"Buy my book about the Roussillon on Amazon UK in paperback or eBook or black & white version, and Amazon USA: paperback or eBook or black & white. Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook. For other countries, tap on the link below above the cover image." Richard Mark James

30 April 2007

Roussillon: Camp del Roc, Montalba-le-Château

I can't find any info on Philippe Botet's winery (you should see my desk: I have a tech sheet hidden somewhere... I also can't find a website either), so here are a few comments on his eclectic wines at least, tasted at the Fenouillèdes wine show held in April 2007 in Tautavel.
Update to follow: looks like someone else has been running/owning the show since 2008 - Julien and Emmanuelle Montagnon - and there is a new site: campdelroc.com

2004 Singularis blanc (Carignan Blanc) - unusual spicy celery notes v light cream, still has some freshness v fat fruit. 85-87
2006 Rosé de Presse - a bit strange, goes into barriques: surprisingly has lots of lively strawberry and raspberry fruit v rounded coconut palate; kinda works. 87
2006 Roc Petit (Carignan Lledoner Pelut Syrah) - nice crunchy fruit with light vanilla undertones, grippier finish than you think it's going to be. By the way, Lledoner Pelut is a natural mutation of black Grenache: there's a bit here and there in the Roussillon. 87
2005 Vinum Patris, Côtes du Roussillon (Carignan Lledoner Pelut Cinsault) - quite a bit of oak but nice fruit too and freshness underneath, textured dry tannins v ripeness; not sure about that oak though. 87
2005 Erant Olim (100 year old Tempranillo) - a bit baked on the nose, leads on to quite rich fruit with an oaky backdrop; has a 'modern' Catalunya/Navarra edge, nice texture but too much oak.
2005 La Frontera (Syrah) - lots of spicy oak, nice ripe fruit and texture, firm but fine grained. We'll see.
66130 Montalba-le-Château. Tel:

Languedoc & Roussillon: top reds over €10

Languedoc & Roussillon: top reds over €10

In brief: "Difficult to turn down author Michel Smith's invitation to taste "over 50 of the region's best red wines..." But were all the wines worth the money and deserve their reputation? Michel had already done an "under €10" tasting, where he found plenty of winners... What's particularly noticeable is the amount of favourites falling between €10-€15. Beyond that, we found some great wines but also more vacuous, frankly less enjoyable ones overloaded with flash new oak or heavy winemaking..." My top 15 red winemakers: Rouaud, Ollieux Romanis, Mazelet, Rimbert, Borie Blanche, Amiel, Liquière, Etoile Matin, Balmettes, St-Antonin, Alezon, Grandes Costes, Augustins, Bagatelle, Bizeul.

Difficult to turn down author and journalist Michel Smith's invitation to taste "over 50 of the region's best red wines." Michel writes for numerous wine and food publications and his latest book "Les Grands Crus du Languedoc et du Roussillon" (go to vins-languedoc-roussillon.fr for more info and buy a copy: commission free, honest!) is the culmination of 20 years' travelling around southern France's vineyards.

But were all the wines in the tasting worth the money and deserve their reputation? Michel had already done an 'under €10' tasting, where he found plenty of winners. "Producers here have the right to charge high prices, but there's no point in having ideas above your station," he commented. "Languedoc and Roussillon offer very rewarding and drinkable wines. That's the problem with some of the Bordeaux-owned estates: too much, too Pauillac! They haven't yet understood the region's unique characters...it's one of the most complicated."

What is particularly noticeable from my comments and scores, is the amount of favourites falling between €10-€15. Beyond that, we found some great wines but also more vacuous, frankly less enjoyable ones overloaded with flash new oak or heavy winemaking. So my 'top reds' were, in no particular order: Clavel, Singla, Bizeul, Rouaud, Ollieux Romanis, Mazelet, Rimbert, Borie Blanche, Tour Boisée, Lignon, Amiel, Liquière, Silène, Henry, Etoile Matin, Balmettes, Prés-Lasses, Sylva Plana, St Antonin, Alezon, Grandes Costes, Aussières, Lacroix-Vanel, Augustins and Bagatelle. By the way, a few of these cost less than €10, just to throw the cat among the pigeons. NB: most of the bottles were opened one day or more beforehand.

2005 Domaine Singla Alby, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Grenache Syrah 13.5% organic) - a bit closed on the nose, moves on to nice light tobacco and rich black cherry, attractive pure fruit showing depth, freshness and bite of tannins; good now yet should round out nicely after 6-12 months. €7 88-90
2003 Château de Pennautier, Cabernet Collection Privée - been open a little too long but still has attractive mix of smoky and rich fruit v tarter cassis and firm texture. 87-89

2005 Domaine Rouaud Têt Pourpre, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (organic) - youthful spicy and rich with tobacco, blackberry and black cherry; deliciously drinkable and refreshing v tight firm finish. €10 92-94
2004 Château des Estanilles Tradition, Faugères (14%) - nice maturing fruit offering spicy liquorice and dark chocolate v ripe and rustic tones; quite soft with light grip, drinking well now. €6 87-89

2005 Marie & Frédéric Chauffray La Réserve d'O, Coteaux du Languedoc Terrasses de Larzac (14%) - aromatic peppery and rustic black cherry fruit, quite rich yet floral palate; a tad extracted on the finish but has nice fruit and length. €10 88
2004 Château Ollieux Romanis cuvée Prestige, Corbières (Carignan Grenache Mourvèdre Syrah 14%) - quite wild 'garrigue' notes, earthy and aromatic; attractive concentrated yet soft fruit and tannins, quite elegant and well balanced with lovely textured leather tannins. €10 91-93
2005 Marie & Guy Taboulay Mas du Mazelet, vin de pays d'Oc (Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon Grenache Mourvèdre 13.5% organic) - perfumed earthy Syrah fruit with tarter cassis notes, savoury palate showing ripeness v firmness, light leather and spice; quite big and structured yet has nice rounded fruit. €10 90-92
2004 Château Belles Eaux Ste-Hélène, Coteaux du Languedoc (14.5%) - toasted coco oak with spicy ripe black cherries, nice fruit and elegance, pity about the Bordeaux styled oak. I've previously rated it better. 87-89
2004 Domaine Rimbert Mas au Schiste, Saint-Chinian (Carignan Syrah Grenache 13%) - delicious complex nose, perfumed Syrah fruit v savoury side; elegant spicy ripe fruit v lovely freshness, maturing finish with subtle length. Drinking well now onwards. €10 92-94
2004 Domaine Rimbert, Saint-Chinian Berlou (Carignan Grenache Syrah) - lovely floral spice, elegant ripe v minty fruit; firm and leathery needing to open up a bit, classy structured wine with pure fruit finish, very nice indeed. Worth €5 more than the above (which therefore looks good value). €15 92-94
2003 Domaines Lorgeril Les Hauts de la Borie Blanche, Minervois la Livinière (13.5%) - savoury leather tones with scented wild herbs, quite rich and firm with nice substance and tight length. 89-91
2004 Domaine Borie de Maurel La Féline, Minervois la Livinière (Syrah Grenache 14%) - attractive perfumed Syrah nose with spicy cherry; fairly elegant and maturing fruit with dry bite, a bit short after that promising start and lacks charm in the end. €10 87

2003 Domaine Borie de Maurel Cuvée Maxime, Minervois (100% Mourvèdre 14%) - fairly animal with wild black olive notes, quite rich and powerful; sexy start turning a bit heavy-handed, firm v ripe finish though. €13 87-89

2004 Jean-Louis Poudou Château Tour Boisée, Minervois (14%) - light herbal complexity v richer meatier side, tasty palate v firm tight structure; promising. €11 88-90
2005 Clos des Fées les Sorcières, Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache Carignan Syrah 14%) - touch of sulphide on the nose? Much nicer palate with juicy black cherry and firm fresh bite, lively v restrained fruit. €11 87-89

2004 Clos des Fées vieilles vignes, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan) - a bit closed on the nose, moving on to a leathery palate with rich blackberry fruit, concentrated and firm, tobacco v lush fruit. €25 90+
2004 Clos des Fées de Hervé Bizeul, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre  Carignan 15%) - this bottle had been open for a week: showing lovely rich liquorice spice and leather Grenache fruit, ripe and extracted with quite a lot of new oak; nevertheless, it has delicious depth of complex fruit underneath, firm fresh and long; balanced despite high alcohol, stylish despite the power and extraction. Difficult to score this in context of its cult price! €50 92-94
2002 Domaine Lignon Les Vignes d'Antan, Minervois (13.5%) - rustic old style but attractively rich and ripe, weighty and quite firm; nice drinkable finish, really quite good for the difficult 02 vintage (wet). 88-90
2005 Mas Amiel Notre Terre, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre Syrah 14.5%) - odd nose (wood?) moves on to a very nice palate, rich ripe tar and chocolate tones v very firm and fresh; powerful length yet balanced, spicy with layered tannins. €11.20 92-94
2005 Château La Liquière Nos Racines, Faugères (Carignan Grenache 14%) - black cherry and wild herbs, a tad animal too; smoky and rich with sexy drinkable quality, power and grip v seductive rounded fruit. €11.40 89-91

2004 Château La Liquière Cistus, Faugères (70% Syrah + Grenache Mourvèdre Carignan 14%) - spicy and floral v meatier depth, quite big Syrah styled fruit with rather firm grip v lingering ripeness too. €14.30 88
2003 Robert Skalli Domaine du Silène des Peyrals, Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah Grenache 13.5%) - oaky very ripe nose, better palate with quite rich 'tar' fruit v choco oak bite, quite tight and fresh actually (for a 2003); touch of oak on the finish but nice balance and style, modern v traditional. €12 90
2004 Domaine Henry St-Georges d'Orques, Coteaux du Languedoc (Grenache Mourvèdre Syrah Carignan 14%) - light red pepper, spicy liquorice and farmyard undertones, complex pungency; quite rich and funky v freshness and grip, needs time to open up; interesting, technically faulty perhaps but attractive. €12 90
2003 Domaine de Haut Gléon, vin de pays de la Vallée du Paradis (13%) - mature smoky rustic leather characters, rather dry finish lacking depth; nice enough but overpriced. €12 85
2004 L'Ostal Cazes Estibals, Minervois (Syrah Grenache Carignan 14.5%) - touch of wood with simple juicy fruit, dry and straightforward finish. €12! 80
2004 L'Ostal Cazes, Minervois la Livinière - rather Bordeaux in style, attractive elegant wild fruits v new wood, well balanced and quite concentrated; lacks real depth and class at €20, although much better than the above. 88
2005 Clos des Nines L'Orée, Coteaux du Languedoc (Grenache Syrah Cinsault 13.5%) - a bit reduced/sulphide? Aromatic black fruits and liquorice in the mouth, appealing spice and elegant depth, well balanced. Perhaps lacks complexity at this level, fine at half the price. €12 87

2004 L'Etoile du Matin, Corbières (Syrah Grenache Carignan 13.5% organic) - aromatic spicy and meaty, quite concentrated and firm v attractive liquorice and pepper fruit; tightly structured and long with freshness and lovely 'garrigue' notes. We'll be hearing more about Geoffroy Marchand I think. €12 92-94
2004 Domaine de la Prose Embruns, St-Georges d'Orques (13%) - quite simple and rustic start rolls on to lively pure fruit, nice coating of tannins and length; needs a bit of time to open up. €12 89

2004 Domaine des Balmettes Les Figuiers, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (100% Syrah 14%) - touch of sulphide but it goes leaving nice meaty nose with sexy dark fruit, lively fresh fruit and tannins, tasty and lush v firm and extracted; powerful long delicious finish, not so Syrah in character. €12 94-96
2005 Domaine des Balmettes Les Amandiers, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (100% Grenache 14%) - very ripe with lots of liquorice and leather, rather volatile towards almost acetic; strange 'natural' style nevertheless, rich and powerful, bit of a one-off. 89+?
2005 Domaine des Balmettes Les Oliviers, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (100% old vine Grenache 14%) - lovely ripe liquorice and leather, dense and smoky on a very firm structure; less volatile than above, very long and complex, those tannins bring freshness and balance; delicious although it needs a few years to calm down! €16 94 2003 Domaine des Prés-Lasses Les Tabernolles, Coteaux du Languedoc (Grenache Syrah Cinsault 13.5%) - ripe and smoky, nice juicy v meaty mouth-feel, rich and very firm yet balanced, powerful cooked fruit finish. €12 88-90

2003 Domaine des Prés-Lasses Le Castel Viel, Faugères (Carignan Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre 13.5%) - pure peppery v rustic aromas, lush and extracted with a touch of wood; nice bite v richness although very dry tannins. €16 88
2005 Sylva Plana Le Longe de l'Abbé, Faugères (Syrah Carignan Grenache Mourvèdre 13.5%) - violet and cassis aromas in a northern Rhone way, vibrant perfumed fruit v firm structure, quite elegant with chocolate undertones. €12.50 90
2003 Château Moulin de Ciffre Eole, Faugères (14%) - hints of oak on the nose, extracted cherry and tobacco palate, chunky and spicy; that wood does melt in on the finish, a bit overdone but still good. €13 87-89
2004 Domaine St-Antonin Magnoux, Faugères (50% Syrah 14%) - funny nose, burnt chocolate and matches with floral perfumed cherry notes; however, the palate offers nice raspberry fruit, soft and fresh with light grip; long and stylish finish with freshness and floral fruit. €13 89-91
2005 Mas d'Alezon Montfalette, Faugères (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre 12.5%) - ripe floral berry and cassis fruit with subtle chocolate texture, nice light touch v depth and purity of fruit; juicy yet firm with elegant length. Grown at altitude. €13 92-94

2004 L'Ancienne Mercerie Cuvée Couture, Faugères (14.5%) - a little burnt and rustic, powerful and rich mouth-feel, quite firm v smoky; impressive start but lacks a bit of class in the end. €13.50 89
2004 Domaine les Grandes Costes Les Grandes Costes, Coteaux du Languedoc (13.5%) - complex floral red pepper notes, pure fruit palate with lovely drinkability, elegant and soft v rich and impressive; nice length with wild floral fruit, chocolate oak and freshness. €13.50 92-94
2004 Château d'Aussières (Rothschild), Corbières (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre Carignan 13%) - seductive 'sweet' floral Syrah fruit enriched with meaty complexity, ripe yet firm mouth-feel, quite elegant with lightly rustic tones; very nice style although a bit dear at €14 (that's bankers/top Bordeaux chateaux owners for you). 88-90

2004 Domaine Clavel Copa Santa, Coteaux du Languedoc 'Terroir de la Méjanelle' (14%) - a touch of disjointed wood leads on to attractive liquorice and black olive fruit, very firm v black cherry richness; slightly oak dominated at the moment? Not very revealing, although does show potential class. €14.50 89-91
2001 Enclos de la Croix, vin de pays d'Oc - rustic v herbaceous nose moves on to nice maturing lush fruit, the tannins are a bit hard though. 87-89
2004 Domaine Lacroix-Vanel Mélanie, Coteaux du Languedoc (70% Syrah + Grenache Mourvèdre 14%) - quite Syrah dominated in style, floral v odd rustic edges; better palate, rich and solid, a bit soupy but it closes up on its firm finish. €15 89+?
2004 Domaine Lacroix-Vanel Ma Mon troppó, Coteaux du Languedoc (90% Mourvèdre + Grenache Syrah 14%) - the nose is a bit closed and reduced; black olive fruit with liquorice and leather overtones, lush then firm and tight yet has vibrant wild herbal fruit; needs time, could be very good. €16 90+?
2004 Clos des Augustins Sourire d'Odile, Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah Grenache 13%) - violets chocolate and black cherry, nice fruit purity and firm coat of tannins, balanced and fresh too; good but €15... 89+

2003 Clos des Augustins L'Ainé, Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St-Loup (mostly Syrah 12.5%) - more choc and spice with attractive meaty character, rich fruit and underlying purity; nice depth and character despite the oak. €25 90-92
2004 Clos Bagatelle La Gloire de Mon Père, Saint-Chinian (13%) - very rich tar v floral Syrah? notes, chunky and lush v firm tannins; coffee and liquorice flavours linger on an earthy v 'sweet' finish, long and full. €20 92-94
2004 La Boda d'Aupilhac, Coteaux du Languedoc Montpeyroux (Mourvèdre Syrah Grenache Cinsault 13.5%) - smoky and spicy, nice nose and start to the palate with lush and peppery fruit, but finishes rather extracted and dry. €22 87-89

2004 Château St-Roch Kerbuccio, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre 14.5%) - closed nose leads to liquorice and black olive fruit in the mouth, extracted and firm; rather oaky at the moment, not sure. €23 88-90.

Updates, profiles and latest vintages from many of these wineries can be found via the links in the Winery A to Z on the right.

Apparently 'top' cuvées (from €15 to €40) from these estates were disappointingly over-oaked and/or heavily handled/extracted: St-Jean Noviciat, Auzières, Lastours, Estanilles, Nines, Vernède, Caladroy and Massamier Mignarde.

RMJames April 2007

29 April 2007

Roussillon: Domaine de la Serre, Maury

Domaine de la Serre
Jean Louis Vera's promising estate is comprised of several plots spread around the Maury area and is run by his winemaking son Arnaud. I sampled the wines below at the Fenouillèdes wine show in April 2007; and I did visit their winery once a couple of years before that, although then it was a building site with new vats and barrels positioned here and there wherever there was space. Meaning the domaine name and cellar have only been around in recent times, but the family were co-op growers for many years before going down their own vinous path (that's enough of the literary drivel, ed.).
2004 Cailloux blanc
(Grenache blanc Macabeu Muscat) – still quite fresh and mineral with a weighty mouth-feel (14.5% certainly helps), but it's surprisingly drinkable actually. 87
2005 Cailloux rouge
(Grenache) – lively juicy cherry style, easy and tasty. 83-85
2003 Serre Longue
Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan Syrah) – fair splash of oak but it's rich and lively, grippy dry texture v sweet fruit and oak; quite well balanced despite its punch (14.5%). 88-90
2002 Hypogée
Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Carignan) – again toasty vanilla is up-front (50% new barrels used) but it has lovely savoury v liquorice flavours, structured chunky tannins and power (15%) v 'sweet' roundness. 89-91
2002 Serre Longue
attractive savoury leather edges, a touch oxidised although still quite lush v firm backdrop, potent and long. 89
2003 Pierres Levées
rather coconutty with dense black fruits underneath, dry yet rounded tannins; that oak lingers somewhat, will the fruit outlive it? 89

10 Rue du Docteur Pougault, 66460 Maury
. Tel: 04 68 59 18 36.

21 April 2007

Roussillon: Domaine Gardiès, Espira-de-l'Agly

UPDATED 2012 - see below.

Jean Gardiès has come a long way since his first vintage in 1993. The newly built (I called by in April 2007), elegant wooden winery looks stunning lost in the beautiful wild vine-lands above Espira de l'Agly. In common with several leading estates, Gardiès' attention has turned more recently towards planting white varieties, as he believes there's a promising future for high quality Roussillon white wines (I tend to agree by and large). Having said that, most of the estate's 30-35 ha (75 acres) are planted with all the region's usual red suspects (see notes below); and Jean has had particular success with Mourvèdre in this neck of the woods, as well as Syrah, Carignan, Grenache from here and his other vineyards in Vingrau.
He's also mastered how to make really nice dry Muscat - not necessarily a given unless you grow it differently and vinify carefully - and still produces a fair bit of Rivesaltes VDN styles. "These sweet wines are a difficult sell outside of France, which is a pity as it's a unique tradition to the Roussillon." Jean's focus is export, although is happy to meet wine enthusiasts at the winery by appointment, increasingly finding "a knock-on effect: the more Roussillon wines there are out there, the greater the demand. But it's still hard persuading distributors to take on our wines." The domaine is in the process of organic certification, but Jean isn't especially interested in using this as the main thrust. "The wine still has to be good... just like whether it's appellation or vin de pays, you shouldn't need it on the bottle to sell it." Indeed, the proof is in the pudding as that quaintly bizarre English expression has it.

2006 Mas Las Cabes Muscat sec - nice Muscat freshness and grapey style, zingy mineral notes v creamier mouth-feel (he leaves it on its yeast-lees for 5 months); light elegant length v fatter fruit. 87
2005 Les Vieilles Vignes Côtes du Roussillon blanc (60% 70+ year old Grenache Blanc 35% Grenache Gris 5% Macabeu) - lovely apricot and white peach fruit with toasty edges, creamy v fruity; oak well done as it has freshness too. 88
2005 Les Millères Côtes du Roussillon Villages (40 Grenache 35 Syrah 20 Carignan 5 young Mourvèdre) - attractive ripe black cherry and liquorice fruit with herbal edges, soft and round v fresh dry bite. 87-89
2005 Vieilles Vignes Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel (70% 60-80 year old Grenache and Carignan, 20 Syrah 10 Mourvèdre) - a bit more oak but not much, firmer with more bite v sweetness of fruit, closes up a bit on the finish; elegant, again subtle oak. 89-91
2005 La Torre Côtes du Roussillon Villages (70% Mourvèdre 20 Grenache 10 Carignan) - youthful fruit with quite spicy coco oak up-front, concentrated and powerful; firm and less open on the finish with underlying ripe rounded texture. 90
2005 Les Falaises Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel (45% Syrah 40 Grenache 15 Carignan) - more perfumed and floral, quite a bit of chocolate oak but very concentrated sweet fruit underneath; powerful with coating of solid tannins, big finish. Needs 6-12 months to harmonize. 90-92
2005 Flor Muscat de Rivesaltes - still lively with floral honey, apricot notes and orange peel tang; nice bite v sweetness, the alcohol is well integrated. 87-89
1995 Rivesaltes Ambré (95% 70+ year old Grenache Blanc 5% Muscat) - gorgeous toasted hazelnut and toffee nose, concentrated and complex coffee and pecan flavours; the sweetness melts into its tangy aged fruit, lovely length and style. 90-92

2011 update here featuring Jean's 2009 Clos des Vignes white Cotes du Roussillon, now sold in the UK by H2Vin Ltd. for about £17.

2012 UPDATE - I finally caught up with Jean again and tasted his whole impressive range at this year's Millésime Bio organic wine show in Montpellier. I'm glad I did too, as this just confirmed that Gardiès really is up there among the top five to ten estates in the Roussillon. Jean seems to have a real knack of combining understanding and optimizing the terroir he has, as that old French cliché would have it, with first-rate winemaking skills. Result: some brilliant complex wines. He's now also fully certified organic across all 52 ha (130 acres) in the Espira and Vingrau areas (the latter vineyards are classified as Tautavel, confusingly, but there's no CdRV Vingrau. Nor Espira...)

2011 Las Cabès white (Espira) - quite exotic with peach / pineapple, moves on to a tighter fresher palate with zingy lees-y undercurrent. Good+
2011 Les Glaciaires white (Vingrau: Roussanne, Grenache blanc/gris, Macabeu) - toastier nose with rich exotic fruit, fairly powerful vs tight and elegant mouth-feel; very nice well-made wine.
2011 Malvoisie (= Tourbat) - delicious wild flower and honey aromas, creamier on the palate with lightly toasted edges, rich and concentrated vs lovely mineral bite, very long finish. Wow, serious white wine. Very good+
2010 Les Millères red (Vingrau: Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre) - ripe dark cherry fruit, lovely warm spicy notes, fairly easy on the palate with a touch of grip and tasty 'sweet'/spicy fruit. Good+
2009 Clos des Vignes Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel (Vingrau: a bit more Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and a bit more Mourvèdre) - peppery with coconut oak overtones, again it's concentrated and lush vs firmer fuller and punchier too, yet still has balance and class. Needs a few years to develop. Very good.
2009 Les Falaises (Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel (Vingrau: a bit more Syrah, same of Grenache, Carignan) - minty herbal tones vs dark cherry and ripe cassis, intense lively and concentrated with punchy solid tight finish layered with tasty maturing fruit. Superb.
2009 La Torre Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Espira: mostly Mourvèdre with Grenache and Carignan) - wilder mintier nose vs delicious dark lush fruit edged with peppery savoury black olive aromas/flavours; very concentrated with firm grainy texture and stylish finish. Very good to excellent.

Chemin de Montpins, 66600 Espira-de-l'Agly.

Tempranillos al Mundo

This international competition is organised by the Spanish Winemakers Federation (FEAE), which this year will be held in Shanghai, China from June 28th-30th. What's so interesting about that, you may well ask? Well, focusing on the Tempranillo grape variety makes a refreshing change from more familiar territory; especially as it can be at the heart of some great red wines in Spain, Argentina and who knows where else: Australia, USA etc? I guess we'll see when the results are released in a few months time.
Another original aspect to the show is the selection of a different host city each year in an "emerging market," as the blurb puts it. "The main goal of Tempranillos al Mundo is to showcase high quality Tempranillo wines to professionals and consumers in the country hosting the event," it concludes. Have fun then, Shanghai wine folk.
Source: Global Wine & Spirits, one of the event's sponsors. More info from the competition website: click on the logo above left.

20 April 2007

Hôtel du Vieux Moulin, Chablis

This flash mini-hotel is the latest venture from the ever expanding Laroche empire, although this time it's on 'home turf' in Chablis, so to speak. The opening sentence of their press release made me smile: "Within the wine trade, the Laroche name has a well-earned reputation for hospitality – whether it is in Chablis, Béziers, Casablanca or now Stellenbosch." Bit like London, Skegness, Paris and New York perhaps...
Putting my silly sense of humour aside, the Vieux Moulin does sound and look the part: "a beautiful 11th century mill that straddles the river Serein and overlooks the picturesque Grand Cru vineyards," as their blurb continues. The five air-conditioned (you wouldn't want that on too often in Chablis) double rooms and two suites cost from 150 to 250 €uros. The personal styling even extends to the furniture, designed  by Michel and Gwenael Laroche themselves. And on the ground floor, you'll find the Laroche Wine Bar where you can try chef Julien Lasserre's culinary creations along with, not surprisingly, Laroche wines from around the world. Hotel du Vieux Moulin, 18 rue des Moulins, 89800 Chablis. Tel +33 3 86 42 47 30 / Fax +33 3 86 42 84 44, vieuxmoulin@larochewines.com / winebar@larochewines.com. Posted 20/4/07

Le Bistrot des Crus, Perpignan

If you find yourself in the French Catalonian capital on a Friday evening, why not check out this new wine bar & bistrot (63 Avenue du Général Leclerc, 66000 Perpignan, tel. +33 04 68 73 96 83) found alongside, and owned by, the well-stocked wine merchant Le Comptoir des Crus. Their Friday evening tasting events are called 'Les Vendredis du Bistrot' and each one is led by a local winegrower presenting their own wines. Starting tonight at 7pm with Guy Prédal, here's the program running into the summer:

20/04/2007 Domaine Marcevol - Guy Prédal
Vertical tasting of 4 vintages of his cuvée Prestige.
27/04/2007 Domaine Clot de l’Oum - Éric Monné
Vertical tasting of 3 vintages of his cuvée Compagnie des Papillons and 2005 white wine.
04/05/2007 Domaine Vaquer - Frédérique Vaquer
Vertical tasting of 4 vintages of her cuvée Expression.
11/05/2007 Domaine La Casenove - Etienne Montès
Vertical tasting of 4 vintages of his cuvée Commandant Jaubert.
25/05/2007 Domaine Singla - Laurent de Besombes
Vertical tasting of 4 vintages of his cuvée Moli.
08/06/2007 Domaine Lafage - Jean-Marc Lafage
Tasting of their whole range. Special promo at the Comptoir des Crus: 10% off Lafage's range between 6-10pm.
15/06/2007 La Cave de Castelmaure - Xavier Peyrot des Gachons
Vertical tasting of 4 vintages of his cuvée N°3.
22/06/2007 Summer rosés - Jean-Pierre Rudelle
Special promo at the Comptoir des Crus: 10% off all rosés between 6-10pm.
29/06/2007 Château Saint Roch - Emma and Marc Bournazeau
Vertical tasting of 4 vintages of their cuvée Kerbuccio.

15 April 2007

Roussillon: Domaine de la Fou, Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet

Hélène and Christian Meunier are the third generation to farm their 11 ha / 28 acre wine estate lying at 260m (850 feet) altitude on the slopes around St-Paul, in the wilder-still northwestern corner of Roussillon Villages country. These four wines were tasted at the Fenouillèdes wine show in April 2007:

2006 L'Impossible Muscat sec, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes – fresh and crisp with grape aromas and flavours, fuller creamier palate; nice style. €7 87
2006 white barrique-fermented (barrel sample: Grenache Gris Macabeu Chardonnay) – lightly toasty with milky mouth-feel, exotic apricot fruit, full and rounded. 87
2004 La Clue, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Carignan Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) – tobacco and violet tones on top of black cherry and smoky liquorice, nice fruit v grip and fresh finish. €7 87-89
2004 Ricochet, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Carignan Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) – similar profile to above although lusher, tobacco edges on a sweet v savoury palate, attractive weight and power. €9 89
Chemin de Bayra (cellar), tasting/shop: 28 Avenue du 16 Août 1944, 66220 Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet. Tel/fax: 04 68 59 11 62, mobile: 06 12 54 94 07, domainedelafou@wanadoo.fr

10 April 2007

Roussillon: Domaine Terre Rousse, Maury

Domaine Terre RousseTasters had the opportunity to try all four vintages (so far) of Serge Rousse's Côtes du Roussillon Villages reds side by side, at the 2007 edition of the Fenouillèdes wine show held in Tautavel. All 4 wines are made from approximately 40% Grenache, 30% Carignan, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre; a vineyard blend "that matches my cuverie perfectly... each vintage I've been aiming for more fruit and less wood." Nice to hear that coming from a Bordelais, and judging by my notes below, I agree wholeheartedly this is the way to go. There are already too many Roussillon reds swamped in flashy new oak with the same flavour and texture!
2006 (cask sample) – lovely juicy black cherry fruit, pretty firm tannins yet rounded with fresh length. Will be good... as long as he doesn't leave it too long in barrel! 89
2005 – again delicious fruit and style, liquorice with very light leather tones; attractive bite and balance with 'sweet' v dry texture and subtle lingering flavour. 90-92
2004 – lightly toasted and a little baked, richer and firmer palate than expected with chocolate notes; prefer the 2005 and 2006. 85-87
2003 – more restrained and 'Bordeaux' in style, nicely maturing fruit v oak backdrop, more structured although has background ripe v savoury fruit.

Update: Serge has actually now sold up to a Swiss investor/winegrower/maker, whose estate is called Domaine des Enfants...

Route de Cucugnan, 66460 Maury

Roussillon: Domaine Depeyre, Cases-de-Pène

Brigitte Bile and Serge Depeyre set up shop in 2002 (I first went there in April 07) and now command 12 ha/30 acres in two main blocks overlooking Cases de Pène and Espira, and Vingrau. Some of their Mourvèdre is 90 years old and there is still the odd Carignan vine here that they believe to be “about 200!” That's what I call old vines. All the plots that used to churn out fruit for VDN wines have been, or are being, replanted with red varieties. Brigitte told me: “we aren't interested in making sweet wines but have added some Muscat to make dry white.”
You'll (have) notice(d) various points of view in this guide on the 'tyrant' Syrah versus Grenache, Carignan etc. and its place in the Roussillon. While the region should arguably focus on the latter grapes to distinguish itself from, say, the Languedoc; there is some damn good Syrah produced in certain sites. Brigitte certainly believes “Syrah is better suited than Grenache here, and we've also planted more Mourvèdre.” Serge and Brigitte are concentrating on exporting their wines – and most of it to our red wine obsessed Belgian friends – but you can buy the wines below in good local wine merchants in e.g. Perpignan, Prades or Argeles. However, they have plans to do up her father's old cellar into an on-site shop...

2005 Cuvée Depeyre
Côtes du Roussillon Villages (50% Syrah plus Grenache Carignan) - light chocolate and spice tones, floral black cherry fruit on top; elegant tight palate, quite closed (this was only bottled 2 months before I tasted it, so it should have opened up a bit now) and fresh, chunky fruit and tannins yet finely textured. Could be good. €8.50 87-89
2004 Cuvée Ste-Colombe Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Carignan Mourvèdre) - displaying more oak but has lovely juicy black fruits as well, elegant v concentrated with the 14.5% alcohol well integrated; lusher fruit than above v light choc oak on a tight, lively and solid framework. Sainte Colombe is sourced from a 2 ha/5 acre parcel at higher altitude (200-300 metres/800 feet). €13.50
89-911 rue Pasteur, 66600 Cases de Pène. Tel: 04 68 28 32 19, brigitte.bile@orange.fr.

08 April 2007

Roussillon: Domaine Rancy, Latour-de-France

Brigitte and Jean-Hubert Verdaguer are real specialists in aged Rivesaltes ambré VDN wines (70% of production), although started making tasty Côtes du Roussillon reds six years ago; 11 out of 17 hectares are old vine Macabeu destined for this purpose. I was lucky enough to try their 1969? Rivesaltes, I think (from memory, I didn't note the vintage down) when visiting La Coume Majou (his personal stock!), which was quite extraordinary. Brigitte and Jean-Hubert have plans to refit part of the cellar into a dining room to do lunches with wine & food matched menus. Despite the fact they sell 80% of their production at the cellar door, very little of this comes from tourists as they are a bit off the beaten track. So hopefully this kind of meal thing will entice people out into the countryside. Believe me, good wines aside, it's definitely worth the trip: the Latour area offers a beautiful backdrop for driving or better still walking. I sampled these wines at the Fenouillèdes wine show in April 2007:

2005 Côtes du Roussillon red – nice juicy black cherry notes set the scene for a quite soft and forward palate v light grip and weight. 85

2005 Latour-de-France Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Carignan Grenache Mourvèdre) – lightly volatile nose (vat sample) gives way to lovely rich blackberry fruit, lively fresh mouth-feel v power, dry grip and delicious length.90-92
2003 Côtes du Roussillon Villages – attractive lush wild fruit cocktail with maturing leather tones, firm palate showing further developing savoury and rustic fruit with underlying 'sweetness' too. 88-90
2003 Latour-de-France Côtes du Roussillon Villages (50% Mourvèdre plus Carignan Grenache) – similar profile to above although more intense, savoury black olive notes and less rustic; more grip and muscle on the finish. 89-91
2001 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Carignan Syrah Grenache) – their first non-fortified red: complex herbal wild fruit with maturing meaty edges, lush rustic yet still perfumed palate with dry bite and a bit of oomph; those tannins finish up a tad firm, however this is good and quite elegant actually. 89-91

11 Rue Jean Jaurès, 66720 Latour-de-France. Tel: 04 68 29 03 47 / 06 87 11 15 18, info@domaine-rancy.comwww.domaine-rancy.com

02 April 2007

Roussillon: Clos des Fées, Vingrau

Updated February 2013 (goes to 'World Grenache Competition' part two featuring Hervé's delicious Grenache blanc vieilles vignes 2011).

The philosophy behind Hervé Bizeul's cult estate and wines is refreshingly simple, upheld by a quiet-spoken man who claims to have been “surprised by the world fame.” You'll find more notes on three of his wines here, plus the wines below tasted in his cellar in April 2007 during the Fenouillèdes wine show. Hervé “didn't want to have a stand and hog the limelight,” believing there are other exciting discoveries in the Roussillon. Hervé, a restaurateur and wine writer in previous lives (his blog is an interesting read) said: “I'm very attached to the idea of a vigneron working their terrain. AOC doesn't need to develop, we just need to aim to make hand-crafted wines at a very high level.” He tries to “search for and retain the fruit to make rich, Mediterranean, flavoursome wines traditional to this area.” First and foremost, Hervé thinks he “makes wine for myself, then I work out how to manage the different plots and varieties” according to that principle. The ideal is making wines that can be drunk from “5 to 12 years old, except la Petite Sibérie.” He sells about 40% of production in France and spends a lot of time promoting Clos des Fées around the world, where his wines have become very sought-after. Hence those prices: easy to criticise although it's a whole different argument, and who can knock someone who's earned such a reputation?

2005 white (old vine Grenache Blanc) – pretty toasty nose gives way to a honeyed v mineral personality, lightly oxidised creamy and nutty style finishing with subtle freshness v weight too. 87
2005 Les Sorcières, Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache Carignan Syrah) – sort of reduced on the nose showing pungent or herbal black cherry fruit, a touch of chocolatey oak on the palate backed up by ripe fruit, fresh bite and light tannins. It loses that smell after a few minutes (Hervé adds CO2 for some reason). €10 87
2004 Vieilles Vignes, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan Syrah) – quite savoury with liquorice notes, rich and aromatic; fairly firm and tight framework offering power and concentration, yet lively too on its good length. €25 90-92
2004 Le Clos des Fées de Hervé Bizeul, Côtes du Roussillon Villages – rather a lot of coco oak otherwise it's closed up; power and almost chalky texture, it is long and firm v sweet fruit but just too oaky at the moment... €50
2004 La Petite Sibérie, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (100% Grenache, technically not allowed for AOC but who cares) – the best fruit sourced from a “mono-parcel,” as our man calls it, presumably a 'cool' site. Again, it has plenty of smoky oak but it's much richer with liquorice Grenache purity and very ripe black cherry fruit; weighty 15%+ alcohol which doesn't really shout out, surprisingly, with a lovely coating of sweet fruit and coconut to finish. By the way, this wine would cost up to a breathtakingly expensive €200 a bottle, if you can find any. 92-94
2005 red blend vat sample – obviously oaky but has lovely lush fruit too, quite fine actually while commanding and with attractive texture.
2005 Clos des Fées vat sample – similarly, there's lots of coco oak although shows attractive burst of fruit and the trademark power; finishes with fine fresh tannins. Needs a few months at least to round out and let that oak melt in more, which it carries better than the 2004.
1999 Clos des Fées – developing leather and spice tones, red pepper notes too plus roasted coffee, complex aromas; still quite firm with leather and nice meaty side, long finish. 92-94

69 Rue Maréchal Joffre, 66600 (ominous postcode!) Vingrau. Tel: 04 68 29 40 00, info@closdesfees.com, www.closdesfees.com.


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