Buy Richard Mark James' book about the Roussillon wine region on Amazon UK in colour paperback and eBook or black & white version, and Amazon US: colour paperback and eBook or black & white. Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover or eBook. For other countries, tap on the cover image below.

30 November 2009

Mas Amiel - Roussillon

I've posted a new profile on Mas Amiel and 10+ wine reviews (including a sublime, 93-95 point 1980 Maury) here, the first chapter in my Roussillon guides. A little taster: "Arguably the most famous name in the Maury area (and suitably celeb prices to match, you might be cheeky enough to add), Mas Amiel has been owned by Bordeaux magnate Olivier Decelle... since 1999..." Updated October 2010 with even more reviews...

20 November 2009

Languedoc: La Grange d'Aïn, Faugères

La Grange d'Aïn

Cédric Saur's family owns and runs the quite well-known Château Haut-Fabrègues near Cabrerolles, found in the middle of nowhere in deepest Faugères country. La Grange d'Aïn is Cédric's baby, 12 hectares (30 acres) of plum old vineyards planted with Grenache, Carignan and Syrah and farmed organically. He's making some pretty serious reds showing lots of fruit extract, big tannins, power and occasionally oak. Nevertheless, they're very well-made, tasty, full of character and obviously built from true quality fruit and a hand-made approach, rather than just show-stopping competition wines you wouldn't actually want to drink. These three were sampled at the Millésime Bio organic wine show (Perpignan Jan 2008). More info to follow as he's definitely on my Faugères-visiting list (along with another dozen or so...): see below below in fact!
2004 Le Penchant du Cerisier Faugères (mostly Carignan +Grenache, 2 years in barriques) - rich smoky nose, very ripe and dense fruit with tobacco edges; really solid framework although finishing with attractive liquorice and spice flavours to balance. €12 90-92
2006 Le Cèdre Faugères (mostly Grenache + Carignan) - similarly smoky and ripe profile with dense structure, although a tad fruitier v solid tannins and hallmark liquorice & tobacco flavours. €11 88-90
2003 Les Mimosas (old vine Syrah, 4 years in barriques!) - plush oily raisin fruit coated with lots of coconut tannins; the wood is a bit intrusive and overall the wine a bit too extracted, but it's certainly impressive and quirky. 87-89?

 Update: I called in on Cédric on a dull and cold November's day, 2009, and tried the latest vintages. We talked a little about it really means to "go organic", and he said some interesting things apart from the obvious "environmentally friendly" reasons. Briefly paraphrased, the most important shift in thinking for him is "the way it made/makes him look at growing grapes and making wine in a totally new light... once you remove that guaranteed efficiency (from synthetic products)," Cédric mused, "you have to work the vineyard in a very different way." Basically, much more plot by plot watching and analysing how each variety or vine reacts in each location; whether there's a problem and how to deal with it, or whether you should just leave it alone. Food for thought... La Grange d'Aïn wines are now quite big in China, I'm told, as well as certain Paris restaurants.
2007 Le Cèdre Faugères (mostly Grenache + Carignan 14.5%) - dark cherry with a tad of choco oak, turning riper and spicier with meatier edges; lush smoky and peppery, quite concentrated and structured, big mouthful vs "sweet" vs firm yet attractive texture and finish. Underlying lightly volatile complex notes too (he only adds a little SO2 at bottling). 89+
2007 Le Penchant du Cérisier Faugères (80% Carignan +Grenache 14.5%) - less obvious on the nose, although again has meaty / leather tinges; vibrant blueberry and damson fruit, spicy and grippy mouthfeel with lively length, "sweet/savoury" finish with more of it than the above; delicious crunchy vs ripe berry with fine dry bite. 90-92
2003 Les Mimosas (mostly Syrah 14.5%) - spent four years in barrel but it only has a lightly dusty coconut coating vs meaty, leathery and smoked bacon tones; dry texture yet there's lots of ripe dried fruits and real depth of character plus a wilder side; chunky vs maturing finish. 90-92
2007 Le Penchant du Cérisier (3-litre bottle, bottled with no SO2 from "our favourite barrel!") - actually more open and smokier, perhaps the oak is a tad more upfront and grainy; but has attractive chunky powerful vs lush mouthfeel with blackberry fruit, grippy texture and firmer coating on the finish.90+
2003 Le Penchant du Cérisier (their first vintage) - reductive sulphide notes but has complex leather and dried fruit underneath; quite rustic although I like its delicious richness vs concentrated and firm feel, leaving a nice coating on the finish; actually well-balanced for a 2003 (alcohol/acidity/concentration/tannins). 88-90

Fontanilles, Lenthéric near 34480 Cabrerolles. Tel: 06 12 10 31 02,

02 November 2009

Languedoc: Château La Liquière, Faugères

Château La Liquière

La Liquière, all 60 ha/150 acres of it, occupies a rather picturesque spot up on the undulating hills around Cabrerolles, the rustic Cévennes foothills, in the northwest corner of the increasingly exciting Faugères appellation. The Vidal-Dumoulin family's vines, quivering across trim wavy terraces at 150-350m altitude (500-1000+ feet) and embedded in schist, stones and clay, are in the process of being converted over to certified organic growing. Meaning they already are practising it, and have been for a while I believe, but have to wait another couple of years to get the official bit of paper (recycled no doubt). These wines were tasted in situ (in the refurbished old-stone caveau, open usual office hours for tastings and sales: see website below for more info) with Francois Vidal in November 2009:

2008 Les Amandiers white Coteaux du Languedoc (Grenache blancRoussanneViognierTerretVermentino 13%) - floral and slightly exotic with yeast-lees edges; quite rich and oily mouthfeel vs nice crisp bite, balance and length. €6 85+
2008 Cistus white Faugères (Grenache blancRoussanne,Vermentino 14%) - lightly toasty and spicy wood notes on the nose but still has plenty of lovely aromatic honeyed fruit; juicy and crisp vs weighty, good depth and balance too. €10 87-89
2008 Les Amandiers rosé (CinsaultMourvèdreGrenache 13%) - elegant floral cherry blossom aromas; juicier and creamier red-fruit palate with strawberry vs crisp and refreshing finish. €6 85+
2008 Les Amandiers red (GrenacheCarignanSyrahMourvèdre13.5%) - lightly smoky while very fruity with dried fruits, black cherry and liquorice plus a touch of black olive even; very attractive juicy fruity mouthfeel more serious finish showing grip, crunchy fruits and bite and a bit of weight. €6 87
2007 "Vieilles Vignes" Faugères (GrenacheCarignan 14%) - smokier and quite complex, very ripe then turning savoury/tobacco-ish; attractive dry texture vs lush maturing fruit, then closes up on the finish. €8.30 88+?
2007 Nos Racines Faugères (oldest Carignan plus splash ofGrenache 14%) - rich "tar"/tobacco, ripe fruit and olive tones; pretty concentrated yet has appealing lively side and subtle tannins, long and quite fine finish. €11 90+
2006 Cistus Faugères (Syrah barrique-aged, Grenache,Mourvèdre, Carignan 14%) - complex maturing fruit on the nose, turning meaty with spicy edges; lush chunky and concentrated but again has nice balance, firmer structure and more powerful than above vs soft dark fruit and understated chocolate oak texture; lovely tasty lingering flavours. €14 92+

Liquière vintages tasted here ("Faugeres Focus" April 2011) and here ("2009 vintage report" June 2010).

Liquière wines are available from the Wine Society in the UK; and via Bonhomie Wine Imports, New Jersey, Ideal Wine, Boston, and also in California.

La Liquière, 34480 Cabrerolles. Tel: 04 67 90 29 20,

01 November 2009

Bordeaux: Côtes de Bourg and Listrac-Médoc

"Côtes de where? Not the favourite coastal or riverbank hang-out for Jean-Luc Picard's scariest enemy, but a lesser-known 'Right Bank' Bordeaux appellation. Somehow, it's surprisingly easy to get your geography in a twist on this side of the river and forget you're actually opposite Margaux 'just across' the water..."
Read it here.

Roussillon: Domaine des Enfants, Maury

Photo by Ron Scherl
There are more children (see 'Les Enfants Sauvages' too) found a little up the hill in Maury off the Cucugnan road (almost next door to Dept 66): Swiss-owned Domaine des Enfants is another great-potential 'start-up' estate. When I called by in late 2009, Marcel Bühler was brewing up his third vintage in his compact cellar, formerly owned by Serge Rousse (of the sadly defunct Domaine Terre Rousse). This was gleaned from 20 ha (50 acres) split across seven sites (half the vines around Maury plus Caramany, Cassagne, Rassiguere and Latour-de-France) with a variety of soil types (schist, granite, gneiss, 'terra rossa'...) and alarmingly low final yields of eight hl/ha. "We pick late then really select through (the fruit)," Marcel clarified, "we must've chucked away a quarter of it this year. Everything's very manual as the vineyards are old, so I've got two horses... No herbicides are used and I'm going for organic certification in 2010."
Marcel's background was in Zurich banking; he then studied wine-growing / -making at Germany's esteemed Geisenheim university. "I looked (at vineyards) in the Languedoc, in the Montpeyroux and Pic St-Loup areas, and Priorat and elsewhere in Spain... but it was all too expensive. Then I stopped off in the Roussillon and met Jean Pla (former proprietor of Le Pichenouille wine shop & restaurant in Maury and vineyard land broker)..." Dom des Enfants wines are mostly sold in Switzerland and Germany at the moment, by (e)mail order or at Jean's place above. Marcel, like other newcomers aiming high, has priced the wines at a pretty ambitious level: €18, €36 and €55. For those who can afford, they are very good it has to be said - all these were tank or barrel samples:

2008 Les Enfants Perdus (Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Lladoner Pelut) - lifted currant and berry notes, floral and spicy turning to liquorice; subtle oak backdrop vs lovely fruit then nice fresh bite. 87+
2008 Carignan - oakier but it's lush vs spicy with chocolate tannins, pretty concentrated and powerful wrapped in nice rounded and pure finish. 89+
2008 Grenache - meatier and more savoury with very ripe liquorice and black pepper undertones; subtle oak again adding texture vs intense black fruits, power and chocolate oak finish although that should blend in nicely. 90+
2008 Syrah - very dark and spicy nose with wild herb / minty edges; very concentrated and intense, fleshy vs dry texture. Yum. 90+

Varietals for the "mid to top wines... with 14 to 16 months in barrel":
2008 Carignan - even more intense, crunchy and spicy fruit with the oak more upfront but layered with lovely rich blueberry and liquorice. 91+
2008 Syrah - toastier with more chocolate but again has superb fruit, pure and spicy with ripe dark vs savoury touches; fair oomph and tasty tannins on its impressive length. 92+
2008 Grenache - more floral with 'garrigue' notes vs chocolate texture, again delicious intense liquorice, pepper and dark berries; more elegant than the above perhaps. 92+

2008 white (Carignan blanc, Grenache gris, Grenache blanc, Macabeu) - honeyed and flowery with very light toast, rounded and exotic vs spicy; quite big vs refreshing bite, attractive clean finish. 87+
And this red over lunch at the above-mentioned Pichenouille in November 09:
2007 Les Enfants Perdus (14.5%) - oaky at first turning rich and tasty with bite vs rounded mouthfeel and power, that dark chocolate oak melts in after a bit; well-made, concentrated and chunky but not overblown at all. 89+

Route de Cucugnan, 66460 Maury: where I pinched the photo from.