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

19 February 2018

Roussillon photos (part 2): Les Aspres vineyards and winemakers

Elise and Jean-Baptiste Trilles
Domaine Trilles, Tresserre

















Château Corneilla - Vignobles Jonquères d’Oriola
Corneilla del Vercol



















Stéphane Batlle
Domaine de la Meunière, Trouillas...
And saucisse catalane for lunch....






Some of the remaining legendary 1974 Rivesaltes Ambré Vin Doux Naturel safely stored at Les Vignobles de Constance et du Terrassous' Fourques cellar.

16 February 2018

Roussillon photos (part 1): Banyuls-sur-mer vineyards and winemakers












Romuald Peronne

Domaine Clos Saint-Sébastien


Hervé Levano
Domaine de la Casa Blanca






















Élise Gaillard
Domaine Madeloc


















These neglected photos were taken on a trip last spring in and around Banyuls-sur-mer. If you were expecting some inspirational words about these winemakers, you'll have to wait until I finish my new book on the Roussillon! More pictures to follow...

15 February 2018

Hungary: Tokay, Hárslevelű, Furmint, Pinot Noir...

Why not start with Hungary's most famous wine creation, sweet Tokay, by launching into a couple of recommended ones tried or bought last late summer while on holiday. I finally opened the Royal Tokaji 'blue label' below recently (apparently called 'red label' in the States, as you would), which was savoured on a Saturday wine workshop event I just ran in Belfast and hence was the prompt for this overdue blog post...
Royal Tokaji Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2013 (Furmint, Hárslevelű, Muscat; 11% abv, sugar 156 g/l, total acidity 7.9 g/l) - Delicious alluring classic style with lashings of honey, sultanas, marmalade, dried apricot, quince... Mesmerizing opulence and quirky spice, lush sweet and richly textured with beautiful underlying fresh acidity holding it together effortlessly. Drinking nicely now (try with blue cheese or plain ice cream and nuts say) but will definitely develop over many years in bottle. Full price was €25 at Budapest airport, although it was on offer at the time equating to about £15 for a 50cl bottle. Majestic Wine in the UK sells it for £24/£21.60 depending on quantity; and some Waitrose stores stock a handy 25cl size for £12.99.
Another very nice, slightly less sweet Tokaji Aszú to look out for is:
2012 Simkó 3 Puttonyos (so just three 'buckets' of botrytised grapes rather than five per whatever vat size) with an additional year's ageing adding oiliness and richness. 800 HUF (= £2.26/€2.57) per 100ml glass in the Pár Pendégló Panzió restaurant across the river in the pretty town of Sárospatak.



Due to history and borders shifting correspondingly, there's been a long tradition of making Tokaji wines in the far south-eastern corner of Slovakia too (the part right alongside the Hungarian region obviously in the far north-east on the border). The seven villages permitted to produce these wines in the Slovak Tokaj region are Bara, Čerhov, Černochov, Malá Tŕňa, Slovenské Nové Mesto, Viničky and Veľká Tŕňa (pic. above). We explored some pretty hillside vineyards around here on foot before buying an ice cream, as it was just too hot to taste wine! I did call in on one winery though, the Ostrožovič family who has a good name, but they were busy expecting a big coach party at any moment. There's more generic info here: www.winesofslovakia.com.
Realising that the demand for expensive super-sweet wines is limited and that they obviously have some excellent indigenous white grapes varieties (Furmint and Hárslevelű essentially), it's no surprise that Hungarian winemakers are now making some very good dry white wines too.
Here are a few names discovered in restaurants and supermarkets in Hungary:
Zempléni Tokaji Furmint Száraz (Száraz means dry)
A Ház Bora Tokaji Furmint Száraz
Tóth Zoltán Pincézete Tokaji Hárslevelű Száraz (this spicy aromatic variety can work well as a dry style). HUF 1200.
Simkó Hárslevelű Premium (this one was medium in style, good as a not too sweet dessert wine).
Gellért Hill 2016 Gruner Veltliner, Törley (12% abv) - great value zesty dry white based on Austria's signature grape. £5.60 Tesco.
Hungary is also a successful producer of sparkling wines, such as the BB label (Bárhol Bármikor) Száraz Sparkling, from the Balaton region, which is light (11.5% abv) and refreshing with nutty yeasty undertones; and is widely available in supermarkets there for about HUF 1100.
The art of making fruity dry rosés hasn't escaped Hungarian winemakers either, from the Pinot Noir grape especially or using a mix of local and other French varieties, such as...
Törley Pinot Noir Rosé Száraz 2016, Etyekand-Budai region (12.5% abv) - Tasty juicy and crisp with aromatic red fruits and creamier finish. 699 HUF = about £2 or $2.65 (taxes on wine must be low in Hungary).
Takler Pinot Noir Rozé 2016, Szekszárdi region (12.5% abv) - richer coloured and textured rosé with plenty of fruit. 360 HUF per 100ml glass in the Pár Pendégló Panzió restaurant in Sárospatak.
Takler Rosetta Cuvée Rosé, Szekszárdi (12.5% abv) - another good rosé from these guys, about 1000 HUF in supermarkets.
Siller Pinot Noir Rosé Száraz 2015 (12.5% abv) - similar style to above, very nice.
Sauska Villányi Rosé 2016 (12.5% abv) - quirky deep pink blend of Kékfrankos, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir!

05 February 2018

Cabernet & Merlot: France, Chile, Australia.


Updated February 2018
I've added a few more Cab-Mer, Mer-Cab (Sauvignon/Franc) or straight Cab Sauvs that are worth the typing and fit the theme; the first one in particular is very well-priced:
Château Tanunda 2016 'Basket Press' Barossa Cabernet-Merlot (15% abv) - This sumptuous blockbuster red, one of Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' label range, is made by one of South Australia's most famous and elderly wine estates (as opposed to Monty Python's similar-sounding Chateau Chunder which was destined for 'laying down and avoiding...'), and is packed with cassis, ripe damson and liquorice flavours but is multi-layered and 'meaty' too. Lots of taste for £10.
Balnaves 2011 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon - Minty cassis and toasty with leather and prune tones too, all at once (!), soft and silky tannins on the palate with a bit of oomph on the finish. Yum. Liberty Wines Ireland €38.99.
Woodlands Wines 2013 Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon - Cedar and spice notes yet rich and savoury as well, nice blackcurrant fruit turning meatier on the finish, still firm but 'sweet' tannins, very concentrated, lovely wine.

Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2015 Union des Producteurs de Saint-Emilion (Merlot, Cabernet Franc; 13.5% abv) - This reasonably classy 'east-Bordeaux' red made by the obviously very competent local co-op winery has been consistently tasty over the years. Well balanced, plummy and fairly soft with cedar oak undertones and subtle textured finish. £12.99 / £10.99 on offer according to the Lidl UK website (although not in their Belfast stores!).
Château Haute Combe 2015 Côtes de Bourg France (Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc; 14% abv) - Stylish example of a ripe plump Merlot-dominant Bordeaux style from the successful 2015 vintage, fruity and fairly soft with herbal edges and full-bodied mouth-feel. Mega-bargain discounted to under a fiver in Lidl! From one of Vignobles Bourdillas' properties I think.

El Recurso Vineyard 2016 'Block 18' Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Chile (13.5% abv) - One of their posher Finest labels, this was made by Cono Sur and shows class and concentration with ripe blackcurrant fruit and firm yet rounded texture. Currently not available in Tesco UK stores (?), it was about £12-13 but this was on offer for under ten; €18 in Tesco Ireland.

Wynns 2013 'Black Label' Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia - Minty cassis notes with savoury and red pepper edges, pretty solid palate still with attractive rounded tannins, concentrated showing enticing mix of ripe, herby and meaty flavours with a touch of smoky oak. Lovely. £22 Bibendum PLB Group.
Yalumba 2013 'The Signature' Barossa Cabernet Shiraz, South Australia (52% Barossa Cab and 48% Shiraz with some fruit from neighbouring Eden) - Dark and extracted colour, dusty smoky punchy nose, rich toasty grainy texture but nice and fleshy with it, sweet vs savoury fruit, extracted yet controlled tannins, powerful 'old-fashioned' Oz red in a 'mini-Grange' style. Yum. £35 Negociants.

Map from www.cotes-de-bourg.com