Richard Mark James' wine & travel blog
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29 April 2014

Chile: Cabernet Sauvignon

In a similar vein to my piece on Cabernet from Argentina (goes there) posted at the end of last year, Merlot, Carmenere and now Syrah and Pinot have perhaps become Chile's most fashionable varietal darlings. But there's still a lot of vinous enjoyment to be had from wines made solely or mostly from Cabernet Sauvignon; and occasionally more than mere enjoyment, as in fact some of Chile's best reds are crafted from Cab or Cab blends. Here's a gratuitous 'top ten' then (actually, "this one goes to 11...") that have come my wine-way in recent-ish times. By the way, when I say cassis as in French for blackcurrant, I'm not trying to be pretentious (aside the simple fact of having two wine blogs, which is a bit pretentious); I simply mean a riper fruit style than typical 'crunchy' blackcurrant, say, more like, well erm, crème de cassis I suppose. In any case, it's just too subjective all this currant vs cherry vs berry jargon...

Errazuriz - Aconcagua Valley
Max Reserva 2010 - smoky and perfumed nose showing ripe cassis, dark cherry/berry and liquorice too; firm textured palate yet nicely balanced with all that fruit as well, attractive style. £10
Don Maximiano Founder's Reserve 2008 (80% Cabernet Sauvignon + Petit Verdot, Cab Franc & Syrah) - quite a bit of smoky/toasty oak at first vs rich dark berry and liquorice fruit, extracted chunky mouth-feel with chocolate texture vs concentrated, serious wine turning slightly savoury on the finish yet still young and structured too. Expensive but it's their "icon" red: £45.
UK: The Drink Shop, Waitrose, Wine Rack and independent merchants. US: Vintus, NY.

Cono Sur - Maipo Valley
Single Vineyard El Recurso Block 18 2011 - lush cassis fruit, concentrated and chunky with firm and extracted mouth-feel, plenty of nice fruit. Good stuff. Their site matches this slightly chef-y dish with it: Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Onions and Mushroom Quinoa. US: Vineyard Brands.

Cimarosa - Maule Valley

Cuvée Especial 2011 "Winemaker's Selection by Claudio Villouta" (Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Petit Verdot, Syrah; 13.5% abv) - cedar notes vs spicy red pepper vs cassis/damson/black cherry/kirsch; quite powerful with aromatic fruit vs smoky savoury edges, nice mouthful of ripe vs crunchy fruit, a touch of chocolatey texture with grip and structure, the oak is well done though and overall it's well-balanced. Good value. Lidl UK £7.99

Morandé - Maipo Valley
Gran Reserva 2010 (14.5% abv) - complex, lightly 'reductive' even (when I tried it) perfumed cassis on the nose, tasty fruit on the palate with nice grip and subtle oak, tight structured dry finish vs attractive lingering sweet/floral fruit. UK £10 TheDrinkShop.com, US $18.50-$20 Saratoga Wine Exchange, Cedar Green Wine and others.

La Porta - Aconcagua Valley
Reserva 2012 - nice crunchy blackcurrant with darker lusher fruit underneath, has a touch of grip on the palate, subtle and quite tasty wine. UK £6, US $9 Total Wine & More.
Gran Reserva 2011 - shows hints of cedar-y oak on the nose, firmer and more concentrated than the Reserva with dark berry fruit and solid tight finish; softens up a little once it opens up revealing more. $16


Cremaschi Furlotti - Loncomilla Valley (Maule)
Edición Limitada de Familia 2011 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah) - creamy vs perfumed and crunchy berry, again nice fruit (like their single vineyard Cab) vs firm yet supple tannins, spicier and more savoury finish (that's enough contradictions...). Dangerous Wine Group Washington DC $23, Denmark €25.

Carmen - Maipo Valley
Gold Reserve 2009 - attractive cassis/blackcurrant fruit, quite extracted yet concentrated, maturing and turning savoury vs still pretty firm mouth-feel but there's nice lingering fruit. Silly price though: Ace Spirits $48, GetWineOnline $40+tax; £41-£45 TheDrinkShop.com, Corking Wines.

Indomita - Maipo Valley
Gran Reserva 2012 - crunchy vs ripe cassis and lively berry fruit too with sweet herb undertones, firm and chunky vs nice fruity style, has a bit of depth too. £8-£9 Connolly's, Cambridge Wine, Elwood Wines.
Quintus organic 2012 - similar although a touch riper sweeter fruit perhaps, fairly intense dark berry fruit, structured powerful and solid vs attractive dried fruit finish. Good wine. €12-€13 Wijnvoordeel Netherlands, Bourse du Vin Belgium, Weinversand Germany.
Some of the prices and stockists quoted were found on www.wine-searcher.com

01 April 2014

Roussillon: Le Soula, Fenouillèdes

Le Soula has featured on FMW.com before – see HERE ('Roussillon: three whites' from 2011 featuring their 2006 vintage) and HERE (notes and blurb spanning the period 2006 to 2010 on Domaine Gauby, who sought out, set up and part-owns Le Soula) - so it seemed like a good idea to add a few background words complementing my comments on recent vintage releases of some of their reds and whites...


Mark Walford, Roy Richards and Gérard Gauby bought about 20 ha (49 acres) of vineyards on the lost lofty frontier of the northwestern extremities of the Roussillon, known as the Fenouillèdes or upper Aude valley. Initially the wines were made in a small cellar in St. Martin du Fenouillet (the different plots are found around here and the villages of Feilluns, Saint Arnac, Le Vivier and Lesquerde) from the first vintage in 2001; and in 2008, they acquired the old cooperative winery building in Prugnanes, which was completely refitted, and Gérald Standley (pic.), who has a good deal of experience working in several wineries in different places, took over running the operation in the same year. He was undergoing official 'conversion' with full-blown organic certification due from the 2012 vintage, although they've been organic/biodynamic from the very beginning in any case (as if Gauby would have it any other way...). He also started the process of becoming certified biodynamic last year. The 'Macération' white wine is Gérald's baby, where he did whole bunch maceration before pressing giving wackier results, and more complex if it works (I liked it)...
Le Soula's wines are available in several top restaurants and independent merchants in the London area and across England via Berry Bros. & Rudd, in Scotland via Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh (the £.££ prices quoted below); Chapeau Wine in Dublin, Paul Young Fine wines in Los Angeles and in Canada, Japan etc: see full list on www.le-soula.com. They're pretty expensive, in Gauby-esque style, but good for sure and do age well too, especially the whites actually; so who am I to knock an obviously thorough job of creating a well-distributed premium Roussillon range...

Trigone blanc L11 Côtes Catalanes (mostly Macabeu with Malvoisie du Roussillon and drops of Grenache blanc, Grenache gris, Vermentino, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Marsanne and Roussanne of different ages; a blend of mostly 2011 and 12 vintages with a splash of 10 and 09; nearly half the wine aged in used demi-muids barrels; total sulphites 38 mg/l) – juicy honeyed and nutty, rounded and smooth vs nice crisp bite, attractive balance and style, fairly easy going.
2010 Le Soula blanc Côtes Catalanes (mostly Macabeu with Sauvignon and Grenache blanc plus Chardonnay, Malvoisie and Vermentino; about 30% aged in demi-muids including small portion of new wood; total sulphites 5 mg/l) – richer and creamier with nutty notes, lees-y with buttered toast, concentrated and lush with powerful yet still fresh finish. Yum. £21-£24
La Macération du Soula blanc L10 Côtes Catalanes (mostly Vermentino with Macabeu; blend of 2010 and 2009 vintages; mostly barrel aged; total sulphites 25 mg/l) – aromatic orange peel nut and peach blossom, richer hazelnut and sweet fruit flavours coming in vs intense finish; different.
Trigone rouge L12 Côtes Catalanes (mostly Syrah and Carignan with a touch of Grenache; a blend of mostly 2011 and 12 vintages with a splash of 10 and 09; 25% barrel aged; total sulphites 16 mg/l) – slightly 'reduced' and funky at first, moves on to lively spicy Syrah style with black cherry vs crunchier blueberry fruit; nice depth and subtle grip developing more liquorice fruit on the finish.
2010 Le Soula rouge Côtes Catalanes (mostly Carignan and Syrah with a touch of Grenache; mostly barrel aged including portion of new wood; total sulphites 27 mg/l) – wilder and peppery, intense crunchy fruit vs dark and smoky edges, light chocolate oak undertones on the attractive finish. £21-£25