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

30 November 2015

Languedoc 2015: "a fleshy vintage..."

I get lots of emails around this time of year crammed with lengthy serious vintage reports and piled high with photos of happy harvesters at work, handsome bunches of grapes, fermenting juice, winemakers sniffing it and barrels awaiting... Nadia and Cyril Bourgne at Domaine La Madura in Saint-Chinian have simply declared this year's wines from their neck of the Languedoc so comfortingly "fleshy," that the Madura team just couldn't resist stripping off in their new shiny winery. Full-bodied and tasty? There's something there for everyone! More on La Madura on this site HERE or www.lamadura.com.

27 November 2015

Cahors: special supplement updated

I've updated my Cahors special supplement exploring one of south-west France's most exciting wine regions and 'home of Malbec,' as the PR slogan goes. This report has now expanded to nearly 20 pages of words, wines and photos including new profiles and my notes, views and reviews on/of these ten leading organic châteaux and wineries: Lacapelle-Cabanac, Chambert, Haut-Monplaisir, Le Clos d'un Jour, Cèdre, Mas del Périé, Cayrou, Tour de Miraval, Marjolière and Les Hauts d'Aglan.
It's now available as part of a massive French wine e-magazine HERE.
Photo: "150 to 200 year-old" cedar tree in front of curious round-tower outbuilding next to Château du Cayrou.

12 November 2015

Wine tastings & courses: Nov 15 to Mar 16 in Belfast

From Italtrade.com
​​Thursday 26 November 7-8.45pm: Italian wines​ £28.95
​"​At​ ​this wines of Italy ​evening tasting​, we'll take you on a guided tour around several of this very​ varied country's wine producing regions ​by​ tasting and talking about ​a carefully selected range of​ tasty red and white​ wines. These will probably include classics from northern Italy, such as Piemonte and Veneto, central Italy such as Tuscany and Umbria, and the deep south e.g. Sicily, ​Campania,​ Puglia..."

11 November 2015

Fund WineWriting.com & FrenchMediterraneanWine with 'Contributor'

Google has launched a new website / blog funding scheme called Contributor, where readers can make a regular financial contribution to the publisher (that's me). Click on the logo below for more info:

10 November 2015

Spain: Canary Islands

Weird Lanzarote vine-scape
A shorter version of this piece was written for wine business website Harpers.co.uk.
Not many wine nations or regions can claim to have “60% to 70% of vines aged 100 or more years old,” according to Jonatan García, owner of the Suertes del Marqués winery who tutored a special Canary Islands' master-class at the Wines from Spain trade fair in Dublin (on 21 Sept). This stems from the Canaries' vineyards remaining free from the phylloxera louse so old un-grafted vines have been kept, a “much longer history than you think,” i.e. references dating back to at least the 16th century, and winemakers choosing to focus on nurturing their traditional and indigenous varieties. There are “over fifty” of these, García explained, “but there's been confusion over lots of different names often being the same variety.” The main grapes planted are, for whites, 'aromatic' or 'volcanic' Malvasía (Malmsey), Gual, Listán Blanco (= Palomino Fino), Vijariego Blanco, Albillo Criollo and Marmajuelo. And for reds: Listán Negro, Baboso Negro (= or close to Bastardo in Portugal), Tintilla (might be same as Graciano...) and Negramoll (= Tinta Negra).
Not surprisingly, to anyone who's been to or seen photos of these mystic islands, striking volcanic soils dominate yet the terrain and micro-climate can be very different from one to another, with high-altitude vineyards – running up to 1700 metres in parts of party-island Tenerife for instance – a key feature for retaining freshness in white varieties in particular. There are about 8400 hectares of producing vineyards spread across ten D.O appellations: one per island – El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Tenerife - with five D.O zones on the latter. Most of these have rather obscure local names, although there's a recent trend to labelling wines as the new catch-all D.O Las Islas Canarias ('no. 11') to make their provenance clearer to understand, Jaime Ansorena told me who works for the wine producers' association.
I actually thought the white wines marginally had the edge on the reds of the wines I tasted, which were sometimes let down by winemaking or fruit condition perhaps, even though there was obvious concentration and depth of character generally speaking. These wines and wineries stood out for me: (white) Bermejo Malvasía seco, Viñátigo Gual, Teneguía Malvasía dulce reserva, Paisaje de la Islas Malvasía & Marmajuelo, Vega Norte Albillo Criollo, Tajinaste, Caldera, Frontón de Oro; (rosé) Vega Norte rosado; (red) Tierra de Frontos Baboso Negro, Frontón de Oro Tintilla, Tajinaste Tinto Roble, Suertes del Marqués La Solana (see full reviews below).
Some of these wineries are already imported into the UK, especially the export-geared Suertes del Marqués, by specialists such as Indigo Wine, Maar Wine and Wine Direct, and are available in a handful of independents in the £15 to £30 range. So, there is an initial price hurdle for retailers and consumers to overcome, to say the least, even though some of the wines are pretty good. Similarly, García's Dublin importer Vinostito suggests RRPs of €26 and €30 in the Republic for two of his top wines. Searching around the web, there doesn't appear to be a shortage of distributors in the US either: David Bowler Wine in NYC for example.
Richard Mark James
Other resources:

Recommended whites

Tierra de Frontos 2014 (Listán Blanco and others from the south side of Tenerife) - Very upfront 'Sauvignon blanc' style, crisp green fruit vs attractive oilier side, quite concentrated actually (very old vines) with crisp aromatic finish; very nice.
Tajinaste 2014 (Listán Blanco grown in northern Tenerife) - Nutty 'mineral' and dry style, concentrated and quite intense with long zesty crisp finish. Very good.
Hoyos de Bandama Caldera blanco seco 2014 (Gran Canaria) - aromatic green fruit with nutty edges, quite intense and crisp vs a richer oilier side. Good.
Bermejo Malvasía seco 2014 (Lanzarote; Malmsey, 13% abv) - Yeast-lees edges on the nose, richer and rounder palate with banana and white peach vs crisp and steely, a touch of weight vs very dry bite. Shows fair depth and class, that slightly 'awkward' lees note lifted off with some airing. Good stuff.
El Borujo Los Loros 2014 (Tenerife: 40% Gual, 30% Marmajuelo & 30% Moscatel barrel-fermented, 13% abv) - Pretty yeasty to start, rich colour; very aromatic and peachy though with spicy apricot as well, softer and less intense than some of the others but a nice rounder white though.
Viñátigo Gual 2014 (Tenerife, 13% abv) - Aromatic mix reminiscent of Torrontés and Gruner Veltliner, perfumed floral and spicy turning more exotic with pineapple, fresh and crisp though with a bitter twist. Different, quite attractive although probably a little perfumed for some people.
Viñátigo Vijariego Blanco 2013 (Tenerife, barrel-fermented and 6 months lees stirring) - Richer nuttier and rounder style with creamy hazelnut flavours, turning savoury yet still fairly fresh; good and not too oaky.
Vega Norte Albillo Criollo 2014 (1000-1500 metres altitude on La Palma, 13.5% abv) - Different again, more delicate with Riesling / Pinot Blanc resonances, refreshing and subtle; very nice.
Tajinaste Paisaje de la Islas Malvasía/Marmajuelo 2013 (Tenerife, part oak-aged) - Rich and concentrated vs subtle aromatic notes, nutty and crisp with tasty long finish; also very good.
Teneguía Malvasía dulce reserva 2006 (La Palma, 18 months in French oak, 14.5% abv) - Made from '90% botrytis affected grapes' which "isn't that common; there's more humidity on La Palma," Jonatan expanded. Rich raisin and honey with orange flower edges, treacle/molasses notes are lifted by a pleasant citrus twist and a hint of freshness, concentrated raisin flavours linger vs a nice bitter twist and aged toasted nut tones too. €37 cellar door.


Vega Norte 2014 rosado (La Palma, 14.5% abv) - Deep rich colour, very fruity with creamy raspberry and strawberry flavours, rounded full-on and serious foodie rosé.
Frontón de Oro 2014 rosado (Gran Canaria; Listan Negro, Negro Legítima and Negramoll, 13% abv) - Fresh and fruity on the nose, gets creamier on the palate with red fruits, dry finish; nice style.


Tierra de Frontos Baboso Negro 2014 (Tenerife, 14.5% abv) - Lots of lively cassis and black cherry fruit, aromatic fruity and peppery with liquorice tones, a bit of punch and grip with nice tannins though.
Ignios Orígenes Baboso Negro 2013 (Tenerife; 11 months in French oak, unfiltered, 14.5% abv) - Smoky with perfumed cassis, punchy and grippy vs enticing ripe raisin and liquorice flavours with peppery edges, hints of dark bitter chocolate, pretty powerful but has plenty of lush dried fruit character and a touch of smoky oak, gets fruitier with airing; quite good actually. USA c. $40.
Frontón de Oro Tintilla 2013 (Gran Canaria; 4 months in oak, 14% abv) - Dark cherry liquorice and menthol too, peppery and earthy touches vs ripe dark and meaty fruit with a more perfumed finish and just a little grip. Different too.
Viñátigo Tintilla 2012 (Tenerife, 18 months in French oak) - Rich smoky nose with ripe resin and dark dried fruits, a tad 'funky'/rustic but it works with attractive sweet vs earthy vs meaty finish, soft tannins; drink now.
Tajinaste Tinto Roble 2013 (Tenerife; Listán Negro, 13.5% abv) - Ripe dark and smoky/'funky', more structured with supple 'chalky' tannins though vs lush dark and smoky 'tar' on the finish; nice sunny red.
Suertes del Marqués La Solana 2013 (100+ year-old Listán Negro from a 2.5 hectare northeast-facing vineyard on the Tenerife hills at 400-520 metres altitude; 12 months in French oak, unfiltered, 13.5% abv) - Dark and peppery with black cherry/berry fruit, spicy and vibrant mouthful with dry yet rounded tannins, nice weight with concentrated black fruit finish and peppery earthy rustic tones vs still firm and structured. Well-made, very attractive style.
Gutiérrez de Salamanca 2013 '1861' (Tenerife) - Touches of vanilla and coconut oak, nice texture though with grip vs sweet maturing fruit to finish.

04 November 2015

North & South America: 'wines of the moment'

2012 Catena Zapata 'High Mountain Vines' Malbec – Mendoza (13.5%) - Quite expensive but definitely a superior version of Malbec. £12.79 WineMark
2012 Viñalba Malbec-Syrah Bodegas Fabre – Patagonia (14.5% abv) - Very good value and fairly serious too. £8.98 Asda

Australia: Gatt Wines

From winetitles.com.au
Owner Ray Gatt and his team - headed up by winemaker David Norman and vineyard guru Gil Rogers - are based in famous wine town Tanunda, South Australia; and the vineyards are found in the Eden and Barossa Valleys. Ray's 'High Eden' vines lie at around 500 metres altitude, one of the highest sites in the area I'm told, which suits Riesling well and nurtures a cooler climate style of Shiraz. On the red front, I focused on his Shirazes and Cabs at this particular tasting (in Dublin), as part of a themed approach to hundreds of bottles lined up; but Gatt does also make Grenache and Sangiovese sourced from their Barossa plantings, as well as new additions Tempranillo and Nebbiolo. The 2007s and 2008s featured below are probably their first vintage releases by the way: he bought Eden Springs vineyard in 2006 (established in 1972). Some of these wines are quite pricey, but Ray doesn't produce very much of certain old vine batches. I've indicated cellar door prices in Aus dollars: GBP retail would be about half this roughly, and € in Ireland about two-thirds. More @ www.gattwines.com (but not much: follow the link under the photo to a good article on Wine Titles' site).

Accent Pinot Gris 2014 Eden Valley (13.5% abv) - Honeyed juicy and spicy, lightly 'balsamic' too, attractive style with crisp-ish vs fatter texture. A$20
Accent Viognier 2014 Barossa Valley (13%) - Enticing pure peachy style, quite soft and juicy with a touch of bite and nice 'sweet' fruit. A$20
High Eden Riesling 2014 (11.5%) - Light and delicate with juicy citrus and zingy 'chalky' mouth-feel, crisp length although soft too. A$25
High Eden Sparkling Shiraz 2007 - Drier than many in this quirky style, showing savoury developed flavours livened up with fizz, attractive and different. A$25
Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (14%) - Nice maturing cassis aromas and flavours, tasty sweet/savoury fruit with a little grip still, well-balanced and drinking now but has some power left in it. A$55
High Eden Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 - Leafy cassis notes leading to chunkier richer ripe berry fruit vs a touch of oak, nicely balanced though with rounded mouth-feel vs light grip and reasonably subtle overall. A$55
High Eden Shiraz 2009 (13.5%) - Delicious peppery herby black cherry nose, maturing savoury flavours too vs minty tones and lush dark fruit with a bit of grip on its long finish. Very nice. A$55
Barossa Shiraz 2008 - Meaty vs sweet fruit nose, tasty mature savoury notes vs dark cherry and spice, lingering touch of tannin; lovely balance though. A$55
Old Vine Barossa Shiraz 2010 - Fair amount of choco oak to start vs very rich dark and peppery fruit, concentrated / extracted, quite oaky still vs good depth and power, closes up on the finish. Time will tell... A$100

Australia: Riesling (again)

There's already a fair chunk of material devoted to the tantalising Riesling variety on this site and Aussie Riesling particularly, which is probably geeky bordering on obsessive. However, as the official Wine Australia blurb runs: "Australia has a rich history of Riesling production (dating back to 1838 in New South Wales apparently) which today comprises more than 4000 ha (nearly 10K acres) of plantings," making them number two in the world behind Germany Riesling-wise. It's also become clear over the years that certain regions suit the variety best, such as hillside vineyards in the Eden and Clare Valleys or Adelaide Hills in South Australia, or maritime influenced sites such as Great Southern in Western Aus or Tasmania. Their wine styles are usually dry and on the lighter alcohol side nowadays (a recent trend I think); and, as you'll see from my dozen or so reviews below, some of them are capable of taking on those lovely classic complex Riesling flavours with bottle age ('petrol-head' paradise). "Hey-up" bottle shot (think about it...) from peterlehmannwines.com.

Gatt High Eden 2014 Eden Valley (11.5% abv) - Light and delicate with juicy citrus and zingy 'chalky' mouth-feel, crisp length although soft too.
St. John's Road Piece of Eden 2014 Eden Valley (12%) - More honeyed and richer oilier texture with ripe lime vs steely and 'chalky', quite intense.
Vickery Watervale 2014 Clare Valley (11.5%) - Zesty lime with 'mineral' tones, again delicate yet very zesty and crisp with subtle citrus finish.
Tim Adams 2013 Clare Valley (11.5%) - Developing oily notes with floral lime, fairly concentrated with crisp 'mineral' mouth-feel vs maturing flavours, elegant again.
Jim Barry The Florita 2013 Clare (12.5%) - Oily 'kerosene' notes vs tight acid structure still, lime flavours with zesty and 'chalky' finish; good stuff.
Thorn Clarke Mount Crawford 2012 Eden Valley (13%) - Delicate with 'kerosene', fuller maturing palate yet intense and crisp still, weightier then tight long finish.
Penfolds Bin 51 2012 Eden Valley (12.5%) - Limey and oily vs crisp and 'chalky', fresh with bitter twist vs maturing and rounded, fair depth.
McGuigan Shortlist 2012 Eden Valley (11.5%) - Lime and 'kerosene' edges, drinking well now although zesty and zingy too, less intense finish but nice delicate style.
De Bortoli Yarra Valley Reserve Release 2011 Victoria (11.5%) - Rich lime, quite concentrated with attractive lingering combo of 'chalky' 'mineral' zip vs oily maturing.
Howard Park Great Southern 2011 Western Australia - Intense mix of ripe lime, oily notes and piercing acidity, delicate yet concentrated. Stylish.
Pewsey Vale Contours 2009 Eden Valley (12.5%) - Developed rich and oily vs green lime fruit and zingy acidity still, definitely Riesling! Wow.
Peter Lehmann Wigan 2009 Eden Valley (11%) - Similar rich and oily vs green fruit characters, more floral though and honeyed too, slightly less 'mineral' perhaps, feels weighty for 11%, concentrated and classy.
Peter Lehmann Wigan 2006 Eden Valley (11.5%) - Aromatic 'kerosene' and honeyed lime, tasty and zingy palate, still structured even vs rich and oily, concentrated yet elegant; delicious wine.

More Australia: Cabernet Sauvignon.


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