"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 2009

Roussillon: Mas Castello aka Domaine Cachau-Dubournais

Mas Castello from domainecachau.creation-website.comDavid Dubournais ("passionnément vigneron" as it says on his card, zealously so!) and Jean-Pierre Cachau have been at Castello for about three years (2006 was their first vintage as far as I can tell: more info to follow when I go and visit them in situ); a rather sizeable 30-ha "block" (75 acres) up on the Crest in the Espira area (north of the airport between Rivesaltes and Cases-de-Pene), which is more unusual to find quite a large estate like that all in one place (rather than a few parcels in different spots). They make the full range of Roussillons from the usual suspects in the vineyard, reasonably priced from €5 to €14 a bottle, including four Rivesaltes VDN styles (Muscat, Ambré, Tuilé and Grenat), which I didn't try at the Fenouillèdes wine fair in late April 2009 but did these, if you see what I mean:
2007 Folie white (Grenache blanc/Macabeu) - aromatic and lively mineral style, appley with white peach flavours too; zingy fresh finish. Left and stirred on the fine lees for a few months. 85+
2008 white (Grenache blanc/gris/Macabeu) - juicy yeast-leesy notes and texture, attractive tasty style showing a bit of weight and oiliness on the palate vs crisp and gummy. 87
2007 Folie rosé (Grenache Syrah) - pretty intense nose and crisp mouthfeel, turning creamier and weightier on the finish vs nice bite. 85+
2008 rosé (mostly Syrah in barriques) - rounded and powerful vs gummy and intense palate with quite rich red fruit cocktail; a bit of a wow rosé actually. 88
2006 vin de pays red (Grenache Syrah) - appetizing menthol, black cherry and liquorice tones/flavours; a bit of grip too on its nice finish. 87
2007 Côtes du Roussillon red (Grenache Syrah Carignan) - more liquorice and black pepper on the nose; attractive "sweetness" and depth, tasty mouthful with light grip and fresh twist vs smoky leather notes. 89
2006 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Carignan Mourvèdre) - less aromatic, more savoury and "serious"; concentrated dark fruit with more structured and powerful palate / texture. 89+
2006 La Folie red (Carignan Syrah Mourvèdre Grenache) - a tad musty? Some old wood adding texture, although it's much grippier and a touch dried out and extracted; the corky/musty character has perhaps exaggerated this?
2007 La Folie (cask sample, more Syrah than the 06 otherwise blend is similar) - spicy wood upfront on the nose, followed by lush concentrated mouthfeel with black fruits/olives; spicy and lively with big tannins, but it's ripe and rounded too and that chocolate oak should melt into it well. 90
Mas Castello, Route de Vingrau, 66600 Espira-de-l'Agly. Tel: 04 68 64 33 38,
domainecachau@orange.fr, domainecachau.creation-website.com.

Roussillon: Domaine Arcadie, Tautavel

Looking at their website, "Arcadie" appears to be taken from 20th Century Provence-based writer Jean Giono; and you could say there's a kind-of creative writer's touch to Agnès & Raphael Graugnard's wines. They originally hail from a winegrowing-family background in the southern Rhone - Agnès cited one of the reasons why they're working towards organic certification is remembering her father being ill after using "conventional" (synthetic) sprays, and "we don't like these nasty products anyway..." And ended up in the raw northern Roussillon because of, like for many young newcomers to the region, its affordable old vineyards in breathtaking natural settings; not that the southern Rhone is exactly ugly! Agnès, who also works as a contract winemaker for some other small domaines, said she "uses minimal sulphur dioxide (in the winery/wines), but I'm not aiming at using none (can be risky)... as long as your hygiene standards in the cellar are good."
Arcadie now comes to just over five hectares (12.5 acres) of pretty plots dotted here and there across the Agly valley and Fenouillèdes areas: see notes below with locations. I tasted these wines with her in the cosy cellar, next to their shop in the village of Tautavel (mostly from vat or barrel unless I don't specify, in which case a finished bottled wine) in March 2009 and a couple more at the Fenouillèdes wine fair in April 2009. By the way, TP3 is their 1975 ex-army truck (it's quite cute actually despite its macho nature!) they use for vineyard work and transporting grapes...

2007 rouge (mostly Syrah from vat, more Grenache will be added) - lovely spicy black cherry, cassis and liquorice notes; quite fresh acidity and subtle dry tannins add bite and length. 87+
2008 Syrah (from Lesquerde & Saint-Arnac, vat) - delicious fruit, similar to above but more black cherries; more structured too with quite fine finish. Yum.
2008 Mourvèdre (vat) - closed nose, very peppery and perfumed black fruit / olive flavours; firm and fresh mouthfeel, long structured finish.
2007 TP3 Côtes du Roussillon - very attractive vibrant black cherry and cassis fruit, spicy vs 'sweet' and pure perfumed vs earthy herby peppery notes; nice lush mouthfeel vs light dry tannins and texture, fruit and refreshing twist on the finish. Elegant and peppery with a bit of depth and appealing dry coating, although a delicious simple pleasure really. €7.50 87-89
2008 TP3 (vat sample: Syrah, Lladoner Pelut & Grenache) - more liquoricey and "black forest gateau" fruit vs again very spicy; enticing ripeness vs firm coating, good length. (Now bottled, €7.50)
2008 Grenache (Tautavel, vat) - very juicy and tasty, 'sweeter' and fuller profile vs those nice tannins again, 'sweet' vs savoury finish.
2008 Grenache & Lladoner (from schist on the Col de la Dona,  the other side of Estagel, and Col de la Bataille, between Estagel and Millas) - gorgeous big spicy nose with lots of ripe fruit, concentrated with thick tannins. Yum, very promising.
2005 Alba Côtes du Roussillon white - a tad oaky / toasty on its own but nice with e.g. baked fish with breadcrumb topping; turning oily with peach and apricot flavours underlined by spicy coconut, nutty creamy oxidising notes too; quite powerful finish, gets nuttier and more buttery after open for a day vs coconut oak and aniseed bite, definitely mature now though. 85+
2006 Arcadie Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Lladoner Pelut, Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre 14.5%) - quite dense looking with attractive ripe black fruits, liquorice and pepper on the nose underlined with background coconut spice and some maturing smoky notes; well-made wine with mix of lush concentrated fruit, grippy grainy lightly coconut texture, 'sweet' dark cherry fruit and spices; punchy mouthfeel with nice dry coating and framework vs peppery blackberry / cherry and liquorice then subtle chocolate / coconut dusting. Still quite tight and fine, needs 1 to 2 years to fully open up yet it's attractively tasty and drinkable now with e.g. a good steak. Next day: more aromatic and juicy vs tight grainy texture then more savoury and supple on the finish. 89-91
2008 Alba white (Grenache gris & Grenache blanc) - very nice spicy aniseed and fennel notes vs milky edges, spicy juicy yeast-leesy flavours and textures with fresh length. Yum. €10 87-89
2007 Arcadie Côtes du Roussillon Villages (blend as 06 above, more or less) - lively blackberry / cherry fruit with hints of black olive; peppery vs lush mouthfeel, firmly structured dry and powerful vs 'sweet' yet meaty fruit. Drinking now although promising enough to keep for a few years (yeah, right...). €10 90+

1 Avenue Jean Badia, 66720 Tautavel. Tel: 04 68 51 27 33 / mobile: 06 76 54 22 49.

Roussillon: Domaine Deveza, Estagel

Run by Chantal Deveza, who also has an on-site holiday gite by the way, this was yet another new estate showing their first vintage (2008) at the Fenouillèdes wine fair in late April 2009 (Tautavel). And yet another one making tasty white wine, convincing me further that the Roussillon is very much more than a one, or two, trick pony (not that I needed that much convincing). Deveza's website was still being built in the summer, when I posted my tasting notes below, so I'll add more detail as and when I have it (Estagel here we come...)

2008 Harmonie white vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (mostly Grenache gris) - with 6 months in cask: subtle coconut notes & texture vs perfumed apricot fruit, juicy yet rounded mouthfeel; attractive well-made style. 87+
2008 Mélodie rosé (Syrah/Grenache) - bright lively and elegant style rather than fruity-fruity, refreshing dry finish. 80-85
2008 Côtes du Roussillon red (Grenache/Carignan/Syrah) - a tad

reduced on the nose, moving on to lively juicy fruit with crunchy berry flavours; finishes with more structured, punchy and spicy mouthfeel. 85-87
2008 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah/Grenache/Carignan, vat sample) - also a touch reduced (should go away); nice tight framework and bite vs juicy fruit, quite long and subtle. 87-89

Rue Mendes-France, 66310 Estagel.
Tel: 04 68 29 15 60 / 06 09 79 77 23, www.domainedeveza.com.

28 April 2009

Roussillon: Domaine des Trois Orris, Tarérach

UPDATED 2013 - see below.

Dutchman Joep Graler's airy organic wines are the product of the remote vine-lands in the central-(wild)western Roussillon outback, around the hamlets of Tarérach and Arboussols. It's also a great spot for walking and meeting no-one else on the way, except the odd lizard, rabbit or pheasant maybe. He has 15 ha/37 acres planted mostly with Carignan (red and white), Syrah, Grenaches, the rare Chenanson and a plot of Chenin blanc; which Joep added as a replacement for Macabeu five years ago, when he established 3 Orris, because "it lacked character." He sells most of his wine in Germany, Asia, the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Switzerland; finding the French market "less and less interesting, people don't have any money!" and too price-driven. Joep has signed up to 'Tourisme de Terroir en Pyrénées Orientales', a joint project between the regional tourist board, wine and food producers and hotels & restaurants; to encourage people to explore beautiful, unknown parts of the Roussillon like this area, and, as in his case no doubt, away from thinking just beaches and ski resorts! Anyway, it must be working as he told me that, out of only 5% direct sales, about three-quarters of this comes from wine trekking tourists.

I tried the following wines at the Fenouillèdes wine show held in April 2007.
2005 blanc (Marsanne Grenache gris Carignan blanc) – attractive appley freshness with a fruity then mineral palate, nice easy-drinker yet something serious about it too. 85-87
2006 blanc "wild ferment" – so called thanks to a bit of Brett (a natural spoilage yeast) adding some funky edges, rich and quite fat mouth-feel; interesting style to say the least!
2004 La Pierre Blanche, Côtes du Roussillon rouge – appealing juicy blackberry style with a touch of tannic grip and substance to finish. 85
2005 La Pierre Blanche, Côtes du Roussillon rouge – lovely lively black fruit cocktail v fresh and zingy even on the palate, light tannins add to its enjoyable length.
2004 Lhusanes
Syrah plus Carignan Grenache) – delicious floral style with black cherry and liquorice notes, more extracted and structured than above although well-handled. 87-89
Lhusanesshowing livelier fruit on the nose and palate, quite rich then tight and firm, lush v fresh and long.
2004 La Figarasse
Carignan) – rich v fine fruit, slight old wood character intruding but has intensity and refreshing length. 87-89
La Figarassecleaner with sexy vibrant fruit layered on its dense structure, dry grip v 'sweet' coating and long bite.
2005 Aife, Vin de Table (
Chenanson) – surprising depth considering its made from 5 year-old vines, attractively fruity and spicy with solid tannins. 87-89

2009 update: tasted with Joep at the Fenouillèdes wine fair, late April in Tautavel:
2007 Aife white (Carignan blanc & Grenache gris) - rounded and oily mouthfeel with honeyed and spicy floral notes, nice fresh vs quite weighty finish. 85+
2007 La Graeia white (Marsanne & Carignan blanc) - zestier and gummier with more mineral style, quite lively and attractive although less interesting perhaps. 83-85
2007 Pierre Blanche Côtes du Roussillon red - appealing lively cassis and black cherry fruit, juicy tasty palate with light tannic grip vs spicy fruity finish. 85+
2007 Lhusanes (50% Syrah plus Carignan Grenache, older vines) – similar fruit and spice character but more concentrated and intense, rich vs tangy finish. 87+
2007 La Figarasse (
100% old Carignan) – pretty intense crunchy vs "sweet" and peppery fruit / texture, nice fresh acidity and grip to finish. 89
2007 Síríssíme (14.5%) - dollop of vanilla oak is quite overpowering, although it does have attractive intensity and fruit. Not sure, we'll see if the latter conquers the former.

2013 UPDATE - RMJ caught up with Joep earlier this year, these were my favourites:

2011 Aife white (mostly Carignan gris) – honeyed apricot-y notes with nutty rounded texture, a touch of creaminess vs fresher side too, light exotic fruit to finish; quite nice style.
2006 Côtes du Roussillon (Carignan, Grenache, Lladoner Pelut) – mature meaty lightly baked nose, complex though; liquorice fruit vs still a touch of grip and lingering leather vs 'sweet/savoury' flavours. Nice drinking now.
2007 La Figarasse Côtes du Roussillon (including 100 year-old Carignan) – hints of coconut, quite rich and concentrated, tasty and savoury with dark vs crunchy fruit, good structure and length. Good wine.
2009 Síríssíme (Syrah) – smoky ripe and meaty with minty herbal edges, dark cherries with maturing savoury tones, spicy and minty finish with thick yet layered tannins, concentrated and still closed up. Good stuff.
Not so keen on / sure about his 2011 Chenanson though, which is aged in acacia and chestnut barrels, although it was very closed up and clumsy with a glimmer of interest in there somewhere!

Mas Llossannes, 66320 Tarérach. Mobile: 06 75 02 51 00. Looks like someone in the Far East has high-jacked his web domain though, when I last looked (vins-troisorris.com).

27 April 2009

Roussillon: Domaine de Vénus, St-Paul de Fenouillet

Vénus is owned by "a dozen wine-loving friends" steered by Nathalie Abet in situ, who gradually bought up and brought together parcel after parcel of old vines spread around the rocky elevated windy terrain near St-Paul; as well as planting some new Syrah and Vermentino. Thus the estate climbed from 7 ha/17 acres in 2003 to 13 ha in 2007. I tried the following wines at the Fenouillèdes wine show held in April of that year. By the way, it's now closer to 15 ha (although those young plantings mentioned above haven't quite yet come on stream) over 40 very different plots, which must be hard to coordinate at picking time!
2005 blanc, Vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (mostly old vine Grenache gris) – quite toasty and rich yet with attractive honeyed fruit overtones and mineral freshness. €11.55 87
2003 rouge, Vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Carignan Syrah Grenache) – quite structured v ripe cherry fruit with tobacco tones, fairly powerful and long finish. €6.60 87-89
2004 Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache Syrah Carignan) – a bit reductive or something on the nose, moves on to a tight herbal v liquorice palate, somewhat firm and tart but has underlying 'sweetness' too; closes up, a touch bitter in the end perhaps. €10.55 87+?
2003 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan Syrah) – hints of smoky bacon, pretty extracted tannins with light tobacco and sweet plum notes, turning savoury to finish. €11.80

Update spring 2009 tasted at the Fenouillèdes wine fair, late April in Tautavel:
2004 white vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Grenache gris/Macabeu) – oily buttery texture and flavours with a tad of background toastiness, although it's attractively hazelnutty too; interesting "old" style. 85+
2006 white vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Grenache gris/Macabeu) – creamier toastier and "sweeter" but again has nice nutty maturing tones and weighty vs lively mouthfeel underneath. 85+
2008 rosé - zesty elegant Provence style with rose petal and red fruit notes, zingy finish too. 85+
2007 red vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Carignan/Syrah) – attractive blueberry and cassis fruit with spicy liquorice undertones, nice bit of grip and punch on the palate. 85+
2004 Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache Syrah Carignan) – nice developing savoury fruit with tangy herbal edges, dark chocolate and dry bite to finish. 87+
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan Syrah) – a touch more wood on the nose and palate but this also gives it more texture and roundness; maturing "sweet & savoury" fruit vs still firm mouthfeel. 87+
2003 - a bit oxidised, extracted and dried out. Oh, well...

13 Avenue Jean Moulin, 66220 St-Paul de Fenouillet
. Tel: 04 68 59 18 81, domainedevenus@aliceadsl.fr, www.domainedevenus.com.

25 April 2009

Roussillon: Clos Serre Romani, Maury / Rivesaltes

Young couple Laurent and Cylia Pratx joined the seemingly never-ending stream of love-struck newcomers in September 2007 (and long may it continue, I hope), by finding and buying up a few parcels of old vineyards scattered around the now booming village of Maury; the name of one of them was taken to christen their whole 6 ha domaine (15 acres). Laurent's family have been winegrowers "since time immemorial," as it says in the blurb; so they've returned to their roots, type-thing (that surname is suspiciously Catalan-looking), after working for a while in wine in the Rhone Valley. Their cellar and home are in Rivesaltes, hence the dual location and probably a fair bit of driving too!

I tasted the following wines (their first vintage so not all finished examples obviously) with Laurent at the Fenouillèdes wine fair, late April 2009 in Tautavel. They're priced at €7, €10 and €12 respectively. Another one on the "must-see next time in Maury" list...
2008 Providence white (Grenache gris/Grenache blanc/Macabeu) - floral grapey lively and aromatic then more exotic juicy and yeast-leesy; mineral bite vs fair weight and length too. 87
2008 Providence red (Grenache) - lovely pure fruity style with liquorice, violets, pepper and blackberry; turning meatier on the finish with leather tones too. 87
2008 Schistes (Grenache from 3 sites + hint of Carignan
) - livelier and richer showing delicious spice and violets; quite concentrated with "chalky" textured tannins, energetic tasty finish. Yum. 89+
2008 Intuition red (the blend might change each year) - something more mineral about it with wild herb notes, bags of blackberry and spice; punchy yet lush vs crunchy and grippy, intense then softens on the finish. Wow. 90-92

8 Rue Ludovic Ville, 66600 Rivesaltes. Tel/Fax: 04 68 50 12 36,
laurent@serre-romani.fr, www.serre-romani.fr.

24 April 2009

Roussillon: Domaine les Terres de Mallyce, Rasiguères

Domaine les Terres de Mallyce
Corinne Soto describes Terres de Mallyce as an "upper Agly Valley vineyard" in their flier, implying altitude (not surprising around Rasiguères, a good bit south of Maury over the hill and west of Latour) and sloping vines, planted in "schist and granite soils." They're in the process of converting over to fully organic farming, meaning they already are doing it but have to for a bit longer to be officially certified organic. Well-done, another one on the way then. I tried their wines at the, drum roll, Fenouillèdes wine fair in Tautavel back in late April 2009, which are reasonably priced between €5 and €11 a bottle.

2007 In Extremis white vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (mostly Macabeu plus
Grenache gris/Grenache blanc/Carignan blanc) - interesting "oxidative" style with deep colour and very hazelnutty, almost rancio character; nutty tangy then fatter mouthfeel. 87+
2008 Felicis rosé (Syrah/Carignan/Grenache vat sample) - lively gummy red fruity little number, juicy and crisp. 83+
2007 Les Huit Côtes du Roussillon (Carignan/Grenache/Syrah) - quite vanilla coated with underlying bright vs dark berry fruits; dry vs juicy spicy texture and finish. 85-87
2007 Pierres de Lune Côtes du Roussillon (95% very old Carignan/5% Syrah) - herbal peppery cassis notes; spicy turning to liquorice on the palate vs firm bite, more structured yet nice "sweet" fruit too. 87-89
2007 Del Amor Côtes du Roussillon (80% Grenache
+ very old Carignan) - attractive juicy fruit with spicy vs "sweet" tones; firmer punchier mouthfeel finishing with lovely peppery liquorice fruit. 89+
2008 Macabeu vendanges tardives (picked 1st November, 14% and 130g/l residual sugar) - not a finished sample: quite bubblegummy and yeast-leesy at the moment, turning exotic vs wild herb undertones; zingy and fresh bite on the finish vs lush honeyed fruit. Different!

20 bis Rue des Vignes, 66720 Rasiguères.
Tel: 04 68 73 86 37,


20 April 2009

Roussillon: La Petite Baigneuse, Maury

I found the following identical blurb about La Petite Baigneuse (named after the painting by Ingres perhaps?) on these two on-line retailers' websites: www.vinnaturel.fr and cave.gustumo.com, who both list some their wines for €11-€12. So, I guess it came from the same source i.e. the producer: "Domaine La Petite Baigneuse has 12.5 ha (30 acres) of vineyard lying in one spot on the highest part of the Maury appellation bordering wild scrubland. Certain plots face different ways but it's all on the same soil: schist. Philippe and Céline Wies (who are from Alsace by the way) set up this estate in 2008 aiming to make wines "as naturally as possible while letting the site express its full potential..." (a bit of a cliché nowadays but rings true enough looking at the end result, see below). I also found their contact details (as I appear to have lost their card!) on this site: remise2009.free.fr, home of some kind of annual "natural wine" event in Nimes. Anyway, I tried their wines, some of them unfinished as 2008 is their first vintage, at the Fenouillèdes wine fair in late April 2009. I'll update this profile when I go and see them...

2008 Grain de Soleil white (Macabeu) - appley "real cider" aromas/flavours with floral honeyed undercurrents; fresh and crisp bite vs a bit of weight on the finish. 85+
2008 Juste Ciel! white (
Grenache gris) - more mineral and intense in style; quite structured actually, lively and very long with good depth too. 87+
Plaît-il? rosé - elegant & lightly creamy red fruity style, again has that lively "mineral" length. 85+
2008 Trinquette red vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Grenache) - aromatic and floral with cassis and cherry notes; nice grip and dry texture vs ripe peppery fruit. 87
2008 Les Loustics (Grenache & Syrah) - juicier style, attractive and quite straightforward. 80-85
2008 Grand Largue (Lladoner Pelut & Carignan) red Côtes du Roussillon - plenty of enticing juicy spicy fruit, quite lush intense and peppery with solid finish; attractive style. 87+

Route de Lesquerde, 66460 Maury. Tel: 04 68 73 83 25, philippe.wies@orange.fr

17 April 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Rousselin, Lesquerde


Laurence and Pascal Rousselin have been based in the pretty hilltop village of Lesquerde since 2005, one of the so-called 'Village Villages' appellations, if you follow my drift, found in the northern Roussillon a few kilometres southwest of Maury. They have eight hectares (20 acres) of organically farmed vineyards lying around this area at about 350 metres above sea level. I like their "mission statement" on their Facebook page (which is more up-to-date / detailed than their website at the bottom, by the way, and where I copied the photo from): "le virtuel c'est bien, le goûteux, le glouglou, l'échange... c'est mieux!" Which roughly translates as: "Virtual (reality) is good; tasty things, glugging and sharing are better!" You could live and die by that, man.
I talked and tasted with Laurence earlier this year at Millésime Bio organic wine show:
2011 Muscat sec - grapey and crisp with a wilder cider-y side, but not too much, clean and dry finish with nice orange peel vs rounder exotic flavours/texture.
2012 Syrah - pure fruit and spicy nose, a touch awkward on the palate when I tried it (a tank sample) but had good depth.
2012 Grenache (also unfinished) - chewy and dense, spicy black fruits, grippy texture yet with nice tannins though.
2011 Les Orientales Lesquerde (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvedre) - chunky rich and concentrated, spicy dark fruit vs firm structure still, tasty meaty vs lush dark fruit, fresh tight and long. Lovely wine, needs a few more months in bottle to open up fully.
2011 Rivesaltes Grenat Vin Doux Naturel (Grenache) - rich dark cherry, marshmallow and kirsch with meaty edges; lush and dense, pretty firm and grippy mouth-feel though layered with delicious dark sweet fruit, tasty finish; nice balance and style.

And these wines were tasted back in 2009 at the Fenouillèdes wine fair held in Tautavel:
2008 Grenache - very Grenache with lots of liquorice and white pepper.
2008 Syrah - rich and extracted black cherry fruit with spicy finish.
2008 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde (Syrah Carignan Grenache) - nice mix of lush, ripe, toffee-ish fruit and peppery mineral notes underneath; firm and structured vs very fruity. 89
2006 Syrah - developing smoky notes vs quite oaky, rich and structured Rhoney style, still lively although beginning to mature nicely. 87
2007 CdRV Lesquerde - lovely fruit, rounded vs firm bite, turning savoury with dark fruit / chocolate on the finish. €13 88+

104 route départementale 19, 66220 Lesquerde. Tel: 06 12 51 64 58 (mobile) / 04 68 59 17 12 (home/winery). domaine-rousselin.e-monsite.com

16 April 2009

Roussillon: Château La Casenove, Trouillas

ETIENNE MONTES from rhone.vignobles.free.frI tasted most of Etienne Montès' Catalan delights on a fact (and wine) finding mission in May 2007 (and re-tasted the leftovers over the following few days), as you'll see below. Catalan indeed: Etienne now chooses to label all of his wines as vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes in stoical protest, as he fell out with the Roussillon AOC authorities (part philosophical, political and financial: it's a long-ish story...). Casenove is an enchanting serene backwater found down a dirt track signposted off the main road between Trouillas and the N9 (Perpignan-Le Boulou); even if it is located not far from the motorway and the new high-speed train line to Barcelona that's being frantically built, although you wouldn't know it once you're there.
Out stepped a laid-back colourfully cardigan-ed Etienne Montès, who takes great pleasure in showing around, talking and tasting with someone "interested in what we're doing." We discussed many things, although his views on Carignan and Les Aspres Côtes du Roussillon zone are especially worthy of note. The oldest Carignan among Casenove's 50 ha/125 acres dates from 1934, which is "still good... I'd like more old vines in general," while summarising his father's and his re/planting programme over the years. The oldest Syrah is a relative baby at 32 years old with more planted in 1994.
"It's too hot for Syrah in certain areas, and the Grenache we have here isn't so well adapted to the Aspres; you have to be selective. I think we should use more Carignan because of hotter vintages, yet we're told we should decrease the amount of Carignan so they can do a Languedoc in the Roussillon. I'm against this commercial rather than philosophical policy." The Aspres sub-appellation rules limit the amount of Carignan growers are permitted to put in their blend and also extends into the Albères (the hills bordering Spain). "We talked about it for 10 years, they should have chosen Albères for the name. I've never labelled as Aspres as it was wrong from the start by dictating the varieties," Etienne concluded. His wines are well distributed in Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Canada and the US.
2004 Masia M 'Roussillon red wine' (from the most productive Grenache & Carignan 13.5%) - he hopes to build this label into a kind-of mini-brand. Light red pepper and cherry fruit, dry grip and a little weight v easy fruit. Re-tasted: less leafy and more open, cherry with liquorice edges. €6 85
2005 Masia M - more generous and rustic than the 04 with richer fruit and chunkier tannins; bigger with rounded mouth-feel, power and grip. Re-tasted: more seductive with earthy black fruits, quite powerful and firm v lush. €6 87
2004 La Garrigue, Domaine La Casenove (Carignan Grenache Syrah 14.5%) - a bit closed on the nose (had just been bottled), black cherry elderberry and 'inky' liquorice fruit on the palate; quite powerful yet elegant too, subtle fruit v coating of tannins, balanced length closing up a little on the finish. Re-tasted: denser brambly elderberry fruit; quite rich, extracted, powerful and firm v fine fresh intensity and finish. 89-91
2004 Torrespeyres, Domaine La Casenove (Carignan Syrah 14.5%) - fragrant black cherry / blueberry with background coconut oak, fairly intense fruit with dark chocolate nuances; this has bite, grip and power on its tight long finish. Re-tasted: dense and powerful palate with peppery blueberry / blackberry and lusher liquorice; firm and commanding with floral v dark choc v savoury veneer. 90-92
2004 cuvée Francois Jaubert (Syrah) - spicy vanilla oak v chunky fruit and tannins; more 'international' in style but still shows that hallmark fine grip, bite and balanced power. Re-tasted: still quite vanilla oaky but has depth, class and savoury development; robust firm palate v fruit/oak sweetness. 88-90
2001 Rivesaltes rouge - open for a week: quite oxidised black plum and dark roast coffee tones give way to a savoury v sweet palate with bitter choc and blackberry tinges; firm tannins v rounded sweet & sour fruit, powerful but not fiery. 89-91
1998 Rivesaltes ambré (Grenache Macabeu) - the casks spent 2-3 years outside, bottled in 2006: roasted coconut and maple notes, pecan pie richness v tangy coating; oxidised sweetness v fine freshness from the alcohol and acidity. 90-92
Pedro Montès (2003 vintage Grenache Blanc, sun-dried leaving 80 grams of natural residual sugar and 9% alc) - super raisin aromas with complex Madeira type
volatility, very lush yet has nice freshness too. Different: apparently popular with a few Copenhagen restaurants. Etienne commented: "VDN wines need this kind of character otherwise they're just sugar and alcohol."
Consumed (in moderation) August 2007:
2000 Pla del Rei, Domaine St-Luc, Côtes du Roussillon (14.5%) - quite rustic and smoky nose, complex fruit development with savoury v liquorice v leather tones; rich dense palate, quite big alcohol but off-set by nice maturity v solid structure, multi-layered; quite sexy although a bit (too) rustic /
bretty? 87-90?
Casenove update 2009: I caught up with Etienne Montès on a suitably sunny spring day and tried some of his promising 2005s, as well as a couple of sublime eight year-old VDNs. He also told me he has a new importer in London and will be doing "a little bit of Côtes du Roussillon again" with the 2008 vintage, purely because "Fabrice Rieu (the new president of the CIVR, the region's trade body) is a friend of mine."2005 La Colomina vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Carignan Grenache Mourvèdre 14.5%) - slightly volatile and complex maturing leather tones vs attractive herbal berry, baked apple and liquorice edges; rounded 'sweet' palate with a touch of dry grip, freshness and subtle finish. Drink now to 3 years. €6 87
2005 La Garrigue vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Syrah Carignan Grenache 14.5%) - richer and smokier with very light chocolate spicy oak tones; more textured, firm and powerful layered with raspberry and black cherry fruit; quite concentrated with tauter tannins on the finish, although still rounded and attractive needing a year or two to open up. €?? 89+
2004 Torrespeyres (Carignan Syrah 14.5%) - more perfumed and spicier with wild herb and ripe blueberry tones; meaty savoury palate, quite complex and big mouthful showing greater depth with subtle chocolate oak texture; still pretty solid on the finish with plenty of life in it vs nicely maturing and concentrated fruit, structured and long. 90-92
2004 cuvée Jaubert (Syrah 14.5%) - attractive maturing "gravy" aromas with shades of background chocy oak; rich vs firm mouthfeel, vibrant and concentrated with underlying powerful tannins; nice "sweet vs savoury" profile too, quite a mouthful with touches of quite fine
northern Rhone actually. Yum. 92
2001 Rivesaltes Ambré (Grenache Macabeu) - this VDN spent 2-3 years in barriques outside with no topping up (losing almost a third of its volume in evaporation); final blend and bottling in January 2009. Enticing pecan / walnut tones and caramelised raspberries, Madeira-like style and complexity; big sweet palate vs intricate and endless aromas / flavours, wild volatile edges to its delicious voluptuous mouthfeel finishing with orange peel freshness. A one-off. 93-95
La Casenove, 66300 Trouillas. Tel: 04 68 21 66 33,
chateau.la.casenove@wanadoo.fr, rhone.vignobles.free.fr/pagesgb/montes.htm.

11 April 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Rivaton, Latour-de-France

UPDATED 2013 - see below.

Frédéric Rivaton arrived as a young pioneer on the "final frontier" (groan) of the northern Roussillon in 2004 - that was his first vintage I think - and now has 12 ha (30 acres) scattered around the old old "border" village of Latour de France (west of Estagel, southeast of Maury: there's some history there...). He says he likes to work as "naturally" as possible (widely used nowadays without much official definition, although pretty obvious for those who mean it) with a lot of fussy work in the vineyard especially and only using treatments sanctioned by organic viticulture, e.g. sulphur and copper based "natural" chemicals (there I go again with the ").
The two reds below and Frédéric's very lively old-Carignan grape juice ("I can't make wine out of it..." paraphrasing what he told me once) were tasted at the 2009 Fenouillèdes wine fair in Tautavel:
2005 Vieilles Vignes (Carignan Grenache "etc.") - smoky "inky" nose, quite rustic but it's lush with wild fruit flavours and tobacco notes, nice soft spicy fruit and texture with mature supple finish. 87+
2006 Gribouille Côtes du Roussillon Villages "Latour de France" (Carignan Grenache Syrah) - more structured and concentrated with liquorice, tobacco and toffee apple; spice and leather notes too, nice now actually although should improve over the next year or so. 87-89
Carignan 1930 jus de raisin - very nice and refreshing with aromatic sweet vs tart finish. Different!
And this is what I said previously about his wines (the May 2006 wine fair):
2004 Gribouille Latour de France CdRV - (2nd bottle; the one in the blind tasting was bottled too soon and suffered from reductive taint) nice smoky tar and leather tones, rich and ripe v firm and tight, attractive style. 90
2005 Latour de France CdRV ("probably": cask sample) - smoky leather tinged with black cherries, rustic and lush with solid yet elegant finish. 90
And back in January 2005, my first comprehensive (wine) trip to the area:
2004 Domaine Rivaton (unnamed vat sample) - quite chunky fruit and structure, tight long finish, shows promise. 89

Had a chat and taste with Fred earlier this year in Montpellier, who's moved all his wines under the simpler 'Vin de France' umbrella designation. Something to do with bureaucrats not liking and passing his wines for 'appellation', but "they're not going to stop me making wine," he explained with feeling!
Rage against the Machine white (Macabeu, Muscat) - quite wild and cider-y, lively mineral palate with ripe apple and aniseed, crisp long finish. Good in that not-for-everyone style.
Panoramix sparkling rosé (Syrah) - second fermentation in bottle. Nice and fresh with raspberry fruit, crisp lively finish, appealing style.
Panoramix dry white (Macabeu, Carignan blanc, Grenache gris) - appley edges, crisp and mineral vs nutty finish.
2011 Tombé du Ciel red - "a difficult vintage," Fred commented, "and it's (the wine) a bit close to the edge..." Pretty funky 'volatile nose', peppery and concentrated, some nice cherry fruit underneath but it's a little wild, man.
2009 old vines (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah) - quite rich and chunky, attractive dark fruit, still pretty funky although concentrated vs firm and tight still.
2009 Gribouille (same blend but from schist soils) - structured vs lush, very concentrated and less earthy than the others, solid powerful finish. Nice red.

9 rue Gabriel Péri, 66720 Latour de France. Tel: 04 68 51 76 08, v-frivaton@tele2.fr, rivaton.vinsnaturels.fr.

10 April 2009

Roussillon: Domaine de l'Éléphant, Vingrau/Opoul/Espira-de-l’Agly

This newish, apparently Indian-owned estate (hence the name) is made up of vineyard parcels in three lofty village sites (between 250 and 300 metres = c. 900 feet altitude) around Vingrau (spectacularly pictured), Opoul and Espira-de-l’Agly. Resident winery manager Philippe Cambie is working with the well-known consultants Michel Tardieu and Renaud Chastagnol and is implementing organic farming and "low-intervention" winemaking techniques. One to watch perhaps, although they've embarked on a silly-money pricing strategy from the start at €28 and €36 for these two wines respectively, tasted at the Fenouillèdes wine fair in April 2009. Their US importer is Bourgeois Family Selections in North Carolina (hover over pic. for web details). Update to follow.

2007 Estima Vinifera white (Grenache gris/Grenache blanc/Macabeu) - lightly toasty with creamy yeast-lees undertones, exotic fruit vs fresh bite and 14% weight although it's well balanced / handled. 87
2007 Elephant red (Grenache/very-old Carignan) - rather vanilla & coconut oaky but underneath it seems intense and rich with cassis and liquorice flavours; shows subtle concentration perhaps and lush texture vs refreshing and quite stylish finish. Just bottled when I tried it so we'll see if that oak blends in over time... 87-89


04 April 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Comelade, Estagel

From www.domainecomelade.comFounded by Lionel Comelade (pictured) back in 1986, this sweeping estate spreads out majestically between Estagel and Latour de France and comes to a fairly sizeable 40 ha (100 acres). These wines were tasted at the Fenouillèdes wine show in Tautavel, April 2009:

2008 "MS" Muscat sec, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes - lively and "chalky" with grapey citrus fruit, nice style. 85
2008 Le Casot Côtes du Roussillon rosé (Grenache/Syrah) - rounded, fairly full-bodied, "winey" style; very dry and crisp vs oily fruit and texture. 85+
2008 Notre Vent vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Merlot/Grenache) - quite successful red blend actually showing inky vs plummy then spicy fruit; quite extracted and firm on the finish. 85
2006 Le Casot Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah/Carignan/Grenache) - enticing nose mixing liquorice with menthol and spice, resiny maturing notes too; dark fruit and toffee apple even with leather undertones, gripping tannins vs attractive savoury flavours underneath. 86-88
2003 Les Jassettes Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah/Carignan/Grenache) - herbal floral "
garrigue" aromas turning spicier and smokier on the palate vs dark fruit underneath; stonky tannins still but also has very nice maturing "sweet & savoury" fruit style. 89

And I rated one of Lionel's red Vins Doux Naturels as follows back in 2005 (on a previous trip to the area):
2003 L'Oursoulette Grenat - lots of raspberry jam on the nose then turning tobacco and spice, elegant palate with nice dry coating of tannins v sweetness. 90

Rue Docteur Cartade, Route de Latour de France, 66310 Estagel. Tel: 04 68 29 16 40, domaine.comelade@wanadoo.fr, www.domainecomelade.com.

02 April 2009

Roussillon: Domaine de la Pertuisane, Maury

Englishman Richard Case makes rich, powerful and concentrated reds sourced mostly from low yielding, old-vine Grenache and Carignan, which are labelled as Vins de Pays des Côtes Catalanes (by choice) as they don't really fit into the 'Roussillon Villages' appellation box. Meaning they either don't contain any or the "required" amount of Syrah: actually, only Le Nain Violet has a bit of Syrah in it. Richard and wife Sarah now have more than 5 ha (12.5 acres) found on very steep schist slopes around the village of Maury, where they settled a few years ago.
Richard is already making special labels for one of his US importers (especially white wines: see notes below) and has recently gone into partnership, as "project manager" with a Grenache-loving American winemaker (Dave Phinney of Napa's Orin Swift, particularly well-known for his cultish "The Prisoner" label), who has invested in a staggering 80 ha of vineyard parcels in the area and a bold new high-tech winery up the hill from the village, which will also become home to Domaine Pertuisane (more on that here). Richard now sells most of his wine ("99%") in the US market, hence why I've indicated prices in dollars.

These wines - bottled and cask samples - were tasted in situ in spring 2009.
2007 Cuvée Cuthbert "Fin Amour" (Carignan blanc & Grenache gris 14%) - barrel-fermented with wild yeasts 10 months total in third-fill Burgundy casks, no malo-lactic fermentation. Lightly toasty and rounded vs tangy yeast-lees and hazelnut edges; nice dry, crisp and fresh mouthfeel with fair power vs quite elegant mineral length; attractive white Rhone style. Importer: Kimberley Jones & David Shiverick, stockists include Backroom Wines in California. $50 87+
2007 Clos Thalès Foun del Bosc (100% Grenache gris) - a touch more exotic and bigger yet still has that tangy mineral twist, spicier and weightier too with crisp dry finish and light lees intensity; a tad more oak spice and texture but it's clean and fresh (also no malo-lactic). $50 87+
2005 Le Nain Violet (Grenache Syrah Carignan 15%) - smoky lightly toasty oak (no new wood) layered with concentrated juicy fruit, spicy vs "sweet" profile with rounded tannins yet still firmly structured; actually not so big in the end and beginning to open up nicely. $16-18 87+
2005 Vieilles Vignes (100% Grenache 15%, 50% in new oak) - smoky and turning savoury / leather notes vs enticing ripe liquorice, chunky fruit and tannins with dark tasty concentrated finish; again shows good balance and palate weight vs that quite high alcohol, attractive grip and bitter twist to finish. $30-35 90+
2005 Domaine de la Pertuisane (Grenache + 30% Carignan, all new barriques) - again lush and concentrated showing more chocolate spice yet attractive ripe vs savoury profile; solid mouthfeel although rounded tannins, dark chocolate twist vs liquorice fruit vs meaty maturing tones; big but well-done needing 2-3 years to express itself fully. $50 92+
2007 Carignan (unblended) - lovely violet blueberry cassis and cherry with a very lightly smoky backdrop; intense and concentrated vs lush tasty palate, power vs freshness. Yum. 89+
2007 Grenache (unblended) - sumptuous ripe black fruits with savoury tones, peppery too vs 'sweet' liquorice; nice tannins, concentration and weight.
50-50 blend of above two - works well, strangely tastes oakier than either two on their own but still plenty of fruit and depth.
2008 Grenache (clay-limestone soils) - juicier and richer fruit in a certain way, 18% alc. unblended but you don't really notice it!
2008 young Grenache - lovely "sweet" dark cherry (actually bone dry), juicy vs dry texture.
2008 Carignan - floral and intense with blueberry and cassis notes vs darker fruit finish, lush vs much fresher and a tad firmer.
2008 old Grenache - undergoing its malo when tasted so difficult to say, but it's certainly concentrated and structured.

And my notes on previous vintages (May 2006, click here for more):
2004 Le Nain Violet (Grenache Carignan Syrah) - closed up and difficult to taste as it had just been bottled: firm yet elegant and long with attractive underlying fruit and well handled wood texture. 88-90
2004 La Pertuisane (90% Grenache, Carignan) - similar story to above: pretty oaky at the moment with fleshy underlying fruit, very concentrated and powerful with firm grip and oak coating. However, it is balanced despite all this and 15% alc, thanks to its subtle mineral freshness and that lovely dark fruit. Needs time. 90-92

Route de Cucugnan, 66460 Maury.

01 April 2009

Chablis/Crémant de Bourgogne: Maison Simonnet-Febvre

Maison Simonnet-Febvre - Chablis

This famous Chablis house (see my review of their 2007 Chabbers below, from my 'wines of the moment' page) isn't perhaps so well-known for its Crémant de Bourgogne - actually, according to their website, they're the only one is Chablis itself making these 'traditional method' sparkling wine styles. So, there you go, you've learnt something tonight. Anyway, they've just smartened up the labelling and relaunched a range of four attractive fizzies (I doubt they'll thank me for calling them that but I don't use that word in a condescending sense, as you'll see in my Cava mini-guide. It's just that you're not allowed to say 'Champagne style' even, and why would I compare them with those overpriced wines anyway). As usual I'm going off at a tangent...

 A bit of technical blah blah, but not much. All these wines have 8-9 grams/litre dosage, i.e. residual sweetening sugars added after being 'disgorged', which puts them at the 'drier' end of Brut (some Champagnes and other sparklers have up to 12g); except the 2005 vintage with only 6g dosage. They are bottle-fermented / lees-aged for "at least nine months" I'm told, with two to three years sur lattes, meaning the total bottle-ageing time 'on the rack', so to speak, before release (I'd guess). And all four weigh in at around a relatively light 12% alcohol. Simonnet's Crémants are distributed in the UK and USA by Louis Latour's offices based in London and California, by Gilbeys in Dublin and lots of other places too - see their website below. Retail prices across this range are approx €7.95 - €10.50 (France), US$20 - US$25 or £11.99 - £15.99.

Sampled March-April 2009:
Crémant de Bourgogne Brut (60% Chardonnay 40% Pinot Noir) - restrained appley style with very lightly honeyed and toasty undertones; savoury biscuit fruit v gentle acidity, refreshing off-dry finish; attractive wine although quite straightforward, nice with salmon actually and becomes addictively light and quaffable with refreshing 'sweet v salty' finish. 80-85
Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Pinot Noir (100%) - a touch finer and more 'serious', perhaps a little toastier too v fresher structure and length; elegant acidity v rounded honeyed and bready palate, good although still didn't set the world alight. 85-87
2005 Crémant de Bourgogne Brut (65% Pinot Noir 35% Chardonnay) - toastier and richer yet more appley / 'saltier' too; yeastier weight and intensity with a drier finish than the others, tighter and finer perhaps not expressing itself fully yet. 87-89
Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé Brut (Pinot Noir + Gamay) - quite complex and delicate showing subtle red fruits then hints of chocolate biscuits; nice dried marzipan flavours v yeasty / 'salty' texture, off-dry finish with lively intensity. Attractive well-made style with 'sweet & savoury' mix, a hint of sweetness & oiliness v fairly dry bite and gently red fruity. 89

From Wines of the Moment winter/spring 09:
2007 Chablis (Chardonnay 12.5%) - you know how sometimes you really fancy a nice Chablis but are then disappointed having splashed out a little? Well, you won't be with this one. All the hallmarks which make that classic Chablis style so distinctive - attractive subtle balance of slightly exotic, buttery fruit v elusive greener, citrus mineral edges; elegant and tasty with fresh acidity lifting it up on the finish, making it good with smoked haddock even. €8 89
More info @ simonnet-febvre.com.

Roussillon: Domaine de l'Ausseil, Latour de France

Latour de France overlooking Grenache gris vines, Domaine de L'Ausseil
Latour de France overlooking Grenache gris vines
 Domaine de L'Ausseil
First of all, a few words to accompany Anne and Jacques de Chancel's inspiring bird- and bug-labelled (designed by Anne) wines. The 'company flyer' (a more than adequate A4 photocopy actually) begins thus: "Searching for a spot of terrain to make wines we like, we landed, almost by chance, in January 2001 in Latour de France..." Can't blame them, it's beautiful and very northern-Roussillon around here: a dry fractured rocky patchwork of windswept old vineyards.
Talking of which, nearly half of Ausseil's (means bird in Occitan - this area marks the ancient border between Catalan and Oc country) 12.5 ha/30 acres is planted with 70-100 year old Carignan; followed by Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Grenache Gris, Macabeu and some Merlot too. 2007 marked the beginning of the quest for organic certification, as they were already in to working the soil (instead of drenching it in nasty chemicals) and using natural compost (smelly but effective).
This first lot of wines were tasted at the Fenouillèdes wine show, held in April 2007 in Tautavel:
2005 Libellule vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes blanc (mostly Macabeu) - interesting appley intensity leads to a rounder creamier palate, mineral freshness v quite fat mouth-feel. €8 87+
2005 Papillon vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes blanc (mostly Grenache Gris) - spicier and honeyed, milky edges on a quite crisp and fresh length; lots of character and style, a tad of light oak but well-handled. €14 90
2005 P'tit Piaf rosé vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Mourvèdre) - fresh and aromatic yet meaty too v raspberry and cream fruit, zingy structured length. €4.90 87+
2004 Cot Côtes Côtes du Roussillon rouge (mostly Carignan) - perfumed and floral nose leads to a quite rustic soupy palate, rich with appealing fruit and light grip; a little too smoky in style but still good. €7 87
2004 La Capitelle, Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Carignan Syrah Grenache) - tighter finer wine, lush yet floral black cherry and liquorice, nice peppery edges, firm fresh finish. €8 90-92
2003 La Capitelle, Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Carignan Syrah Grenache) - more fruit forward than the 04 with violet and black cherry notes, liquorice v savoury palate, dry firm and powerful suffused with rich maturing fruit. €8 90
2004 Les Trois Pierres, Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages (50% Syrah) - 100% barriques and it shows: more toasted chocolate on the nose, quite extracted and choco palate yet lush and firm; dry finish, closes up. €14 89-91
2003 Les Trois Pierres, Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages (50% Syrah) - attractive herbal black cherry aromas, the oak is much more in the background, again solid framework v lush fruit. €14 90
2003 Drôle d'Oiseau, Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages - rather barrel heavy, charred extracted palate, a bit too much. €24!

Spring/summer 2009 update: I caught up with Jacques in the lovely village hall in Tautavel, host to the groovy Fenouillèdes wine fair in April 2009. A few of his latest vintages ran as follows:
2007 Papillon white - still floral and zesty vs nutty creamy flavour/texture, fresh acidity vs fatter side on the finish. 85-87
2007 du Vent dans les Plumes Côtes du Roussillon Villages - very peppery menthol notes, spicy and intense; quite rustic too moving on to liquorice fruit vs power and fairly soft tannins to finish. 87
2005 La Capitelle Latour de France - smoky and meaty with dark plum fruit underneath, again peppery turning more savoury and leathery; power and grip vs melting tannins and rich fruit. 89-91
2005 Les Trois Pierres Latour de France - oily "vinous" nose and body vs tighter firmer mouthfeel than above; again shows nice "sweet & savoury" development vs juicier fruit too, fine grained tannins even if quite stonky. €14 90+?


18 Boulevard Carnot, 66720 Latour de France. Tel: 04 68 29 18 68 / 06 76 81 03 48, chancelj@free.fr, www.lausseil.com.

Roussillon: Domaine de la Balmière, Latour de France

I first met Laurent Marquier back in very cold January 2005 (and has been every winter since, it feels like...) - see below below for my previous tasting notes on his wines - when we lovingly trampled over a peaceful little spot on his wild vine-land. He and his wife Claudia now farm 14 hectares (35 acres) spread around the old-as-time village of Latour de France. I've tried Laurent's wines a couple of times since, most recently at the Fenouillèdes wine show in April 2009 and in November 2010, and the message is pretty consistent: he's making some quite exciting wines! Here they are:
2007 white (both Muscats) - turning quite oily, mineral and nutty vs lively citrus still; quite concentrated with maturing complex finish, not very "Muscaty" and all the better for it. 87+
2005 Tradition Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Mourvèdre Carignan Grenache) - smoky and developed with lush fruit vs herbal edges, attractively "soupy" and spicy with a bit of grip on the finish; nice now actually. 87+
2006 Espoir - similarly smoky nose but finer and more concentrated, peppery too with plenty of character, fruit and chunky tannins; nice black olive / spicy finish, good stuff. 89
Latest note on that wine HERE (Nov 2010).

2005 Latour de France (mostly Syrah) - more balsamic with dark olives and a touch of wood spice vs rich smoky fruit; again dry and firm texture vs big rounded mouthfeel, complex with "sweet & sour" finish. 90+
2008 Tradition (tank sample) - delicious berry fruit vs chunky rich tannins, very promising.
2008 Latour  (from barrique) - similar lush fruit with vanilla overtones not surprisingly, very solid palate but "sweet" tannins and very peppery; yum.

And a few earlier vintages, tasted in May 2006 (click here for more wines from that show):
2005 Muscat sec - very lively mineral style with crisp citrus fruit v lightly rounded finish. 87
2005 Côtes du Roussillon rosé - floral white peach and redcurrant fruit, attractive dry finish and length. 87
2005 Latour de France CdRV (1/4 each of Grenache Carignan Syrah Mourvèdre) - lovely peppery ripe black fruits and olive, firm dry mouth-feel with generous rounded texture. Promising. 88-90

And in 2005 (more on that here):
2003 Latour de France - Smoky and rustic offering attractive fruit, good concentration and lingering balanced grip. 89-91

2004 Muscat - a bit closed on the nose, gummy extract with crisp citrus depth. 87

La Balmière, Route de Montner "El Mouli", 66720 Latour de France. Tel: 04 68 29 00 04 / 06 77 91 88 15, www.domainedelabalmiere.com.


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