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

28 November 2014

Côtes du Rhône mini-focus

Here's a Grenache and Syrah infused selection of various and varied southern Rhône Valley producers with some of their worth-mentioning winter-warming reds, which I've stumbled across over the last few months...
 From rasteau.com

Les Vignerons d'Estézargues
A mini-co-op winery formed by 10 growers in and around the village of Estézargues, where their cellar is located, which lies roughly between Avignon and the famous Pont du Gard viaduct (without mentioning the Romans). They favour a 'natural' winemaking approach apparently (who doesn't nowadays). These two cost about £10.95-£13.95 at Roberson's in London (so posh prices then); and the US importer is Jenny & François selections.
Les Galets 2012 Côtes du Rhône (Grenache, Carignan; organic, 13.5% abv) - perfumed nose, quite light texture (although not in alcohol) with tasty berry fruit finish.
Grés Saint-Vincent 2011 Côtes du Rhône Villages (Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault; organic, 14% abv) - similar profile perhaps although more concentrated, powerful and elegant too, paradoxically, with a light bitter twist of tannin.

Domaine Saint Etienne
Michel Coullomb's vineyards lie on rolling pebbley terrain around a little place called Montfrin, sitting pretty much smack in the middle of a crow-flies line between Nimes and Avignon (just in the Languedoc technically). Available from Leon Stolarski Fine Wines in the UK (£ price quoted) and Mitchell & Son in Dublin (€).
Perserose 2012 IGP Pays du Gard (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan; 14% abv) - easy-going red, nice sweet liquorice fruit plus a bit of oomph to finish. £7.75
Les Galets 2010 Côtes du Rhône Villages (2/3 Grenache, 1/3 Syrah; 13.5% abv) - attractive Grenache-dominant style showing white pepper and liquorice flavours, fairly concentrated too with balanced soft vs grippy mouth-feel. €17.99 Ireland
Cocagne 2011 Côtes du Rhône (Syrah, Grenache) - hints of toasted choco oak, lots of minty dark cherry fruit though, rich vs firm palate with concentrated finish; nice style. €18.50 cellar door.

Domaine de Mourchon
There's a short-and-sweet profile (scribbled a couple of years ago) of this quite exciting off-the-beaten track estate winery in wild Séguret country, owned by the McKinlay family, and some of their previously tasted vintages HERE. A trio of more recent releases are reviewed for your pleasure below. UK: the Wine Company (Colchester), Big Red Wine Co. (£ prices quoted). Good distribution in the US it seems: the two 'Villages' reds here are about $20+ and $25-$30.
La Source 2012 Côtes du Rhône white (Grenache blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Clairette, Bourboulenc) - charming honeysuckle notes, yeast-lees and peachy fruit; quite rich and tasty with nice crisp touch too. £9.59
Tradition 2011 Séguret Côtes du Rhône Villages (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) - enticing sweet liquorice and dark berry fruit, hints of spice and dry grip vs fairly soft and tasty finish. £10 (case price) to £13.99 a bottle.
Grande Reserve 2011 Séguret Côtes du Rhône Villages (Grenache, Syrah; older vines) - earthier and chunkier, punchy 15.5% alcohol layered with lots of lush dark fruit vs good bite too. Wow. £18.99

Cave de Rasteau

You'll find previous words on this fairly go-getting co-op HERE (about their sumptuous fortified red Vin Doux Naturel) that basically forms the backbone of the Rasteau village appellation, supplemented by a handful of very good independent estates (some of them are linked below); and HERE as well (note on the 2011 'Tradition'). Here's what I thought of two of their latest vintage releases.
Ortas 'Tradition' 2012 Rasteau (Grenache 70%, Syrah 20%, Mourvèdre 10%, 14.5% abv) - Deceptively fruity and soft at first, turning warmer and more powerful, plenty of tasty blackberry/cherry, damson and liquorice with earthy touches; a hint of dry grip vs sweet ripe fruit, spice and oomph to finish. Drinking nicely now. €7.90 cellar door, £9.95 Hercules Wine Warehouse (Kent, UK), €14.49 O'Brien's (Ireland).
'Prestige' 2010 Rasteau (Grenache 50%, Syrah 35%, Mourvèdre 15% from very stony hillside terraces, small proportion aged in oak; 14.5% abv) - rich ripe and earthy with liquorice and kirsch notes, peppery and minty too; concentrated, powerful, solid and grippy vs lush dark berry fruit with spicy edges; tightens up on the finish, still a bit young although drinking well with the right kind of food, e.g. Chinese roast duck actually. €18.49 O'Brien's, €10 cellar door.



Other Côtes du Rhône stuff elsewhere on this site you might like to glance at:

And there's a bit of 'blurb and bottles' from the northern Rhône as well lying craftily below this post (or click here:) Domaine Belle, Crozes-Hermitage.


22 November 2014

France: Champagne Dumangin

This quirky independent Champagne house was created and has been run by the Dumangin family since the 1880s. Quirky in that their Champagnes are much drier than most of the big brands and own-labels – the dosage levels (added to all traditional method fizz, except for 'Brut Nature' or 'Zero' styles, as a sweetener essentially) in the five I've reviewed below have from just 2 to 8 grams/litre residual sugar, whereas 10 to 12 or more is the norm for a so-called dry 'Brut'; and each dosage 'liquor' is lovingly “aged in perfumed oak casks,” which I'd never heard of before. The company also still does the 'riddling' by hand apparently - the process where the bottles of Champers undergoing second fermentation in bottle are slowly shaken and tilted upside-down, before the yeast sediment is 'disgorged' – which is generally done by mean machines called 'gyro-palettes' nowadays. More: www.champagne-dumangin.com photo: facebook.com/ChampagneDumangin.


La Cuvée 17 Brut (1/3 each Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier) - Lightly nutty and yeasty notes, elegant and crisp mouth-feel, pretty dry (this was the 'least' dry of the five actually) with subtle tasty finish.
L'Extra-Brut (50% Pinot Meunier, 25% each Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) – Very dry and mouthwatering with nutty and subtle yeast biscuit flavours, pretty intense and crisp finish but it works well. Like it although probably too dry for some.
Le Vintage 2004 Extra Brut (54% Chardonnay, 46% Pinot Noir) – A touch richer and fuller, more complex flavours, crisp long finish, well balanced; very nice stylish Champers.
Premium Blanc de Blancs 2006 Extra Brut (100% Chardonnay, single vineyard) – Enticing ageing characters vs still intense palate, concentrated and classy; lovely fizz.
Premium Rosé de Saignée 2008 Extra Brut (50% Pinot Meunier, 25% each Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) – unusual rosé sparkler, cidery notes mixed with understated floral / red fruit flavours.
Available from Yapp Brothers in the UK for £29-£39 per bottle, in Australia and quite widely distributed across the USA.

Italy: "wines of the moment"

A few late-autumn tips for looking beyond Pinot Grigio and Chianti (ok, there's one of these recommended here as well) on your local (UK) supermarket's Italian wine shelves, either posh own-labels at slightly higher price points (but often considerably less than for a fancy winery brand yet made by big names and of equivalent quality) or bottles you might overlook as they aren't familiar. In no particular order then...

Teroldego Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT 2012 (12.5% abv) - Seeing more of this style of light to medium-bodied red around nowadays, made from the obscure and very northern Italian (Alpine almost) grape variety Teroldego. Attractive fruity spicy wine with a bit of character too. Tesco £7.99
Nero d'Avola Sicilia IGT 2011, Corte Ibla 'single estate' (14% abv) - quite serious and full-on, a lovely Sicilian red made from Nero d'Avola with big ripe dark fruit and fairly firm-textured palate too. M&S £12
Lugana DOC 2013, Tenuta Roveglia (variety: Trebbiano di Lugana, 12.5% abv) - I've been through a few vintages of this consistently tasty dry white with a touch of richness yet fresh and crisp too, from vineyards near Lake Garda just in Lombardy on the border with neighbouring Veneto. Asda £7 although now de-listed as I haven't seen it recently? Shame.
Barolo DOCG 2009, Cantine Ascheri Giacomo (Nebbiolo, 14% abv) - You can often pay more than this for Barolo and still be disappointed, this a very good example balancing meatiness and grip with nice maturing fruit. Tesco £14.99
Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2011, Cantina Valpantena (Corvina, Rondinella, 15%) - Similar comments on price/quality as above could apply, this very tasty blockbuster red has lush and spicy fruit, balsamic notes and full-on rounded vs grippy tannins. Enjoyable now with rich food, but it will probably get better if left alone for a couple of years. Sainsbury's £16.50
Chianti Riserva DOCG 2010, Piccini (Sangiovese, 13% abv) - Fairly straightforward wine but well-made (Piccini is a reliable producer), attractive and drink-now version of this popular Tuscan red. Asda £7
Grillo Terre Siciliane IGP 2013 (13% abv) - perhaps one of Sicily's most exciting white varieties, Grillo offers exotic ripe vs juicy fruit with body, a hint of honeyed spice and lightly tangy finish. M&S £7
Greco 2013 Sannio DOC, La Guardiense (13.5% abv) - another star southern Italian white grape from the Campania region, Greco also gives you rich fruit and honeysuckle notes with full-bodied mouth-feel then crisper finish. M&S £10
Notte Rossa Primitivo di Manduria DOP 2012, Cantine San Marzano (14% abv) - Primitivo is the same as, or closely related to, California's Zinfandel (yes, it's a black variety) and can produce some of the best reds in Puglia, especially good wineries in the Manduria zone like this delicious smoky vs dark Med red. M&S £10
Aglianico del Vulture DOC 2009 (14% abv) - Aglianico is another slightly obscure grape worth seeking out, and this example from the Basilicata region (in the deep south found between the two regions mentioned above) shows enticing liquorice and wild herb notes. The 2009 is looking a bit old now, so enjoy it this winter: on offer at Sainsbury's for £6.75 (usually £9).
Vermentino 2013 Tuscany (12%) - another new Italian white at Asda, give it a go for its floral character and elegant style; worth £6 on offer, although I wouldn't pay the "full" price (whatever that really is in any supermarket, with their deliberately confusing promotions and pricing policy, allegedly).

19 November 2014

Rhône: Domaine Belle, Crozes-Hermitage

With their new-ish winery built in the village of Larnage, this very northern Rhone Valley producer (mostly Syrah and Syrah...) has slowly expanded over the years to 25 hectares (62 acres) of different vineyard parcels spread around several villages in the Crozes, Hermitage and St. Joseph appellations. Philippe Belle has been running the show for over 10 years now, and helped his father Albert shape the piecemeal whole into a fully fledged estate winery in the 90s.
www.domainebelle.com or via specialist exporter A Wine to Try.

Les Pierrelles 2011 Crozes-Hermitage (100% Syrah from specific vineyards in the village areas of Pont d’Isère and Mercurol, aged for 14 months in barrels) - hints of spicy vanilla oak on a structured backdrop, the fruit was a little overrun by the wood at that time perhaps, but the wine's got nice depth and mouth weight; probably just needed more time to round out fully.
Hermitage 2011 red (100% Syrah from Tain l’Hermitage from the 'lieu-dit' les Murets, aged 2+ years in barrels - 70% new oak) - pretty oaky too with big extracted yet concentrated mouth-feel, alluring dark and spicy Syrah fruit underneath (black cherry, damson and white pepper...); still rather youthful I think, should turn out pretty good in a few years...

18 November 2014

Roussillon: Domaine Vial Magnères, Banyuls

It's that time of year perhaps when sometimes something a little stronger (fortified in the case of these aged "reds") and sweeter does the trick, and you can rely on the Roussillon region to come up with a Grenache-built blockbuster layered with complex flavours. Domaine Vial Magnères specialises in these, a small and very well-known family estate based in Banyuls-sur-mer, whose steep terraced old-vine plots rise up behind the town and neighbouring Port-Vendres, mostly making a good variety of these Banyuls styles including a white which, rumour has it, they were one of the first to produce. Bernard Sapéras has been in charge since the mid 1980s at this winery dating back to the 60s. More @ www.vialmagneres.fr where I copied the photo from.


Gaby Vial 8 year-old Banyuls (Grenache, organic; fortified to 15% abv) - enticing toffee and caramelised raspberry notes, lots of spiced liquorice too with complex baked red fruit and pecan nut combo on its yummy finish. Delicious. Dynamic Vines, London.
Another of their wines mentioned previously on this site:
Cuvée André Magnères 1996 Banyuls 'Grand Cru' - matched with "chocolate gianduja parfait with roasted pear and pecan, Banyuls syrup with pear and cardamom foam," (what?!) by 2007 Roussillon Dessert Trophy (click there for more info) winner Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

Roussillon: Château Corneilla / Jonquères d'Oriola

Château de Corneilla aka Domaine Jonquères d'Oriola is another of those very old family wine estates you occasionally come across in the Roussillon (we're talking 15th century apparently). Now run by 30-something William who's continued shifting the focus a touch more towards making Côtes du Roussillon reds, although they still have a very good reputation for their traditional Vins Doux Naturels (VDN = fortified wines), such as the gracefully ageing Tuilé red (sort-of 'tawny' style) featured here. The Jonquères family owns two substantial vineyards around the historic village of Corneilla del Vercol, found a few kilometres south of Perpignan on the way to Saint Cyprien and Elne. Their site www.jonqueresdoriola.fr is "under construction."

Rivesaltes Tuilé 2000 (Grenache, fortified to 16% abv) - caramelised pecan nut and red fruit cocktail, quite tangy and "fresh" almost with a bit of a kick then lingering maturing meaty flavours. Alluring VDN style, try with chocolate, nutty desserts or mature hard cheeses. £13 Roberson Wine, London.
Côtes du Roussillon 2011 red (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah) - nice sweet berry and floral notes with tobacco edges, fresh bite still and light tannins on its attractive finish. £9.95 Roberson Wine.

15 November 2014

Italy: Nino Franco, Prosecco


This top-notch Prosecco winery isn't far off its 100th birthday and was established by Antonio Franco in Valdobbiadene, right in the beautiful heart of the 'original' production zone marked by often steep hillside vineyards at altitude (hence the snowy shot above), which has recently become a much smaller and more quality-focused sub-zone (Prosecco can be made pretty much anywhere in the Veneto region or virtually the entire northeastern corner of Italy it seems). Nino Franco then expanded the family operation and grandson Primo, who's been in charge for over 30 years, has boosted exports substantially - it shouldn't be too difficult to find their wines in your neck of the woods.
The three tasting-noted below are all made 100% from the Glera variety, the 'old' name for Prosecco which has been re-adopted especially in the Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG zone, to make a point of distinction presumably. They're all produced by the 'charmat', 'cuve close' or, less pretty sounding, 'tank' method, where the second fermentation and lees-ageing take place in a sealed vat, then the wine is cleverly bottled under pressure retaining the natural CO2 bubbles. Franco's sparkling wines just go to show that there's Prosecco and there's Prosecco...
These ones are available in the UK/Ireland from JN Wine, Wine Drop and Sommelier's Choice among others starting at £13.50-£14 (€23) up to £25-ish; or Wine.com and many other outlets in the US (from about $18). Photo copied from www.ninofranco.it.

Rustico NV - lively with lightly toasted almond and yeasty biscuit edges, quite intense fruity vs earthy flavours with long crisp vs toasty finish; very nice fizz.
Vigneto della Riva di San Floriano 2013 - more 'vinous' and concentrated, attractive fruity vs baked bread-y mix of flavours with intense bite and length, lingering oat biscuit notes vs fresh and 'salty'; stylish and elegant.
Grave di Stecca 2010 (old steep vineyard, longer lees ageing, only 7 gr/l residual sugar which is pretty dry) - quite rich and toasty with tangy nutty dry mouth-feel, more serious foodie fizz with lovely rounded vs crisp finish.

13 November 2014

Wine Education Service NI: tasting and workshop update

See post on my other site: WineWriting.com: WES NI tastings and workshop in Belfast: "Christmas wines tutored tasting December 4 (Thursday) 7:30 - 9:00 PM £35 including nibbles. Special 'Christmas themed'..."

10 November 2014

Wine Education Service NI: tastings and workshop in Belfast

"Christmas wines" tutored tasting
December 4 (Thursday) 7:30 - 9:00 PM
£35 including nibbles.
Special "Christmas themed" wine tasting to give you some festive wine tips, including Champagne and other fizz, Port and 'classic' reds and whites, accompanied by a few hot nibbles from the hotel restaurant. We'll also talk a little about who, where and how these wines are made, and what food they might match with best...

Wines of France Saturday 'workshop'
January 31 2015
£90 including two-course lunch and course manual.
On this "Tour de France" wine tasting workshop, we'll take you on a guided tour of France's different wine producing regions and taste about a dozen wines, including classics from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhone valley, Loire Valley, Alsace and examples from 'the big south' too: Languedoc, Roussillon or Provence.
We'll also talk a little about tasting wine, who makes these wines and how, and what happens in their vineyards and winery that gives them different regional characters (grape varieties, climate, terrain, winemaking); as well as discussing some of the ideas, traditional and modern, that have shaped the French wine world.

'Classic Grape Varieties' tutored tasting
February 26 2015 (Thursday) 7:30 - 9:00 PM
£27.50
Tasting of selected wines made from some of the world's "classic" grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc for whites and Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or Syrah / Shiraz for reds. We'll taste and talk about three or four pairs of wines, with each pair made from the same variety but coming from two different regions / countries, to compare how climate and winemaking can change the style; or is it the grape that shines through most?!

The venue for these events is the Ramada Encore Hotel near St. Anne's Square in the heart of 'the Cathedral quarter', Belfast city centre.
Wine Education Service NI does not sell wine - our informal wine tastings and classes are designed to be purely educational and fun of course; we source high quality representative wine samples from a variety of different retailers.

More info and booking on the WES Belfast webpage HERE.
Or book using the PayPal buttons below (more about payments and subscribing HERE).


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