"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 June 2009

Collioure: 2008 whites & rosés

From collioure.com
As well as being a famous (for instance, brightly coloured masterpieces and extinct anchovies), twee and touristy seaside town on the south-east Roussillon coast, not far from the barely visible line marking Catalunya Sud; the evocative name of Collioure is also an appellation for red, white and rosé wines. It covers the same terrain as vineyards used to source grapes for those perhaps better-known Vins Doux Naturels, sweet fortified aged reds (mostly) labelled as Banyuls, stretching dramatically behind and between Collioure, Port-Vendres, Banyuls-sur-mer and Cerbère.
Collioure has arguably gained a pretty good reputation now for its Med red wines (based on Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre), at least for those lucky enough to have discovered any of the very good ones; but also deserves to find a wider wine-enthusiast audience (especially as they can be just as dear as the reds) for its sometimes very characterful whites and rosés. Here are half-a-dozen 2008 vintage wines I discovered at Les Musaïques des Collioure wine and food festival in mid-June 2009, which make enticing autumn drinking.


2008 Domaine Manya-Puig (Grenache blanc Marsanne Roussanne) - aromatic, floral and lightly exotic fruit vs zingy, elegant and tight mouth-feel; zesty orange peel notes vs a touch of appealing weight and roundness. €8.50 87
2008 Domaine La Tour Vieille Les Canadells (mostly Grenache blanc, Grenache gris and Vermentino plus Macabeu, Marsanne 14%) - floral nutty nose with a touch of background oak and lightly exotic fruit; juicy apricot-tinged palate with quite weighty and rounded mouthfeel, powerful nutty finish and well-handled oak texture. €13 87-89
Click here for a full profile & tasting notes on La Tour Vieille including a delicious rosé plus all their reds and VDNs.
2008 Domaine Piétri-Géraud (Grenache blanc Grenache gris Vermentino) - shows a touch of vanilla on the nose but this is zesty and fresh too, rounded and toasty but not too much with good balance in the end. Approx £/$/12 85-87
Click here for full profile & tasting notes on Piétri-Géraud.

Other white Collioure tips: Mas Blanc, Coume del Mas, La Rectorie. More on these estates here.


2008 Domaine St. Sébastien - nice creamy vs lively red fruit style, oily textured and weighty vs zesty and crisp with light bitter twist. €8 87
2008 La Rectorie - big juicy vs tight and zingy mouthful, perfumed rose petal and red fruits on its quite serious finish. €15! 87-89
See Winery A-Z for full profile on La Rectorie.
2008 Domaine Casa Blanca - attractive oily and red fruity textured style, ripe sweet fruit vs crisp and lively on the finish. 87-89

Other tasty Collioure rosés: Clos Paulilles, Domaine Berta-Maillol. See Winery A-Z for more info.

22 June 2009

Domaine Mas Mouriès, Languedoc/Sommières

First, a touch of geography to set the scene for this, at the time, newly explored ground in my swelling Languedoc winery series. The pleasant village of Sommières forms the heart of one of those recently created sub-zones in the far (north)eastern corner of the "old" Coteaux du Languedoc appellation (the "Coteaux" bit is supposedly going to be dropped although still widely used...), lying roughly inbetween Montpellier and Alès and to the west of Nîmes. You're probably more familiar with the latter city, being a popular tourist destination standing at the crossroads between Languedoc and Provence. From www.mas-mouries.comThe Costières de Nîmes wine appellation spreads out across a quite broad area south of Nîmes and, although technically in the Languedoc region, growers here have always aligned themselves wine-wise more closely to producers in the Rhone Valley (that famous river does indeed flow past not too far from here on its way into the Med). "Confused? You will be..." Anyway, all that really matters is that there are several very good producers in this elongated area, who appear to have enough in common for me to shove them together under "Languedoc 6: just when you thought it was over..."

Domaine Mas Mouriès
Solange and Eric Bouet are the affable couple behind off-the-beaten-track Mas Mouriès (see picture above), made up of a few pretty old farmhouse buildings surrounded by about 30 hectares (75 acres) of vineyards lying on gentle hills just outside the miniature village of Vic le Fesq. As well as making arguably one of the Languedoc's best red wines fit for ageing (Les Myrthes, see my notes below), they're also trying to preserve the estate's diverse natural environment of green trees and wild flowers, herbs and brambles by farming organically. I called in on Eric in June 2009, had a pleasant stroll around the vineyard and tasted the following wines (and re-tasted some of them in July 09):
2008 Coteaux du Languedoc rosé (Cinsault Grenache Syrah 13%) - aromatic floral red cherry notes, fresh and crisp vs lightly creamy mouthfeel with simple tasty redcurrant finish. €5 80-85
2007 Vin de Pays white (Grenache blanc Ugni blanc Sauvignon blanc) - gummy and mineral vs quite rich and oily, attractive texture and weight balancing its underlying freshness vs exotic "fat" characters. Very nice white and great value at €6. 87-89
2003 Vin de Pays white (13.5%) - developed, rounded, nutty and oily vs dried apricot notes; quite a kick to it and full-bodied mouthful, interesting old white style although beginning to fade a bit.2007 "M" Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah Grenache Cinsault) - lovely perfumed dark cherries and ripe blueberries / cassis, turning more liquorice with light smoky wild herb tones; lively and tasty with a tad of fresh bite, supple vs dry tannins and a bit of weight; aromatic crunchy juicy vs "sweet" fruit, turning more savoury and spicy on the finish. €7 87-89
2004 Les Myrthes Coteaux du Languedoc (two-thirds Syrah plus Grenache) - smoky forest floor and leather maturing notes, complex turning more "tar" like vs wild herbs vs subtle sweet oak; fine dry tannins, a bit of power but very well balanced with cassis vs liquorice vs savoury fruit and lovely coating and texture, elegant stylish finish. Drinking now although will keep for another 5 years easily with its impeccable balance of fruit, oak, tannins and alcohol. €15 92-94
2003 Les Myrthes - actually a bit closed up to start with light cedar vs ripe cassis on the nose; much chunkier with bigger tannins and maturing leather notes, surprisingly tight and closed on the finish with grip and concentration. In the end, it's a tad unbalanced towards alcohol and tannins but still has very seductive savoury fruit finish. €15 89-91
2001 Les Myrthes - maturing leather, liquorice and dried fruits/herbs with rich cassis vs savoury undertones, delicious and complex; sumptuous dark tasty and lush vs elegant and quite mature, attractive texture still with a hint of fine dry tannins; there's still life in it yet. €20 92-94
2000 Amarante (precursor to above) - tobacco/leather and mature unpasteurised cheese (!), dried cassis and wild herbs vs liquorice and "tar"; sweet & savoury style with fine balance, again well developed with less structured, more melted-in tannins but still delicious maturing minty vs liquorice fruit and lovely length. 92-94
Aster (2007 sweet white "vin de table", 14.5% and 104 gr/litre residual sugar) - intriguing floral wild honey nose plus super ripe apricots and marmalade, rich oily and spicy fruit with "mushroom" botrytis notes; good balance with refreshing acidity, rhubarb jam vs waxy and spicy texture, quite subtle despite its sweetness; attractive odd-ball kind-of Sauternes/Montbazillac style with a bit less acidity.

Mas Mouriès, 30260 Vic Le Fesq. Tel/fax: 04 66 77 87 13, bouet.eric@wanadoo.frwww.mas-mouries.com.

20 June 2009

Languedoc: Domaine Pastouret, Costières de Nîmes

Domaine Pastouret

Jeanne and Michel Pastouret have been working to organic standards since 1980, so you certainly can't say they've jumped on the "bio" (as the French call it) bandwagon! After taking that initial step, they became fully certified organic in 1993 following a period of "remodelling the estate," as Michel explained to me, with the "first new wines" released in 2000. Their 30 hectares (75 acres) of vineyard lie on gently south-facing slopes along the Nîmes "Costières" itself. I first came across one their reds as a tasting judge at the 2006 Signature Bio organic wine competition and finally had the chance to visit them in June 2009 while in the area. 

These are the latest vintages available, all reasonably priced between €5 and €6.50:
2008 Costières de Nîmes rosé (50/50 Syrah/Grenache) - nice elegant Provence vs Languedoc style with attractive light fruit vs crisp, lively and mouth-watering finish. 85-87
2008 Costières de Nîmes white (Clairette "de Bellegarde"/Grenache blanc) - aromatic and mineral to start, turning more exotic and gummy; attractive gentle fruit and crisp dry bite showing good length and mouth-watering finish again. 87
2008 Costières de Nîmes red (Syrah/Grenache) - lovely spicy black cherry fruit, perfumed and upfront; juicy mouthfeel and more concentrated than expected vs dry yet rounded tannins, nice and ripe vs a bit of bite with good balance of juicy spicy flavours and firmer texture. 87
2007 Cuvée Spéciale Costières de Nîmes (Syrah/Grenache remaining after the rosé is "bled" off with malolactic fermentation in barriques) - again shows enticing fruit although more powerful and full-bodied with bigger structure and grip; quite concentrated and chunky vs background fruit and very light cedar / chocolate notes. Needs a year to open up fully. 89+

Route de Jonquières, 30127 Bellegarde. Tel: 04 66 01 62 29, contact@domaine-pastouret.comwww.domaine-pastouret.com.

17 June 2009

Roussillon: Château Mossé, Sainte-Colombe de la Commanderie

Jacques Mossé has trimmed his picturesque estate to around 50 ha (125 acres) having ripped up "the less good parcels," and sells off any extra wine "not considered appellation standard." The distinctive red-clay vineyards climb gently up behind the twee village of Ste-Colombe, neighbouring Thuir, and downhill towards Terrats. Jacques makes good traditional Roussillon styles, including complex aged 'vins doux naturels' (sweet fortified wines), and more 'contemporary' barrique influenced reds.
The first three wines here were tasted in his cellar on 31/1/06; there are more filed under "wines of the moment" (Mossé dry Muscat and rosé) and below. These wines are easy to find in local restaurants and wine shops, although he doesn't export that much.

2003 Côtes du Roussillon tradition (Syrah, Grenache & Carignan) - nice maturing nose, sweet and perfumed; the palate's still firmly textured, rounded out by quite concentrated fruit. €5 85+
2003 Temporis (80% Syrah aged in barriques) - spicy coconut oak aromas set the scene for lightly choco texture, good depth of fruit too; more supple than the tradition yet still structured and long. 87-89
2003 Le Carignan - appealing rustic ripe cherry aromas, lovely depth of 'sweet' fruit then firmer and more powerful on the finish. 90+ 

Tasted July 2006:
2005 Le Rosé, Côtes du Roussillon (13%) - nice chunky oily textured style, less perfumed than some but more serious on the palate; drink this with an anchovy salad. €5 85-87
Tasted summer 2007:
2006 Le Rosé, Côtes du Roussillon (13%) - similar to the 05 but a little tighter fresher and more refined even. Still a foodie rosé though. 87
Tasted June 2009 over dinner at Can Marty restaurant, Thuir:
2007 Le Rosé - still drinking well with nice ripe red fruits and oily texture v bit of weight and freshness. Pretty good with duck and steak even. 87
2008 Le Rosé...

Domaine Mossé, 66300 Sainte-Colombe de la Commanderie. Tel: Tel 04 68 53 08 89, fax 04 68 53 35 13; chateau.mosse@worldonline.frwww.chateau-mosse.com.

01 June 2009

Undiscovered Spain: Castilla y León

"The vast evocative Castilla & León region, which lies roughly between Madrid and the north coast stretching almost from Rioja across to Galicia and Portugal, isn't exactly "undiscovered," for Spanish wine lovers at least. Hip Ribera del Duero needs little introduction and other areas such as Toro (for reds) and Rueda (for whites), which are found to the east, south and west of Valladolid, appear to have gained some ground in the recognition stakes in the UK and US. But on this winery tour..."
CLICK HERE for the full works (at the bottom of this long Spanish archive page)...

"Saucy winery fresco @ Zamoranas"
by Brett Jones

Roussillon: Domaine du Mas Blanc, Banyuls-sur-mer

Latest HERE featuring their 2000 Vieilles Vignes Banyuls tasted with fine chocolate (December 2013)...

Jean-Michel Parcé puts together quite a diverse range of traditional reds (mostly Collioure) and Vins Doux Naturels, sourced from different plots lying in first-rate sites around the Banyuls-sur-Mer area, which usually age well - he doesn’t tend to release them until he thinks they're ready. Jean-Michel, whose winery and cellars are located right in the town centre, has been at the helm of Mas Blanc for over 30 years continuing the pioneering work done by Doctors Gaston (grandfather) and André (father) Parcé. So, a few generations of Doctors (Who?) then, for those of you who don't know them and get the tangential "joke" ((w)ho (w)ho).
On the Banyuls VDN front, he makes just about every style imaginable (and a couple more besides), which makes Mas Blanc a good place to learn something about these distinctive wines. For example, his ‘Rimage’ La Coume, built from rather old Grenache, is intensely "sweet and sour"; and Colheita-style ‘Excellence’ impressive, quirky and complex. As for Collioure reds, Clos du Moulin (the name of the vineyard, pic. above) is made from about 80% Mourvèdre supplemented by Counoise and is something of a solid meaty forte; and his half-Syrah Cosprons (again, a single vineyard site) is rich, smoky and savoury. Jean-Michel has also started producing more whites (e.g. the promising ‘Signature’ below) and rosés, as well as a few balsamic-style Banyuls vinegars (see website at bottom for details).

Spring 2009:
2008 Signature white Collioure (Grenache blanc Marsanne Roussanne & Tourbat) - exotic fruit and banana notes lead on to zesty citrus vs a touch of yeast-lees creaminess, finishing with nice fresh mineral length. €12.50 87-89
2006 La Llose red Collioure - already turning smoky and savoury with minty herbal undertones and nice cassis fruit too; tangy vs soft mouthfeel with subtle concentration, attractively lively and firm vs easy and supple on the finish. €9 87
2004 Cosprons Levants red Collioure - smoky leather touches although still a bit closed up surprisingly; maturing ripe resiny fruit vs hints of wild herbs on the palate, enticingly elegant savoury and tasty finish. €18.50 89+
2004 Clos du Moulin Collioure (mostly Mourvèdre) - meaty black olive aromas with dried fruits too; attractive elegant palate showing a lush savoury side vs firm but accessible tannins, dry yet quite fine finish. €23 89+
2005 Les Junquets Collioure (mostly Syrah) - very cassis nose although perhaps a tad reduced; cleaner palate, pretty solid at this stage with 'sweet' vs herbal fruit, tight closed up style but give it 1 to 2 years. €28 90
2006 Rimage Banyuls - oxidising meaty edges vs nice intense sweet raspberry vs dry grip all lending good balance. Still young. €21 87+
2004 Collita Banyuls - more liquoricey with dried / cooked fruits, spicy too vs firm textured, lush and sweet vs meaty leather tones. €15 88+
Cuvée du Docteur Banyuls - more oxidised with toffee and sweet nuts; oily texture vs dry grip, nice traditional style with a warming Christmas pudding finish. Just what the, erm, Doctor ordered (groan). €13 89+
1998 Vieilles Vignes Banyuls - maturing "cheesy" aromas, intricate and savoury; rich toffee vs again that dry texture, nutty and long. Yum, all comes together nicely. €30 92+
2000 Excellence Banyuls "Colheita style" - unusual nose showing toffee, banana, caramel and baked Brazil nuts with an interesting "herbal" backdrop; sweet vs structured and punchy mouthfeel with delicious "sweet & savoury" mix, dry grip vs liqueur-like flavours. Wow. €35 92-94
Hors d'Age Sostrera Banyuls ("solera" style) - really oxidised and sweet, very complex and Madeira like although more raspberry syrup; again firm palate yet minty or something too, fine mature wild cheese notes then structured and still lively finish. A one-off. €45 92+
This "bin-end" was found in a LeClerc store (north Perpignan), early summer 2009 (I assume as it was only €5 and bottled with a screwcap, so I doubt originally destined for French supermarkets):
2005 Les Piloums Collioure rouge (13.5%) - attractive mature supple style with dried, smoky, savoury fruit; lacks a bit of substance and class but quite a bargain though. 85

And this is what I said back in September 2005:
2003 Banyuls blanc (Grenache Blanc Malvoisie Muscat d'Alexandrie 16.5%) - Unusual bromide nose leads to minerally palate, finishing more Muscaty and aromatic; good balance of alcohol and residual sugar. 85
2001 Banyuls Rimage, la Coume (Grenache Noir 17.5%) - Fairly oxidised nose (intentionally) showing lovely spicy 'garrigue' fruit with perfumed wild flowers, attractive grip of tannins v sweetness with good bite and length. €38 92-94
2001 Clos du Moulin, Collioure (80% Mourvèdre + Counoise) - Lovely ripe smoky complex nose with sweet berry, liquorice, mushroom and lavender; soft v structured mouthfeel, dry texture with bite of tannin and acidity layered with rich wild raspberry fruit, subtle elegant length and concentration. 90-92
2003 Mosaique, Collioure - More up-front and straightforward than the Clos Moulin, ripe blackberry fruit then quite structured closing up a little on the finish; again shows richness v elegance v firmness. €15 87+

9 Avenue Général de Gaulle, 66650 Banyuls-sur-Mer. Tel: 04 68 88 32 12, www.domainedumasblanc.com.

Roussillon: Domaine Berta-Maillol, Banyuls-sur-mer

Springtime at Domaine Berta-Maillol, from www.bertamaillol.comDomaine Berta-Maillol
This "perhaps 400 year-old estate" is found a few kilometres inland from Banyuls-sur-Mer town centre (where they also have a shop), not far from the Maillol museum (well-known 20th Century artist who is a relative) and the riot of a 'road' that eventually climbs over the Col de Banyuls into Spain. The Berta-Maillol family loves to chat enthusiastically about the region's wines - how they're made, history, what to eat with them - while tasting with you in their old cellar. In fact, there are some lovely recipe ideas on their website (see below). Banyuls Vin Doux Naturel is obviously their pride and joy - the appellation stretches across the sheer rugged slopes behind and between the seaside towns of Collioure, Port-Vendres, Banyuls-sur-Mer and Cerbère - and these fortified, Port-style red wines slowly improve as they mature...
2004 Collioure Arrels (mostly Grenache plus Mourvèdre Carignan Syrah) - perfumed blackcurrant and cherry with lavender notes, quite tangy yet attractive fruit to finish. 85
2004 Collioure Barral - grippier and a little spicier with background oak v chunky fruit; odd sort of glue smell to start but has a better finish. 83-85
2005 Banyuls blanc (Grenache blanc & gris plus Muscat) - nice aromatic style, sweet honey and flowers v fresh zingy finish; somewhat youthful showing promise. 87
2004 Banyuls (Grenache) - appealing black cherry, prune and leather notes; not very sweet with lively alcohol and light tannins on its good length. 87-89
2003 Banyuls - more oxidised and sweeter, delicious liquorice and prune fruit followed by nice bite. 87
2001 Banyuls - meatier with stronger leather tones, lovely rich liquorice flavours within its complex developing fruit; long and well integrated tannins/alcohol, a bit drier than the 03. 90+
Banyuls Hors d'Age (solera method: average age 5 to 8 years with a tiny proportion much older) - intricate savoury v toffee aromas, rounded and tasty palate with roast beef and prune notes; very long finish, a real treat.
Updated spring/summer 2009: affable brothers Jean-Louis and Michel Berta-Maillol have made some changes in winemaking techniques and style, which show through nicely in their richer fruitier 2007 and 2008 Collioure reds; as well as new dry white wines and a chunky rosé. And a new blog too: http://bertamaillol.zeblog.com. All the 2008s I tasted were unfinished tank or cask samples:
2008 Collioure blanc (Grenache blanc & gris) - exotic and "fat" with attractive apricot and quince aromas/flavours mingling with hints of pine essence; quite rich vs zesty with a tangier side vs creamy yeast-lees notes, dry mineral bite with fresh acidity vs rounded and weighty. 87+
2008 Muscat sec (Alexandria) - lively perfumed orange peel zest vs grapey "Muscaty" notes; zippy and gummy palate with a dry twist. 85-87
2008 Collioure rosé (Grenache Syrah) - lively red fruits with creamy edges, gummy "boiled sweet" tones with off-dry finish. Nice style. 87
2008 Collioure rouge (50+% Grenache plus Mourvèdre Carignan Syrah, ageing in big tuns) - delicious black cherry and blueberry fruit, spicy and minty too; firm and dry mouthfeel vs vibrant floral liquorice flavours. Yum, will be lovely.
2008 Collioure Barral (more Grenache and Syrah than above plus Carignan, ageing in barriques) - deeper colour with a touch of chocolate oak, more liquorice and spice too; much firmer palate but concentrated too with floral vs "sweet" fruit, good balance and style showing power and grip vs freshness vs ripe texture. Promising.
2007 Collioure Barral - powerful yet perfumed with dark cherry fruit; rich rounded and liquoricey vs dry and solid, chunky and weighty vs lush and tasty. 90
2008 Banyuls Rimage (Grenache) - Black Forest Gateau richness vs quite raw alcohol (not surprising at this stage), firm and fruity finish.
2007 Banyuls Rimage (Grenache, 6 months in barriques) - mellower showing more cooked cherry aromas / flavours; lush vs structured mouthfeel, lively at this stage of course with lots of substance and fruit, attractive grip and texture vs sweetness. Very nice style and again promising. 88+
Mas Paroutet, Route des Mas, 66650 Banyuls-sur-Mer. Tel: 04 68 88 00 54, domaine@berta-maillol.com, http://www.bertamaillol.com/.

Roussillon: Mas de Lavail, Maury

Nicolas, Marie Laure and Jean Batlle have 50 ha (124 acres) around their handsome tree-shaded farmhouse off the main road near Maury - which is less common in this neck of the woods, growers around here often owning smaller parcels in a few different sites - plus another 25 or so towards Tautavel. The family has a long grape growing history but only bought the Mas in 1999, which is still being renovated. They've created a stylish cosy lounge reception area, adjoining a small barrel cellar, and a gîte, which during the vintage houses a merry band of guitar playing, multiple dog owning new-age-travelling pickers. Some thirty people are taken on for one month as the whole estate is hand-harvested and sorted. Lavail produces about 100,000 bottles and sells off the rest in bulk.

These wines tasted on 5/9/2006: see 6th Fenouillèdes wine fair and read on below for updates.
Cuvée le Sud blanc, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (Grenache Blanc & Gris, 14%) - nice mealy tones with subtle oak adding roundness and creaminess; fresher 'celery' bite v ripe fruit to finish. 87+
2004 Tradition Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Carignan Syrah Grenache) - lovely herbal black cherry and olive notes, quite rich and pure with fine tight grip and length. 89+
2003 La Désirade Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Carignan Syrah Grenache) - darker richer black cherry with blackberry spice, developing liquorice resin and
garrigue notes; powerful (15%) mouthfeel with chocolate textured tannins and tight length, lingering 'sweet v savoury' fruit too. 92
2003 Cuvée Ego, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (100% Grenache) - delicious pure ripe Grenache nose, rounded and lush v dry palate, powerful with lingering fruit; somehow still fairly elegant despite the 'wow' factor. 92-94
2004 Muscat de Rivesaltes - intense grape orange peel and lychee flavours, fresh acidity v alcohol (usually 15%+) but still a bit too sweet (110 grams per litre residual sugar) despite this and good extract.
Maury blanc (Grenache Blanc) - light choco toast aromas and texture, not so aged in style and a bit fruity-sweet bland against only light bite. Not so attractive on its own, but Marie Laure said it's good with a dish like scallops in Noilly Prat sauce!
2004 Maury Expression 'Vintage' (100% Grenache, 16%) - black cherry and choco with savoury gravy notes, lightly oxidised edges yet lovely fruit and coating of dry tannins that lend a fresher, tight finish offsetting the rich sweetness (80g/l residual sugar). Yum.
To buy these wines in the UK, contact Leon Stolarski Fine Wines. Also available in the US: 2007 update the whole range is now distributed by Domaine Cazes' sales company, headed up by namesake nephew Lionel Lavail.

Update spring/summer 2009 - son Jean (or is it Nicolas? Apologies for my rudeness...) Batlle (tricky Catalan surname pronounced "bye-ya" I believe) took me through their latest vintages. For some reason, I appear to have been a bit less wow-ed this time..?
2007 Le Sud (Grenache blanc & gris) - lightly toasty coconut notes, exotic and spicy; "salty" mineral palate turning nutty, quite nice style. 85+
2006 Tradition Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Carignan Grenache 14%) - attractive herbal cassis notes, turning into richer black cherry; nice and juicy vs dry mouthfeel, medium-bodied and straightforward yet quite elegant with appealing fruit on the finish. 85-87
2006 La Désirade Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Carignan 15%) - one year in oak: smokier and spicier on the nose; tighter quite closed palate, firm with hints of chocolate vs attractive depth of fruit and structured finish. Promising. 89
2005 Ego (Grenache 15%) - delicious ripe liquorice aromas, peppery lush and "sweet"; taut mouthfeel with solid framework vs maturing savoury flavours, surprisingly balanced despite that alcohol with enticing juicy fruit vs dry finish. Yum. 90-92
2007 Expression Maury - lovely raspberry and black cherry nose; lively fruit with leathery edges, nice dry vs sweet style. 87-89
2006 white Maury - unusual honeyed exotic and spicy aromas / flavours vs orange peel and nutty oxidising tones; lush and sweet vs dry grainy mouthfeel and nutty bite. Different and complex too, with attractive underlying freshness vs ageing. 89+
2006 Muscat de Rivesaltes (Petits Grains) - very Muscat, still lively and floral with zesty orange peel, attractive zing vs oily finish. 87

18 Rue Henri Barbusse, 66460 Maury. Tel: 04 68 59 15 22, masdelavail@wanadoo.fr, www.cazes-rivesaltes.com.

Languedoc 2008 vintage 'en primeur' tasting report

Jumping the gun on the Bordeaux lot, Languedoc winemakers had the bright idea of showcasing their 2008 vintage wines (or 'representative samples' of) en primeur in March 2009 to, well, make a point really. The world's wine media has become so obsessed with everything Bordeaux, and maybe Burgundy too, that the whole vintage in France seems to be judged, and either written off or glorified, depending on the weather etc. in Bordeaux alone.
It was the case in 2007, a good vintage around the Med having tried lots of very nice wines (and all styles), some of them available now. And 2008, perhaps a touch better in certain regions across the south than elsewhere in France, according to a broad diversity of palates, growers and opinions, yet mediocre in Bordeaux - although reports coming through after the recent en primeur tastings there have confirmed the wines are better than expected, much in certain cases - therefore all of France tarred with the same brush.
So, this year the Languedoc gang decided to shout a bit louder about it and held an entire week of tastings area by area. I could only go for one day - covering reds from the Languedoc appellation as a whole: Sommières (nice fruit and style), between Montpellier and Nimes; Pic Saint-Loup (very consistent with some high scores); Grès de Montpellier (more subdued but a few very good ones here); Pézénas (well-balanced with a touch of class); Terrasses du Larzac (also pretty consistent, superior quality); La Clape (several impressive wines although some too marked by toasted wood) and Picpoul de Pinet whites (generally high standard, very enjoyable).
I've also already tasted quite a few 2008 vat and barrel samples from e.g. Corbières, Saint-Chinian and the Roussillon with their winemakers, let alone some rosés and whites now on sale. All showing 08 is worth talking about - although less immediately charming than 07 - let alone drinking. Many of the reds have the lively attractive fruit of the 2007s, yet with the structure and bite of a more "classic" vintage such as 2006 (beginning to look rather good too actually). Anyway, these were my favourites - all tasted blind then cross-referred to a crib sheet - although I didn't try the entire daunting line-up! Some might have been overlooked as, being unfinished samples, weren't showing well; or quite simply as there wasn't time to taste everything...
ED with crystal ball (2015): changed my mind a bit about 2008, having retried many of them since I wrote this (as you'll see from all my Languedoc reports since then). Only the best ones are still showing really well, otherwise a drink up quick vintage.

Languedoc AOC rouge

Domaine de la Reynardière - perfumed, juicy and spicy black cherry fruit; quite rich v dry texture, nice elegant style. 87
Abbotts "Boreas" - spicy lively raspberry and cassis fruit; has a bit of a kick then firmer finish, closing up but quite long. 87+

Languedoc Sommières

Domaine des Sauvaire - quite rich and perfumed on the nose; concentrated / extracted mouth-feel showing fair grip but has nice fruit and weight too. 87
Château Langlade "Prestige" - more structured with an attractive mouthful of spicy v ripe fruit, promising finish. 88(+)
Mas Granier - peppery perfumed aromas, chunky concentrated palate with good depth of vibrant fruit. 89+

Pic Saint-Loup

Les Domaines Bru "Le Loup du Pic" - seductive Syrah fruit (?) with classic spicy black cherry notes/ flavours; nice intensity v subtle tannins. 87+
Domaine Haut Lirou - again has that sexy "Syrah" perfume and spice combined with delicious depth of fruit and big structure. 90+
Mas Thélème "Carpe Diem" - offers real depth and intense fruit; firm and powerful with peppery lush mouth-feel then tight finish. 88+
Château de Lancyre "Vieilles Vignes" - commanding very concentrated wine with seductive spicy black fruits; very firm and long finish. 92+
Le Chemin des Reves "Gueule de Loup" - solid and extracted but also shows very nice spicy v 'sweet' fruit. 87+
Domaine Zumbaum Tomasi "Clos Maginiai" - straight and clean, subtle peppery v ripe fruit; tight closed finish, could be good. 87+
Clos des Augustins "Sourire d'Odile" - enticing and classy, 'sweet' fruit with a tad of oak, chunky and structured then rich v tight finish. 90-92
Château Laroque "Cupa Numisae" - lovely fruit and aromas; taut and textured palate / length, promising. 90 More La Roque here
Château de Lascaux "Tradition" - lively spicy black cherry nose; quite lush v firm and long, delicious actually. 92

Terrasses du Larzac

Le Clos du Serres "Le Clos" - spicy minty aromas with black forest gateau notes; fresh bite and grip, very attractive style. 89
Domaine L'Aiguelière "Cote Dorée" - rich v tangy cassis with wild herb edges; tight refreshing finish. 87+
La Bastide aux Oliviers - crunchy and tense palate showing wild fruits, liquorice and tobacco; fiery and firm on the finish. 88+
Renée Marie Giner "Vallongue" - ripe and liquoricey, delicious 'sweet' v savoury flavours v subtle dry texture. 90+ More here
Mas du Pountil "Le Mas" - concentrated and chunky with meaty edges yet 'sweet' fruit, powerful and solid. 90+
Mas de la Séranne "Les Immortelles" - not displaying much on the nose but has big meaty fruit and tannins; quite high alcohol but finished with complex tobacco notes. 89+
Domaine du Causse d'Arboras "Les Grazes" - structured, fleshy and also quite punchy; attractive oily v tobacco fruit and texture though. 87+
Mas des Brousses - spicy and focused, 'sweet' v savoury fruit with floral cherry undertones; well-balanced finish. 87+
Domaine Alain Chabanon "L'Esprit de Font Caude" - a bit closed and unrevealing although it has fair depth of spicy floral v riper fruit then firm texture. 87+ More here.
Château St-Jean d'Aumières "A" - enticing ripe blueberry aromas and flavours; chunky v peppery palate with rounded tannins. 89


Domaine de Fabregous "Le Coeur" - seductive and lush with spicy black fruit cocktail; solid mouth-feel but not hard, nice 'sweetness' and oomph on the finish. 88+
Domaines Paul Mas "Les Faisses" - oaky although lush v firm textured, powerful tight length; promising. 89+ More Mas.
Prieuré de St-Jean de Bébian - similar style showing perhaps richer & spicier fruit, firm v chocolate mouth-feel; nice texture in the end. 90

La Clape

Domaine Ferri-Arnaud "Tradition" - lush 'tar' aroma and texture, spicy and chunky mouth-feel finishing more 'sweet' & savoury. 90
Mas du Soleilla "Les Chailles" - aromatic floral plummy nose; oily v firm palate showing attractive ripe wild fruits and spices, then big finish. 90
Château Pech Redon "L'Epervier" - concentrated and extracted 'tar' fruit v black pepper and fresh counterbalance; wow. 90-92
Château Ricardelle "Clos Sablières" - again has that wilder spicy side v 'tar' and tobacco; very ripe with chocolate texture, in line with others stylistically and nicely done. 88-90

Grès de Montpellier

Saint Jean du Noviciat "Novi" - delicious ripe 'tar' v wild herbs on the nose, perfumed yet 'fat' fruit then soft-ish tannins. 87+
Château de l'Engarran "Grenache Majeur" - spicy liquorice "Grenache" style, punchy and powerful with quite firm tannins yet 'sweet' fruit lingering on the finish. 89
Clos des Nines "L'Orée" - ripe v peppery nose; very firm and solid with underlying 'sweet' fruit and pepper notes, tight long finish. 90
Château de Flaugergues "Colbert" - "vinous" 'sweet' nose; chewy tannins v vibrant lush fruit, solid finish. 88+
Abbaye de Valmagne "Turenne" - lively "Syrah" style (?) with floral spicy aromas; nice dry v 'sweet' finish. 87+

Picpoul de Pinet

La Croix Gratiot - pretty classic lively gummy style; oily v crisp and mineral palate, nice length. 87
Domaine des Lauriers "Prestige" - peachier and richer v subtle lemon and sherbet zest in the mouth, wow finish. 89+
Domaine de Belle Mare - pretty intense and gummy nose; elegant palate showing waxy texture v very fresh acidity, long clean finish. 88
Domaine Félines Jourdan - oilier and more honeyed "Riesling" style; "chalky" and incisive mouth-feel v exotic apricot flavours. 90+
La Grangette Ste-Rose "L'Enfant Terrible" - closed up on the nose; zippy v honeyed, subtle intensity and less seductive now, although should round out nicely in a few months. 87+

Over dinner at Le Bar à Vin in Pézenas (20 Cours Jean Jaurès, tel: 04 67 31 71 98) with lots of porky produce, the focus of their menu. The relaxed yet lively atmosphere led to me dropping those tiresome scores for a change:
2004 "Les Myrthes" Mas Mouries (Syrah Grenache Cinsault) - nice smoky development, rich cassis and liquorice v fresher herbier side; good balance and style, with tighter structured mouth-feel v underlying lushness.
More Mouries wines and profile.
2001 Château Paul Mas - smoky maturing fruit and texture, turning savoury but still has plenty of life. Quietly, a bit of a Languedoc classic: the wine and the vintage. 
More Mas vintages.

"L'Hospitalitas" La Clape Gérard Bertrand - tried four vintages:
2003 - delicious smoky 'tar' and fig with herbal cassis intricacy and lots of other stuff too; complex, rich and firm although quite mature now, not too powerful for a 2003; good foodie.
2002 - meatier and more savoury with enticing light tobacco / leather tones; elegant and mature, very nice now.
2004 - smoky leather aromas but still more structured and firm-textured; subtle finish, closes up but very promising.
2005 - attractive ripe spicy wild fruits / herbs v dried fruit edges; solid tight mouth-feel, not very revealing although some nice savoury fruit underneath its concentrated core. Needs 2 to 3 years. More GB wines and report.
2006 "Polaris" Pézenas Stella-Nova - stonky ripe dried fruit style with roast parsnip edges; very tight although slightly extracted framework, attractive but already turning old despite those gripping tannins. More Stella Nova.
2000 Pic St-Loup Château de Lascours - lovely complex mature nose continuing onto the palate, although it quickly got "very mature" in the glass so drink up now!

All rights Richard Mark James, posted June 2009.


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