"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 January 2009

Roussillon: Mas dels Clots, Salses le Château

From www.masdesclots.comMichel Piquemal took over this off the beaten track estate in 1982, which is lost in the middle of nowhere almost into the Corbières (you need to take the Opoul road out of Salses under the motorway, keep going and follow the sign to the right until you run out of 'road'). Michel works all his 30 ha/75 acres himself and organically as well, which he says "is good for export but in France most people don't care!" The predominant varieties planted are Grenache and Mourvèdre, and he makes about 60% red wines, 30% VDN and 10 rosé/white.
Like many growers in the region, he despairs at the Roussillon's (unjustifiably) wanting image especially outside France, with the Languedoc usually hogging the limelight: "don't talk to me about the Languedoc, we're Catalan here!" There was some underlying irony there, especially as the Mas is a stone's throw from the 'border' with the Aude region and hence Languedoc. However, he thinks the 'South of France' labelling-idea could be good for some producers, whereas "I'm small small small." Meaning it's better for growers like him to focus on
terroir and "micro-cuvées" to keep a point of difference and sharper identity, even if it makes this kind of wines more complicated to understand: "it's also their very charm," as Michel put it. On the entertainment front, he occasionally organises tastings with vineyard barbeque in conjunction with other organic growers. The MDC wines are reasonably priced too: from €4.50 to €6.50 for the reds and €8 to €11.30 for VDNs.

I tasted these two vat/barrel samples in March 2007:
2006 blend of mostly Grenache and Syrah - lovely fruit and spice v grip and power, fresh bite too on its long finish. 87-89
2005 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (after 18 months in oak) - nice spicy coconut backdrop to a tight firm palate; good depth of black fruits, length and again freshness.
2009 Update: the opera-themed wines below were tasted with Michel at this year's Millésime Bio wine show (Montpellier Jan. 2009). By the way, his prices haven't changed much: €5 to €6.50 for white, rosé and reds; and €7.50 to €11.30 for quite a variety of VDN styles, as you'll see:
2007 cuvée Aïda Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Carignan) - nice juicy spicy fruit, soft-ish tannins v punchy finish. 83-85
2005 cuvée Casta Diva Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - touch of vanilla oak v juicy black cherry and liquorice, firm v rounded finish. 85+
2006 cuvée Tosca Côtes du Roussillon Villages (50/50 Grenache Syrah) - vibrant black cherry and liquorice notes; gripping dry texture v fruity flavours, quite powerful too (14.5%) but not out of kilter. 87+
Rivesaltes ambré Hors d'Age (Grenache Gris & Macabeu: base wine is 2003 + some much older giving an average age of about 10 years) - beginning to turn toffeed and pecan nutty with shades of very sweet raspberries; nutty caramelised flavours v spicy and lively, complex and long. 89+
1995 Rancio (Grenache Gris & Macabeu: aged using a solera system) - wow, more raisiny and oxidised with rich walnut notes; tastes drier but it isn't, very long and intricate v punchy finish. 92+
2003 Muscat de Rivesaltes (barrique-aged style) - cooked orange peel aromas, vanilla and marmalade on the palate, rounded and sweet v refreshing bite; unusual and very nice. 89+
Mas dels Clots, 66600 Salses le Château. Tel: 04 68 64 20 13, mobile 06 61 20 99 40; michel.piquemal@masdesclots.com, www.masdesclots.com.

Roussillon: Château Monty

"Château" Monty: inverted commas as it's not really a Chateau but the name of writer, biodynamic consultant and now broadcaster-winemaker Monty Waldin's TV programme (shown autumn 2008 on Channel 4 in the UK) and book; as you can see from the picture I stole off his website: click on the link below. So, for those of you who watched and/or read it; you already know the 'trials & tribulations' story about Monty's dream to rent a vineyard (in the northern Roussillon, from friend and mentor Eric Laguerre), farm it and produce grapes using biodynamic principles and methods, make a red wine and sell it to a British wine merchant. All set to a rather nice backdrop, of course, giving you a good feel for what it's like to try to be as natural a winegrower as possible.
For more info on biodynamics etc., again have a look at his site as he knows more about it than me by a long way; also click here for a report I did on a biodynamic growers' tasting three years ago, with a few words from Nicolas Joly. Monty now lives in Tuscany most of the time, when he's not mixing up his witches' brews in St-Martin de Fenouillet. Anyway, I bumped into him at this year's Millésime Bio wine show (Jan 2009, Montpellier), where he had samples of his 2008 wines hidden underneath Eric's stand. He's made a white and rosé too this vintage, by the way; all three are available in the UK in Adnam's wine shops at £8.99. 
Here's my verdict for what it's worth:

2008 Monty's white (Macabeu) - aromatic and appley v light exotic fruit and a tad of creaminess; fresh and mineral mouth-feel v touch of weight and nice length. 87+
July 2009: I tried the bottled version of the white, blind in fact, and found it more appley and real cider like with nutty, verging on oxidising actually, peach stone edges; lost a bit of its zesty side although it's definitely quite wild and funky, if that's your thing. 85+
2008 Monty's rosé - steely crisp style with elegant rose petal and red fruit notes; again nice dry zesty finish. 87
2008 Monty's red (Carignan + a tad of Syrah) - delicious aromatic crunchy blueberry and cassis fruit; tasty palate turning more savoury on the finish, good mix of nice quaffer v substance and grip. 87+

Update: the 2009 vintage Chateau Monty wines are from and made in Tuscany, as that's where he lives now, so I'll report back if and when I get the chance to try them... And the new edition of Monty's book on biodynamic wines is now available, print-on-demand, from lulu.com. More info @ www.montywaldin.com

27 January 2009

Organic Burgundy: Boyer, Giboulot, Goisot, de Suremain, Tripoz

Domaine Renaud Boyer - Meursault

Renaud Boyer is a relatively recent arrival in the village of Meursault (although his family is no stranger to vines and vino), where you'll find his winery and office; the organically nurtured vineyards are scattered across three other nearby appellations with equally famous names, as you can see below (sampled at Millésime Bio wine fair, Montpellier January 2009). Racy, taut and at first not very revealing wines that appear to need much more time in bottle...
2005 Puligny-Montrachet Les Reuchaux (Chardonnay) - unusual wild herbal nose moving on to the palate too; spicy green notes v weighty and lush, very crisp acidity closing up on its appley finish.
2006 Saint-Romain (Pinot Noir) - delicate pure 'sweet & savoury' aromas / flavours, almost raisined yet meaty too; firm and fresh mouth-feel and tight finish but it should come out in a year or two. 88+
2006 Beaune Les Prévolles (Pinot Noir) - more raisiny and developed v tight juicy structure, refined perfumed 'sweet & savoury' style.

Domaine Emmanuel Giboulot - Beaune

Emmanuel Giboulot has 10 ha (25 acres) of red and white varieties (well, Chardy and Pinot as it goes without saying) that charm their way into as many different appellations / labels - that's real Burgundy for you I guess. He's been applying organic and now biodynamic ideas and techniques to his vineyards, environment and wines since 1985; aided and abetted by Pierre Fenals in the field and Cristina Otel in the cellar. Here are four of them tried and tested at Millésime Bio wine show, Montpellier Jan. 2009:
2007 Terres Burgondes Vin de Pays (Chardonnay) - attractive creamy notes with light wood backdrop, nuttier finish with oily v zippy texture. 85+
2007 Côte de Beaune La Grande Chatelaine (Chardonnay) - closed on the nose, moves on to full creamy mouth-feel with subtle toast, exotic fruit v mineral freshness; closes up again, quite fine and promising. 89+
2006 Côte de Beaune La Combe d'Eve (Chardonnay) - much nuttier and more oxidised/oxidative in style; rounded hazelnut palate with fresh dry bite. 89
2007 Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits Sous le Mont (Pinot Noir) - evasive on the aroma front at the moment; subtle spicy 'sweet & savoury' flavours, perfumed too v quite lean and structured. Give it a year. 85+
Previous Giboulot vintages here (Millésime Bio 2005).

Domaine Goisot - Saint-Bris-le-Vineux

This family estate, steered by Ghislaine and Jean-Hugues Goisot, is really old apparently: 14th-Century roots according to their website. There's quite a bit of illuminating info on that site (link below), although it does include the odd irksome cliché: e.g. "wine is made in the vineyard blah blah." True to an extent for sure but, hey, those machines and barrels don't just sit there unused. Apologies for the rant, as Ghislaine & Jean-Hugues's wines are rather good - I tried the ones below at Millésime Bio wine show in Montpellier in January 2009, meaning it's another organically farmed operation to join these increasingly organic pages. St-Bris and Irancy, lying just south of the town of Auxerre, are north north in Burgundian terms: some might quip it isn't really Burgundy-proper but it is quite close to (and southwest of) Chablis, even if the very southern part of the Champagne region is also surprisingly near(ish). Enough of the geography lesson:
2007 Bourgogne Côtes d'Auxerre (Chardonnay) - delicious elegant buttery v mineral aromas and flavours, poise and finesse to finish. 88-90
2007 Saint-Bris Moury (Sauvignon "or Sauvignon jaune or Sauvignon fumé"?!) - steely citrus and green fruit nose and initial mouth-feel; also has yeast-lees richness and oilier texture giving it roundness v that crisp finish. 87
2006 Côtes d'Auxerre Corps de Garde (Pinot Noir) - enticing pure perfumed Pinot aromas, 'sweet & savoury' style; fine and fresh palate with leathery and velvety touches. 88-90
2006 Irancy Les Mazelots (Pinot Noir) - similar but richer v firmer, tight acid structure and closes up on the finish with underlying 'sweet & savoury' profile; needs longer I think. 89+

Domaine Eric de Suremain - Monthélie

Farmed and star-charted according to the biodynamic cosmos since 1996, which must make them right old hippies in the scheme of things since most people (including me) hadn't even heard of BD then. Jesting aside (as anyone who's read anything on this site will know, I might like to tease a little on the subject of biodynamic goings-on; but am a follower at the end of the day). Anyway, having met them at Millésime Bio wine show in Montpellier in Jan. 2009; they aren't old, just wise I'd say looking at the five wines I tasted, below. They don't have a website (?) so I can't copy a picture for you; no doubt a good thing though, as they probably spend lots of time in the vineyard - near their home, the charming-looking Château de Monthélie sandwiched between Volnay, Meursault and Auxey-Duresses; and also in the Rully appellation about 10km to the south - rather than messing around updating a website. Eric de Suremain's ("steady hand" literally) wines appear to be well-distributed from what turned up in a Google search: Justerini's in the UK, for example.
2006 Rully Premier Cru (Chardonnay) - quite steely and mineral in style with crisp intense mouth-feel, although there's very light creamy oily touches to finish with; still young it seems. 87+?
2004 Rully Premier Cru (Chardonnay) - coming across as much richer and more mature, nice mix of butter v celery notes; lovely balance and length, concentration too as the palate unfurls. 89-91
2006 Rully 1er Cru Préaux (Pinot Noir) - attractive combination of 'sweet' raisiny cherry fruit and savoury edges; firm and fresh mouth-feel v lush yet lively, again appears youthful and powerful (the 06s do I guess). 88-90
2006 Château de Monthélie (Pinot Noir) - much more open than the other 06s, showing lovely perfumed Pinot style; turning savoury and tasty on the palate with firm tannins and acidity, subtle long finish. 90-92
2004 Château de Monthélie, Monthélie 1er Cru Sur la Velle (Pinot Noir) - a bit extracted and dry although it does have some nice floral 'sweet & savoury' character on the finish. I guess the 04 reds are less charming than the 06s. 89?

Domaine Tripoz - Loché

Céline and Laurent Tripoz have 11 hectares (27 acres) spread around the village of Loché (quite literally: there's a nice aerial shot pinpointing the different plots on their website) in the region known as the Mâconnais, at the southern end of Burgundy (actually not far from some of the northern Beaujolais Villages appellations such as Juliénas or Saint-Amour). They've converted over to organics within the last few years and have been certified biodynamic (by Demeter) since the 2006 vintage. I particularly liked their Crémant, which is a 'Nature' style i.e. no added sugar so completely dry; although I wasn't fond of their Bourgogne rouge. These whites and the fizz were tried at Millésime Bio wine show held in Montpellier in Jan. 2009:
Crémant de Bourgogne Nature - appley v toasty and biscuity; elegant mouth-watering palate, on the one hand very dry yet has nice honeyed biscuit flavours too. Yum. 90
2007 Mâcon-Loché (Chardonnay) - ripe and creamy v fresh and mineral, attractively buttery cut by fresh acidity. 87-89
2007 Mâcon-Vinzelles Les Morandes (Chardonnay) - Chablis-like steely green edges moving on to more buttery and rounded mouth-feel, again mineral freshness and length. 88-90
2007 Pouilly-Loché Réserve (Chardonnay) - lightly toasty nose getting oakier on the palate; big and rounded, again with refreshing acidity but it's a tad too woody in the end. 85

24 January 2009

Languedoc: Borie La Vitarèle, Saint-Chinian

UPDATED JAN 2014 (goes there) - and see links at bottom too.

Certified organic and farmed along biodynamic lines by Cathy Planès and Jean François Izarn, this charming 16 ha/40 acre property is lost in the countryside beyond the village co-op (it's nicely signposted though). Their Saint-Chinian appellation wines are labelled by vineyard site, such as Les Schistes (more than one type of schist, obviously: plural schists sounds odd in English) or Terres Blanches (chalk & clay), reflecting the varieties planted and nurtured across different plots and soils. They also appear to have been quite successful with Cabernet and, more surprisingly, Merlot (see notes below) in this area since setting up the domaine in 1990. Cathy and Jean François can also provide full-blown meals in their cosy ferme-auberge (farmhouse-inn literally) for a minimum of ten people,if booked in advance (including a good dose of organic food, I assume, matched with the estate's wines), which must be a great way to integrate the actual flavours of their labours, andphilosophy, with good hearty local produce.

I tasted these in situ in November 2007:
2006 La Cuvée des Cigales, Vin de Pays des Coteaux de Murviel (Grenache Merlot) – nice fruity spicy style showing a bit of grip and depth too, easy drinking and ready to do so. 83-85
2006 Terres Blanches, St-Chinian (80% 
Grenache 20% Syrah) – attractive rich black cherry fruit with liquorice tones, quite chunky tannins v fruit concentration, power and length; needs a few months at least to open up, lovely length and style. 89-91
2001 La Combe, Vin de Pays des Coteaux de Murviel (60% 
Cabernet Sauvignon plus Syrah Merlot) – appealing 'volatile' complexity and developing fruit, meaty with perfumed cassis edges; maturing palate v rather stonky tannins, powerful yet lush finish. 88-90

And these at Millésime Bio wine show Jan 2009, Montpellier:
2008 Terres Blanches (vat sample) - lovely intensity of peppery black cherry and cassis fruit; firm and 'chalky' texture v fruity and silkily structured. 89+
2007 Les Schistes (
Grenache Syrah Carignan) - firmer and more structured v richer mouth-feel, very spicy dark fruit with power and promise. 90-92
2007 La Combe (
Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah) - smokier and more rustic, very chunky and solidly textured v ripe cassis and prune, again powerful finish. 90
2006 Les Cr
ès (Syrah Mourvèdre) - still a bit closed on the nose, concentrated and very firm with a tad of coco/chocolate oak; pretty huge and quite extracted but also has nice developing tobacco edges and plenty of lush fruit. Needs 6-12 months to come together properly. 92+?

View my notes on more BLV wines by clicking here (Millésime Bio 2006) and here (Montpellier 2005).

UPDATES: latest La Vitarèle HERE (special St-Chinian supplement Jan 2014), here (St-Chinian report April 2011 inc. their Terres Blanches 2009 & 2010 vintages) and here (2009 vintage report, June 2010).

La Combe, 34490 Causses-et-Veyran. Tel: 04 67 89 50 43, fax: 04 67 89 70 79; jf.izarn@libertysurf.frwww.borielavitarele.fr.

23 January 2009

Languedoc: Château La Baronne, Corbières

Paul, Anne, André, Suzette and JeanI'm a bit lacking in the information department here, although pretty sure the property is located in the Fontcouverte area, just south of Lézignan and the lovely A61 motorway (although you don't notice it most of the time). Their sales guy showed me (at Millésime Bio wine show, Jan. 2009 Montpellier) some geological maps of the various plots and what's planted where (more interesting than it sounds, "can I show you my geological maps, ooh err..."). Anyway, let the wines do the talking shall we as they're pretty good... Update: have since found a website (added below), La Baronne is owned by the Ligneres family (pic.).

2005 Las Vals white (Grenache gris, Roussanne & Vermentino) - oily nutty developing style, quite fat and rounded with yeast-lees creaminess and toast v still fresh on the finish actually. 87+
2005 Pièce de Roche (very old Carignan: "the 1892, unmistakeable...") - perfumed floral Carignan nose with a tad of coconut oak underneath; rich, powerful and concentrated v minty and lively, firm tannins yet lush texture and dark fruit too. 90+
2005 Alaric (Syrah Carignan Mourvèdre) - quite rich and dark with black pepper and chocolate oak tones; nicely textured and concentrated with big lush mouth-feel v solid and dry, lovely underlying fruit. 90+
2005 Las Vals red (Mourvèdre) - smoky and ripe with a black olive twist; sumptuous depth and concentration, powerful firm finish. 90+

11700 Fontcouverte. Tel: 04 68 43 90 20, www.familleligneres.com.

21 January 2009

Languedoc: Domaine La Borie-Fouisseau, Faugères

Domaine La Borie-Fouisseau

Véronique Vaquer-Bergan's perhaps promising, small estate amounts to seven ha (17 acres) lying on dry stoney slopes, with some vines planted at up at 500 metres altitude, around the dead little village of Laurens in deepest Faugères country. Although Béziers is only half-an-hour or so south of here, you don't have to go too far north before you hit the edges of fairly serious mountain ranges. Véronique is Ecocert organic-certified and at the moment makes just three AOC red wines, which I sampled at Millésime Bio wine show in January 2009 in Montpellier.

2006 La Salamandre (Grenache Cinsault Syrah Carignan) - a bit closed up and firm to start, some dark fruit lurking underneath; I wasn't sure about it, at that moment at least.
2004 Garance (mostly Mourvèdre) - warm spicy garrigue tones with black olive and dried fruits, very aromatic; solid powerful mouth-feel v fragrant fruit and wild herb edges; lively and different. 89
2005 Clara (mostly Grenache) - 'vinous' nose with lots of liquorice, very firm tannins on a punchy palate; a touch over-extracted but it's intriguing and promising. 

10 Avenue de la Gare, 34480 Laurens. Tel: 06 18 38 00 60,vaquerdago@aol.com.

01 January 2009

Languedoc: Château Grand Moulin, Corbières

Château Grand Moulin

Jean-Noel Bousquet relocated his winery to the Lézignan ring road, after his cellar collapsed before his eyes during the incredible floods the area was subjected to in winter 1999. However, he took it as a good opportunity to rebuild and remodel things to suit a shift in growing and winemaking philosophy, plus incorporate a smart new tasting reception area and shop. The estate has now expanded beyond 100 ha (250 acres) in size, some of which is 
classified as Corbières-Boutenac AOC (a fairly recent sub-appellation centred on the village of Boutenac, about half-an-hour southwest of Narbonne, and also home to the Corbières police force... I mean, appellation authorities) starting with the 2005 vintage.

These wines were sampled February-March 06:
2001 Corbières
 Terres Rouges (Syrah, Grenache & Carignan, 13.5%) - a little closed and awkward on the nose, yet shows spicy lightly earthy black cherry/currant fruit with perfumed oak overtones; powerful, tight mouthful of smoky black fruits and chocolate vanilla then firm/tart, dry and long finish. Needs time as the oak and acidity/tannins are a bit out of kilter at the moment, but it should blossom in 2-5 years. 89-91
 Terres Rouges (12.5%) - lovely developed smoky nose, liquorice and spice, ripe raisiny black cherry fruit with tobacco notes; soft elegant palate set against remaining dry grip and attractive long finish. 91-93
1998 Corbières Vieilles Vignes (12.5%) - mature intricate aromas, savoury raisins and prunes with leather undertones; supple refined palate, nice depth of 'sweet' fruit v light dry tannin backdrop. Drinking now yet should reward from a couple more years ageing.90-922001 Vieilles Vignes (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan & Mourvèdre) - complex smoky nose, appealing liquorice and prune fruit; soft tannins layered with well handled oak, elegant dry finish with ripe fruits lingering too. 88-90
2005 La Tour rosé (CinsaultSyrah, Grenache & Mourvèdre, 13%) - fresh and crisp style: very lively tangy red fruits showing good extract v elegance and juiciness, zesty and long. 87
2002 Corbières blanc, fermenté et élevé en futs (Grenache BlancVermentino & Macabeu) - toasty, oily and oxidising nose leads to milky yeasty weight and tanginess, rich palate finishing quite fat although there's still some fresh acidity underneath; quite good if you like this oaky style. 84

Grand Moulin update November 2008-January 2009

2007 La Tour 
Corbières rosé (13%) - nice dry and full style with creamy red fruit palate, quite elegant yet big enough to go with many different dishes. €4.60 85+
2007 La Tour 
Corbières white - citrus and honey aromas, floral notes on a rounded v crisp palate, appealing style. €5.20 85+
La Tour Corbières red - fragrant black cherry and cassis with light vanilla and liquorice edges; attractive fruity mouth-feel and style with dry bite to finish. €5.20 85-87
2005 Vieilles Vignes 
Corbières red - richer with a tad of chocolate oak showing, quite concentrated dark fruit cocktail with chocolate texture, firm and powerful yet well-balanced. Good value too at €6.90. 88-90
 Terres Rouges Corbières red - smokier with wild herbs, liquorice and plum notes; solid mouth-feel with fair muscle, concentration and length; again well-balanced with nice, understated coco oak texture and subtle grip. €9.80 89-91
Corbières-Boutenac red (14.5%) - more coconutty new oak on the nose but it has lush smoky dark fruits too, firm solid texture and punch; tasty and promising, closes up on the finish. Dear though at €14.50. 90+

6 Boulevard Maréchal Galliéni (RN113), 11200 Lézignan-Corbières. Tel: 04 68 27 40 80, contact@chateau-grand-moulin.com / chateaugrandmoulin@wanadoo.frwww.chateau-grand-moulin.com.

Roussillon: Domaine des Balmettes, Cases-de-Pène

2013 UPDATE - see below.

Lucien Salani is, like his friend Geoffroy Marchand at Etoile du Matin, one of an increasing band of young risk-taking growers with vineyards either side of the Corbières, who is making handmade, natural and whimsical wines; sometimes breathtaking, sometimes just a little too off-the-wall for some. All of Lucien's wines are simply labelled 'Côtes Catalanes' and most of them are varietal too, although it doesn't say so on the label. Each one is named after the plot(s) where a particular variety is planted - and more specifically the type of trees alongside - reflecting the different soils and, perhaps more importantly, varied lie of the land and micro-climate that characterise his vineyards as a whole. So, paraphrasing, each wine strives to say more about terroir, or rather the different terroirs you find here, than so-called appellation, Lucien believes.

For instance, out of eight hectares (expanded from the original four when he 'launched' back in 2003) he has spreading out from the back of Cases-de-Pène towards the hills above Espira; there's "Grenache facing all ways, Syrah facing south" and a few white vines here and there too. Despite the fact that his Syrah turns out a cracking wine, Lucien thinks: "Grenache and Carignan are the best adapted varieties here... Syrah also doesn't live as long (max 60-70 years)... And why have Mourvèdre if you have to treat it because it ripens late. The ideal is to get good ripe grapes without intervening with chemicals... and (for example) using traditional field selection to choose the most resistant plants" (as opposed to clonal selection or GM). On the winemaking front, he no longer de-stems the grapes (whole bunch fermentation) and is trying to move towards using zero sulphur dioxide (already quite low).

These wines were tasted, and some of them re-tasted, between October 2008 and January 2009:

2007 Les Agaves (Macabeu) - tasty, nutty and tangy; mineral freshness v honeyed floral fullness, dry and quite fine finish.
2007 Les Amandiers (Grenache on mostly marl, 14%) - ripe, smoky, tobacco-tinged black fruit and liquorice cocktail; turning meaty on the palate with lively gripping mouth-feel, tasty and long. 90
2007 Les Oliviers (Grenache on mostly schist, south and north facing parcels picked 2 weeks later, 14%) - less developed and smoky, much tighter and firm-textured mouth-feel with a tad of chocolate; nice depth of fruit underneath those currently big tannins, needs 6-12 months to open up. 90-92
2007 Les Figuiers (Syrah 14%) - slightly reductive yet smoky nose with wild cherry and herbs; again very ripe v savoury, very firm and powerful, dark fruit v dry texture. Needs 1-2 years to open up. Yum. 92+

2008s tasted from vat:
- lovely, nutty and savoury, rounded v fresh.
Grenache Blanc - more exotic and fatter, powerful v crisp finish.
Grenache Gris - pinky/copper colour, deliciously spicy and full v lively and with a touch of grip even.
Agaves (red) - gorgeous fruit v meat v grip.
Oliviers - big structure and concentration but nice tannins.
Les Balmettes ('Grenache Ouest' = west: new cuvée about to go into barrel) - more austere with coating of extract/tannins v lovely dark cherry and choco twist.
Syrah - rich and dark, big concentration and tannins layered with deep fruit.
2007 Muscat de Rivesaltes (15.5%, 100 grams/litre residual sugar) - rich and honeyed with attractive freshness so doesn't taste so sweet; oily textured peachy fruit v refreshing pear flavours, much crisper finish than most. 87+
2005 Les Oliviers (14%) - maturing smoky rustic nose with fig and cooked black cherries, cheesy / savoury with volatile complexity; meaty palate with leather notes and liquorice, grippy textured tannins v concentrated wild fruit v maturing 'real cider' flavours. Something in the background like it's a tad corked? Coming back to it: ageing quite quickly yet still has a kind-of wild intensity, richer mouth-feel with more liquorice and peppery now, turning more savoury and softer v firm and powerful. Still has ever so slightly 'musty' finish but it doesn't smell corked though? 90
2006 Les Oliviers (14%) - funky/reductive(?), slightly volatile 'real cider' aromas layered with 'sweet' dried black fruit, fig and wild herbs; very concentrated & ripe with tobacco and leather edges, very solid dry coating with big spicy finish, although it's comfortable with itself. At least, it will be as it closes up a little with lots of grip v lightly savoury fruit. Not sure. Next day: less funky, more complex with dried herbs/fruit, lush liquorice and smoky too; dry coating v ripe maturing fruit with leather, fig and baked apple; tasty and savoury v structured finish. 89+
2007 Les Oliviers (14%) - complex volatile wood-smoke notes v very ripe dried fruit, liquorice v peppery herbs, toffee apple and very light leather too; very concentrated, lush & rounded v solid dry tannins, 'sweet' liquorice and fig then tight closing up finish; needs a year to come out fully. Next: intense ripe fruit with wild/volatile edges v big structure and bite; a one-off. 92+

Click here for more Balmettes ('Top Languedoc & Roussillon over €10 tasting').

2013 update
Lucien has launched a couple of 'blended' wines featuring a mix of varieties, despite what I/he said above! Meant as easy-going 'range openers' though. The red is: 2012 L'Herbe rouge (Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre) - crunchy berry vs liquorice profile, fair depth actually with earthy edges and nice fruit.
2011 Les Figuiers (Syrah) - 'inky' and intense, concentrated with almost odd mix of fresh vs very ripe mouth-feel, lively and peppery with tight firm finish, nice tannins though. Should be good when it opens out a little.
2012 Les Agaves blanc (Macabeu) - wild cider vs apricot aromas, lively and fresh palate with intense crisp bite, hints of orange peel yet exotic and quite rich too. Wow!

2 Rue des Jaoumets, 66600 Cases-de-Pène. Tel: 04 68 38 16 03 / 06 09 58 17 35, lesbalmettes.com.


'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!