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

27 September 2016

Cahors: Combel La Serre, Haute-Serre, Mercuès

Château de Mercuès
These Cahors words & wines are an extract from the recently updated version of my French wine tasting & touring e-magazine (click there for more info) available as a Kindle e-book on Amazon or emailed as a monster PDF file.

Château Combel La Serre

Following on from what I've said recently about the Red Squirrel Wine company, their buyers have also been snooping around Cahors country in search of real Malbec; and obviously found some at Julien Ilbert’s winery Combel la Serre. There’s more about him and some of his previous vintages a little further on in this Cahors section (again, click above): I met him a few years ago in the region and was pretty impressed, thinking we’d be seeing more of him and his now 100% Malbec wines (even if they are a tad dear although so are the others reviewed here...).

Pur Fruit de Causse 2014 Cahors (no oak, 12.5% abv) - Alluring fruity 'funky' nose, very Malbec berry and spice style though; this one has light bite and grip. £14.99
Château Combel La Serre 2012 Cahors – Grippier and more textured wine than above showing good depth of enticing smoky fruit; very nice Malbec. £16.99

Château de Haute-Serre

There’s an in-depth profile of Georges Vigouroux‘s flashy estate winery and restaurant a few chapters further on, gleaned from a trip there (and rather good lunch it has to be said) a few years ago. Since replanting the hillside vineyards on this old property in the 1970s – 60 hectares surrounding the chateau - he’s injected even more money into Haute-Serre to make it a shining example of what can be done in Cahors (when you’re rich obviously). The wines are certainly impressive (even if sometimes a bit overly oaky in my view) and occasionally come up to ‘fine’ wine level, with a deliberate sense of recreating a Bordeaux-style ‘grand cru’ based on the region’s Malbec variety. In the UK, Oddbins have recently listed a couple of the range including their top red reviewed below and Lafleur de Haute Serre 2014 at £12.75.

Grand Vin Seigneur 2012 Malbec (13.5% abv) – Quite oaky still to start with coconut shavings on the nose, but it’s complex too with spicy herby damson, cassis and black cherry vs more savoury black olive even; very dense and purple colour still, dry coating of fine-textured tannins (posh oak probably), powerful yet well balanced with grip and fresh bite vs nice ‘sweet’/savoury fruit combo, concentrated long finish and classy with it despite that new oak coating. Second day: less oaky on the nose and smokier, very concentrated actually with dry vs fine coated tannins on the palate. Serious wine. £18.50 Oddbins.

Château de Mercuès

The asset-rich Georges Vigouroux & company also owns this magnificent property, a pukka posh 13th century castle (pic. top) with all the historical trimmings found to the north-west of the town of Cahors further up and overlooking the winding River Lot. He bought and had it transformed into a luxury 30‐room Relais & Châteaux hotel and restaurant in 1983, which is run by Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux along with 32 hectares (80 acres) of mostly Malbec vineyards. More info @ chateaudemercues.com where I copied the image from.

Le Vassal de Mercuès 2014 ‘Malbec de Cahors’ (90% Malbec, 8% Merlot, 2% Tannat; 13% abv) – Dense purple colour still, enticing blackcurrant and blueberry fruit with spicy earthy hints and a more savoury side too, concentrated palate with nice sweet vs sour fruit mix, firm textured with light bitter twist but the tannins have an attractive dry coating. Stylish red that should improve for a few years yet, and apparently this is the estate’s ‘second wine’. UK: £13 for the 2013 at Dulwich Vintners (who stock some older vintages of the Haute-Serre ‘Grand Vin’ above, part of one of the most serious Cahors’ ranges I’ve ever seen); The General Wine Co./Amazon £11.99/£11.39 on offer (vintage not specified). US: $13.99 Ball Square Fine Wines (MA) - vintage not specified; Sipping Serendipity Wine (WA) $16 for the 2009.

26 September 2016

More 'white grapes of the moment'

For 'serious' white wine fans out there, here are a few more, quirkier bottles worth trying made mostly from lesser-known grape varieties. Warning: this is a Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc FREE zone (no Chardonnay either, but, hey, I like Chardy)... Prices stated are all £UK.

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla - Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain (Palomino Fino, 15% abv). Classic very dry style sherry with intense yeasty notes, chamomile and apple too with tangy almond finish. £8 (50cl) Sainsbury's / widely available.

Domaine La Toupie 2014 ‘Fine Fleur’ - Roussillon, France (Grenache gris 49%, Grenache blanc 25%, Macabeu 25%, Carignan blanc 1%). Obviously that 1% white Carignan makes all the difference! Nicely aromatic and zesty with aniseed notes, then lightly ‘oily’ and nutty palate. £12.50 Joie de Vin.

Eschenhof Holzer 2014 'Haide' Roter Veltliner - Wagram, Austria. Despite its name, the RV variety isn't red (although does have a pink hue) and probably isn't related to Gruner Veltliner. Enticingly wild and yeasty nose vs creamy 'oily' notes, concentrated and rich vs steely bite; very nice and different too. £13.99 Red Squirrel Wine.

Marqués de Alella 2012 'Galactica' Pansa Blanca (= Xarello) - Catalonia, Spain. Nutty lightly oxidised and savoury nose yet still fresh and lively on the palate, very good unusual white although expensive (it's rare apparently). £21.99 Red Squirrel Wine.

Villa Maria 2014 Gewurztraminer - East Coast, New Zealand (13.5% abv). Surprisingly elegant with subtle hallmark 'Turkish delight' and lychee flavours, full bodied though yet with a lighter touch too. Drink now with Malaysian or Thai food (I did). £10.99 WineMark.

Alta Luna 2015 Gewurztraminer, CaVit - Trentino, Italy (13% abv). A little less in-ya-face and drier perhaps than most Alsace Gewurz, this is nevertheless still characteristically aromatic with rose water and peach, again quite elegant. M&S £9.

Chenin Blanc 2015, Adi Badenhorst - Swartland, South Africa (13.5% abv). Bargain compared to some of the wines reviewed here, considering the real mouthful of rich flavour you get for the money: honeyed melon fruit, 'oily' rounded and full-bodied with fresher side. Tesco Finest £6.

09 September 2016

French wine tasting & touring e-magazine updated

This substantial 'digital magazine' is an amalgam of pay-to-view supplements and guides originally written for this blog, with 15 pages of exclusive new material added in September 2016. Wine recommendations, winemaker profiles, regional mini-guides, travelling & eating tips, opinions and news from, extensively, the Languedoc with an extra in-depth Saint-Chinian report, and Cahors; plus Alsace (Grands Crus), Chablis wine touring and independent wine-growers' Champagne mini-guide.
Here's what's new since the last update: Languedoc ‘Outsiders’ and other new & updated winery profiles, featuring 17 producers from the Languedoc, Roussillon and southern Rhone valley:
Château Rives-Blanques, Limoux; Domaine Sainte Rose, Pays d’Oc; Château d’Anglès, La Clape; La Madura, Saint-Chinian; Domaine Turner Pageot, Pézenas; Domaine La Louvière, Malepère; Château de Panéry, Côtes du Rhône; Domaine Le Clos du Serre, Terrasses du Larzac; Domaine des Enfants, Côtes Catalanes; Domaine de Cébène, Faugères; Château Saint Jacques d’Albas, Minervois; Le Clos du Gravillas, Minervois/Côtes du Brian.
Plus: Domaine Jones, Fitou & Maury; Jourdan-L’Argentier, Sommières; Château Monfin, Corbières; Domaines Paul Mas, Languedoc; Domaine Bassac, Côtes de Thongue.
Languedoc & Roussillon: 10 recommended 2015 vintage white wines, and 10 hot 'reds of the moment' from Paul Mas, Costières Pomérols, Morin Langaran, Saint-Martin Garrigue, Dom Brial, Saint Hilaire, Mas Pont, Devoy Martine, Hecht & Bannier, Château Gaure, Château Lascaux; Gérard Bertrand, Mas Devèze, Château Bouis, Saint-Michel Clauses, Cave Roquebrun, Domaine Tholomies, Mas Gabinèle, Domaine d’Aupilhac, Mas Quernes and Domaine Mirabel.
And: the huge 'Cahors home of Malbec' section has been updated with the latest from two top estates: Château Combel La Serre and Château de Haute-Serre...

Click on the link below to buy this e-mag in your country's Amazon store (as a Kindle e-book - prices subject to exchange rate variations):
Amazon US ($2.99), Amazon UK (£2.24), France (€2.99), Canada ($3.80), Australia ($3.99), India (₹193), Germany (€2.99), Spain (€2.99), Italy (€2.99), Netherlands (€2.99), Japan (¥333), Brazil (R$9.66) and Mexico ($55.49).
Alternatively, this newly updated magazine is now available for just £2.50 as a whopping 141-page PDF file with photos by using the PayPal button below, to pay by card or your own PP account although you don't need one to buy it. I'll email the PDF to you once payment is received. Click here for more about card payments and general terms & conditions.



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