"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

30 May 2005

Monastrell - Mourvèdre - Mataro strikes back!

Or a tasting trip to Jumilla, South Africa and Australia. Monastrell - Mourvèdre - Mataro: the three most common passports this great grape variety travels under. You'll find lots more tastings of M-based wines and info on the mega Bandol page of my other blog (opens in new window as do the following links:) and this Pic St-Loup feature, as well as articles ("Understanding Mourvèdre," originally written for Wine Business Monthly in the US) and news items. Anyway, I've also included wines below where Mourvèdre is blended with other grapes - such as Tempranillo, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz, Cabernet even - or wines made entirely from those varieties, because they were worth mentioning too... Tasted May 2005 at the London wine trade fair.


Finca Omblancas

2003 was the first vintage from this winery-to-watch, and amazingly their Delaín  wine was made from 3 year old vines.
2003 Delaín (Monastrell, 13.5%) - quite smoky and full-bodied, shows nice ripe liquorice and herb flavours leading to fairly structured, firm and powerful palate with good length. 87
2003 Denuño Monastrell - lovely complex 'sweet' berry fruit with liquorice and herb notes; quite concentrated, lush and ripe v meaty framework. 88-90

Bodegas Valle del Carche
2004 Vega Carche Monastrell  - nice ripe fruit with reasonable depth and a touch of tannin in the mouth. 85
2004 Tempranillo - more structured with grippier and fresher palate yet has generous rounded fruit too, tangy v liquorice. 87
2000 Reserva (TempranilloCabernet Sauvignon & Syrah) - shows more upfront oak layered with lovely savoury tobacco v ripe berry fruit, nice depth and style with firm well-textured mouthfeel, power and class. 90-92

Casa de la Ermita
2004 Monastrell (organic) - delicious ripe and savoury fruit, raisins v firm tannins and smoky long finish. 90
2002 Crianza (TempranilloMonastrell & Cabernet Sauvignon) - smoky maturing complex nose, again offers lovely ripeness v structured backdrop with elegant length. 92

Casa Castillo
2004 Vendimia (Monastrell & Tempranillo) - attractive 'modern' juicy fruit style, quite chunky and grippy on the palate showing fair concentration. 87
2001 Las Gravas (MonastrellSyrah Cabernet Sauvignon) - complex, grilled and developed fruit; very firm yet has richness and depth too. 90+

Bodegas Salzillo
2002 Zenizate Crianza (Monastrell) - concentrated with lovely coating of ripe yet savoury fruit and firm, nicely maturing tannins. 89+
2004 rosado (Monastrell) - attractive chunky fruit displaying ripe raspberry and strawberry, weighty finish. 87
2003 Camelot Dulce Monastrell ("Knights of the Round Table...on second thoughts, let's not go to Camelot; it's a silly place..." Guess the movie? Email me and you'll win...my respect) - very rich, oxidised and meaty set against loads of raisin and liquorice fruit, with balancing bite on the long complex finish. 90+
N.B: the Dulce, sweet style is made from very late picked Monastrell grapes fermented to 11%, fortified with spirit to about 15% and aged in old casks. This leaves at least 50 grams/litre of natural sugar.

Bodegas Bleda
2004 Castillo de Jumilla Monastrell rosado  - earthier style than rosé above with very deep colour, nice fruit and a touch of dry grip on the powerful palate.87
2004 Monastrell - ripe pure berry and tobacco fruit, luscious black cherry palate with a bit of tannin adding framework. 87
2000 Reserva (Monastrell & Tempranillo) - mint and cigar notes lead to mature savoury v ripe 'sweet' flavours, tight structure and power v lingering dried black fruits. 90
2002 Divus (Monastrell) - cedar new oak aromas but shows ripe rustic complexity too, very concentrated with good balance of oak, firm tannins and fruit. 92+

Bodegas Viña Elena
2002 Pacheco Crianza (Monastrell) - rich dried fruits on the nose then firm savoury texture, quite powerful and concentrated. 90

Bodegas Agapito Rico
2004 Carchelo (Monastrell) - nice juicy 'modern' style fruit, rich black cherry flavours then firmer finish. 87

Three more Dulce Monastrells:
2003 Nuestra Se
ñora de la Encarnacion - complex oxidised nose with very minty yet savoury nuances, concentrated sweet liquorice fruit with bite of tannins, acidity and alcohol. 89
2003 Alce
ño, Pedro Luis Martínez - amazing blackberry fruit with slight 'rancio' characters, firm tannins yet long fruity finish. 92+
Bodegas Olivares - minty wild herb aromas with black cherry and dark chocolate, super concentration v bite of tannins and alcohol (16%); fab. 95

These 3 wines were all made by Charles Back.
2004 Spice Route Mourvèdre
, Swartland - shows quite a bit of spicy oak but also vibrant berry and herb fruit underneath, good depth on a tight rounded framework. 89
2004 Fairview Mourvèdre (+10% Shiraz) - nice spicy berry fruit leads to a gamier palate, attractive ripe tannins add a touch of grip to the fair depth of fruit. 872004 Charles Back Shiraz-Mourvèdre - lively spicy black fruit nose, liquorice v gamey background flavours, tight and firm yet nicely rounded. 89


Mitchelton, Victoria
2002 Crescent Shiraz-Mourvèdre-Grenache
 - plenty of coconut spiced oak, tight concentrated and firm palate; needs time although perhaps too much oak for the fruit to really develop? 89
2002 Parish Shiraz-Viognier - meatier more savoury fruit, rich and dark with lovely depth, firm and powerful yet elegant length too. 92+
2003 Shiraz - more delicate style with herby berry fruit and creamy wood, firm dry tannins v lingering 'sweetness'. 87

D'Arenberg, McLaren Vale
2002 The 28 Road Mourvèdre - attractively smoky ripe & minty berry fruit, a touch of background oak adds chocolate flavours too; firm and powerful, tightly textured finish. 89+
2003 The Cadenzia Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvèdre (+ Viognier) - more berry-ish and open, liquorice Grenache fruit leads to structured yet perfumed mouthfeel! 87
2003 The Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viognier - delicious aromatic, pure spicy Syrah nose lifted by a touch of background choco oak; nice ripe texture and fruit extract without being too heavy. 89+
2002 The Dead Arm Shiraz - herbal intensity set against very ripe fruit, subtle concentration v textured oak, dry yet ripe finish, big but not too. 90+
2003 The Dead Arm Shiraz - very perfumed blackberry and herb fruit, the oak isn't very integrated at the moment but this has sumptuous depth and tight firm finish. 92+

20 May 2005

Tannat: Madiran v Uruguay

In fact, more than just Madiran v Uruguay: there are also some very good reds from the lesser known Côtes de St-Mont appellation, also in southwest France. All the Uruguayan wines tasted are 100% Tannat (although many do blends as well), whereas the south-western French ranged from 60% upwards. My top three were: 1er Cru Garage Tannat from Familia Deicas, Cuvée Charles de Baatz from Domaine Berthoumieu, and Château Bouscassé/Alain Brumont's Madiran Vieilles Vignes. Read on...
But first, I'll subject you to just a bit of background on the Tannat variety. André Dubosq of les Producteurs Plaimont said they work 2000 hectares (nearly 5000 acres) of Tannat out of 4000 total. DNA testing has shed some light on its origins, and it's certainly one of the oldest varieties in France. They thought the Phoenicians originally brought it, but it seems likely to be related to wild vines of the Pyrenees and was named Tannat in perhaps the 16th or 17th Centuries. It later resisted well to the phylloxera pest and produced good yields so became favoured. At low yields it can make superb quality, and is a more even performer than the Cabernets in the Madiran area. Merlot is a relatively recent introduction for blending. Most of the people and vines in Uruguay "are of European stock," Daniel Pisano jested (for example Basque and Italian), "and Tannat chose us!" His ancestors started with Italian varieties but switched to Tannat, foreseeing a great match with climate and soil. He believes there's about the same surface area of the variety in Uruguay; exact figures weren't then available because of fast-increasing plantings.
As for the different vintages, I didn't find any of the French 2002s recommendable; this was a difficult cooler vintage across the south of France. In contrast, 2002 was described as a very concentrated year in Uruguay, and their 2004s show uniform potential, apart from any over-oaked wines (a consistent criticism I'm afraid). There were no older Tannats from Uruguay in this tasting so I can't comment on ageing ability, although I have tried before one or two lovely mature reds from the leading producers (e.g. Pisano Family). Back in France, obviously 2001 and 1998 were star quality vintages in this region, and we were told 2004 was much more balanced than very hot 2003. Climatically, there are similarities with about the same rainfall (and no irrigation), although Madiran is usually hotter in the summer; in Uruguay it rarely goes over 30 degrees centigrade with even temps of 25-ish into March/April (that's late summer/early autumn remember) yet 12-14 at night.
Daniel Pisano neatly summed up the event (held in May 2005) and their philosophy of international co-operation: "We feel like brothers, even if we're competing for a place in your stomachs!"


2004 Don Prospero Tannat, Pizzorno - nice cherry and raspberry flavours lead to firm yet fruity textured mouthfeel; needs 6-12 months to express itself better, should be good. 85-87
2004 Tannat, Varela Zarranz - unusual meaty v black cherry nose, savoury tangy palate, pretty firm and chunky but has good length and a touch of elegance too. 87
2004 Rio de los Pajaros Tannat, Pisano - strong spicy chocolate oak aromas continue onto the mouth, shows good depth of lively peppery black fruits though, quite concentrated v grippy with rounded texture; pity about the overly toasty finish, would be better if the oak was toned down. 87
2004 Inicio Tannat, Omar Perco - ripe red / blackcurrant notes set the scene for a 'sweet' v savoury palate, solid tannins yet attractive fruit and style. 85-87
2004 Reserva Tannat, Bouza - closed nose, new oak; lots of choco oak on the palate, shame as it shows nice concentration and ripeness, big yet well textured tannins; time will tell whether the oak merges together. 87
2004 1er Cru Garage Tannat, Familia Deicas - also not revealing much on the meaty edged nose, very concentrated and firm with attractive savoury v blackberry fruit; powerful finish needing time to integrate, although the oak is much better handled. 92
2002 Casa Filgueira Tannat Roble, Filgueira - lovely ripe black cherry nose with meat juice undertones, very grippy and extracted, but this has good depth of fruit and rounder sweeter then savoury finish. 90
2002 Solar del Paso Tannat, Vinicola Aurora - maturing colour and aromas with interesting mint, leather and liquorice notes; ripe berry fruit with background vanilla oak, soft with quite light tannins v tangier bite, elegant and straightforward; drink now. 85


2003 Madiran, Maestria - vibrant purple, more 'modern' spicy black cherry fruit, upfront and attractive; darker plum and soy sauce palate, quite firm but has nice fruit, medium body and length. 85
2001 Côtes de St-Mont, Château Sabazan - complex roast meat v black cherry notes with background oak, very solid tannins but shows lovely concentration, might v elegance and long finish. 90
2001 Cuvée Charles de Baatz Madiran, Domaine Berthoumieu - intriguingly sexy nose offering similar savoury black fruits with smoky complexity; very, very firm supported by chunky fruit and a touch of oak, adding attractive texture and fine length. 92-94
2001 Côtes de St-Mont, Le Faite (top site, oldest vines) - nice mix of concentrated fruit - black cherry and liquorice - and a layer of oak; tight structure and bite sweetened by the fruit and oak, well balanced despite the dry tannins and power. 90
2001 Madiran, Château Mascaras (70% Tannat, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cab Sauvignon) - more elegant and restrained style, firm tannins with soft liquorice fruit and long dry finish; definitely a roast duck wine. 89
2000 Madiran Plénitude, Producteurs Plaimont
- maturing rustic notes v lightly stalky v rich black fruits; big structured tannins with appealing textured savoury fruit carrying through onto the finish. 87
1999 Madiran, Château Viella-Village - lightly rustic/sulphide aromas, brooding nose; rigid and concentrated, slightly stalky yet rich mouthful at the same time; probably won't develop much more v that extraction. 87
1998 Madiran Vieilles Vignes, Château Bouscassé (Alain Brumont) - smoky intricate ominous nose; displays delicious balance of maturing fruit, chunky tannins and elegant length, leather and ripe black plums. 93-95
1996 Côtes de St-Mont, Château Sabazan - a tad dusty perhaps, smoky earthy mint & liquorice aromas, 'sweet v savoury' black fruits; mature fruit and dry tannins on the palate, attractive drinking, at its peak. 87
1993 Madiran, Château Crouseilles - old and meaty v liquorice and leather, dry tannins but nice mature 'sweet' fruit too; at its peak, needs food. 89-90

20 April 2005

St. Innocent Anden Chardonnay 'guaranteed' to match asparagus!

I quote from their website: "Try Anden Chardonnay with grilled chicken, the classic lobster, or even foods as flavorful as duck breast. For reasons that I can not explain, the Chardonnays from this site are fantastic with ASPARAGUS. Yes, the bane of wine, it actually brings out the fruit and tastes lovely. If I am wrong, call me up, I'll replace the bottle. Enjoy!" The wine's made from Dijon clone Chardonnay grown in St. Innocent's Anden Vineyard, which overlooks the Willamette Valley from the hills west of Salem, Oregon. More details here. The winery also makes Pinots Noir, Gris and Blanc and sparkling wines.
This whole asparagus and wine thing was brought to my attention by Michael Sherwood of quirky website cum virtual resto Sub Rosa: here you'll find mouth-watering recipe tips and wine suggestions. Also read Mike's article "Oregon Wine Dinner - the Asparagus Challenge" on the Avalon Wine site.

14 March 2005

Faugères Saint-Chinian Coteaux du Languedoc tasting

Notes and ratings on 35 wines selected from the "Meet the winegrowers" tasting held at Mas de Saporta in Montpellier, 14th March 2005. More info on these regions and producers in reports written for UK trade paper Off Licence News (scroll down), including the latest developments in the Languedoc and Roussillon.


2003 La Closeraie, Abbaye Sylva Plana (Grenache Syrah Carignan) - Nice pure spicy Syrah fruit comes through on the nose, blackberry/currant; shows good bite v softness on the finish. 85-87
2003 La Longe de l'Abbé, Abbaye Sylva Plana - Has a tad more weight and extract than la Closeraie, plus a touch of wood adds texture; grip v black fruits, finishing a little bitter perhaps. 85-87
2003 Florentin Abbal, Domaine Valambelle (Syrah Cinsault Mourvèdre) - Floral spice on the nose, soft black fruits in the mouth set against firm grip and mineral bite, again shows elegance on the finish. 87-89
2003 L'Angolet, Domaine Valambelle (Syrah Carignan Mourvèdre) - More perfumed style with dominant Syrah spicy medicine notes, quite concentrated showing elegant grip v nice fruit. 85-87
2003 Les Petites Mains, Domaine de l'Ancienne Mercerie - Attractive 'sweet' herbal fruit, has soft mouthfeel yet firm tannins at the same time. 87-89


2002 Clos de la Simonette, Mas Champart (70% Mourvèdre + Grenache) - Displays pretty good balance of firmness and forward fruit, tight elegant finish too. 87-89
2003 Clos de la Simonette, Mas Champart (vat sample, 70% Mourvèdre + Grenache) - Shows promising classic mix of firm yet rounded tannins and lovely ripe sweet fruit within a chunky framework. 89-91
2002 Causse de Bousquet, Mas Champart (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre Carignan) - Also shows some of the nice concentrated black fruits of the C d'A but this has firmer leaner structure. 85-87
2003 Côte d'Arbo, Mas Champart (Vat sample Syrah Grenache Carignan) - Offers youthful chunky black cherry fruit, not finished or together but shows promise.
2001 Gabrielle de Spinola, Château Coujan (45% Mourvèdre) - Attractive sweet fruit offering black cherry and liquorice, once again nicely textured dry v ripe tannins. 87
2001 Ile de Corail, Château Coujan (100% Mourvèdre) - Slightly baked/oxidised on the nose, rich and rustic tobacco style with meaty character, good concentration with firm yet ripe and round tannins. 89
2000 Grand Vin, Domaine de la Madura - Quite chunky, herbal and spicy with firm still closed palate; more extracted than their cuvée classique, but it works well here showing nice roundness too. 90
2001 Grand Vin, Domaine de la Madura - Chunky like the 2000, this vintage offers more black fruit coating coupled with solid tannins and depth of fruit; closes up on the finish showing promising future. 90-92
2002 Les Grés, Borie La Vitarele (Syrah Mourvèdre) - Thick liquorice fruit set against beefy tannins, needs a bit of time to develop but shows promise. 89
2003 Terres Blanches, Borie La Vitarele (Mostly Grenache) - Ripe plum and liquorice fruit, earthy warm style with a touch of finesse and bite on the finish. 89

Coteaux du Languedoc

Grés de Montpellier
2002 L'Ecrit Vin, Domaine Faurmarie (50% Mourvèdre + Syrah Grenache) - Spicy and grippy offering attractive fruit and firm structure with elegant long finish.89
2003 les Mathilles, Domaine Faurmarie - Nice pure spicy fruit with liquorice and blackberry tones, balanced palate showing softness and grip together. 87-89
2001 Cuvée l'Espérance, Mas Domergue - The nose is a bit 'reductive'/sulphide, but it has nice spicy ripe liquorice palate with good concentration and soft finish.87
2001 Grande Cuvée, Domaine Ellul-Ferrières (Grenache Mourvèdre 14.5%) - Also displays slight sulphide aromas (complexity?) and tangy blackcurrants but has richer blackberry fruit as well, thicker texture than the Romarins with more grip yet rounder palate thanks to hints of vanilla from the oak; the quite high alcohol is well integrated. 87-89
2001 Les Romarins, Domaine Ellul-Ferrières (14.5%) - Touches of maturing game, spice and liquorice alongside tart blackcurrant fruit; ripeness v tangy freshness on the palate, grip v liquorice and chocolate, austere bite too lending length. 87

Pic Saint-Loup
2002 Cuvée Sainte Agnès, Ermitage du Pic St-Loup (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - More concentrated and firm-structured than their regular red, this has nice ripe black cherry fruit and well balanced finish. 87
2003 RoséErmitage du Pic St-Loup (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - Quite rich and serious, a touch volatile and oxidised but it works with this food-friendly rosé. 85

St-Georges d'Orques
2001 La Tour et Carascaude, Château de Fourques (Grenache Syrah) - Herbal blackcurrant fruit also showing a 'sweeter' side, firm yet ripe palate, quite complex and long. 89

1999 Les Marnes Bleues, Domaine Saint Andrieu (70% Mourvèdre) - Meaty maturity set against very firm palate, but there's plenty of ripe fruit and power as well. 88-90
2001 La Séranne, Domaine Saint Andrieu (30-40% Mourvèdre and Carignan) - Quite rustic and soupy, ripe and rich with touches of spicy herbs set against black fruits and liquorice, nice grip to finish. 87-89
2000 L'yeuse noire, Domaine Saint Andrieu (50% Mourvèdre) - aged in barriques: reductive/sulphide complexity on the nose, again very rustic but also very ripe liquorice fruit, soft dry tannins and herby finish. 89

Latest Saint Andrieu here.

Picpoul de Pinet
2003 la Font du Loup, Mas Saint Antoine (Picpoul) - More intense than their 'basic' P de P (this is made from later picked grapes sourced from an older parcel), lovely balance of zingy mineral bite and ripe oily fruit. 90
2003 Château de Pinet - Broader and fatter than their Dom. Peyrolle Picpoul, this is quite rich and smoky in fact but still retaining that essential crisp mineral edge. 85-87
2004 Château de Pinet - Displays spicy celeriac notes, very concentrated fruit v yeast-lees intensity, tight steely finish. 90
2004 Domaine Félines Jourdan - Classic style showing zesty extract and mineral bite on its very dry finish. 87-89

La Clape
2003 Les Chailles, Mas du Soleilla (Grenache Syrah) - Unfortunate name for a wine region! Very ripe - perhaps a little too, to the detriment of some balancing grip - soft black fruits and liquorice, attractive now. 85+

Terres de Sommières
2001 Les Myrthes, Mas Mouriès - Shows quite a bit of coconut and spice oak but has good depth of fruit and texture underneath. 89+

2004 Vin de Pays d'Oc blanc, Mas Mouriès (Grenache Blanc Ugni Blanc Sauvignon Blanc, tank sample) - Nice zesty mineral edges, crisp v concentrated style. 85+
Latest Mouries: follow link in the winery A to Z, right.

2003 Coteaux du Languedoc blanc, Mas Saint Antoine (Grenache Blanc Roussanne) - Nice with salmon. Starts with mineral crispness turning to oily texture, good steely v ripe style. 85-87
2004 Lucian blanc, Vignerons de Saint-Saturnin (Grenache Blanc Bourboulenc Marsanne 13%) - Offers attractive ripe white peach and citrus fruit tempered by floral crisp mineral finish. 85-87

10 March 2005

Violent demonstrations in Montpellier

Violent demonstrations in Montpellier
"Protesters clashed violently with police in Montpellier as up to 8,000 wine growers demonstrated against the latest government measures..." Decanter.com news alert 10/3/2005: click on the title above to go to their webpage. Original tamer story by your faithful correspondent is copied below (well, I was there in the thick of it after all...)

A reported 4500 wine growers from the Languedoc-Roussillon and the southern Rhône turned out yesterday in Montpellier to protest against the latest government measures and show solidarity in the face of escalating economic hardship. The €70 million rescue plan tabled by the Minister of Agriculture Dominique Bussereau has been widely criticised for not going far enough to support struggling French vignerons. Philippe Vergnes, representing the event organisers and president of one of the growers unions in the Aude, called on the government to “pay up so we can get over the worst. This region has given a lot in the past, it’s time to give something back to small producers.” He added: “if we’re guilty of anything, then it’s because there are too many of us. If market forces are to take over, help those get out of the business, if they want to, and those who wish to stay, roll up their sleeves and get out of this mess.”
The supermarket chains were also slammed as “the biggest racket going,” along with the government’s anti-alcohol measures: “This attack on consumption has lead to the worst crisis in history.” Growers present were also demanding the right to publicise the positive aspects of moderate wine consumption. A delegation from the Languedoc-Roussillon is due to meet the Minister of Agriculture on 22nd March. The demonstration started peacefully in Place Peyrou by the Arc de Triomphe, where speeches were held before the march down the hill to the station and back up through La Comédie. However, by the time the throng reached the town hall armed with nothing more than placards (sporting slogans such as “Chirac what a let-down” and “Get to work Bussereau”), firecrackers and a petition, skirmishes broke out apparently provoked by the heavy-handed police presence attempting to disperse the crowd.


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