Buy Richard Mark James' book about the Roussillon wine region on Amazon UK in colour paperback and eBook or black & white version, and Amazon US: colour paperback and eBook or black & white. Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover or eBook. For other countries, tap on the cover image below.

31 December 2012

Languedoc: Château La Roque update

The 2011 vintage is the first "officially" organic at this now quite famous Pic-Saint-Loup estate: click here to view profile (written a few years ago), those latest 2011 white, red and rosé wines sampled and reviewed, plus links to previous stuff featuring older vintages too...

A couple of Champagnes "of the moment" (and a classy Oz one...)

Updated Feb 2013.
"You may already have cracked open some Champers over Christmas with all the usual seasonal special offers floating around; and if you're looking for some last-minute New Year Eve's sparkling pleasure, here are a couple I've enjoyed recently, which are widely available in the UK (and Ireland for the first one). Mind you, there are some good deals on e.g. vintage Cava and other sparklers from around the globe too that look equally / more tempting perhaps (just don't buy the cheapest one as that's what you'll get). Or look to Australia for a touch of surprising class (see below)..."

Premier Cru Champagne Tesco Finest (12.5%) - made by leading co-op winery Union Champagne selected from their Premier Cru vineyards (classified as higher quality) with around 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, based on 2007 vintage wine although a non-vintage blend plus nearly one-third 'reserve' wines (small batches held back from other vintages and blended in to maintain the house style and quality). Quite fine fizz actually showing attractive aged toasted yeasty nutty aromas and flavours, nice fresh bite vs richer and rounder with bready cake-y notes on the finish. About £15 / €29, half-bottle on offer on-line for £9.99.

Champagne Louis Chaurey Brut M&S (12%) - fairly classy blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier resulting in an attractive subtle mix of lively and fruity vs toasted yeasty baked bread notes, not too dry (nor too sweet like some of them) but has nice crisp appley touches vs richer toastier oaty flavours. Good buy at £15 (supposedly half-price although I don't think I'd pay £30 for it), but this offer might well end today!

Added Feb 2013:
Croser Sparkling Wine 2007 Adelaide Hills, South Australia - came across a neglected note on this lovely wine sampled last year, one of Australia's finest sparklers (along with e.g. Pirie from Tasmania), which could be thrown up against the two Champers above and comfortably hold its own. A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a fair amount of bottle age, this has toasty honeyed almond biscuit notes, quite rich on the palate vs crisp tight refreshing finish, classy and delicious. €20+ in Ireland (imported by Gilbeys in Dublin), $31.50 in Aus.

More Champagne & other sparkling wine HERE.

28 December 2012

Roussillon winery updates

I've finally updated several of my existing Roussillon winegrower profiles with latest vintages and news, including these hot estates (click on the highlighted link):
Domaine du Traginer, Banyuls-sur-mer (Jean-François Deu, pic. below, hard at it in the field, taken from
Domaine Laguerre, St. Martin de Fenouillet (Eric & Corine Laguerre).
Olivier Pithon, Calce.
Domaine Puig-ParahÿPassa (Georges Puig).
Domaine Gardiès, Espira/Vingrau (Jean Gardiès).
Plus a few 'new' ones too: Ch. de Gaure, Dom. Joliette, Dom. Cayrol, Les Conques...

18 December 2012

Germany: St. Urbans-Hof, Mosel & Saar

2011 vintage Riesling tasting with Nik Weis

Owner - winemaker Nik Weis (right with cellar manager Rudi Hoffmann left) was in London back in the summer with his UK importer The Wine Barn to preview their 2011 vintage Rieslings from most of their middle-Mosel estate vineyards. These prized plots - some dramatically sloping up from the Mosel in picture-postcard paint-strokes (see photo of Piesporter Goldtröpfchen below), others rising more gently and flattening out a little - are found in six disparate sites with three of them on or near the Saar river (a tributary of the big 'M') up to 40 km away. These varied and pretty vineyards - amply fitting the "if it's beautiful, it's good" criterion, as a French wine producer rightly once said to me - are dotted around the villages of Leiwen (where the winery and family home is), Piesport, Mehring, Schoden, Ockfen and Wiltingen (the latter three are in the Saar region).

Nik - who took over the family wine business in 1997, which he runs with wife Daniela who's also from wine-growing background - described the 2011 vintage, understated, as "very unusual." This was yet another year marked by rollercoaster weather patterns and the resulting challenges for any winegrower/maker. Nik added: "I prefer to bottle early, especially the 2011s for example, to capture the freshness. For dry wines and wines for food, it's better to do it a bit later." He finished off the tasting nicely with a couple of top 10-year retro Rieslings, as a timely reminder of what a great age-worthy vintage 2001 was in Germany - and elsewhere in Europe actually, often overshadowed by  the hyperbole attached to 2000. More info on St. Urbans-Hof's individual vineyards etc. @, including worldwide distributor contacts e.g. HB Wine Merchants in NYCThe Wine Barn sells these wines mostly to restaurants and hotels plus posh shops like Selfridges in London (approx cost prices in £ stated below).

Estate Riesling 'old vines' - yeast lees notes, delicate vs concentrated profile, quite tight and 'chalky' palate with oily honeyed side too, touch of sweetness vs gentle acidity underneath. Nice balance and style.
From 11 ha (c. 27 acres) of vineyards in Leiwen at 130 metres altitude (over 400 feet), mix of young and up to 60 year-old vines. 9.5% alcohol (alc), 36 grams/litre residual sugar (RS) and 6.9 g/l acidity (TA).

Saarfeilser Riesling Spätlese trocken - floral peppery almost, delicate juicy spicy mouth-feel with ripe citrus fruit vs chalky and crisp; has a touch of roundness vs subtle zest and acidity, honeyed vs 'mineral' finish with touches of lees / SO2 perhaps; well-balanced again. 12.5% alc. £18.25

Wiltingen Alte Reben (old vines) Riesling Kabinett feinherb - mix of citrus and floral celery notes, fairly intense citrus palate vs honeyed oily texture, lively crisp and mineral, concentrated vs light and elegant with intense long finish. £11.40
Average of 40+ year-old vines in 3 ha at 150 m, all south-facing. 10.5% alc, 21 RS, 7.2 TA.

Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett - a little closed up on the nose, delicate vs intense honeysuckle notes, tight mineral mouth-feel closing up again on its subtle finish with attractive lingering flavours and fresh acidity. £13.70
5 ha southwest facing at 156 m, vines c. 50 years old. 9.5%, 40 RS, 5 TA.

Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett - leesy with zesty citrus on a chalky palate, again delicate acidity running through it vs underlying sweetness (52 RS), tastes drier in the end with that long elegant crisp finish. £15.95
2.3 ha on the steepest part of "one of the finest Crus in the entire Mosel" according to Nik. 30 to 90 year-old vines too. 9%, 5.7 TA.

Piesporter Goldtröpfchen vineyard sliding into the river

Leiwener Laurentiuslay Riesling Spätlese - yeasty edges vs concentrated citrus fruits, towards lime even; quite rich vs leesy vs very tight acidity (a little awkward still when I tried it), attractive sweetness vs mineral celery side vs more exotic fruit too, lightly zesty with subtle length again. Should be very good. £25.80
1.2 ha at 126 m, although steep, southwest facing. 60 yo vines. 10%, 42 RS, 6.3 TA.

Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Spätlese - floral honeyed nose with almost 'slatey' undertones, lively spicy notes vs richer citrus and oily texture, lovely long crisp mineral finish vs towards exotic fruit and sweetness, very long with fine balance. Yum. £19.75
9%, 58 RS, 6.6 TA.

Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese - aromatic zesty peppery and 'phenolic' (from skin contact), sweet citrus vs oily texture vs concentrated and intense; long zesty and delicate with almost rounded exotic fruit vs lovely 'cut' and length, delicious tasty finish. £22 - 9%, 65 RS, 5.6 RS.

Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Auslese - more exotic and richer with lees/SO2 edges still, enticing mineral celery palate, juicy and zesty with lovely acidity underneath vs sweet richness (80 RS); surprising weight and length for 8% alcohol with delicate mineral tones vs oily and honeyed, drinking nicely now actually yet still tight and long on the finish. £32

Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Auslese - spicy leesy edgy mineral celery notes vs rich and exotic, towards peach and raisin flavours almost, honeyed and sweet with a touch of botrytis fruit in there vs delicate acidity lending chalky texture; weight vs light touch balancing exotic and elegant well, long sweet and zesty too on the finish. £28

2001 Saarfeilser Riesling (Spätlese 'level', 10% alc.) - developing 'toasty' oily notes, mineral and nutty vs richer side vs underlying green fruit and acidity; chalky fresh tight and zesty still vs mature oily flavours/textures. Wow, lovely mix of mature and still lively, complex with towards dry finish almost.

2001 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett (9%) - a tad 'richer' toastier and oilier yet more mineral and celery-edged too, intense concentration vs acidity vs nutty flavours, complex peppery notes vs rich lime vs oily toasted nuts; lovely freshness with chalky acidity vs rounded maturing mouth-feel, very long and classy. Double wow, superb, still has life in it yet.

LOTS MORE ON GERMAN WINES AND RIESLING HERE (goes to Germany archive page).

06 December 2012

Roussillon: Domaine Nivet-Galinier, Ponteilla
Domaine Nivet-Galinier

David, Lydie and son Boris Nivet tend seven hectares (17 acres) of treasured old vines (some of their Carignan has been around for over 100 years) - split into two distinctly different plots in the central Roussillon flatlands - taking a naturally laid-back grass-roots biodynamic farming view of life (they've been 'Demeter' certified since 2001). You'll find their vineyards, cellar and home off the back-road between Ponteilla and Le Soler in the heart of Les Aspres country, a few kilometres from Perpignan or Thuir (it's signposted). This unashamedly 'natural' approach results in quirky complex or elusive wines even that are perhaps a little on the wild side for some overly technical people. But their intense aged white wines, for instance, do last surprisingly well as testimony. The earthy Nivet-Galinier team sells most of their wines in France, but does export some to Japan too, I was told. These reds and whites were tasted with Boris and David at the Millésime Bio organic wine fair in Montpellier on two occasions, in 2010 and 2012. They also make some interesting cask-matured Rivesaltes Vins Doux Naturels as well as honey, growing spuds, milling maize...

2008 Macabeu white, Côtes Catalanes - attractive 'oxidative' style showing nutty vs honey and banana notes; quite rich mouth-feel actually vs appley and mineral bite, crisp length too. 89
2008 Macabeu tasted two years later: nutty 'Fino' tinged nose and palate, rich and intense vs dry and mineral, still alive and tasty. Wow, very good: see what I mean!
2008 Macabeu/Grenache gris white, Côtes Catalanes - similar although showing more yeast-lees notes and perhaps fuller too; rounded mouth-feel vs again has nice bite and length. 89
2005 Les Aspres Côtes du Roussillon (Carignan, Syrah, Grenache) - lovely maturing savoury tobacco-tinged nose with underlying 'sweet' liquorice; firm and peppery palate with dry coating of tannins vs lush dark fruit. 89+
2006 Les Aspres Côtes du Roussillon (Carignan, Syrah, Grenache) - smokier and more rustic ('bretty' even); 'inky' vs rich and dark with meaty undertones, pity about that 'farmyard' side, as it's got natural intensity. 86+
2006 Les Aspres two years later: 'soupy' rustic and lush, again it's intense with grip vs ripe maturing fruit, power and 'sweet/savoury' flavour combo on the finish; still quite structured actually vs more elegant maturing side.
2006 Côtes du Roussillon (similar blend with more Syrah) - spicier dark cherry aromas, same kind of lush liquorice and 'tar' styling; smoky but not too, grippy mouth-feel although quite well-balanced. 87+
2007 Les Aspres – has more vibrant fruit with meaty edges, (more) powerful and concentrated too with attractive solid vs 'sweet/savoury' finish. Good stuff.
2007 Côtes du Roussillon – a little baked on the nose vs enticing minty character too, has less substance than the above perhaps although still quite intense and long.

04 December 2012

Rhône: Ogier update, Côtes du Vivarais & Côtes du Rhône Villages

I knocked up a fairly detailed report on Ogier's turreted Châteauneuf-du-Pape operation back in July 2009 (you know what to do), including tasting a few vintages from their Clos de l'Oratoire estate and Les Chorégies, the 'special' cuvée they make as part of an opera-in-Orange sponsorship deal they're involved in. And I met their winemaker at another Rhone Valley property they own in summer 2010, called Notre Dame de Cousignac (goes to a feature on the southern Ardèche: scroll down to the Côtes du Vivarais section). Anyway, you'll find a mini-update below on the latest vintages of these Ardèche wines plus a rather good Côtes du Rhône Villages red. Ogier appears to have converted, or is in the process of, a substantial chunk of their Rhône Valley vineyards over to the organic way of things, which is, I believe, parent group Jeanjean's long-term strategy in the Languedoc and elsewhere too.

Notre Dame de Cousignac Côtes du Vivarais

2011 white (Marsanne, Clairette, Grenache blanc) - lively 'mineral' touches with aromatic cider notes vs more honeyed fruit too, zingy vs rounder texture to finish. Nice style.
2011 rosé (Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault) - hints of yeast lees characters with crisp bite on the palate vs fuller red fruity style. Good.
2010 red (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) - lively berry fruits with spice and liquorice aromas/flavours, has a bit of grip and weight vs attractive spicy finish.

2010 Ogier Côtes du Rhône Villages - aromatic and spicy nose, 'sweet' fruit with meaty edges, peppery and punchy with nice grip and delicious fruit lingering. Very good.

More info @

01 December 2012

Languedoc: Virgile Joly update, Saint-Saturnin

There's a short and sweet profile blurb on Domaine Virgile Joly HERE along with some of his wines tasted in 2010 and 2011. What's new then, apart from the latest releases / revisiting certain vintages as reported below? Well, I see the area under vine has quickly grown up by five hectares (now around 37 acres in total) in the Saint-Saturnin area, an awfully quiet village found 30 or 40 km northwest of Montpellier (although I think I heard it now has a restaurant!). And all the vineyard stuff here continues full steam ahead organic grape-growing etc. wise with "natural" winemaking. These wines were sampled at this year's Millésime Bio show in Montpellier; and I've seen Virgile around at other events entertaining English speaking customers, so export is obviously important for him.

2011 blanc (Grenache blanc + 5% Roussanne) - attractive crisp green fruit with vibrant gooseberry, grapefruit and grape aromas vs rounder oilier weightier finish. Good.
2009 Saturne blanc (Grenache blanc) - enticing nutty oxidizing Fino notes with attractive crisp dry palate vs again a rounder finish. Another good white.
2009 rouge (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) - nice cherry fruit with savoury edges, developing liquorice and tobacco notes too, dry grip vs sweet fruit, tasty and quite powerful too.
2007 Saturne rouge (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault) - I tried this a couple of years ago and concluded: "...unripe? reduced? Not sure..." And this time? That 'reductive' and/or herbaceous note was still there, cassis and red pepper; quite concentrated with rounded tannins, that awkward background character lingers although there's nice sweet fruit and structured grip too.
2006 Virgile rouge - some similar notes on the nose, attractive palate though with concentrated firm framework and dark vs crunchy fruit profile. Tightens up on the finish, needs time still. Very good in the end.