"Order my book on the Roussillon wine region (colour paperback) DIRECT FROM ME SAVING £4/€4 (UK & EU only), or Kindle eBook on Amazon UK. Available in the USA from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook; or Amazon.com. For other countries, tap here." Richard Mark James
Showing posts with label Côtes du Roussillon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Côtes du Roussillon. Show all posts

04 December 2023

Roussillon: the south.

The final rant of 2023 about the Roussillon covers my favourites encountered earlier this year from the Côte Vermeille: mainly Collioure white wines (rosé is here), Banyuls Vin Doux Naturel (VDN) sweet fortified wines (including some old vintages), and neighbouring Côtes du Roussillon (white and red) that miss the Collioure appellation (of little importance apart from the price they can charge!).

27 November 2023

Roussillon: the north continued.

Overlooking a vineyard, Cases-de-Pène Agly Valley.

Continuing this year's series of tasting and touring articles on the Roussillon, this time we're heading back north to the Agly Valley to supplement a previous piece on the Maury area, as well as one focused on winemakers in central Roussillon (Les Aspres and either side) and one celebrating the region's rosé wines (compared to Languedoc). Meaning there'll be one more report picking favourites from the south (Collioure, Banyuls and neighbouring Côtes du Roussillon and Côtes Catalanes wines).

17 November 2023

Roussillon: Les Aspres, the centre and beyond.

Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, central Roussillon.

Côtes du Roussillon Villages and Les Aspres, Côtes du Roussillon, Côtes Catalanes and Rivesaltes VDNs.
Talking of the Aspres and neighbouring areas in central and eastern Roussillon, barrels full of heartfelt empathy go out to those winegrowers who had the very bad luck of being hit by a freak storm just before some remaining black grapes were due to be picked this vintage. One night of terrible wind and rain after months of drought with virtually no rainfall, which had already made things difficult and reduced the crop.

21 August 2022

Roussillon: 36 whites and rosés worthy of your fridge (but not at the same time).

Hot on the heels of two pieces showcasing 40+ stonking reds from the North and the Centre & South of the Roussillon, it's time to switch the limelight onto some of the region's flavoursome white and rosé wines. There's a blurb about the wineries mentioned here in those two previous posts: tap the links to discover more including which outlets stock their wines. So this time then, less blah blah and more wine. Photo: old vines in Les Aspres zone.

01 August 2022

Roussillon - the south & centre: 16 reds to knock your socks off (part 2).

These plush reds represent more of my favourites from a recent Wines of Roussillon tasting in London (part 1: the north, is here). Featuring wines from 2019, 2020 and 2021 plus some more mature or rarer vintages produced by various wineries in the centre and south of the Roussillon, aka 'French Catalonia, wild wine country' as in the title of my book.

08 July 2022

Roussillon - the north: 27 reds to knock your socks off (part 1).

This spicy variety of reds features some of my top picks from a Wines of Roussillon tasting in London (in June), and other recommendations from recent wine shopping. These include reds from the 2019, 2020 and 2021 vintages, as well as a few older, more mature and sometimes special bottlings. They were made by different-sized wine producers across the northern Roussillon - Les Pyrénées Orientales is the département name - or 'French Catalonia' as I coined in the subtitle of my book on the region.

06 March 2022

Serious rosé

For those of us who enjoy (proper) dry rosé all year round, not just in summer (it's a good compromise for a white wine drinker and a red wine drinker sharing the same meal and bottle), it's no surprise that 'serious' rosé does exist. But some people in France and someone in Italy had the bright idea of creating the Rosés de Terroirs association as a collaborative marketing project to promote the regions and producers who are famous for making this type of full-on pink wine.

19 October 2021

Roussillon 2019 reds: La Préceptorie, Domaine Jones and Vignobles d'Agly.

The three 2019 vintage reds tasting-noted here come from a few different northern Roussillon vineyard locations. Full profiles of these wineries and notes on their other wines and previous vintages can be found in my book on the Roussillon. These tasty reds are all available from the Wine Society in the UK (among others, and in other countries), which I became a member of recently.

16 December 2020

Roussillon: top 100 red wines

Apart from another excuse to plug my new book on the Roussillon (links to previous post with details, or go straight to Amazon UK or USA or Barnes & Noble to buy it - other formats and countries' stores are also linked in the post above), here are some of my hot red wine tips from the region made by producers featured in the book. Many winemakers have just released their 2018 and 2019 reds, and I look forward to tasting more of these next year (?!) when we're able to travel safely to France again due to the ongoing Covid-19 nightmare.

27 October 2020

ROUSSILLON ‘French Catalonia’ Wild Wine Country by Richard Mark James

This detailed book on the Roussillon wine region in deepest south of France, or far western French Mediterranean to be more precise, is available to order on Amazon as a paperback (with colour photos) and eBook (Kindle). Follow the link below to your 'marketplace' to read the blurb, get swept away and purchase a copy!
Or buy it DIRECT FROM THE AUTHOR (UK and EU only):

07 June 2018

France, Roussillon: white wines

This is one of a handful of mini-features on the 'French Catalan' region of the Roussillon - the Eastern Pyrenees is the official département name (Perpignan, Rivesaltes, Maury, Collioure, Banyuls-sur-mer, erm... the bit in the middle (called Les Aspres) and way out west/south-west to Font Romeu and skiing country...) - which are divided into simple 'best whites' and 'best reds' type hit lists (with a hint of commentary to set the scene), gleaned from a succinct tour and extensive tastings in situ last month in addition to a couple of trips last year.

18 November 2014

Roussillon: Château Corneilla / Jonquères d'Oriola

Château de Corneilla aka Domaine Jonquères d'Oriola is another of those very old family wine estates you occasionally come across in the Roussillon (we're talking 15th century apparently). Now run by 30-something William who's continued shifting the focus a touch more towards making Côtes du Roussillon reds, although they still have a very good reputation for their traditional Vins Doux Naturels (VDN = fortified wines), such as the gracefully ageing Tuilé red (sort-of 'tawny' style) featured here. The Jonquères family owns two substantial vineyards around the historic village of Corneilla del Vercol, found a few kilometres south of Perpignan on the way to Saint Cyprien and Elne. Their site www.jonqueresdoriola.fr is "under construction."

Rivesaltes Tuilé 2000 (Grenache, fortified to 16% abv) - caramelised pecan nut and red fruit cocktail, quite tangy and "fresh" almost with a bit of a kick then lingering maturing meaty flavours. Alluring VDN style, try with chocolate, nutty desserts or mature hard cheeses. £13 Roberson Wine, London.
Côtes du Roussillon 2011 red (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah) - nice sweet berry and floral notes with tobacco edges, fresh bite still and light tannins on its attractive finish. £9.95 Roberson Wine.

05 August 2013

Roussillon: Mas Christine update

There's some background and previous vintages HERE on/of Mas Christine, serenely overlooking the seaside town of Argelès-sur-mer, and the (ad)venture called Tramontane Wines set up by Philippe Gard, owner of highly-rated Roussillon estate winery Coume del Mas (just updated too), resident English winemaker Andy Cook and other partners, who leased this pretty, originally early 19th Century vineyard in 2006 and have since created a new range of wines.

I met up with Andy earlier this year, who took me for a wee spin around some of the Mas' vine plots (and enjoy the view as well naturally), which overall amounts to some "35 parcels," as he put it. Andy also told me: "we replanted quite a bit of white varieties and re-trellised... there's about 50-50 red and white now." Most of the best Grenache they use is in one spot higher up the hill with their Syrah lying further down the slope. "We're trialing some new organic sprays against grape worm," Andy added, "as they didn't work before. Mas Christine could possibly become organic, as we can plough here too." As opposed to much of Coume del Mas near Banyuls-sur-mer, where the vineyards are just too tight, steep and stoney-terraced... The wines "don't have added acidity... and we usually use the natural yeasts" for fermentation.

2011 Mas Christine white Côtes du Roussillon (blend of, not necessarily in this order: Grenache gris & blanc, Macabeu, Roussanne, Marsanne, Carignan gris. About half the wine is barrel-fermented) - yeast-lees notes and peachy on the nose, steely and 'salty' even mouth-feel with a touch of weight vs fresh bite; not that expressive when I tried it, quite good though.
2012 Mas Christine rosé Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache, Syrah; "whole-bunch pressed") - fresh and lively with crisp and crunchy palate vs beginning to get rounder and fruitier; again still quite tight and closed up when I tried it, should be nice now though.
2010 Mas Christine red Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan; the Syrah sees some oak ageing in older barrels) - attractive perfumed fruity nose with liquorice and spice notes, more austere on the finish with nice crunchy fruit.
These three wines cost about €10-€11 in France and £12 in the UK.

Their Consolation range is made from "the best selections" from CDM, MC and other partner wineries.
2011 Dog Strangler (Mourvèdre) - yields of "three bunches per vine" and fermented in "open-top barrels with foot treading." Pretty toasty and closed up on the nose and palate, dark fruit lurking underneath on a fresh and firm backdrop, grainy oak vs concentrated and elegant too actually; needs time (I'm finding this with the 11 vintage).
2008 Dog Strangler (Mourvèdre) - wild floral nose with black olive and meaty edges, powerful with a hint of freshness too, still firm vs maturing fruit, long elegant finish; lovely wine.
1996 Rivesaltes ambré 'Antic' (aged in old Armagnac barrels) - pruney yet tangy too, rich dried fruits and oxidized/aged characters vs still alive with nice bite, intense nutty finish. Good value for a complex Vin Doux Naturel like this: £12 / 50 cl.
2010 Wild Boar Syrah (14.5% abv) - complex maturing nose with rich dark cassis and black cherry, turning resin-y on the palate yet has herbal/reductive hints (?), pretty alcoholic too; that funny mix of herby/tart vs big and punchy lingers somewhat, a little unbalanced even if that sweet fruit and alcohol are slightly flattering...
Notes on the latest Coume del Mas vintages are HERE.

If you want to have a look around their vineyards and taste in the cellar, best to give them a call as Andy and colleagues aren't always around here or at the CDM winery: contact details are on tramontanewines.com, where there's also a comprehensive list of importers and outlets worldwide...

09 July 2013

Roussillon: Domaine Sarda Malet update, Perpignan

Previous words on and wines by Sarda Malet can be found HERE (report from a trip there in 2006, updated in 2009). I went back to this slightly hidden estate (and the family home), although lying on the southern outskirts of the city of Perpignan (across the busy road from the prison actually, over a hill and lost out of sight), earlier this year for a little tour and tasting of what's new at Sarda Malet.

Jérôme and Suzy Sarda Malet
Jérôme Malet is now in charge, with a little advice from mother Suzy no doubt; and they have a team of six vineyard workers and new winemaker Sophie Mage. Sales manager Laurent Moinet told us they have 25 ha being converted over to organics (since 2009/10) and that they've been "pulling up some vines to decrease the surface area, so we can focus on organic with the same team as it takes more man hours." Certain parcels are found near the village of Pollestres a few kilometres to the south, where "we might buy more if some good ones come up for sale." The cellar was also extended about five years ago; and the Malet family has recently invested in an estate in Côtes du Rhône country called Domaine de Fontbonau, in partnership with Frédéric Engerer who runs all the properties owned by François Pinault (Château Latour in Bordeaux among others...).
"We make a varietal range too labelled as Vin de France," Laurent explained further, "from vines planted by Jérôme's grandfather (Jérôme Sarda)..." in the 40s and 50s, and some his father Max Malet selected in the 70s and 80s. "We're planting some new Cabernet Sauvignon clones too from Chateau Latour... and we've decreased the amount of new barrels used (they needed to, to be honest, looking at some of the older vintages tasted)... and more demi-muids..." (two to three times the size of the classic barrique that impart less oak flavour yet have a similar effect on tannin texture etc.).
Lea & Sandeman shops in London stock some of these (see vintages and £ prices next to certain wines); also available in Ireland from Sheridan's Cheesemongers and from SAQ in Canada. More @ www.sarda-malet.com.

2011 Sarda-Malet white (Grenache gris and blanc, Malvoisie; 25% in barrel) - honeyed oily and nutty vs appley and floral, quite steely bite vs powerful (14% abv); lacks a little juicy fruit though.
2008 Terroir Mailloles white (Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache blanc) - pretty coconutty still yet has nice developed oily honeyed and buttery notes too, less toasty and nuttier on the palate with attractive mix of rich vs powerful vs crisp; good stuff in the end actually.
2012 Rosé (Syrah, Mourvèdre) - rich fruity raspberry/strawberry cocktail with quite weighty mouth-feel (14.5% abv!) then crisp finish. Nice style.
2011 Sarda-Malet red (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre; 30% in barrel) - enticing berry fruits, black cherry, liquorice and spice; nice 'fresh' tannins vs lingering fruit and warm alcohol. 2008 = £9.95.
2007 L'Insouciant Grenache - showing a fair amount of vanilla coconut oak, lots of sweet fruit too vs tannins a little dried out.
2008 Fandango Syrah (14% abv) - developing smoky leather edges vs dark cherry, meaty and quite concentrated with nice sweet vs savoury fruit, still firm and powerful too. Good.
2008 L'Intransigeant Mourvèdre - a bit oaky coco-y grainy, quite lean and firm with some savoury wild fruit, but again the tannins are a touch hard.
2007 Terroir Mailloles red (mostly Mourvèdre + Syrah) - a tad coco grainy and firm/extracted vs better sweet/sour fruit, still a bit overdone yet has more depth of fruit than above. 2004 = £19.95
2011 Muscat de Rivesaltes Vin Doux Naturel - lovely aromatic citrus peel vs grapey floral nose, sweet vs citrus bite and freshness vs nice cut from the alcohol. 2009 = £14.95
2007 La Carbasse Rivesaltes red VDN (old Grenache) - savoury meaty oxidizing notes, seems quite old already although that savoury vs dark fruit is quite attractive, still fairly solid too. Not sure. 2005 = £23.95
2005 La Carbasse Collection Rivesaltes Grenat VDN (old Grenache, cask-aged) - similar maturing baked meaty nose yet lusher and livelier, more complex with big fiery and firm vs rich and sweet combo, has much more depth and roundness vs alluring mature fruit.
2004 Le Serrat Rivesaltes ambré VDN (Grenache gris and blanc) - exotic peachy apricot notes vs juicy sweet texture suffused with subtle nutty flavours; doesn't taste that old, elegant long finish. Very good. 2000 = £16.75
1998 Le Serrat - enticing oxidized nutty nose, intense and tasty with rich exotic palate vs still 'mineral' underneath, long complex and nutty. Yum.
L'Abandon (100% Malvoisie passerillé = dried/shrivelled on the vine, 2002 vintage in fact) - very intense nutty nose with dried raisin and sultana combo, rich yet lively too, very sweet vs very fresh with intense nutty finish. Delicious unusual wine.

02 May 2013

Roussillon: Domaine Treloar update

Click here for previous words and wine reviews from 2006 to 2010...

By Kurt Lykke Lindved from facebook.com/Domaine-Treloar-Vineyard-and-Winery

... So it was probably high time I caught up with Jon and Rachel Hesford / Treloar, and was at their winery in Trouillas in central Roussillon earlier this year (where did those last three months go?!). I tried most of their latest vintage releases, as well as some 2011s and 2012s from barrel and vat... and now I've dug up and reopened my trusty old note book, you'll see what I thought below. Jon is very enthusiastic about vintage 2012, by the way, which (quoting from their site) "...for us was as good a year as we have seen.... Although we sorted the bunches by hand, there was little to reject this year in most vineyards. The quality of the grapes coming into the winery was extremely high and required almost no intervention to produce wines of lovely balance and character with great potential..."
This includes what I think is an exciting new blend of old vine Carignan (planted in 1955) and their 1972 Syrah ("the oldest Syrah in Trouillas" apparently), which was whole-bunch fermented with foot treading then aged in 450 litre barrels (it still is probably) for "less oak flavour... fingers crossed!" See note below then. Same goes for their 2012 Terre Promise white, which has been refined over the years, especially or possibly thanks to the addition of Grenache gris and Carignan blanc (the latter also from the 50s) that were purchased with some other little plots in 2008 (the estate started with about 10 hectares in 2006). Then again, Jon did work at Neudorf in New Zealand making white wines going back a few years... And there are some very good reds from vintages 2010 and 2011 on the way too. Euro prices quoted are cellar door, and £.££ approx UK prices from either Leon Stolarski, Swig, Big Red Wine Company, Cambridge Wine Merchants, Nouveau Wines and Edinburgh Wine Merchants among others: see domainetreloar.com/stockists where you'll also find importers for elsewhere in Europe and North America.

2012 Terre Promise white (Grenache gris, Macabeu, Carignan blanc) tasted from cask - nice savoury oat and nut characters vs fresh and 'mineral', rounded vs tight finish; lovely elegant touch.
2011 Terre Promise (13% abv) - quite rich and toasty edges on the nose with exotic apricot and hazelnut, has a hint of crisp bite but it's quite soft now with nice oatmeal touches. €10, £12-£12.50
2011 One Block dry Muscat (13%) - floral grapey and orange peel tones, rounder honeyed palate vs still crisp, fairly delicate and tasty. €6.80, £9-£10
2010 Three Peaks Cotes du Roussillon (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan; 14% abv) - spicy and lightly funky nose, rich dark fruit vs meaty and peppery edges, fresh tannins making it quite tight and elegant too vs a bigger blast of grip, power and fruit on the finish. Needs a little more time in bottle to soften but it's drinking nicely now too (with something hearty). €8.50, £10.50-£11.50.
2010 Motus (Mourvèdre + max 5% Grenache, 14.5% abv) - coconut oak notes layered with dark brooding fruit, big mouthful showing light coconut grain, concentrated and chunky, pretty firm at the moment yet has nice tannins though. Woof, needs time to calm down a bit but looking good already. €12.22, £14-£15
2008 Tahi (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre; 14%) - very peppery and lightly rustic with lots of dark vs savoury black cherry, concentrated wild fruit vs power and firm grip vs maturing more rounded finish. Pretty serious wine, has some of that 3 Peaks character but steps up a level. €17, £17-£18
Click here for older vintages of all these and more.

More cask / vat samples:
2011 Syrah - nice dark cherry fruit with chocolate/coconut touches, light coco grain on the palate too with quite concentrated and lively sweet vs crunchy fruit, attractive rounded vs fresh tannins. Good balance again.
2011 Mourvèdre (new barrel) - toasty oak and dark sweet vs black olive fruit, concentrated and tight with lovely ripe tannins, again showing some fresh acidity too and stylish finish. About 20% of new barrel wine goes into Motus.
2012 Syrah (old barrel) - aromatic violet and black cherry fruit, firm but not aggressive, tight long finish. Promising.
2012 old vine Carignan and 1972 Syrah - lovely and intense, perfumed blueberry vs a sweeter spicier side, nice freshness and actually quite supple tannins, very long finish. Lovely wine, to be bottled as a new blend.

17 January 2013

Roussillon: Domaine Les Conques, Fourques/Villemolaque

François Douville started up this not widely known estate in 2004, which encompasses 7 ha/17 acres of vines (tended organically since 2008 by the way) found on a site known as Las Counques in Catalan, reflecting this particular shape of seashell apparently. Besides vines, the pretty rolling slopes around here in Les Aspres country are home to cork oak trees (this area used to be a big production centre), woods and wild bushes with thick hedges hemming in the vineyards, where natural grass cover is left to protect the soil from erosion and help foster wildlife. Man. In 2009, François refitted some old farm buildings with a new cellar and shop, which you'll find on 2 Route de Passa in the village of Villemolaque, down the road from the family home (5 Place de la mairie, 66300 Fourques). Phone 04 6852 8256 or 06 8151 3699. francois.douville@wanadoo.fr, www.lesconques.fr.

2011 Bohême white Côtes du Roussillon (Macabeu, Grenache blanc; part-aged in barrel for a few months) – quite concentrated and nutty, intense mineral notes vs richer texture and flavour. Good+
2009 Vitis red Côtes du Roussillon (mostly Carignan plus Grenache/Syrah) – jammy and spicy nose, firm and taut mouth-feel vs subtle concentration too, attractive crunchy vs dark fruit profile with rustic edges.
2011 Vitis red - similar warm and spicy character, fruitier and less 'earthy' than the 09, again has concentrated and intense finish with crunchy vs dark fruit mix. Very good.

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.

11 November 2010

Roussillon: Château Lauriga, Thuir

Jacqueline Clar's locally well-established Lauriga comes to 60 hectares (150 acres) of vines spread all around the cute old-Catalan 'Mas' style wine cellar buildings, office and house (part of which is being done up into a tasting / function room), which is pretty sizeable round these parts and where there aren't that many wine estates, except for e.g. their neighbour Domaine Nivet-Galinier. Syrah occupies the lion's share of plantings and hence the make-up of their quite large range, supplemented by the other usual red and white Med / Catalan varieties; plus a good dollop of Merlot too (which actually produces a very attractive easy-drinking wine here - see below). And, as they're lacking a bit of Grenache to make a red Vin Doux Naturel, Jacqueline's recently gone into partnership with a grower in Maury to produce their own young fruity "muté sur grain" style VDN (click here for more info in a feature on Maury & Banyuls). Lauriga currently exports to a few mainland European countries (e.g. Germany, Belgium, Netherlands), but they have plans, with a little help perhaps from new sales manager Maxime Séjourné, to try and crack English speaking wine-quaffing markets! Anyway, if you're in the area, it's well signposted off the Perpignan - Thuir road, heading towards Ponteilla.

I tried these wines in situ in November 2010:
2008 Soleil Blanc de Lauriga vin de pays d'Oc (Grenache blanc & gris 14%) - lightly nutty "oxidative" notes layered with some coconut oak; nice rounded and oily texture vs quite toasty oak, although it's fairly concentrated, juicy and powerful too. A foodie white for sure, a touch too much oak for my taste but it does have attractive texture with it. €10 85+?
2009 Domaine Lauriga Grenache gris rosé vin de pays d'Oc (12.5%) - aromatic and juicy, light crisp profile and finish; attractive "pale" rosé style. €5.90 80+
2009 Château Lauriga Côtes du Roussillon rosé (Syrah, Grenache 13.5%) - very different style with full-on cherry colour, richer red fruit side and "winey" full-bodied mouth-feel; oily vs fruity texture then crisp vs weighty finish. Versatile dinner rosé: e.g. salmon, cured ham, tortilla, vegetable dishes. €5.90 87

2009 Domaine Lauriga Merlot vin de pays (13.5%) - lovely black cherry and ripe plum nose with lightly herby edges; juicy and quite concentrated actually with subtle tannins and chocolate flavours even (there's no oak though), fruity vs more serious finish. 85+ €6
2007 Cadet de Lauriga Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah, Carignan, Grenache 13%) - also no oak: enticing smoky notes with rich cherry fruit; attractive ripe mouth-feel vs light bitter twist of tannins, spicy and fruity vs a bit of weight and grip. €6 85+
2005 Château Lauriga Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache Syrah 13.5%) - very different nose with richer and more Grenache liquorice and spice character, also showing a touch of coconut oak and savoury maturing edges; nice balance and style, turning meaty with subtle oak texture and solid fruit backdrop. 87-89 €12
2008 Cuvée Prestige René Clar Côtes du Roussillon (mostly their oldest Syrah 14%) - 14 months in barriques (2/3 new oak) and it does show at the moment: pretty cedar-y on the nose; nice concentrated "sweet" dark cherry fruit though vs rounded tannins, good bite and freshness almost too; coconut texture and finish, needs a few years to let that oak blend in better, could turn into something quite fine. €22 90?
2008 Muscat de Rivesaltes (Muscat petits grains) - quite subtle orangey Muscat nose vs oily developing side; tasty and aromatic, not too sweet, towards crisp even, vs luscious finish. Bit dear at €12 85
2009 Maury (Grenache) - attractive fruity "new wave" style, plummy nose with leather edges; very fruity and lush palate with liquorice and choco vs nice kick and bit of grip. Attractive style. €14 85+
Château Lauriga Rivesaltes Ambré Hors d'Age (Grenache blanc, Macabeu and a splash of Muscat petits grains; blend of 12 to 14 year-old wines) - hints of coconut and rich oxidised hazelnut, caramel and spicy citrus marmalade too; complex "Madeira" vs Tawny characters, tangier finish cuts through the palate nicely. €18 89-91

Traverse de Ponteilla, 66350 Thuir. Tel: 04 68 53 26 73, www.lauriga.com.

20 April 2010

Roussillon: Domaine Laguerre, Saint-Martin de Fenouillet

Updated December 2012

Eric Laguerre (pic. right doing his Vincent Cassel impersonation, for those of you who follow French cinema...) and wife Corine make organic wines with altitude... Naff joke aside, St-Martin is indeed a fairly elevated spot - much of their 50 ha (125 acres) of beautiful windswept vineyards lie at 500 metres (1640 feet) above sea level - and hotbed of planting activity (e.g. Gauby/Soula, who Eric has worked in partnership with among others) due to its potential as the place to grow and make 'cooler climate' wine styles in this otherwise rather warm area (in the summer at least, in winter it's one of the coldest around here). Picking doesn't usually begin until end of September up here carrying on to mid October.
Eric took up the reins here in 1999 resolving to go back to basics and grow / make wine as naturally as possible from the start. They restored or replanted most of the vine-land and bottled their first vintage in 2001. All manual work and treatments done in/on vines and soil follow organic and biodynamic principles and time-frames; and certain homemade natural preparations are concocted on site with 'chemical' usage limited to sulphur based products against mildew primarily. Eric's white wines do show what can be done in the hot dry south by heading for the rocky hills, and he also planted some Cabernet up here, which has perhaps taken some time to adapt, or be adapted too, but could well be promising in the long term.
Wine writer and biodynamic specialist and author Monty Waldin also spent a lot of time around here a few years ago tending vines and making a wine movie, so he must have thought these wine-lands have something special about them. More info on that under Chateau Monty, where you'll find a mini-profile and comments on his 2008 vintage wines...

These Laguerre wines were sampled at the Fenouillèdes wine show in April 2007:
2005 Le 20 Côtes du Roussillon blanc (Macabeu Marsanne Roussanne Rolle) – lightly honeyed, fresh and floral with subtle milky undertones; nice fruit on its more mineral finish. 87
2005 Le 20 Côtes du Roussillon rouge (50% Syrah + Grenache Carignan) – peppery and rustic with black cherry tones, attractive lively fruit then light grip and quite fine length. 87-89
2004 Le Ciste rouge vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon Grenache Carignan) – a touch reduced on the nose, moves on to lively blackcurrant styling with quite firm dry tannins, understated weight and finish. 87-89
2005 Le Ciste blanc vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (Marsanne Roussanne Macabeu Grenache Blanc Rolle) – quite exotic with peach and apricot aromas, creamy with very light toasty edges, weighty finish v freshness too. 89

2009 update: I caught up with Eric and tasted his latest vintages at Millésime Bio wine show (Jan 09, Montpellier):
2007 Côtes du Roussillon white (Macabeu Marsanne Roussanne 13%) – nice natural crisp apple and mineral characters v a tad of yeast-lees texture and style; weight v fresh finish. 85+
2006 Le Ciste white, Vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (Macabeu Marsanne Roussanne Vermentino) – still very fresh, appley and real-cidery; 'stoney' steely notes and mouth-feel v a touch of weight, roundness and 'sweetness'. 87+
2007 Eclipse red, Vin de pays Côtes Catalanes - a bit reduced on the nose to start, moving on to smoky thick spicy fruit with 'earthy' edges; has similar balance of power and elegance, nice style. 87
2007 Côtes du Roussillon "20" red - again ever-so lightly reductive on the nose but not unattractively so; shows concentrated spicy Syrah black cherry fruit, attractive bit of grip and fresh v lush fruity finish. 87+
2005 Le Ciste red, Vin de pays Côtes Catalanes - wilder richer fruit, nice and smoky / peppery; powerful tannins layered with 'sweet' v herbal fruit, plenty of life in it yet. 90+

2010 update: Eric was showing his 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 at Domaine Gayda's impressive winery & restaurant complex, found between Limoux and Castelnaudary. Latest vintages are:
2009 Le 20 blanc - mineral and zesty vs creamy banana notes; quite intense and steely with long juicy finish and nice lingering appley nutty flavours. 87
2007 Le Ciste blanc - more honeyed with lightly spicy and cedar notes, appley and nutty with toasty edges; again steely mineral mouth-feel and maturing vs lively finish. 89
2008 Le 20 red (Syrah, Grenache) - juicy cherry aromas and hints of cider too; spicy crunchy fruit with dry vs lively finish, nice in the end. 85
2007 Le Ciste red (Syrah, Grenache) - similar but more intense, blueberry and herby tones vs fuller and spicier; again shows wilder edges vs elegant and brisk, firms up a bit on the finish. 87+
2006 Altitude (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon planted at 500m/1650 ft) - cedary and leafy nose, moving on to richer savoury cassis flavours; attractive "sweet" vs meaty profile with leather edges, firm and powerful on its good finish. 87+

*2012 update from Millésime Bio wine fair, Montpellier, where Eric had his usual stand and good-humoured nature as he poured and chatted.

2010 Eos white (Grenache blanc, Marsanne) - quite intense, appley and nutty with crisp mineral underbelly, attractive concentrated vs refreshing finish. Very nice white wine.
2010 Eos red (mostly Grenache + Syrah) - perfumed and spicy nose, enticing crunchy berry fruit vs rounded weightier side; again nice wine.
2009 Le Ciste red (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) - rich and spicy with attractive 'sweet/savoury' profile, ripe dark and meaty vs crunchy fruit mix, punchy and grippy finish. Very good.
2008 Altitude (Cabernet Sauvignon) - pretty oaky when I tried it with chocolate texture / flavours, it's concentrated though with firm solid finish. Would like to try it again sometime.

Le Village, 66220 Saint-Martin de Fenouillet. Tel: 04 68 59 26 92, mobile: 06 15 35 78 92 - New website www.domainelaguerre.com

02 December 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Puig-Parahÿ, Passa

UPDATED DEC 2012 (see below).

It's true that some European wine estates like to brag about how long they've been messing around in vineyards, but I've not come across (m)any who claim to have records going back to 1446! Latest generation is the charming Georges Puig (pictured), who's been running the show here since 1994. The estate takes in lightly elevated (sloping up to 200-250m altitude) vines old and new all around Passa in particular spots called Fort Saint-Pierre, Sant Lluc and nearby Mas de Miserys (sounds suitably Catalan, dour I mean. Oops!). The Puig-Parahÿ family has the most extraordinary collection of old Rivesaltes VDN wines imaginable - as you'll see from the 1945 below, although the "catalogue" apparently goes back into the 19th Century. Some in bottle, some in vat and some still in cask, as I discovered on a delightful little tour (of history too it felt like, especially as you get the impression Georges' family owns, or used to own, most of the village). Georges has good distribution in the US (Village Wine Imports NYC and also Virginia, Colorado and California: email him for details), UK (Richards Walford and Rare Wine), Tokyo (the Vine) and Germany.

I was lucky enough to taste these wines with him at his place in December 2009:
2008 Sant-Lluc del Puig white vin de pays d'Oc (Macabeu, Grenache blanc, Grenache gris 13.5%) - fresh pear fruit with oily zesty edges; juicy and crisp vs rounded with a bit of weight. Nice style. $10-$15 in the US. 85
2002 Sant-Lluc del Puig white - oxidising nose with oily mineral notes in a mature Riesling way; oily nutty palate still showing good acidity keeping it alive, wacky but good. 87
2008 rosé - attractive raspberry/strawberry fruit with light lees notes; creamy mouthfeel vs juicy and crisp, nice texture, weight and fruit then refreshing bite. $10-$15 85+
2005 Georges Syrah vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (13.5%) - turning meaty and smoky with peppery dark fruit hints; quite rich with ripe liquorice vs firm coating of tannins vs nice weight, finishing with "sweet" vs meaty flavours. More old-fashioned style but nice with it. $13-$15 85-87
2006 Georges Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache, Carignan, Syrah) - similarly smoky peppery nose although shows more liquorice and "Grenache" style; chunky grippy yet lush mouthfeel, the tannins are a tad rustic and dry but it's an appealing soupy mouthful of dark fruit too. 87
2007 Georges Côtes du Roussillon - the nose is a touch closed but this is fruitier and spicier than the 06; livelier and more upfront blackberry and damson fruit on the palate, juicy and rich vs attractive grip and spice. Needs 6 months to open up. 88+
2005 Rivesaltes red Vin Doux Naturel (90% Grenache + Syrah) - beginning to turn oxidised, nutty and Porty with dried cherries and liquorice; quite concentrated and extracted but does have nice balance of lush fruit, dry tannins and alcohol; good finish, tightening up with quite complex, chunky fruit. 87-89
1993 Rivesaltes red (in vat) - turning meaty with touches of Madeira-type complexity, tobacco and cough mixture too; tangy pecan nut palate with dry vs sweet texture, long intricate finish again showing good balance of delicious tasty old vs lively dried fruits. 90
1981 Rivesaltes red (in cask still!) - treacle tart aromas with volatile spicy minty notes; very intense pecans and dried raspberries, appealing bitter twist vs lush mouthfeel then savoury finish. Wow. 90-92
1971 Rivesaltes red - treacle and molasses notes with dark brown/orange tinges, roast walnuts and wood resin too, a tad dusty perhaps (or was that the glass?); rich and sweet vs meaty oxidised, long and unusual flavours, again cough mixture with dried spice undertones. Odd but good! 92+?
1945 Rivesaltes red - extraordinary nose, old oxidised and meaty vs lovely pecan nut and prunes; mouth-filling tasty and tangy flavours, the alcohol's perhaps a tad fiery now but it has an amazing thick palate-coating; doesn't taste as old as this with long liquorice, 'tar' and roast chestnut finish. 95+

Updated 2012: the exuberant Georges was at Millésime Bio wine show in Montpellier tasting just one lonely-looking red, since “it's the only one (vineyard) now certified (organic)... I'm switching some of them over plot by plot (out of a whopping 71 ha/177 acres in total).” Watch this long space then...
2011 Carinyane de Perpignane – juicy jammy and spicy, fresh crunchy berry palate vs sweeter blue red and black fruity combo on its attractive finish. Good+

66300 Passa. Phone: 04 68 38 88 77 / mobile: 06 14 55 71 71, g.puigparahy@free.fr, www.puig-parahy.fr.


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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.