"Buy my book about the Roussillon on Amazon UK in colour paperback and eBook or black & white version, and Amazon USA: colour paperback and 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

31 May 2011

New Zealand: Nobilo

Nobilo vineyard was founded in 1943 by Nikola Nobilo (pic), a Croatian emigre with a family-winemaking background, and is now part of the giant global Constellation group, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing looking at these two tasty wines. They’re part of the winery’s ‘Regional Collection’ range sourced from different vineyards around New Zealand; in this case Gisborne, billed as “the Chardonnay capital” on the back-label (I wouldn’t entirely disagree, from memory, although other NZ regions might) and Hawke’s Bay, celebrated for Merlot, both on North Island’s east coast. A refreshing change too to buy Southern Hemisphere wines with a bit of aged character, although that could just be as the retailer has old stock to clear! They were both £5.99 on offer at Wine Mark / Russell’s Cellars in Northern Ireland. nobilo.co.nz

Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2008 (13.5%) - dark plum and blueberry with soy sauce/liquorice vs leafy/red pepper edges, nice ‘sweet vs savoury’ development, quite complex; attractive lush vs tangy palate, ripe sweet vs light bitter twist of tannins/acidity, fair weight and roundness vs dry bite, maturing vs still quite chunky finish. Good with Aberdeen Angus chilli burger (from the Cooperative). 2

Gisborne Chardonnay 2009 (13.5%) – enticing buttery oat and lees notes vs pineapple and citrus, quite rich with maturing nutty side vs a bit of crispness underneath; rounded and milky with medium weight, well balanced with subtle finish. Drinking nicely now although beginning to fade out a little. Kinda South Hem Chablis but smoother. 1+

27 May 2011

Chile: Leyda

I remember tasting wines from Viña Leyda, the winery, back when nobody had heard of the Leyda Valley and people had just started talking about Chile's new cooler climate coastal regions lying, in this case, to the west of Santiago (and just south of the perhaps better known Casablanca valley), let alone other new areas further north e.g. Limarí, Elquí. Leyda was set up in 1997 and was the driving force behind creating a name-sake sub-region in 2002 (this could get confusing...). They've been busy since then too, as the estate now comes to nearly 250 hectares (towards 700 acres) of mostly 'cool' varieties as per my tasting notes below.

Anyway, those lingering positive impressions from almost ten years ago were more than bolstered when I sampled Leyda's award-winning wines at the London International Wine Fair recently. Their varietal whites and rosé (made from Pinot Noir) are great and deserve all this attention; and the Pinot reds are all quite different and sumptuously good in their own ways. Glad I bumped into Leyda again. All wines tasted below are from their vineyards in the Leyda Valley unless stated, i.e. one of their Syrahs from somewhere else. I’ve used my ‘new’ scoring system of one, two or three ‘ticks’ (good, very good, fabulous); or just plain 1 to 3 here. UK stockists include Great Western Wine, see £ retail prices below; their US importer is Winebow: winebow.com 

Loica Pinot Noir Rosé
from leyda.cl
Single Vineyard ‘Loica’ 2009 Pinot Noir rosé – tight fresh structured style vs creamy and subtle red fruit cocktail, concentrated even with steely finish; lovely. Winner of “Best Rosé” trophy in the 2011 Wines of Chile Awards. 2 (£10.95)

Single Vineyard ‘Neblina’ 2009 Riesling – aromatic with oily “kerosene” tones, mineral notes on the palate with tight crisp length, turning oilier and more complex on the finish. Gold medal winner & “best other whites” trophy. 2 (£10.95)

Single Vineyard ‘Garuma’ 2010 Sauvignon Blanc – fresh piercing asparagus and grapefruit, zesty crisp and mineral, very long. “Best value white & best Sauvignon.” 2 (£10.95)

‘Lot 5’ 2009 Chardonnay – toasty buttery notes/flavours vs again steely tight and structured mouth-feel, ending up quite fine showing rich vs greener fruit and long flavours. Gold medal. 2-3 (£15.50)

‘Reserva’ 2010 Pinot Noir – delicious PN style with attractive ‘sweet/savoury’ mix, lively vs silky texture. 1-2 (£9.95)

‘Cahuil Vineyard’ 2010 Pinot Noir – spicy vs silky perfumed style, nice lively crunchy fruit with tight fresh finish. 2 (£14.45)

‘Las Brisas’ 2010 Pinot Noir – tasty tangy berry vs perfumed floral fruit, concentrated ‘sweet/sour/savoury’ palate combo, quite intense and tasty finish. 2-3 (£12.75)

‘Lot 21’ 2010 Pinot Noir – rich and intense floral berry fruit, very tight and fresh mouth-feel with lovely panache. 2-3 (£22.50)

‘Reserva’ 2010 Syrah (Colchagua Valley) – pure spicy herbal notes vs hints of chocolate, tight vs textured with lively dark cherry fruit. Needs a couple of years. 2

‘Canelo Vineyard’ 2008 Syrah – very different wine with meaty ‘animal’ edges vs spicy pure black fruits, grainier coconut texture with punchy vs tight finish and wilder touches on its great length. 2-3

Rioja: Bodegas Alvarez Alfaro

Pablo Alvarez Alfaro set up cellar and vineyards in Aldeanueva de Ebro in rugged Rioja country at the end of the 19th Century, as the story goes, and the winery is still family run today. They have over 60 hetares (150 acres) of their own vineyards, where all the grapes are sourced from for three different wines. Their Viña Vieja is 100% old-vine Tempranillo and aged for eight months in new French oak, and the Crianza at least one year in American and French oak. These three reds were tasted in May 2011. More info on the winery, prices and where they export to follow. I’ve used my ‘new’ scoring system of one, two or three ‘ticks’ (good, very good, fabulous); or just plain 1 to 3 here.

Rioja Crianza 2007 (80% Tempranillo + Mazuelo, Garnacha, Graciano; 13.5% alc.) – still quite coconutty/cedary on nose and palate but it’s concentrated with vibrant blueberry/plum fruit vs liquorice and pepper edges vs savoury tones; firm and tight structure, nice tannins and fresh bite, balanced and elegant too; grainy finish vs berry fruit vs dry/sweet coating. Next day: gets tastier and less oaky with airing, attractive berry and spice vs sweet/dry tannins, more savoury finish. 2
Rioja Crianza 2008 (80% Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Garnacha, Graciano; 14% alc.) – cedary and ‘inky’ tones vs rich berry fruit vs vanilla oak; quite punchy and tight at the moment, refreshing undercurrent vs dark fruit with savoury hints vs cedar and coconut; hasn’t come together yet but it’s promising. 2
Alvarez Alfaro Viña Vieja Tempranillo 2010 (14%) – ‘reductive’ herbal hints layered with a fair bit of vanilla, lively alcohol/acidity combo on the palate vs lots of berry fruit, intense and chunky finish; needs a couple of years to settle down, something a bit different. 1-2

26 May 2011

Chile: rosé / rosado

Loica Pinot Noir Rosé
from leyda.cl
You’d be right in thinking the latter term should be the one on the bottle, coming from a Spanish speaking country, but virtually all of the 15 pink wines below are labelled as ‘rosé’. The message from Chilean winemakers, whose ‘rosados’ I tried at the London International Wine Fair last week, was the same though. Outside of Chile, people don’t really get the Spanish word for rosé (until they see the wine’s colour, presumably!). I’ve noticed this too on some Italian, formerly ‘rosato’ wines; so it looks like the French have won the day in terms of what we prefer to call pink wine, even if we’re not necessarily buying French rosé as our first choice. Maybe simply because there aren’t as many deals in the supermarkets, and e.g. Provence rosé producers don’t see any point in exporting their wine at silly prices when they can sell it to tourists at, well, silly prices?

Anyway, I had this theory, based on what’s widely available in the UK on the pink front, which I did a test-run on last week. In general, beyond France and Spain (and I’ve sampled a couple of good ones from Hungary recently), I’ve been a bit disappointed by rosés from the so-called ‘New World’ although found the Chilean ones among the best of the crop. My mini-tasting below is hardly set-in-stone conclusive, as I only tried rosés from Chile hence not comparative at all. But it wasn’t difficult to pick out a handful of attractive pink wines here, and lots of different styles as well. Is it the climate, winemaking know-how or that Spanish cultural twist perhaps? As for grape varieties, most Chilean rosé is made from ‘Bordeaux’ varieties, so not in the Mediterranean tradition although some are now using e.g. Syrah, Cinsault in the blends. Then again, I don’t think there’s much or any Grenache planted in Chile. Or should that be Garnacha…

Viña La Rosa ‘La Palma’ 2011 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon – very lively vs creamy style with yeast-lees edges, tangy red berries with crisp gummy mouth-feel then nice fruity finish.
Indomita 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – creamy vs redcurrant fruity, quite oily / oxidising already (could’ve been a tank sample like most of the 2011 rosés here).
Emiliana 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah – strange dusty/yeasty touches (ditto above), crisp tight palate with gentle fruit coming back. Needs to settle.
Cono Sur 2010 Merlot – attractive creamy style, quite rich vs cranberry fruit, ripe strawberry vs crisp and zesty vs quite big mouthful.
La Fonda ‘Fairtrade’ 2010 Merlot – tighter crisper style, leesy edges then ‘sweeter’ finish, oily touches vs still zingy.
Isla Negra Brut sparkling rosé – quite crisp and steely vs lightly toasty edges, not showing much although it was very cold, then nice ‘sweet’ raspberry fruit on the finish.
De Martino 2011 Cinsault (from old vines in Hata Valley in the south) – elegant crisp and tight style (more Provence-leaning), very young still, could be good in a few months time.
De Martino 2011 Carmenère – similar tank-sample notes, but this is again a nice steely tight style with subtle length. Check it out in a couple of months or so.
Apaltagna ‘gran Verano’ 2010 Carmenère – herby red pepper touches, creamier fruit on the palate, very different from the above, still tight and crisp.
Calcu ‘Reserva’ 2010 Malbec/Syrah/Petit Verdot – herby berry style, crunchy mouth-feel with attractive lighter and slightly ‘sweeter’ finish.
Viña Maquis 2010 (4 months in barrel) – structured rounded style although still has crisp bite vs those vanilla oak touches. Not for everybody but different anyway.
Morandé ‘Pionero’ 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah – oily maturing red fruits vs light and crisp mouth-feel, nice balance and style.
Santa Rita ‘120’ 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – richer fruity style, quite big actually with some bite although perhaps looking a bit old now.
San Pedro ‘Gato Negro’ 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – see previous post.
Leyda ‘Single Vineyard Loica’ 2009 Pinot Noir – tight fresh structured style vs creamy and subtle red fruit cocktail, concentrated even with steely finish; lovely. Winner of “Best Rosé” trophy in the 2011 Wines of Chile Awards. Profile on Leyda here.
Mayu 2010 Carmenere/Syrah (14%) - tasty full-bodied style mixing up rich red fruits and fresh acidity well, has a bit of oomph too so definitely a foodie rosé. On offer at Asda for £5.

Other UK/US prices and stockists to follow, where available.

19 May 2011

Black cats and black grapes

Black grapes refers to a lively little Italian rosé - sorry, Sicilian (oops, there go the kneecaps...): 2010 Nero d'Avola made by Cantine Settesoli. Weighing in at 12.5% alc. and £4.99 a bottle at Tesco, this zingy vs creamy fruity rosé delivers plenty of redcurrant and raspberry with crisp finish; and is fairly versatile as a foodie wine (venison & red onion burgers from M&S, fish & chips, prawn Balti...).
From http://snickrt.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/gato-negro1.jpg
As for black cats, the Gato Negro range from Vina San Pedro in Chile's Central Valley is an all-round crowd-pleaser with attractive, well-made and easy-drinking wines; especially at  Wine Mark / Russell's Cellars in Belfast where you get a '2 for £9' deal. On the red front, try the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (13.5%) or the quirkier purple-black 2010 Carmenere (13.5%); and for whites, there's a zesty dry grapefruity 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (12%) or peachy citrus-edged 2010 Chardy. And not forgetting their almost delicious creamy red fruity vs crisp 2010 Cab Sauv rosé. Mini-feature on Chilean rosés / rosados here.
More @ gatonegro.cl

15 May 2011


Languedoc: Cabardès

Cabardès reds: "...wacky mix of Med, Rhone and Southwest grapes..." (removed and lost by Blogger due to techno issues: if they don't put it back, I'll redo it at some point...)
Or just jump forwards in time a little to the latest report here: 

Languedoc: Cabardès (June 2012).

Loadsa Languedoc

New pieces on 'French Wed Wine', my 'mostly' Roussillon & Languedoc blog:

Faugères focus: "A load of old schist..?" Photo by Bernard VIDAL.
Cabardès reds: "...wacky mix of Med, Rhone and Southwest grapes..." (temporarily removed by Blogger due to techno issues: if they don't put it back, I'll redo it...)
Pézenas: "...claim to fame as one-time hang-out for playwright Molière..."
Saint-Chinian Berlou & Roquebrun: "... who's really getting behind these 'where on earth is that' mini-appellations..?"
Corbières & Boutenac: "...one of those new-fangled Languedoc subzones..." Plus my pick of straight 2010, 2009, 2008 Corbières red, white and rosé: "...hard work... disappointing line-up..."
Limoux: "...lavish whites and fizz..."
Domaine de l'Hortus, Pic Saint Loup
Pic Saint Loup: "... brings out the cynic in me..."
Picpoul de Pinet 2010: "What can I say..?"
La Clape: "...done that 'joke' to death... the whites had real character and class..."

In the pipeline: Minervois Muscats...

Languedoc: Corbières & Boutenac

Corbières-Boutenac is one of those new-fangled Languedoc "cru" subzones covering 10 villages (one of them is called Boutenac) and 22 producers in the northern Corbières, lying across a still fairly sizeable 1400+ hectares (3500 acres) of rolling, although hardly very hilly terrain. Apart from claiming to implement a stricter selection for wines destined to become Boutenac, what arguably makes these red wines more distinctive is their policy of not allowing too much Syrah in the blends while focusing on up to 50% Carignan (often from the oldest vines although not exclusively; old doesn't always mean good of course). I'm not saying Syrah is bad - far from it - but there doesn't seem a lot of point in launching a new wine area with wines that taste the same as anywhere else in the Languedoc. And, a few vintages down the line, quality is pretty evenly high. But, as I said in my report on previous editions of the "Languedoc Millésimes" tastings held in the region in March, these wines should be good as prices are already quite high for a new appellation with less than a five-year track record (although technically since 2005 as the rules were back-dated I believe).

Happy New Year from Ollieux Romanis!
from their facebook page.
The 2010s on the table were unfinished cask or tank samples but, on this showing, this vintage is looking a real star here. 2008 again threw up some inconsistency, although overall they were showing better than certain other appellations and definitely much better than red Corbières as a whole (see below below). And the few 2009s sampled here are all very promising too, even if more difficult to taste at the moment. Tastings took place at Château de Pennautier near Carcassonne or at the Trinque Fougasse wine bar in Montpellier. I’ve used my ‘new’ scoring system of one, two or three ‘ticks’ (good, very good, fabulous); or just plain 1 to 3 here. Euro prices are cellar door per bottle inc. taxes and were added after the event.
Château Maylandie "Villa Ferrae" 2008 (40% Grenache, 30% Carignan, 30% Syrah) - vanilla cherry and cassis fruit, a bit light and oak heavy vs quite extracted/grippy tannins. €11
Château Maylandie "Villa Ferrae" 2010 - slightly leafy/herbal with aromatic cherry and “garrigue” notes, tight and tangy palate vs concentrated, structured and firm vs rich and lightly meaty fruit. Promising. 2
Château Maylandie "Carnache" 2008 (50/50 Carignan/Grenache) - richer nose with herbal/red pepper edges, pretty structured/extracted and certainly has freshness but tannins are a bit lean. 1 €13.80
Château Ollieux Romanis "Atal Sia" 2008 (50% old-vine Carignan, 23% old-vine Mourvèdre, 23% Grenache, 4% Syrah) - delicious maturing sweet cassis, blueberry and cherry nose, wild flowers and herbs too; concentrated vs fresh and tight, much nicer tannins, elegant long finish vs a bit of oomph. 2-3 €17
Château Ollieux Romanis "Atal Sia" 2010 – closed to start, perfumed blue fruits vs liquorice, more elegant and less grippy although lots of structure and dark ripe fruit vs nice perfumed characters. 2-3
Château Ollieux Romanis “Or” 2009 – the oak’s quite strong but again it has nice perfumed blueberry/cherry fruit and fresh vs firm finish. 2
Celliers d'Orfée "B de Boutenac" 2008 (50% Carignan, 40% Grenache, 10% Syrah) - enticing maturing ‘sweet & savoury’ nose, turning oily and sweet with subtle depth, dry tannins but not aggressive, again fresh bite and length too. 1-2 €13
Celliers d'Orfée "B de Boutenac" 2010 - oak dominating at the mo so it’s pretty charred/choco in tone, but again concentrated/extracted and impressive; hope it soaks up that oak. 1-2
Château Meunier St-Louis "Exégèse" 2008 (Syrah/Carignan/Grenache) - oaky start, is some nice blue fruit and liquorice underneath but a bit heavy on the vanilla at this stage; tannins are quite attractive and again has fresh and elegant length. Pity about that oak! 1 Dear at €32.
Château les Palais "Randolin" 2008 (50% Carignan, 20% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre) – a bit baked and fading, short. €12
Château les Palais "Randolin" 2010 - again a deliciously perfumed 2010 with blue and black fruits, wild flowers and mint; grippy and concentrated with lovely lush fruit underneath, tight structured powerful finish. 2-3
Château les Palais: trio of oldie vintages of their “Randolin” red tasted over dinner in the Hotel de la Cité’s restaurant in Carcassonne oldie town (how appropriate).
1998 – minty vs maturing/savoury, oxidising and meaty vs still a bit of firmness and fruit, looking pretty good still. 2+
1995 – much older, a tad dusty perhaps? Mint vs leather, tannins drying out a little vs alcohol holding it up. 1
1991 – very meaty/oxidised, quite dry firm and over the hill… Still, thanks for bringing them along all the same!
Gérard Bertrand "La Forge" 2009 - complex herbal vs liquorice and oak underneath, grainy texture vs nice concentration, pretty grippy yet rounded, oak still strong but good depth of sweet fruit and bite/oomph. 2-3
Gérard Bertrand Domaine de Villemajou 2009 - similar profile to above with a bit less oak and more perfumed fruit, nice grip vs depth, tannins a bit less fine but again it's got substance. 2
Domaine de Villemajou 2008 – subtle perfumed berry vs liquorice notes, firm texture vs elegant and refreshing finish. 1
Gérard Bertrand "La Forge" 2008 – complex herby berry nose, intense and rich vs subtle underlying oak vs lovely fruit, young and tight with fine length and well-balanced tannins/acidity. 2+
Domaine Sainte Lucie d'Aussou "Ladybird" 2009 or 2008? (discrepancy in the tasting booklet/tech sheet. 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, 20% Syrah) - up-front and jammy with nice wild flower/herb undertones, grippy and powerful vs rounder sweeter side. 1-2 €14
Château Saint-Esteve "Ganymede" 2010 – a bit malo-lactic but shows rich tasty dark cherry/blueberry and liquorice with savoury edges, lovely concentration vs power, grip vs textured and intense finish. 2-3
Château La Voulte Gasparets 2010 - lovely perfumed blueberry and peppery pure damson, floral and fruity vs big tannins vs lush and dark mouth-feel, grippy and tight finish but v. promising. 2-3
Château de Caraguilles "Solus" 2010 - chunky and concentrated, dry vs grainy vs sweet choco tannins, power vs finesse, closes up but v. promising. 2-3
Ledogar 2010 – a bit awkward and firm; not sure, would like to try it again.


I sampled a lot of Corbières wines in all colours and ended up leaving out a lot too, especially from 2008 vintage which, frankly, proved quite hard work finding wines with any real charm. I wasn’t the only one who thought this; and, although better overall with more substance, there weren’t even that many seductive 2009s with too many wines showing clunky hard tannins. The tasting line-up was disappointing this year, as I’ve been known to have a bit of a soft spot for Corbières, for good reason; but where were the likes of Pech-Latt, Clos l’Anhel, Auzines, Caraguilhes, Lastours, Embres et Castelmaure, Grand Arc etc? Obviously you can’t have every wine on tasting from a vast region like the Corbières, but it makes sense to have some of the top producers out on the table (some of them were at least e.g. Sainte Croix).

Having rather stuck the boot in, there were a lot of wines priced at €5 to €8 here making Corbières much more affordable than certain other areas of the Languedoc (perhaps it’s the reverse “not very near Montpellier” factor?!). In addition, about a dozen 2010 red cask samples were up for trial, which all showed a pretty evenly high standard so that’s one to watch out for when ready and released. And the 2009 and 2010 whites and rosés lined up along the catwalk once again convinced me that Corbières is a good place to look going beyond the confines of red wine.

Red Corbières 2009

Château Sainte Lucie d’Aussou (48% Carignan, 17% Grenache, 35% Syrah) – enticing black cherry fruity peppery and minty nose, forest floor notes, not bad concentration and depth of fruit vs firm and punchy vs some roundness. Finishes a little ‘hot’ though. 1 €5.50
Château du Vieux Parc “Air de Rien” (50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 10% Carignan) – tannins are a bit too stonky and dry, but at least it’s got some solid fruit. 1 €5.20
Château Prieuré de Borde-Rouge “Rubellis” (45% old-vine Carignan, 38% Grenache, 17% Syrah; converting to organic) – sweet vs smoky nose, fair depth of chunky fruit vs better tannins, less aggressive with rounder side vs grip and smoky black fruits. 1 €5.50
Château Les Palais “tradition” (50% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 25% Syrah) – undemanding with nice spicy black cherry notes vs some savoury vs wilder side, fairly soft vs chunky mouth-feel. 1 €6.20
Château de Bubas “Prieuré de Bubas” (50% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 25% Syrah) – ripe raisin edges vs firm but fairly attractive texture and fruity vs savoury finish. 1 €6
Domaine Sainte Croix “Le Fournas” (30% Carignan, 34% Grenache, 36% Syrah; organic) – dark fruity vs perfumed vs meaty edges, chunky and solid palate but tannins are textured despite that firmness, good concentration. Needs a few years. 2+ €8
Château de Sérame “Réserve” (65% Syrah, 16% Carignan, 19% Grenache; converting to organic) – a bit ‘reduced’ on the nose, moves on to vibrant dark cherry and solid but round tannins, fair depth length and balanced too. 1-2 About €7.50
Château Meunier St-Louis “A Capella” (mostly Syrah + Grenache) – minty herby nose, nice sweet fruit vs dry but attractive tannins, pretty firm finish vs underlying wild herbs/flowers/mushrooms and dark fruit, light savoury edges too. Might transform into something really nice. 1-2 €10.45
Château de Bubias “Clos Bubas” (50% Syrah, 40% Carignan, 10% Grenache) – chunky fruity modern style, grippy vs extracted fruit, not bad although expensive. 1 €16
Château Coulon-Veredus (organic) – nice spicy vibrant Syrah-led black-cherry style, chunky and tight with attractive tannins and ‘sweet & savoury’ finish. 1-2

Red Corbières 2008

Château Montfin “Carignena” (not clear whether 08 or 09 actually; 80% Carignan, 20% Grenache; converting to organic) – a bit reductive? and awkward, moves on to tight and fresh palate vs underlying perfumed fruit, grippy and taut vs touch of herby sweetness. 1+ €5
Domaine Serres Mazard “L’Origine” (40% Syrah, 30% Carignan, 30% Grenache) – maturing herbal berry tones, quite dry palate but has some elegance and freshness vs maturing fruit. 1
Château Sainte Lucie d’Aussou “Le Secret de Rudolph” (35% Syrah, 50% Carignan, 15% Grenache) – nice perfumed herby vs maturing nose, quite light but attractive ‘sweet & savoury’ thing vs tight dry tannins. 1 €7
Château Le Bouis Cuvée Roméo (70% Syrah, 30% Carignan) – Syrah-heavy and -friendly style, peppery black cherry vs bit of choco oak vs firm but much rounder than others. 1 €32!
Rigal/Château du Grand Caudont “Impatience” (45% Carignan, 35% Syrah, 20% Grenache) – a touch rustic/’bretty’ and soupy but it’s lusher at least with fair depth of fruit vs maturing savoury tobacco side, firm vs sweeter finish. 1 €9.50
Château du Vieux Parc “Selection” (40% Carignan, 40% Syrah, 10% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre) – has some aromatic crushed red and black fruits, softer and maturing texture, although still quite firm and punchy but underlying attractive ‘sweet & savoury’ going on. 1 €9.50
Château la Cendrillon “Inédite” (10% Carignan, 65% Syrah, 25% Grenache; organic) – shows quite a bit of ‘charming’ choco oak but there’s some substance at least, intriguing herbal/reductive note vs ‘sweet & savoury’ fruit, fairly attractive tannins and finish. 1+ €18
Château Coulon-Veredus “Réserve” (mostly Carignan) – herby vs savoury vs quite lush with leather tones, quite intense vs elegant. 1

Red Corbières 2010 (unfinished cask/tank samples)

Domaine des Anes “L’Enclos” – rich dark vs meaty side, chunky tannins vs vibrant fruit, pretty big and grippy vs attractive black cherry and damson. 1-2
Château Montfin “Mathilde” – again nice sweet vs spicy vs chunky, rounder tannins and less extracted/concentrated but nice fresh bite too vs good fruit. 1
Château de Lastours “Simone Descamps” – delicious dark cherry vs perfumed blueberry, nice firm vs fine tannins, grip vs elegant length. 2
Grand Moulin “Terres Rouges” - oak dominates at the mo vs pretty extracted vs rich ‘sweet & savoury’ fruit, difficult to taste but impressive depth. 2
Hauterive Le Haut – lively spicy cherry and cassis, pretty grippy and extracted but again vibrantly fruity vs structured. 1-2
Martinolles Gasparets – more subtle, nice crunchy blackberry, firm vs sweet, attractive even if a bit simple. 1
Château Meunier St-Louis “A Capella” – lovely pure spicy black cherry Syrah-esque style, chunky vs round tannins with ‘sweet & savoury’ edges, quite elegant finish despite the oomph and grip. 2
Meunier St-Louis Boutenac – leaner and less revealing, very tight and fresh, could be good. 1-2?
La Bastide – ‘biscuity’ youthful chunky fruity, nice grip vs sweet, simpler perhaps but lingers. 1+
Château Cascadais – a tad finer and tighter, cassis and black cherry, quite intense, nice coated tannins. 2
Château du Vieux Parc “Selection” – spicy and juicy, firm vs sweet; vibrant cherry on tight solid finish, that spicy herby side carries through nicely. 2
La Baronne “Les Chemins” – soy sauce tones, not v. revealing but it’s tight and concentrated, fair grip vs touches of underlying dark fruit. 1-2?
Beauregard-Mirouze – grippy vs spicy and tasty savoury side, powerful stuff vs chunky fruit. 1-2

White Corbières 2009
Château Trillol (85% Roussanne, 15% Maccabeu) - nice enough fresh aromatic pear and citrus vs weightier peach and honey, juicy mineral-ish finish, a tad short but fairly attractive vs a bit of oomph too. 1 €6.90
Château de L'Ille "Emilie" (55% Bourboulenc, 25% Vermentino, 20% Grenache Blanc) – lees-ier and edgier, more intense citrus vs fatter side, quite zingy and tight still; again nice enough style although not super exciting. 1 €7
Château Beauregard-Mirouze "Lauzina" (70% Roussanne, 30% Vermentino; converting to organic) - touches of toasty oak, gets creamier and fuller, ends up a bit too toasty although has some freshness vs weight. 1 €11
Château Maylandie "Exquises Esquisses" (100% Grenache Blanc) - banoffee pie nose, quite rich and rather vanilla-y, comes back a bit with nice weight and bite but a bit heavy. 1? €11
Château Ollieux Romanis "Prestige" (50% Roussanne, 50% Marsanne) - toasty and buttery, nice richness and concentration vs toasty finish, turning more hazelnutty although the oak's quite strong still; has fair oomph too, should integrate thanks to that fruit and attractive stirred-lees character. 1-2 €16
White Corbières 2010
Domaine La Bouysse "Cyprius" (60% Grenache Blanc, 35% Maccabeu, 5% Terret; converting to organic) - zesty zingy and very crisp, aromatic and light lees, bit lean perhaps but would be OK with seafood. 1 €8
Château Aumèdes Réserve (40% Grenache Blanc, 20% Roussanne, 40% Marsanne) - floral grapey almost Muscat-y kinda character, quite simple but nice enough fruity aromatic quaffer, dry and crisp. 1 €6
Roland Lagarde/Domaine Roque Sestière "Carte Noire" (45% Grenache Blanc, 35% Maccabeu, 10% Bourboulenc, 10% Vermentino) - nice zesty estery style vs a bit more substance, lees-y intensity vs fresh acidity vs touch of oily exotic. 1+ €5.50
Château Meunier St-Louis "Prestige" (Grenache Blanc) - quite rich vs banana aromatics, nice oily texture vs mineral bite, crisp steely and long vs lingering sweet fruit. 2 Value at €5.50!
Roland Lagarde "Vieilles Vignes" (55% Maccabeu, 35% Grenache Blanc, 10% Roussanne) - similar to his above white but definitely more intense, aromatic floral then exotic vs very crisp acidity and oomph too, long and quite classy. 2 Good value again €7.
Château du Vieux Parc “Selection” (mostly Grenache Blanc + Vermentino, Muscat) – toasty notes, toffee and banana vs aromatic and zingy, creamy coating then more mineral. Good, tad too much oak perhaps but it’s young of course. 1-2 €11
Gérard Bertrand “Blanc de Villemajou” - not much nose, builds up to buttery vs zesty palate, quite delicate actually with touch of toast vs bite. 2

Corbières Rosé 2010

Bonfils/Château Vaugelas “Presige” - candied red fruit cocktail, juicy fruity ‘vinous’ style, rounded oily creamy vs crisp-ish finish. 1
Domaine La Bouysse "Floréal" (90% Syrah, 10% Grenache; converting to organic) – full-on fruity, strawberry and raspberry, nice rounded creamy palate vs zesty undercurrent. 2 €7
Château Maylandie “Le Cabanon” (40% Cinsault, 20% Syrah, 40% Grenache) - zestier tighter/lighter style, more Provence with chalky length vs light pink rose petal. 1 €5.90
Château Ollieux Romanis "Classique" (60% Grenache gris, 40% Cinsault) - similar elegant style, mouth-watering and delicate with rose petal and red cherry/cranberry. 1+ €7
Vignerons de Camplong "Peyres Nobles" (14% Cinsault, 36% Syrah, 50% Grenache) - attractive chunky ‘modern’ style, candied red fruits and crisp enough finish. 1 €4.75
Château Les Palais "tradition" (50% Cinsault, 25% Syrah, 25% Grenache) – perfumed rose petal and redcurrant, subtle crisp texture vs light fruit and zesty edges. 1 €5.50
Gérard Bertrand “Le Rosé de Villemajou” - quite tight and elegant vs red fruity, crisp and closed up at the mo. 1+
Château Vieux Moulin (30% Cinsault, 20% Syrah, 50% Grenache; converting to organic) - again quite tight and elegant vs rounder creamier vs red fruit tang, nice foodie probably. 1+ €5.50

Peruse the Languedoc winery A to Z on the right for lots more wines from and profiles on many of these producers.

10 May 2011

Languedoc: Pézenas

From roujan.blogspot.com
Lying roughly between Béziers and Montpellier, the Mediaeval town of Pézenas' main claim to fame is as a one-time hang-out for playwright Molière and his merry theatre troupe in the 1650s; and is now the focal point of a new Languedoc village-appellation for red wines. There were a few good and very good ones to try here, which confirmed the positive vibes I've got from tasting some of these wines before. However, apparently several Pézenas producers submitting samples accidentally entered their wines under the straight Languedoc AOC category, which I didn’t taste this year so obviously didn’t get the complete picture. It appears that people like Domaines Paul Mas, Les Aurelles (their 2008 and 2009 “Aurel” were filed on a different table, although I did find a 2010 sample and I tried their 2005 one evening over dinner) and St. Jean de Bébian (ditto, except for a 2010 sample) were missing from this line-up…
Once again, the serene setting was Château de Flaugergues (profile to follow) during the annual “Millésimes en Languedoc” tasting sessions in late March 2011. I’ve used my ‘new-fangled’ scoring system of one, two or three ‘ticks’ (good, very good, fabulous); or just plain 1 to 3 for the wines below. Euro prices are cellar door per bottle inc. VAT, added after the event.

Remparts de Neffiès - Domaine Pech Rome “Clemens” 2008 (60% Grenache, 15% Carignan, 15% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre; 14.5% alc.) - maturing perfumed minty cassis and black cherry, turning savoury with nice fruit, grip and fresh bite, subtle and long. 2-3 €12
Domaine Pech Rome “Opulens” 2005 – aromatic sweet/savoury fruit, ripe vs grippy texture with well-balanced elegant finish. 2
Allegria "Tribu d'A" 2008 (70% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre; 14.5% alc.) – again attractive aromatics with grainy wood too, bit dried out vs some subtle fruit? €9
Domaine du Clos Roca 2009 (40% Carignan, 10% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre; organic) – meaty/savoury tobacco touches vs rich dark fruit, chunky tannins dominate at the moment vs solid fruit core; very tight and unrevealing finish with punch. 1-2 €7.90
Domaine Turner Pageot "Le Rouge" 2009 (80% Grenache, 20% Syrah; biodynamic) – ester-y cherry fruit, extracted and firm style although has some nice smoky notes and dark ‘tar’ side; needs time perhaps although those tannins are a bit hard. 1 €11
Château Condamine Bertrand 2009 (50/50 Grenache/Syrah) - scented oak and wild berries with herby touches, pretty intense cassis then darker fruit, tight and fresh vs firm but attractive texture, punchy and long but quite fine. 2 €16
Alignan du Vent Cépages "Hadrien" 2009 (70% Syrah, 30% Grenache) - vibrant chunky spicy black cherry, pretty grippy vs lively fruity and punchy too; maybe a touch ‘overdone’. 1 €6.90
Domaine Magellan 2009 (50/50 Grenache/Syrah; 14.5% alc.) - enticing sweet berry vs tobacco fruit, firm vs sweet mouth-feel, lighter touch than some of the others, nice style. 1-2 €12
Domaine Les Aurelles “Aurel” 2005 (2/3 Mourvèdre + Syrah/Grenache) – very white peppery with resiny/savoury edges, quite concentrated vs elegant, nice style and drinking well now. 1-2
“Aurel” 2010 (cask/tank sample) - rich dark and spicy, nice big mouthful, concentrated and chunky tannins, lovely fruit and oomph. 2-3
St. Jean de Bébian 2010 (cask/tank sample: SGM) - oaky/malo-lactic notes dominating, a bit clunky and awkward at this stage, need to try it when finished and ‘together’.

05 May 2011

Languedoc: Saint-Chinian Berlou and Roquebrun

Berlou and Roquebrun are the two newish (2005) subzones in Saint-Chinian country created around these two villages found on the appellation’s northern edges, with the Orb river more or less forming a partition between them. Can’t really make a judgement based on tasting four wines; and three of them are from each area’s co-op winery, which is no bad thing, of course, if this lets their growers/winemakers focus on making a couple of special wines, although I’d like to get a better idea of how many small estates are really getting behind these two mini-appellations? I’ve used my ‘new’ scoring system of one, two or three ‘ticks’ (good, very good, fabulous); or just plain 1 to 3 here. Euro prices are cellar door per bottle inc. taxes and were added after the event (21-25 March 2011 in the region).

Les Coteaux de Berlou Château des Albières 2008 (35% old-vine Carignan, 25% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre) - intense sweet-perfumed and spicy, vibrant tangy vs richer liquorice fruit with meaty yet minty edges; peppery pure fruit finish, textured tannins and quite elegant. 2 €9.10
Cave de Roquebrun "Baron d'Aupenac" 2008 (80% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache) – again shows enticing herbal cassis vs liquorice and black cherry, touch of oak layered on grippy tannins; pity as it’s a bit over-extracted after that nice start. 1 €21.65!
Domaine Carrière Audier "St-Martin de Vieussan" 2008 (Mourvèdre/Syrah) – a touch oxidised and turning very savoury already, chunky tannins vs some nice fruit but that baked character rides through it. Could just be a dud bottle? €7.90
Cave de Roquebrun "Terrasses de Maynard" 2009 (60% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache) - quite oaky vs lively spicy dark fruit, minty edges vs touch of choc/vanilla adding texture to its big yet rounded tannins, closes up on the finish. A tad clunky perhaps but has good substance etc. 1-2

And from the previous edition of the “Millésimes en Languedoc” tasting sessions in 2010, there were two rather good 2009 vintage reds from two estates not present this time:

Domaine Pin des Marguerites "Pétale Pourpre" 2009 Saint-Chinian-Berlou (Carignan, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah) - peppery garrigue tones with "sweet" blackberry and olive; minty floral blueberry mouthful with "chalky" tannins, fresh bite and quite elegant finish. €11 90
Domaine La Grange Leon "Audacieux" 2009 Berlou (Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre) - "Black Forest gateau" nose with violet and liquorice notes; concentrated lively mouthfeel with appealing bite, tannins and lingering menthol flavours. €8 90+

Looking back through all six wines, interesting to note perhaps that my favs are from Berlou? Discuss in less than ten words below...


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