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Showing posts with label French wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label French wine. Show all posts

04 July 2012

Languedoc: Minervois, red white rosé 2010 and 2011

It was perhaps reassuring to see some familiar names cropping up among my favourites at this year's Minervois tasting and over lunch afterwards, such as Château La Grave, Sainte Eulalie, Borie de Maurel, Domaine Cavaillès and Gérard Bertrand. These sprawling and mostly picturesque wine-lands stretch from St-Chinian country to the east across to Carcassonne in the west and towards Narbonne to the south, signed and sealed by the Canal du Midi flowing along its substantial bottom (roughly speaking) on its ambling way out into the Mediterranean.
To find your way around this vast wine region more easily, pockets of quality are found here and there around Minerve or St. Jean de Minervois, for example, or in the Montagne Noire foothills in villages like Trausse-Minervois and Caunes-Minervois, and around La Livinière. However, I didn't include many from the latter trendy sub-appellation this time, especially 2009s, as I just found too many of these reds were over-extracted or swamped in new oak (helps justify those high prices perhaps!). Generally, the reds (and rosés) featured here major on Syrah with Grenache, Carignan and occasionally some of the other Languedoc varieties (I chucked away the tech sheets, as my bag was just too heavy...). Whites tend to be based on Grenache blanc and/or varieties such as Roussanne, Marsanne or Muscat even.
I sat next to Michel Escande from Borie de Maurel at lunchtime and had a good chat with him about his philosophy, wines, food (his substantial rosé went well with blue cheese even actually) etc. Which was great, as I've known and liked their wines for some time (wife Sylvie and son Gabriel are very much involved in the vineyard and winery too, by the way) - see this mini-profile for a snippet about them (there is more lurking around, just can't seem to find the notes on the blog...) - but haven't yet been there or hadn't met the personality behind the bottles until now. This amicable down-to-earth kinda guy has a playful sense of humour and believes in keeping things as simple and natural as possible, putting in a lot of work in the field and cellar to make it all happen. These Minervois wines were sampled and savoured a couple of months ago on the annual "Millésimes in the Languedoc" bash...
"The windmill" from boriedemaurel.fr
Rosé 2011

Vignobles de Pouzols Mailhac Florilège - nice zingy zesty underbelly vs gentle red fruits and perfumed roses, lively juicy finish.
Château Villerambert Moureau - nice 'tight' Provence style, lighter and zestier vs aromatic fruit and crisp bite.
Château La Grave Expression - quite delicate and zesty with lees tones, crisp palate with crunchy red fruits then rounder oilier finish.
Château Sainte Eulalie Printemps d'Eulalie - bit tight and closed up but I like that elegant crisp style.
Borie de Maurel - chunky full-bodied style, rounded and fruity, quite powerful 14% alc. vs nice 'winey' texture then a touch of freshness on the finish; a foodie rosé, good with different cheeses.

White 2011

Tour Saint Martin - not bad, lightly chalky vs bit of zest and aromatic floral fruit.
Le Clos des Suds Elegie - touches of vanilla and coconut but not overdone, hints of banana with fennel edges, lightly creamy vs bit of freshness too. Good in the end.
Château Villerambert Julien - aromatic with peachy apricot notes, quite concentrated and full vs crisp and steely, leesy creamy texture then mineral bite. Very good.
Château La Grave Expression - lovely complex nose, pungent celery vs oily exotic characters, crisp 'chalky' palate with very fresh long finish. Delicious.
Borie de Maurel La Belle Aude - closed up to start with, subtle yeast lees intensity and concentration reveal themselves, crisp and tight, should round out a little. Good.
Alliance Minervois La Capricieuse - aromatic grapey nose with citrus peel in a Muscat-y style, zesty 'chalky' palate with lingering floral notes. A bit different.

Red - 2010

Château du Donjon Grande Tradition - nice dark spicy fruit, vibrant and tasty with a little grip vs roundness. Straightforward but good with it.
Vignobles BonfilsChâteau Millegrand Aurore - quite dense and closed up, hints of black plum with savoury edges, again grippy vs quite rich and rounded. Good.
Borie de Maurel Sylla - 'reductive' nose (was an unfinished vat sample) but has concentrated dark berry and plum fruit, attractive savoury vs sweet profile, firm vs rounded texture. Promising assuming that pong goes away.
Château Mignan Pech Quisou - the tannins are pretty full-on, but it has good depth of fruit and substance, spicy vs sweet blackberry fruit, grip vs rounded mouth-feel. Good.
Domaine des Tourels Les Terres Rouges - quite dense and extracted vs underlying attractive spicy/minty black cherry fruit, fairly lush and concentrated vs that dry grip. Should be good after a few months in bottle.
Château Sainte Eulalie Plaisir d'Eulalie - ripe yet savoury dark fruit, nice fruity spicy chunky style with a little grip vs lingering black fruits. Attractive now.
Anne Gros et Jean Paul Tollot Les Fontanilles - touches of coco oak but nicely done adding dry grainy vs rounded texture, subtle black fruit finish and  good weight.
Domaine Cavaillès Cuvée Jeannot - enticing vibrant black cherry and cassis aromas, lightly minty too and savoury edges; fairly firm tannin but has enough fruit and weight to balance it out.
Domaine Cavaillès - purer fruit character and spicy too, black cherry/berry flavours layered with attractive grip and texture, lingering spicy fruit and oomph. Good stuff.
Domaine Saint Jacques d'Albas - quite straightforward with nice chunky mouth-feel and spicy fruit, a bit short but with attractive dry/rounded texture.

2011 (mostly unfinished wines)

Château Villegly Moureau - upfront lively black cherry fruit vs chunky tannins although reasonably soft already, ripe vs dry finish.
Château La Villatade Noma - similar fruit and style, grippier though and more closed up, could be good further down the line.
Château La Villatade Sanguine - chunkier still yet has more depth of fruit, a bit firm and closed up at the moment but has appealing spicy berry fruit underneath. Good.
Château de Sérame Réserve - again quite dense and grippy vs attractive upfront dark vs spicy fruit, reasonable substance and a tad of character too. Pretty good.



Gérard Bertrand Château Laville Bertrou - enticing upfront blackberry/cherry aromas with subtle coconut oak notes and grainy texture, firm vs rounded palate, coco choc texture underpinned by lively spicy fruit. Good.
Borie de Maurel La Féline - closed up but its attractive black cherry and spice character comes through, dark meaty palate with concentrated vs grippy mix, tight long finish yet a rounder side too. Needs time but will be very good.


Alliance Minervois Grand Terroir - appealing upfront Syrah fruit style, herby minty black cherry, quite soft and tasty now yet has a bit of grip and length.
Gérard Bertrand Le Viala - complex herby minty tones vs richer black cherry liquorice and black pepper; grippy and concentrated mouth-feel vs rounder 'sweeter' texture to finish, powerful and long. Promising.
Château Sainte Eulalie La Cantilène - subtle grainy coconut oaky vs spicy berry fruit, more elegant less heavy handed style. Good.
Oustal de Cazes - light grainy coco touches and texture vs subtle concentration and ripe dark berry vs savoury development; well made with bit of character too, better and perhaps less Bordeaux / more interesting than previously!

Other recent bits and pieces on Minervois:
La Rouviole Feb 2012
Muscat & Minervois June 2011 (a Muscat and cheese post from this year's trip will follow at some point soon...)
Domaine Sénat Sept 2011
Clos du Gravillas Aug 2011, update to follow.

See the South of France on a cruise: click here for more information on Mediterranean cruises!

23 April 2012

Corsica: Domaine de Granajolo, Porto-Vecchio

Looking at this post scribbled back in 2007, when I first/last tasted Granajolo's wines, I was obviously a little disappointed, in them and Corsica as a whole. I had the chance to catch up with owner / winegrower Gwenaele Boucher a couple of months ago at this year's Millésime Bio organic wine show in Montpellier - meaning their vineyards are, since 1987 officially although ma and pa Monika and André worked their 20 hectares in this way from the start apparently - and tried the latest vintages from her range. And the verdict this time? Quite the opposite: I was very keen on four out of five; I didn't go for their supposedly top red "Le J", which was over-oaked and lacking in charm unlike the other wines.
Originally, like many simple grape growers at that time, Gwenaele's parents were members of a co-op, followed by an interim stint where someone else made the wines; and it wasn't until after she took over the estate that they built their own cellar, in operation since 2003. Their vineyards are found on the stark granite hillsides lying around Sainte-Lucie de Porto-Vecchio in the southeastern corner of the island (if it really has a southeast corner: look on a map and you'll see what I mean...). Anyway, it's certainly a very beautiful corner of a must-visit island if you haven't been before. These wine-lands are mostly planted with local varieties Niellucciu (related to Sangiovese), Sciaccarellu and Vermentinu (aka Vermentino, Rolle [probably] or Malvoisie de Corse, which is supposedly related to Malvasia but not to what the French otherwise call Malvoisie; clicking on the latter variety name on Wikipedia actually redirects you to Pinot Gris! I think I'll stop there as it's getting very confusing...)

All from the Corse-Porto-Vecchio appellation:
2011 tradition white (Vermentino) - juicy banana-scented fruit, concentrated vs crisp palate with aromatic fruit and rounded texture; very nice dry white.
2011 tradition rosé (Sciaccarellu) - lovely juicy fruit and mouth-feel with elegant touches, tasty quaffing rosé yet serious enough to go with a variety of foods. Good stuff.
2009 tradition red (Niellucciu) - quite browny-red in colour and mature showing delicious liquorice vs savoury notes, very ripe with 'tar' like tones too vs wild herb edges; enticing 'sweet/savoury' combo to finish, lovely style and drinking well now. Very good.
2009 Monika red (Niellucciu + Syrah) - again has its attractive ripe and aromatic 'garrigue' side with smoky notes, soft tasty palate with dry grip vs rounded texture; nice stylish Med red.
2009 Le J red (Niellucciu + Syrah) - a little vanilla and sweet coconut heavy and the tannins are quite wood-grainy.

More organic Corsican wines and people to follow...

14 April 2012

One-day "wine workshops" in Belfast

The Wine Education Service and yours truly will be running these two Saturday "workshops" in May and June at the Ramada Encore Hotel in Belfast City Centre:

From Grape to Glass
Sat May 19th 2012 from 9:30 to 17:30
Introductory one-day wine course tasting about 15 wines from around the world with your tutor RMJ; detailed course notes and lunch included.

The Wines of France
Sat June 16th 2012 from 9:30 to 17:30

One-day wine tasting workshop sampling about 15 classic wines from France with your tutor RMJ; detailed course notes and lunch included.

These fun tasting days-out each cost £75 including lunch (with a glass or two of wine naturally). More info and booking @ Wine Education Service.

One-day "wine workshops" in Belfast

The Wine Education Service and yours truly will be running these two Saturday "workshops" in May and June at the Ramada Encore Hotel in Belfast City Centre:

From Grape to Glass
Sat May 19th 2012 from 9:30 to 17:30
Introductory one-day wine course tasting about 15 wines from around the world with your tutor RMJ; detailed course notes and lunch included.

The Wines of France
Sat June 16th 2012 from 9:30 to 17:30
One-day wine tasting workshop sampling about 15 classic wines from France with your tutor RMJ; detailed course notes and lunch included.

These fun tasting days-out each cost £75 including lunch (with a glass or two of wine naturally). More info and booking @ Wine Education Service.

09 September 2010

Fizz of the moment: Royal Seyssel Brut

Obscure fizz of the moment perhaps: I had to do a google search to get the low-down on this bottle, lonely and neglected as it was on my local supermarket's dusty bottom shelf. Made by Varichon & Clerc from the Altesse variety in the not very well-known (!) Seyssel wine appellation nestling on the Rhone on the way up to the Alps in the Savoy region, this 2004 vintage has 12% alc. and was about €7.50 (latest vintages are dearer). What a find: vintage Champers, eat your heart out. This stuff was tasty and complex with lovely balance of toasty oat-cakey richness, maturing oily texture and refreshingly clean lively and elegant finish. Another quick search on the net also revealed plenty of stockists in the UK and US. Some useful info on this fizz brand can be found on Wink Lorch's blog here, a semi-resident Savoy wine (and Jura actually) knowledgeable person, and @ lambert-de-seyssel.com (the brand owner) where I pinched the picture from.

01 February 2007

Organically focused on Corsica: Abbatucci & Granajolo

Corsica was one of my three main themes to stay organically focused at the Millésime Bio 2007 showcase, held in Narbonne (Languedoc) a few days ago (the other two were Alsace and Tuscany: that link takes you to the other two-thirds of the wines on WineWriting.com). Read my reports on Millésime Bio 2006 and 2005 for a slightly less eclectic selection of wines and comments on organic viticulture. Plus winners (honoured or should've been) and views from last year's Signature Bio competition.


Okay, there were only two estates from Beauty Island at the MB show - maybe the only ones farmed organically? - so hardly representative. Domaine Comte Abbatucci is now run according to biodynamic principles: whatever the methods, it's recognised as one of the best producers, which I agree with wholeheartedly. Jean-Charles Abbatucci has been experimenting with 18 previously vanished Corsican varieties with some interesting results - see my notes on his 2006 white vat samples. And his red Faustine blend is delicious: he had three different vintages at the tasting.
On the other hand, Domaine de Granajolo perhaps exemplifies the disappointment I've felt before with Corsican wines - admittedly it's been a few years since I've been there though. Or their reds at least, which lack real ripeness and generosity. I'm not sure why: are the varieties planted in the wrong sites or the growing techniques unsuitable or do they just pick too early? Either way, when will Corsica as a whole fulfil what appears to be such great potential? While you're mulling over these cumbersome questions, enjoy the wines:

Comte Abbatucci - Casalabriva

2006 Vermentinu (tank sample) - nice concentration v aromatic fruit, zesty v ripe and rounded; unusual. 87-89
2006 rosé (tank sample: Barbarossa Sciacarellu) - floral redcurrant, very zesty with nice extract and fresh length. 87-89
2006 white blend 1 (I didn't write the grape names down and couldn't find them on their website) - banana and peach notes lead to a creamy concentrated palate and fresh length; interesting. 87+
2006 white blend 2 - zesty extract v rich fruit, quite yeasty at the moment yet should be good. 87+
2005 cuvée Faustine, Ajaccio AOC (Sciacarellu Niellucciu and a touch of old vine Carignan) - smoky ripe Italianesque raisin and liquorice fruit, soft fruity mouth-feel v quite firm and fresh, nice power v elegance. 89-91
2004 cuvée Faustine (Sciacarellu Niellucciu and a touch of old vine Carignan) - less smoky, more structured yet similar in character, nice grip v ripeness. 90-92
2003 cuvée Faustine (Sciacarellu Niellucciu and a touch of old vine Carignan) - more developed and complex on the nose, quite rich 'tar' tones v firm and fresh, power v lovely fruit. 92

By the way, if you're feeling well-off, you can drink Abbatucci's wines in Gordon Ramsay's London restaurants.

ABBATUCCI WINES TASTED PREVIOUSLY (biodynamic wines report May 2006).

Domaine de Granajolo - Ste Lucie de Porto-Vecchio

2005 blanc
, Corse Porto-Vecchio AOC - fresh perfumed and zesty with lemon and banana notes, tight steely finish. 87
2005 cuvée Monika rosé (Niellucciu) - nice creamy fruit showing toffee-like edges v tart raspberry flavours, weighty v appealing freshness. 87
2003 cuvée Monika rouge (Syrah Niellucciu) - herbal red pepper tones v rustic richness, tannins are a bit hard but this has more generous fruit than the two 04 reds I tried. 83-85

LATEST ON GRANAJOLO HERE (profile, 2009 reds and 2011 white and rosé...)


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