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Showing posts with label Fenouillèdes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fenouillèdes. Show all posts

01 April 2014

Roussillon: Le Soula, Fenouillèdes

Le Soula has featured on FMW.com before – see HERE ('Roussillon: three whites' from 2011 featuring their 2006 vintage) and HERE (notes and blurb spanning the period 2006 to 2010 on Domaine Gauby, who sought out, set up and part-owns Le Soula) - so it seemed like a good idea to add a few background words complementing my comments on recent vintage releases of some of their reds and whites...

Mark Walford, Roy Richards and Gérard Gauby bought about 20 ha (49 acres) of vineyards on the lost lofty frontier of the northwestern extremities of the Roussillon, known as the Fenouillèdes or upper Aude valley. Initially the wines were made in a small cellar in St. Martin du Fenouillet (the different plots are found around here and the villages of Feilluns, Saint Arnac, Le Vivier and Lesquerde) from the first vintage in 2001; and in 2008, they acquired the old cooperative winery building in Prugnanes, which was completely refitted, and Gérald Standley (pic.), who has a good deal of experience working in several wineries in different places, took over running the operation in the same year. He was undergoing official 'conversion' with full-blown organic certification due from the 2012 vintage, although they've been organic/biodynamic from the very beginning in any case (as if Gauby would have it any other way...). He also started the process of becoming certified biodynamic last year. The 'Macération' white wine is Gérald's baby, where he did whole bunch maceration before pressing giving wackier results, and more complex if it works (I liked it)...
Le Soula's wines are available in several top restaurants and independent merchants in the London area and across England via Berry Bros. & Rudd, in Scotland via Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh (the £.££ prices quoted below); Chapeau Wine in Dublin, Paul Young Fine wines in Los Angeles and in Canada, Japan etc: see full list on www.le-soula.com. They're pretty expensive, in Gauby-esque style, but good for sure and do age well too, especially the whites actually; so who am I to knock an obviously thorough job of creating a well-distributed premium Roussillon range...

Trigone blanc L11 Côtes Catalanes (mostly Macabeu with Malvoisie du Roussillon and drops of Grenache blanc, Grenache gris, Vermentino, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Marsanne and Roussanne of different ages; a blend of mostly 2011 and 12 vintages with a splash of 10 and 09; nearly half the wine aged in used demi-muids barrels; total sulphites 38 mg/l) – juicy honeyed and nutty, rounded and smooth vs nice crisp bite, attractive balance and style, fairly easy going.
2010 Le Soula blanc Côtes Catalanes (mostly Macabeu with Sauvignon and Grenache blanc plus Chardonnay, Malvoisie and Vermentino; about 30% aged in demi-muids including small portion of new wood; total sulphites 5 mg/l) – richer and creamier with nutty notes, lees-y with buttered toast, concentrated and lush with powerful yet still fresh finish. Yum. £21-£24
La Macération du Soula blanc L10 Côtes Catalanes (mostly Vermentino with Macabeu; blend of 2010 and 2009 vintages; mostly barrel aged; total sulphites 25 mg/l) – aromatic orange peel nut and peach blossom, richer hazelnut and sweet fruit flavours coming in vs intense finish; different.
Trigone rouge L12 Côtes Catalanes (mostly Syrah and Carignan with a touch of Grenache; a blend of mostly 2011 and 12 vintages with a splash of 10 and 09; 25% barrel aged; total sulphites 16 mg/l) – slightly 'reduced' and funky at first, moves on to lively spicy Syrah style with black cherry vs crunchier blueberry fruit; nice depth and subtle grip developing more liquorice fruit on the finish.
2010 Le Soula rouge Côtes Catalanes (mostly Carignan and Syrah with a touch of Grenache; mostly barrel aged including portion of new wood; total sulphites 27 mg/l) – wilder and peppery, intense crunchy fruit vs dark and smoky edges, light chocolate oak undertones on the attractive finish. £21-£25

30 September 2013

Roussillon: Domaine La Bòria, Trilla

Stoned in the Fenouillèdes
from laboria.fr
Vincent Balansa set sail on this “participative estate” project – there are several 'partners' or 'investors' who also muck in in vineyard, winery and beyond apparently – in 2009 when some old co-op vineyards in the Trilla, Caramany and Trévillach area, due to be ripped up or abandoned as the local co-operative had sadly closed down, came up for sale as a take-it-or-leave-it opportunity. These time-resilient vines, among them some over one hundred years young, lie on varied chunky soils pretty commonly found in this neck of the woods (gneiss, granite, marble, marl anyone) at between 400 and 600 metres altitude, “the highest part of the (upper) Fenouillèdes,” or “the Limoux of the Roussillon” as Vincent puts it rhetorically. There are also a few disparate parcels in Prats de Sournia, Caudiès and Saint-Paul de Fenouillet, as is the fashion with these young energetic winemakers who obviously don't mind putting in the kilometre-age.

After a period of apprenticeship with an impressive collection of top domaine owners across the south - Christophe Peyrus at Clos Marie in Pic St-Loup, Claude Serra at Villa Serra in Minervois, Gérard Gauby of that eponymous property and Le Soula (review to follow) and with Hervé Bizeul at Clos des Fées in the Roussillon – Vincent felt he had enough experience and confidence to embark down the alternative rocky road to biodynamics. The idea: to make “living wines,” as has become a bit of a cliché but we'll forgive him in this instance, as the results so far are tasty enough for sure. Vincent calls it “country logic, or rather an attempt at updating it, 21st century version. We're not making up anything new but acknowledging what the old folks have passed on to us...” Kind of paying homage to them too as “the village's only remaining working vineyard / farm...” There's a lot more detail on Vincent's site - click on the link under the photo.

2010 Merci red (Syrah/Grenache from Caramany and Carignan/Cinsault from Trilla, SO2 only added at bottling) - perfumed sweet vs herby notes with ripe berries, wilder 'volatile' edges, finishing with a bit of bite and subtle length.
2009 Nova white (Macabeu, Vermentino from Trilla) - lightly toasty coconut vs aromatic ripe apricot fruit, textured/rounded yet still fresh, tasty finish with a light touch of oak grain.
2009 Nova red (Syrah, 100 year-old Carignan from Trilla) - lightly funky and 'volatile' vs ripe sweet wild flower/herb notes (garrigue), nice tannins and fresh bite too, again tasty with ripe vs crunchy fruit profile.

24 September 2013

Roussillon: Sylvain Respaut, Montner

Grape treading party from facebook.com/DomaineRespaut
Sylvain Respaut describes himself as an "Agly valley apiqueron," which, for those of you who can't find this word in their handy Collins Robert or Larousse dic, is naturally a play on two French words, "apiculteur" and "vigneron" i.e. beekeeper and winegrower combined. Since that's what he does: the honey farm (the Roussillon is also well-known for artisan honey production), called Cara'miel, is found near the village of Caramany in deepest Fenouillèdes country and was started in 2007 "with 200 hives mainly populated with a local bee variety called the 'black bee'." (If they're the same ones I'm thinking of, which I used to get buzzing around my lavender plant on my terrace when I lived in the region, they're enormous... Ed.) Organic farming was introduced in 2009, and Sylvain caught the grape bug in 2011 with the purchase of 4 ha of vines in the Montner area. More about bees, honey and his wines on caramiel.fr or check out his FB page link under the photo.
2011 was the first vintage, so we could see these wines developing more depth and character with time, hopefully, although they're attractive drinking now. Sylvain also makes a white called 'Zumo' from old Grenache gris in addition to the three wines I tasted, which are simply labelled as 'Vin de France' and subjected to, or rather not, 'natural' winemaking such as wild yeast fermentation etc.

2012 Tangerine (Chardonnay) - citrus and orange peel notes, quite crisp and 'mineral' on the palate vs nice peachy fruit.
2011 Plein Les Ceps (Grenache made by 'carbonic maceration') - fairly light and elegant for Grenache, perfumed fruit with a riper more liquorice side, soft and easygoing finish.
2011 Gorgorlou (Grenache and 100 year-old Carignan) - richer and funkier, chunky fruity palate, quite soft; again lacks a bit of depth but it's nice now. 

21 March 2013

Roussillon: Domaine du Possible, Lansac

Loïc Roure acquired 6½ hectares of vines (16 acres) while taking over the abandoned co-op winery building in Lansac back in 2003, which needed a thorough clean-up and refit with new equipment and now also houses a top-floor apartment and art studio. The first plots he found were/are in Latour-de-France followed by a few more in neighbouring Rasiguères, Bélesta, Cassagnes and Lesquerde; and another four ha were purchased more recently in Caudiès-de-Fenouillèdes a dozen kilometres to the wild west on the Aude 'frontier'. Which must be a handful to manage spread out over a fairly wide area, and especially perhaps since these vineyards have been certified organic since 2007. The varietal breakdown is 4.5 ha of Carignan (some over 100 years old), 2.6 ha Grenache, 1.3 ha Syrah and some Mourvèdre too; and for whites (coming to just one ha although averaging 50+ years), mostly Macabeu with a little Carignan gris, Grenache blanc and Grenache gris.
Loïc's background is both atypical and typical, in the sense of how some young winegrowers who've settled in the Roussillon over the past five to ten years don't have the 'classic' wine industry CV. After a long stint at Amnesty International in Lyon, he decided he'd like to open a wine bar so started by working in a restaurant, which led him to doing a sommelier course including a work-placement at Thierry Allemand's winery in Cornas (northern Rhone Valley), which convinced him this was what he really wanted to do. Jump forwards through time to those aforementioned treasured vine parcels and disused cellar in deepest Fenouillèdes country, where he was also “inspired by Cyril Fhal (Clos du Rouge Gorge) and Jean Louis Tribouley(both in Latour-de-France),” who'd established their own estates just before he did.
Loïc's views on a 'natural' approach to vineyards and winemaking seem level-headed enough. He says he was “more militant about this (not using 'chemicals') in the beginning,” and being “completely opposed to using any sulphur. But you evolve: I wanted to make wine, and I wanted it to be good! So now I use a bit of sulphur if I have to... The more experienced you are, the better you get at things... I've become less of a fundamentalist but also have got better at using less sulphur!” If SO2 is added at bottling, he uses less than 10mg/l for reds and 20mg for the white (which is in-line with other 'naturalists', about less than 10% of what is/was traditionally used). He applies certain plant-based preparations as well, claiming to be “very open minded in experimenting in the vines... I like the idea of biodynamics but in no way claim to be part of it.”
Loïc prefers to label his wines as Côtes du Roussillon, as he believes it fits them, and the area he finds himself in, better than the 'Cotes Catalanes' designation for example. Their names show a friendly play on words, such as the Franco-Shakespearean 'Tout Bu or Not Tout Bu' (ho ho). I met him at last year's Real Wine Fair in London, where his wines are sold by Roberson Wine (prices cited below in £: photo above from www.robersonwine.com/blog). And Louis/Dressner Selections is his New York City agent (see louisdressner.comwhere I borrowed a few choice quotes from an interview with him). Our tasting paths also crossed back in 2005, on my first proper visit to the Fenouillèdes wine-lands when I tried what must have been his first or second vintage, a vat sample of the pretty decent and wild fruity 2004. To go and see Loïc at the winery: the address is the same as Edouard Laffitte below; phone 04 68 92 52 78 and loic.roure@laposte.net.

2010 Cours Toujours white (Macabeu, Carignan gris) – appley nutty and intense nose, creamier more rounded palate with lovely hazelnut flavours vs crisp mineral bite. £16.95
2011 Le Fruit du Hasard (Carignan and Syrah from Caudiès) – lively spicy fruity Nouveau-styled red, tasty quaffer with a bit of length and depth too. £14.95
2011 Tout Bu or Not Tout Bu (“mostly Syrah I buy from friends...”) - minty dark cherry, more structured and powerful wine with delicious fruit and length. £14.95, €10 (France on-line).
2011 C'est Pas La Mer à Boire (majority Grenache + Syrah, Carignan) – juicy spicy berry with liquorice, fuller punchier style with smoky rich fruit vs tight and firm; nice wine, needs food. £17.95
2011 L'Herbe Tendre Pet Nat rosé (Grenache & Syrah, lightly sparkling from second fermentation in bottle without being disgorged = it's cloudy too!) - delicious light red fruits with intense yeasty/toasty flavours and crisp lively finish. Different! £13.80, €11
2011 Charivari (Carignan) – quite rustic nose but has lively berry fruit too lending a little bite, a tad 'soupy' and rustic but it just about works. £12.50, €11.50
2010 Couma Acò (mostly Syrah) – light coconut flavour and texture underlined by lush dark fruit with smoky edges, powerful grippier and more 'serious' finish.

2004 Domaine du Possible (vat sample) - Pretty forward on the nose showing ripe and rustic liquorice fruit, nice grip and length on the palate. From my first trip to Fenouillèdes country in 2005 (link goes to report on that)...

06 August 2012

Roussillon: Fenouillèdes "winemaker mugshot" competition

That's my best guess / translation of the Fenouillèdes wine association's second annual "Gueule de vigneron" photo competition. If you already have a nice shot of a northern Roussillon winemaker doing their thing or just chilling out or whatever (within reason obviously...), then you've got until 25 August to send it in by email or post. Alternatively, why not pop over to feral Fenouillèdes wine country with your digi cam and meet the guys and girls on the ground. Photos received by that date will be displayed around a few different Perpignan wine bars and shops during the Visa photo festival; and a jury of pros will pick the winning pics. The prize is... wine, of course, and an evening out tasting wines from the area with a few nibbles thrown in.
The Fenouillèdes is roughly those lovely wine-lands stretching from around St-Paul and Caudiès along the Agly Valley, and a bit either side (especially south), taking in Maury, Tautavel, Latour, Estagel etc. Look for those village names in my Roussillon A to Z (right) to view lots of winemaker profiles and wine recommendations. More info and entries: contact@vins-fenouilledes.com, or check out their site vins-fenouilledes.com (only in French though by the looks).

29 June 2011

Roussillon: Domaine Matassa, Calce

Updated March 2014 - see below.

Matassa is the name of the first vineyard bought in 2002 by Tom Lubbe (originally from South Africa although has worked in a few countries), his wife Nathalie (Gérard Gauby's sister) and Sam Harrop MW (a New Zealander winemaking consultant based in London); which is now part of 14 biodynamically farmed ha (35 acres) located roughly in two spots. Around the village of Calce, where they live and where the cellar is, and a fair way west of here near Le Viviers on the Fenouilledes hills at over 500 metres altitude. Tom is rather sceptical about 'appellation' and prefers to label their wines as vin de pays (now IGP) Côtes Catalanes, which he believes "... has more resonance for us and others around here."
I took that comment and the ones in this paragraph from a survey done over three years ago, so he might have changed his mind on some of these ideas; but I doubt it (read on for more views in the 2011/13 updates below). When asked about plans afoot in the region to create new 'cru' appellation zones, he said: "I think more bureaucracy is not so desirable, but that particular villages or areas will create, re-create their own identities for the future." Arguably, this is already happening in Calce (Matassa, Gauby, Padié, Pithon etc). And on the topic of organics, is it really a major asset for the Roussillon in particular? "It should be," but obviously still difficult to convince everyone...

I tasted this first batch of wines with Tom at Millésime Bio wine fair 2010 in Montpellier. The "three trees" wines are a new, earlier drinking (and less expensive) range, by the way.
2009 three trees blanc (Macabeu, Carignan blanc, Vermentino) - nice juicy leesy style with lively crisp finish. 85
2008 Marguerite blanc (Muscat, Viognier) - very intense mineral notes vs rich exotic and spicy aromas/flavours; lovely length and bite vs concentrated fruit and creamy lees tones. 89+
2008 Matassa blanc (Grenache gris, Macabeu) - nutty cider aromas with again that intense mineral side vs oily, concentrated peachy and peppery. Wow. 90-92
2009 three trees Cabernet Franc - reduced notes on the nose (not a finished wine sample) but has attractive, spicy, leafy, tobacco edges and red fruit cocktail; appealing "sweet" vs spicy/savoury finish. 85+
2009 three trees Grenache / Carignan - enticing lively juicy style with liquorice flavours and soft peppery palate. 85+
2007 Romanissa rouge - also a tad reduced, leading on to firmer closed up palate; yet again shows delicious spicy liquorice leather and wild berry notes, intense powerful finish needing 1 to 2 years to come together. 90+
2006 Romanissa (mostly Grenache & Carignan + Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon) - slightly wild, volatile and complex nose; intense concentrated berries and spice, a tad of background oak adding texture, lively peppery finish turning meaty/savoury with hints of leather. 90-92

Update May/June 2011:
I caught up with Tom at the first ‘natural’ wine fair held in London (click there for more info). On the much talked-about issue of 'low-sulphite' winemaking (yawn), the show organiser wrote this in the catalogue: “For us, low sulphite levels means that the grower is ultimately aiming to add little or no SO2 (sulphur dioxide) at all… dependant (sic.) on the year.” Tom told me he sets a more technical level for this at “less than 20 milligrams per litre total SO2 in bottle,” which is readily measurable in a lab and about one-fifth to one-tenth of what might be in a ‘normal’ wine (and permitted). It's worth adding that all wine contains some sulphites, even if no SO2 is added, as a natural by-product of fermentation etc. Tom also talked about copper based treatments, the traditional ‘natural’ choice for combating e.g. a particular type of mildew, as copper (present in the human organism in minute quantities but toxic at higher levels) can hang around and pollute rivers. “In a well-run organic or biodynamic vineyard (i.e. not using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, working the soil in the old-fashioned way etc.), you don’t see a build up of copper… or a desert effect…” as a living soil manages to diffuse these solutions. And something else missing from the NWF’s manifesto is sulphur itself, which is also a mainstay of organic viticulture in a ‘natural’ form.

These wines are priced from about £6 to £20 in the UK, available via their agent Les Caves de Pyrène. Reviews feature my new 1 to 3 "scoring" system (see right hand column for explanation).
2009 Three Trees Le Cayrol white (Macabeu, Rolle, Chenin Blanc) – zesty mineral side with nutty edges, juicy fruit palate with fairly delicate yet tight finish. 1
2009 Three Trees Metairie Brugens red (Cabernet Franc) – herbal red pepper and soy sauce notes, juicy fruity vs crisper finish. 1
2009 Marguerite white (Muscat, Viognier) – quite rich and exotic peach/apricot fruit vs appley twist and mineral bite, attractive combo of these two varieties with fair substance too. 1-2
2008 Domaine Matassa white (Grenache gris, Macabeu) – toastier and ‘fatter’ with enticing hazelnut edges, tangy and intense too with good concentration, dry long and exciting finish. 2-3
2006 Domaine Matassa ‘Romanissa’ red (Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon) – maturing savoury nose with rich dried fruit, firm vs ‘sweet’ palate with a touch of grainy tannin and grip vs lovely maturing fruit. 2+
2008 L’Estanya red (Carignan) – intense ‘sweet/savoury’ style, black vs crunchier blue fruit cocktail, perfumed vs liquorice finish. 1+

Update: 2011 vintages sampled with Tom in London in 2013:
2011 Marguerite blanc (Muscat, Macabeu; total sulphites 12 mg/l) – nutty 'Fino' and apple notes, intense and tangy getting creamier and more hazelnut on the finish, long bite and quite elegant too.
2011 Matassa blanc (Grenache gris, Macabeu) - yeast lees notes and intense with aromatic vs richer fruit, concentrated and lush vs lees-y and appley bite, tasty and very long finish.
2011 Matassa red (Carignan, Lladoner Pelut, Mourvèdre and other varieties) - smoky yet 'inky', pretty wild fruity with soft blue fruits, pure and intense with nice freshness on the finish too.

Previous Matassa wines here (Vinisud show 2006).

10 Route d'Estagel, 66600 CalceTel:, www.matassawine.com.

01 December 2006

Roussillon: "Finding Fenouillèdes country..."

"Finding Fenouillèdes country, wild wine touring..." Around Calce, Estagel, Tautavel, Caudiès de Fenouillèdes, St-Paul de Fenouillet, Lesquerde, Maury, Caramany, Rasiguères, Latour de France, Bélesta, Vingrau...
This article was published in English and French on the wine travel website www.winetourisminfrance.com in December 2006.

Whichever map angle you approach the Fenouillèdes region from, you’ll quickly be invaded by the primal beauty of the unforgiving terrain that cradles its vineyards. Draped across a dramatically wild, elevated valley landscape bridging Corbières and French Catalonia, you can kick off a wine route on its eastern side coming from Perpignan airport, around the villages of Calce, Estagel and Tautavel; or from the west between Caudiès de Fenouillèdes and St-Paul de Fenouillet. The latter choice is recommended, if you’re travelling down from Carcassonne via Limoux and Couiza then winding your way through the scary Gorges de Galamus. Between St-Paul and Estagel, dotted along and south of the D117 valley road, the villages and wines of Lesquerde, Maury, Caramany, Rasiguères and Latour de France all grab your attention.

Fennel or hay?
You might assume the word Fenouillèdes came from the French (or Occitan: historically most of this region wasn’t part of Catalonia) for fennel (fenouil), which apparently does grow wild round these parts. But according to the handy site histoireduroussillon.free.fr, the Romans called the area Pagus Fenioletensis meaning ‘hay country,’ although there is a connection between the two words. Either way, it’s the grapes that excel in this corner of the Roussillon; and winegrowers at a number of up-and-coming (and firmly established), high quality estates are keen to spread the word.
In the past, the area was known mainly as a producer of thick fortified red ‘Vins Doux Naturels’ based on Grenache. Many still make these unique wines, some of which are superb such as the Maury AOC crafted by Mas Karolina, Domaine Jorel (both in St-Paul), or, in Maury itself, traditional super-aged styles from la Coume du Roy, who still have a little of their incredibly treacly 1880 vintage! But there’s a limited market nowadays for this kind of strong, tannic and sweet wine. Hence why a fresh generation of newcomers, sons/daughters who’ve gone back into family vineyards and former co-operative growers who’ve established their own domaines, are producing exciting reds (and unusual whites and rosés) in line with today’s wine drinking tastes.

Serious Grenache

In fact, Richard Case of Domaine Pertuisane (Maury) cites Grenache as the pull of the area: “Unparalleled anywhere in France... the best three places to grow it are Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Priorat and Maury.” One hectare of old vine Grenache or Carignan is also relatively cheap here at around 10-15,000 euros. Compare that to at least €300,000 in CNDP. Quite a bit of Syrah has been planted, which seems to give very good results if matched to the right sites and soils, such as around Rasiguères, Bélesta and Vingrau.
Many growers cherish their old Carignan above all: Gérard Gauby called it “one of the great varieties of the future.” And let’s not forget majestic Mourvèdre, the mainstay of a rich complex blend, championed by some and abandoned by others. You must get out into the vineyards to fully appreciate how difficult it is to work these vines and why grape yields are generally very low. For example, when you tread uneasily on the dry schist and stone ‘soils’ at Domaine des Soulanes between Tautavel and Maury; hard to believe anything grows here at all. Owner Daniel Laffite said he wears out two pairs of boots a year!

Worth visiting and tasting

In addition to those mentioned above, other names to keep an eye out for as you tour around the region include the following, listed by village.
Calce – pretty little lost village, home to the biodynamic Gauby family (their 2003 Muntada red is particularly impressive) and Domaine Matassa (try the intense whites from Viognier-Muscat and Grenache Gris-Macabeu).
Vingrau – spectacularly set vineyards circled by limestone cliffs and hills. Domaine de l’Edre: Jacques Castany, long time grower, and Pascal Dieunidou vinified their first vintage in 2002. Look out for the 2004 Dom de l’Edre red and 2005 white. Talking of whites, about half of Domaine des Chênes’ production is white: try their atypical oak-aged 2003 les Sorbiers CdR from old vine Grenache Blanc and Macabeu.
Tautavel (where you’ll also find the Centre européen de Préhistoire, kind of history of mankind museum) – Domaine des Soulanes: 2004 Sarrat del Mas Côtes du Roussillon Villages; Domaine Fontanel: 1997 Rivesaltes Ambré.
Estagel – Domaine Hylari: Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2004 and Rivesaltes Tuilé VDN; Domaine des Schistes: 2003 La Coumeille CdRV; Domaine les Tourdelles: 2004 Cuvée Pierre Damien CdRV.
Latour de France – the old castle tower was a border outpost until ‘northern Catalonia’ became part of France in 1659. Domaine de la Balmière: 2005 Latour de France CdRV, Muscat sec and rosé; Domaine Rivaton: 2005 Latour de France CdRV.
Rasiguères – Domaine Jouret et Fils: 2004 Cuvée les 3 Soeurs CdRV; also home of Trémoine, one of the Roussillon’s most serious rosés.
Bélesta - Clos de l’Oum: 2004 Numéro Uno CdRV. The local co-op also makes some decent wines.
Vignerons de Caramany: 2004 CdRV.
Maury – Clos de l’Origine set up by former Bandol grower/winemaker Marc Barriot, who’s aiming for super-organic status: 2004 Vin de Pays rouge with 40% Mourvèdre and no sulphur dioxide. Domaine Serrelongue: young enthusiastic Julien Fournier’s 2004 Saveur de Vigne CdRV among others; Domaine Terre Rousse: 2005 CdRV looks very promising; Domaine Duran: 2005 Dom du Vieux Cépage; Mas de Lavail (with on site gîte/chambres d’hôte): 2003 la Désirade CdRV; Domaine Semper: old family estate making a full range of styles; Château Saint Roch: 2003 Kerbuccio CdRV; Domaine Pouderoux: 2003 Terre Brune CdRV; and Dom la Pertuisane’s 2004 VdP from 90% Grenache and Carignan, both very low yielding.
St-Paul de Fenouillet – Domaine de la Fou: 2004 Ricochet CdRV. Interesting to note that the Grier family of South Africa’s Villiera estate has recently purchased 22 ha of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan nearby.
Caudiès – Domaine de Majas: 2003 les Hauts de Majas CdR and good Cabernet Sauvignon vin de pays.

Mad Cathare fortresses

Facing the Pyrenees to the south and dangerously perched up on the Corbières foothills, you just have to drive (or hike) up to Château de Peyrepertuse and/or Château de Quéribus. The former is found to the northeast of St-Paul and the latter by taking the D19 road from Maury. Best to visit them when the sometimes ferocious wind isn’t blowing its heart out…

All rights Richard Mark James / WineTourisminFrance 2006

Restaurants and what’s on
The area isn’t exactly awash with places to eat and stay. Jean Pla – who’s involved in promotional activities carried out by the producers’ association, Fenouillèdes Selection – and his wife have opened a ‘resto-cave’ in Maury called Le Pichenouille. This compact establishment offers well-priced menus, winegrower dinner/tastings and you can pick your wine straight off the shelves from a wide choice of local bottles. They’re also setting up a company offering guided tours etc. 33 avenue Jean Jaurès, 66460 Maury. Tel: +33 (0)4 68 59 02 18 or mobile: 06 07 69 54 78. (ED. update - they sold it a few years ago).
The Auberge du Cellier (1 rue de Sainte Eugénie, 66720 Montner - Tel: 04 68 29 09 78 - Fax: 04 68 29 10 61) is fancier and describes its cooking as “neo-Catalan.” Tasty refined menus from 29 to 65 €uros, wines by the glass from 5 € and top Roussillon bottles priced from 15 to 300 €. They also offer six double rooms at 45 to 56 € and organise vineyard walks etc: www.aubergeducellier.com
Le Petit Gris just outside Tautavel has a large terrace outside with peaceful 360° views; fuel up with their hearty grillade catalane. Tel: 04 68 29 42 42.

Regular local events include the Fenouillèdes wine fair in May. More info including all the producers’ contact details can be found at vins-fenouilledes.com and vinsduroussillon.com

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