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01 April 2009

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.

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