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Showing posts with label Languedoc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Languedoc. Show all posts

13 December 2023

Languedoc: Limoux.

Château de Flandry, Limoux.

Perhaps not that famous outside of France (although many of the wines recommended here are well distributed in Europe and North America), the Limoux region stretches mostly to the south, west and north of the visit-worthy town of Limoux in southwestern Languedoc, about half an hour south of Carcassonne. The vineyards are often planted on hillsides enhancing the slightly cooler climate this area enjoys, which is home to some classy sparkling wines, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir among others.

17 September 2023

Languedoc: Saint Chinian

Vieussan from saint-chinian.com.

The Saint-Chinian region lies between Béziers and Minervois and northwards to the jagged hills at the bottom of the Massif Central. It stretches from the villages of Quarante to Vieussan south to north, and from Murviel-lès-Béziers to Ferrières-Poussarou east to west; a vast area of about 40 by 30 kilometres. So, the idea that all wines produced in this appellation represent and express one distinct namesake terroir or 'taste of place' is a stretch.

31 August 2023

Rosé: Languedoc vs Roussillon.


Is there a big difference in rosé from the Languedoc and Roussillon? Winemakers in both regions tend to have the same red grape varieties - mainly Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault (less so in the Roussillon) and Mourvèdre - and production techniques don't vary much from one place to another. Except for the particular style of rosé intended in terms of colour (deeper redder or paler pink), flavour and 'seriousness' (richer fruitier fuller or more aromatic zestier lighter).

03 July 2023

Languedoc - Fitou: Domaines du Vent, Bertrand-Bergé, Lérys & Château de Nouvelles.

Nathalie Boyer, Domaine du Vent.

The Fitou region nudges against the Corbières hills at the southern edge of the Languedoc before you cross over into the Roussillon, and is split into two parts divided by a chunk of the Corbières appellation in what might have been the middle of it (viticultural history, village politics). In simple terms, the seaside bit lies around Fitou itself and just to the north; and the hillier rockier inland bit is centred on Mont Tauch and the villages of Paziols, Tuchan and spreading north to Villeneuve les Corbières.

15 May 2023

Languedoc and Roussillon: Terroirs & Millésimes 2023


A series of wine tasting and touring reports from a recent trip to the Languedoc and Roussillon will be published on the site piece by piece over the coming months. In the meantime, I've already posted photos of favourite bottles, smiling winemakers, tasty food, pretty locations and historical sightseeing spots on Facebook.com/WineWriting.

09 July 2021

South of France, Pays d'Oc part three: Rosé.

These five rosés are all IGP Pays d'Oc from the Languedoc.
Marselan 2020 Les Caves Richemer (13.5% abv) - As I said in two previous posts about IGP Pays d'Oc (part 1 and part 2), Marselan is a crossing of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache that's been around for a few decades and has adapted well to the Languedoc. Well-made easy-going tasty rosé combining juicy red fruits and white peach with creamier food-leaning mouth-weight and fresh zingy finish. Not bad match with a kinda 'surf & turf' pasta dish: spicy sausage tortelloni topped with bolognese and sardine sauce with courgettes, garlic, ginger and smoked paprika! France cellar door €4.30, Netherlands €8.95, US €9.99.

09 July 2017

Summer 'wines of the mo': Languedoc, Campania, Western Cape, King Valley

James and Catherine Kinglake from domainebegude.com
Domaine Bégude Le Secret du Sud Gewurztraminer 2016 Pays d'Oc (13.5% abv) - The Gewurztraminer variety has obviously adapted well to this beautiful spot in the hills just north of Limoux (off the road to Carcassonne); this delicious example is full-bodied and rich-textured with the trademark rose water and lychee characters, tasty rounded and exotic yet has a little 'chalky' freshness on the palate too. Expensive although you wouldn't easily find a similar quality Gewurz from Alsace for much less. £11.99 The Vineyard, Ormeau Road, Belfast. Very nice with scallops and Clonakilty pudding starter at Graffiti restaurant across the road (BYO).
Sassi del Mare Falanghina 2016 Beneventano IGT (12.5% abv) - One of southern Italy's most seductive white grape varieties, this Falanghina, grown on the Campania region hills is ripe honeyed and 'oily' with apricot and hazelnut freshened by a lighter touch and bite on the finish. Bargain: £5.99 Lidl.
Sangiovese Rosé 2016 King Valley, Australia (13% abv) - Tasty full-flavoured rosé style from north-eastern Victoria balancing sweet red fruits, lightly creamy texture, quite weighty mouth-feel and zingy finish. Might be made by De Bortoli although Asda doesn't say who on the label: £8.98, one of their 'Extra Special' range.
Zalze Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier 2016 Western Cape (14.5% abv) - Powerful spicy yet quite soft red made by reliable SA winery Kleinzalze (I also like their Chenin blanc white) that would go well with al fresco food, BBQ etc. Ripe berry fruits and rounded palate with peppery aromatic hints. £7.48 Asda.

09 September 2016

French wine tasting & touring e-magazine updated


This substantial 'digital magazine' is an amalgam of pay-to-view supplements and guides originally written for this blog, with 15 pages of exclusive new material added in September 2016. Wine recommendations, winemaker profiles, regional mini-guides, travelling and eating tips, opinions and news from, extensively, the Languedoc with an extra in-depth Saint-Chinian report, and Cahors; plus Alsace (Grands Crus), Chablis wine touring and independent wine-growers' Champagne mini-guide.

10 May 2016

France: 'wines of the moment'

Burgundy

Domaine Marguerite Dupasquier Rully blanc 2013 (13% abv) - I bought a few bottles of this over a year ago (click to see note made on International Chardonnay Day last May); this was the last one and what a revelation. Buttery and almost exotic with light toasty coconut edges, nicely rounded and creamy yet still has some fresh bite too. £10.50 Asda.

Champagne

P. Desroches Brut non-vintage (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, 12%) - Made by the Nicolas Feuillatte winery actually, this stylish well-made crowd-pleaser confirms that Marks & Spencer know what they're doing on the Champers front. Elegant yet toasty/yeasty, eminently drinkable at £14.50 on offer! It supposedly usually costs £29, but I wouldn't pay that for it. Funny how the other multiple grocers, including Tesco who was the worst offender, have stopped doing these so-called (and dishonest) half-price deals (which blatantly aren't), but Marks is still doing it on certain Champers labels anyway. Mustn't grumble ah.
Buy my Champagne e-supplement HERE.

Languedoc

Alain Grignon Carignan Sélection Vieilles Vignes 2013, Pays d'Hérault (12.5%) - Attractive example of the fashion for making varietal reds from old-vine Carignan, this is aromatic and quite soft with fairly intense berry fruit flavours. Dunne's €12.50/€9 on offer in the Republic/about £9-£10 in Belfast? (Most of Dunne's NI stores aren't licensed it appears).
Laurent Miquel Syrah 'special edition' 2014, Pays d'Oc (13%) - Lovely pure peppery black cherry fruit with a light bitter twist of tannin on the palate, plenty of sexy Syrah style but reasonably subtle with it. Dunne's €9 on offer.
Domaine Jones
Fitou 2014 (old vine Carignan, Grenache, Syrah from 15 small plots; 14.5%) - Concentrated (blue)berry fruit with uplifting crunchy vs sweet profile mix, lively spicy and powerful finish. £87-£95 case of 6 (depending on mix).
Blanc Barrique 2010 (Grenache gris, 13.5%) - The follow up vintage to apparently a 'by accident' barrel-aged white, made in limited quantities, this is quite oaky to start yet has delicious nutty oxidised and oily characters and rounded texture, unusual and tasty. £80 for 6.
Château l'Argentier E&F Jourdan Cinsault Vieilles Vignes 2014 (old vines) - Lovely aromatic sweet fruit, soft and oily palate although actually pretty concentrated with mature vs fresh finish. £14.99 Red Squirrel Wine.
Château Montfin Saint-Jacques 2014 Corbières blanc (Roussanne, Grenache blanc, organic) - Concentrated and intense dry white, zingy yeast-lees notes vs oily rounded mouth-feel, lovely wine. £90 for 6 Joie de Vin. More Montfin HERE.

More of the latest from the Jones', Argentier, Montfin and lots more besides from the Languedoc to follow as an update to my 'French wine tasting and touring' e-magazine (drawn from extensive tastings at the recent 'Outsiders' tasting in Dublin and at the London Wine Fair)...

Bordeaux and the South-West

Château Lassègue Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2006 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5% abv) - This posh chateau is found lurking among some of the Saint-Emilion region's best vineyard sites, and is part of the Jackson Family Wines' group, "a collection of premium wineries owned privately by Barbara Banke and the Jackson family," the blurb says, probably better known for their West Coast US wines. Still dense and quite oaky for a ten year-old red, although with distinct brownish hints to its otherwise dark colour, it shows a classy mix of lush plummy fruit, maturing meaty notes and spicy nicely textured oak/tannin combo to finish. c. £25 a bottle - £152 for a case of 6 from closcru.com.
Domaine de la Maletie Monbazillac 2013 (Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc, 12.5%) - Bargain Sauternes replacement made in the same way but in Monbazillac on the Dordogne River in the Bergerac region. Delicious exotic apricot marmalade nose with spicy 'volatile' edges, lush and sweet but with nicely balanced freshness and lighter touch. £7.99 Lidl.
Combel la Serre 'Pur Fruit de Causse' 2014 Cahors (Malbec, 12.5%) - Alluring fruity 'funky' nose, very Malbec berry and spice style though with light bite and grip. £13.99 Red Squirrel Wine. Update on CLS to follow, and lots more Cahors HERE.

Alsace

JP Muller 2012 Riesling Engelberg Grand Cru (12.5%) - Pretty classy dry white at this price: classic developing Riesling nose with aromatic oily 'mineral' notes, similar maturing palate profile yet still quite concentrated with some fresh bite and elegant finish. €12.99/€9.99 on offer Lidl (Ireland).

14 April 2016

Languedoc: Domaines Paul Mas, organic frog

LATEST UPDATE HERE (Sept. 2016)

You can't knock Domaines Paul Mas' boss Jean-Claude Mas for coming up with something new every year (at least) to taste and write about. His Arrogant Frog range appears to be doing well in export markets with a sense of humour - and the wines are mostly good too - which has now been boosted by a couple of organic labels too. Mas says this is part of an overall strategy, perhaps since buying the 30-hectare Mas des Tannes organic vineyard in Montagnac in the central Languedoc, across the road from their head office, winery and showcase restaurant/wine shop, which "has always been managed without any synthetic chemical products," the press blurb claims. Inspired by the 2015 vintage and "the outstanding quality of the fruit we picked... This year, we have been experimenting with low SO2 fermentation techniques and the results are convincing: the cuvées without sulphur taste far better than those to which sulphur has been used throughout the fermentation and they continue to develop in intensity,” Jean-Claude exuded.
So, I recently sampled five Mas wines positioned in this increasingly fashionable camp - whether they're worth the extra money for being organic or without added sulphites is another argument I suppose, one which will be decided by his regular wine punters. But this progressive winery is obviously trying to 'do the right thing' in terms of the environment and health. These were my favourites then...

Arrogant Frog Organic Chardonnay 2014 - 100% Chardonnay sourced from Limoux in the western Languedoc (vineyards farmed organically for 10 years), 20% of it fermented and aged for 3 months in American oak barrels, 13.5% abv. Tasty Chardy style, well made with subtle oak and yeast-lees notes complementing juicy vs sunny peachy fruit. £9.75 Vintage Roots.
Arrogant Frog Organic Ribet Rouge 'Rural' 2014 - 55% Cabernet Sauvignon / 45% Merlot, 25% of the blend aged for 3 months in new oak, 13.5% abv. Nice enough soft red, a bit too easy for the money though just because it's organic. £9.75 Vintage Roots.
Cuvée Secrète 2014 Merlot / Cabernet Franc - organic with no added sulphites, no oak, 14% abv. Quite serious red, chunky and concentrated with savoury/meaty edges, firm and spicy palate with cooked damson vs soy sauce flavours. Good stuff. £9.75 Vintage Roots.
Mas des Tannes Réserve Rouge 2014 - organic 55% Cabernet Sauvignon / 35% Grenache / 10% Mourvèdre, 6 months in French and American oak, 14% abv. Probably the best of these reds, richer spice and sweet berry fruit combo, structured yet rounded mouth-feel with good depth. Should improve over the next year or so. £12.95 Soho Wine Supply.

More about Jean-Claude Mas and his wines on this blog:

07 January 2016

French wine touring & tasting e-book

UPDATED Sept. 2016 - see link at bottom.
I've combined, tweaked, edited, added to and reformatted my special French wine and travel supplements into a Kindle e-book, which is now available to buy on AMAZON. This includes three huge reports on the Languedoc and Saint-Chinian, updated Cahors wine touring, independent Champagne wine-growers' mini-guide, 'Chablis on foot' (and more) and Alsace Grand Cru among other things (follow links for more info). Click on the links below to buy the e-book in your country's Amazon store (prices subject to exchange rate variations):
Amazon US ($6.50), Amazon UK (£4.95), France (€5.89), Canada ($8.43), Australia ($8.58), India (₹399), Germany (€5.89), Spain (€5.89), Italy (€5.89), Netherlands (€5.89), Japan (¥682), Brazil (R$21.32) and Mexico ($120.93).
Alternatively, it's also available on offer (compared to buying them individually) for £4.99 (about $6.50 or €6) as a 125-page PDF file with photos using the PayPal button below, by card or your own PP account although you don't need one to buy it.

THIS E-MAGAZINE WAS UPDATED IN SEPTEMBER 2016: CLICK HERE TO BUY THE LATEST VERSION (Amazon Kindle or PDF: US$5.99 / £4.50 / €5.37)...

30 November 2015

Languedoc 2015: "a fleshy vintage..."


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

30 July 2015

Languedoc: more photos

Marc Coulet pours Mas Brunet red al fresco.

The gang modelling more of those Terrasses du Larzac hats
Off the beaten track leading from Le Pont de Diable just outside Saint-Jean-de-Fos (between Aniane and Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert).
Tarbouriech oyster farm near Marseillan, Etang de Thau.

28 July 2015

LANGUEDOC SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT 2015

Prime real estate, pretty middle of nowhere 
somewhere near Aniane, Languedoc.

My 2015 Languedoc special report is now available as part of a massive French wine e-magazine HERE

07 May 2015

Languedoc rosé

Here's another "opinion" blog post on the Languedoc written for Harpers' Wine & Spirit (goes there, published 5th May), this time focusing on rosé. After the words, you'll find over 30 worth-sipping dry rosés I tasted recently on a concentrated trip to the region...
"You wouldn't be surprised to hear that most (over three-quarters) of what the Languedoc produces and sells is red wine – nothing earth-shattering in that statement – but an obvious plus-side to having lots of Mediterranean red varieties planted, is the potential to make increasing amounts of rosé to match a growing thirst for the pink style. Couple this with the right technology and winemaking for producing good (dry) rosé and a different way of thinking at the outset - i.e. preselecting certain vines, plots, picking dates for this style rather than it being a second-choice by-product - and things are looking up. A massive quantity of decent, often varietal, rosé is already being syphoned off into IGP 'category' wines (used to be Vins de Pays - these weren't available for tasting for some reason); and I've already talked about what the catch-all Languedoc AOP has to offer on the red and white front – the same applies to rosé. There are also sometimes high-quality rosés coming from just about all the other Languedoc appellations – rosé now holds a 12% share – some of them better known than others.

Château Borie Neuve Minervois rosé - see below
(apologies for the crap photo).
Corbières, that vast hilly region sitting on the Languedoc's western side snuggling up along the top of the Roussillon, sits in the former camp. And here, good rosé isn't anything new, there just seem to be more and more producers making very nice ones: full-bodied, fruity, dry and crisp and essentially based on Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault with the odd dollop of Mourvèdre or the 'other' Grenache varieties, white and grey. Corbières 2014 rosés from these wineries particularly caught my eye at last week's “Terroirs et Millésimes en Languedoc” showcase held in the region: Château Beauregard-Mirouze, Terre d'Expression, Château Saint-Estève, Château les Palais, Château Ortala and the star Clos Canos (one of the winemakers credited with making the first serious rosés in the region); all of them sitting comfortably in the £5.99 to £7.49 bracket.
Staying out west, lying to the north of Carcassonne, the Cabardès appellation still has something of an identity problem, and the best reds usually come from the same three or four names; but I was nicely surprised by the rosés on offer, all from the fresh and zingy 2014 vintage. Like the reds, these are all variations on a theme of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Syrah, Malbec and Merlot with some Cinsault. These four rosés would hit similar £5-£7.50 price points, except a grander more ambitious part barrel-aged rosé by Vignobles Lorgeril / Château de Pennautier (£8.99): Château Ventenac, Vignerons du Triangle d'Or and Château Jouclary.
Moving east to Minervois, another sweeping red wine heartland with up-and-down quality, where there also appears to be an accelerating trend to making big dry rosés. Quite a few tasty ones to be found here from the just-released 2014 vintage, such as examples from Château du Donjon, Château La Grave (both £6.50-£7), Château Borie Neuve (dearer at £10 although very good and comes in a smart heavy-bottomed bottle: photo above) and Château Sainte Eulalie (£6.29), built on Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah.
Still moving eastwards, the neighbouring sprawling Saint-Chinian region and then more compact Faugères, to the north of Béziers, both home to some of the Languedoc's best red wines, have integrated rosé into their respective appellation make-ups. And many producers in both areas are taking it very seriously, having tried several delicious and altogether more structured examples last week. These tend to be on the slightly dearer side though (approx retail £6.99-£9.99), perhaps because of lower yields or not wanting to have too much of a price disparity between their reds (and now whites), but would suit independent merchants who could hand-sell them. Here are a few names that did it for me. St-Chinian (all 2014): Château Viranel, Château La Dournie, Château Bousquette, Domaine Moulinier, Laurent Miquel / Château Cazal Viel and Château Coujan (one of the few with majority Mourvèdre). Faugères: Domaine des Trinités, Domaine du Météore and Domaine l'Arbusselle among others..."
All rights Richard Mark James for Harpers.

RMJ's pick of Languedoc pinks
€ prices are cellar door - see above in the text for approx UK retail prices.

Corbières rosé all 2014 vintage
Château Beauregard Mirouze Tradition (Syrah, Grenache) - Fairly intense and crisp with floral red fruits and nice bite. €7
Terre d'Expression Fortes Tetes (Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah) - 'Gummy' and zesty, fair depth and length, gets more aromatic on the finish. €4.90
Château Saint-Esteve (Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault) - Yeast lees-y and crisp, again very tight and closed up but has substance for a rosé; a foodie. €5.50
Château les Palais Tradition (Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre) - Very tight and crisp mouth-feel, a bit too fresh perhaps although there's something underneath. Trying be very Provence. €6.50
Château Ortala (Syrah, Grenache) - Juicy with 'boiled sweet' aromas, gummy extract on the palate, fresh but less tart than many of the others with more rose petal and red fruit characters. €7.70
Clos Canos (Grenache noir, Grenache gris, Grenache blanc, Syrah) - Very juicy and tasty, 'gummy' and 'chalky' almost, fresh and zingy yet again has very nice aromatic rose and red fruits. Classy. €7
Château du Roc La Grange (Syrah, Grenache) - Gummy and lively, not bad for the price. €4.70
Château Le Luc - pale Provencesque style, nice and zippy and crisp with it.

Cabardès rosé 2014
Vignobles Alain Maurel Château Ventenac Cuvée Diane (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Syrah, Malbec) - Lively gummy style, crisp and tight mouth-feel with subtle rose petal and redcurrant, zingy finish. €7.50
Vignobles Lorgeril Château de Pennautier 'Terroirs d'Altitude' (Grenache, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault; small portion barrel-aged) - Tight and zesty palate with yeast-lees notes, very crisp; should be quite good. €10.50
Vignerons du Triangle d'Or Notre Dame de la Gardie (Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Cinsault) - More currant-y and fruity with light 'celery' and floral tones plus red fruits too, crisp zingy finish. €4.60
Château Jouclary (Cabernet Franc, Cinsault, Grenache) - Very zesty, 'chalky' zingy texture, elegant and tight mouth-feel; starts to open up a bit on the finish. €5.50

Minervois rosé 2014
Château du Donjon (Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah) - Zingy elegant style, a little closed up and lees-y but should round out nicely. €6
Château La Grave Expression (Syrah, Grenache) - Juicy and elegant, light red fruits and rose petal, 'chalky' zesty finish; stylish. €6.40
Château Borie Neuve Marie (Grenache, Cinsault) - Fragrant rose petal aromas, tight and zingy and tasty, long and elegant vs a touch of weight too. Stylish even if quite expensive: comes in a chunky heavy bottle (photo above). €12.90
Château Sainte-Eulalie (Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah) - Very tight and zingy style with crisp bite, almost like a white but has hints of redcurrant. €5.40

Saint-Chinian rosé 2014
Domaine Marion Pla Petit Bonheur (Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah; organic) - Tight and steely palate vs subtle rose and red fruits, crisp and long style. €6.70
Château Viranel Tradition (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault) - Bigger fruity style, powerful and rounded vs tight and crisp to finish. Good. €8
Château La Dournie (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault) - Sweet berry and quite lush creamy raspberry flavours, chalkier crisper finish; nice foodie rosé. €6.10
Château Bousquette Rosalie (Grenache, Syrah; organic) - Zingy zesty and intense, light rose petal tones, steely bite vs ripe fruit notes underneath. Very nice. €6
Château St Martin des Champs Camille (Syrah, Grenache) - Steely and lean palate at first vs light red fruit notes, has fair depth though with good length and bite. Quite dear: €10.
Domaine Moulinier (Syrah, Grenache) - Very lively and juicy with red fruit and rose aromas, super crisp 'mineral' finish. Yum. €5.80 good value.
Laurent Miquel Château Cazal Viel vieilles vignes (old vines: Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault) - Subtle steely gummy and chalky mouth-feel vs aromatic floral fruit, needs a few months to open up. €8.90
Château Coujan Tradition (Mourvèdre, Syrah; organic) - Lively lees-y start then ripe red berry vs very zesty and crisp, quite big too vs tight steely and long finish. Good stuff. €6.20

Faugères rosé
Domaine des Trinités 2013 (mostly Syrah + Carignan; biodynamic) - fairly rich and fruity with underlying dry 'mineral' side, powerful yet with attractive bite. Good, drinking now. €6.50
Domaine du Météore Les Léonides 2014 - crisp and steely with subtle floral red fruits, lively dry finish; also quite stylish. Probably about £9-£10 in the UK.
Domaine l'Arbussele Envol 2014 (GSM, 13% abv) - lively and aromatic with red fruits and roses, tight and zingy palate with delicate yet long finish. Very nice dry rosé: this was his first vintage.
More from these Faugères producers to follow.

Pic Saint-Loup rosé
These three were my favourites from a small line-up of 2014 rosés tasted outdoors - in the shadow of the Peak so to speak - in a hurry: Château Valcyre (mostly Syrah + Grenache - about €7), Mas Bruguière (Syrah 50%, Mourvèdre 40%, Grenache 10% - €8.50) and Pierre Clavel's Mescladis (60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre; organic - €7-€7.50, UK £9.60).

Other rosés that crossed my path favourably (mostly):
Clos des Nines Pulp 2014 Pays d'Oc (Grenache, Cinsault) - good combo with chorizo type saucisson.
Gérard Bertrand Château La Sauvageonne 2014 Languedoc (Syrah and Grenache mostly; 6 months in barrel) - a tad oaky, but really came into its own with the lobster ravioli in bisque sauce served at Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier (name dropping, moi). Hopelessly expensive though at €39!
L'Emothion d'Encoste 2013 Languedoc - still restrained at first (although very cold), classic dry rosé style which was an admirable match for a variety of charcuterie.

Read on below for my thoughts on Languedoc appellation whites and reds (or click there). Plenty more to come from elsewhere in the Languedoc too...

01 May 2015

Languedoc white

Following on from my previous post (read it here or scroll down) with some info and comments on the catch-all Languedoc appellation, featuring a dozen red recommendations tasted last week in the region; the spotlight is now turned on to my selection of Languedoc AOP white wines from the blind line-up. A few observations: there are some enticing blends here, and I was particularly taken by wines majoring in the Vermentino variety in the mix. A true Med white grape that could prove to be one of the most exciting in the Languedoc, along with Bourboulenc, Picpoul, Roussanne and Clairette for instance. 2013 was obviously a lovely vintage for whites - many of these were still tasting quite young - and the 2014s are naturally very zingy and fresh: another good white vintage by the looks of it. Generally, I'm pretty impressed by the progress made on the white Languedoc front (more to follow on Picpoul de Pinet and whites from other appellations). € prices are cellar door: the whites tend to be similar to or dearer than the reds though, probably a yield / production cost thing (or fashion marketing...).

A Languedoc white with fresh oysters from the Bassin de Thau?
Calmel & Joseph 2013 (Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache blanc; no oak) - Zesty mineral style, still tight and crisp for a 2013, developing honeyed notes vs 'chalky' texture, quite elegant and nutty on the finish. €7 value.
Prieuré Saint-Jean de Bébian 2013 (Roussanne, Clairette, Picpoul, Grenache blanc; 12 months in barrel on the lees with stirring) - Nice zesty lees character, quite tight and complex with long zingy bite vs shades of richer exotic fruit. Good although dear: €27.
Mas Granier 2013 Les Marnes (Roussanne, Grenache blanc, Viognier; 80% of it spent 10 months in oak) - Bit of oak on the nose and palate, but nice and creamy too vs tight and crisp mouth-feel, not too toasty finishing more elegantly despite fair weight as well. €9.30
Domaine des Lauriers 2013 Cuvée Baptiste (Vermentino, Picpoul; no oak) - Tight and unrevealing at first (too cold probably) with hints of grapefruit, finishing with a 'firmer' texture even; should be very good. €7.54
Clos de l'Amandaie 2013 (Grenache blanc, Roussanne; 10 months on lees) - Similarly closed up and crisp to start, developing banana and nut flavours, very tight and zingy finish; needs a few months still. €10
Clos Sorian 2013 (Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache blanc) - Nice ripe 'Chablis' style, in the sense of showing greener vs creamy characters, tight vs weighty palate, drinking well now. €9.90
Le Plan de l'Homme 2013 Florès (Roussanne, Grenache blanc; organic) - Hints of toast? (the tech sheet implies no oak though), buttery fruit vs fresh and mineral mouth-feel, quite structured actually with fair class and length. €9
Saint-Martin de la Garrigue 2013 Bronzinelle (Grenache blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Picpoul, Terret; no oak) - Lees-y and zesty nose and palate, maybe still needs a few months to open up but it's very intense and characterful. €9.80
Chemin des Reves 2013 La Soie Blanche (Vermentino, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache blanc, Viognier; 1/3 in barrel) - Gummy with light vanilla and coco tones, zesty with banana notes vs a bitter twist, has fair oomph too; almost trying too hard but it works! €15
Domaine du Grand Crès 2013 Le Blanc (Roussanne, Viognier; 9 months on lees) - banana and exotic fruit vs a little bite, oily and rounded with savoury finish; seemed a bit flabby tasted on its own but went well with a mackerel starter at lunchtime! €9.60
Jeanjean/Domaine du Causse d'Arboras 2013 '320' (Vermentino, Roussanne, Marsanne; organic, 14% abv) - Quite intense and lees-y with subtle almost grainy tones (no oak though according to the tech sheet?), tight elegant and classy finish despite a bit of weight and richness, turning more exotic and spicy vs that lighter 'mineral' touch. Expensive but they don't produce much apparently: €28 or approx £17.99 UK retail.
Le Clos du Serres 2013 Le Saut du Poisson (Grenache blanc, Roussanne, Vermentino; one-third in barrel for +12 months) - Ripe banana fruit then crisper and more intense on the palate, yeast lees tones adding to a lively finish. €14
Mas Saint Laurent 2013 Montmèze (Picpoul, Roussanne, Terret; aged on fine lees) - Ripe buttery and oily then crisper tighter finish, very nice style for the money. €7
Domaine de Mortiès 2013 (Roussanne, Vermentino, Viognier; organic, aged on lees) - Enticing mix of oily and exotic vs 'mineral' and zesty mouth-feel, bitter twist but good balance and length. €13
S. Delafont 2014 (Vermentino, Marsanne, Bourboulenc, Grenache blanc, Roussanne, Viognier; biodynamic/organic) - Nice and juicy vs lightly oily texture, tight and zesty finish with a bit of character too. €8
Virgile Joly 2014 Le Joly blanc (Grenache blanc, Roussanne; organic) - Closed up at first, turning to banana and exotic peachy notes vs lees-y and intense, very crisp and long, needs time. Reasonable price too: €7.20.

And a trio of other Languedoc whites tried with food:
L'Emothion d'Encoste 2013 blanc (12.5% abv) - attractive ripe and creamy characters with a little richness and exotic fruit vs lighter finish, drinking nicely now.
Château Hospitalet Grand Vin blanc 2013 La Clape (Vermentino, Roussanne, Viognier; 8 months in barrel with lees stirring) - a little oaky at first but it's rich and lees-y with enticing oat and nut flavours, powerful but not over the top. Good with lobster ravioli in a bisque (as you do). Typical 'grand' Gérard Bertrand price: €25.
Château d'Anglès Grand Vin blanc 2012 La Clape (Bourboulenc, Grenache blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne; barrel fermented and stirred on lees for 6 months) - also quite oaky to start but was great with grilled langoustines (aka scampi or Dublin Bay prawns), quite fat and lees-y with creamy oily texture and nice mature savoury finish. €16

Next up: Rosé...

29 April 2015

Languedoc red

As a scene-setter to this first of several pieces drawn from a trip to the Languedoc region last week, here's a punchy post written for UK wine & spirit trade website Harpers.co.uk (goes there, published 28/4/15) about the Languedoc AOP, followed by my pick of the red wines on tasting from this appellation.
"Created in 2007 as an extension of, and ultimately to replace the old 'Coteaux du Languedoc' designation, the Languedoc AOC (becoming AOP from vintage 2014) covers wines from one or any of the other Languedoc named appellations following roughly the same production 'rules', although a little less restrictive. It differs from IGP (used to be Vin de Pays) mainly by the way the wines have to be a blend of at least two grape varieties, yet they have the cohesive edge of using the same single geographic moniker rather than a myriad of sometimes unrecognisable, even if pretty sounding, place names. So, eight years down the line, how successful has it been?
Languedoc AOP only accounts for 17% of the region's overall appellation-status output, which doesn't suggest a massive uptake from potentially thousands of producers, despite the obvious advantage of labelling a wine simply as 'Languedoc' helping consumers easily locate where it's from, especially in 'wines from everywhere' markets like ours. On a broader scale, and more positively, 185 million bottles of all AOC Languedoc wines were sold in the year 2013/14, and about one-third of this exported with the UK sitting in third place in value and volume behind China, Germany and Belgium.
Out of over 100 red and white Languedoc AOP wines tasted last week at the CIVL's (Languedoc wine trade federation) annual 'Terroirs et Millésimes' press showcase held in Montpellier, I singled out about 25 – more whites than reds actually – as exciting enough to make a note of. Assuming this was a representative selection (always the problem with these kind of line-up tastings, if some of the top producers don't put samples in), you have to question the rationale or end-result, if, it seems, many estates end up leaving all their best stuff to be classified as one of the various new subzone appellations within the Languedoc, such as Terrasses du Larzac, La Clape, Pic St Loup or Pézenas, which after all is logical enough; and their least exciting wines are released as AOP Languedoc. It could undermine the whole idea if consumers don't get too inspired by these wines either. But AOP Languedoc should be, and already is judging by some of the wines I liked, a good opportunity for the more progressive co-op wineries and large property owners / brokers to get listings for full-on fruity Med red, rosé and whites in the £4.99-£8.99 bracket, such as ones from Cave de L'Ormarine, Les Costières de Pomerols, Jeanjean or Calmel & Joseph that were in the blind line-up.
As for recent vintages, I didn't select many 2012s at all; my overall impression is that it isn't a very charming vintage, or at the very least isn't drinking well at the moment. 2013 is a very different animal, although I probably missed some good wines as they weren't very revealing at this stage but should blossom well (more fruit yet structured too). And 2014 is generally looking promising across reds, whites and rosés. Here are some other wineries worth looking out for, which are labelling wines as Languedoc AOP (with approx UK retail): Domaine le Nouveau Monde (two reds £7.50/£10), Domaine de Sainte Cécile du Parc (£10.99), Mas Belles Eaux (the red I picked wasn't good value though at over £20), Château de l'Engarran (£7.99), Château de Flaugergues (£7.50), Les Trois Puechs £6.99, Domaine Cammaous (£7.99); and whites from Domaine des Lauriers (£7.50), Clos Sorian (£8.69), Virgile Joly (£6.99) and Mas Saint Laurent (£6.99)..."
All rights Richard Mark James for Harpers Wine & Spirit.


Le Folia restaurant @ Château de Flaugergues
A dozen Languedoc AOP reds to look out for with my notes and cellar door prices (added afterwards as these were tasted blind):

Domaine le Nouveau Monde 2011 Estanquier (Syrah, Mourvèdre; 1 year in cask, not fined or filtered) - The first one with any charm in a long line-up: nice minty spice and aromatic fruit, fair depth vs firm tannins still with lingering menthol and black cherry flavours. €10

Domaine le Nouveau Monde 2012 Tradition (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre; no oak) - Lots of aromatic minty spicy black cherry and liquorice, firm texture but has attractive 'chalky' tannins, extracted style but with solid Med fruit. €7.50
Domaine de Sainte Cécile du Parc 2011 Sonatina (Syrah, Cinsault, organic; mostly oak aged) - Quite chunky and firm but rich too, dark fruit vs hints of savoury development, powerful yet balanced in the end despite fair toasted oak. €15
Mas Belles Eaux 2012 Carmin (selected block of Syrah, 18 months in barrel) - Bit of oak on nose and palate and chunky tannins, nice fruit though underneath with lively spicy black cherry/berry, fairly full-on finish. Very expensive though at €35.
Les Costières de Pomerols 2013 Hugues de Beauvignac (Syrah, Mourvèdre; no oak) - Nice soft-ish Syrah dominant styling, chunky vs fruity mouth-feel with a bit of depth too, drinking well now. €10
Château de l'Engarran 2013 Sainte-Cécile (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault; no oak) - Nice minty vs funky black cherry thing on the nose, quite soft and easy with a tad of grip; good for the price (some of their other reds are dear). €9
Château de Flaugergues 2013 Les Comtes (GSM, no oak) - Quite firm, chunky and closed up; good substance though, chunky dark fruit vs tannins rounding out on the finish. Screwcapped so needs a little longer to soften up. €7.90
Les Trois Puechs 2013 Tradition (Syrah, Grenache; no oak) - Lovely spicy minty nose, firm but fruity with 'chalky' tannins; much more charm and character than many of the others. €6.50 good value.
Cave de L'Ormarine 2013 Château Cazalis de Fondouce (Grenache, Syrah; no oak) - Reasonable depth for an inexpensive wine, spicy vs dark vs savoury fruit profile, firm structured but not drying, nice minty finish and length. €5.05 great value.
Cave de L'Ormarine
2013 Château Fertillère (Grenache, Syrah; no oak) - Chunky black cherry/berry with liquorice notes and a meatier side too, grippy mouth-feel but has some roundness, quite big but tasty with it. €6.20
Domaine Cammaous 2013 Audace (Syrah, Grenache; no oak) - Extracted to start but finishes well, concentrated and powerful with lingering savoury notes and spice. €9
And a couple of other Languedoc AOC reds tried over dinner:
Domaine de Roquemale 2014 Les Terrasses (old-vine Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah; no oak) - aromatic black cherry with floral blueberry notes, attractive with quite soft tannins, "sweet 'n' savoury" fruit and fresh finish; nice style.
L'Emothion d'Encoste 2011 (Jeanjean family estate) - enticing herby and crunchy vs ripe fruit combo, quite tight still on the palate and elegant, then nice spicy fruity finish.

23 February 2015

Languedoc: Terrasses du Larzac

I've talked about the now officially stand-alone subzone of the Terrasses du Larzac a few times before and reviewed/profiled certain producers here and their hearty, sometimes wild-side wines. I've also gone on about its slight misnomer and implied mountain-vineyards-ness, as some of them do indeed lie on the lower southern edges of Massif Central range, while others are, well, pretty flat really. Inevitably, perhaps, it's the same old problem when trying to create new smaller zones based on initially quite focused criteria; then everybody in the area wants in on it... Anyway, here's a bit of background reading for you then, in handy "click on this link" form:
Terrasses du Larzac and Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert (May 2012) with its neat summary of and opinions on this fledgling appellation, a touch of sightseeing info and tasty wines from these estates: Brunet, la Seranne, Les Conquetes, Familongue/Quinquarlet, La Traversée, Brousses, Alexandrin, Chemins de Carabote, Plan de l'Homme, Chimeres, Cres Ricards, Quernes, Clos du Serre, La Sauvageonne... As well as even more handy links to these producers in the area, and a little beyond its boundaries (this does seem to stretch the imagination a little too far): domaine la croix chaptal - domaine alain chabanon - domaine d'aupilhac - mas conscience - domaine coston - mas de daumas gassac - mas de l'ecriture - domaine virgile joly - domaine de malavieille - domaine saint andrieu - languedoc tasting reports 2009-2008 vintages.

The region must have become even more fashionable, since some of the Languedoc 'big boys' have moved in over the past few years and bought vineyard plots or already high-profile estates. The Gérard Bertrand group is one of them, which acquired Domaine La Sauvageonne three or four years ago (now cunningly repacked as "Château", although I don't remember much of a manor house type building in situ when I went there six years ago) up in the wilds of St-Jean-de-la-Blaquière (with real terraced vineyards) - click HERE, HERE and HERE to find out what I thought of the wines, before and after so to speak.

Jean-Claude Mas obviously got excited about these terraces too, as his expansionist Domaines Paul Mas (links to lots of other stuff about them) family operation snapped up Domaine des Crès Ricards in 2010. Even if "the vineyard is planted at an altitude of 60 metres," (watch out vertigo sufferers) it does lie at the foot of Mount Baudille and is covered in hardy pebbles apparently. This now-extended and varied 42-hectare estate - there's some Cab, Merlot, Chardy, Viognier etc. here in addition to the 'usual Med suspects' - is found near Saint André de Sangonis around the village of Ceyras. They've recently launched a new white called Esprit de Crès Ricards into the range too. More info: www.cresricards.com, London office: www.cotemaslondon.com, US site: www.paulmas.com

Château des Crès Ricards
Alexaume 2012 IGP Mont Baudille (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Carignan; 14.5% abv) - nice ripe liquorice and wild herb nose with spicy cassis, dark berry and roasted red pepper edges; fairly smooth and easy palate with a touch of weight, rounded finish with a hint of richness and grip too. Attractive drink-now red. €8 cellar door, UK £8.50.
Stécia 2013 (“selected” Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, 14.5% abv) – sweet black cherry and liquorice with minty herbal edges, aromatic and powerful nose; lush mouth-feel with earthier tones underneath, enticing sweet/sour cassis/berry fruit vs developing liquorice, a touch of grip yet it's nicely rounded, powerful and fairly concentrated, bitter twist of tannin vs lush and spicy texture. Well balanced in the end, approachable yet has a bit of structure; good with steak pie and roast duck. €12.50 cellar door, UK: Cheers Wine Merchants £9.99.
Oenothera 2012 (“selected old-vine” Syrah and Grenache, 14.5% abv) – had a funny unripe? (doubt it with 14.5) red pepper/herby brambly smell that was still there after two days open – or is it reduced? (also seems unlikely with a barrel aged red). Certainly had an odd 'dirty' character, which was a shame as underneath there was rich black cherry, liquorice, mint and black olive; more concentrated and structured than the Stécia, although that distracting pungent brambly thing lingered... A second bottle was the same: is it reductive for an oak-aged wine and still there after being open for a few days? Or a not very nice unripe note? Would like to try another bottling or the next vintage... €17 cellar door, £13.20.


Sticking with the theme, another fairly hefty bottle came my way recently bearing a similarly hefty and familiar name: the Orliac family, who are well-known pioneers in the Pic Saint-Loup appellation lying a little to the (south)east of the Terrasses du Larzac. Marie Orliac and, paraphrasing her note, her brothers are making a wine in the stunningly set Buèges valley on their elevated (600+ metres, so now we're talking terrasses) property called Clos du Prieur. The family actually bought the vineyards back in 1999 but had to spend considerable time and effort restoring and replanting the hotchpotch of old-vine blocks and a wee cellar in the village. More @ www.closduprieur.fr including some scenic photos - I downloaded the one of Marie above.

Clos du Prieur 2012 Vignobles Orliac (Syrah 75%, Grenache 25%, Cinsault 5%; 13% abv) – attractive soft and elegant with ripe black fruits and pepper, tasty now actually with its sweet currant palate vs a touch of grip; well balanced and quite straightforward, a nice Languedoc red although not sure I'd pay €16 for it (cellar door). These UK importers list wines from Domaine de l'Hortus, the Orliac's PSL winery, but it doesn't look like anyone ships this one yet: Caves de Pyrène, Bancroft Wines, Berry Bros & Rudd; ditto Wines Direct in Ireland. $38.50 Réserve & Sélection Quebec.

By the way, if you happen to be in the area, or Montpeyroux just down the road to be precise, on Sunday 19 April, the village’s twenty-one wineries will be open to all for tasting, chat and sales presumably for their annual "Journée de Toutes Caves Ouvertes." More: montpeyroux-en-languedoc.com or www.montpeyroux-tco.fr

30 October 2014

Languedoc: Special Supplement 2014

Now available as a 30-page glossy inserted into an even massive-r French wine e-magazine HERE: "a huge roller-coaster of a Languedoc special with sizzling pages" crammed with (occasionally rather critical) commentary, my top wine and value-for-money tips from across the region, winery profiles and latest insights on the Languedoc wine landscape and some of the people behind it (has that sold it for you?)...

Touring Languedoc vineyards in a 2CV: “it's so French.”
Featuring reports, opinions and hundreds of wine reviews from these regions:
Corbières and Boutenac (mostly 2011 to 2013 vintage reds, whites and rosés) - some of my particular favourites include 2 Anes, Lastours, Grand Caumont, Pech Latt, Maylandie, Villemajou, les Palais, Caraguilhes, Vieux Moulin, Montfin, Caves Rocbère, Clos Canos.
Minervois and La Livinière reds & whites (the whites more exciting actually) including Le Cazal, Calmel & Joseph, Sainte Leocadie, Vordy, la Siranière, Gérard Bertrand, Sainte-Eulalie, Pépusque, Villerambert-Julien, La Grave, d'Agel and profile on Château Cabezac.
La Clape whites: Mire l'Etang, Abbaye Monges, d'Anglès, Sarrat de Goundy, Ricardelle with a focus on Capitoul and Mas Soleilla.
Saint Chinian: winery profile Château Viranel plus Borie Vitarèle, Cazal Viel and Saint Cels.
Faugères: plenty to recommend here including Fenouillet, Près Lasses, Onésime, La Liquière, les Fusionels, Lorgeril, Cébène, Capitelles, Saint Antonin.
Crémant de Limoux: Taudou, Antech, Sieur d'Arques, Rosier, J.Laurens all offering class and value. And white & red: Anne Joyeuse, Mouscaillo, Rives Blanques.
Pézenas: one of the most promising new subzones including hot wines from Les Aurelles, Conte des Floris, Pech Rome, Villa Tempora, Belles Eaux, La Grange and profile on Château Condamine Bertrand.
Montpeyroux: d'Aupilhac, Chabanon, Divem.
Grès de Montpellier: Skalli, l'Engarran, Roquemale, Jeanjean, Tissot.
Picpoul de Pinet: Petit Roubié, Félines Jourdan, Lauriers, Vignerons Florensac, Château Pinet, Costières Pomerols.
Pays d'Oc and IGP: Mas Dames, Engelvin, Enfants Sauvages and winery profiles on Domaines Lys, Montrose and la Provenquière.
Plus: La Cité de Carcassonne, classic touristy cliché yet guaranteed to wow. A few words and recommendations for staying, eating and an alternative way of touring the area - yes, it's those much-talked-about convertible 2 CVs again (Vin4 Heures Wine Tours)...

Latest report now available (July 2015): LANGUEDOC SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT 2015

02 October 2014

Languedoc: Château Cabezac, Minervois


This charming swanky 75 hectare estate hidden away outside the wee village of Bize-Minervois (between Capestang and Homps on the region's northern edge with the bottom tip of the Saint-Chinian appellation, if you get what I mean: or look at a map...) was bought by Gontran Dondain in 1997, who must have invested a good deal of time and wonga into restoring the property and vineyards. The newest developments are on-site apartments and spa complex to complement their hotel and seasonal restaurant (open May to end Sept). What self-respecting poshly renovated château in the Languedoc doesn't have this nowadays!
Some good wines being made here but their “top” reds are quite pricey, although 2009 wasn't perhaps the best vintage to judge them on (hot and dry, many of them are now looking a bit clunky and out of balance with austere tannins), so I look forward to tasting some more recent vintages in the future. More info @ www.chateaucabezac.com where I pinched the handsome photo from.

2013 Cuvée Alice white (Maccabeu, Vermentino, Roussanne, Grenache blanc; 14% abv) – touches of honey/banana and yeast-lees vs a crisp 'mineral' side, juicy and refreshing with some roundness too. €7.30 cellar door / £8.77 UK.
2012 Rosé (Syrah, Grenache; 13.5%) - nice red fruity vs creamy style, a hint of rounded mouth-feel vs crisper finish. €7.30 / £8.77
2011 La Tradition red (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah; 14.5%) - attractive sweet fruit with perfumed floral tones, crunchy berries vs riper liquorice etc. with powerful weighty finish. Nice style. £8.77
2009 Carinu (Carignan; 15%) - maturing savoury and smoky vs a tarter herbier side, power vs bite on the palate, still quite tannic with lingering meaty development; those tannins are a bit too “09” but it's an interesting red I suppose. €12.80 / £11.48
2009 Cuvée Arthur (Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache; 14.5%) - fairly oaky smoky and extracted with structured powerful mouth-feel, that oak lingers a little combined with oomph, savoury fruit and a bitter twist of tannin. One for sipping gently around the round table no doubt. €17.10 / £15.11
2009 Grande Cuvée Belvèze (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache; 14.5%) - again showing plenty of dark chocolate oak with grippy punchy palate, better sweet fruit coming through vs similar bitter twist of tannins. €27.80 / £21.51

This is a preview snippet from my forthcoming 2014 Languedoc report - coming soon, honest!

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