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01 March 2010

Roussillon: Château de Caladroy, Bélesta

Overall, a quite impressive, even if large range and sometimes not exactly fantastic value, from this revitalised château "up in them there hills..." Although once again, on the first occasion below, I was least impressed by the supposed top wine; all dolled up in "impressive" new oak and rather heavy winemaking (knock this fashion on the head please!). Anyway, the rest are mostly rather tasty and better value for money in MHO.
A wee bit of history is called for, as Bélesta really is an extraordinary wee place lost in time; just like Caladroy itself, which is found on the twisting road on the way in from the Forca Réal pass. Originally, the château was built in the 12th Century to defend the border between France and "Spain" (hence the village’s full name), or rather Catalonia/Aragon depending on the date (
click here for a fascinating summary of the region's complicated history). Restored and rebuilt over the years, it reflects a mixture of architectural styles depending on who was paying. The Saint Barthélémy de Caladroer chapel dates from the same time, and the Maurin family, who owns the estate, had the bright idea of turning it into a discreet tasting cellar. You can also buy their unusual grape juice jams (Muscat or Grenache: try with different cheeses), cooking-friendly red wine vinegar (great for caramelising onions or meat) and delicious untreated olive oil. This first batch of wines was tasted at the Fenouillèdes wine show, held in April 2007 in Tautavel:

2006 Rosé des Vents Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre) - quite tight and zippy framework v gentle strawberry and raspberry fruit, fresh long finish. €6.20 87-89
2005 Cuvée Les Schistes Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Carignan) - lovely juicy blackberry/cherry, perfumed v liquorice; very fruity with light tannin backdrop. €7.20 89
2005 La Cour Carrée Côtes du Roussillon Villages (25% each Mourvèdre Syrah Grenache Carignan) - similar aromas and fruit style to above but more concentrated, liquorice charm v oomph and grip, nice balance. €10 90
2004 La Juliane Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Carignan Mourvèdre Grenache) - smokier more rustic and savoury v lush black cherry fruit, firm and fresh with good length and power. €13 90-92
2004 Saint Michel Côtes du Roussillon Villages (at least half Mourvèdre plus Syrah Grenache) - lots of vanilla and chocolate oak, extracted tannins, robust closed up finish; more serious perhaps but more enjoyable? Dear at €22.

2010 update: fast-talking Serge Maurin did a full-monty tutored tasting for me in situ back in March and filled me in on a touch of extra detail. With an on-going replanting programme, sizeable Caladroy currently amounts to about 100 ha (250 acres) lying in one spot around the chateau, with certain plots at over 300m altitude. As for exports, his wines are well distributed in Denmark, Switzerland and the US (Vintage 59, Washington DC) although "not a lot" in the UK at the moment. They've also been focusing on getting people to come and visit them (you could do worse, it's a spectacular location) and now do a fairly serious turnover in direct sales.
2009 Expression de Caladroy white vin de pays (Chardonnay, Macabeu, Muscat 13.5%) - fresh pear fruit with toasty lees and vanilla notes; juicy palate with crisp bite vs subtle oak giving a rounded vs lively finish. €6.90 85
2009 Rosé des Vents Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah Grenache Carignan 13%) - very aromatic rose petal and red fruit style; fatter creamier mouthfeel vs tight, crisp and mouth-watering finish. Nice balance and elegance too. €6.50 85+
2007 Clot de la Vigne Côtes du Roussillon Villages (13.5%) - attractive simple red with juicy cherry fruit, a touch of liquorice and spice too; fruity and easy with quite soft tannins giving a tad of bite. €5.80 80+
2007 cuvée les Schistes Côtes du Roussillon Villages (14.5%) - herbal/reductive notes plus richer cassis and liquorice; vibrant fruit vs rounded grip and peppery finish, light bitter twist vs dark fruit cocktail. €7.30 87
2006 la Cour Carrée Côtes du Roussillon Villages (14%) - nice maturing "sweet" fruit with savoury edges; tighter firmer finish with light wood texture, quite elegant style; perhaps lacks a bit of depth but might improve still... €10 87
2008 Pierre Droite Côtes du Roussillon Villages (80% Mourvèdre + Syrah Carignan 14.5%) - this one's new: wilder herbal black cherry / olive with liquorice tones; very firm coating of tannins vs chocolate oak and lush fruit, tight fresh and closed up finish; promising though and has lingering floral herby vs dark fruit flavours. €15 88-90
2004 la Juliane Côtes du Roussillon Villages (mostly Syrah 14.5%) - delicious maturing nose with black cherry, developing meatier edges with "sweet/savoury" profile and some background oak spice; concentrated yet elegant with a touch of chocolate texture, still firm actually with a bitter twist vs enticing maturing fruit. Quite fine. €13 89-91
2006 Saint Michel (14.5%) - similar blend but new barrels: it's oaky but has enough substance behind all that vanilla and chocolate; tight and elegant palate with "sweet/savoury" edges, quite fine tannins actually. We'll see if that oak drops a bit, although it seems less obvious than on the 04 above, a typical 06 really. Still rather expensive though at €22! 87-89
Al Vi Réal Rivesaltes Ambré VDN (15.5%) - lovely caramelised walnut notes then more aromatic and orange peel-tinged; nice bite and twist vs rich marmalade, quite smooth and well-balanced too. €8 87-89
2007 Rivesaltes Grenat (16%) - lively fruity cassis and wild herb flavours vs dry tannins adding bite, not too sweet despite its alluring Black Forest gateau finish. €8.50 85-87
2009 Muscat de Rivesaltes - delicious, very typical grapey Muscat aromas with zesty pear notes too; nice crisp-ish edges vs all that sugar! €8 85-87
Rivesaltes Tuilé (16.5%) - complex herbal vs dark fruits, Madeira-esque and smoky with oxidising dried fruit; lovely "sweet/savoury" towards meaty palate with attractive dry bite, dense dark chocolate vs grippy tannins and complex finish. €10 90
More Caladroy under "Saint-Bacchus awards" in the 'more wine words archive', right.
66720 Bélesta de la Frontière. Tel: 04 68 57 10 25, www.caladroy.com.

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