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02 June 2020

Lockdown bubbly of the moment

Prestige Cava Rosado & Prestige Cava Brut
At first, I thought this dynamic duo were the usual Marks & Spencer Cavas with flashy new labels and a price rise, but they are additional to the range and definitely noticeably tastier and toastier quality-wise for the £10 price tag. Made by 'Sevisa' in Torrelavit up in the hills to the west/north-west of Barcelona, which is probably Segura Viudas, part of the Freixenet group and well-known for their reliably classy Cavas. The 'Prestige Brut' is classically made from local grapes Macabeo and Parellada and shows fine fizz, floral yeasty nutty aromas and lovely crisp mouth-feel layered with subtle richer oat-biscuit flavours. The 'Prestige Rosado' rosé is probably the star of the pair and shaped by 'mostly' or '100%' (slightly contradictory info on Mark's website) Catalan red variety Trepat, which has similar long-lasting elegant bubbles but is red-fruitier with rose petal notes, well-poised palate offering crisp bite, toastiness and delicious lingering fresh fruitiness. Both are pretty dry, '1 out of 5' on that popular scale (one being the driest, five the sweetest), and 12% alcohol by volume.


Marqués del Norte Cava Brut Vintage 2018, Jaume Serra
A fairly long-standing Asda label (usually £7.25, £6 at the moment), although this bottle has a black label with gold lettering and band, whereas the shot on their site has a black surround with a gold 'badge' centre and red lettering, so it looks like they've changed label or vintage? Jaume Serra is another name you can count on in Cava-land and this winery produces a lot of good quality own-labels. This 2018 is also made from the traditional Cava grape varieties and seemed less fizzy than the Marks' two, but had enticing apple and roast almond characters, perhaps a touch lighter (11.5% abv) with crisp yet soft finish. 'No. 2' on the dryness scale.

Mas Miralda Cava Vintage Reserva 2014
Another Asda label, possibly from the same supplier but this time under their 'Extra Special' banner and an older vintage aged in bottle for longer (obviously). More developed on the nose and palate with richer biscuit tones, oilier rounded texture (12% abv) with lingering freshness although for drinking straightaway. £9 a bottle although I think it was £7.50 on offer.

* UPDATED JULY 2020 *
Mas Miralda Cava Rosado Vintage 2016
The rosé version of the above is even better, especially if you can get it for a bargain £7 on offer. Deliciously toasty with rich red fruits and dark choc texture, still fresh and fizzy too.

Cava Brut Nature 2016
This Cava is made from Chardonnay as well as Xarel-lo, Macabeu and Parellada (with 11.5% abv) by Marqués de Monistrol, part of United Wineries for J. Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' range. This dry and nicely mature Cava is a Brut Nature style (sometimes called Brut Zero or Zero Dosage), which means not sweetened at all like regular Brut styles can be let alone those confusing so-called 'Extra Dry' ones which are actually even less dry! It had delicate yeasty notes alongside almond and apple flavours, again for drinking up rather than keeping. Sometimes on offer for £7.50-ish or £9 full price.

Cava Rosado
Tesco's good-value all-rounder rosé Cava delivers plenty of fruity flavour for the money - strawberry, raspberry and chocolate, refreshing acidity and off-dry finish. Also produced by Jaume Serra. £6

Jaume Serra Cava Brut
JS is cornering the market it seems - this gold-label version is available on and off in some of B&M Bargains' licensed stores (which isn't many) for about £6.49 from memory. Similar style with nice mix of yeasty, frothy and refreshing.

Barcelona Cuvée 1872 Cava Brut Rosé
Apart from evoking that Freddie Mercury song, this special celebration bottling by the mighty Codorníu packaged in a pretty 'modernist stained-glass window' decorated bottle is also supposed to replicate winemaking methods of the time. Such as where some of the base wine is fermented in oak casks before second fermentation in bottle, using 'the choicest traditional red varietals' whatever that means since their site also talks about Parellada, which is a white variety unless there's a red sibling too? Anyway, the net result is very tasty and berry fruity with subtle yeast-lees richness and refreshing finish. Winemark stores in NI - usually something like £12-£13 but much better value if you do one of their '£5 off two' type deals (their website is hopeless with very few of their range or current prices on it).
Photo from www.codorniu.com.



The Rhona Brut Rosé, Graham Beck
Just to show that we do partake in other fizz than Cava, this classy bubbly has been reviewed on my blog before and probably will be again, as it's consistently yummy. Beck is based in the Robertson region of South Africa and knows how to craft Champagne-style wines from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay offering quite rich, toasty and creamy characters with delicate fresh bite and lingering red fruit flavours; a fuller longer-matured style (with 12% abv) and subtly done. £11 M&S

McGuigan Black Label Chardonnay Pinot Noir (12% abv)
Something of a simple Australian classic, this well-made difficult-not-to-like sparkling wine is also built of two of the typical French bubbly varieties and delivers citrus, light biscuity nutty notes and off-dry freshness. £7.50 or £6 on offer at Sainsbury's and elsewhere.

02 February 2020

Wines of the moment and other strange fruits

Aconcagua vineyard from monteswines.com
Pinot Noir
Virtually the only red I've been buying in recent times (I love Pinot's silkiness and aromatic yet savoury fruit), here are my top Pinots for under a tenner. Interesting to note that four of them are from cooler climate zones in Chile.
Chile
Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2016, Aconcagua Costa: I'd seen this tempting bottle before sitting gathering dust in local WineMark stores (NI), and decided to take the plunge making the most of their '£5 off for two' rolling offer on selected wines (netting to a reasonable £8.69 per bottle, rather than an overpriced £11.19 for one). This lovely maturing Pinot comes from leading winery Montes from vineyards located to the north of Valparaiso close to the Pacific Ocean. And it's pretty classy, showing enticing signs of typical developing Pinot Noir on the nose and palate with aromatic complex sweet/savoury notes and silky mouth-feel, managing to balance weight (14% abv) with softness and freshness finishing with tasty lingering flavours.
Carmen Wave Series Right Wave Pinot Noir 2017, Leyda Valley: Made by another well-known winery, Carmen, this is also sourced from coastal vineyards but this time in the Leyda region to the south of Valparaiso. A little lighter and fresher than the Montes, this is nevertheless an attractive Pinot for the money (€10 on offer in SuperValu stores, Ireland) and fairly duck-friendly.
Root: 1 Pinot Noir 2017, Casablanca Valley (13% abv): Produced by Vina Ventisquero in the Casablanca Valley lying to the east of Valparaiso, which is considered the pioneering region for Pinot in Chile. 'Volatile' balsamic notes, light red fruit palate and again fairly fresh finish, a nice all-rounder Pinot. WineMark £9.99 / £5 off for 2.
Tierra y Hombre Pinot Noir 2018, Casablanca Valley (13.5% abv): This wine appears to have become like Marks & Spencer's 'house' Pinot, since I think it's come down in price (£7?) and is sometimes available as the red in their meal deal. Aromatic soft and juicy, difficult not to like it.
Germany
Palataia Pinot Noir 2018, Pfalz: This classy concentrated Pinot has been recommended before on WW.com (previous years), and the 2018 vintage is quite rich and lightly smoky with delicious sweet/savoury style; its full mouth-feel (14% abv I think) yet fresh acidity made it a good Christmas dinner match with duck roulade (also from Marks alas!), roast parsnips etc. (definitely no sprouts though). £9 M&S

Other reds

France
Château Haut-Gléon 2016, Corbières Languedoc (60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 15% Carignan): I remember trying some wines sometime in the noughties from this very old estate and they weren't great (cork problems among other things), but it's been owned by the massive co-op winery group Vignobles Foncalieu since 2012 that seems to have sorted out any quality issues. A blend from different sites, the Grenache comes from a plot nearer to Portel and the Syrah from near the château itself (the property sits between the wee villages of Portel-des-Corbières and Villesèque-des-Corbières) with a splash of old vine Carignan, which is matured for 12 months in oak casks. Tasty concentrated black cherry and kirsch flavours, nice maturing savoury tones too with rounded tannins and subtle integrated oak tones. Good wine for sure although it should be at €17 (in France).
L'Apogée 2015 Saint-Chinian, Languedoc (14% abv): Made from selected grapes from growers Michel Cazevieille and Sébastien Roubichou's best vineyard parcels located at slight altitude facing south-east in a sheltered spot (also Foncalieu). Mostly Syrah (85%) with Grenache noir are aged for one year in new oak barrels, and it shows with its spicy vanilla coconut coating, in that 'we want to make a flashy top wine' kinda way (with big heavy bottle to match). But there's plenty of substance on the palate with rich dark fruit, enticing developing meaty notes and well-honed tannins. Pricey at €20 but I guess that's the point being a low production limited edition wine!
Italy
Marzemino 2018, Trentino (12.5% abv): Unusual tasty addition to Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' range produced by leading co-op winery Ca'Vit, Marzemino is indigenous to this part of northern Italy. Relatively light and soft with cherry berry and liquorice flavours and a hint of peppery spice. £7 on offer / £8.50.
Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2017, Veneto (Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, 13.5% abv): Aromatic dried morello cherry and liquorice with balsamic edges, lovely sweet / sour smoky fruit with just a little dry grip, then softer and maturing on the finish. Lidl £7.99
Spain
El Duque de Miralta Rioja Crianza 2015 El Coto (Tempranillo, 13.5% abv): Smooth and seductive version of traditional cask-aged Rioja, the oak flavours have melted into the wine nicely along with maturing savoury dried fruit characters and quite silky mouth-feel. M&S £9.50.
Cune Rioja Crianza 2015: Similarities to above - made mostly from Tempranillo, aged for a year in oak - although feels punchier (apparently 13.5% abv) and has drier tannins on the palate, although shows some attractive smoky maturing characters and dark berry fruits. Oxidised quite quickly after opening. £10.69 Winemark or £5 off for two = £8.19 net.
South Africa
Bellingham Pinotage 2017, Stellenbosch (14% abv): This wine is always good and always good value when on offer at Tesco (£8.50-£9 I think instead of £11), offering smoky spicy tones with damson, blueberry and roast red pepper, full-bodied palate with subtle oak, fairly rich fruit, maturing meatier tones and nice twist of tannins.

Rosé

Spain
Campo Viejo Rosé 2018, Rioja (Garnacha, 13.5% abv): Deft winemaking makes this tasty red-fruity rosé seem light, aromatic, fresh and crisp, which it is, while you don't really notice its full-on mouth-feel and weight, so have it with food rather than pure quaffing (fish and chips, cheese, risotto, roast veggies, cured hams). £8 Tesco, Sainsbury's.
Torres Viña Sol Rosado 2018, Catalonia (Garnacha, Carinena, 12.5% abv): Another consistently worthwhile dry fruity rosé from you-know-who (they make a few different styles), its refreshing aromatic raspberry and strawberry flavours work quite well with spicy food. £7-£8 Waitrose, Wineflair (on offer), Asda (used to at least?).
Monte Plogar Cariñena Rosado 2018, Aragón (Garnacha, 13.5% abv): Not the most spectacular rosé in the world, but a tasty mouthful for the price. Big and fruity, it went well with different Chinese dishes (seafood, duck, spicy noodles etc.). £5.99 Lidl.
France
Fat bastard Rosé 2018, Languedoc (Syrah, Grenache, 13% abv): Probably refers to the chubby wild boar in the middle of its bright swirly label, although all these wines are apparently named after a particularly chunky sample that christened the range. Well-made Med style rosé combining zesty dry palate, aromatic rose petal and red fruits and a little weight too. £8.69 Winemark.
Touraine Rosé 2018, Loire Valley, Pierre Chaimier (Gamay, Cabernet Franc, 12.5% abv): Another good Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' wine, this light-ish aromatic style of Loire rosé is quite crisp and dry compared to the sweeter Anjou Rosé. £7
Oriel Luberon rosé 2018, Provence (Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, 13% abv): Again southern France comes up trumps with this fruity, dry yet fairly full-bodied foodie rosé. £7.50-£8.50 Tesco.
USA
Plow & Press California Shiraz rosé 2018 (Syrah, 13% abv): Deeper coloured style, very fruity and juicy with refreshing off-dry finish; proper rosé rather than like alot of that cheap sweet California stuff. Aldi £7.99 / €9.99.

Fizz

Catalonia
Cava Brut Nature 2016 (Chardonnay, Xarel-lo, Macabeu, Parellada, 11.5% abv): Made by Marqués de Monistrol (part of United Wineries) for Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' range, this very dry yet mature Cava ('Nature' meaning not sweetened like regular so-called Brut styles) has delicate yeasty notes alongside almond and apple flavours. Good value quality fizz, sometimes on offer for £7.50-ish or £9 full price.
Prestige Cava Brut (Macabeu, Parellada, 12% abv): A relatively new, dearer Cava at Marks - or did they just change the label and put the price up? - but it does taste superior to the old red label one from memory, being a little richer and toastier with nutty and crisp finish. £10 M&S.

Whites

Chile
Cono Sur Bicicleta Gewurztraminer 2019: The latest vintage of this blog's popular favourite, which is a touch lighter and less 'fat' than previous versions although still has plenty of trademark Gewurz aromatic lychee and rose petal fruit with fresh finish. £7.50 Tesco.
Italy
Gaudenzio Traminer Aromatico 2018, Friuli: Delicious north-eastern Italian style of Gewurz, lighter and drier than an Alsace one say with floral grapey fruit and nice 'mineral' mouth-feel. About €9 at Lidl Ireland?
Lugana Taia Piera 2018: Continuing 'the good quality and diverse Italian white wines at the German discount stores theme', here's another lovely one from the Lake Garda region that's richer and fuller in style, more Chardonnay like although supposedly made from Trebbiano, which is usually a rather neutral tasting variety and this wine certainly is not. Aldi £6.99 UK / €9.99 Irish stores?
Adler Kerner 2018, Alto Adige (14%): Yet another one from far northern Italy this time, and at £9 or £10 in Lidl stores perhaps a bit beyond many people's eye-sight, but give it a go for a special dinner say. Made from the Kerner variety (a crossing of Trollinger and Riesling according to Wikipedia), this is fairly rich, concentrated, ripe, peachy and zesty with refreshing bite too.
Verdicchio Classico 2018, Marches (13.5% abv): Back to Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' range and this very true example of well-made modern Verdicchio (indigenous to this region of central Italy): zingy and lively with yeasty nutty characters and aromatic peachy richness too. £6 on offer / £7.
France
Viognier Laurent Miquel 2018, Pays d'Oc (13% abv): The run of very good JS 'TTD' wines continues in the guise of this perfumed apricoty peachy Viognier, made by maestro Miquel who seems to have found the knack of successfully growing aromatic white varieties in the warm Languedoc (try his Albarino too). £8, sometimes with £1 or so off.
Louis Jadot Macon-Villages 2018 (13% abv): Consistently enjoyable unoaked Chardy from this well-known house from this well-known part of southern Burgundy. Widely available so look out for offers when you can get it for under a tenner.
Chablis UVC 2016 (Chardonnay, 12.5% abv): Delicious Chabbers Chardy style made by impeccable wine-growers' co-op winery offering enticing maturing oaty buttery fruit and texture, quite concentrated and still a touch of freshness on the finish. On offer at the moment for £12 at Tesco; £14.50 at Sainsbury's, although probably more recent vintages (got the 2016 at JS a while ago for about £10 I think).
Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône blanc 2018 (Grenache blanc, Marsanne, Viognier; 13% abv): Pleasing mix of juicy, crisp and dry with ripe lightly exotic fruit, nut and floral tones (banana, white peach, Brazils, honeysuckle, elderflower...). £6.50 on offer at Tesco (normally £8).
Germany
Hans Baer Pinot Grigio Trocken 2018, Rheinhessen (13% abv): Rheinhessen used to be mostly Liebfraumilch land, but how the wine scene has changed there and in Germany generally. Fans of light neutral Italian Pinot G probably won't be too mad on this rather tasty example of a more 'French' style of Pinot Gris: it's full flavoured and juicy with almost creamy yeast-lees undertones and nice dry finish. £7 Asda.
Aus & NZ
McWilliam's Markview Chardonnay 2018, New South Wales Australia (13.5% abv): Good value and wisely unoaked style of Chardy that Aus winemakers now do so well, it has some of the creamy fruit and texture you'd expect but with a zestier citrus and white peach side too. £6.99 Winemark.
Winemaker's Selection Clare Valley Riesling 2018, South Australia (11.5% abv): Recommended several times before on this blog, I recently found it in one Belfast Lidl store at £3.99! Still easily worth the full £5.99 price, but watch out for it if they're getting rid of it at that crazy bargain price.
Villa Maria Pinot Grigio 2018, East Coast New Zealand (13.5% abv): Following on from what I said above about the German Pinot G, accomplished NZ winery VM also goes for a bigger richer juicier style of PG; great wine with Thai or Chinese food. £9.50-£10.99 depending on any offers available on and off at Tesco, Waitrose, Asda, Winemark...
South Africa
The Bernard Series Whole Bunch Roussanne Limited Release 2019, Bellingham Estate: Deliciously stylish white, rich and exotic with honeysuckle and peach flavours and buttery texture, not oaked though or not obviously so, full-bodied yet 'chalky' mouth-feel. Demonstrates that Roussanne can be a star grape variety in the right place and hands. £9 Sainsbury's (usually £10.25).
Hungary
Haraszthy Sir Irsai 2018, Etyek-Buda (90% Irsai Oliver grape, 11.5% abv): Nice easy-drinking crisp dry white, fresh light and Muscat like with grapey elderflower notes and zesty citrus finish. £6.99 Lidl.
Romania
Orange Natural Wine 'Made Naturally in 2019' (organic, no added yeast or sulphur, vegan wine, 13% abv): Forget shouty men in bowler hats and bright sashes, 'orange' is a trendy style of 'natural' wine made from white grapes (Chardonnay, Feteasca Alba, Sauvignon Blanc, Tamioasa Romaneasca) that are macerated on the skins like red wine, giving the rich colour as well as this one being free of added sulphites. So it probably also acquires some lightly oxidised fino sherry type notes to its aromatic Muscat-esque nose and candied citrus peel kinda twist on the palate. Actually pulls it off, this is tastefully different from its look through to the flavour. £6.25 Asda.

23 December 2019

Posh Armagnac, Calvados, Cognac, Marc de Champagne, Marc de Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Armagnac - Château de Laubade

My modest holiday home. Not.
Château de Laubade is the largest estate in the Armagnac region (lying in deepest south-west France, south of Bordeaux and Bergerac, the main town is Auch) with 105 hectares of vineyards, which they claim allows them not to have to buy in any grapes or spirits from outside of the property. Laubade is considered the centrepiece of the Lesgourgues family business run by Arnaud and Denis Lesgourgues.
The three Armagnac styles featured here are made from the region's four principal grape varieties: Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, Colombard and Baco. The Lesgourgues family maintains that 'sustainable farming' is practised in their vineyards, such as adding pure sheep manure and growing bean plants between the rows in winter to help restore natural nitrogen levels to the soil. The distillation 'house style' is to use separate alambic (continuous) stills for each variety. The Gascony oak barrels for ageing the spirits are manufactured on site, which is much less common nowadays, and are aerated regularly during maturation then topped up.
Intemporel Hors d’Âge (mostly Baco, 40% abv) is a blend of 'at least 15 different spirits, the youngest of which is 12 years old and including some very old reserves'. It delivers an enticing mix of powerful and smooth, and spicy yet pruney aged characters: a stylish 'starter' Armagnac if you like! Their PR blurb suggests matching it with Roquefort cheese, meat pie or baked apple and pear, although it's dessert-friendly overall I'd say. Approx retail price: €45 for 70cl bottle.
Brut de Fût 1990 is a true vintage Armagnac according to the tech sheet, so all from 1990 which was a fab year for wine pretty much everywhere in France. Its name ('cask sample') implies each batch is bottled on demand, so the spirits remain in barrels until then when three casks of Baco, Ugni Blanc and Colombard are blended and left unfiltered. Richer and punchier (over 50% abv!) than the '80 below, seductively caramelised and concentrated with long cutting finish. About 140 Euros a bottle although available in several smaller sizes too like most of their Armagnacs.
Brut de Fût 1980 (46.7% abv) has similar make-up and production regime as the '90 and spent its long years in 'cellar number 2', which sounds like a good secret place to hide. Wonderfully deep colour and complex nose / flavours with toffee, honey, vanilla, coffee, dried fruits and other more elusive things, relatively smooth and mature although this isn't going to fall apart anytime soon. Deliciously decadent and expensive: €170.
www.famille-lesgourgues.com
There's more on Laubade and other Armagnac producers from an intensive trip to the region in 2005 on this archive page:
www.winewriting.com/p/southwest-cahors-armagnac-bergerac

Calvados Pays d’Auge Roger Groult

This highly rated distillery is run by 'fifth-generation' Jean-Roger Groult who continues to produce their tasty Calvados by 'traditional wood-fired double distillation' method, yet likes to be innovative too such as certain special bottlings launched in 2016 aged in old whisky, Jurançon or sherry casks. Both of these Calvas are made from cider apples in the Pays d’Auge subzone and aged in used French red oak casks.
Calvados Vénérable (41% abv): Although 'at least 18 years old', this lovely 'cider brandy' is actually very fruity and appley with a subtle richness and smoothness gained from substantial ageing. Their serving tips include 'with chocolate or apple desserts' as well as a straight 'digestif' of course. Around €75 for 70cl, also available as 5cl, 50cl, 75cl (USA), 150cl and mindbogglingly big 250cl!
30 Year Old Calvados Cask 102 (41% abv): This one-off bottling is described by Groult as 'destined to mature for a few more years and blended into our Réserve Ancestrale, but this spirit had such different aromatic characteristics to our classic range, very likely because this small oval cask was only half-full promoting oxidation. Due to its unique character, we decided to make it into a very limited, special '30 year old single cask' edition, since only 235 bottles were put on sale.' An awesome Calva, one of the best I can remember trying, with rich yet savoury toffee-apple notes and improbable mix of smooth and powerful. Not surprising then, it's reassuringly dear at about €120 for 50cl.
Others in the Groult Calva range include 3 Year Old, 8 Year Old, 12 Year Old, Âge d’or, Doyen d’Âge and Réserve Ancestrale.
www.calvados-groult.com
Previously about this producer on WineWriting.com (written in 2015).

Single Estate Cognac - Domaines Francis Abécassis

The Abécassis family 'aims to bring together a real collection of estates to create outstanding Cognacs,' the blurb states. Each property has its own vines, winery, distillery and storage cellar so Francis Abécassis and daughter Elodie can control all stages of production. Head Cognac maker Isabelle Couprie then decides the best time to do the blends and bottle each style. The Ugni Blanc variety is grown on low chalky hillsides and fermented in stainless steel tanks, followed by double-distillation in a small Charentais alambic still and ageing in new French oak then old barrels. Neither the press pack nor their website explains exactly how long each of these Cognacs is aged, although the terms VSOP and XO are regulated (at least four and six years respectively according to Martell via Google search).

ABK6 VSOP Cognac (40% abv): Selected lots from their estates in the Petite Champagne, Grande Champagne and Fins Bois subzones (easy enough to find out more about the different Cognac zones etc. by searching rather than me rehashing the same old). Light oak spice and cinnamon notes mingle on its savoury dried fruit and nut palate, quite subtle alcohol and fine in that more restrained Cognac way. €45 for 70cl; also available in 5cl, 35cl, 50cl and 100cl bottles.
Leyrat XO Elite Single Cru Fins Bois (40% abv): Selected from Domaine chez Maillard, 92 hectares in the 'Fins Bois' zone. Deeper coloured and richer aromas with more complex flavours and longer smoother finish. Definitely a notch up, then again it costs €120 in a fancy 70cl carafe and comes in miniatures as well. The serving suggestion sounds good: with crème brûlée or apricot tart.
ABK6 XO Renaissance (40% abv): Selected lots from their estates in the Petite Champagne, Grande Champagne and Fins Bois subzones. Similar to above, perhaps tastes 'older' and equally smooth with layered dried fruits and oak spice. About €129 for 70cl, comes in miniatures too.

Très Vieux Marc de la Champagne - Maison Drappier

This Champagne house was founded in 1808 and is still run by the Drappier family. Their vineyards in Urville have an unusually high proportion of Pinot Noir planted (70%) accompanied by Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. They claim to be the first certified carbon neutral Champagne winery.
Made in a similar way to Italian grappa by distilling the left-over (not a put-down but fact) grape skins and stems from the press, this sexy Marc de Champagne is matured for 10 years in oak casks, and it shows in its smoothness and tempered fieriness (if that isn't a word, it is now). Gives off some of those typical and difficult to describe aromas you get from grappa (kind of 'volatile' dried fruit and stalky grassy notes), but takes the genre to a whole new level in terms of rounded mouth-feel, concentrated complex matured flavours and a touch of freshness nevertheless. Very different, they suggest trying it in a cocktail (I could see that, or just with tonic water?) or, better still, in a sorbet! Around €37 for 70cl, apparently it's exported to Germany, Italy, Japan and the US.

Marc de Châteauneuf-du-Pape - Alain Jaume

The Jaume family has been around in Châteauneuf-du-Pape since 1826 and owns Domaine Grand Veneur, Clos de Sixte and Château Mazane, which are now farmed organically and overseen by Hélène, Christophe and Sébastien Jaume. Distilled from the destemmed dried pressings of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault, then aged in oak casks for five years. The spirit is gradually reduced in strength to 40% abv by adding distilled water. Attractive dried fruit and nut aromas and flavours blend in with wood spice and relatively rounded kick of alcohol; more like Cognac in style perhaps. €32.50 per 70cl.
www.vignobles-alain-jaume.com

By the way, this isn't a random selection of obscure spirit producers: they are all part of the elite 'Vignobles & Signatures' club of leading French wineries and distilleries.