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12 December 2011

Languedoc: Cave d'Embres et Castelmaure, Corbières

UPDATE: the brooding 2008 vintage of one of their top Corbières reds, called La Pompadou, is now available in the UK via Laithwaites / Direct Wines at £11.99. My impressions of it have been chiselled below, as well as a profile penned last year including a fascinating insight into why the bright hypnotic stripes, and notes on a few of their range sampled on that particular occasion. Here we go:
2008 La Pompadou (Carignan, Grenache) - perfumed blueberry aromas / flavours, quite tight and fresh mouth-feel with grip, power and concentration lurking underneath. Still seemed a bit young when I tasted it a few months ago, very good though.

The Embres & Castelmaure name evokes myth and legend, as a wonderful place lost in time yet one of the first co-op cellars (although much smaller than many) to understand what changes needed to be made to move forwards into the, perhaps inevitably and certainly very competitive, quality wine arena. This enchanting mediaeval village, or rather (later) merger of two villages, lying at the southern end of the Corbières, was where Patrick de Hoym de Marien, who's still the president, and MD Bernard Pueyo instigated a major rethink and replanting program in the 80s; as well as identifying and mapping out all vineyard plots owned by the co-op's 70 members. This thorough "back to basics" in the vineyards - proper pruning, tilling, controlling yields, selecting grapes etc. - was complemented by upgrading winemaking and ageing techniques and equipment, with timely advice from a few key consultants and culminating in building a brand new cellar opened in 2007.
By the way, I pinched the picture, with the loud coloured stripes featured on their labels, off their poetic website, where you'll also find some stunning pictures and tips for staying and eating in this lost corner of the Corbières (the "main road" to the village only goes to, erm, the village). I sampled these wines at the enigmatically named "Salon du X" - it's not that much of a mystery, actually, a tasting organised by their agent Xavier Peyrot des Gachons with a dozen Languedoc & Roussillon winegrowers present (there were originally 10 in his "gang", I think) hence the X - in April 2010 at Domaine Gayda's impressive winery & restaurant complex, found between Limoux and Castelnaudary.

2009 Corbières white (Grenache blancMacabeu) - juicy and zesty vs exotic banana fruit; nice depth and oily vs crisp mouth-feel. 85+
2008 La comporte du garage (barrel-fermented Grenache blanc) - a bit spicy wood dominated vs juicy and colourful fruit; lightly creamy and maturing notes vs a bit of zing on the finish. 85+
2009 rosé - attractive "boiled sweets" fruity style, crisp and zesty to finish. 80+
La Buvette (mostly  .
Grenache Carignan 14.5%) - light colour with lovely ripe soft raspberry and sweet liquorice notes; quite stocky actually with a light touch of tannin, nice easy style. 85
2008 Castelmaure (Carignan 
Grenache Syrah) - scented "garrigue" with vibrant blueberry and blackberry fruit; juicy lively palate with a bit of weight and grip, subtle lingering fruit. 87
2007 La Pompadou (Carignan 
Grenache Syrah) - enticing cassis and black cherry fruit with more depth and concentration and a hint of chocolate oak; appealing "sweet" vs perfumed vs chunky finish, again tasty and well-balanced. 88+
2007 Grande Cuvée (
Grenache Syrah) - riper liquorice nose and spicier too; fairly lush texture with a tad more oak, attractive depth and grip vs quite concentrated with "sweet" vs dry finish. 89+

4 Route des Canelles, 11360 Embres & Castelmaure. 04 68 45 91 83 / www.castelmaure.com

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