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29 March 2010

Roussillon: Domaine Cazes, Rivesaltes

Lionel Lavail and Emmanuel Cazes
Lionel Lavail and Emmanuel Cazes
A quick visit, chat and tasting (mid Sept 2006) in their shop at the winery in Rivesaltes, just north of Perpignan, revealed the first batch of wines below. You'll also find a couple more in my Millésime Bio 2006 wine show report, meaning Cazes is organically farmed with a view to gradually integrating biodynamic methods across the whole estate. It's pretty big (170 hectares/420 acres), so it must be back-breaking to apply all those 'alternative medicines' to that many vines. Maybe the sheer size and resultant range form part of a slight criticism I have: too large perhaps, as some of the wines aren't that exciting considering their reputation and higher than average prices. However, some are.
2005 Muscat-Viognier, vin de pays d'Oc - the Viognier adds weight, spice and exotic fruit without overpowering the Muscat, which lends a mineral slightly bitter finish; falls a little short after promising start.
2000 Credo Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, vin de pays d'Oc - a bit oxidised (been open too long probably) and oaky, developing leather and cassis notes on the palate, mature fruit v light bite of tannins; the oak's also a bit dominant on the finish.
Libre Expression, Rancio Sec (Macabeu, 16%) - you'll think it's going to be sweet thanks to the rich ripe honeyed characters, but it's off dry with a tangy mineral finish. Different.
1976 Rivesaltes cuvée Aimé Cazes (80% Grenache Blanc 20% Grenache) - complex developed pecan nut and 'cheesy' Madeira notes, mouth-coating richness v oxidised fruit, nice fresh finish considering its age and sweetness (110g/l). 90-92

Update March 2007. I met the energetic Lionel Lavail, who heads up an expanding family empire backed by big Languedoc house Jeanjean. The group now takes in the Cazes brand, Mas de Lavail (see A to Z) near Maury (Lionel's uncle, aunt and cousin), Domaine des Hospices (his parents' estate near Canet) and Cazes' project with co-ops in the Latour de France appellation (see below). Business talk aside, from the visitor's point of view, summer 07 saw a refit for the tasting room and shop and plans for an organic café-deli are well under way...
2006 Canon Muscat-Viognier, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes - nice aromatic mix of grape and apricot, crisp yet quite fat, dry v fruity; good commercial style. 80+
2006 Canon Syrah/Merlot/Grenache rosé, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes - zingy floral red fruit cocktail, crisp and clean. 83+
2005 Canon Syrah/Merlot, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes - light and creamy with tangy currant fruit and spice. 80+
2005 Château de Triniac, Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages - attractive black cherry and liquorice notes, successful mix of medium-bodied ripe fruit v nice dry grip, needs a few months to round out a little. France €4 US $9 UK £5 87
2000 Credo Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot - tasted rather cold, but showing perfumed sweet oak with nice gamey edges coming through, concentrated v quite elegant; the oak's still a bit dominant over nevertheless good underlying fruit and length. 89+?
Tasted summer 2007:
2006 Syrah rosé, Domaine des Hospices, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (12%) - vibrantly coloured and fruity dry rosé with crunchy red fruits, light creaminess and crisp bite. 85
2006 Muscat sec, les Hospices de Canet, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (12.5%) - nice, well-made style with plenty of aromatic grape and citrus fruit; crisp, dry and fresh v a little rounded too. 85

2009 update from Millésime Bio wine fair in Montpellier (late January):
I tasted a few new vintages and chatted with Emmanuel Cazes, who updated me on latest goings-on chez the family empire; including building work in the pipeline for a fully-fledged organic tapas bar-restaurant next to their offices and cellars in Rivesaltes (and the difficulties!). I have to say, though, I thought the wines were a bit of a mixed bag; the ones below were my favourites:
2008 Muscat-Viognier vin de pays - bubbly fresh grapey nose with orange peel edges, slightly exotic and juicy palate. Overpriced though at €6.60. 83-85
2008 Syrah-Merlot Vin de pays - nice youthful vibrant fruit, a bit of grip in the mouth v fruity finish. Overpriced though at €6.60. 83-85
2007 Ego Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre) - better than the 2006 with its lively blackberry/cherry fruit and rustic edges; chunky and firm texture and good length. €9.50 87
2005 Alter Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre) - mature ripe nose, herbal v liquorice fruit profile with power and spice on its attractive finish. €13 87-89
2005 Rivesaltes Grenat VDN (Grenache) - expressive blackberry and spice on the nose; youthful fruit and not so sweet-tasting thanks to good grip and underlying freshness. €11.50 88

Update March 2010
Emmanuel, who's in charge of technical matters re vineyards (although his father and uncle are still very hands-on here) and winemaking, laid on a tasting at their offices/wine shop; and we ate in their new (mostly) organic restaurant next door afterwards (recommended if you're in the area: see website below). I asked him how difficult is it to apply biodynamic farming methods to an estate the size of Cazes (nearly 200 ha/500 acres)? "We went biodynamic via good old farmer's common sense and now just do it on a much bigger scale. For example, we have three large dynamisers and each one can do 50 litres of herbal teas, which will treat 20 to 30 ha when we can or want to, while respecting the right days. This helps us avoid doing stupid things and keep the balance between soil, plant life etc. At the start, the vines were "stressed" for a few years, but after that we noticed softer soil with better colour and (ultimately) more concentrated fruit." Emmanuel also explained that "we're focusing more on Syrah and Mourvèdre as the Grenache we have isn't great clones... we're replanting Grenache and have changed the way we're working with Mourvèdre, so it's producing well."
Le Canon du Maréchal vin de pays range (300,000 bottles a year!):
2009 Muscat/Viognier (13%) - elegant grapey aromas with light apricot and orange tones; fairly crisp and mineral vs slight bitter twist, quite nice style. 80+
2009 Syrah/Merlot rosé (12.5%) - attractive juicy style with subtle creamy red fruits, also just bottled when I tried it but good elegant vs fuller finish. 83+
2008 Syrah/Merlot - nice fruity red with a bit of grip and crisp mouthfeel even; cherry and plum fruit, a tad light but it's OK. 80+
2008 Marie-Gabrielle Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre 13.5%) - a  bit closed up at first, quite tight and grippy vs juicy black fruits; fair structure actually with gentle cherry and liquorice flavours, "chalky" tannins on the finish. 85+
2007 Ego Côtes du Roussillon Villages (13.5%) - smokier and more developed, ripe nose with leather edges and a tad volatile but it works; quite concentrated and fleshy showing nice fruit turning savoury, fairly solid yet attractive tannins adding dry bite vs "sweetness" and a touch of dark chocolate. 87+
2007 Alter Côtes du Roussillon Villages (14.5%) - touches of spicy coconut oak but not overdone, it adds a little bit of attractive grainy texture and sweetness vs dry chunky framework; punchier yet well-balanced with a bitter twist to finish. 87-89
2008 Collioure "Notre Dame des Anges" (Grenache Mourvèdre Carignan Syrah 14%) - Cazes is working with a handful of co-ops and estates here to make this wine, €1 of its hefty €14 price-tag being donated to a charity working on the upkeep of the countryside and terraced vineyards in the area. Appealing spicy liquorice notes, quite elegant and soft with sweet berry fruit and a bit of bite; nice although fairly simple perhaps. 85+
1996 Rivesaltes Ambré - beginning to turn quite oxidised with toasted walnut and mature cheese edges; enticing oily palate with nutty tangy bite vs rich and mouth-filling, good balance of sugar and alcohol (15%). 88-90
2005 Grenat - fruity chunky style with nice black cherry and liquorice, beginning to turn meaty too; sweet "cough mixture" vs firm dry tannins, fair oomph still (15.5%) although should integrate nicely over the next couple of years. 87-89
1990 Tuilé - complex Madeira nose and tangy vs sweet pecan nuts; concentrated and intricate vs 16.5% power, still delicious with its long sweet/savoury finish. 92(+)
2006 Muscat de Rivesaltes (mostly Alexandria, 15%) - developing very orange peel edges vs honey and dried apricot; lush mouthfeel yet has attractive bite and style still. 87+
1991 Muscat de Rivesaltes (yes, all bottle age! 15%) - much less Muscat-y and much richer with cooked marmalade; oily and sweet vs still tangy and lively surprisingly. 89+
1978 Aimé Cazes (15%) - Madeira overtones, stewed sultanas and intense pecan/walnuts; oily and rich vs tangy and intense, delicious coating with sweet/sour twist, complex volatile lingering flavours and huge length. 93-95

More Cazes here (2009 Saint-Bacchus awards).

And the very latest is here (July 2012).

4 rue Francisco Ferrer, 66600 Rivesaltes. Tel: 04 68 64 08 26, www.cazes-rivesaltes.com.

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