"Order my book on the Roussillon wine region (colour paperback) DIRECT FROM ME SAVING £4/€4 (UK & EU only), or Kindle eBook on Amazon UK. Available in the USA from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook; or Amazon.com. For other countries, tap here." Richard Mark James
Showing posts with label Tautavel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tautavel. Show all posts

27 November 2023

Roussillon: the north continued.

Overlooking a vineyard, Cases-de-Pène Agly Valley.

Continuing this year's series of tasting and touring articles on the Roussillon, this time we're heading back north to the Agly Valley to supplement a previous piece on the Maury area, as well as one focused on winemakers in central Roussillon (Les Aspres and either side) and one celebrating the region's rosé wines (compared to Languedoc). Meaning there'll be one more report picking favourites from the south (Collioure, Banyuls and neighbouring Côtes du Roussillon and Côtes Catalanes wines).

08 July 2022

Roussillon - the north: 27 reds to knock your socks off (part 1).

This spicy variety of reds features some of my top picks from a Wines of Roussillon tasting in London (in June), and other recommendations from recent wine shopping. These include reds from the 2019, 2020 and 2021 vintages, as well as a few older, more mature and sometimes special bottlings. They were made by different-sized wine producers across the northern Roussillon - Les Pyrénées Orientales is the département name - or 'French Catalonia' as I coined in the subtitle of my book on the region.

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

05 October 2010

Roussillon: Domaine des Soulanes, Tautavel

UPDATED summer 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 April 2007

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

UPDATED 2012 - see below.

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

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

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

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

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

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


'Red is for wine, blood, revolution, colour... Time-warped slices of mystery, history, fantasy, crime, art, cinema and love...' Buy the e-book or paperback novel on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. Click here to view the RED blog!

Send an email


Email *

Message *

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