"Buy my book on the Roussillon wine region (colour paperback or eBook) on Amazon UK HERE or Amazon USA HERE. Or order it direct from me (UK & EU only). Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook. For other countries, tap/click on the link over the cover photo (below right)." Richard Mark James

Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Amiel. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Amiel. Sort by date Show all posts

01 October 2010

Roussillon: Mas Amiel, Maury

Their latest release red (2011 Maury Sec) is featured HERE (World Grenache Competition 2013) by the way...
And a magnum of 1980 "Millennium Cuvée" Maury VDN tasted with fine chocolate HERE (December 2013).

Those famous demijohns, slightly predictable target for a photo, outside at Mas Amiel.
By Vi Erickson
Arguably the most famous name in the Maury area (and suitably celeb prices to match, you might be cheeky enough to add), Mas Amiel has been owned by Bordeaux magnate Olivier Decelle (Chx. Jean Faure St-Emilion, Haut-Maurac Médoc, Bellevue Fronsac, Haut-Ballet Canon-Fronsac) since 1999, who has obviously made substantial resources available to overhaul and replant the vineyards and build a smart new tasting room/shop on-site. Amiel is a vast and beautiful estate spanning across 190 hectares (470 acres) of vines, 155 of them currently in production, in "90 parcels." The latter figure sounds a bit difficult to get your head round (where does one plot start and finish exactly?) but, if you get the chance to be driven around some of the many tracks here, there and everywhere; then you can see what they mean. The terrain varies greatly with slopes undulating in different ways with different exposure (although much of it south-facing), peaks and troughs of altitude and a colourful variety of schist etc. soils, some towards black and some not so black. In 2003, Olivier called in soil specialists Claude and Lydia Bourguignon to analyse vineyard health and if and where there were any deficiencies to rectify. Winemaking and vineyards now come under the watchful eye of Nicolas Raffy, who I tasted the following with in November 2009:

2007 Altaïr white Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache gris, Macabeu, Grenache blanc: all old vines from a mixed plot, 13%) - honeyed milky aromas with slightly exotic and very light coconut spice notes; fat, oily, smoky and nutty mouthfeel vs mineral bite and attractive bitter twist; mature now. €16 85-87
2007 Notre Terre Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan from 10 plots, 14.5%) - dark cherry and liquorice notes underpinned by creamy cassis; a touch of chocolate oak texture vs firm tannins vs very fruity on the palate, finishing with dry bite and appealing weight although not overpowering. €12 87
2006 Carerades Côtes du Roussillon Villages (old-vine Grenache, Syrah, Carignan from 3 plots; the latter two spent 18 months in barriques, 15%) - toasted dark chocolate plus quite strong "rubbery" oak tones; concentrated lush mouthfeel vs oaky texture, a bit too toasty at the moment but it does have very nice depth underneath. Not convinced the right winemaking balance is there, but it might surprise and mellow. €25 87+
2008 Vintage white Maury (Grenache gris: 110g/l residual sugar, 15.5%) - floral honeysuckle aromas, white peach and "hot stone" notes too; juicy tasty palate with fairly tight finish helping the sweetness and alcohol to blend in nicely, promising actually. €15.50 88
2007 Muscat de Rivesaltes - piercing aromatic aromas/flavours but there's something else there too; zesty and zingy vs sweet mouthful, turning oily with attractive bite of alcohol and herby / citrus finish. Rather dear though at €14! 85
2007 Vintage Maury (Grenache from about 20 different parcels, "muté sur grain" leaving c.100g/l RS, 16%) - gorgeous pure blackberry and other wild fruits, turning liquoricey too with tobacco edges; delicious fruit vs solid firm tannins and punchy 16% but it has plenty of depth; appealing sweet vs dark chocolate bite then closes up a bit on the finish. Needs 2 or 3 years just to open up, let alone actually starting to mature... €14.50 89-91
2006 Vintage Charles Dupuy (selected older Grenache + 14 months in barriques, 80g/l RS, 16.5%) - very dark colour and rich toffee & leather nose, turning meaty too vs lush dark lively fruit; a touch of oak on the palate yet it's nicely integrated with those chunky tannins, sweet/savoury profile showing truffle and Black Forest gateau flavours, then dry grip and power. Wow. €32 90-92
L08 Plentitude "Passerillé sur schiste" (dried out Macabeu berries picked at 22° potential, 145 RS & 14.5%) - strange herby spicy mineral nose; moving on to very rich honeyed flavours, explosive sweetness vs fresh cut and bite. Odd but nice. 87+
Cuvée Spéciale Maury 10 Ans d'Age (aged 1 year in demijohns outside + 9 years in large oak tuns, 16%) - brownish/red colour showing toffee and gravy aromas layered with dried fruits and roasted pecan; explosive sweetness tempered by dark roast coffee notes, fig and tobacco too vs attractive bite and coated mouthfeel. Complex and tasty with very long, sweet/savoury finish. €15.50 92+
1980 Millésime Maury (16.5%) - quite brown too but has deeper colour, cocoa and dried liquorice on the nose with intricate cheesy Madeira-like nose; still has chunky tannins and nice oomph vs lush sweet liquorice fruit then meaty spicy undertones; very alive still and very long, tasty maturing finish. Excellent. €45 93-95
1969 Millésime (16%) - lighter colour with more amber/brown hues, similar nose to above but meatier with more of that mature wild cheese Madeira thing going on; much more toffee-ish and cooked liquorice vs grip and punch, then toasted coffee, fig and tobacco. Again still alive, rich and long although the alcohol carries it more than the 80. €70 92-94


Update October 2010 (see above for more info and approx €uro prices where not quoted below) - tasted in situ:
2008 Altaïr white Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache gris, Macabeu, Grenache blanc) - yeasty vs "mineral" edges, juicy peachy fruit too with aniseed on the finish; very subtle barrel-ferment character adds a bit of fatness to the palate vs crisp and dry. 85-87
2009 Le Plaisir rosé (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) - nice summer fruit style with juicy and quite concentrated mouth-feel; red fruits and "oily" texture vs crisp bite, pretty textbook Roussillon rosé although way overpriced at €8. 85
2007 Notre Terre Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) - rich dark cherry, liquorice and chocolate with savoury vs minty edges; meatier palate with nice concentration vs light bitter twist of tannins, tasty now actually. 88
2007 Carerades Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, 15%) - showing a fair amount of coconut and rubber oak vs pretty dense and attractive cherry fruit; that oak's a bit strong at the moment, although the wine still has quite good balance and class despite the high-ish alcohol. Needs a year or two to come together. 89+
2008 Maury blanc (Grenache gris) - enticing mix of juicy, "mineral/stoney" and sweet aromas/flavours; fairly crisp and fresh underneath vs rich white/yellow fruits, a bit closed up but should turn into a very nice pudding or cheese wine. €15+ 87+
2006 Maury Vintage Reserve (Grenache) - seductively rich with savoury edges and light oak texture; again shows good balance of grip, lush black fruits and sugar; quite complex too. €20 87-89
L09 Vintage Privilege (Grenache passerillé = dried on the vine) - very raisin-ed and intense, intriguing and addictive too; pure blackberry and syrup aromas/flavours vs attractive dry tannins vs complex earthy tones. Wow, a one-off. 90+
Prestige Maury 15 Ans d'Age - beautiful "old Tawny" nose with molasses/treacle notes and cooked plums; meaty oxidised profile vs dark chocolate vs bite and cut vs intense "sweet/savoury" finish, roasted coffee and nuts too. €23 92+


April 2007:
2005 Mas Amiel Notre Terre, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre Syrah 14.5%) - odd nose (wood?) moves on to a very nice palate, rich ripe tar and chocolate tones v very firm and fresh; powerful length yet balanced, spicy with layered tannins. €11.20 92
More on that tasting.


November 2007:
1990 Mas Amiel, Maury – toffee plum and coffee notes proceed cooked cherries, mature v solid palate with complex fruit development; nice with foie gras de canard! 92+
More on that event.

Mas Amiel, 66460 Maury. Tel: 04 68 29 01 02, www.masamiel.fr.

08 May 2014

Roussillon: Mas Amiel update

There are already several words about Mas Amiel on this blog (searches for everything) and their wide range of wines, so I won't add too many more... But MA has launched a series of single block reds called 'Terres Rares' including 'Towards the North' tasting-noted below, which, apart from this vineyard's "does what it says on the label" exposure, comes from a two hectare "parcel" called La Devèze. In particular, plots of "old-vine black Grenache and Syrah (about 8% of the latter) on schist soil with sandstone, blueish limestone and clay," apparently. Anyway, what I liked especially about this red is, unlike some of Amiel's other non-Vin Doux Naturel wines (fortified sweet reds) made a little too Bordeaux-y, it isn't smothered in flashy new oak and really lets the pure Grenache fruit and some kind of intense wild French Mediterranean thing shine through.

Vers le Nord Maury sec 2012 (Grenache, Syrah; 14% abv) - delicious ripe yet floral Grenache nose with dark berries, kirsch, liquorice, pepper and almost wild thyme/pine too; lush concentrated and structured with lovely supple vs 'chalky' tannins, powerful and spicy with nice bite; closes up on its youthful fruit finish, needs some time to open up. Quite classy red. Amiel's wines are listed in the UK and Ireland by e.g. The Perfect Cellar, Lea & Sandeman and Bubble Brothers, although none of them sell this one yet as it's new, as I said. €19.50 cellar door.

And these were (re)tasted recently in London as a reminder of how tasty their 'traditional' Maurys are, made in two very different styles (the link at the top takes you to more info about VDN winemaking). Although they do also remind us, along with the "dry" Maury above, that Amiel's wines are expensive; there's no other way of saying it!

Maury Vintage 2008 (Grenache, 16% abv) - smoky tobacco and developing savoury tones vs sweet blackberry and spice, still young vs maturing meaty side, quite elegant actually for a fortified red. £29.99
Maury 15 Ans d'Age (blend of ages averaging at least 15 years, or something like that; Grenache, Macabeu, Carignan, 16% abv) - "red Madeira" style, complex with cooked red fruits and tangy nutty flavours, long and intricate finish; lovely VDN. £49.99

23 December 2015

Grenache reds: Rhône and Roussillon, Rasteau and Amiel

Here's a diverse trio of 'black' Grenache (as the French call the variety) based winter warmers from the southern Rhône Valley and northern Roussillon, which are new releases or vintages from Cave de Rasteau and Mas Amiel (links to some previous words on and recommendations from those two wineries).


Wild boar lurking outside Mas Amiel's shop
Photo by Vi Erickson

2014 Rasteau Tradition (70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre and old-vine Carignan) - Actually quite soft and fruity with wild herb/peppery edges, chunky and rich mouth-feel with light bite to finish; a bit too quaffable for a 14% abv red, so food is advised! Cellar door €8.30. Hercules Wine Warehouse in England used to stock these wines, but there were none on their site when I looked. O'Briens off licences in Ireland.
2011 Rasteau Prestige (50 year-old vines: 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre; part of the wine spent one year in oak, 14.5% abv) - Lush spicy black fruits with liquorice and wild herb/mint hints, big and rounded palate yet quite structured still although drinking well too. Yum, delicious hearty red. Cellar door €10.30. O'Briens.
2009 Mas Amiel Origine (sourced from three schist-y hillside plots: Grenache from a spot called Cabirou planted in 1914, Carignan from La Devèze planted in 1952 and young Syrah from the same vineyard; the latter two varieties were aged 14 months in large tuns, not fined or filtered; 14.5% abv) - Maturing meaty and leather edges layered with liquorice and sweet black cherry/berry, complex earthy wild herb notes as well; lush and full-on with savoury vs dark ripe and spicy fruit, punchy and grippy still yet rounded and maturing, dense and concentrated too with lingering liquorice and light bitter twist on the finish. Serious wine and serious price inevitably: cellar door €26.50, The Perfect Cellar (London) £30.

01 November 2010

France: Roussillon - Banyuls and Maury, "sweet seductive red Roussillon..."

Wine tasting & touring: "Banyuls & Maury, sweet seductive red Roussillon..."
Featuring Mas Amiel, Coume Mas, La Rectorie, Serrelongue, Soulanes, Tour Vieille, Vinci, Coume Majou, Mudigliza...


"My pick of some (25) of these red (and a few white) Vins Doux Naturels or vins mutés, as they're called in French: literally "natural sweet wines" or fortified wines, tasted in early October on a whirlwind tour of leading estates in north and south Roussillon. Plus words on how these delicious Grenache based wines are made and their different styles." Featured wineries: Amiel, Coume Mas, La Rectorie, Serrelongue, Soulanes, Tour Vieille, Vinci, Coume Majou, Mudigliza; and a new-release Maury from Mont Tauch.

Demijohns outside at Mas Amiel, by Vi Erickson

Much as I like Port in its differing forms, what gives Banyuls and Maury (also named after the places they come from) the edge, for my palate at least, is the simple fact that they're a touch less alcoholic: 16%-17% (sometimes a bit more such as La Tour Vieille's sublime "Meditation Wine" reviewed below) as opposed to around 20% for Port. And it's difficult to resist the charm that seductive Grenache somehow brings to these Vins Doux Naturels (VDNs) or vins mutés: "natural sweet wines" or fortified wines. Anyway, as for a few educational words about these sumptuous stonking reds (mostly): I wrote the following paragraph previously in a blurb on La Coume du Roy, who produce pretty much all imaginable styles of Maury from "modern" to extremely old, which attempts to summarise the differences in grape handling, winemaking and maturation.
There are essentially two styles of Maury, on a basic level; in reality, there are almost as many as any producer wishes to make! (Ed: same principle for Banyuls, although clearly a different climate by the sea unlike Maury further north, inland and in a valley). Both use mainly the same variety: "black" Grenache as the French call it; and Macabeu, Grenache blanc and/or Grenache gris for the rarer white. The more (or less depending on the cuvée, release date etc.) oxidised aged one, where (for red) the grapes undergo a 4-5 day maceration on skins (or less even) and short fermentation to obtain some colour and desired sugar level; then are pressed and the juice fortified with spirit (leaving about 100 grams/litre residual sugar on average). The other style is said to date from around the mid 1980s: muté sur grains, meaning the entire must with the crushed berries still macerating in it is fortified, stopping fermentation with around 80-85 g/l RS; followed by 2 to 4 weeks maceration on the skins before pressing (avoiding contact with oxygen), which gives much richer colour and tannins. This type of "modern" Banyuls/Maury is usually bottled relatively soon, depending on the specific (sub)style you want - after a period in vat or filled-up barriques - and sometimes aged a little longer in bottle before release (so, technically similar to Vintage and Late Bottled Vintage Port, or Ruby for lower-priced blends), depending on if and how long in barrel. Whereas, the traditional approach is to mature the wine in large old casks and/or vats, and not usually topped up, or even glass demijohns outside, to promote oxidation; like e.g. Banyuls 'Grand Cru' or Tawny Port styles.

Entrance to Domaine de la Rectorie,  by Vi Erickson 

Pierre Parcé at La Rectorie in Banyuls-sur-mer (above) shed some interesting light on how the Parcé brothers, after taking on the family vineyards in the 1980s, came to influence the launch of those "new-wave" Banyuls VDNs. Paraphrasing his words: firstly, by understanding some of the reasons why the traditional oxidised styles continued to be made and history behind them. Part of the reason was the totally isolated nature of many of the area's vineyards at that time with no access roads. This often dictated having to pick all the grapes in one spot in one go and loading them up in a cart under the hot sun, while everything was picked; as it was just too awkward to go back and forth to the cellar several times to unload. Hence, when the grapes did finally arrive, they weren't exactly in the best health; so the skins were discarded quickly by pressing off the must after a short time fermenting, if at all, and fortifying it as soon as possible. The resultant low-colour wines were then aged for long periods of time, in big old casks that weren't topped up and/or outside in demijohns even to promote oxidative ageing, to compensate for any faults and create complex flavours from the maturation process itself (as long as not left too long...)
The "new thinking" already gathering more momentum in the 80s went along the lines of "what if..." Given that grapes could now be delivered to the cellar as and when you wanted them, coupled with much better equipment and technical winemaking know-how; meaning the skins are in perfect condition and can be fermented with the must, like making a regular red wine, to extract colour and tannins. This must is then "muté sur grains", i.e. the fortifying spirit added onto the fermenting berries before pressing. This has an added advantage, as alcohol actually promotes greater extraction while the must is left to macerate. After pressing, the juice is typically, depending on the desired style, protected from oxygen by transfer into inert tanks before bottling or into barrels that are kept filled to the brim. These wines are thus similar to vintage or late bottled vintage Ports, for example, rather than the long cask-aged, oxidised styles that are closer to Tawnies.
Another simply commercial reason for developing young fruity muté sur grains Banyuls wines, was to be able to sell them much sooner. As the Parcé's were pretty much starting from scratch, they had no old maturing stocks like the big co-ops have always had (and some of their wines are very good, it has to be said); and it obviously takes a lot of time and investment to store VDN wines for as long as it takes before they get really interesting. After starting the ball rolling, and extending the above-mentioned winemaking logic to those old-fashioned Banyuls styles (and, as I said, sometimes just plain too old); what if they made a deliberately oxidised, complex wine using grapes that were in perfect condition to begin with? The result: La Rectorie's extraordinary L'Oublée (see note below)...

WINES

To start, a word about wine "scores." You'll notice a departure from the usual "100-point" system proliferated across the site, as I just got plain bored of the latter narrow, although admittedly widely recognised, way of "assessing" wines. So, I've continued the schoolteacher theme here that I dreamed up a few months ago for a feature on the Ardèche, which uses a simpler scheme with one to three ticks, as below, echoing those already popular "star" ratings you see around. Still best to actually read my notes and comments at the end of the day, if that's not too dull. And, inevitably, I ended up giving some half-marks as well represented by a tick in brackets! These wines were sampled in October 2010 (unless stated otherwise) at the winery or at home.

√ = good √ √ = very good √ √ √ = fabulous

MAURY

Scan down the Roussillon A to Z list for more wines and profiles on these producers including where to buy them. Prices quoted here are cellar door in euros or £ / $ retail in the UK or US.


White
Domaine des Soulanes 2009 Maury (Grenache blanc/gris with 90 grams/litre residual sugar (RS)) - enticing "mineral" vs sweet profile, could be interesting after a bit of time in bottle. √ €9 £11.75
Mas Amiel 2008 Maury (Grenache gris 110g/l RS, 15.5% alc.) - enticing mix of juicy, "mineral/stoney" and sweet aromas/flavours; fairly crisp and fresh underneath vs rich white/yellow fruits, a bit closed up but should turn into a very nice pudding or cheese wine. √ €15+
Domaine Serrelongue 2010 Maury (Grenache gris/Grenache blanc: from cask and not ready yet, obviously!) - lots of aromatic pear fruit, turning rich in the mouth with tasty honey notes vs refreshing acidity and cut; long finish with enticing zesty citrus vs sweetness (about 100g/l residual sugar). Should be good. √

Red
Domaine des Soulanes
2009 Maury (Grenache) - lovely wild-fruit nose with blackberry and liquorice; good balance of sugar, dry tannins and cut of alcohol. √ €11 $24.99 £11.75
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. √ √ $41.99
Mas Amiel
2006 Vintage Reserve Maury (Grenache) - seductively rich with savoury edges and light oak texture; again shows good balance of grip, lush black fruits and sugar; quite complex too. √ €20
L09 Vintage Privilege (Grenache passerillé = dried on the vine) - OK, so it's not technically Maury but... very raisin-ed and intense, intriguing and addictive too; pure blackberry and syrup aromas/flavours vs attractive dry tannins vs complex earthy tones. Wow, a one-off. √ √
Maury Prestige 15 Ans d'Age (Years Old on average) - beautiful "old Tawny" nose with molasses/treacle notes and cooked plums; meaty oxidised profile vs dark chocolate vs bite and cut vs intense "sweet/savoury" finish, roasted coffee and nuts too. √ √ √ €23
Click here for more Mas Amiel reviews and background including their superlative 1990, 1980 and 1969 vintages.
Domaine Serrelongue 2008 Maury (Grenache 80-90 RS) - lots of sweet black fruits underpinned by light wood texture, has nice freshness and tight tannins too making it quite restrained in style. €10 √
Domaine Vinci 2008 Inferno (Grenache 5 RS) - another non-Maury (and not even sweet, although it almost should be) sneaked into this feature, as "you know it makes sense." Very ripe and powerful nose, peppery and Port-y almost; crazy wine, punchy and rich with lots of liquorice and pepper plus a touch of underlying wood grain. Wow: very popular with the Brits, I'm told! A bit OTT on its own but worth a go, has plenty of flavour for sure in a dry Maury way! √ √ About €20 or £25
Cave Mont Tauch 2001 Réserve Maury (Grenache 16%) - treacle toffee liquorice and prune vs quirky "gassy" oxidised maturing nose with Bovril gravy, toasted coffee beans and leather tones; sweet smooth palate with a bit of kick (but not OTT) then more savoury finish with some lingering dry tannins. 2nd tasting (this wine kept quite well for a week, and the last drop was used for a very nice sauce): less "quirky" and "cheesy" with more toffee and raspberry cordial vs savoury/leather edges; smooth and sweet still with that light kick and touch of tannin, nice "sweet/savoury" finish. √ UK: £7.49 37.5cl at Morrison's.
Coume Majou 2008 Jolo Maury (98 y-o Grenache 17% alc.) - lovely dark fruits, damson and blackberry, beginning to turn tobacco-y; attractive bite and solid tannins, not very sweet actually with lively mouth-feel; a bit fiery at the moment but it's a delicious concentrated "vintage" style Maury. Tasted in March 2010. √ √
Mas Mudigliza (tasted summer 2010)
2008 Maury - delicious ripe black cherry fruit with savoury leather edges; tannins softening up nicely although still has good bite vs sweetness (75-80 g/l residual sugar = less than many Maurys), youthful fiery finish vs lovely balance of "sweet/savoury" fruit. √ √
2009 Maury (from tank) - very black cherry and liquorice, more intense and lush with nice peppery touches; tasty sweet vs dry finish, promising.
BANYULS

White
Domaine La Tour Vieille 2008 Banyuls (Grenache blanc & gris) - nutty and honeyed with integrated wood grain tones; attractive fruit and texture vs punchy alcohol, sweet vs "mineral" finish. Promising. √ €10 50cl
Domaine La Rectorie L'Oublée (Grenache gris 16.5%): pressed straightaway, fermented then fortified, 10+ years ageing in large tuns then barriques outside before bottling. Quite brownish/red in colour, very different nose with nutty (walnut/pecan) vs dried raspberry/apricot/sultana profile; nutty tangy vs sweet raisin and sultana flavours, delicious complex and lingering finish. √ √ √

Red
Domaine La Tour Vieille
2006 Banyuls Vendanges (mostly Grenache) - lightly oxidised with meaty edges vs damson and liquorice; plum jam flavours vs savoury and quite mature finish. √ €10 50cl
2006 Banyuls Rimage mise tardive (three and a half years in casks filled up to the top) - spicier with more coconut oak apparent vs rich "sweet/savoury" fruit; grippier more powerful mouth-feel then quite tight on the finish actually, surprising young still and impressive. √ √ €15
Banyuls Reserva (4-5 years ageing) - more caramelised nose with cooked raspberry jam aromas, kind of Madeira/Tawny cross springs to mind; big tannins still vs rich fruit, complex tasty and savoury finish although it's pretty sweet though too. √ √ (√) €13
Cuvée Francis Cantié - roasted coffee beans and strawberry jam on the nose, pretty intense in the mouth with nuttier characters then a bit more of a kick too; but that attractive "sweet/savoury" thing takes over and it's surprisingly subtle in the end. √ √ €15 50cl
Vin de Méditation (Solera-style, 18%) - amazingly intricate "red Madeira" nose, very intense and nutty; sweet raspberry and pecan nut flavours, finishing with very different profile to that initial nose as new aromas/flavours keep rolling across your tongue. Wow. √ √ √ €50 50cl
Coume del Mas
2007 Galateo Banyuls (Grenache, 16% & 100g RS) - lovely black fruits with meaty edges; attractive fruity "winey" flavours and texture, still firm and powerful softened by cherry liqueur notes and sweetness. Available in 6cl or 10cl flasks. √ €15 50cl
2007 Quintessence Banyuls (Grenache, 16.5% & 80g RS) - richer, more complex and a touch oakier with more savoury / oxidised edges; more oomph and extracted lush fruit vs big tannins adding dry bite, closes up on the finish. √ √ (√) €26 50cl
2009 Quintessence Banyuls (Grenache low-yielding 70-80 year-old vines, barrel sample) - deep purple/black colour, still showing a bit of toasty chocolate oak vs very rich "Black Forest Gateau" fruit; solid firm mouth-feel, almost "fresh" despite its sweet finish balanced by grippy tannins. Lovely. √ √
Domaine La Rectorie
2008 Banyuls Rimage "mise précoce" (Grenache 16.5%) - which means early bottling: after fortifying "sur grains," this had a further 2-week maceration on skins then pressed, held in vats briefly then bottled. Delicious dark chocolate and black cherry with violet aromas too; rich and sweet vs firm and spicy, nice lush vs tight and grippy finish. √ €11 50cl
2007 Cuvée Léon Parcé Banyuls (Grenache 16.5%) - initially same winemaking as above but then goes into (full) casks for 18 months. Similar fruit profile but meatier / more savoury; chunkier tannins too somehow although rounder as well, nice sweet vs structured mouth-feel with chocolate undercurrent. √ √

Related features:
St-Bacchus Awards 2009 including a trio of star Banyuls/Maury co-operative wines: "Camille Descossy" Le Dominicain, "Mise Tardive" Cornet & Cie, "Vieille Réserve" Vignerons de Maury.
Other recommended Banyuls and Maury producers on my "Roussillon - French Catalonia" pages: Berta-Maillol, Mas Blanc, Calvet-Thunevin, Fontanel, Mas Lavail, Clos Paulilles, Piétri-Géraud, Pouderoux, La Préceptorie, Saint-Roch, Schistes, Traginer.
A few more sexy red VDN stylists under the Rivesaltes appellation: Caladroy, Casenove, Cazes, Comelade, Hylari, Puig-Parahÿ, Rossignol, Rouaud, Sarda Malet, Valmy, Vaquer.
More generic info @ www.roussillon.wine

All rights © Richard Mark James November 2010

30 November 2009

Mas Amiel - Roussillon

I've posted a new profile on Mas Amiel and 10+ wine reviews (including a sublime, 93-95 point 1980 Maury) here, the first chapter in my Roussillon guides. A little taster: "Arguably the most famous name in the Maury area (and suitably celeb prices to match, you might be cheeky enough to add), Mas Amiel has been owned by Bordeaux magnate Olivier Decelle... since 1999..." Updated October 2010 with even more reviews...

08 February 2010

Mas Amiel

I've posted a new profile on Mas Amiel and 10+ wine reviews (including a sublime, 93-95 point 1980 Maury) here in my Roussillon guides. A little taster: "Arguably the most famous name in the Maury area (and suitably celeb prices to match, you might be cheeky enough to add), Mas Amiel has been owned by Bordeaux magnate Olivier Decelle... since 1999..."

30 April 2007

Languedoc & Roussillon: top reds over €10

Languedoc & Roussillon: top reds over €10

In brief: "Difficult to turn down author Michel Smith's invitation to taste "over 50 of the region's best red wines..." But were all the wines worth the money and deserve their reputation? Michel had already done an "under €10" tasting, where he found plenty of winners... What's particularly noticeable is the amount of favourites falling between €10-€15. Beyond that, we found some great wines but also more vacuous, frankly less enjoyable ones overloaded with flash new oak or heavy winemaking..." My top 15 red winemakers: Rouaud, Ollieux Romanis, Mazelet, Rimbert, Borie Blanche, Amiel, Liquière, Etoile Matin, Balmettes, St-Antonin, Alezon, Grandes Costes, Augustins, Bagatelle, Bizeul.

Difficult to turn down author and journalist Michel Smith's invitation to taste "over 50 of the region's best red wines." Michel writes for numerous wine and food publications and his latest book "Les Grands Crus du Languedoc et du Roussillon" (go to vins-languedoc-roussillon.fr for more info and buy a copy: commission free, honest!) is the culmination of 20 years' travelling around southern France's vineyards.

But were all the wines in the tasting worth the money and deserve their reputation? Michel had already done an 'under €10' tasting, where he found plenty of winners. "Producers here have the right to charge high prices, but there's no point in having ideas above your station," he commented. "Languedoc and Roussillon offer very rewarding and drinkable wines. That's the problem with some of the Bordeaux-owned estates: too much, too Pauillac! They haven't yet understood the region's unique characters...it's one of the most complicated."

What is particularly noticeable from my comments and scores, is the amount of favourites falling between €10-€15. Beyond that, we found some great wines but also more vacuous, frankly less enjoyable ones overloaded with flash new oak or heavy winemaking. So my 'top reds' were, in no particular order: Clavel, Singla, Bizeul, Rouaud, Ollieux Romanis, Mazelet, Rimbert, Borie Blanche, Tour Boisée, Lignon, Amiel, Liquière, Silène, Henry, Etoile Matin, Balmettes, Prés-Lasses, Sylva Plana, St Antonin, Alezon, Grandes Costes, Aussières, Lacroix-Vanel, Augustins and Bagatelle. By the way, a few of these cost less than €10, just to throw the cat among the pigeons. NB: most of the bottles were opened one day or more beforehand.

2005 Domaine Singla Alby, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Grenache Syrah 13.5% organic) - a bit closed on the nose, moves on to nice light tobacco and rich black cherry, attractive pure fruit showing depth, freshness and bite of tannins; good now yet should round out nicely after 6-12 months. €7 88-90
2003 Château de Pennautier, Cabernet Collection Privée - been open a little too long but still has attractive mix of smoky and rich fruit v tarter cassis and firm texture. 87-89

2005 Domaine Rouaud Têt Pourpre, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (organic) - youthful spicy and rich with tobacco, blackberry and black cherry; deliciously drinkable and refreshing v tight firm finish. €10 92-94
2004 Château des Estanilles Tradition, Faugères (14%) - nice maturing fruit offering spicy liquorice and dark chocolate v ripe and rustic tones; quite soft with light grip, drinking well now. €6 87-89

2005 Marie & Frédéric Chauffray La Réserve d'O, Coteaux du Languedoc Terrasses de Larzac (14%) - aromatic peppery and rustic black cherry fruit, quite rich yet floral palate; a tad extracted on the finish but has nice fruit and length. €10 88
2004 Château Ollieux Romanis cuvée Prestige, Corbières (Carignan Grenache Mourvèdre Syrah 14%) - quite wild 'garrigue' notes, earthy and aromatic; attractive concentrated yet soft fruit and tannins, quite elegant and well balanced with lovely textured leather tannins. €10 91-93
2005 Marie & Guy Taboulay Mas du Mazelet, vin de pays d'Oc (Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon Grenache Mourvèdre 13.5% organic) - perfumed earthy Syrah fruit with tarter cassis notes, savoury palate showing ripeness v firmness, light leather and spice; quite big and structured yet has nice rounded fruit. €10 90-92
2004 Château Belles Eaux Ste-Hélène, Coteaux du Languedoc (14.5%) - toasted coco oak with spicy ripe black cherries, nice fruit and elegance, pity about the Bordeaux styled oak. I've previously rated it better. 87-89
2004 Domaine Rimbert Mas au Schiste, Saint-Chinian (Carignan Syrah Grenache 13%) - delicious complex nose, perfumed Syrah fruit v savoury side; elegant spicy ripe fruit v lovely freshness, maturing finish with subtle length. Drinking well now onwards. €10 92-94
2004 Domaine Rimbert, Saint-Chinian Berlou (Carignan Grenache Syrah) - lovely floral spice, elegant ripe v minty fruit; firm and leathery needing to open up a bit, classy structured wine with pure fruit finish, very nice indeed. Worth €5 more than the above (which therefore looks good value). €15 92-94
2003 Domaines Lorgeril Les Hauts de la Borie Blanche, Minervois la Livinière (13.5%) - savoury leather tones with scented wild herbs, quite rich and firm with nice substance and tight length. 89-91
2004 Domaine Borie de Maurel La Féline, Minervois la Livinière (Syrah Grenache 14%) - attractive perfumed Syrah nose with spicy cherry; fairly elegant and maturing fruit with dry bite, a bit short after that promising start and lacks charm in the end. €10 87

2003 Domaine Borie de Maurel Cuvée Maxime, Minervois (100% Mourvèdre 14%) - fairly animal with wild black olive notes, quite rich and powerful; sexy start turning a bit heavy-handed, firm v ripe finish though. €13 87-89

2004 Jean-Louis Poudou Château Tour Boisée, Minervois (14%) - light herbal complexity v richer meatier side, tasty palate v firm tight structure; promising. €11 88-90
2005 Clos des Fées les Sorcières, Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache Carignan Syrah 14%) - touch of sulphide on the nose? Much nicer palate with juicy black cherry and firm fresh bite, lively v restrained fruit. €11 87-89

2004 Clos des Fées vieilles vignes, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan) - a bit closed on the nose, moving on to a leathery palate with rich blackberry fruit, concentrated and firm, tobacco v lush fruit. €25 90+
2004 Clos des Fées de Hervé Bizeul, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre  Carignan 15%) - this bottle had been open for a week: showing lovely rich liquorice spice and leather Grenache fruit, ripe and extracted with quite a lot of new oak; nevertheless, it has delicious depth of complex fruit underneath, firm fresh and long; balanced despite high alcohol, stylish despite the power and extraction. Difficult to score this in context of its cult price! €50 92-94
2002 Domaine Lignon Les Vignes d'Antan, Minervois (13.5%) - rustic old style but attractively rich and ripe, weighty and quite firm; nice drinkable finish, really quite good for the difficult 02 vintage (wet). 88-90
2005 Mas Amiel Notre Terre, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre Syrah 14.5%) - odd nose (wood?) moves on to a very nice palate, rich ripe tar and chocolate tones v very firm and fresh; powerful length yet balanced, spicy with layered tannins. €11.20 92-94
2005 Château La Liquière Nos Racines, Faugères (Carignan Grenache 14%) - black cherry and wild herbs, a tad animal too; smoky and rich with sexy drinkable quality, power and grip v seductive rounded fruit. €11.40 89-91

2004 Château La Liquière Cistus, Faugères (70% Syrah + Grenache Mourvèdre Carignan 14%) - spicy and floral v meatier depth, quite big Syrah styled fruit with rather firm grip v lingering ripeness too. €14.30 88
2003 Robert Skalli Domaine du Silène des Peyrals, Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah Grenache 13.5%) - oaky very ripe nose, better palate with quite rich 'tar' fruit v choco oak bite, quite tight and fresh actually (for a 2003); touch of oak on the finish but nice balance and style, modern v traditional. €12 90
2004 Domaine Henry St-Georges d'Orques, Coteaux du Languedoc (Grenache Mourvèdre Syrah Carignan 14%) - light red pepper, spicy liquorice and farmyard undertones, complex pungency; quite rich and funky v freshness and grip, needs time to open up; interesting, technically faulty perhaps but attractive. €12 90
2003 Domaine de Haut Gléon, vin de pays de la Vallée du Paradis (13%) - mature smoky rustic leather characters, rather dry finish lacking depth; nice enough but overpriced. €12 85
2004 L'Ostal Cazes Estibals, Minervois (Syrah Grenache Carignan 14.5%) - touch of wood with simple juicy fruit, dry and straightforward finish. €12! 80
2004 L'Ostal Cazes, Minervois la Livinière - rather Bordeaux in style, attractive elegant wild fruits v new wood, well balanced and quite concentrated; lacks real depth and class at €20, although much better than the above. 88
2005 Clos des Nines L'Orée, Coteaux du Languedoc (Grenache Syrah Cinsault 13.5%) - a bit reduced/sulphide? Aromatic black fruits and liquorice in the mouth, appealing spice and elegant depth, well balanced. Perhaps lacks complexity at this level, fine at half the price. €12 87

2004 L'Etoile du Matin, Corbières (Syrah Grenache Carignan 13.5% organic) - aromatic spicy and meaty, quite concentrated and firm v attractive liquorice and pepper fruit; tightly structured and long with freshness and lovely 'garrigue' notes. We'll be hearing more about Geoffroy Marchand I think. €12 92-94
2004 Domaine de la Prose Embruns, St-Georges d'Orques (13%) - quite simple and rustic start rolls on to lively pure fruit, nice coating of tannins and length; needs a bit of time to open up. €12 89


2004 Domaine des Balmettes Les Figuiers, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (100% Syrah 14%) - touch of sulphide but it goes leaving nice meaty nose with sexy dark fruit, lively fresh fruit and tannins, tasty and lush v firm and extracted; powerful long delicious finish, not so Syrah in character. €12 94-96
2005 Domaine des Balmettes Les Amandiers, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (100% Grenache 14%) - very ripe with lots of liquorice and leather, rather volatile towards almost acetic; strange 'natural' style nevertheless, rich and powerful, bit of a one-off. 89+?
2005 Domaine des Balmettes Les Oliviers, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (100% old vine Grenache 14%) - lovely ripe liquorice and leather, dense and smoky on a very firm structure; less volatile than above, very long and complex, those tannins bring freshness and balance; delicious although it needs a few years to calm down! €16 94 2003 Domaine des Prés-Lasses Les Tabernolles, Coteaux du Languedoc (Grenache Syrah Cinsault 13.5%) - ripe and smoky, nice juicy v meaty mouth-feel, rich and very firm yet balanced, powerful cooked fruit finish. €12 88-90

2003 Domaine des Prés-Lasses Le Castel Viel, Faugères (Carignan Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre 13.5%) - pure peppery v rustic aromas, lush and extracted with a touch of wood; nice bite v richness although very dry tannins. €16 88
2005 Sylva Plana Le Longe de l'Abbé, Faugères (Syrah Carignan Grenache Mourvèdre 13.5%) - violet and cassis aromas in a northern Rhone way, vibrant perfumed fruit v firm structure, quite elegant with chocolate undertones. €12.50 90
2003 Château Moulin de Ciffre Eole, Faugères (14%) - hints of oak on the nose, extracted cherry and tobacco palate, chunky and spicy; that wood does melt in on the finish, a bit overdone but still good. €13 87-89
2004 Domaine St-Antonin Magnoux, Faugères (50% Syrah 14%) - funny nose, burnt chocolate and matches with floral perfumed cherry notes; however, the palate offers nice raspberry fruit, soft and fresh with light grip; long and stylish finish with freshness and floral fruit. €13 89-91
2005 Mas d'Alezon Montfalette, Faugères (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre 12.5%) - ripe floral berry and cassis fruit with subtle chocolate texture, nice light touch v depth and purity of fruit; juicy yet firm with elegant length. Grown at altitude. €13 92-94

2004 L'Ancienne Mercerie Cuvée Couture, Faugères (14.5%) - a little burnt and rustic, powerful and rich mouth-feel, quite firm v smoky; impressive start but lacks a bit of class in the end. €13.50 89
2004 Domaine les Grandes Costes Les Grandes Costes, Coteaux du Languedoc (13.5%) - complex floral red pepper notes, pure fruit palate with lovely drinkability, elegant and soft v rich and impressive; nice length with wild floral fruit, chocolate oak and freshness. €13.50 92-94
2004 Château d'Aussières (Rothschild), Corbières (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre Carignan 13%) - seductive 'sweet' floral Syrah fruit enriched with meaty complexity, ripe yet firm mouth-feel, quite elegant with lightly rustic tones; very nice style although a bit dear at €14 (that's bankers/top Bordeaux chateaux owners for you). 88-90

2004 Domaine Clavel Copa Santa, Coteaux du Languedoc 'Terroir de la Méjanelle' (14%) - a touch of disjointed wood leads on to attractive liquorice and black olive fruit, very firm v black cherry richness; slightly oak dominated at the moment? Not very revealing, although does show potential class. €14.50 89-91
2001 Enclos de la Croix, vin de pays d'Oc - rustic v herbaceous nose moves on to nice maturing lush fruit, the tannins are a bit hard though. 87-89
2004 Domaine Lacroix-Vanel Mélanie, Coteaux du Languedoc (70% Syrah + Grenache Mourvèdre 14%) - quite Syrah dominated in style, floral v odd rustic edges; better palate, rich and solid, a bit soupy but it closes up on its firm finish. €15 89+?
2004 Domaine Lacroix-Vanel Ma Mon troppó, Coteaux du Languedoc (90% Mourvèdre + Grenache Syrah 14%) - the nose is a bit closed and reduced; black olive fruit with liquorice and leather overtones, lush then firm and tight yet has vibrant wild herbal fruit; needs time, could be very good. €16 90+?
2004 Clos des Augustins Sourire d'Odile, Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah Grenache 13%) - violets chocolate and black cherry, nice fruit purity and firm coat of tannins, balanced and fresh too; good but €15... 89+

2003 Clos des Augustins L'Ainé, Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St-Loup (mostly Syrah 12.5%) - more choc and spice with attractive meaty character, rich fruit and underlying purity; nice depth and character despite the oak. €25 90-92
2004 Clos Bagatelle La Gloire de Mon Père, Saint-Chinian (13%) - very rich tar v floral Syrah? notes, chunky and lush v firm tannins; coffee and liquorice flavours linger on an earthy v 'sweet' finish, long and full. €20 92-94
2004 La Boda d'Aupilhac, Coteaux du Languedoc Montpeyroux (Mourvèdre Syrah Grenache Cinsault 13.5%) - smoky and spicy, nice nose and start to the palate with lush and peppery fruit, but finishes rather extracted and dry. €22 87-89

2004 Château St-Roch Kerbuccio, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre 14.5%) - closed nose leads to liquorice and black olive fruit in the mouth, extracted and firm; rather oaky at the moment, not sure. €23 88-90.

Updates, profiles and latest vintages from many of these wineries can be found via the links in the Winery A to Z on the right.

Apparently 'top' cuvées (from €15 to €40) from these estates were disappointingly over-oaked and/or heavily handled/extracted: St-Jean Noviciat, Auzières, Lastours, Estanilles, Nines, Vernède, Caladroy and Massamier Mignarde.

RMJames April 2007

01 August 2007

Roussillon Dessert Trophy 2007

This year's sweet-toothed event starts in August, run by the Wines of Roussillon generic body (CIVR) in association with the Academy of Food & Wine. It's a restaurant competition looking for "the most talented pastry chef/sommelier team in Britain," by inviting them to submit a winning combination of a Roussillon Vin Doux Naturel (VDN) sweet wine (white, 'amber' or red) with their dessert fantasy. Eric Aracil, CIVR Export Manager, commented: “The CIVR is proud to support an initiative which recognises excellence in the UK on-trade. The 2007 Roussillon Dessert Trophy puts the limelight on pastry chefs and sommeliers and encourages them to go further in developing their knowledge and expressing their creativity."
Those entering are asked to choose dessert wines off their list from these VDN appellations: Banyuls, Banyuls Grand Cru, Maury, Muscat de Rivesaltes and Rivesaltes. The Roussillon region, or French Catalonia, produces most of France’s VDN wines (see "more wine words" for several articles).
How to enter the Roussillon Dessert Trophy 2007: forms are available from Sophie Brown at the Academy of Food & Wine on 0208 661 4646 or info@acfws.org. Deadline Friday 31st August. If you don't already list Roussillon dessert wines, samples are available from Georgie Hope or Natalie Jeune at Focus PR on 020 7432 9432 or civr-focuspr@focuspr.co.uk.
The final: the trophy will be presented at the Arts Club, Dover Street, London on 1st October 2007. The prizes: the winning chef gets a 4-day course with world champion pastry chef, Olivier Bajard, at the École Internationale de Patîsserie in Perpignan; the winning sommelier spends four days on a guided tour of top Roussillon wine producers. Jury members include Nigel Sutcliffe, restaurant consultant and former director of the Fat Duck, Sarah Jane Evans MW, writer and broadcaster, and Sara Jayne Stanes, chief executive of Academy of Culinary Arts.
Last year’s winning team was sommelier Anke Carmen Hartmann and chef Rebecca Kinsella from Chewton Glen, who paired poached black plums and anise chiboust (what?) mille-feuille with Domaine du Mas Blanc's Banyuls Rimage 2003. Carmen Hartmann enthused: “We enjoyed the challenge of combining flavours with textures and found that, for outstanding results, the dessert needed to be created after the wine was chosen rather than the other way round.”

Update 20/09/07: Dessert Trophy finalists announced
And they are (drum roll...):
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, London
Chocolate Gianduja parfait with roasted pear and pecan, Banyuls syrup with pear and cardamom foam.
Wine: 1996 Banyuls Grand Cru, Cuvée André Magnères, Domaine Vial Magnères.
Chef: Hideko Kawa, sommelier: Naoko Tomita.
Hotel du Vin, Winchester
Dark chocolate mille-feuille, poached cherries, coffee tuiles.
Wine: 2005 Banyuls Quintessence, La Coume del Mas.
Sous chef: Adam Fargin, chef sommelier: Yohann Jousselin.
Roussillon Restaurant, London (I should hope so too!)
Honey mousse with glazed dates, pear rösti and Chinese lemon sorbet.
Wine: 1988 Rivesaltes ambré, Domaine Piquemal.
Pastry chef: Heinrich Greve, chef sommelier: Roberto Della Pietra.
Galvin at Windows, Hilton Park Lane, London
Palet d’or of chocolate with spiced ice cream, spiced crunch tuile, roast fig in Mas Amiel 15 YO and fig purée.
Wine: Maury Prestige 15 Year Old, Mas Amiel.
Pastry chef: Peter Bras, sommelier: Charles Segond.
Call back in October to find out which of these yum-inducing creations is the winner... 

Update 7/10/07: Dramatic drum roll... it's the first one i.e. chocolate Gianduja (what?) parfait with Domaine Vial Magnères' 96 Banyuls Grand Cru, by Hideko Kawa and Naoko Tomita chez Gordon Ramsay.

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!

01 November 2007

1907 Revolt 2007 Roussillon

From Jean Clavel's
1907 Winegrowers' Revolt
The Roussillon 100 years on!

"An evening event orchestrated by Roussillon Wines and the Mayor of Saint-Estève November 2007... informative and commemorative, as we shouldn't forget that people died in that tragic historic year..." Plus: my pick of a tasting of award-winning wines selected for the annual Saint-Bacchus competition 1997-2007...

Eyebrow-raising title perhaps: this evening event was orchestrated by Roussillon Wines and the Mayor of Saint-Estève, the host, in November 2007. It was both informative and commemorative, as we shouldn't forget that people died in that tragic historic year. To find out more, read the feature I wrote for Decanter magazine (page down to "100 Years of Protest"), which summarises what happened and discusses its lingering relevance today. They screened a fascinating film about the 1907 crisis called 'Vendanges Amères' (bitter harvest) followed by commentary from a panel of specialists on the subject: Jean-Louis Roure, Jean Sagnes, Pierre Dauga, Thérèse Tarrieux and Jean Clavel (actually he couldn't make it but was a great source for my article). Afterwards we were treated to a tasting of award-winning wines selected for the annual Saint-Bacchus competition from 1997-2007; enhanced by delicious tit-bits created by leading caterer Christian Segui and other locally starred chefs (called Les Toques Blanches du Roussillon). Here are my notes and comments on a few of these wines, some of them now quite rare I'd imagine. I focused on reds and sweet Vins Doux Naturels (listed separately, youngest to oldest); not sure why they decided to put ten year-old rosés out for tasting...

2005 Domaine Fontanel 'Prieuré', Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel – quite oaky and wood spicy yet it shows intense fruit too, closes up a bit with a structured finish v supple tannins. A little youthful and unrevealing at the moment. 87-89
2002 Cave Abbé Rous? 'Cyrcée', Collioure – sweet herbs tinged with liquorice and leather, very ripe and floral even with a rich coating, maturing yet still chunky. 90-92
2001 Coume del Mas 'Schistes', Collioure – oily tarry maturing fruit; I think it's a bit corked as it's rather stripped and bitter on the finish? Having tried recent vintages of this great wine, difficult to believe it's knackered especially 2001, a superb year in general in the region.
2000 Domaine Piquemal 'cuvée Justin Piquemal', Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes – smoky and spicy with rich tar and meaty edges, concentrated v maturing finish. 90-92
1999 Domaine Gardiès, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel – quite dense and structured v maturing savoury fruit, fresh tannins still keeping it very alive. Yum. 92-94
1999 Château Aymerich 'Général Joseph Aymerich', Côtes du Roussillon Villages – perfumed red pepper with spicy cherry and pepper tones, elegant and long again showing some freshness. 92-94
1998 Domaine Mounié, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel – liquorice leather and garrigue notes, resiny fruit v still firm tannins although not hard. 88
1996 Terrassous (Cave de Terrats) 'Les Pierres Plates', Côtes du Roussillon – interesting mature 'sweet & savoury' fruit with a vanilla oak coating, attractive and elegant. 87
1996 Domaine Cazes 'Credo', Vin de Pays d'Oc (Cabernet sauvignon Merlot) - herbal v meaty tones, complex 'sweet & savoury' characters on the palate, mature and intriguing. 89

Vins Doux Naturels

1999 Domaine Rossignol, Rivesaltes ambré – walnut and orange aromas, lively palate although the alcohol's still a bit strong and obvious, quite complex nevertheless. 87+
1996 Domaine Pouderoux, Maury – lovely liquorice and tar with leather tones, lush v lively palate showing intricate 'sweet & savoury' fruit; fantastic with strawberries dipped in melted chocolate sauce! 93-95
1994 Cave Abbé Rous? 'Christian Reynal', Banyuls Grand Cru – stimulating although a bit too old style for me, nevertheless it's quite complex with nutty length; Tawny-like in fact. 87-89
1990 Mas Amiel, Maury – toffee plum and coffee notes proceed cooked cherries, mature v solid palate with complex fruit development; nice with foie gras de canard! 92-94
1982 Arnaud de Villeneuve (Caves de Rivesaltes/Salses) 'Hors d'Age', Rivesaltes ambré – perfumed v lush offering plenty of dried apricot, intense fruit v mature and mellow, delicious finish. 94
1976 Domaine Cazes 'cuvée Aimé Cazes', Rivesaltes ambré – extraordinary length and complex rich fruit, can't believe it's over 30 years old; lingering tangy roasted pecan nut finish. Difficult to give it a silly score – 95 I guess.

Find profiles and more wines reviewed from many of these wineries by following the red links in the Roussillon A to Z, on the right (down a bit).

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