"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

17 December 2009

Roussillon 'red of the mo': Mastrío

Domaine Mastrío - Bélesta
A towards-festive bottle of red worthy of anyone's attention, a 2007 'elegant' (does what it says on the label) old-vine Carignan specialty by Mastrío:

2007 Elégant Carignan vieilles vignes vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (13.5%) - aromatic, floral even, blueberry fruit on nose and palate; shows nice elegance vs intensity, rich and ripe vs spicy with subtle oak notes; attractive texture and length too. 90+

Mastrió is a new-ish estate in the Bélesta back-lands: more words to follow...

A couple of new "wines of the moment"...

One white and one red towards-festive bottles: 2008 Grüner Veltliner Pfaffl (goes to "wotm" 2005-10 page) and 2007 Elégant Carignan Mastrió (takes you to their blurb on FMW).

16 December 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Rossignol, Passa

Pascal Rossignol
Pascal Rossignol (which means nightingale, pic.) and his wife Fabienne have 25 hectares (62 acres) of vineyards in Les Aspres zone just outside the village of Passa, west of the A9 motorway between Perpignan and the Spanish border. Originally co-operative growers, they decided to do their own thing and built a cellar and visitor centre a few years ago to focus on quality estate wines.

Tasted Feb/March 06:
Côtes du Roussillon Futs de Chene (Syrah, Grenache & Carignan, 14%) - needs a little air to open up, developing earthy plum fruit with light red pepper notes; quite firm and chunky tannins yet also has good depth of fruit for this vintage, rounded out by a touch of chocolate oak. €7.50 87
2004 Muscat d'Alexandrie sec Vin de Pays d'Oc (Muscat, 13%) - yet another nice example (see below) of a fresh, dry, crisp and mineral Muscat; this one has aniseed characters too and is quite concentrated with elegant length, try with Thai food. €4.20 87

2004 Côtes du Roussillon rosé (Syrah & Grenache, 13%) - gentle ripe red fruit cocktail with elegant acidity adding freshness. €4.50 85-87
2004 Côtes du Roussillon rouge - attractive young berry fruit combines with lightly dry tannins to produce a nice red for drinking with simple food. 83-85
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres 'Bérénice' (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre & Carignan) - just bottled when I tasted it, so the spicy aromatic oak is a little dominant at the moment; however, this has attractive texture and elegant depth of perfumed fruit underneath, subtle length too. 87-89
2003 Côtes du Roussillon Futs de Chene 'Le Graal' (Syrah, Grenache & Carignan, 14%) - some complex sulphide notes on the otherwise closed nose, powerful concentrated and grippy mouthfeel; very young, needs at least 2 years to show itself. 89+

Tasted June 2007:
2006 Muscat sec, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (13.5%) - floral grape and white peach aromas with light aniseed notes; soft yet full palate, nice and fresh but rounded too. €4.50 87+
2005 Côtes du Roussillon rouge (Syrah Carignan Grenache 14%) - attractive perfumed spicy plum and black cherry nose; nice juicy ripe fruit v lightly dry bite and grip, rounded and soft v power too. €5 87
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres Bérénice (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre & Carignan) - vanilla coco oak tinged with spicy floral cherry fruit; medium depth, rounded v extracted grip. Quite elegant I guess but seems a bit simple and obvious in terms of overdone new oak v depth of fruit. €9.50 however! 85-87

Update 2009/2010 I went to see the ever cordial Pascal and Fabienne in mid December 09 to catch up and taste their latest releases. Having started down the organic pathway a few years ago, 2009 is their first certified organic vintage.
2008 Muscat sec vin de pays - elegant grapey Muscat aromas with honeysuckle and aniseed too; fuller and oilier on the palate with nutty edges, nice juicy crisp finish; easy tasty dry white. 80-85
2008 Schistes Côtes du Roussillon (mostly Syrah + Grenache & Carignan from their higher altitude vineyard near Oms, 14%) - attractive pure spicy fruit showing lots of black cherry and white pepper; enticing fruity Syrah style with a bit of grip and depth, refreshing bite on the finish too. 87
2007 Bérénice Les Aspres 
Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan) - a touch estery/banana-ish on the nose with grainy oak tones, quite concentrated though showing good depth; it hasn't really come together yet although has rounded tannins and attractive finish. Leave it for 6-12 months to mellow out. 87+
2006 Graal Côtes du Roussillon (Mourvèdre + Carignan & Syrah) - quite aromatic cherry and black olive on the nose; fairly oaky palate yet with dense fruit and gripping tannins, big mouthful but well-handled and promising too. 89+
2009 Muscat de Noel - deliciously fresh and Muscat-y, luscious and sweet vs citrus peel bite and tang. Try with blue cheeses. 85
2004 Rivesaltes Ambré - turning walnut-ty and spicy with its Madeira-like undertones; tangy vs rich and oily, intricate and cheesy then a bit of oomph to finish; needs a few years to come together although it is nice now actually. 87-89
2007 Rivesaltes Grenat (Grenache 17%) - quite youthful and closed up (it was rather cold as well); vibrant black cherry fruit in the mouth, fairly lush then firm and punchy. A bit young at the moment but attractive style. 85+

Plus the latest medal winner is HERE (World Grenache Competition 2013).

Route de Villemolaque, 66300 Passa. Tel/fax: 04 68 38 83 17; domaine.rossignol@free.fr, domainerossignol.fr.

15 December 2009

Good match with "brandade"...

This wine went pretty well with brandade de morue (salt cod + potato + olive oil + garlic mash) tonight, admittedly a frozen one but still tasty: 2005 Domaine Mouscaillo Chardonnay from the hills south of Limoux, western Languedoc. Vertical tasting notes (2004 to 2008) will follow plus estate profile: check out that 'Winery A to Z'...

Good match with "brandade": Mouscaillo Chardonnay

This wine went pretty well with brandade de morue (salt cod + potato + olive oil + garlic mash) tonight, admittedly a frozen one but still tasty: 2005 Domaine Mouscaillo Chardonnay from the hills south of Limoux, western Languedoc. Vertical tasting notes (2004 to 2008) plus estate profile on my other blog.

13 December 2009

Yawn: yet another luxury "spec edit" Champagne

Champagne Gosset has launched one of those "luxury positioned" (like perfume or posh luggage) champers just in time for Christmas! This "limited edition special cuvée" (well, you'd hope so really) is "a blend of 12 Grands Crus and Premiers Crus from 2004 and 2002." I'd imagine it's very nice and must be a bargain (not) at £85 (unless a British supermarket gets hold of it and allegedly starts giving it away along with those other too-good-to-be-true offers flying around). Mind you, since it's banker bonus season again, no doubt posh champers like this will be flowing merrily anyway.

11 December 2009

Lost sheep and sweeties

After telling off sweet Muscat producers in my "Maury" post below and following on from ewes' milk cheese and wine pairing under "Twitter" below that; these wines are actually pretty good with arguably France's best-known sheep cheese, the blue tangy salty Roquefort. There's a great generic TV ad in France for this cheese, by the way. Kind of wild windy rustic and mystical. I did already post this as a "comment" but it doesn't seem to show up without clicking on a link. Oh well...

Wine Travel Guides special offer

As well as "the huge amount of information now free to view on our website," explains owner & publisher Wink Lorch, there's a special discount on Gold Membership (allows you unlimited access including downloadable PDF files of all guides, which aren't free) running until 9th January 2010. Simply "use the promotional code D2GIFT1209 to purchase Gold Membership for only £20 (around US$34) instead of £29. Copy and paste it into the box on the "Gift Membership" page and click enter." So, get planning that wine and food trip now! Guides cover most of France's wine regions plus Tuscany and Rioja. I'm the contributor/writer for Languedoc & Roussillon, by the way, just to state any "interest" if there is any as such (I'm freelance not an employee, I mean). Go to www.winetravelguides.com.

"Wine tasting supper" in Maury

In the unlikely event you're passing through the village of Maury (north Roussillon) on a Friday or Saturday in December, call in at the Maison du Terroir (on the right on the way in from Estagel before the co-op) at teatime (what a quaintly English word) for a bite to eat and taste some of the local wines with the winemakers. Sounds like fun. Today and tomorrow the focus is on Vins Doux Naturels (mostly rich red Maury I'd imagine) including new release "Christmas" Muscat. The latter can be very nice but too often an overpriced example of canny marketing. Ho hum. Anyway, the "gouter de Noel" costs €6 with snacks made by chef Pascal Borrell.

09 December 2009


Following the herd like a lost sheep, I'm now on twitter.com/WineWriting too. Nothing wrong with that though, I like ewes' milk cheeses actually. Hmm, I think there could be a "great wine & cheese" matches post coming on...
Update - I've abandoned twitter, good for celeb gossip but not much else (never say never though)...

"Making dangerous predictions..."

This was the title of Tim Atkin MW's column in UK drinks retailing fortnightly Off Licence News on 20th November. In quick summary: sommelier, wine guide author and TV personality Matt Skinner appears to have got his fingers burnt in his just-released "the Juice 2010" by recommending "a number of New World wines from the 2009 vintage that he could not have seen before the book's deadline in May." His defence was "...some of the wines he included... are consistently good from year to year." I don't know Matt nor have I read any of his books, but Tim's quite right to point out that he's on rather dodgy ground here in retaining credibility with readers. But what grabbed my attention more is the "excuse" forwarded by the publisher: "this was a way to get around long lead times and potential public disappointment," as in the past apparently "several of Skinner's choices had sold out before the book hit the shelves." Indeed, talk about accidentally admitting this style of paper guide now seems more or less pointless, thanks to the traditional publishing process itself! As Tim concluded, "Why not put the whole thing online to make it more immediate and up to date?" Then again, if you're reading this and agreeing, you already know where the future / present lies for wine writing!

08 December 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..." Notes on 40 wines overall including these favourites: Châteaux Fougas, Clos du Piat, Relais de la Poste, Coulée de Bayon, Améthyste de Génibon, Haut-Guiraud, Labadie... plus thoughts on image, tasting grapes, Malbec and wine travel tips..." "...And savour some of the imperial grandeur and wines of these four handsome properties in Listrac-Médoc: Château Fourcas-Dupré, Château Fonréaud, Château Lestage and Château Fourcas-Hosten..." Click here to find out more (goes to my big Bordeaux page)...

06 December 2009

Languedoc & Roussillon "Intersud" trade body

I recently noticed on French wine business website www.vitisphere.com that the French government has now stuck the boot in telling the far-too-many wine trade associations in the south to get their act together (they've been going through the motions for about 5 years). Most of them already agreed a few years ago it's a good idea and "Intersud" technically already exists, and they're mysteriously promoting the Sud de France "brand" regardless (no doubt by another separate and well-funded body). Yet it seems the CIVL (Languedoc wines), CIVR (Roussillon), Vins de Pays d'Oc and the other VDP, vin de table etc. wine producers all still prefer to keep their own little organisation totalling several directors, presidents, marketing, PR etc. doing their own little thing (gravy rather than wine train). They'll never conquer export markets unless they unite under one real banner, not just "a good idea" on paper, same goes for France too where producers are failing to get new wine drinkers on-board. I appreciate there are sensitive issues here as some people might lose their jobs in the amalgamation process. But why all the big fanfare all those years ago, yet since then nothing's really happened apart from a lot of meetings and expensive advertising campaigns for Sud de France etc! Lots more background on this on my other blog: frenchcataloniawine.

04 December 2009

"Updated regularly or occasionally as fits the mood...not exactly a wine of the week or month but could be...hopefully more spontaneous than that..."

I've just posted my latest Wines of the moment: click on that link and scroll down to Dec. 2009 for a few groovy winter finds: 2008 Rasiguères rosé - 2008 Pinot Noir Rotisserie - 2005 Carinyana Puig-Parahÿ. Anybody tasted these recently or anything similar?

Blog blast-off!

Check in here to stay updated on what's new on winewriting.com... and post your comments of course! Plus I'll be airing any intriguing winey news or goings-on that might or might not be worth discussing further, as and when I put my "Mr. Angry" hat on...

02 December 2009

Languedoc: Domaine de Mouscaillo, Limoux

The lost wee village of Roquetaillade really does feel like it's at the end of the road/world, perched up in the handsome hills south of Limoux at the southern end of the appellation area. There are a few good producers based around here including Marie-Claire and Pierre Fort at Domaine Mouscaillo (some of their vines border Domaine de l'Aigle, for example, now owned by the Gérard Bertrand group), whose 4.5 ha/13 acres of vineyards climb up gentle slopes to 400m/1300 feet in altitude. Mainly two varieties and two exposures: the Chardonnay faces north and the Pinot Noir south, more or less (the surging terrain here isn't as black-and-white chiselled out as that). There's "a tiny bit of Chenin and Mauzac too," as Pierre explained on my visit in December 2009.
The Forts returned to the south after many years at the helm of rather well-known Château de Tracy in Pouilly-Fumé (central vineyards, inner Loire valley). Pierre is also quietly optimistic about the future for Pinot planted in prime sites, although it's taken time to find its feet and they only have less than one hectare at the moment! I tend to agree, as you'll see from my notes below and comments made elsewhere on Languedoc producers experimenting with Pinot. Expanding briefly on winemaking techniques used for the Chardy, he told me they "ferment in demi-muids (450 litre barrels of varying ages) with lees-stirring, then leave it until after the following harvest." As for vintage 2009, "we picked from 1 to 12 September. It was hot from June onwards and we had to pick quickly, so acidity is lower than usual but it's not too alcoholic either." I tried a few promising 2009s from cask and all vintages back to 2004, their first actually, in descending order:

09 "younger vines" Chardy - lovely grapefruit and spicy floral notes; turning bready and creamy vs juicy and dry, just a touch of fresh acidity on the finish.
09 "older vines" Chardy - touch toastier and more structured, more powerful too yet with mineral bite, juicy citrus fruit and nice length.
09 "old vines" Chardy (malolactic fermentation done) - richer with more prominent yeast-lees notes vs again attractive juicy citrus zest, then more buttery on the finish vs finer acidity.
09 "old vines" Chardy (no malo-lactic) - much crunchier and fresher with pure lemony fruit, nice bite and length.
These lots of Chardy all end up in the final blend, in differing proportions, as Mouscaillo only does one label.
2009 Pinot Noir (older cask) - attractive perfumed cherry and spicy notes, expressive Pinot style; touch more savoury on the palate with freshness and light grip.
09 Pinot Noir (new barrique) - more structured and firmer tannins, spicier but still has plenty of Pinot character and depth too.
2008 Pinot Noir (from vat) - delicate and quite intricate again showing those perfumed floral cherry tones, subtle creamy depth and "sweet/savoury" flavours; lively and fairly firm finish with nice length. Give it a bit of time in bottle and we'll see. 87(+)
2007 Pinot - richer darker red fruits on the nose; firmer mouthfeel closing up to a pretty structured finish vs elegant perfumed fruit underneath. Needs 2-3 years to open up although again hints at some quality PN touches. 86-88
2008 white Limoux (about to be bottled) - quite honeyed and peachy vs spicy toasted edges; fairly powerful mouthfeel vs refreshing acidity adding mineral bite, then toastier fatter finish. 88+
2007 white - richer and more open with background toast notes, pineapple, peach and citrus too; quite creamy and oily, still a bit toasty on the palate, but it's concentrated and turning nutty too with nice weight on the finish vs fairly crisp acidity actually. 89-91
2006 white - maturing yeasty creamy notes vs background spice; oily and rounded mouthfeel vs attractive refreshing twist, less concentrated with grainier texture although drinking quite well now. 87+
2005 white - delicious buttery Burgundian nose, complex with hazelnut and oaty/leesy development; powerful and full yet tighter than the 06 in the end vs exotic, oily and nutty; good balance with a touch of class even if it's quite toasty/woody still, as there's lots going on plus that attractive maturing and rich vs vibrant finish. 90+
2004 white - oddly the nose is less open at first and toastier perhaps; quite fat and creamy vs a tad more awkward wood on the palate, although does show some depth vs fresh mineral finish. 87

UPDATES: latest vintages etc. here (Limoux report, April 2011).
2014: some news and latest vintages to follow soon...

6 rue du Frêne, 11300 Roquetaillade. Tel: 04 68 31 38 25 / 06 78 93 37 61, mouscaillo.com.

Roussillon: Domaine Puig-Parahÿ, Passa

UPDATED DEC 2012 (see below).

It's true that some European wine estates like to brag about how long they've been messing around in vineyards, but I've not come across (m)any who claim to have records going back to 1446! Latest generation is the charming Georges Puig (pictured), who's been running the show here since 1994. The estate takes in lightly elevated (sloping up to 200-250m altitude) vines old and new all around Passa in particular spots called Fort Saint-Pierre, Sant Lluc and nearby Mas de Miserys (sounds suitably Catalan, dour I mean. Oops!). The Puig-Parahÿ family has the most extraordinary collection of old Rivesaltes VDN wines imaginable - as you'll see from the 1945 below, although the "catalogue" apparently goes back into the 19th Century. Some in bottle, some in vat and some still in cask, as I discovered on a delightful little tour (of history too it felt like, especially as you get the impression Georges' family owns, or used to own, most of the village). Georges has good distribution in the US (Village Wine Imports NYC and also Virginia, Colorado and California: email him for details), UK (Richards Walford and Rare Wine), Tokyo (the Vine) and Germany.

I was lucky enough to taste these wines with him at his place in December 2009:
2008 Sant-Lluc del Puig white vin de pays d'Oc (Macabeu, Grenache blanc, Grenache gris 13.5%) - fresh pear fruit with oily zesty edges; juicy and crisp vs rounded with a bit of weight. Nice style. $10-$15 in the US. 85
2002 Sant-Lluc del Puig white - oxidising nose with oily mineral notes in a mature Riesling way; oily nutty palate still showing good acidity keeping it alive, wacky but good. 87
2008 rosé - attractive raspberry/strawberry fruit with light lees notes; creamy mouthfeel vs juicy and crisp, nice texture, weight and fruit then refreshing bite. $10-$15 85+
2005 Georges Syrah vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (13.5%) - turning meaty and smoky with peppery dark fruit hints; quite rich with ripe liquorice vs firm coating of tannins vs nice weight, finishing with "sweet" vs meaty flavours. More old-fashioned style but nice with it. $13-$15 85-87
2006 Georges Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache, Carignan, Syrah) - similarly smoky peppery nose although shows more liquorice and "Grenache" style; chunky grippy yet lush mouthfeel, the tannins are a tad rustic and dry but it's an appealing soupy mouthful of dark fruit too. 87
2007 Georges Côtes du Roussillon - the nose is a touch closed but this is fruitier and spicier than the 06; livelier and more upfront blackberry and damson fruit on the palate, juicy and rich vs attractive grip and spice. Needs 6 months to open up. 88+
2005 Rivesaltes red Vin Doux Naturel (90% Grenache + Syrah) - beginning to turn oxidised, nutty and Porty with dried cherries and liquorice; quite concentrated and extracted but does have nice balance of lush fruit, dry tannins and alcohol; good finish, tightening up with quite complex, chunky fruit. 87-89
1993 Rivesaltes red (in vat) - turning meaty with touches of Madeira-type complexity, tobacco and cough mixture too; tangy pecan nut palate with dry vs sweet texture, long intricate finish again showing good balance of delicious tasty old vs lively dried fruits. 90
1981 Rivesaltes red (in cask still!) - treacle tart aromas with volatile spicy minty notes; very intense pecans and dried raspberries, appealing bitter twist vs lush mouthfeel then savoury finish. Wow. 90-92
1971 Rivesaltes red - treacle and molasses notes with dark brown/orange tinges, roast walnuts and wood resin too, a tad dusty perhaps (or was that the glass?); rich and sweet vs meaty oxidised, long and unusual flavours, again cough mixture with dried spice undertones. Odd but good! 92+?
1945 Rivesaltes red - extraordinary nose, old oxidised and meaty vs lovely pecan nut and prunes; mouth-filling tasty and tangy flavours, the alcohol's perhaps a tad fiery now but it has an amazing thick palate-coating; doesn't taste as old as this with long liquorice, 'tar' and roast chestnut finish. 95+

Updated 2012: the exuberant Georges was at Millésime Bio wine show in Montpellier tasting just one lonely-looking red, since “it's the only one (vineyard) now certified (organic)... I'm switching some of them over plot by plot (out of a whopping 71 ha/177 acres in total).” Watch this long space then...
2011 Carinyane de Perpignane – juicy jammy and spicy, fresh crunchy berry palate vs sweeter blue red and black fruity combo on its attractive finish. Good+

66300 Passa. Phone: 04 68 38 88 77 / mobile: 06 14 55 71 71, g.puigparahy@free.fr, www.puig-parahy.fr.

01 December 2009

Roussillon: Domaine de Bila-Haut / Chapoutier, Latour-de-France

The big name and big heart of Michel Chapoutier made a relatively discreet move on the Roussillon more than 10 years ago, with his maiden vintage in 2001. Their operation is based in and around the village of Latour-de-France: Bila-Haut now amounts to 65 hectares (160 acres) of their own vineyards here and ten in Lesquerde, the latter eventually becoming the source of a new Côtes du Roussillon Villages ‘Lesquerde’ red label. These plantings are supplemented by grapes purchased from other trusted growers in the area and further south too: a Banyuls and a red Rivesaltes Vin Doux Naturel have been added to the range more recently (I’ve yet to taste these though). Chapoutier’s arrival must have helped in convincing any lingering sceptics, if there were/are any left, that there really are some superb old vineyards in the Agly Valley stretching across the Roussillon's ragged northern reaches. An ideal spot, it would seem (dry and windy), for implementing the company's global philosophy and farming policy of organic/biodynamic winegrowing.
As for the two tasty, although not exactly spectacular, reds reviewed below in December 2009, they're sourced from different parcels with different soils and aspect: gneiss, black and brown schist and limestone, just to hit you with a bit of geology; although these ancient soils do look the part with their variable texture and colour. Certain vineyards are higher lying than others too; and the first wine doesn't see any wood during winemaking, whereas the second has a longer maceration on the grape skins and half of it is aged in casks. The US importer of Domaine Bila-Haut wines is HB Wine Merchants, and Mentzendorff & Co. in London. www.chapoutier.com.

2008 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Carignan 13.5%) - attractive vibrant aromatic fruit and spice, black cherry with liquorice and wilder smoky notes too; juicy and quite lush showing nice weight vs refreshing bite and dry chalky tannins; young obviously but drinking quite well now. Fairly straightforward and gluggable wine and not bad with cannelloni, which the next day (the wine not the pasta) opened up to a fruitier, more peppery, unoaked Crozes-Hermitage look-alike! France on-line shop price €7.50. In the UK: £8 Armit Wines, Bordeaux Index, Genesis Wines. 85-87
The latest medal winning vintage of this wine (2010) is HERE (World Grenache Competition 2013).
2007 Occultum Lapidem Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour-de-France (Syrah Grenache Carignan 14.5%) - richer smokier and denser than above, although has plenty of nice earthy/minty dark fruits, liquorice and meaty/leather/tobacco tones; chunky and lush mouth-feel with light wood grain texture vs rounded tannins, attractive weight and power (and higher alcohol!), spicy vs grippy vs rich fruit on the finish. France on-line €11. UK: £13 Roberson's, Quintessentially Wine. 89+?

M. Chapoutier, Tain l'Hermitage

Apart from their all-encompassing Rhone Valley presence and portfolio (just about everywhere from north to south), Michel Chapoutier has his largely organic/biodynamic fingers in other pies, notably the Roussillon (see link below), Australia (Victoria and South Australia) and Portugal (Estremadura). However, the company is perhaps best known as "the biggest landowner in Hermitage," as it says in their corporate blurb, that somewhat sought-after appellation where they have 34 hectares/85 acres. So, they make a few different wines sourced from these revered, and pretty awesome hillside vineyards. The two below, tasted in December 2009, fit into their 'prestige' range meaning they're Chapoutier's most famous, and dearest, Hermitage "cru" labels: the white comes from three plots with different soils and aspects called "Le Méal", "Les Murets" and "Chante-Alouette" itself; and the red from "Les Bessards", "Le Méal" and "Les Greffieux."

2006 Chante-Alouette white Hermitage (Marsanne 14.5%) - exotic and lightly toasted nose with apricot, honeysuckle and oily/nutty aromas; similar flavours and mouthfeel, pretty big rounded "oxidative" style with nice dry bite and a touch of not unattractive wood texture in the background. Wow, definitely a foodie drinking quite well now although I'm sure it'll develop further as, after that wonderful nose and initial flavours, it closes up a bit on the finish. Next day: creamier, honeyed and more hazelnuttty with oily texture and nice oomph. Fr online €37; UK £36 Tanners, the Wine Society. 90+
2006 Monier de la Sizeranne red Hermitage (Syrah 14%) - wild smoky complex nose with meaty/animal notes, white pepper and dark black cherry, damson and liquorice; lush fruit vs dry grainy coating on the palate, ballsy and mouth-filling followed by attractive bite and length, actually fairly subtle finish closing up giving the impression it needs 2-3 years to express itself better. This was confirmed after 2 days open, as it really opened up showing more liquorice and dark fruits, turning meatier and savoury with dry tannins vs sweet fruit and peppery undertones. Fr online €49; UK £45 Edencroft Fine Wine, Tanners, the Wine Society. 89-91

Click here for a couple of Chapoutier's Roussillon reds and here for a bit of Crozes stuff. Not surprisingly, their wines are well-distributed around the world. More @ www.chapoutier.com.


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