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01 June 2009

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.

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