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31 March 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Hylari, Estagel

Jean-Michel and Isabelle Hylari are based in the village of Estagel, where the micro-winemaking takes place in a cosy backstreet cellar, and have another barrel cellar in nearby Tautavel (both found northwest of Perpignan). They concentrate on making small quantities of distinctive reds, dry whites and complex fortified Rivesaltes: cask-aged red Tuilé & 'white' (as in varieties used but the wines aren't at all in colour) Ambré styles as well as youthful Muscat. Wines below sampled at the Fenouillèdes wine tastings in the region in January 2005 and April 2007, and when I called in at the winery in autumn 2005 and March 2009.
Jean-Michel once took me for a spin past some of the 'new' vineyards he's purchased; actually a few old parcels between Estagel and Maury (not far from Mas Amiel) packed with crumbly dark grey schist and big pebbles. He's also been selectively replanting or re-trellising some Syrah while maintaining treasured old Grenache (red and white) and Carignan. Good to see he remains a fan of Mourvèdre too, which plays a supporting role in the intricate screenplay behind his quadruple-blend red wines. Jean-Michel hopes his son and daughter will get involved in the family estate, not a given nowadays (young French people probably don't think there's any money in wine, wonder where they get that idea from!), once they've finished their studies to bring a new winemaking and marketing dimension perhaps.

Dry white

2005 Muscat sec – still fresh and mineral, ripe fruity palate v zingy elegant and long. 85-87
2004 Muscat sec Vin de Pays Catalan (13%) - Very floral, grapey and zesty with lemon and orange peel notes; fresh and crisp palate with quite good weight too. 87


2005 Coeur de Gamme Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Carignan Mourvèdre) – spicy fruit and background dark chocolate oak vs quite rich black fruit cocktail; firm vs rounded mouthfeel with light vanilla and coconut tannins and texture; perhaps slightly smokier, riper and more forward now, tasty and well-made. 89
2005 Haut de Gamme Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Carignan Mourvèdre from selected barrels) – quite similar at first, although you get the impression it has firmer structure and is more concentrated / powerful ("there's no real difference in alcohol strength or varietal blend," J-M confirmed, so it's all down to nuances in barrique-ageing and arduous lot selection by tasting); very attractive black cherry and liquorice fruit, perhaps showing better integration of the wood with rounder mouthfeel despite its dry texture; again well-made and -balanced, after a bit of aeration shows an enticing 'sweet vs savoury' finish vs grip. Can be drunk now although no hurry. 90-92
2003 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - Developing attractive smoky savoury notes on top of chocolate and liquorice black plum fruit, good depth and style with pretty grippy bite still, but it's also rounded on the finish. 90
2003 CdRV - tasted four years earlier: perfumed spice plus a hint of oak, chunky blackberry/cherry fruit, concentrated yet pretty firm and closed up on the finish at the moment; however, shows nice bite, elegance and ripeness with well handled oak. 87-89
2001 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Carignan 13%) - Beginning to oxidise and dry out a little, but still a nice drink now with its rustic liquorice fruit and dry yet ripe palate; lighter than the 2003. 85
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - enticing black cherry & olive fruit with background cedar spice notes, nice elegant liquorice and ripe plum style rounded off by firm dry yet supple tannins. 88-90

Tasted two years before:

2004 CdRV (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre) – similar ripe smoky plum and black cherry fruit, nice juicy texture v dry grip and liquorice fruit, elegant too. 88-90
2004 Fûts de Chêne Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre) – ripe smoky plum and liquorice fruit with a light touch of oak, rounded and full with lively bite of tannins and acidity on its attractive length. 90-92

2005 tank samples tasted in his cellar, late Sept 05:

Muscat d'Alexandrie - super aromatic with juicy grapey flavours, lovely depth of fruit and fresh acidity.
Muscat à Petits Grains (Frontignan) - richer than above yet more apple and citrus too, nice concentration and intensity of flavour.
Syrah (best parcels low yielding) - delicious perfumed ripe blackberry nose, nice dry grip and extract v concentration and fresh bite.
Syrah (fermented at lower temperature) - attractive fruit although less generous at this stage and firmer, perhaps more straightforward yet still very nice.
Grenache (after 4 days fermentation) - lovely fruity spicy black cherry and liquorice tones, rich and ripe v fresher cut; still plenty of sugar left, should reach at least 15.5% (will be blended with lower degree Syrah and Mourvèdre).

Vins Doux Naturels

2002 Vendanges d'Or et de Pierre Rivesaltes Ambré (old vine Grenache gris & Macabeu, 16% + 85 grams/litre residual sugar) - complex 'cheesy' oxidising nose with pecan nut notes, turning to toffee vs tangy walnut and Fino aromas/flavours; lively punch with attractive sweet vs savoury texture and finish, beginning to mellow nicely although has plenty of time ahead of it. Good with the foie gras and Maury jelly we had at lunch (at Le Relais des Corbières/La Garrigue in Saint-Paul de Fenouillet), making it taste lusher and more "late-harvest" in style with delicious grapier finish. 90+
1994 Rivesaltes Tuilé (Grenache 16%) - delicious Porty aromas of black fruits, liquorice, leather and cinnamon; rich sweet powerful palate balanced by textured tannins, fresh cut of alcohol and mature earthy dried fruit. Yum, nice with Gruyere, Comté or mature cheddar. 92+ 
1997 Rivesaltes Ambré - quite intense toffee and walnut notes, shows attractive bite and length v warming sweetness. 90

12 Rue Urbain Paret, 66310 Estagel. Tel: 04 68 29 01 21, mobile: 06 70 48 39 79.

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