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

31 March 2014

Roussillon: Domaine Jolly Ferriol, Espira de l'Agly

Isabelle Jolly and Jean-Luc Chossart took over this three-and-a-half-century old property, in that cute old Catalan farmhouse style, in 2005, which is found off the meandering main road between Espira and Cases de Pène, a few kilometres west of Rivesaltes. They've been farming organically from the start (they're now 'certified' anyway) using indigenous yeasts for 'spontaneous' fermentation, and most of their wines have no added sulphites (except the Muscat de Rivesaltes as stated below for instance) and don't get fined or filtered they claim. This riskier 'natural' approach can sometimes lead to mixed results, although it's mostly successful with the wines I tasted here, especially their "blah blah" white based on Grenache gris, varietal Syrah and a couple of very different Muscats. More about Isabelle and Jean-Luc, their way of life, details on the wines etc. on www.jollyferriol.fr where I pinched this photo from.


2012 Blablablanc (mostly Grenache gris with Macabeu) – floral peach blossom vs yeast lees and nutty characters, intense and tasty palate with long finish; very nice white.
2012 Pet'Nat ("naturally sparkling" Muscat from second fermentation in bottle, 12% abv) – attractive and unusual style with biscuity notes vs grapey flavours; fairly light and easy.
2010 Fait d'Hiver (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) – funky 'volatile' nose vs pure ripe dark fruit cocktail, dried and earthy with chunky vs soft mouth-feel; quite intense, a little on the wild side though.
2009 Syrah – perfumed violet and black cherry, turning more liquorice-y and peppery on the palate, rich fruit and tannins but rounded and quite fine for 'hot dry year' 2009.
2006 Muscat de Rivesaltes (total sulphites 28 mg/l) – “very low yields and much less alcohol added than usual,” I was told. Complex marmalade and quince notes with orange peel zest, nutty and toasty too on the palate. Lovely style.
Passe-temps Rivesaltes ambré (70% Macabeu, 30% Grenache gris; 3 years cask ageing, 16% abv) – nutty and dried fruits, oxidizing 'Madeira' profile although fruitier, intense bitter vs sweet mouth-feel with tasty ageing savoury flavours.

25 March 2014

Languedoc: La Réserve d'O, Terrasses du Larzac

Marie and Frédéric Chauffray bought a few plots lying at 400 metres above sea level in the wild and airy Terrasses du Larzac (click to find out more) appellation in 2005 - you can read my note on their first vintage red from that full-bodied year HERE (links to "Top Languedoc & Roussillon reds over €10" tasting feature) - when they created La Réserve d'O, using a bit of word play, presumably, for that catchy name. They also starred in 'Les Terroiristes du Languedoc' documentary film (links to post about this) made by American wine-cineaste Ken Payton. The couple also has vines in the Saint-Saturnin area, which is a sort-of subzone of the wider Terrasses du Larzac so-called cru appellation ("Confused? You will be..."), all farmed under the influence of biodynamics from the very beginning, so the story goes; and had a new cellar built in the village of Arboras the following year... LRO is a name I've bumped into before, as I said, and I'm glad I (re)discovered them a few months ago, as their wines are tasty, full of sunshine and have nice depth of character too. Some of them are available in the UK from Cambridge Wine Merchants, Drop Wines, the Humble Grape, the Wine Society and others; and in the US: Johns Island Imports, IL and Astor Wines, NY. More @ www.lareservedo.fr.




2012 Sanssoo St-Saturnin (Syrah, Cinsault; no added sulphites, filtered) – lovely cherry and berry fruit, peppery with liquorice too; tasty juicy palate, quite concentrated and rich though with a certain freshness on the finish too. Lovely. £14
2010 La Réserve d'O Terrasses du Larzac (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault; total sulphites 45 mg/l, filtered) – enticing spicy floral nose with darker blackberry side, lush and ripe with nice tannins and mouth weight, fruity vs earthy finish. Yum. £11.99 - £13.99, $19.96
2009 Hissez O Terrasses du Larzac (similar blend but with more Syrah and some barrel ageing; total sulphites 40 mg/l, filtered) – again has delicious dark vs herby spicy Syrah styling, rich and full-on vs nice grip/bite, earthy vs dried fruit flavours, powerful yet concentrated finish. Wow.
2011 Bilbo St-Saturnin (mostly Grenache; total sulphites 37 mg/l, filtered) – ripe and juicy with liquorice vs crunchier berry fruit, weighty with a light bitter twist, also concentrated and long; nice Grenache style. £10.95 - £12.99

19 March 2014

Roussillon: Vinyer de la Ruca, Banyuls

The man behind Vinyer de la Ruca is the splendidly named Manuel di Vecchi Staraz, which wasn't a name I'd come across before. He only makes one red Banyuls vin doux naturel style, as far as I can tell, which, as it says on his website www.vinyerdelaruca.com: "Tot es fa a la mà," meaning "Everything is done by hand," from my limited grasp of Catalan. This even includes the quirky decorative hand-blown 650ml and 400ml size bottles, more like little demijohns actually, the Banyuls comes in. Rather steep though at €75 and €110 a piece (even if he does only make 1000 bottles and the wine is good), just like the sheer schist terraces the 50 year-old Grenache it's made from tries to grow on. These vines are farmed totally biodynamically using homoeopathic preparations, no machines, no added sulphites to the wine, aged in small tuns and all that jazz. Sounds / looks like a bit of a philosopher too, hence the suitably pensive shot I copied off his site:


2011 Banyuls - baked plum and liquorice notes, fiery punchy palate layered with sweet vs savoury fruit, complex flavours on top of attractive grip and texture actually, rich dark and smoky with tangy twist too. Nice style.

15 March 2014

USA: New York State Riesling

Claiming to be "America's oldest winery," established in 1839, and "home to the largest underground wine cellar in the country," Brotherhood Winery (link to their site) is obviously full of superlatives. I did like these two subtle Rieslings though (tasted last year and neglected up until now); they also make Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot and a whole host of other curiously named/labelled bottles, some of which will make certain European producers' hair stand on end. You'll find them in Washingtonville in the Hudson Valley, a good trek directly north of New York City.
Brotherhood 2011 Hudson Valley dry Riesling - aromatic floral vs oily notes, delicate lime fruit with developing nutty oily flavours vs 'chalky' edges. Good. $9.99
Brotherhood 2011 Premium Selection Riesling - medium 'Mosel' style, 'chalky' and zesty with underlining sweet citrus fruit. Attractive. $9.99

From www.drfrankwines.com
Dr. Konstantin Frank emigrated to the States from the Ukraine in the early 1950s armed with a PhD in viticulture and, after doing some research, came to the conclusion that "the lack of proper rootstock, not the cold climate, was the reason for the failure of Vitis Vinifera (European) vines in the Finger Lakes region." He founded the winery there in 1962 planting Riesling and other aromatic varieties, and his work has been followed on by son Willy and now grandson Frederick. It's located in Hammondsport, upstate on the Lakes to the west of Ithaca.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2012 Finger Lakes dry Riesling - aromatic zesty and limey with lively crisp and 'chalky' mouth-feel, intense and concentrated. Lovely. $14.99

Nestling by the wee town of Lodi lying between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, northwest of Ithaca, Boundary Breaks only grows (overseen by vineyard manager Kees Stapel) and makes Riesling, four different ones in fact. "Why?" as it says on their site: "Because we only want to do one thing, very, very well." Like their style, especially since the vines were only planted in 2008 and the results already look quite impressive. Apparently the "breaks" are dramatic mini gorges caused by glaciers found at either end of the vineyard; the landscape around here certainly looks stunning from the nice photos on boundarybreaks.com.
Boundary Breaks 2011 Finger Lakes Riesling - developing oily and honeyed notes with lime too, perfumed vs fairly rich style with nice bite and refreshing finish. Good stuff.

Lamoreaux winery is a neighbour of BB above found "on the eastern hillsides of Seneca Lake," although they've been around for "three generations." This family business was founded by manager-winemaker Mark Wagner and is co-owned by Josh Wig. They have over 100 acres (40 ha) of vineyards in 20 different blocks planted with a mix of white and red varieties. More @ lamoreauxwine.com.
Lamoreaux Landing 2012 Red Oak Vineyard Finger Lakes Riesling - more delicate style and a tad sweeter, oily vs citrus combo leads to a zingy more closed up finish. $19.99

You'll find this curiously named winery in Hector a little to the south of the two vineyards mentioned above, just west of the Finger Lakes National Forest. Red Newt sounds pretty geared up for visitors and groups too, as there's a bistro, coffee bar, tasting room and shop. They make quite a wide range of Rieslings including a few single site wines. Check it out @ rednewt.com.
Red Newt Cellars 2011 Sawmill Creek Riesling - lifted lime aromas vs oily undertones, steely 'chalky' palate vs attractive sweeter oily side, nice style and balance mixing maturing yet lively characters.
Red Newt Cellars 2011 Lahoma Vineyard Riesling - lovely linseed oil vs lime combo, a tad riper and fuller with complex developing flavours vs crisp backdrop. Very good. $20

Another proud Riesling specialist (they do five), Fox Run's winemaker is Australian Peter Bell who's been at the winery since 1995 and says this is what brought him to the region. As their site (links) enthuses: "Riesling is king in the Finger Lakes. This noble grape is the most widely planted Vinifera variety with nearly 1000 acres in production and almost every winery produces at least one Riesling brand. The microclimate conditions and the slate soils that are so special to the Finger Lakes are exactly what make Riesling thrive here." FR lies to the northeast of Penn Yan on the other side of Lake Seneca.
Fox Run 2012 Finger Lakes Riesling - a touch of SO2 on the nose when I tasted it, zesty and 'chalky' with yeasty undertones, delicate and closed up; quite intense, fine and crisp though needing a little time to open up and settle down. $13.99?

Sheldrake Point has 44 acres (18 ha) planted on the west shore of Cayuga Lake just east of Ovid, and they have a second tasting room in Hector too. As well as a regular (reviewed below, I think...) and Reserve Riesling, the winery also produces late harvest and ice wine versions; these Rieslings are modelled on the Alsace style according to their site. More info @ www.sheldrakepoint.com.
Sheldrake Point 2011 Finger Lakes Riesling - maturing oily notes, quite concentrated with 'chalky' and crisp vs perfumed profile, nice intense lively vs maturing mix. $16

13 March 2014

Languedoc: Domaines Paul Mas update

This belated catching-up sees a couple of striking new poking-fun labels, another sizeable vineyard added to the Mas stable, a variety of 2011 and 2012 vintage reds and whites tasted last year and recently, plus a few words on that "road is long" restaurant 'project' mentioned previously which finally opened a year ago...


First off, Jean Claude Mas has been vineyard shopping again: La Ferrandière comes to 70 hectares (170 acres) near the pretty village of Aigues-Vives in the Aude region and is planted with Cabernet, Grenache, Malbec, Marselan, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Viognier. This latest addition to the total 478 ha now owned/managed by Mas (eight different estates), was "to ensure their development on the French market as well as abroad," the blurb explains. The company has been very export focused so far - 97% of sales in 58 countries apparently - and also works with 70 contracted growers across the Languedoc for extra fruit source.
Their new on-site restaurant - wine bar - wine shop Côté Mas is pretty good by all accounts I've heard (review to follow when I've been there), and looks worth a trip if you're touring this area. And following in the self-mocking footsteps of Arrogant and Elegant Frog, Ribet Red and such like, Doms P Mas have just launched a pair of Striking French! varietals. As you can see, the labels sport a cartoon character demo holding banners saying On veut du Viognier / On veut du Merlot, as in "We want Viognier/Merlot" obviously. See what I thought of them by clicking on the link below, along with a selection of other new vintages from across their extensive portfolio (Grés de Montpellier, Limoux, Picpoul, Pays d'Oc, Terrasses du Larzac, Corbières...).
CLICK HERE TO SEE MY NOTES / REVIEWS as well as lots of other DPM wines, comments and info penned from 2004 to 2011.

10 March 2014

English sparkling wine supplement

I've put together a 20-page special supplement on English sparkling wines, which is fizzing over with great 'Champagne' lookalikes, and taste-alikes, from a dozen exciting English wine estates, vineyards, wineries and brands featuring Digby, Henners, Hush Heath, Jenkyn Place, Danebury, Gusbourne, Chapel Down, Bolney, Bluebell, Ridgeview, KnightorFurleigh and many more. Plus a few facts, figures and comments on where the English fizz industry is at... Available as a PDF mini-mag emailed to you for just £3.50 - buy it by card or your own Paypal account (although you don't need one to do this or subscribe). Not free2view!


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