"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

31 October 2008

Languedoc: Domaine Cavaillès, Minervois

Domaine Cavaillès - Minerve

These two reds have been extracted from my pick of a variety of producers tasted at the end of October 2008, during Les Grands Chemins "Rencontres en Minervois" - an annual wine, food and arts festival centred on the broodingly Mediaeval village of Minerve and surrounding area (that link goes to the website) - over dinner at the excellent Relais Chantovent restaurant in Minerve.

2005 Minervois (Syrah Grenache Carignan 13.5%) - nice ripe rounded red fruits with smoky garrigue notes; attractive depth of spicy fruit v soft tannins and a bit of punch. Good with the three-mushroom nems (Vietnamese style spring rolls). 87(+)
2007 Minervois (Syrah Grenache Carignan 13%) - similar fruit and spice to the 05 but more liquoricey and with tobacco undertones too; firmer mouth-feel v more concentrated, again attractive garrigue style and power on the finish. 89

Languedoc: Château La Bastide, Corbières

Château La Bastide from www.chateau-la-bastide.frAnne-Marie and Guilhem Durand bought this cute property twenty years ago, lying in the deepest northern corner of the Corbières appellation; just northwest of Lézignan and a pebble's throw away from Minervois country, actually. Their no-less-than 100 ha (250 acres) feature quite a lot of Syrah, which, looking at the wines, seems to like it here bathing in all that gravel, chalk and slate; with some young Mourvèdre coming on stream as well as less common Pinot Noir and Viognier, for example (and why not?). Anyway, the Durand family exports most of their wines, so good news for those of us in the US, Canada, UK, Belgium, Luxembourg or Germany (according to the printed blurb - see website for more details). I tried these in late October 2008, at a tasting laid on by the appellation people at Château Boutenac:

2007 Viognier Vin de Pays d'Hauterive - nice exotic style with juicy v creamy v lightly crisp mouth-feel. 85
2006 Syrah Vin de Pays d'Hauterive - attractive spicy menthol and cherries on the nose, bit of a chunky framework v fruity with rustic edges. 85
(Syrah Grenache) - enticing herbal v creamy red and black fruit mix, more concentrated than you think it's going to be with firm texture and a bit of weight too. 87
2006 cuvée Plénitude Vin de Pays d'Hauterive (Pinot Noir Merlot Syrah) - herbal 'sweet & savoury' characters move on to light chocolate texture, a tad over-extracted and firm but it's interesting quand meme...
2006 L'Optimée
(Syrah Grenache) - smokier richer style showing fair concentration v solid tannins, power and savoury v dark fruit on the finish. 89+

Château La Bastide, 11200 Escales. Tel: 04 68 27 08 47, http://www.chateau-la-bastide.fr/.

Languedoc: Château d'Agel, Minervois

This old-as-history estate, and associated wines, originally featured as part of my ad hoc pick of a variety of producers encountered and tasted at the end of October 2008, during Les Grands Chemins "Rencontres en Minervois" (an annual wine, food and arts festival centred on the broodingly Mediaeval village of Minerve and surrounding area - that link goes to the website). A group of us stayed the night at Château d'Agel, which really is a magnificent full-monty ye olde chateau: click here to read a piece I did for Decanter magazine on great wine places to stay in the region ("Wine travel: western Languedoc"). A taster if you can't be bothered:
"... Not far from the amazing Mediaeval town of Minerve itself and much talked-about La Livinière appellation, is the quiet village of Agel, seat of Château d’Agel. This splendid place really is a full-on fortress complete with turrets, coats of arms, wide swirling staircases and no doubt secret passages too..."

And a couple of reds sampled in an appropriate setting of the old cellar:
2004 Grenache - maturing smoky nose, appealing full-bodied fruit v light bite of tannins to finish. 85+
2007 Minervois (Carignan Grenache Syrah) - touch of vanilla oak but it has attractive fruit, textured dark chocolate and bitter black fruit twist. 85+

And this "white of the moment" from Jan. 2006:
2004 Minervois blanc Château d'Agel (Macabeu & Muscat, 13%) - a pleasant surprise, given that Minervois isn't famous for whites: fairly rich oily textured palate balanced by lively aromatic fruit. €3-4 88
More info: www.chateaudagel.fr 

30 October 2008

Languedoc: Domaine de la Combe Blanche, Minervois-La Livinière

Domaine de la Combe BlancheGuy Vanlancker has slightly more eclectic plantings than most in the area - including some Tempranillo and Pinot Noir too! - which are the base (the non-eclectic varieties that this) for two pretty representative blends, both appellation Minervois-La Livinière: La Chandelière (mostly Syrah + Grenache) and La Galine (Syrah Grenache Carignan Cinsault), among others. These wines seem to stand the test of time well, especially La Chandelière: I remember once trying a rather good 1990 or 91 with about ten years on the clock, which I'd given to my uncle & aunt a few years beforehand and who'd had the sense to keep it. Anyway, Belgian Guy first moved here in 1981 and bought a few vineyard parcels around La Livinière, which is a cute wee village; so it’s easy to visit a few other producers on foot, especially since there are plenty of suitably pointy signposts. I bumped into Guy at the end of October 2008, during Les Grands Chemins "Rencontres en Minervois" festival, and tasted the following:
2003 La Galine (14.5%) - warming and spicy, quite soft yet punchy mouth-feel; turning savoury, mature and tasty on the finish. 87+
2004 La Chandelière (60% Syrah) - quite tight and firm with chocolate oak texture; concentrated and lightly perfumed, pepper and liquorice with attractive dry tannins on the finish.89-91

And these at Vinisud in Montpellier back in Feb 2004:
2001 La Chandelière - Leathery touches to the tightly structured and spicy fruit, finishes with long bite of tannins and alcohol. Needs time to come together. 92
2002 La Galine - Rich chocolate and plum fruit, very concentrated and tight, grippy but quite fine and fresh too. 90
2000 La Galine - Aromatic, spicy pepper and blackberry; has nice texture and grip with lengthy mineral finish. 89
2000 Vin de Pays blanc (Roussanne Viognier Chardy) - Developing vegetal and complex minty notes, light toffee characters lend a rounded 'sweetness', finishing with a blast of alcohol. 87
2002 Vin de Pays blanc - Bit of toasty oak combines with creamy and yeast-lees characters; rounded and quite rich, dry and full finish. 87
2001 Vin de Pays Tempranillo - Lots of new oak and very grippy texture; we'll see if it opens out nicely as it's too oaky at the moment, although there could be something there... 80-84
Didn't like his 2001 Pinot at the time, I'm afraid!

3 Ancien Chemin du Moulin Rigaud, 34210 La Livinière. Tel: 04 68 91 44 82 or 06 80 43 40 61 (mobile), lacombeblanche.comcontact@lacombeblanche.com.

29 October 2008

Languedoc: Château Festiano, Minervois

The following wine was one of my pick from a variety of producers tasted at the end of October 2008, during Les Grands Chemins "Rencontres en Minervois" (annual wine, food and arts festival centred on the broodingly Mediaeval village of Minerve and surrounding area - that link goes to the website), aLes Tonneliers restaurant in Homps.

2007 Château Festiano 'Vincent' Minervois (SyrahGrenache 13%) - seductive up-front fruit and spice showing blackberry, liquorice and black pepper; its fruitiness and freshness (acidity/tannins) on the palate rendering my cassoulet a little less heavy! 85+

Languedoc: Château Fauzan, Minervois

Château Fauzan

The following wine was one of my picks from a variety of producers tasted at the end of October 2008, during Les Grands Chemins "Rencontres en Minervois" (annual wine, food and arts festival centred on the broodingly Mediaeval village of Minerve and surrounding area - that link goes to the website), at the Chai de Port Minervois in Homps (wine shop & tastings).

2005 La Balme Minervois La Livinière (80% Syrah 20% Grenache) - lovely spicy menthol and very ripe black cherry fruit, liquorice v pepper on the palate; quite complex and tasty with soft v powerful v maturing finish. €8.60 88+

Languedoc: Claude Serra, Minervois

The following wine is one of my picks of a variety of producers tasted at the end of October 2008, during Les Grands Chemins "Rencontres en Minervois" (annual wine, food and arts festival centred on the broodingly Mediaeval village of Minerve and surrounding area - that link goes to the website), over a hearty lunch at the very recommended Restaurant - Hotel d'Alibert in Caunes-Minervois:

2003 Villa Serra Minervois rouge (Grenache Mourvèdre Carignan Cinsault 14%) - smoky peppery nose with dark black cherry and olive notes; 'sweet' v savoury palate, powerful and spicy v ripe and rounded. Nice with the duck and roasted veg but not the orange sauce, giving it a lightly bitter twist; but good wine though. 88+

28 October 2008

Languedoc: Paul Durand, vin de table

The following wine was one of my pick of a variety of producers tasted at the end of October 2008, during Les Grands Chemins "Rencontres en Minervois" (annual wine, food and arts festival centred on the broodingly Mediaeval village of Minerve and surrounding area - that link goes to the website); mostly over a meal at the restaurants specified below.
With lunch at Restaurant - Hotel d'Alibert, Caunes-Minervois:
2005 Paul Louis Eugène Vin de table blanc Paul Durand (Marsanne Sauvignon blanc 13.5%) - rule-breaking, quirky, slightly volatile style showing concentrated oily mouth-feel v fresh citrus and green fruits; you wouldn't think it was 3 years old with its nice weight and creamy texture v crisp bite. 88+

26 October 2008

Languedoc: Etoile du Matin, Corbières

Etoile du Matin

Geoffroy Marchand’s tiny domaine is organically grown ("if you can't here, where can you?"): his equally tiny cellar isn’t well-marked, although you should find it easily enough on the left just before the village of Feuilla; look out for the give-away wine-tractor or decorative Étoile du Matin boxes. Feuilla is the final frontier (derr dedd derr...) between Corbières, Fitou and Roussillon; and what a stunning setting too. I know I say that often enough, but you have to go there and you'll believe me! Geoffroy is one of an increasing number of young risk-taking growers either side of the Corbières, who’s crafting handmade, very natural and sometimes breathtaking wines (and sometimes a bit strange!): AOC, Vins de pays & table as fits his whim. He studied and worked in Burgundy, then a stint for the Roussillon’s one-and-only Hervé Bizeul, before settling here. His signature label (Syrah, Grenache and/or Carignan) is a wild-fruited powerful Corbières; there’s a peppery pure meaty Grenache rarity called Les Agnelles - actually, it’s got some Lladoner Pelut in it too, a disappearing Catalan variety thought to be related to Grenache (pelut means furry or pointy I think); and the 2006 was bottled without sulphur dioxide, something Geoffroy might continue to do depending on acidity levels etc. (starting with the 2007s) - and a slightly off-the-wall 100% Carignan. This estate should rapidly enter into every critic's Corbières top ten and is unquestionably one to keep an eye on. Tasted late October 2008:

2007 Védépé (2/3 Carignan, 13.5%) - still had a bit of a malo-lactic fermentation pong, but this went after a few days open (probably implying it will naturally after a few months in bottle: the 07s were only just bottled when I tried them and haven't been released yet). Moving on to nice depth of pure crunchy fruit, spicy and fresh mouth-feel with lively blueberry and black cherry finish. 87+
2007 Miss Tam Corbières (Syrah Carignan 13.5%) - similar slightly 'off' aromas at first, moving on to a more concentrated and powerful palate, again it has that hallmark purity and earthy spicy berry fruit; chocolate texture v lovely wild fruit v dry grip. Will be good. 89+
2006 Carignan - fragrant liquorice and wild herbs; crunchy v rich, powerful yet quite fine and long, refreshing fruit purity too. 90
2005 Carignan - developing smoky liquorice, lush peppery and concentrated mouth-feel, still firm tannins but beginning to melt with savoury/tobacco notes. Delicious. 90-92
2006 Les Agnelles (Grenache Lladoner Pelut) - very appealingliquorice and cinnamon with raspberry and blackberry; meaty tobacco edges to a grippier textured palate, again has delicious fruit on its long tasty finish, maturing yet very alive. 92+
2006 Patangame white (Grenache blanc Grenache gris) - declassified to vin de table because it has 20 grams/litre residual sugar (g/l RS: meaning it would have been 16%+ if fermented dry) and is a little atypical! Nutty oxidised tones with floral honeyed fruit; that touch of sweetness balances nicely with its power and fresh mineral acidity v toasted almond v milky yeast-lees notes too, then appley finish. Different! 90These wines are priced between €8 and €19. More Etoile du Matin wines here.

La Plantaire, Route de Treilles, 11510 Feuilla. Tel: 04 68 45 01 82, etoile.du.matin@wanadoo.frwww.etoiledumatin.com.

Languedoc: Domaine Adenis, Corbières

Nadine Franjus-Adenis has a background as a science journalist and broadcaster, who moved to the Corbières in the late 90s to "mettre les pieds sur terre," as she says on her website ("get back to my roots" or "a foothold on the land" type-stuff, man). A fascination for wine, and the powerful vineyard landscapes that characterise this eye-candy neck-of-the-woods, led to a winemaking degree in 2000 swiftly followed by her buying up a few plots of old vines near Ferrals. Nadine only makes two red wines, which she had on sampling at a tasting laid on by the Corbières people at Château Boutenac in late October 2008, including three vintages of her top one:

2002 Agapê Corbières-Boutenac (Carignan Grenache Syrah) - nice resiny fruit with meaty leather notes; mature and tasty palate with dry grip and dried fruit finish. 87-89
2003 Agapê - spicier and richer, showing a bit more wood and punch but there's lots of juicy ripe v savoury fruit; stylish and well-balanced for a heat-wave 2003. 89+
2004 Agapê - quite elegant and more closed up to start, attractive fruit and spice with a touch of oak in the background; concentrated v firm mouth-feel with fine length. Needs a couple of years to come out fully. 90+
2006 La Mariole Corbières (mostly Grenache) - youthful 'earthy' black cherry nose leading on to chunky fruity palate, nice style. 87+

UPDATE 2012: Nadine has sold her vineyards to focus on writing and journalism. For more on those vines to follow when I get some...

11200 Ferrals-les-Corbières. Tel: 04 68 43 62 77, www.domaine-adenis.com.

Languedoc: Château Sainte-Eulalie, Minervois La Livinière

Château Sainte-Eulalie

Tracking the wine-themed arrows out of the village of La Livinière up a lane heading for Calamiac, you should find (using eyesight rather than GPS) Château Sainte-Eulalie lying a good bit up the hill. Isabelle and Laurent Coustal bought this scenic estate in 1996 and are now making flavoursome, spicy and structured reds mainly from Syrah. If you call or email them in advance, they'll be pleased to take you on a spin around the property, where you get a fab view from the top (225 metres/700 feet) giving a snapshot vista of La Livinière appellation and its assorted, undulating, contoured vineyard terrain. The Coustal family also rent out a holiday cottage across the yard from the cellar, surrounded by postcard vines it goes without saying – see website for more info.

I visited Sainte-Eulalie end of October 2008, during Les Grands Chemins "Rencontres en Minervois" festival, and tasted (see updates below):
2006 La Cantilène Minervois La Livinière (50% Syrah + Grenache Carignan, 14% alc.) - dark cherry and chocolate on the nose, lightly toasted v rich and tasty, grippy tannins v nice 'sweet' texture; closes up on the finish with lingering oak dominating at the moment but this is promising and needs 6-12 months. €12 89+?

And three vintages of this wine were sampled at Montpellier's Vinisud show back in Feb. 2004:
2003 La Cantilène Minervois La Livinière (barrel sample) - Rich colour, spicy blackberry fruit and chocolate oak; structured backbone layered with ripe dense fruit, elegant finish too. 89
2001 La Cantilène - Attractive maturing rustic notes mix with tobacco and dark plum fruit, quite fine and tight showing elegant length and concentration. 89+
2002 La Cantilène - Floral notes to the liquorice and blackberry fruit, pure and mineral style with tight framework and bite set against concentrated fruit. 89

Latest: note on their 2008 La Livinière, Minervois report June 2011 and 2009 vintage posted June 2010.

34210 La Livinière. Tel: 04 68 91 42 72/06 03 89 13 41, info@chateausainteeulalie.comwww.chateausainteeulalie.com.

25 October 2008

Languedoc: Domaine de la Bouysse, Corbières

Domaine de la Bouysse

Martine Pagès and Christophe Molinier have been at the helm of La Bouysse since 1996, "following in grandpa's footsteps," as paraphrased from their website. Their AOC Corbières vineyards spread across two terroirs (if you can refer to such big areas using this elusive term) - Fontfroide and Boutenac - and they also make some nice white and red vin de pays varietals and blends.I've picked these two wines from a tasting laid on by the Corbières people at Château Boutenac in late October 2008:

2006 Corbières Roc-Long (Carignan Grenache Syrah) - a bit closed on the nose at first, moving on to attractive liquorice and black fruit palate with tobacco edges; quite rich v very firm and fresh framework, should be good in 6-12 months. 88+
2005 Corbières Mazérac (50% Carignan plus Grenache and sometimes a touch of Mourvèdre) - developing resiny fruit with liquorice and leather hints; quite full and powerful with dry chewy tannins yet maturing savoury fruit too; nice although feels like it's beginning to dry out? 87+

11200 St-André de Roquelongue. Tel: 04 68 45 50 34,www.domainedelabouysse.fr.

24 October 2008

Languedoc: Domaine Vordy, Minervois

The following wines are a couple of my pick from a variety of producers tasted at the end of October 2008, during Les Grands Chemins "Rencontres en Minervois" (annual wine, food and arts festival centred on the broodingly Mediaeval 'city' of Minerve and surrounding area - that link goes to the website), over dinner at the recommended Relais Chantovent in said awesomely old and haunting village (where I met and talked to Didier Vordy):

Domaine Vordy - Minerve vordy.monsite.wanadoo.fr
2005 cuvée Alice Minervois rouge (14%) - very spicy with ripe resiny wild fruits; powerful with light oak texture, closes up becoming firmer but very fruity too. 89+
2006 Liquoreux (late picked Grenache blanc & Terret, 80 grams/litre residual sugar, 14.5%) - quite complex honey, fig and quince notes/flavours v citrus and mineral freshness; nice balance and style, not too sweet nor too alcoholic not too old! 89+

23 October 2008

Languedoc: Domaine Tailhades Mayranne, Minervois

The following wines are some of my pick of a variety of producers tasted at the end of October 2008 during Les Grands Chemins "Rencontres en Minervois", an annual wine, food and arts festival centred on the broodingly Mediaeval village of Minerve (where Tailhades has a cellar cum shop), which has to be seen to be believed. Stunningly old and located...
Domaine Tailhades Mayranne - Minerve 
2007 Minervois blanc (Marsanne Maccabeo) - aromatic and floral nose v oily and quite powerful mouth-feel. Nice style. 85
2006 cuvée Elise Minervois rouge - attractive pure spicy Syrahfruit, good grip v depth of fruit with lively peppery finish. 87+

21 October 2008

Languedoc: Château Lacour Manoy, Corbières

Château Lacour Manoy

The Arnaud family has been nursing vines around here (near the village of Boutenac) for quite a while (originally set up shop in the 18th Century apparently). The present boss is André-Jacques, who's making some quite good reds as featured below, although admittedly I didn't like a couple of the others I tasted, and a reasonably attractive sweet white vin de pay. They also have two spacious holiday gites on the property - for info, click on their website lurking at the bottom of this blurb. I picked out these two wines, for your amusement, from a tasting organised by the Corbières people at Château Boutenac in late October 2008:

2002 cuvée Louis Domairon (50% old Carignan + Syrah Grenache) - vanilla notes lead on to savoury v resiny fruit with smoky edges; very firm mouth-feel (a little too perhaps), but it's got nice depth underneath even if essentially mature now. 87
2004 cuvée Louis Domairon - much richer and more concentrated with vibrant black fruits layered on spicy chocolate oak; promising I'd say with grippy v rounded texture. 89

11200 Montséret Tel: 04 68 433 959, www.aristidou.fr.

13 October 2008

Roussillon: Domaine Rouaud, Pézilla-la-Rivière

Jérôme Rouaud and his wife Sophie set up their domaine 6 years ago, farming nine hectares (22 acres) organically from the start; which means they got certified status from the 2005 vintage. Before that, Jérôme worked in the car industry in Paris (yawn) then for Nicolas wine shops; went to Bordeaux to study winemaking and viticulture, moved to the Roussillon to work as a winery assistant, and finally bought, ripped out and rebuilt an old cellar in Pézilla west of Perpignan.
Wines tasted June 2006:
2005 Têt blanc (Carignan blanc) - he has a few, rare white Carignan vines mixed in with the red ones. Mineral tones with light toast and creamy edges, fat mouthfeel v lively intensity v power too; interesting. 87+
2005 Frivole doux (Muscat petits-grains) - less residual sugar than Muscat de Rivesaltes with 33 grams/litre and 12% alc. Nice fresh grapey style, more medium dry really on its clean finish. 85
2004 Barbacane Grenache vin de pays Côtes Catalanes - attractive spicy black fruits with tobacco tones, ripe with soft tannins and attractive pure flavours. 87-89
2003 Côtes du Roussillon rouge (Syrah Carignan Grenache) - lovely dried fruits displaying liquorice and black cherry notes, appealing maturing spicy fruit with oily texture and background dry tannins; weighty length with lingering tobacco fruit. 89+
2004 Têt Pourpre Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Carignan Grenache) - more overt coconut oak immersed in delicious spicy fruit, blackberry/olive; full bodied with good depth v firm tannins, tight lively length, beginning to develop on the finish. 90+
2003 Tuilé (will go back into barriques before bottling) - intense peppery oxidised plum and tobacco aromas, rich and sweet v nice cut of alcohol.
2005 Frivole rosé vin de Pays Côtes Catalanes (purely so he can put Syrah Grenache on the label) - juicy red fruit style, quite chunky without being blowsy, nice fresh finish. 87
These wines are priced from around €5 to €10. More of them here and here.

Updates: the two reds below were tasted at the 2008 Millésime Bio wine show (Perpignan):
2005 Barbacane (100% Grenache) - smoky and rich style, a tad of awkward background wood that jars a little? Ripe v firm finish.
2006 Têt Pourpre, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Carignan Grenache) - lush spicy fruit set on chunky rounded tannins, very tight and lively finish. 89-91

October 2008 - I called in at Jérôme's cellar to see what was new: they now have 13 ha of vineyards after buying and leasing a few more parcels on the slopes just outside Pézilla.
2007 Frivole 'light red' (Grenache Syrah) - slightly fruity liquorice v crunchy black cherry, a bit of dry texture; neither one thing nor the other really: 80+. The 2008 from vat had nicer fruit.
2006 Barbacane (Grenache 13%) - delicious Grenache fruit showing liquorice, spice and turning slightly tobacco-ish; good depth v grip and length, well-balanced and attractive. 89+
2006 Têt Pourpre Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Carignan Syrah Grenache 13.5%) - a touch of subtle spicy oak on the nose and palate, but this has lots of lovely black fruits with savoury edges; solid structured finish, needs 6 to 12 months to open up more. 90-92
2006 Ganaxe Rivesaltes Grenat (Grenache muté sur grains) - enticing dark fruit with peppery and meaty edges; nice balance of sweetness, crunchy fruit and dry tannins. 88-90


7 Rue du Portal d’Amont, 66370 Pézilla-la-Rivière. Tel: 04 68 92 46 59, mobile: 06 98 17 22 81; rouaud.vigneron.66@orange.fr.

11 October 2008

Chocolate week at Gauchos 13-19 October

I, probably along with thousands of others, didn't know it was National Chocolate week in the UK next week; so Gauchos restaurants are offering what sounds like a tantalisingly South American choc based pudding matched with apparently "Argentina's first fortified red wine." So why not pop in and try their Chocolate Tres Leches with a glass of Malamado Malbec made by merit-worthy winery Familia Zuccardi (a tad steep perhaps at £12, pud and wine together that is, although I'm a bit out of touch with London prices). More info from: www.gauchorestaurants.co.uk and www.familiazuccardi.com (wasn't working when I tried).

Les Grands Chemins festival, Minervois

This enticingly arty-sounding event combines discovery and tasting of wines from the Minervois area with art exhibitions and a cinema festival rolled into one. It takes place from 24th October to 5th November 2008 in and around the awesome historic town of Minerve (worth the trip all by its self), kicking off with a wine weekend 24-26 October where you get to taste and visit producers in the Minervois and Minervois La Livinière appellations. More info and booking:
Syndicat d'Initiative de Minerve, 9 rue des Martyrs, 34210 Minerve. Tel/fax:, minerve.accueil@wanadoo.fr - www.les-grands-chemins.com.
Look at my posts in two or three weeks time for profiles of wineries visited on this trip.

10 October 2008

Roussillon: Domaine Lafage, Perpignan /Tordères / Maury

Les Onze Terrasses in Les Aspres - see below.
Eliane (nee Salinas) and Jean-Marc Lafage have been at the helm of this expanding, tri-location estate for a relatively short time (in the scheme of things), having both travelled and worked at different wineries from California to Australia for a few years beforehand. Overall, they now have 140 hectares (345 acres) of vineyards across the Roussillon. More than half of them, planted primarily with Grenache blanc, Muscat and Syrah, are located between Perpignan and Canet overlooking the sea; the original Lafage family estate which they took over from Jean-Marc's father in 2001. The winery has since been refitted and a cellar-cum-shop renovated next to it, where you can taste the whole range (my first visit there and tasting of their wines - see below* - was in October 2006).
Back in 1996, they'd already bought about 30 ha of terraced vineyards called Le Vignon, near Tordères in central-southern Roussillon towards the mountains in an area called Les Aspres. It was largely remodelled and is home to Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Marsanne and Muscat (see my October 2008 update below). Continuing the altitude theme, they also have a few plots in the wilds of the Agly valley, not far from Maury, planted with Muscat, Grenache and Carignan. These very different terroirs, to use the terrifying T word, allow them to fashion very good examples of all the regional styles; from dry and sweet whites - including one of the best, award-winning Chardonnays I've tried from round this way - a tasty gourmet rosé, intricate reds such as their Cuvée Léa to traditional aged Vins Doux Naturels.
2007 update: Waitrose (upmarket UK supermarket chain) listed two of Lafage's red and white Roussillon wines for their April/May 'showcase'; and I heard rumours that they'd bought Château Saint Roch (see A to Z) in Maury, but admittedly I wasn't able to go along to a couple of recent events they put on so haven't asked them what the latest is! Watch this space... Yes indeed, Saint-Roch is being integrated into the Lafage empire.

*2005 Côté Chardonnay - exotic honeyed nose (maybe some botrytis in there?), full & creamy but not oaky, quite rich fruit v fresh mineral intensity and very light coconut spice. 89+
*2005 Centenaire
Côtes du Roussillon blanc (mostly Grenache Blanc) - quite complex herbal honey and wild flower notes, nice freshness v weight and subtle spicy wood. 87
*2005 Côté Muscat sec - zippy and gummy, elegant grape and clementine flavours, nice length and bite. 87
*2005 Parfum de Vignes Côtes du Roussillon rosé - delicious floral red fruit cocktail, quite concentrated and chunky with fine dry finish bathed in aromatic fruit. 87-89
*2003 Côté Grenache noir (14.5%) - a bit cold and oxidised (been open for a few days); however, it shows attractive liquorice and leather tones, powerful mouth-feel yet not out of kilter thanks to some freshness and dry grip.
*2003 Cuvée Léa, Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres (Grenache Syrah Carignan) - interesting mixture of delicate smokiness and coconut v earthy yet ripe black fruits; a touch of oak notes and texture balanced by sufficient fruit, power and panache. 89-91
*2005 Grain de Vignes Muscat de Rivesaltes - lovely fresh fruit, once again offering zesty bite v extract, not so sweet in the end. 87-89
*2003 Rimage Rivesaltes Tuilé (Grenache) - quite closed up to start, meaty v black fruit undertones, tight and concentrated with light oak texture v depth of sweet fruit; needs a few years to mellow. 90-92
*1998 Vintage Rivesaltes (Grenache) - appealing savoury maturity v fig and raisin richness, quite chunky tannins v meaty fruit and sugar; drinking nicely now. 88-90

Lafage update October 2008
I was invited to clamber up the spectacularly located Le Vignon to witness the makings of 2008 vintage Les Onze Terrasses, their premium red wine sourced from selected parcels which are left until around mid October before picking. The view really is magnificent from just above the top of the vineyards, planted up to about 300 metres (950 feet), where you can see the terraced contours rolling down the slope (pictured above) and all points south (the Albères hills along the border with Spain), east (the Med), north (the Corbières) and, over the other side, Mont Canigou west-ish.
2005 Les 11 Terrasses is a blend of hand-selected Syrah (mostly), Carignan and Grenache, which are literally sorted grape by grape - removing any under- or over-ripe or rotten berries - and put directly into 500 litre barrels in situ. A bit of a publicity stunt perhaps, but there can't be many in the region making a red like this. There were two barrels this year the day I was there, but the quantity bottled of the 2005 suggests three. Apparently these are left for ten days, taken to the cellar then pressed down with wooden plungers and allowed to bubble away, with squashed whole berries still inside, for a further six to eight weeks before being emptied into a vat. After pressing, the wine goes back into new barrels for about 20 months. The 2005 was first released in Dec. 07, and 2006 will be available this Christmas; the attractive modernist label is designed by local artist Patrick Loste. 'T 11' is already sold in Belgium, Germany, Japan and the US, I'm told; I'll have to check the price but I know it's suitably expensive! Les Onze Terrasses (15%) - rather chocolate oak dominated to start although has lovely black fruits lurking underneath, gradually opens up to show depth, spicy intensity and purity; dark chocolate rounded texture v freshness, black olive & ripe blueberry flavours. Despite the oak (I can't help thinking they should take it out of barrel sooner), it does have nice balance and some kind of elegance, surprisingly that high alcohol is quite well-integrated. Went well with black pudding, saucisson and chorizo; a bit overpowering for the cured ham. Needs a couple of years to express itself better. 90+

More Lafage here (2009 Saint-Bacchus awards).
Plus the latest medal-winning vintages of some of these wines are featured HERE (World Grenache Competition 2013).

Mas Miraflors, Route de Canet, 66000 Perpignan. Tel: 04 68 80 35 82, contact@domaine-lafage.com, domaine-lafage.com.

Fair Wind Wine

The latest in slightly mad but why-not, eco-friendly marketing ideas comes from Sud de France - South of France wines, who recently shipped in a stash of bottles from the Languedoc and Roussillon into London by sail (having done the same into Dublin back in July). According to their blurb, "each bottle transported will have saved 4.9 oz of carbon emissions." I guess we'll have to take their word for it. The 100 year-old sailing ship Kathleen & May was moored at St. Katharine’s Dock until today, Friday October 10th, where they held a tasting of the wave-soothed wines for the trade and press, before they make their way into your local wine shop presumably (by electric lorry perhaps?!).


'Red is for wine, blood, revolution, colour... A time-warped slice of mystery, murder, history, fantasy, crime, art, cinema, love...' Buy the e-book or paperback novel on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. Click here to view the RED blog!