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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+?

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