"Buy my book on the Roussillon wine region (colour paperback or eBook) on Amazon UK HERE or Amazon USA HERE. Or order it direct from me (UK & EU only). Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook. For other countries, tap/click on the link over the cover photo (below right)." Richard Mark James

Showing posts with label Côtes du Roussillon Villages. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Côtes du Roussillon Villages. Show all posts

05 October 2010

Roussillon: Domaine des Soulanes, Tautavel

UPDATED summer 2013

The latest vintages (11 & 12 in fact) of Domaine Soulanes' 'table' wines sampled earlier this year (I didn't taste their usually very good Maury Vins Doux Naturels this time):
2011 Les Davaillières white (Grenache blanc & gris, Carignan blanc; barrel sample) - nutty and appley with dry 'mineral' palate vs rounded toasted hazelnut flavours too, subtle less revealing finish although not a finished wine.
2012 Kaya red (Carignan) - quite rich for a Carignan, perfumed blueberry with liquorice tones, spicy and fresh mouth-feel vs nice richness too, crunchy vs ripe fruit profile, tight elegant finish.
2011 Serrat del Mas (Grenache, Carignan, Syrah) - dark and peppery with black cherry and plum, closes up on the palate with nice 'chalky' tannins lending firm vs ripe profile, well balanced; should be good.
2011 Bastoul Laffite (Grenache) - a touch cold and closed up when I tried it, concentrated peppery palate with again a nice fresh 'chalky' side; needs a bit of time to open up, also well balanced.
2012 Les Davaillières red ("very old Carignan") - intense and concentrated, ripe blueberry and cassis, spicy tasty palate with elegant 'chalky' bite vs fair weight too, quite fine and long.
Terroir Languedoc, the UK based online shop, lists a couple of older vintages of the Bastoul and Serrat reds for £14.95. Weygandt Wines in DC in the US sells Kaya blanc and rouge for $20-$22.

Update October 2010
Cathy (pic. right, taken by Vi Erickson) was as hospitable as ever and did a nice tasting for us of all their latest vintages (some not yet bottled), followed by a picturesque spin around vineyards in their sturdy van; hubby Daniel was busy in the cellar next door up to his neck in fermenting musts, having finished picking a couple of days before. The estate, apparently named after the local word (Soulane) for a south-southeast facing hillside, is now 18 ha (= 45 acres, that's a lot of work since they do most of it themselves) in surface area including the odd isolated plot, perched up among wild scrubland on virtually inaccessible slopes. I'm pretty sure they're now certified organic too: didn't note it down but sure I spotted the AB logo (agriculture biologique) on their labels. Some of Soulanes' wines are imported into the US by Peter Weygandt-Metzler - there's a list of retailers etc. on his website as well as their own on-line shop with four of these wines ($19 to $42) - and sold by Terroir Languedoc in the UK (the ones they stock £9.95 to £13.95) among others.

2009 Kaya white (Grenache blanc & gris, Carignan blanc & gris 14%) - appley spicy aniseed nose; quite racy, "mineral" and spicy palate vs fuller finish. 85+
2009 Cuvée Jean Pull (Grenache, Carignan 14.5%) - nice juicy ripe cherry and liquorice fruit, rounded full mouth-feel vs a touch of light tannin and fresh acidity; tasty now actually. 87+
2009 Kaya red (100% Carignan) - quite rich and juicy for Carignan, attractive texture and tight length with lingering blue fruits. 87+
2009 Sarrat del Mas Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan Syrah) - fairly chunky style vs ripe and lively dark cherry fruit, peppery touches too; more structured finish yet with nice rounded tannins, needs a year or two to open up. 89+
2009 Maury white (Grenache blanc & gris with 90g RS) - enticing "mineral" vs sweet profile, could be interesting after a bit of time in bottle.
2009 Maury red (Grenache) - lovely wild-fruit nose with blackberry and liquorice; good balance of sugar, dry tannins and cut of alcohol. 88+
Maury Hors d'Age (Grenache blend of wines from 1992, 1993 & 1994) - complex toffeed ageing notes on the nose with lush liquorice coating in the mouth; very long and caramelised vs lovely savoury richness. 90+

Cathy and Daniel Laffite's 15+ lost hectares (40 acres) in the stoney hilly back-lands between Tautavel and Maury, are composed mostly of Grenache noir with a little blanc and gris too ("best for aroma and complexity" according to Cathy), plus Carignan red and white. Daniel's step-father, who they bought the property from, farmed organically until 1993, when mass spraying was done in the area from the air to combat virus. "It's more philosophical than a marketing thing for us," he explained, "now we're as organic as possible... but certain plots are surrounded by other people spraying." They spend a lot of time working the 'soil' encouraging the vines to grow deep roots to reach water, as "we only get 400mm or so of rain here (about 16 inches)."
This must be back-breaking work. Walking around part of their vineyard, I said to myself "how does anything grow in this?!" It's nothing but hard dry stones and flaky schist, hence the inverted commas around 'soil'. Daniel quipped "I get through two pairs of climbing boots a year!" The domaine itself was only set up in 2001 and now sells around 3,000 cases per annum, most of it exported. Wines below tasted on 4/9/06 in context of a rather good lunch at the Auberge du Cellier in nearby Montner - also see Fenouillèdes wine fair report a few months earlier for more Soulanes wines.

2005 Cuvée Jean Pull vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (vat sample: 2/3 Carignan 1/3 Grenache) - attractively rich blackberry and spice with inky liquorice depth and peppery black cherry undertones, lush mouth-feel yet fresh and long; power v finesse to finish. 89-91
2004 Cuvée Jean Pull vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (2/3 Grenache 1/3 Carignan) - more developed and aromatic with floral peppery black cherry notes, has rustic richness yet some elegance too; less dense and complex than the 05 with more leathery maturity, very nice to drink now. 87-89Both vintages were surprisingly good with plump savoury gambas & goats' cheese with honey, usually a bad clash combo for big reds.
2004 Sarrat del Mas Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan Syrah) - floral wild herbs combine with oak undertones, peppery rustic palate with soft fruit and texture v dry grip to finish; tight fine length: 90-92. Lovely with the rabbit dish.
2004 Maury (15% alc. 93 g/l residual sugar) - seductive liquorice and leather aromas, lightly oxidised tones v rich fruit, good balance of sweetness with dry grip and bite of alcohol; lingering leather and chocolate, quite elegant in fact. 88-90

Mas de Las Fredas, off the D69, 66720 Tautavel (although actually nearer Maury). 04 68 29 12 84 / 06 12 33 63 14, domaine-soulanes.com.

01 October 2010

Roussillon: Mas Amiel, Maury

Their latest release red (2011 Maury Sec) is featured HERE (World Grenache Competition 2013) by the way...
And a magnum of 1980 "Millennium Cuvée" Maury VDN tasted with fine chocolate HERE (December 2013).

Those famous demijohns, slightly predictable target for a photo, outside at Mas Amiel.
By Vi Erickson
Arguably the most famous name in the Maury area (and suitably celeb prices to match, you might be cheeky enough to add), Mas Amiel has been owned by Bordeaux magnate Olivier Decelle (Chx. Jean Faure St-Emilion, Haut-Maurac Médoc, Bellevue Fronsac, Haut-Ballet Canon-Fronsac) since 1999, who has obviously made substantial resources available to overhaul and replant the vineyards and build a smart new tasting room/shop on-site. Amiel is a vast and beautiful estate spanning across 190 hectares (470 acres) of vines, 155 of them currently in production, in "90 parcels." The latter figure sounds a bit difficult to get your head round (where does one plot start and finish exactly?) but, if you get the chance to be driven around some of the many tracks here, there and everywhere; then you can see what they mean. The terrain varies greatly with slopes undulating in different ways with different exposure (although much of it south-facing), peaks and troughs of altitude and a colourful variety of schist etc. soils, some towards black and some not so black. In 2003, Olivier called in soil specialists Claude and Lydia Bourguignon to analyse vineyard health and if and where there were any deficiencies to rectify. Winemaking and vineyards now come under the watchful eye of Nicolas Raffy, who I tasted the following with in November 2009:

2007 Altaïr white Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache gris, Macabeu, Grenache blanc: all old vines from a mixed plot, 13%) - honeyed milky aromas with slightly exotic and very light coconut spice notes; fat, oily, smoky and nutty mouthfeel vs mineral bite and attractive bitter twist; mature now. €16 85-87
2007 Notre Terre Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan from 10 plots, 14.5%) - dark cherry and liquorice notes underpinned by creamy cassis; a touch of chocolate oak texture vs firm tannins vs very fruity on the palate, finishing with dry bite and appealing weight although not overpowering. €12 87
2006 Carerades Côtes du Roussillon Villages (old-vine Grenache, Syrah, Carignan from 3 plots; the latter two spent 18 months in barriques, 15%) - toasted dark chocolate plus quite strong "rubbery" oak tones; concentrated lush mouthfeel vs oaky texture, a bit too toasty at the moment but it does have very nice depth underneath. Not convinced the right winemaking balance is there, but it might surprise and mellow. €25 87+
2008 Vintage white Maury (Grenache gris: 110g/l residual sugar, 15.5%) - floral honeysuckle aromas, white peach and "hot stone" notes too; juicy tasty palate with fairly tight finish helping the sweetness and alcohol to blend in nicely, promising actually. €15.50 88
2007 Muscat de Rivesaltes - piercing aromatic aromas/flavours but there's something else there too; zesty and zingy vs sweet mouthful, turning oily with attractive bite of alcohol and herby / citrus finish. Rather dear though at €14! 85
2007 Vintage Maury (Grenache from about 20 different parcels, "muté sur grain" leaving c.100g/l RS, 16%) - gorgeous pure blackberry and other wild fruits, turning liquoricey too with tobacco edges; delicious fruit vs solid firm tannins and punchy 16% but it has plenty of depth; appealing sweet vs dark chocolate bite then closes up a bit on the finish. Needs 2 or 3 years just to open up, let alone actually starting to mature... €14.50 89-91
2006 Vintage Charles Dupuy (selected older Grenache + 14 months in barriques, 80g/l RS, 16.5%) - very dark colour and rich toffee & leather nose, turning meaty too vs lush dark lively fruit; a touch of oak on the palate yet it's nicely integrated with those chunky tannins, sweet/savoury profile showing truffle and Black Forest gateau flavours, then dry grip and power. Wow. €32 90-92
L08 Plentitude "Passerillé sur schiste" (dried out Macabeu berries picked at 22° potential, 145 RS & 14.5%) - strange herby spicy mineral nose; moving on to very rich honeyed flavours, explosive sweetness vs fresh cut and bite. Odd but nice. 87+
Cuvée Spéciale Maury 10 Ans d'Age (aged 1 year in demijohns outside + 9 years in large oak tuns, 16%) - brownish/red colour showing toffee and gravy aromas layered with dried fruits and roasted pecan; explosive sweetness tempered by dark roast coffee notes, fig and tobacco too vs attractive bite and coated mouthfeel. Complex and tasty with very long, sweet/savoury finish. €15.50 92+
1980 Millésime Maury (16.5%) - quite brown too but has deeper colour, cocoa and dried liquorice on the nose with intricate cheesy Madeira-like nose; still has chunky tannins and nice oomph vs lush sweet liquorice fruit then meaty spicy undertones; very alive still and very long, tasty maturing finish. Excellent. €45 93-95
1969 Millésime (16%) - lighter colour with more amber/brown hues, similar nose to above but meatier with more of that mature wild cheese Madeira thing going on; much more toffee-ish and cooked liquorice vs grip and punch, then toasted coffee, fig and tobacco. Again still alive, rich and long although the alcohol carries it more than the 80. €70 92-94

Update October 2010 (see above for more info and approx €uro prices where not quoted below) - tasted in situ:
2008 Altaïr white Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache gris, Macabeu, Grenache blanc) - yeasty vs "mineral" edges, juicy peachy fruit too with aniseed on the finish; very subtle barrel-ferment character adds a bit of fatness to the palate vs crisp and dry. 85-87
2009 Le Plaisir rosé (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) - nice summer fruit style with juicy and quite concentrated mouth-feel; red fruits and "oily" texture vs crisp bite, pretty textbook Roussillon rosé although way overpriced at €8. 85
2007 Notre Terre Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) - rich dark cherry, liquorice and chocolate with savoury vs minty edges; meatier palate with nice concentration vs light bitter twist of tannins, tasty now actually. 88
2007 Carerades Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, 15%) - showing a fair amount of coconut and rubber oak vs pretty dense and attractive cherry fruit; that oak's a bit strong at the moment, although the wine still has quite good balance and class despite the high-ish alcohol. Needs a year or two to come together. 89+
2008 Maury blanc (Grenache gris) - enticing mix of juicy, "mineral/stoney" and sweet aromas/flavours; fairly crisp and fresh underneath vs rich white/yellow fruits, a bit closed up but should turn into a very nice pudding or cheese wine. €15+ 87+
2006 Maury Vintage Reserve (Grenache) - seductively rich with savoury edges and light oak texture; again shows good balance of grip, lush black fruits and sugar; quite complex too. €20 87-89
L09 Vintage Privilege (Grenache passerillé = dried on the vine) - very raisin-ed and intense, intriguing and addictive too; pure blackberry and syrup aromas/flavours vs attractive dry tannins vs complex earthy tones. Wow, a one-off. 90+
Prestige Maury 15 Ans d'Age - beautiful "old Tawny" nose with molasses/treacle notes and cooked plums; meaty oxidised profile vs dark chocolate vs bite and cut vs intense "sweet/savoury" finish, roasted coffee and nuts too. €23 92+

April 2007:
2005 Mas Amiel Notre Terre, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre Syrah 14.5%) - odd nose (wood?) moves on to a very nice palate, rich ripe tar and chocolate tones v very firm and fresh; powerful length yet balanced, spicy with layered tannins. €11.20 92
More on that tasting.

November 2007:
1990 Mas Amiel, Maury – toffee plum and coffee notes proceed cooked cherries, mature v solid palate with complex fruit development; nice with foie gras de canard! 92+
More on that event.

Mas Amiel, 66460 Maury. Tel: 04 68 29 01 02, www.masamiel.fr.

29 March 2010

Roussillon: Domaine Cazes, Rivesaltes

Lionel Lavail and Emmanuel Cazes
Lionel Lavail and Emmanuel Cazes
A quick visit, chat and tasting (mid Sept 2006) in their shop at the winery in Rivesaltes, just north of Perpignan, revealed the first batch of wines below. You'll also find a couple more in my Millésime Bio 2006 wine show report, meaning Cazes is organically farmed with a view to gradually integrating biodynamic methods across the whole estate. It's pretty big (170 hectares/420 acres), so it must be back-breaking to apply all those 'alternative medicines' to that many vines. Maybe the sheer size and resultant range form part of a slight criticism I have: too large perhaps, as some of the wines aren't that exciting considering their reputation and higher than average prices. However, some are.
2005 Muscat-Viognier, vin de pays d'Oc - the Viognier adds weight, spice and exotic fruit without overpowering the Muscat, which lends a mineral slightly bitter finish; falls a little short after promising start.
2000 Credo Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, vin de pays d'Oc - a bit oxidised (been open too long probably) and oaky, developing leather and cassis notes on the palate, mature fruit v light bite of tannins; the oak's also a bit dominant on the finish.
Libre Expression, Rancio Sec (Macabeu, 16%) - you'll think it's going to be sweet thanks to the rich ripe honeyed characters, but it's off dry with a tangy mineral finish. Different.
1976 Rivesaltes cuvée Aimé Cazes (80% Grenache Blanc 20% Grenache) - complex developed pecan nut and 'cheesy' Madeira notes, mouth-coating richness v oxidised fruit, nice fresh finish considering its age and sweetness (110g/l). 90-92

Update March 2007. I met the energetic Lionel Lavail, who heads up an expanding family empire backed by big Languedoc house Jeanjean. The group now takes in the Cazes brand, Mas de Lavail (see A to Z) near Maury (Lionel's uncle, aunt and cousin), Domaine des Hospices (his parents' estate near Canet) and Cazes' project with co-ops in the Latour de France appellation (see below). Business talk aside, from the visitor's point of view, summer 07 saw a refit for the tasting room and shop and plans for an organic café-deli are well under way...
2006 Canon Muscat-Viognier, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes - nice aromatic mix of grape and apricot, crisp yet quite fat, dry v fruity; good commercial style. 80+
2006 Canon Syrah/Merlot/Grenache rosé, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes - zingy floral red fruit cocktail, crisp and clean. 83+
2005 Canon Syrah/Merlot, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes - light and creamy with tangy currant fruit and spice. 80+
2005 Château de Triniac, Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages - attractive black cherry and liquorice notes, successful mix of medium-bodied ripe fruit v nice dry grip, needs a few months to round out a little. France €4 US $9 UK £5 87
2000 Credo Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot - tasted rather cold, but showing perfumed sweet oak with nice gamey edges coming through, concentrated v quite elegant; the oak's still a bit dominant over nevertheless good underlying fruit and length. 89+?
Tasted summer 2007:
2006 Syrah rosé, Domaine des Hospices, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (12%) - vibrantly coloured and fruity dry rosé with crunchy red fruits, light creaminess and crisp bite. 85
2006 Muscat sec, les Hospices de Canet, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (12.5%) - nice, well-made style with plenty of aromatic grape and citrus fruit; crisp, dry and fresh v a little rounded too. 85

2009 update from Millésime Bio wine fair in Montpellier (late January):
I tasted a few new vintages and chatted with Emmanuel Cazes, who updated me on latest goings-on chez the family empire; including building work in the pipeline for a fully-fledged organic tapas bar-restaurant next to their offices and cellars in Rivesaltes (and the difficulties!). I have to say, though, I thought the wines were a bit of a mixed bag; the ones below were my favourites:
2008 Muscat-Viognier vin de pays - bubbly fresh grapey nose with orange peel edges, slightly exotic and juicy palate. Overpriced though at €6.60. 83-85
2008 Syrah-Merlot Vin de pays - nice youthful vibrant fruit, a bit of grip in the mouth v fruity finish. Overpriced though at €6.60. 83-85
2007 Ego Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre) - better than the 2006 with its lively blackberry/cherry fruit and rustic edges; chunky and firm texture and good length. €9.50 87
2005 Alter Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre) - mature ripe nose, herbal v liquorice fruit profile with power and spice on its attractive finish. €13 87-89
2005 Rivesaltes Grenat VDN (Grenache) - expressive blackberry and spice on the nose; youthful fruit and not so sweet-tasting thanks to good grip and underlying freshness. €11.50 88

Update March 2010
Emmanuel, who's in charge of technical matters re vineyards (although his father and uncle are still very hands-on here) and winemaking, laid on a tasting at their offices/wine shop; and we ate in their new (mostly) organic restaurant next door afterwards (recommended if you're in the area: see website below). I asked him how difficult is it to apply biodynamic farming methods to an estate the size of Cazes (nearly 200 ha/500 acres)? "We went biodynamic via good old farmer's common sense and now just do it on a much bigger scale. For example, we have three large dynamisers and each one can do 50 litres of herbal teas, which will treat 20 to 30 ha when we can or want to, while respecting the right days. This helps us avoid doing stupid things and keep the balance between soil, plant life etc. At the start, the vines were "stressed" for a few years, but after that we noticed softer soil with better colour and (ultimately) more concentrated fruit." Emmanuel also explained that "we're focusing more on Syrah and Mourvèdre as the Grenache we have isn't great clones... we're replanting Grenache and have changed the way we're working with Mourvèdre, so it's producing well."
Le Canon du Maréchal vin de pays range (300,000 bottles a year!):
2009 Muscat/Viognier (13%) - elegant grapey aromas with light apricot and orange tones; fairly crisp and mineral vs slight bitter twist, quite nice style. 80+
2009 Syrah/Merlot rosé (12.5%) - attractive juicy style with subtle creamy red fruits, also just bottled when I tried it but good elegant vs fuller finish. 83+
2008 Syrah/Merlot - nice fruity red with a bit of grip and crisp mouthfeel even; cherry and plum fruit, a tad light but it's OK. 80+
2008 Marie-Gabrielle Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre 13.5%) - a  bit closed up at first, quite tight and grippy vs juicy black fruits; fair structure actually with gentle cherry and liquorice flavours, "chalky" tannins on the finish. 85+
2007 Ego Côtes du Roussillon Villages (13.5%) - smokier and more developed, ripe nose with leather edges and a tad volatile but it works; quite concentrated and fleshy showing nice fruit turning savoury, fairly solid yet attractive tannins adding dry bite vs "sweetness" and a touch of dark chocolate. 87+
2007 Alter Côtes du Roussillon Villages (14.5%) - touches of spicy coconut oak but not overdone, it adds a little bit of attractive grainy texture and sweetness vs dry chunky framework; punchier yet well-balanced with a bitter twist to finish. 87-89
2008 Collioure "Notre Dame des Anges" (Grenache Mourvèdre Carignan Syrah 14%) - Cazes is working with a handful of co-ops and estates here to make this wine, €1 of its hefty €14 price-tag being donated to a charity working on the upkeep of the countryside and terraced vineyards in the area. Appealing spicy liquorice notes, quite elegant and soft with sweet berry fruit and a bit of bite; nice although fairly simple perhaps. 85+
1996 Rivesaltes Ambré - beginning to turn quite oxidised with toasted walnut and mature cheese edges; enticing oily palate with nutty tangy bite vs rich and mouth-filling, good balance of sugar and alcohol (15%). 88-90
2005 Grenat - fruity chunky style with nice black cherry and liquorice, beginning to turn meaty too; sweet "cough mixture" vs firm dry tannins, fair oomph still (15.5%) although should integrate nicely over the next couple of years. 87-89
1990 Tuilé - complex Madeira nose and tangy vs sweet pecan nuts; concentrated and intricate vs 16.5% power, still delicious with its long sweet/savoury finish. 92(+)
2006 Muscat de Rivesaltes (mostly Alexandria, 15%) - developing very orange peel edges vs honey and dried apricot; lush mouthfeel yet has attractive bite and style still. 87+
1991 Muscat de Rivesaltes (yes, all bottle age! 15%) - much less Muscat-y and much richer with cooked marmalade; oily and sweet vs still tangy and lively surprisingly. 89+
1978 Aimé Cazes (15%) - Madeira overtones, stewed sultanas and intense pecan/walnuts; oily and rich vs tangy and intense, delicious coating with sweet/sour twist, complex volatile lingering flavours and huge length. 93-95

More Cazes here (2009 Saint-Bacchus awards).

And the very latest is here (July 2012).

4 rue Francisco Ferrer, 66600 Rivesaltes. Tel: 04 68 64 08 26, www.cazes-rivesaltes.com.

09 August 2009

Roussillon: Château Saint-Roch, Maury

This stunning estate and château were owned by Emma Florensa and Marc Bournazeau, who made a generally spotless range of vin de pays, Côtes du Roussillon and Maury wines. I say 'were' as the expansionist Domaine Lafage bought the property in late summer 2007, although things were still a bit up in the air while they finalise all the fine detail, I'm told. Nevertheless, Saint-Roch has to be on your Maury-area visiting list, found down a track off to the right before the village, where the road bends around and crosses the river. The domaine has now reduced to around 30 ha/75 acres and produces quite a broad gambit of styles including more commercial offerings, such as 'Pink' rosé, Sauvignon Blanc etc. in addition to the local 'classics', which I tasted in situ in April 2007.
2003 La Bastide blanc (mostly Grenache gris plus Macabeu) – quite subtle toasty notes with aniseed, spice and creamy overtones; honeyed v mineral flavours with soft rounded finish, good but drink now as it's freshness is disappearing. 85-87
2003 Chimères Côtes du Roussillon Villages (60% Grenache plus Carignan Syrah) – ripe and resiny with wild herbs, liquorice and black fruits; 'sweet' v maturing savoury palate with firm dry bite keeping it nicely alive. 88-90
2004 Kerbuccio Côtes du Roussillon Villages (
Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) – fragrant coconut oak aromas bolstered by nice berry and black olive notes, developing savoury edges v light chocolate texture; firm tight long finish needing time to fuse properly, although the oak is much better balanced than previously. €23 90-92
2004 Maury – attractive youthful spicy blackberry and dark chocolate flavours, quite firm at the moment with underlying sweetness and alcohol present.

Tasted February 2008:
2002 Chimères Côtes du Roussillon Villages (60% old-vine Grenache 10% old-vine Carignan 30% Syrah 13% abv) – mature prune fig and gravy notes underpinned by coco oak, attractive savoury leather v dried fruits on the palate, the tannins are rather dry and extracted but it has quite good length and style; coming back to it the next day, it's rather grippy and hard v remaining fruit. Good with Catalan sausage and mushroom risotto! On offer at Champion supermarket for €5.20 (stock clearance perhaps? Worth a go though at the price). 87-89

More St-Roch wines here, from the sixth Fenouillèdes Wine Fair, and here (2009 St-Bacchus awards) including 2007 KerbuccioPlus the latest medal winning vintage of that wine (2011) is HERE (World Grenache Competition 2013).

Château Saint-Roch, 66460 Maury. Tel: 04 68 29 07 20, www.chateau-saint-roch.fr, chateausaintroch@aol.com.

15 May 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Pouderoux, Maury

Catherine and Robert Pouderoux (pictured) coax a pretty impeccable range of Côtes du Roussillon Villages and Maury (all styles) from their 18 ha (45 acres), it has to be said. The vineyards are split between the latter village and Latour-de-France, about 10 km southeast, planted mostly with red grapes - Grenache for AOC Maury, the latter plus Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre for CdRV - and one parcel of white Grenache. Robert took us out for a drive up above Maury (taking the Cucugnan road), where you get a great view of the whole appellation and very much beyond: buttressed between the Corbières hills and a loosely parallel coupled ridge that form the valley here. This particular spot is "too exposed" (it hit 35°C = 95+F that 4th Sept. 2006 day by the way) according to Robert; his vineyard is over the other side, where there's some 100+ year-old Grenache. Very dry looking, handsomely gnarled bush vines, difficult to believe they're still alive.
In the cellar, there are several different sizes and materials of vat to enable them to "vinify all parcels separately, even the same varieties." Hence the names on the labels reflect specific plots. The good news for readers of my vinous drivel is that Pouderoux is very export-orientated - 70% and increasing - and their Maury 'mise tardive' (late bottled) is now listed in 100 Waitrose stores (£9.49, see note below); for other wines available in the UK contact Thorman Hunt, London SE11. Read on for 2009 and 2012 updates.

2004 Roc de Plane, white vin de pays (it has to be by law, as if anyone outside of France cares: AOC requires 3 grapes and this is 100% lovely Grenache blanc. Bureaucrats you know where you can stick your paperwork!) - barrel fermented and aged (12 months total) giving nice fatness set against floral peach and aniseed notes, celery and mineral freshness on the finish too. 87-89
2003 Latour de Grés Côtes du Roussillon Villages (50% Carignan plus old Mourvèdre and Syrah, 13.5%) - complex and delicious nose, liquorice & spicy
garrigue notes turning into leather & chocolate; concentrated and weighty with very light spicy choco oak tones, firm and fresh length. 90-92
2003 Terre Brune Côtes du Roussillon Villages (50% Grenache plus old Mourvèdre and Syrah, 14%) - more perfumed than above showing black cherry & olive with earthy undertones, ripe juicy black fruit palate with depth and style, light coating of choco oak and textured tannins, 'sweet' v savoury profile; more powerful than above yet still has finesse and freshness. 92-94
2003 La Mouriane (Grenache Syrah, 14.5%) - barrel fermented with hand plunging (they take the top off): toasty dark fruit, quite oaky yet perfumed and fresh too, 'sweet' choco coating v very rich, tangy black olive savoury fruit; powerful finish, out of kilter at the moment and difficult to read, should be good though (only 200 cases made, €30 a bottle)!
2004 Maury - lovely cassis and black cherry aromas, concentrated rich mouth-feel v dry bite and freshness, very lively fruit v firm tannins and dark choco finish. 90-92
2002 Maury 'late bottled' (2 years in barrel) - perfumed cinnamon and jam notes developing intricate coffee edges, black cherry fruit seems sweeter and lighter than above, but this also has attractive coating and bite of tannins v alcohol; very nice now. 90+
Maury Hors d'Age (15 years' average age) - developing leather and dried fruit notes, soft sweet raspberry palate, seems fierier and more Port like; lingering coating of fruit and tannins. 90
Maury Grande Réserve (part aged in demijohns outside) - more developed still in an old tawny fashion, bitter choco v dried fruits, fatter and sweeter mouth-feel; attractive although less interesting style perhaps (in my opinion anyway).
2004 Muscat de Rivesaltes - all the 05 is already sold out, so this was an indicative sample: still retains charming freshness and citrus edges, sweet & concentrated yet nice cut adds elegance.

Update spring/summer 2009: a long overdue visit had me tasting all around Robert Pouderoux's cellar and most of his 2008s from vat or barrel, as well as more or less all the latest vintages of their range.
Grenache gris & Grenache blanc (40 years old at 300m altitude) - exotic apricot, peach and spices; quite rich and concentrated vs mineral / salty twist, subtle coconut oak spice and texture with nice lively finish. 88+
2008 Grenache blanc & Macabeu (50 years old, same spot) - more citrus and floral notes with gummy lees too, intense and fresh vs delicious juicy texture. 88+
Robert will blend both of these into one white wine.
2008 Grenache - gorgeous vibrant "sweet" and spicy black fruits; dry yet attractively textured with juicy vs firm finish. He's going to do a 100% Grenache cuvée this vintage.
2008 Mourvèdre - peppery and powerful with gripping although fine tannins, punchy and structured vs ripe and rounded.
2008 Carignan - violets, blueberries and black cherries; refreshing and intense wine, very promising.
2008 Syrah - more closed up and has taken up more wood at this stage, very firm framework vs spicy and "sweet" fruit.
2007 Roc de Plane vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes white (13.5%) - lively citrus and orange peel vs exotic fruit and yeast-lees bite; a touch of dry salty mineral texture vs oily weight and exotic fruit, nice balance and style. 87+
2006 Terre Brune Côtes du Roussillon Villages (mostly Grenache plus Mourvèdre Syrah 14.5%) - not very revealing at that moment: "sweet & savoury" in style with rich and chunky vs tight dry mouthfeel, a bit of grainy wood lingers on its structured finish. Not showing brilliantly although the building blocks are in place...
2005 Latour de Grés Côtes du Roussillon Villages (50% Carignan plus Mourvèdre Syrah 14.5%) - a bit baked/oxidised (already open); quite big liquorice vs savoury flavours, solid long finish with leather and ripe "tar" notes.
2004 La Mouriane Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah from north-facing "colder" soils) - more savoury still with very firm framework, attractive leather tones vs lush and peppery fruit vs mouth-coating tannins. Wow. 90+
2007 Maury vendange ("sur grains," early bottled "vintage" style) - aromatic dark cherries and cassis with leather and tobacco edges; sweet vs firm mouthfeel showing attractive balance of fruit, tannin, alcohol and residual sugar. 88+
2004 Maury mise tardive ("late bottled" with 2 years in barrel then 2 in bottle before release) - more baked and "oxidative" in style showing cooked fruit, more complex and peppery too; dry vs sweet vs meaty palate, touch more powerful on the finish. 89
Maury Hors d'Age (longer cask ageing, blend of 12 to 15 year-old wines) - browner colour and more liqueur like in style, much more toffee and pecan nut nose / flavours; spicy, firm and sweet in the mouth, complex and long. 92+
Maury Grande Réserve (less cask ageing than above but some left in demijohns outside) - more oxidised on the nose with lots of toffee and cooked raspberry; again firm and punchy mouthfeel with leather tones, grippy vs sweet texture. Interesting style for sure although I prefer the previous one. 89

2012 UPDATE HERE: Pouderoux launches new organic Roussillon range called Domaine Lavista...

2 Rue Emile Zola, 66460 Maury. Tel: 04 68 57 22 02, domainepouderoux@orange.fr / www.domainepouderoux.fr.

17 April 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Rousselin, Lesquerde


Laurence and Pascal Rousselin have been based in the pretty hilltop village of Lesquerde since 2005, one of the so-called 'Village Villages' appellations, if you follow my drift, found in the northern Roussillon a few kilometres southwest of Maury. They have eight hectares (20 acres) of organically farmed vineyards lying around this area at about 350 metres above sea level. I like their "mission statement" on their Facebook page (which is more up-to-date / detailed than their website at the bottom, by the way, and where I copied the photo from): "le virtuel c'est bien, le goûteux, le glouglou, l'échange... c'est mieux!" Which roughly translates as: "Virtual (reality) is good; tasty things, glugging and sharing are better!" You could live and die by that, man.
I talked and tasted with Laurence earlier this year at Millésime Bio organic wine show:
2011 Muscat sec - grapey and crisp with a wilder cider-y side, but not too much, clean and dry finish with nice orange peel vs rounder exotic flavours/texture.
2012 Syrah - pure fruit and spicy nose, a touch awkward on the palate when I tried it (a tank sample) but had good depth.
2012 Grenache (also unfinished) - chewy and dense, spicy black fruits, grippy texture yet with nice tannins though.
2011 Les Orientales Lesquerde (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvedre) - chunky rich and concentrated, spicy dark fruit vs firm structure still, tasty meaty vs lush dark fruit, fresh tight and long. Lovely wine, needs a few more months in bottle to open up fully.
2011 Rivesaltes Grenat Vin Doux Naturel (Grenache) - rich dark cherry, marshmallow and kirsch with meaty edges; lush and dense, pretty firm and grippy mouth-feel though layered with delicious dark sweet fruit, tasty finish; nice balance and style.

And these wines were tasted back in 2009 at the Fenouillèdes wine fair held in Tautavel:
2008 Grenache - very Grenache with lots of liquorice and white pepper.
2008 Syrah - rich and extracted black cherry fruit with spicy finish.
2008 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde (Syrah Carignan Grenache) - nice mix of lush, ripe, toffee-ish fruit and peppery mineral notes underneath; firm and structured vs very fruity. 89
2006 Syrah - developing smoky notes vs quite oaky, rich and structured Rhoney style, still lively although beginning to mature nicely. 87
2007 CdRV Lesquerde - lovely fruit, rounded vs firm bite, turning savoury with dark fruit / chocolate on the finish. €13 88+

104 route départementale 19, 66220 Lesquerde. Tel: 06 12 51 64 58 (mobile) / 04 68 59 17 12 (home/winery). domaine-rousselin.e-monsite.com

01 April 2009

Roussillon: Domaine de l'Ausseil, Latour de France

Latour de France overlooking Grenache gris vines, Domaine de L'Ausseil
Latour de France overlooking Grenache gris vines
 Domaine de L'Ausseil
First of all, a few words to accompany Anne and Jacques de Chancel's inspiring bird- and bug-labelled (designed by Anne) wines. The 'company flyer' (a more than adequate A4 photocopy actually) begins thus: "Searching for a spot of terrain to make wines we like, we landed, almost by chance, in January 2001 in Latour de France..." Can't blame them, it's beautiful and very northern-Roussillon around here: a dry fractured rocky patchwork of windswept old vineyards.
Talking of which, nearly half of Ausseil's (means bird in Occitan - this area marks the ancient border between Catalan and Oc country) 12.5 ha/30 acres is planted with 70-100 year old Carignan; followed by Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Grenache Gris, Macabeu and some Merlot too. 2007 marked the beginning of the quest for organic certification, as they were already in to working the soil (instead of drenching it in nasty chemicals) and using natural compost (smelly but effective).
This first lot of wines were tasted at the Fenouillèdes wine show, held in April 2007 in Tautavel:
2005 Libellule vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes blanc (mostly Macabeu) - interesting appley intensity leads to a rounder creamier palate, mineral freshness v quite fat mouth-feel. €8 87+
2005 Papillon vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes blanc (mostly Grenache Gris) - spicier and honeyed, milky edges on a quite crisp and fresh length; lots of character and style, a tad of light oak but well-handled. €14 90
2005 P'tit Piaf rosé vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Mourvèdre) - fresh and aromatic yet meaty too v raspberry and cream fruit, zingy structured length. €4.90 87+
2004 Cot Côtes Côtes du Roussillon rouge (mostly Carignan) - perfumed and floral nose leads to a quite rustic soupy palate, rich with appealing fruit and light grip; a little too smoky in style but still good. €7 87
2004 La Capitelle, Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Carignan Syrah Grenache) - tighter finer wine, lush yet floral black cherry and liquorice, nice peppery edges, firm fresh finish. €8 90-92
2003 La Capitelle, Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Carignan Syrah Grenache) - more fruit forward than the 04 with violet and black cherry notes, liquorice v savoury palate, dry firm and powerful suffused with rich maturing fruit. €8 90
2004 Les Trois Pierres, Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages (50% Syrah) - 100% barriques and it shows: more toasted chocolate on the nose, quite extracted and choco palate yet lush and firm; dry finish, closes up. €14 89-91
2003 Les Trois Pierres, Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages (50% Syrah) - attractive herbal black cherry aromas, the oak is much more in the background, again solid framework v lush fruit. €14 90
2003 Drôle d'Oiseau, Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages - rather barrel heavy, charred extracted palate, a bit too much. €24!

Spring/summer 2009 update: I caught up with Jacques in the lovely village hall in Tautavel, host to the groovy Fenouillèdes wine fair in April 2009. A few of his latest vintages ran as follows:
2007 Papillon white - still floral and zesty vs nutty creamy flavour/texture, fresh acidity vs fatter side on the finish. 85-87
2007 du Vent dans les Plumes Côtes du Roussillon Villages - very peppery menthol notes, spicy and intense; quite rustic too moving on to liquorice fruit vs power and fairly soft tannins to finish. 87
2005 La Capitelle Latour de France - smoky and meaty with dark plum fruit underneath, again peppery turning more savoury and leathery; power and grip vs melting tannins and rich fruit. 89-91
2005 Les Trois Pierres Latour de France - oily "vinous" nose and body vs tighter firmer mouthfeel than above; again shows nice "sweet & savoury" development vs juicier fruit too, fine grained tannins even if quite stonky. €14 90+?


18 Boulevard Carnot, 66720 Latour de France. Tel: 04 68 29 18 68 / 06 76 81 03 48, chancelj@free.fr, www.lausseil.com.

01 February 2009

Roussillon: Dom Brial - Château les Pins - Vignerons de Baixas

Church in Baixas
Let me explain: the cooperative cellars in the pretty village of Baixas (west of Perpignan airport, pic.) go under the brand name Dom Brial - some of the wines with bright, sense-of-humour labels (lipstick & fruit) and others more trad - and own Château les Pins, their premium estate a stone's throw away. With this wide grape source "we can adapt to make what sells and what customers want," Claude Sarda told us during an enlightening, late summer visit. He also said there's a surplus of Vins Doux Naturels (sweet fortified whites and reds) but not really dry wines, the production ratio being about one-third to two-thirds. Their preferred solution is to come up with ideas to sell more sweet wines - this used to be a massive market in France - rather than stop making them. Either option is a brave choice...
Grapes from Les Pins are hand-sorted by about half-a-dozen people in the cellar; in general, control and traceability of the grapes' health, quality, sugar levels, provenance etc. are quite strict, as it should be in any big winery. Technical advisers work with the co-op growers (300 of them) in their vineyards, and everything is weighed and analysed on the spot when they deliver the fruit, before they proceed to unload. I'll spare you the chemical analysis but can confirm the little lab has a machine that goes ping. The winery, which takes up half of the village, has been totally refitted over the last ten years; so plenty of stainless steel and other shiny geeky stuff.

2002 Château les Pins Côtes du Roussillon blanc, vinifié en barriques (Grenache Blanc Malvoisie Roussanne) - oily oxidised development, fat-textured quite toasty yet concentrated; not for everyone and definitely needs food. €9 85+
2005 Rozy, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (Muscat Syrah) - quirky blend for this light, cheekily packaged (bikini clad bottle) rosé: fresh and aromatic with tangy finish, perfumed and easy yet has a bit of weight too. €4.50 82-84
2004 Dom Brial les Terres Rouges, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre Carignan, 13.5%) - nice peppery rustic black cherry and cassis notes, aromatic fruit v light grip and bite. €6 87
2002 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Elevé en fût de chêne (13.5%) - smoky mature liquorice nose, rustic black fruit set on a rounded soft palate; nice for 2002 (difficult vintage here). €6 87-89
2002 Château les Pins Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre Carignan) - similar to above but more complex and liquoricey, smoky perfumed fruit with elegant long finish. They also sell quite a few older vintages in their shop. €8.50 90+

2004 Château les Pins Rivesaltes Primage (Grenache, 15.5%) - attractive mix of sweet blackberry and leathery maturity, sugar-coated mouthful cut by drier tannins. €8 87-89
Above tasted on 5/9/06 - go down to 'France' on wines of the moment ('archive' on WineWriting.com) for reviews of other Brial wines, which are mostly sold in France at the moment although they have plans to increase their presence in the UK and US. More links to updates below.

Tasted summer 2007:
2006 Le Pot rosé (Syrah Cabernet 13%) - quite fat and juicy start with strawberry and redcurrant fruit, more elegant dry fresh finish. €3.50 87

"Wine of the moment" Feb 2009:
2008 Dom Brial Côtes du Roussillon rosé (Syrah Grenache 13%) - classic storming Roussillon rosé style, deep coloured with a light touch of tannin adding dry texture; 'winey' aromatic and crunchy red fruits with rose petal edges, juicy and zingy with chunky fruity mouth-feel and full dry finish. Nice foodie (e.g. hake fillet in Provencal sauce). €4.19 87+

More Brial here (2009 Saint-Bacchus awards) and here, my Oct. 2010 "wotm": 2009 Dom Ici Chardonnay/Macabeu.
Plus the latest medal winner is HERE (World Grenache Competition 2013).

Cave des Vignerons, 66390 Baixas. Tel: 04 68 64 22 37, contact@dom-brial.com, www.dom-brial.com.

10 October 2008

Roussillon: Domaine Lafage, Perpignan /Tordères / Maury

Les Onze Terrasses in Les Aspres - see below.
Eliane (nee Salinas) and Jean-Marc Lafage have been at the helm of this expanding, tri-location estate for a relatively short time (in the scheme of things), having both travelled and worked at different wineries from California to Australia for a few years beforehand. Overall, they now have 140 hectares (345 acres) of vineyards across the Roussillon. More than half of them, planted primarily with Grenache blanc, Muscat and Syrah, are located between Perpignan and Canet overlooking the sea; the original Lafage family estate which they took over from Jean-Marc's father in 2001. The winery has since been refitted and a cellar-cum-shop renovated next to it, where you can taste the whole range (my first visit there and tasting of their wines - see below* - was in October 2006).
Back in 1996, they'd already bought about 30 ha of terraced vineyards called Le Vignon, near Tordères in central-southern Roussillon towards the mountains in an area called Les Aspres. It was largely remodelled and is home to Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Marsanne and Muscat (see my October 2008 update below). Continuing the altitude theme, they also have a few plots in the wilds of the Agly valley, not far from Maury, planted with Muscat, Grenache and Carignan. These very different terroirs, to use the terrifying T word, allow them to fashion very good examples of all the regional styles; from dry and sweet whites - including one of the best, award-winning Chardonnays I've tried from round this way - a tasty gourmet rosé, intricate reds such as their Cuvée Léa to traditional aged Vins Doux Naturels.
2007 update: Waitrose (upmarket UK supermarket chain) listed two of Lafage's red and white Roussillon wines for their April/May 'showcase'; and I heard rumours that they'd bought Château Saint Roch (see A to Z) in Maury, but admittedly I wasn't able to go along to a couple of recent events they put on so haven't asked them what the latest is! Watch this space... Yes indeed, Saint-Roch is being integrated into the Lafage empire.

*2005 Côté Chardonnay - exotic honeyed nose (maybe some botrytis in there?), full & creamy but not oaky, quite rich fruit v fresh mineral intensity and very light coconut spice. 89+
*2005 Centenaire
Côtes du Roussillon blanc (mostly Grenache Blanc) - quite complex herbal honey and wild flower notes, nice freshness v weight and subtle spicy wood. 87
*2005 Côté Muscat sec - zippy and gummy, elegant grape and clementine flavours, nice length and bite. 87
*2005 Parfum de Vignes Côtes du Roussillon rosé - delicious floral red fruit cocktail, quite concentrated and chunky with fine dry finish bathed in aromatic fruit. 87-89
*2003 Côté Grenache noir (14.5%) - a bit cold and oxidised (been open for a few days); however, it shows attractive liquorice and leather tones, powerful mouth-feel yet not out of kilter thanks to some freshness and dry grip.
*2003 Cuvée Léa, Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres (Grenache Syrah Carignan) - interesting mixture of delicate smokiness and coconut v earthy yet ripe black fruits; a touch of oak notes and texture balanced by sufficient fruit, power and panache. 89-91
*2005 Grain de Vignes Muscat de Rivesaltes - lovely fresh fruit, once again offering zesty bite v extract, not so sweet in the end. 87-89
*2003 Rimage Rivesaltes Tuilé (Grenache) - quite closed up to start, meaty v black fruit undertones, tight and concentrated with light oak texture v depth of sweet fruit; needs a few years to mellow. 90-92
*1998 Vintage Rivesaltes (Grenache) - appealing savoury maturity v fig and raisin richness, quite chunky tannins v meaty fruit and sugar; drinking nicely now. 88-90

Lafage update October 2008
I was invited to clamber up the spectacularly located Le Vignon to witness the makings of 2008 vintage Les Onze Terrasses, their premium red wine sourced from selected parcels which are left until around mid October before picking. The view really is magnificent from just above the top of the vineyards, planted up to about 300 metres (950 feet), where you can see the terraced contours rolling down the slope (pictured above) and all points south (the Albères hills along the border with Spain), east (the Med), north (the Corbières) and, over the other side, Mont Canigou west-ish.
2005 Les 11 Terrasses is a blend of hand-selected Syrah (mostly), Carignan and Grenache, which are literally sorted grape by grape - removing any under- or over-ripe or rotten berries - and put directly into 500 litre barrels in situ. A bit of a publicity stunt perhaps, but there can't be many in the region making a red like this. There were two barrels this year the day I was there, but the quantity bottled of the 2005 suggests three. Apparently these are left for ten days, taken to the cellar then pressed down with wooden plungers and allowed to bubble away, with squashed whole berries still inside, for a further six to eight weeks before being emptied into a vat. After pressing, the wine goes back into new barrels for about 20 months. The 2005 was first released in Dec. 07, and 2006 will be available this Christmas; the attractive modernist label is designed by local artist Patrick Loste. 'T 11' is already sold in Belgium, Germany, Japan and the US, I'm told; I'll have to check the price but I know it's suitably expensive! Les Onze Terrasses (15%) - rather chocolate oak dominated to start although has lovely black fruits lurking underneath, gradually opens up to show depth, spicy intensity and purity; dark chocolate rounded texture v freshness, black olive & ripe blueberry flavours. Despite the oak (I can't help thinking they should take it out of barrel sooner), it does have nice balance and some kind of elegance, surprisingly that high alcohol is quite well-integrated. Went well with black pudding, saucisson and chorizo; a bit overpowering for the cured ham. Needs a couple of years to express itself better. 90+

More Lafage here (2009 Saint-Bacchus awards).
Plus the latest medal-winning vintages of some of these wines are featured HERE (World Grenache Competition 2013).

Mas Miraflors, Route de Canet, 66000 Perpignan. Tel: 04 68 80 35 82, contact@domaine-lafage.com, domaine-lafage.com.

21 April 2007

Roussillon: Domaine Gardiès, Espira-de-l'Agly

UPDATED 2012 - see below.

Jean Gardiès has come a long way since his first vintage in 1993. The newly built (I called by in April 2007), elegant wooden winery looks stunning lost in the beautiful wild vine-lands above Espira de l'Agly. In common with several leading estates, Gardiès' attention has turned more recently towards planting white varieties, as he believes there's a promising future for high quality Roussillon white wines (I tend to agree by and large). Having said that, most of the estate's 30-35 ha (75 acres) are planted with all the region's usual red suspects (see notes below); and Jean has had particular success with Mourvèdre in this neck of the woods, as well as Syrah, Carignan, Grenache from here and his other vineyards in Vingrau.
He's also mastered how to make really nice dry Muscat - not necessarily a given unless you grow it differently and vinify carefully - and still produces a fair bit of Rivesaltes VDN styles. "These sweet wines are a difficult sell outside of France, which is a pity as it's a unique tradition to the Roussillon." Jean's focus is export, although is happy to meet wine enthusiasts at the winery by appointment, increasingly finding "a knock-on effect: the more Roussillon wines there are out there, the greater the demand. But it's still hard persuading distributors to take on our wines." The domaine is in the process of organic certification, but Jean isn't especially interested in using this as the main thrust. "The wine still has to be good... just like whether it's appellation or vin de pays, you shouldn't need it on the bottle to sell it." Indeed, the proof is in the pudding as that quaintly bizarre English expression has it.

2006 Mas Las Cabes Muscat sec - nice Muscat freshness and grapey style, zingy mineral notes v creamier mouth-feel (he leaves it on its yeast-lees for 5 months); light elegant length v fatter fruit. 87
2005 Les Vieilles Vignes Côtes du Roussillon blanc (60% 70+ year old Grenache Blanc 35% Grenache Gris 5% Macabeu) - lovely apricot and white peach fruit with toasty edges, creamy v fruity; oak well done as it has freshness too. 88
2005 Les Millères Côtes du Roussillon Villages (40 Grenache 35 Syrah 20 Carignan 5 young Mourvèdre) - attractive ripe black cherry and liquorice fruit with herbal edges, soft and round v fresh dry bite. 87-89
2005 Vieilles Vignes Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel (70% 60-80 year old Grenache and Carignan, 20 Syrah 10 Mourvèdre) - a bit more oak but not much, firmer with more bite v sweetness of fruit, closes up a bit on the finish; elegant, again subtle oak. 89-91
2005 La Torre Côtes du Roussillon Villages (70% Mourvèdre 20 Grenache 10 Carignan) - youthful fruit with quite spicy coco oak up-front, concentrated and powerful; firm and less open on the finish with underlying ripe rounded texture. 90
2005 Les Falaises Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel (45% Syrah 40 Grenache 15 Carignan) - more perfumed and floral, quite a bit of chocolate oak but very concentrated sweet fruit underneath; powerful with coating of solid tannins, big finish. Needs 6-12 months to harmonize. 90-92
2005 Flor Muscat de Rivesaltes - still lively with floral honey, apricot notes and orange peel tang; nice bite v sweetness, the alcohol is well integrated. 87-89
1995 Rivesaltes Ambré (95% 70+ year old Grenache Blanc 5% Muscat) - gorgeous toasted hazelnut and toffee nose, concentrated and complex coffee and pecan flavours; the sweetness melts into its tangy aged fruit, lovely length and style. 90-92

2011 update here featuring Jean's 2009 Clos des Vignes white Cotes du Roussillon, now sold in the UK by H2Vin Ltd. for about £17.

2012 UPDATE - I finally caught up with Jean again and tasted his whole impressive range at this year's Millésime Bio organic wine show in Montpellier. I'm glad I did too, as this just confirmed that Gardiès really is up there among the top five to ten estates in the Roussillon. Jean seems to have a real knack of combining understanding and optimizing the terroir he has, as that old French cliché would have it, with first-rate winemaking skills. Result: some brilliant complex wines. He's now also fully certified organic across all 52 ha (130 acres) in the Espira and Vingrau areas (the latter vineyards are classified as Tautavel, confusingly, but there's no CdRV Vingrau. Nor Espira...)

2011 Las Cabès white (Espira) - quite exotic with peach / pineapple, moves on to a tighter fresher palate with zingy lees-y undercurrent. Good+
2011 Les Glaciaires white (Vingrau: Roussanne, Grenache blanc/gris, Macabeu) - toastier nose with rich exotic fruit, fairly powerful vs tight and elegant mouth-feel; very nice well-made wine.
2011 Malvoisie (= Tourbat) - delicious wild flower and honey aromas, creamier on the palate with lightly toasted edges, rich and concentrated vs lovely mineral bite, very long finish. Wow, serious white wine. Very good+
2010 Les Millères red (Vingrau: Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre) - ripe dark cherry fruit, lovely warm spicy notes, fairly easy on the palate with a touch of grip and tasty 'sweet'/spicy fruit. Good+
2009 Clos des Vignes Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel (Vingrau: a bit more Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and a bit more Mourvèdre) - peppery with coconut oak overtones, again it's concentrated and lush vs firmer fuller and punchier too, yet still has balance and class. Needs a few years to develop. Very good.
2009 Les Falaises (Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel (Vingrau: a bit more Syrah, same of Grenache, Carignan) - minty herbal tones vs dark cherry and ripe cassis, intense lively and concentrated with punchy solid tight finish layered with tasty maturing fruit. Superb.
2009 La Torre Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Espira: mostly Mourvèdre with Grenache and Carignan) - wilder mintier nose vs delicious dark lush fruit edged with peppery savoury black olive aromas/flavours; very concentrated with firm grainy texture and stylish finish. Very good to excellent.

Chemin de Montpins, 66600 Espira-de-l'Agly.

30 January 2005

Fenouillèdes wine trip - Roussillon January 2005

Old vine Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre & Syrah-powered reds; a few interesting dry whites and Muscats; plus fab Vins Doux Naturels (sweet fortified white, amber and red wines) from Fenouillèdes country. This beautifully rugged, northwest corner of the Roussillon forms the 'border' between French Catalonia and the Pyrenees and Corbières hills. Most of these wines were tasted blind and others in the growers' cellars during an eye-opening trip in cold, crisp yet sunny Jan 2005. More Fenouillèdes here (6th wine show), here (wine travel article) and by flicking through the Roussillon winery A to Z linked on the right.

Côtes du Roussillon and Villages
2003 Domaine Hylari - Perfumed spice plus a hint of oak, chunky blackberry/cherry fruit, concentrated yet pretty firm and closed up on the finish at the moment; however, shows nice bite, elegance and ripeness with well handled oak. 87-89
2003 Cuvée des Schistes, Vignerons de Cassagnes-Belesta - Enticing floral liquorice nose, attractive soft fruit followed by firm tight finish and good length too. 90
2003 Bastoul, Domaine des Soulanes - Rather firm and closed up at first; however, it certainly seems to have subtle fruit concentration at heart, with fair power too without being heavily extracted. 87-89
2001 Domaine Salvat - Very ripe toffee fruit scented with violets too, attractive 'sweet' texture leads to firmer finish, not so concentrated but shows a bit of finesse. 89-91
2003 Domaine Terre Rousse - 'Tar' and ripe plum fruit with rustic edges, firmly structured yet also has attractive texture and weight. 87-89
2004 Domaine Barriot (barrel samples pre-blending) - Shows good pure fruit and concentration, a light touch of spicy chocolate oak adds texture to the firmly structured yet attractive mouthfeel, stylish balanced length. Look forward to retasting the finished bottled wine, could be a 90 pointer.
2001 Tautavel Prieurée, Domaine Fontanel - Lovely nose offering ripe smoky fruit and herbs, shows a touch of wood but it works, firm yet rounded tannins, power yet a touch of elegance too on the finish. 89-91
2004 Domaine du Possible (vat sample) - Pretty forward on the nose showing ripe and rustic liquorice fruit, nice grip and length on the palate. 87
2004 Domaine Rivaton (vat sample) - Quite chunky fruit and structure, tight long finish, shows promise. 89
2003 Dona Baissas Prestige - Lovely ripe fruit with herbal and rustic edges, firm rounded tannins finishing with a touch of elegance too. 90
2004 Jean Louis Majoral (vat sample)  - Aromatic pure fruit, good texture and concentration, very firm tannins but well handled overall. 89
2003 L'Alba, Domaine Tribouley - Peppery farmy nose, shows good concentration and finely grippy tannins. 89-91
Latest Tribouley here.
2003 Le Ciste, Domaine Laguerre - Aromatic fruit and very firm grip, yet this has concentration and roundness on the palate; shows potential. 89
2003 Pesquié, Domaine Jorel - Sweet raspberry fruit aromas, juicy yet firm palate, attractive style drinking now. 87-89
2002 Clos del Rey - Pretty rich extracted fruit and chocolate oak, firm in the mouth yet nicely textured; perhaps a little too extracted but this has much better concentration than most of the 2002s. 87
2003 Latour de France, Domaine de la Balmière - Smoky and rustic offering attractive fruit, good concentration and lingering balanced grip. 89-91
2003 Symphonie, Domaine des Collines des Vents - Enticing ripe fruit with lavender notes, leading to firm tannins in the mouth yet with underlying sweetness; has power and elegance too. 89-91
2003 Tramontana, Domaine de la Capeillette - Sensuous black cherry fruit, the palate's rather closed up but overall it's well balanced and promising. 89-91
2003 Trois Pierres, Domaine de l'Ausseil - Attractive smoky nose with menthol undertones, very grippy yet shows concentrated fruit, tight structure and good length. Should improve with a little bottle age. 89
2003 Voluptas, Domaine Semper - Very fruity on the nose and not overtly oaky; tighter palate and more chocolate textured, pretty firm yet mineral too, very light toast and liquorice on the finish; dry bite bordering on being a little extracted, but there's freshness there too despite the rather heavy 15+% alc. 87
2004 Vin de Pays (VDP), Domaine Terre Rousse - honeysuckle with light creamy tones, concentrated with mineral intensity balancing the malo-lactic fatness; lovely. 90+
2004 Côtes du Roussillon (CDR), Domaine des Vents - oily aromas lead to a zingy palate, weighty and textured yet crisp and long. 88-90
2004 VDP, Mas Karolina - zesty citrus style, perfumed and quite rich with nice bite. 87-89
2002 CDR, Domaine de la Serre - Aniseed and mineral notes, concentrated and complex with long finish. 88+
2004 Corbières, Domaine du Grand Arc - Lifted citrus Sauvignon Blanc-esque style, zingy with nice extract and length. 87+
2003 Terra Novo, Vignerons de Maury - Lightly toasty with dominant aniseed characters, has good weight of fruit v zing and length. 87+
2004 VDP, Domaine Arguti - Perfumed anise on the nose boosted by light cream and toast, tight and long palate; a bit closed up but could be good. 88+
2003 Muscat sec, Domaine Jouret - very perfumed Muscat style with citrus peel notes, zesty and crisp length. 87-89
2004 Muscat sec, Domaine de la Balmière - a bit closed on the nose, gummy extract with crisp citrus depth. 87
Vins Doux Naturels
Rivesaltes Hors d'Age, Dona Baissas - lovely aged richness and pecan nut character, elegant bite counteracts the sweetness with the alcohol also cutting through the finish nicely. 92-94
1991 Rivesaltes Ambré, Domaine du Rancy - rich complex toffee fruit with a lingering coating of sweet baked nuts; wow. 90-92
1997 Rivesaltes Ambré, Domaine Hylari - quite intense toffee and walnut notes, shows attractive bite and length v warming sweetness. 90
Latest Hylari here.
2002 Rivesaltes Grenat, Domaine de l'Ausseil - a little closed on the nose but shows attractive chunky black fruits and tannins, sweetness v grip; quite young but will develop nicely. 92
1983 Chabert de Barbera, Cave de Maury - volatile mature tawny style, nutty and tangy; Port like but grippier with sweetness and firmness on the finish; lovely aged character lingers. 90
2003 Maury, Preceptorie de Centernach - ripe spicy fruit with tobacco tones, good grip and balance, tight and concentrated. 90
2003 L'Oursoulette Grenat, Domaine Comelade - lots of raspberry jam on the nose then turning tobacco and spice, elegant palate with nice dry coating of tannins v sweetness. 90
2004 Muscat de Rivesaltes, Domaine des Vents - very floral and honeyed too, zingy with zesty concentration v sweetness, long finish. 90
2004 Muscat de Rivesaltes, Domaine Andreu - quite zingy and concentrated v sweet grapey fruit, lightly zesty with lively bite. 87
2004 Muscat de Rivesaltes, Vignerons de Lesquerde - again shows tight zingy mouthfeel v richer sweetness, stylish elegant finish. 87


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