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Showing posts with label Roussillon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roussillon. Show all posts

31 March 2014

Roussillon: Domaine Jolly Ferriol, Espira de l'Agly

Isabelle Jolly and Jean-Luc Chossart took over this three-and-a-half-century old property, in that cute old Catalan farmhouse style, in 2005, which is found off the meandering main road between Espira and Cases de Pène, a few kilometres west of Rivesaltes. They've been farming organically from the start (they're now 'certified' anyway) using indigenous yeasts for 'spontaneous' fermentation, and most of their wines have no added sulphites (except the Muscat de Rivesaltes as stated below for instance) and don't get fined or filtered they claim. This riskier 'natural' approach can sometimes lead to mixed results, although it's mostly successful with the wines I tasted here, especially their "blah blah" white based on Grenache gris, varietal Syrah and a couple of very different Muscats. More about Isabelle and Jean-Luc, their way of life, details on the wines etc. on www.jollyferriol.fr where I pinched this photo from.

2012 Blablablanc (mostly Grenache gris with Macabeu) – floral peach blossom vs yeast lees and nutty characters, intense and tasty palate with long finish; very nice white.
2012 Pet'Nat ("naturally sparkling" Muscat from second fermentation in bottle, 12% abv) – attractive and unusual style with biscuity notes vs grapey flavours; fairly light and easy.
2010 Fait d'Hiver (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) – funky 'volatile' nose vs pure ripe dark fruit cocktail, dried and earthy with chunky vs soft mouth-feel; quite intense, a little on the wild side though.
2009 Syrah – perfumed violet and black cherry, turning more liquorice-y and peppery on the palate, rich fruit and tannins but rounded and quite fine for 'hot dry year' 2009.
2006 Muscat de Rivesaltes (total sulphites 28 mg/l) – “very low yields and much less alcohol added than usual,” I was told. Complex marmalade and quince notes with orange peel zest, nutty and toasty too on the palate. Lovely style.
Passe-temps Rivesaltes ambré (70% Macabeu, 30% Grenache gris; 3 years cask ageing, 16% abv) – nutty and dried fruits, oxidizing 'Madeira' profile although fruitier, intense bitter vs sweet mouth-feel with tasty ageing savoury flavours.

19 March 2014

Roussillon: Vinyer de la Ruca, Banyuls

The man behind Vinyer de la Ruca is the splendidly named Manuel di Vecchi Staraz, which wasn't a name I'd come across before. He only makes one red Banyuls vin doux naturel style, as far as I can tell, which, as it says on his website www.vinyerdelaruca.com: "Tot es fa a la mà," meaning "Everything is done by hand," from my limited grasp of Catalan. This even includes the quirky decorative hand-blown 650ml and 400ml size bottles, more like little demijohns actually, the Banyuls comes in. Rather steep though at €75 and €110 a piece (even if he does only make 1000 bottles and the wine is good), just like the sheer schist terraces the 50 year-old Grenache it's made from tries to grow on. These vines are farmed totally biodynamically using homoeopathic preparations, no machines, no added sulphites to the wine, aged in small tuns and all that jazz. Sounds / looks like a bit of a philosopher too, hence the suitably pensive shot I copied off his site:

2011 Banyuls - baked plum and liquorice notes, fiery punchy palate layered with sweet vs savoury fruit, complex flavours on top of attractive grip and texture actually, rich dark and smoky with tangy twist too. Nice style.

21 February 2014

Languedoc & Roussillon: "wines of the mo"

Picked out from a South of France (goes to 'Sud de France Top 100' site, some of these wines were competition winners) tasting I did a few weeks ago for the www.niwsi.co.uk in Belfast, these wines were probably my favourite half-dozen from an interesting and diverse line-up, just for the pure pleasure of plonking a few tasty words out there in the blogosphere...

Domaine Denois 'Sainte Marie' Limoux blanc 2010 (single site "high-altitude" Chardonnay, barrel-fermented/aged) - the best of the three whites we tasted, I found it pretty much as I remembered it as per this note here (including more info on JL Denois and the wine). Touch of class. €15 cellar door.

Château de Cazeneuve 'Cynarah' Pic Saint-Loup 2011 (Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache) - attractive juicy ripe black cherry and liquorice fruit, soft tannins and rounded mouth-feel with a touch of earthy spice and mint. £12.95 the Wine Society. Previously on Cazeneuve.

Domaine Modat 'Comme Avant' Côtes du Roussillon Villages Caramany 2010 (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan from some of the oldest vines; half of it aged in new oak for 16 months) - a popular choice, I've already reviewed it here where you'll find more about the producer too. Nice mouthful of Med red, a tad expensive though. James Nicholson £14.95 / €21.80.

Pic by Ros Wilson
Château de Lastours 'Grande Réserve' Corbières 2008 (Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre: oldest vine selection 30 to 40 y.o; 75% of the blend aged 1 year in French oak) - attractive maturing smoky savoury and dried fruit side vs concentrated and still fairly firm structure, well balanced too. c. €18. More Lastours here.

Laurent Miquel 'Bardou' Saint Chinian 2008 Grande Cuvée (mostly Syrah from selected sites on the Cazal Viel estate, 14 months in French oak - 55% new) - another pretty serious red I'd tasted previously (goes to my special supplement on St Chinian inc. profile on Miquel and notes on several wines), showing a fair bit of oak but it's concentrated and structured with nice fruit. £16 Excel Wines, €20.99 Dunnes.

Domaine Cazes Rivesaltes ambré 2000 (100% Grenache blanc fortified to 16% abv, aged 7+ years in old tuns, 118 g/l residual sugar) - classic style with enticing oxidized walnut/pecan notes, complex flavours with nice sweet vs tangy and savoury finish and a bit of 'cut'. Liberty Wines approx retail £15 half-bottle. Lots more old Cazes here.

23 December 2013

Roussillon and Languedoc: "festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate" (part 2)

Further to these recent words of wisdom on my WineWriting.com blog: Spain v Australia: festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate (goes there naturally), which also includes a little insight into fine chocolate making and the different types... Here are some more "festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate," this time sourced from the Languedoc and the Roussillon. When talking about "wine with chocolate," many people - okay, wino people rather than normal people at least - think of rugged Roussillon country and its sometimes sublime red vins doux naturels or fortified sweet reds based on Grenache, especially Banyuls from the southeastern corner bordering Spain or Maury in the region's northern flank nudging up against the Corbières hills.

Those famous demijohns, slightly predictable target for a photo, outside at Mas Amiel: mostly empty as this type of traditional 'oxidative' ageing is now only used for a small proportion of their Vin Doux Naturel (VDN) production. Photo: Vi Erickson.
Mas Amiel is arguably the most famous name in the Maury area (with suitably celeb prices to match, you might be tempted to add) and particularly well known for its old vintages. We were treated to their 1980 (in magnum no less, a special millennium bottling aged for nearly 20 years in demijohns and large casks beforehand; 16.5% abv) at the 'wine with chocolate' tasting event featured in the post mentioned at the top of the page (follow that link for more info). I've tasted this vintage before in situ (goes to profile and notes on MA penned in 2007, 2009, 2010 and updated earlier this year), although not sure if it's exactly the same wine, as that 1980 had one of their regular 'Millésime' labels, implying vintage style i.e. aged for a relatively short time in cask and the rest in bottle. In any case, the 1980 "millennium" was delicious and a fine match for the Co Couture chocs in front of us, especially the chilli flavour actually. Browning in colour with intriguing meat gravy vs liquorice nose, rich and concentrated with lush mouth-feel vs nice bite and developing savoury flavours; still alive with complex long maturing finish. Yum. £85 magnum.
Also from Maury, made by the worth-visiting Vignerons de Maury co-op winery found in the village, comes their Cuvée Centenaire (specially brewed in 2010 to celebrate 100 years, obviously; 16% abv), which was quite orangey brown with 'volatile' red-Madeira notes and sweet dried fruits vs meaty mature cheesy palate; particularly good with the ginger chocolate. About £23. More of their wines are HERE (St-Bacchus Awards) and probably elsewhere on the blog too. Banyuls was well represented by one of its top VDN producers Domaine du Mas Blanc with their 2000 Vieilles Vignes label (old vines; 16.5% abv): oxidised intricate mature-cheesy nose, lush vs savoury palate with complex toffee and dried raspberry flavours, long smooth finish. The plain choc and sea salt flavoured one almost freshened up the wine, not so good with the ginger though funnily enough. £27 approx. More on DMB HERE.
Moving on to a few 'regular' Roussillon and Languedoc reds, not deliberately tasted with chocolate (but might have been unintentionally) in recent weeks. Firstly, a pair from Naked Wines. Benjamin Darnault's 2012 La Cuvée Réservée Cotes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache, Syrah; 14.5% abv, bottled in the Aude though?) is deep purple black in colour, a 'modern' style big fruity and spicy red; peppery blackberry with firm grip vs 'sweet' rounded palate, nice dry texture vs ripe berry fruit, liquorice and spice with punchy alcohol on its lively finish. Attractive good+ co-op level red, okay at £8.49 ('Angel' price) but not worth £11.49 ('normal': more here about Naked's pricing). Same could perhaps be said about their 2012 Le Petit Train Syrah (£8.25 or £10.99) made by Katie Jones, although this wine was apparently specially commissioned by Naked after Katie was sabotaged by some jealous thug, who broke in and poured away an entire vintage of her white wine. So, there's an "investment in people" type story behind it (as is Naked's self-acclaimed style generally). Anyway, it's a very nice red showing touches of sweet coconut oak layered with really ripe black cherry/olive even, soft fruity and rounded mouth-feel with a hint of herby spice vs a light bitter twist of tannins/acidity and blast of warmth. Kept well after opening too, turning softer with the oak less obvious and nice sweet black cherry/olive fruit vs light grip.
Finishing off in Saint-Chinian in the Languedoc back-lands, I've picked out just a few of my favourites from a trip last month, which were winners in a "Grand Cru selection" competition I was on the tasting panel for. CLICK HERE for my full-monty St-Chinian special supplement, which costs £3 (about €4/$4.50) as it's not viewable on this blog (emailed as a PDF). Features several leading estates (and places to eat and stay), including Domaines Canet Valette, Cambis, Jougla, Cazal Viel, La Madura, La Femme Allongée, Boissezon Guiraud, Milhau-Lacugue and more! In the meantime then...
Laurent Miquel Bardou 2008 (100% Syrah) – still quite toasty coconut with spicy dark fruit vs nice meaty edges, the oak melts into it adding a touch of chocolatey texture/flavour, nice tannins and concentration for a 2008; still quite young and structured with substance. Good stuff. €19
La Grange Léon D'une main à l'autre 2011 (Syrah, Carignan, Grenache) - herbal red pepper, liquorice and perfumed white pepper; quite lush with ripe berry fruit, soft and approachable with bit of weight, freshness and length. Nice now. €16

Domaine la Linquière 310 La Sentenelle 2011 - lovely wild garrigue notes (= reminds of heathland flora!) plus sweet liquorice vs peppery fruit, soft tasty and quite elegant finish. €18
Borie la Vitarèle Les Crès 2005 (Mourvèdre, Syrah) - savoury touches vs dark cherry, nice 'chalky' tannins with a touch of freshness, tight and elegant, still relatively young really, lovely savoury vs liquorice and spice finish. €18.50

Above prices are cellar door in France, so these are all towards dear wines although among the producers' top cuvées; or would be in the UK, Ireland or US once you slap on eye-watering taxes!

08 November 2013

More Roussillon winery updates

On these three "out there" one-man band estates (more or less):

Domaine des Balmettes (Cases-de-Pène) featuring Lucien "Lulu" Salani's (pic.) intense 2011 Les Figuiers Syrah...
Domaine Rivaton (Latour-de-France) with Fred Rivaton's Rage against the Machine white...
Domaine des Trois Orris (Tarérach) by Joep Graler - know anyone else who does a Chenanson aged in acacia and chestnut barrels?!

And "coming soonish" (okay, I've been saying that for two years), the Roussillon wild wine country touring guide. Updated, rewritten, restructured and repackaged; available in three formats (e-book, print-on-demand paperback and simple PDF doc). Just have to finish the damn thing first!

07 November 2013

Roussillon: Domaine Modat, Cassagnes

Overseen/run by father/son Henri and Philippe Modat, who are originally from the Roussillon and "came back to the old country and took over some old family vines," after various high-profile legal and business careers in Paris. The estate was thus established in 2007, which comes to 20-something hectares (50+acres) in the Cassagnes area (circled by the villages of Montner, Latour, Rasiguères and Bélesta) lying on a "200 to 300 metre altitude plateau." The main intro page on their website (goes there) doesn't mention some of the white varieties I was told are in the 'de-ci de-là' blend - maybe because they really are picked "from here and there," as the name implies, from the odd white vine mixed in with the reds - but does say that four ha of Grenache blanc, Viognier and Roussanne were planted in 2009. Anyway, the dominant grapes by far are Syrah and Carignan, some of the latter dating from 1905 and 1930. Under the guidance of vineyard manager Laurent Abet, they're in the process of converting over to organics, with all the usual 'green' practices and philosophy that involves. Their groovy eco-friendly cellar, fitted with solar panels supplying more than enough electricity to power the winery, they claim, was built in 2008, the year of the Modat family's maiden vintage.

From facebook.com/pages/Domaine-Modat
As suggested above, Philippe's wines have quirky personal, and rather cute, names with reds dominating the field; the ones profiled here are labelled under the Cotes du Roussillon Villages Caramany sub-appellation, which includes Cassagnes (don't ask). Hence 'comme avant' (“like before” or “in the old days"), 'sans plus attendre' (“without waiting any longer” or “without further ado” perhaps) and “the nicest one” or 'le plus joli'... These wines are available in the UK and Ireland from James Nicholson (= the second pair of prices in £ and € - the first € price quoted is cellar door or delivered in France). Going there: “Les Plas”, 66720 Cassagnes. Phone 04 68 54 39 14.

2010 comme avant (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan from some of the oldest vines bearing the best fruit; half of it aged in new oak for 16 months) - perfumed sweet liquorice with white pepper and wild flower notes, nice 'chalky' tannins and bite vs rounded texture, weight and power; subtle aromatic fruit on its very attractive finish. €12 cellar door. JN Wine £14.99 / €21.80

2010 sans plus attendre (70% Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) - a bit closed up and delicate even at first, tight 'fresh' tannins with a hint of oak grain, nice ripe berry fruit and spice; tightens up on its fairly elegant yet powerful finish (sounds like a contradiction to me, ed.). €14.50 cellar door. JN Wine £17.50 / €23.49
And this is what I said about the same wine the first time I tasted it in a different setting, while judging at this year's International Grenache Competition (Gold medal winner):
Sans plus attendre 2010 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Caramany - attractive white pepper, sweet cherry and liquorice; firm vs rounded with powerful yet balanced finished. 90

2009 le plus joli (2/3 Syrah, 1/3 Carignan, old vines in the highest sites) - pretty heavy on the coconut to start vs that lush dark fruit again, the oak lingers a little vs very structured and tight wine still for a 2009; attractive tannin texture though, would like to try it again when it's opened up more. Dear too at €38 cellar door.

2011 de-ci de-là white (Carignan blanc, Grenache blanc and gris, Macabeu; 5 months in oak) - toasty vs exotic peachy fruit, has a touch of freshness and 'salty' bite too vs rounder finish, a little elegance vs power and weight. €12 cellar door. JN Wine £14.99 / €21.80

05 October 2013

Roussillon: Domaine de l'Encantade, Trévillach

The view's not bad too, from www.encantade.com
Antonin and Laure Moisan describe themselves as making "natural wines" from organic "country" or "peasant" farming, in the old 'positive' sense of the word (paysanne in French) rather than in a nob-y condescending way, going back to how it used to be done growing fruit and veg as well as grapes and producing honey too. They started "four or five years ago" with some hillside vineyards lying at 500 metres above sea level, being fully converted to organics as we speak (his white vines already are 'certified'), in the back of north-central Roussillon beyond between Montalba-le-Chateau and Sournia, which were supplemented by a few plots purchased in early 2012. The wines were being made at not-so-far-away neighbour Trois Orris' cellar in Tarerach (click on that link to see profile and wines, which will be updated soon) while the finishing touches were put to their new winery/warehouse cum honey factory going operational end of last year. Antonin commented: "I've enough (fruit) now to start up my own label... The idea is to be able to make wine as naturally as possible using simple equipmentminimal electricity and healthy materials..." The results so far are promising with better things to come perhaps.

2012 Songe d'Auguste white (Macabeu, Muscat) - aromatic grapey peachy nose, juicy and zingy vs a touch of roundness too, nice style. €9
2012 Rosé (Carignan) - quite elegant and crisp with light red fruit flavours, dry crisp finish, nice enough rosé. €7
2011 Tram'Montagne (Syrah) - ripe dark black cherry with minty spicy notes, lively and rich with grippy 'chalky' tannins, tasty with tight long finish. €11
2012 Roc d'en Manas (I think? This was a new wine, and I can't read my scribbled notes too well, a barrel sample made from Grenache, Syrah, Carignan...) - Firmer drier mouth-feel vs subtle dark and peppery fruit; was a little closed up and awkward when I tried it (not a finished wine) but looks promising. €15

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. 

22 August 2013

Roussillon: Domaine de Sabbat, Latour de France

Sylvain Lejeune (pic. taken from www.domainedesabbat.fr) founded his own 10 ha (25 acre) estate in 2008, having worked at several wineries in France from Bordeaux to Burgundy to Provence. The vineyards lie in different spots on very varied terrain - schist, marl and clay-chalk soils - near the brooding villages of Maury, Tautavel and Vingrau across the wildly pretty Agly Valley; Sylvain's winery/cellar and home are in nearby Latour de France though. He claims to follow organic regulations but isn't certified (time yet to put on that straight-jacket), and he makes a red Rivesaltes Grenat VDN style and a rosé too. The 'Spring 1900' label refers to a small plot of senior citizen LLadoner Pelut, a Catalan variety closely related to black Grenache, used for this particular red blend. And let's not forget helping-hand Pilou the dog, aka 'Doudou', who's apparently "priceless when it comes to making decisions..." € prices are online for delivery in France.

2011 white Côtes du Roussillon (mostly Grenache gris, Grenache blanc & Macabeu; fermented and aged in cask for 12 months) - fairly toasty yet has exotic fruit too, rounded nutty palate, quite rich and juicy with creamier side then an elegant 'mineral' touch to finish. €14
2010 red Côtes du Roussillon Villages (80% old-vine Carignan, 20% Syrah; aged in cask for 8 months plus six in tank) - nice dark 'tar' and liquorice vs crunchy berry, fresh and lively mouth-feel with light grip and a little power too. Attractive style drinking now. €12
2010 Printemps 1900 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (2/3 Grenache & LLadoner Pelut, Syrah & Carignan; 12 months in cask + 6 in tank) - more blackberry/cherry, dark and peppery; chunkier lusher and firmer too, concentrated with attractive tannins; closes up on its promising finish. €16
2009 Printemps '1900' - savoury hints with wild herby/floral character vs dried black fruits, a touch more chocolate oak texture, more powerful; still quite firm and tight with similar concentration. Typical 09 perhaps, less obvious. €16

16 August 2013

Roussillon: Domaine des Soulanes update

Fooled you - IT'S HERE actually...

Some of those Soulanes = south-facing hillside
Taken by Vi Erickson

14 August 2013

Roussillon: Domaine Rousselin update

There's a "virtual and tasty" update on Laurence and Pascal Rousselin's wee estate winery HERE, tucked away in pretty hilltop Lesquerde in deepest Fenouillèdes country...

07 August 2013

Roussillon: Coume del Mas update

Further to the latest blah blah on partner vineyard Mas Christine below (or click there), I've been following Philippe Gard's Coume del Mas estate for a few years now: click on that highlighted link for previous words and lots of wines reviewed on trips to the winery from 2007 to 2010). Wine-growing / making associate and resident Englishman Andy Cook was on hand earlier this year for a pan-European group tasting (yours truly plus winos from Poland, Germany, Denmark, Norway...) of their, at the time, rather closed-up 2011s (this vintage is tighter and more elegant than say 2010 or 2009), and a few older ones too...
Andy talked about what they do in field and cellar as we sampled along, from bottle, barrel and tank. "We sort everything twice here... Picking usually starts in mid August (for whites) and on to mid October." They don't add acidity to the white wines; and the red grapes are "heated after fermentation and macerated to get more tannin - you can only do this with good fruit," he explained. More comments below as related to each wine. By the way, the background image to this blog is the view looking out from the CDM winery in Les Cosprons near Banyuls-sur-mer. And the photo below is of the village, also taken by Vi Erickson.

2011 Coume del Mas Folio white Collioure (Grenache gris, barrel-fermented) - toasty notes vs exotic fruit with floral apricot, concentrated honeysuckle flavours with a 'salty' tang, light oak grain vs rounded and full vs nicely crisp too. Good stuff.
2010 Special Edition white Collioure (14.5% abv) - toasted hazelnut vs floral and apricot/peach aromas/flavours, fairly punchy and rounded with a bitter twist; falls a bit short and flabby after that enticing start.
2011 Coume del Mas Schistes red Collioure (Grenache noir, 14.8% abv) - fermented in stainless steel with five weeks maceration. Aromatic sweet berry with peppery liquorice notes, closes up on the palate, tighter and leaner than I remember although has nice tannins and a bit of bite too. Should be tasting better by now though.
2006 Schistes red - savoury meaty edges vs ripe and peppery, concentrated and still quite tight and firm actually (though the bottle was very cold), perhaps less lush than other vintages although has that classic 2006 balance.
2011 red - a new blend, I think, of Grenache (50), Mourvèdre (30) and "90 to 100 year-old" Carignan ("It's older up the hill, and a little cooler at night.") only bottled a few weeks before I tasted it. Grainy and tight, concentrated for sure with nice ripe vs crunchy profile, a tad firm and solid at that time, not very revealing.
2011 Abysses Collioure (about 50-50 Syrah/Grenache, 14.5% abv) - they made four barrels of this red, new oak. Toasted coconut tones, concentrated and firm with good texture/structure, again tight and austere on the finish; too young at the mo, could be very good.
2011 Banyuls white Vin Doux Naturel (Grenache gris, fortified) - coconut touches layered with floral exotic fruit, toasty notes vs nice sweet apricot vs attractive bite, making it taste drier than its residual sugar would suggest (less than 100 g/l). "Picked about the same time as grapes for the dry whites..."
2011 Galateo Banyuls (macerated and fortified "sur grains" - before pressing - and aged in an LBV style, 120 g/l RS) - lovely fruity wine with black cherry/berry, sweet vs crunchy with attractive tannins and 'cut' vs that lush fruit; lovely.
2011 Coume del Mas Banyuls - delicious rich dark fruit, lovely tannins vs bite and a lighter side vs big and concentrated; hints of oak grain in the background, well-structured with fresh tannins. Yum, nice now but will age well.
2006 Banyuls (oxidative ageing) - lovely savoury and 'tar' aromas, sweet dried fruits with complex nutty backdrop, still has fresh bite of tannin too then savoury vs syrupy finish; looking good. "Might be bottled as a Grand Cru, although the EU is trying to ban this term!"

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

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

05 August 2013

Roussillon: Mas Christine update

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

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

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

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

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

09 July 2013

Roussillon: Domaine Sarda Malet update, Perpignan

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

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

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

04 July 2013

Roussillon: Abbé Rous, Banyuls-sur-mer

Abbé Rous is one incarnation of this well-known co-operative winery based in Banyuls-sur-mer (Cellier des Templiers is another), which they use for a certain wine range sold to independent merchants and restaurants & hotels, rather than say own-labels in the supermarkets etc. I've talked about some of their wines on FMW.com before...

18 May 2013

Roussillon: Mas Delmas, Rivesaltes

Pruning at Mas Delmas - yes, it's cold in the Roussillon in winter!
Pierre-André and Mercedes Delmas' organic vineyards lie on low south-facing slopes of the Corbieres hills, in the Rivesaltes and Salses-le-Chateau area in the northeastern corner of rough-and-ready Roussillon country. This wide-open windswept terrain feels exposed and airy under a vast, bright and 'larger than life' skyline, as you look out to sea to the east and the Pyrenees to the southwest. Mind you, it isn't always dry and sunny here: I see from their blog that their cellar in Rivesaltes was flooded in March after a mega deluge. Hopefully didn't cause any lasting damage or losses. Having lived in the region, I can indeed confirm that, when it rains, it can rain big time. In addition to a few Roussillon red blends and Muscat and Rivesaltes VDN styles, they also make a new 50/50 old-vine Grenache-Syrah called 'Nature' with no added sulphites and a white and rosé.

Marie Delmas Muscat sec 2011 (12.5% abv) - pretty typical easy-going aromatic dry Muscat style, although a touch fuller and rounder than most; went well with a variety of Chinese dishes (spicy stir-fried veg, salt & chilli prawns, sesame coated pork, smoky noodles...).
Marie Delmas Côtes du Roussillion Villages 2010 (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre; 13.5% abv) - rich dark cherry fruit with savoury black olive and wild volatile edges, peppery and dry vs quite soft tannins, nice balance actually of fruit, grip and concentration giving a solid vs drinking well palate profile. Fairly wild/volatile on the nose but has attractive texture, flavour and depth too.
M del Mas 2009 (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Carignan; 14% abv, 50 cl) - rich dried black cherry with smoky savoury meaty edges, concentrated and lush vs lovely dry yet supple tannins, hints of coconut vs nice maturing fruit, powerful yet balanced finish.
Muscat 2005 Vin Doux Naturel (aged in casks for 6+ years) - quirky complex style of Muscat, caramelized marmalade flavours blend with baked Brazil and pecan nuts, tangy long finish layered with lush dried fruits. Dessert alternative on its own or pour some over vanilla ice cream!

Going there:  29 avenue du stade, 66600 Rivesaltes. Phone: +33(0) 468 518 810.

02 May 2013

Roussillon: Domaine Treloar update

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

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

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

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

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

15 April 2013

Roussillon: Jean-Louis Denois, Saint Paul de Fenouillet


There's a lot of talk about "low or no sulphite" wines, and enough examples out there to remind us why most winemakers DON'T go down this more challenging route (sulphur dioxide and related additives are basically used as anti-bacterial agent, anti-oxidant and preservative). Jean-Louis Denois, perhaps better known for his pioneering still, and especially sparkling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines from Limoux (links to other profile on these vineyards and wines) to the north over the 'border' in the Languedoc (as well as experimental plantings of Riesling and Gewurztraminer in the late 90s, deemed 'illegal' at the time by narrow-minded bureaucrats), takes a pretty rational scientific view of this approach while claiming "there's just no alternative." In 2006, he bought a couple of vineyard plots lost between Saint Paul de Fenouillet and Caudiés de Fenouillet, in the upper Agly valley in the far northwestern corner of the Roussillon, which, like all his vineyards, was converted to organics in 2009. But he began to question whether this was enough: "Producing organically is certainly good for the planet, environment, soils and our water; but shouldn't we go further? 'Sulphite free' is also good for our health." Vintage 2012 was the year of the big experiment...
Jean-Louis is convinced, logically enough, that the only way to make good 'stable' wines without adding sulphites is to get "perfect healthy grapes" by controlling yields and sorting them before and after picking; and, naturally, to make sure of "hygienic conditions in the cellar... critical to eliminate the risk of negative bacteria causing off-flavours sometimes observed in natural wines... Only this protocol is able to guarantee stability for this type of wine." He also stresses this is "very different to the idea of letting 'Nature do it alone'." Well, the proof is in the pudding, as that charmingly curious expression goes. And, yes, the wines are good and free from any obvious 'faults' you might possibly find in other 'natural' wines (especially if you're looking for them). They cost about €10-€11 a bottle in France. More info @ www.jldenois.com.

Mes Vignes de Saint Paul 2012 white (Chardonnay) - attractive floral and fresh, juicy and lively nose with nutty yeasty 'straw' like edges; richer honeyed side on the palate vs zingy appley flavours, crisp 'mineral' and dry with light elegant finish; quite long really for 12% alcohol, nice and mouth-watering making it very drinkable yet there's subtle concentration and character too. After a day or two open: does get more appley and nutty / oxidative yet was still juicy and refreshing with appealing sultana notes too.
Mes Vignes de Saint Paul 2012 red (Syrah, Merlot and Grenache) - not showing a lot of rich fruit flavour at first but again it's elegant and balanced (13.5% abv though) with nice textured dry vs silky tannins, subtle ripeness underneath vs enticing savoury edges; very drinkable now actually, you get more black cherry and blueberry fruit as it opens up with peppery, herby and even eucalyptus hints. After a day or two open: gets more savoury and developed (as you'd expect really) with attractive black olive notes too, yet still structured and reasonably fresh.

Some other wines sourced from Caudiès include:
2011 Saint Louis Syrah (9 months in cask, 14% abv) – light spicy coconut tones with rich damson black cherry and cassis, stewed apple and blackberry notes too vs a savoury and earthy wilder side; lush ripe fruit vs firm dry tannins although palate is rounded and smooth too, that spicy coco grain comes back, powerful and structured but balanced. Lingering dark fruit with subtle oak and tannin texture, lots of peppery vs ripe cherry/berry fruit edged with spicy earthy notes then grip and punch. Second day open – more savoury and rustic edged with liquorice flavours, concentrated and still powerful with sweet fruit and lovely dry/rounded tannins. Good stuff, needs a little more time in bottle perhaps although approachable now.
2007 Saint Louis Syrah pays d'Oc (14%) - a bit 'soupy' / volatile / wild edged, but it's lush and concentrated too, thick dry textured vs ripe and silky tannins, turning to black olive and meaty / leather. Big wine vs rounded and quite mature.
2012 Les Oliviers white Sud de France (blend of mostly Chardonnay plus a little Muscat from the Fenouillèdes and some Chenin from Roquetaillade; 11.8%, organic) - nice aromatic nose, floral and grapey vs peach and citrus, dry crisp and elegant palate with attractive simple tasty fruit and zesty 'chalky' finish. €7

More on JLD's Limoux wines etc. HERE.


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