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01 March 2010

Roussillon: Domaine de la Coume Majou, Corneilla-de-la-Rivière

Belgian Luc Charlier has a cosy garage cellar next to his house in sleepy Corneilla, but his 10 ha (25 acres) of vineyards are scattered around the villages of Maury, Estagel and Tautavel. He bought the former in 2005 and latter in 2004 thereby joining the growing band of new wave, take a chance on a dream winegrowers. "I originally wanted to buy in Bandol but the prices are much too high," he told me. "The Roussillon is the least expensive, and I discovered and liked the area's wines thanks to the great Gérard Gauby." Luc also firmly believes, like his fellow Maury growers, that "we have the best Grenache in the world along with Chateauneuf, Rasteau etc."
Luc also said he's aiming for "perhaps" three red cuvées - one from Syrah + press wine, the Majou main label based on Grenache/Carignan and cuvée Casot, mostly Grenache from his best Maury sites. His unusual rosé is made from Syrah, white Macabeu, Grenache Gris plus free-run (red) Grenache juice. However, Luc doesn't really believe in Syrah in this region "unless it's high up or in good chalk/clay soils, such as Vingrau, Tautavel or Rasiguères." Another striking and original feature of Coume Majou is the absence of barrels in the cellar: for the moment, the wines are kept in vat before bottling (good call, I'm getting very bored of oaky wines anyway!).

Posted February 2007 when I tasted these:

2006 rosé tank sample (12%, 8 grams/litre residual sugar) - rounded full and creamy with crisp vegetal edge and a touch of dry tannin too, off dry with fresh acidity.
2006 Casot tank sample (15%) - lovely ripe cherry and liquorice fruit v firm bitter twist and freshness, elegant concentration and depth of fruit, powerful but not too.
2005 Cuvée Miquelette - wild black and red fruits, ripe and rich v lively freshness, grip and alcohol; powerful but very fruity. 87
2005 Cuvée Majou (15%) - darker and richer black cherry/currant with pepper and liquorice notes, delicious depth of fruit v power and firm tight length, lively yet quite soft finish. 90
Coume Majou wines are currently only available direct, or in selected wine shops in Belgium at a somewhat bold €15-€25. Update September 07: Luc is going to make a small amount of Maury VDN from the 2007 vintage; and the French Guide Hachette 2008 has been saying nice things about his wines. More info to follow...

Coume Majou update autumn/winter 2008
Okay, so it took over a year: here are a few notes and thoughts following a re-visit chez Luc (who speaks very good English by the way, with an occasional "wee" thrown in even thanks to a former Scots girlfriend). It was good to taste a few Coume Majou reds from all three vintages bottled to date - 2005/06/07 - as well as 08 tank samples, which gave me a nice overview of how the wines are developing and which ones look particularly promising. On the vineyard front, Luc said he's very happy with the state and health of his vines, having done a lot of work on the ground (see picture above). And the relationship with his consultant winemaker seems to work well in terms of pushing the boat out a bit without taking any major risks (chemical or bacterial I mean). By the way, Luc uses up to 10% press wine in some of these blends, which he finds surprisingly smooth while adding extra structure. Wines sampled October 08, notes posted belatedly Dec. 08:
2007 rosé Vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (mostly early-picked Syrah + a smidgen of old-vine Macabeu, 11.5%) - attractive elegant v creamy style, plenty of red fruits with mineral edges, crisp fresh finish. 87
2008 rosé (mostly Syrah + the 3 Grenaches) - fragrant rose petal and red fruits, very crisp mouth-feel (it will undergo malo-lactic fermentation to make it rounder) v appealing yeast-lees texture. Should be very nice.
2006 L'Eglise de Coume Majou (blend across all sites of Syrah Carignan Grenache, 13.5%) - herbal black cherry notes, getting some smoky development and liquorice on the palate too with a spicy cassis finish. €10: special blend for his Belgian importer. 85+
2006 Cuvée Majou Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache from Estagel and Maury + his best Carignan + Syrah, 15%) - spicy liquorice v turning savoury and meaty, punchy palate but balanced with nice dry texture v lush beginning-to-mature fruit. 87-89
2005 Cuvée Majou - more savoury with tobacco tones; still lively and powerful v firm tannins and tasty dried fruits, Italianesque style. 89
2007 Cuvée Majou - more cherry and plum fruit on the nose; peppery and liquoricey on a quite firm backdrop v underlying lushness, nice balance of power and panache. 89+
2005 Cuvée Miquelette (Maury Grenache + Carignan + press wine, 14.5%) - fairly firm still yet has intriguing spicy herbal fruit v chunky palate v underlying 'sweetness'. 87
2007 La Loute de Coume Majou Vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (100% 1922 Carignan 14.5%) - peppery and 'earthy' v rich and fruity; firm 'chalky' and fresh structure with lovely, well-balanced, weight and length. €20 90+
2006 Cuvée du Casot Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache + 1922 Carignan, 15%) - perfumed liquoricey and peppery; concentrated, very solid mouth-feel although with attractive rounded tannins, closes up a little leaving a dark chocolate coating. A foodie: black pudding or fillet steak with a pepper sauce perhaps! 90-92
2007 Maury cuvée Jolo (Grenache + a little Lladoner Pelut, no oxidation, 16% and 113 gr/lt residual sugar) - juicy dark cherries and chocolate with lightly meaty edges, surprisingly savoury thanks to those tannins cutting through the sweetness, nice fruity punchy finish. 88-90
2005 Cuvée du Casot (15%) - maturing savoury notes v peppery lush liquorice and blackberry/cherry/currants; tasty and rich v firm textured + leather undertones, big fruity blast v lively structured finish. Better still after one day open. 90+

Update March 2010
2008 Le Rosé (mostly Syrah planted in 2002 from Coume de la Majou itself, near La Dona between Corneilla and Estagel) - light and clean style with refreshing edges and gently oily red fruits; drink up now.
2009 Le Rosé (mostly Syrah + 1/4 white grapes: most of the latter where eaten by wild boar in 08, hence the slightly different blend! 11.5%) - floral and fresh with mouth-watering palate, subtle ripe red fruits vs crisp elegant and dry finish; nice light quaffable rosé. 80-85
2009 Casot (tank sample so probably: 75% Grenache & Carignan from Estagel planted in 1922 + 1982 Lladoner Pelut) - lots of pure aromatic dark cherry and liquorice, rich vs juicy with dry yet attractive tannins; powerful and concentrated layered with delicious black fruits, nice "chalky" tannins and fresh acidity too; the 15% blends in well, very promising. 90+
By the way, the "powers that be" have finally adapted the rules for Côtes du Roussillon Villages reds from the 09 vintage onwards: you only have to have two varieties in the blend with Syrah no longer mandatory, although there's still a maximum percentage of Carignan stipulated at 40% with the other grape being up to 70%. So, some progress then!
2007 L'Eglise (45% Syrah + Grenache Carignan, 13% alc.) - leafy cassis and herby aromas (light reduction even?); quite rounded mouthfeel vs some crunchy towards green notes, needs more time to round out?
2008 La Loute old Carignan (14.5%) - still quite closed up, although shows some nice crunchy vs sweet blueberry flavours; beginning to turn tobacco-y with firm, tight and crisp finish even; has concentration vs almost tart mouthfeel, although I like that crunchy vs ripe and peppery fruit and elegant length. A foodie wine needing 6+ months to calm down a bit! Sells for €25 in Belgium. 87+
2005 Miquelette - hints of complex sulphide notes, mint and eucalyptus too; darker liquorice palate vs again has that refreshing bite, power and depth of fruit vs "chalky" finish and savoury notes as well. 85+
2007 Majou - again a tad reductive/herbal/minty on the nose; moves on to concentrated dark cherry fruit with peppery tones, firm and crisp finish. Still a bit young but I like that grip, sweet fruit and oomph combo. €15 Belgium. 87-89
2007 Casot - more closed yet punchier with herby tobacco edges; riper black fruits with coffee tones, very dense and firm/fresh vs rounded and rich, powerful tight finish. With aeration, I got sweeter liquorice flavours; and it was more accessible still with duck fillet! 90+
2008 Jolo Maury VDN (98 y-o Grenache 17% alc.) - lovely dark fruits, damson and blackberry, beginning to turn tobacco-y; attractive bite and solid tannins, not very sweet actually with lively mouthfeel; a bit fiery at the moment but it's a delicious concentrated "vintage" style Maury. 87-90

Luc also had these two wonderful, other-country wines open (thanks again!):
1995 Fritz Haag Riesling Auslese: see "wines of the moment" here (goes to my other blog).
1990 Grahams Malvedos Port - complex oxidising notes vs still lush with dark damson and liquorice fruit; nice tannins, the alcohol's a touch glowing but a very attractive Port indeed.
11 rue de l'Eglise, 66550 Corneilla de la Rivière.
Tel: 04 68 51 84 83, coumemajou.jimdo.com

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