 'el Sur Grande', focusing mainly on Chile and Argentina - featuring well- and lesser-known grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Torrontés. But we'll also be venturing into more uncharted waters such as sampling a big Tannat red from Uruguay..." At the Ramada Encore Hotel - St Anne's Square, Belfast. Tickets - £27.50 or Buy 2 for £50. More info and booking herePay by Paypal here.

16 September 2013

Argentina: Malbec


"Argentina and Malbec apparently go together like, erm, bucket and spade, Chablis and Chardonnay or Cahors and Malbec even, while I'm on the 'M' subject. Let's get the geeky stats stuff out of the way first off: almost one-third of the country's vineyard surface area is planted with Malbec, or 83,684 acres (about 34,000 hectares) to be precise, most of it in the Mendoza region (see winesofargentina.org for more info, where I slyly teleported the photo above from). There are only about 10,000 acres of this variety in Cahors, which claims to be its homeland although probably isn't but has been there for hundreds of years. It's been in Argentina since the mid 19th Century and was obviously a big hit, as they've now cornered the world market by far..."
To read this report on Malbec - plus recent articles on Cabernet, Tempranillo, Torrontés etc. - get the full-size special Argentina varietal supplement (and any of my other recent in-depth features), including all my recommended wines and wineries and the usual frank commentary! CLICK HERE to subscribe by PayPal for only £10 a year (approx $16 or €12) or buy it as a one-off special for £2.50!

Malbec crush, Cahors actually!

More Malbec (and Cabernet) from Argentina HERE and HERE.
Argentina whites: Torrontés report HERE.
More Argie reds here: Cabernet and Tempranillo...

Languedoc: Clos Bagatelle update

A tasty little "Saint-Chinian pronto-post" suddenly seemed appropriate, since I did a wine tasting recently featuring Clos Bagatelle's La Gloire de Mon Père 2000 vintage (selected blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache - £19.95 Terroir Languedoc, UK), which showed very well that certain Languedoc reds can age beautifully. Possibly the star of the evening actually, this wine is drinking deliciously now with all those complex savoury flavours that come with age plus caramelized liquorice and dried fruits; yet there was still a bit of structure and substance behind it (2000 was a good vintage here), the estate's top red I believe. There's a wee profile on owners Christine Deleuze and brother Luc HERE with a few other wines and vintages (spanning 2004 to 2010) tasting-noted.
And more Saint-Chinian wines HERE - 2010 vintage report, or browse my Languedoc winery A to Z on the right...

13 September 2013

Cahors: special wine touring report now available

Château du Cayrou
You can get my special Cahors wine touring supplement as a PDF file with pics, featuring all three parts of my Malbec roadtrip (goes to summary of part 1) trilogy published on French Mediterranean Wine earlier this year, plus bonus winery profiles from this exciting region of southwest France. Yours condensed into a neat 17 page mini-mag PDF delivered by email for only £2.50 (less than $4 or €3.50)...



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More Cahors here.

12 September 2013

Chablis: special focus report now available

You can now get a handy PDF supplement mini-mag featuring all three parts of my (updated December 2014) Chablis wine touring series (goes to intro to part 3), plus bonus pieces on a Chablis Grand Cru tasting and spotlight on M&S Chablis penned last year. The full-works twenty-page+ Chabbers special in lovely PDF format emailed to you just £3 (about $4.50 or €4.15). Snap it up quick with PayPal - use a card or your own PP account, although you don't need one to do so...



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More on Chablis here.