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31 January 2008

Roussillon: Domaine Pechpeyrou, Banyuls-sur-mer

Domaine Pechpeyrou
Bertrand de Guitaut, who started Pechpeyrou in that year-of-heat 2003, makes slightly eccentric wines in the micro-winery underneath his house above Banyuls town (you're not allowed to build a cellar on farm land i.e. next to the vineyard, stupid rules huh), using grapes sourced from his tiny 1.7 ha of vineyards (about 4 acres) to produce a grand total of 3000 bottles. One parcel is located on the way towards the Col de Banyuls, the thrilling little 'road' that climbs over the pass into Spain behind the town, which is 100m higher top to bottom and planted with mostly red Grenache and Carignan & Mourvèdre (see sample 1 below) plus a couple of white varieties (mainly Grenache gris and blanc), all mixed together. The other overlooks the sea and contains a bit of clay in the soil, planted with red Grenache (sample 2) and again a few whites.
Bertrand thinks: "it's the best way to go for Collioure and Banyuls if you have small plots, by naming each cuvée after the parcel, or its Catalan name, like a 'clos' in Burgundy" (where he's from originally). In addition, he follows organic growing methods, thanks largely to "300 windy days a year" making mildew and oidium less of a threat. In 2007 for example (I visited in the spring), "I only applied sulphur (treatments) twice." Anyway, I tasted the following wines in his not-quite-finished cellar down below and panoramic kitchen upstairs.
2006 red (vat sample 1, no sulphur dioxide) – lovely rich black fruits and olives, very lively and fresh yet quite lush and powerful with subtle grip and length; fine v fruity with attractive dry coating. 88-90
2006 red (cask sample 2, made in 5th-fill barriques and not de-stemmed) – less open than above but still showing richer dark chocolate tones suffused with very subtle spicy oak, firmly structured and dry v rounded mouth-feel with nice depth of fruit; finally closes up a bit on a solid peppery and fresh finish.
2006 white 1 (from both parcels, part barrel-fermented separately) – lovely fragrant honeysuckle and apricot with very light coconut spice, slightly oxidised nutty side too; powerful finish (16% alc!) with a little residual sugar remaining.
2006 white 2 (with first pressings from sea-facing parcel, just
GG & GB) – less exotic and spicier with again honeysuckle and peach tones, quite rich v citrus zest on the palate. 89+
2006 white 3 – ("bottom of the vat mixed with barrique wine") – spicy cider notes v fatter apricot and toasted nuts, attractive texture v freshness as well.
These three white samples will probably end up as one blend...
2005 Capa Casa, vin de table blanc (blend of vat and barrique wine, 15%) - lightly fizzy with orangey colour; nutty toffee fruit enhanced by honeysuckle and dried apricots, spritzy fresh bite v weighty mouth-feel, slightly yeasty tanginess in a Fino kind of way yet not oxidised. Odd but it works, try it with anchovies, marinated grilled peppers, goats cheese etc.
2005 Soula d'en Couvartet, Collioure rouge (14.5%) - dark cherries and elderberries with chocolate tones, aromatic and fruity with liquorice richness v dry finish and solid structure; nice balance between fruit, tannins and freshness on the finish.
The above 2005 Soula tasted again at Millésime Bio wine show, Jan. 2008 - herby spicy floral red fruits lead on to a lusher raisiny palate, finishing with leather v wild herb tones. Quirky but good. 90
12 Les Hauts de Marisol, 66650 Banyuls-sur-Mer. Tel: 04 68 82 57 24, mobile: 06 70 76 22 76, bertrand.evelyne@wanadoo.fr.

Roussillon: Château de l'Ou, Montescot

Château de l'Ou

Philippe Bourrier has 24 organically farmed (for ten years) hectares (60 acres) of vines with two more close to being officially certified. L'Ou's wines, which I think means egg in Catalan (which does feature on some of their labels so could be a good guess), are sold about 50-50 in France and abroad - email them for more details if you're interested in trying them in your neck of the woods. Yet another Roussillon estate I haven't got around to visiting, but I've tried their wines and met the people on a few occasions (wines below gleaned from two Millésime Bio events: click here for more on the 2006 edition) and find them pretty good overall. You'll find the Bourriers in-situ just out of the quiet village (like most of them around here) of Montescot, off the main road heading for Elne or Argeles.

This first one was gleaned from this year's Millésime Bio wine fair (Perpignan Jan. 2008):
2006 Côtes du Roussillon rouge (mostly Syrah Grenache) - nice tart black cherry fruit with spicy liquorice edges; grippy coating of tannins with powerful finish, closes up a little but shows promise. 88-90

And in 2006:

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

LATEST L'OU HERE (updated May 2012)

Domaine du Lac, 66200 Montescot.
Tel: 04 68 54 68 67, chateaudelou66@orange.fr.

30 January 2008

Languedoc: Domaine Canet Valette, Saint-Chinian

Domaine Canet Valette
One forgotten yet plush red (re)discovered from the tasting table at Millésime Bio organic wine show held in Perpignan back in January 2008. I've tried a couple of more recent vintages of their wines since then, sometime in early 2010 I think, and wasn't so sure about them. Natural classics or faulty and overpriced? Discuss in less than ten words... I'll dig out my notes again, if I can find them, and might add a few inspiring words at some point in the not too distant!
2006 Ivresses... Saint-Chinian (90% Grenache + Syrah Mourvèdre) - ripe lush and vibrant with attractive liquorice and tobacco notes; shows real depth of fruit v big tannins, well balanced despite its power and grip. 90

UPDATED Jan 2014: see in-depth interview and profile on Marc Valette, with several new and old vintages tasted, in my mega Saint Chinian supplement published HERE.

Roussillon: Domaine Jorel, St-Paul de Fenouillet

Manuel Jorel has seven organically farmed hectares, with three more undergoing 'conversion' (a three year monitored period without synthetic chemicals before being officially certified, so to speak; not that I'm implying that organic growers are mad!), around the village of St-Paul lying on the western side of the stunningly raw Fenouillèdes area. Jorel also makes a lovely Maury fortified VDN wine as well as red & white Vins de Pays; probably because they only have some superb old-vine Grenache (red and white varieties) and Carignan and no Syrah (I'm guessing as I haven't been there yet), meaning the wines don't fit silly AOC CDRV rules. Anyway, some of his cuvées have the name of the parcel it came from, so you can't get much more terroir-ist than that. This one was tasted at Millésime Bio wine show 2008 (January 08 Perpignan):

2005 Pétaillat Vin de Pays des Pyrénées Orientales (Grenache) - attractive 'sweet' and rich liquorice and tobacco aromas/flavours with quite firm tannin-ed mouth-feel, lovely finish and style. €10 89-91

More Jorel wines filed under Millésime Bio 2006.

28 Rue Arago, 66220 St-Paul de Fenouillet - www.domainejorel.fr

Languedoc: Domaine de la Prose, St-Georges d'Orques

Domaine de la Prose

A forgotten plush red (re)discovered from the tasting table at Millésime Bio 2008 organic wine show (Perpignan Jan 08). I didn't get around to following up with the producer on their stand or writing them up until now, six months later, although it isn't in danger of fading away! So 'one to watch' perhaps or 'one to call in on' when next in the area...

2005 Les Cadières Coteaux du Languedoc St-Georges d'Orques (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre Cinsault Carignan) - ripe and smoky nose moves on to liquorice, raisin and tobacco flavours; grippy tannins v 'sweet' fruit, quite elegant. 88-90 


Roussillon: Domaine Marcevol, Vinça

Guy Prédal is one of the Roussillon's rapidly swelling band of vocal supporters and practitioners of organic grape growing; Guy controversially although logically suggests that any future EC subsidies to help growers should only be for converting to organics. For more of his views, click on this link and scroll down to: "CRAV - 100 years of protest" (a piece I did for Decanter) or refer to my rather long and serious dissertation on the Roussillon (will be re-published under 'more wine words'). His 10 hectares (25 acres) of vineyards lie on the sparse (in terms of vineyards anyway, this is about as far west as they go in the region) and wild terrain to the west and north of the town of Vinça, where you'll find his cellar.

These wines were sampled at the 2008 Millésime Bio wine show (Jan. 08 Perpignan):
2006 Carignan - nice blackcurrant and cherry fruit with liquorice tones; fresh, tight and medium-bodied finish. 85
2005 L'Alouette Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache Syrah Carignan) - fuller and juicier than above with firm yet rounded mouth-feel, attractive style. 85+
2005 Tradition (Grenache Carignan) - more concentrated than above showing tobacco and liquorice style, lively and elegant v dry textured finish. 87
2005 Prestige (Syrah Carignan Grenache) - aromatic cherry and cassis notes give way to a closed and firm palate, nice tannins though v again that trademark 'freshness' and length. 87-89
2006 Oxo (100% Carignan) - aromatic floral black cherry fruit moves on to taut refreshing mouth-feel, elegant v concentrated style needing a couple of years to express itself. 89-91

164 Avenue Général de Gaulle, 66320 Vinça. Tel: 04 68 05 74 34, marcevolpredal@wanadoo.fr.

27 January 2008

Languedoc: Domaine Coston, Terrasses du Larzac

Domaine Coston

Joseph, Marie-Thérèse and affable brothers Philippe and Jean-Marc Coston were a cooperative grower family until creating this off-the-beaten-track estate in 2002, the year they released their first (mostly red) wines. Nine hectares (22 acres) of vineyards have been certified organic since 1999 and six are in the second year of conversion (meaning another year before they can be 'certified'), all located around the village of Puéchabon and neighbouring Aniane (home to Mas Daumas Gassac among others), some of which fall into the new Terrasses du Larzac subzone (click there for a few more comments on that: something I'm a bit ambivalent about although there certainly are some very good wines coming from this area).
I first discovered the Coston's wines a couple of years ago at 
Millésime Bio 2006 and was impressed, especially considering they were showing only their second vintage. So I followed it up with a trip a few months later to this appealing neck of the woods. Range highlights include Les Garigoles, a hearty yet quite fine Languedoc red and a funky barrel-fermented white, which I tried again at Millésime Bio in Perpignan, January 2008 (see notes below). In terms of visiting, individuals and small groups at the max are preferred, as their cellar's rather compact. Ring in advance, as they don’t speak much English but a friend of theirs does (a teacher). Or catch them and several other local producers at the Aniane wine growers fair, usually held over the third weekend in July: www.salondesvinsdaniane.com.

2005 Coteaux du Languedoc white (Roussanne Grenache blanc, barrel fermented) - quite toasty nose still although it has nice creamy, perfumed and exotic fruit too; turning oily textured with fairly big finish. 87-89
2006 Vin de Pays red (Carignan Grenache Cabernet Franc) - attractive mix of peppery and rustic tones with a juicy-fruited v firm palate. 85
2004 Les Garigoles, Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah Grenache 14%) - lovely nose showing 'garrigue' notes v liquoricey Grenache fruit, tobacco and raisin edges; firm tannins and power on the palate v quite elegant, well-balanced finish. 92
2004 Terrasses du Larzac red (similar varietal blend) - smoky and ripe raisin aromas, lovely liquorice fruit on the palate showing wild herb and tobacco leaf edges; solid grippy framework and finish. 90

And as mentioned from 
Millésime Bio 2006:
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


3 Route de Montpellier, 34150 Puéchabon. Tel: 04 67 57 48 96, www.domainecoston.fr.

21 January 2008

Languedoc: Domaine de Malavieille, Terrasses du Larzac

Domaine de Malavieille

This 44 hectare (100 acre) organically grown Languedoc estate - certified in 2000 and now following the path to biodynamic enlightenment (or rather mystery perhaps) - is owned and run by Mireille and André Bertrand, who sell most of their wines in France but do also export a bit (Belgium, Spain, Japan, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany), so that gives you English-speakers a good excuse to go and discover them for yourselves. Their vineyards are mostly located within the very promising Languedoc sub-appellation called 
Terrasses du Larzac (meaning there are several very good producers in the area, who appear to have justified claims that it merited being delimited in its own right), heading towards Faugères in one direction and the outskirts of country town Clermont-l'Hérault in the other (so, a good bit west of Montpellier). Surrounding the ruins of the 14th-Century Chateau de Malavieille, there are also parcels that stretch into Montpeyroux and Saint-Saturnin, two other neighbouring Languedoc 'terroirs' staking a claim to making individual wines.
Overall, the Bertrands make an inspiring range of reds fashioned from nine different varieties, although with the region's famous-five at their heart (see below); plus a few surprises such as La Boutine, a rich dry white made from Chenin Blanc - a variety you don't see much of in this area and one of seven white varieties planted here. 
I tasted this, probably their flagship red at Millésime Bio in Perpignan, January 2008. Click here: Millésime Bio 2006 and here: MB 2005 for notes on other wines including the very nice 2001 vintage of Permien.

2005 Permien rouge, Terrasses du Larzac (
Carignan Grenache Cinsault Mourvèdre Syrah) - lovely floral spicy black cherry nose, leading on to soft ripe liquorice fruit v firm tannins adding a refreshing, bitter/sweet twist. Good value too at €7. 90

Latest here...

Malavieille, 34800 Mérifons. Tel: 04 67 96 34 67, domainemalavieille.merifons@wanadoo.fr,www.domainemalavieille.com.


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