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30 January 2006

Millésime Bio organic wine fair

"My pick of Millésime Bio organic wine fair 2006: twenty estates sampled and reviewed from the Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence and southern Rhone; plus 'a few facts and thoughts' on organics..."

This organic wine fair - strictly speaking wines made from organically grown grapes in Brussels speak - took place in Narbonne (Languedoc) on 16th-18th January 2006. Here's my pick of south-of-France, "new age" growers: star discoveries include Coston, Etoile du Matin, Siméoni, Traginer, Pech-Latt and Borie la Vitarele. You can also read this news item about the show. Organic: what and why? A few facts and thoughts...

"Organic doesn't necessarily mean guaranteed or better quality, but overall wine quality is now much higher than say ten years ago. Organic growers rightly claim it's more about a whole way of life, and there's no doubt that this philosophy coupled with fussy attention in the vineyard can produce superb grapes. Here are a few facts about certified organic status (said to be more strictly controlled than for regular AOC) to highlight the main points."

"The conversion period is three years so commitment and dedication are required, especially as the vines are probably more vulnerable during this transition stage. No synthetic chemicals or fertilisers are used in the vineyard, but "natural chemical" substances such as copper sulphate solution (against mildew) and sulphur dioxide (a preservative amongst other uses) are permitted. However, max levels of SO2 in winemaking are sometimes half that for non-organic (although not always). The idea is to foster living soil, biodiversity in the vineyard and hence naturally healthy vines. It goes without saying that genetically engineered vines and winemaking products, such as GM yeast, are not tolerated. Some organic winemakers might use standard commercial yeasts if necessary; but e.g. full-Monty biodynamic growers wouldn't normally add them, as indigenous yeasts on the grapes are considered part of the terroir. The whole philosophy often carries through down the line, in terms of managing winery waste, water supplies, carbon emissions, packaging etc. At the end of the day, it doesn't make a lot of sense to go on about the importance of terroir, yet systematically destroy it with potent chemicals!"

Domaine Coston
2003 Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah, Grenache & Carignan) - lovely herbal spicy blackberry fruit, turning earthy with liquorice notes; quite tight fresh palate, showing grip and elegance with mint and black cherry on the length. 89+
2003 Coteaux du Languedoc, Les Garigoles (Syrah & Grenache) - more complex and spicier than above, rich liquorice and hints of leather then tight firm mouth-feel, very light oak on top of ripe perfumed fruit, powerful framework yet balanced. 90-92
2005 Coteaux du Languedoc blanc (Grenache Blanc & Roussanne) - quite rich mealy and aromatic, citrus peel notes set against very light toast, apricot and cream; good mineral bite and length. 87-89

Château de L'Ou
2002 L'Harmonie (Syrah, Grenache & Carignan) - soft and forward, mature fruit set against more structured finish; good for 2002. 85+
2005 Côtes du Roussillon (from barrique) (Syrah & Grenache) - shows lovely depth of black fruits and spices, long elegant finish; promising. 87-90

Domaine des Auzines
2005 Corbières blanc - (Grenache Gris & Grenache Blanc) - displays good balance of lightly toasty oak, creaminess and citrus fruit; should be interesting after a few months in bottle. 85-87
2004 Cuvée des Roches - somewhat oak dominated at the moment, but this is rich and structured with attractive grip and length; shows promise. 88-90

Domaine Cazes
2003 Credo, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot - a touch of oak but not too much, firm yet ripe palate, tight elegant finish; needs a couple of years to shine. 87
2003 Rivesaltes Grenat, Vin Doux Naturel - lively liquorice Grenache flavours, sweet berry fruit with notes of leather, good bite and grip maintain the balance. 87-89

Domaine Malavieille
2003 La Boutine, Vin de Pays (Chenin Blanc) - Savennières style (fine dry oak aged white from the Loire): rich and mealy, rounded oily melon fruit followed by  a touch of fresh acidity on the finish. 87-89
2003 Alliance, Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah, Mourvèdre & Grenache) - quite rich and peppery, still young and tight on the palate; should develop and round out in 1-2 years. 87-89

Domaine l'Etoile du Matin
2004 Corbières (Syrah & Grenache) - attractive ripe v savoury fruit, black cherry v leather; quite concentrated and powerful with lingering black olive character. 87-89
2004 Etoile du Matin (Grenache) - they only made 300 bottles of this peppery rustic pure Grenache, lots of rich dark fruits with firm tannins yet ripe rounded finish; wow! 90-92

Domaine Borie la Vitarele
2004 Saint-Chinian Terres Blanches (Syrah & Grenache) - attractive smoky peppery nose paves the way to a firm concentrated palate, closes up a little on the finish but it's still young. 87-89
2003 Saint-Chinian Les Schistes - grippier and weightier than above, lovely pure fruit underneath, firm long finish. 89-91

Château de Caraguilhes
2005 Corbières rosé - very appealing strawberry fruit and weight, then fresh crisp and long. 87+
2004 Corbières rouge - nice depth of youthful cherry fruit with tobacco edges, well handled tannins on the finish. 88-90

Château Pech-Latt
2003 Corbières vieilles vignes (Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre & Syrah) - concentrated with firm tannins set against attractive tobacco and plum fruit; needs a few months to open up. 87-89
2004 Corbières Alix - ripe and silky liquorice and herb flavours build to dry grip and elegant length. 89-91

Domaine du Traginer
2003 Collioure (Syrah, Grenache & Mourvèdre) - lovely pure floral Syrah style backed up by richer liquorice fruit, effortlessly moving on to grip, power and elegance on the finish. 90+
2003 Cuvée du Capitas - rich black fruits and olive with nice peppery undertones, leading to a firmer tighter palate with more finesse. 90-92
2003 Banyuls mise tardive - turning brown with maturing raisin fruit, very rich mouthful balanced by lovely bite and length. 90

Domaine Siméoni
2005 Mourvèdre rosé (vat sample) - tight zingy and elegant v weighty, lots of underlying fruit waiting to leap out. 87
2004 Mourvèdre - youthful black cherry fruit with earthy peppery notes, nice olive fruit and grip on the finish. 87
2004 Saint-Chinian la Toure - quite rich and chunky, pretty firm at the moment yet concentrated with long spicy floral black cherry finish. 89-91
2004 Saint-Chinian l'Ame des Schistes (Syrah & Mourvèdre) - very firm and concentrated, again offers lovely spicy floral fruit. 90-92
La Tete a l'Envers (100% Syrah) - peppery violet fruit, lovely 'modern' style with elegance and length. 88-90

Château Sainte Anne
2003 Bandol Collection - plenty of rustic black cherry/olive fruit, concentrated and grippy; very young at the moment, has a bright future. 90-92
1993 Bandol Collection - mature rustic nose with dried fruits and liquorice, complex and minty, still has some dry grip yet soft and round on the finish. 92-94

More Sainte Anne wines on the Bandol/Mourvedre page in the archive, right.

Domaine de la Courtade
2003 Courtade blanc, Côtes de Provence (Rolle) - very creamy with yeast lees edges, rich and complex. 87-90
2003 Courtade rouge, Côtes de Provence (mostly Mourvèdre) - subtle, tight and peppery fruit with leather notes, attractive grip and finish. 87

Domaine de Mayrac
2003 Vin de Pays tradition (Cabernet Franc & Syrah) - soft ripe mouthful leads to a touch of grip and tangy berry fruit. 87
Blanquette de Limoux - quite fine and elegant sparkler, lightly yeasty with crisp finish. 85-87

Domaine Raymond Roque
2004 Faugères - soft and ripe with raspberry and liquorice, good fruit and tannin extract yet elegant and light. 87
2003 Faugères Nature - fuller than above with spicy ripe cassis and tobacco notes; firmer finish, more powerful too yet still elegant. 89

Domaine Delmas
Crémant de Limoux - quite intense appley fruit with fresh bite and stylish finish. 87
2002 Limoux Haute-Vallée (Chardonnay) - fairly toasty fruit balanced by yeast lees richness and complexity, fresh acidity and length. 87-89

Domaine Rouaud
2005 Muscat sec Frivole - lively pure fruit flavours, tight zesty palate yet fuller bodied than usual for this style (50% of the wine sees barrique). 89
2004 Grenache - shows attractive ripe fruit and liquorice Grenache style, soft yet powerful too. 87+
Domaine Traslepuy
2004 Côtes du Rhône - appealing chunky spicy fruit, good balance of tannin, ripeness and elegance. 87
2004 Lirac - greater depth and firmer mouthfeel, attractive 'sweet' Grenache fruit and power; nice classic style. 90

Domaine Jorel
2004 Grenache Pétaillat - rich and structured with sumptuous dark prune fruit; needs 6-12 months to unfold. 90
Maury Vin Doux Naturel - bitter chocolate v blackberry/cherry sweetness, tempered by youthful dry tannins. 89

Domaines de Petit Roubié
2005 Marsanne - characterful waxy honeysuckle fruit, nice fresh bite v yeast lees intensity. 87
2004 Picpoul de Pinet - lovely concentrated zesty gummy fruit balanced by crisp acidity and fine length. 90

Latest on most of the above estates can be found by searching through the winery A to Z on the right.

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.