"Buy my book about the Roussillon on Amazon UK in paperback or eBook or black & white version, and Amazon USA: paperback or eBook or black & white. OR BUY IT DIRECT FROM ME (UK & EU only). Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook. For other countries, tap on the link above the cover photo (below right)." Richard Mark James

30 May 2006

Roussillon: 6th Fenouillèdes wine fair

"Winegrowers in the Fenouillèdes region, draped across a dramatic, elevated valley landscape bridging Corbières and French Catalonia, are talking enthusiastically about their wines and the unforgiving terrain that cradles their vineyards." This wine fair revealed a number of up-and-coming quality estates keen to spread the word. Richard Case of Domaine Pertuisane describes the old vine Grenache here as "unparalleled anywhere in France..." Read on for other names to look out for with my comments and tasting notes.

Click here for further reflection and prosaic scribbling: Finding Fenouillèdes country. Loads more from the area under Roussillon-French Catalonia winery A to Z (right hand column), where you'll find links through to updates and profiles on most of these producers:

Domaine des Soulanes
2004 Bastoul Laffite, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (Grenache) - lifted spicy nose with very light oak, power v elegant fruit, nice dry structure and length. 88-90
2004 Sarrat del Mas Côtes du Roussillon Villages (CdRV)  (Grenache Carignan Syrah) - smokier and richer, again shows that black fruit and pepper combo, weight v finesse and dry v 'sweet' texture; more power and oak than above but it's impressively balanced. 92-94

Château Saint Roch
2004 La Bastide blanc - toasty and creamy with aniseed undertones, fat yet mineral and crisp; good foodie white, may be too toasty for some. 85-87
2003 Kerbuccio CdRV (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - smoky tar and black olive, luscious maturing fruit set against firm powerful backdrop, good stylish length. 90-92

Domaine de l'Edre
2005 CdR blanc - yeasty and fat start leads to fresh mineral poise, crisp and dry v rich mouth-feel. 87-89
2004 Dom de l'Edre CdRV (Syrah Grenache Carignan) - rich vibrant blackberry fruit with chocolate oak texture, firm closed up finish but it reveals more with a little aeration, dense and powerful (14.5%) yet has mineral bite too. Needs time. 87-89

Domaine Barriot - Clos de l'Origine
2004 Vin de Pays rouge (40% Mourvèdre, no sulphur dioxide) - aromatic black olive and cherry notes lead to quite rich concentrated fruit, firm fresh and a little closed up on the finish but that black fruit/olive comes back impressively. 89-91
2004 CdR (Carignan Grenache Syrah) - quite fleshy with a touch of spicy oak, soft and elegant though with fresh length, light tannins and attractive fruit. 89

Domaine Serrelongue
2003 Extrait de Passion (Mourvèdre Grenache) - maturing raisin fruit and wild herbs, the oak's now melted into it better; oily textured tannins, perhaps won't last much longer. 87
2004 Saveur de Vigne CdRV - nice ripe peppery fruit with choco oak backdrop, firm rounded tannins, good weight and style despite slightly too much wood; promising nevertheless. 89
2005 Syrah cask sample - appealing fresh spicy black cherry aromas with cinnamon oak edges, nice pure Syrah peppery 'medicinal' style with firm fresh finish. 90+

Domaine Rivaton
2004 Gribouille Latour de France CdRV - (2nd bottle; the one in the blind tasting was bottled too soon and suffered from reductive taint) nice smoky tar and leather tones, rich and ripe v firm and tight, attractive style. 90
2005 Latour de France CdRV ("probably": cask sample) - smoky leather tinged with black cherries, rustic and lush with solid yet elegant finish. 90

Domaine les Tourdelles
2004 Granit Vin de Pays (Carignan) - lovely ripe liquorice fruit, soft and elegant finishing with a little dry & fresh tannin/acidity. 87
2004 Cuvée Pierre Damien CdRV (Syrah Grenache Carignan) - light cedar background notes, firm mouth-feel yet shows subtle fruit too, closes up a bit but should be good. 87-89

Domaine des Schistes
2003 Les Terrasses CdRV (Carignan Grenache Syrah) - herbal aromas lead to a luscious peppery black fruit palate, solid and powerful with oak undertones; but it's the dark fruit and structured tannins that stay with you. 90
2003 La Coumeille CdRV - tobacco leaf, spice and scented oak underlined with maturing complex notes; firm and commanding, again showing concentrated blackberry, tobacco and olive flavours. Wow. 92-94

Domaine Duran
2004 Dom du Vieux Cépage CdRV (Grenache Carignan Syrah) - appealing cherry fruit intensity v coating of tannins and a touch of wood, bite and grip v power of fruit and alcohol (a bit much at 15%). 87-88
2005 barrel samples - Syrah Grenache: rich fruit v high alcohol and firm tannins, very spicy with fresh bite and more elegance than the 2004. Carignan Grenache: more liquorice and black cherry/olive than the first one, firm and dry with similar freshness and power. Should blend up to a 90+ wine.

Domaine Terre Rousse
2004 CdRV (Grenache Carignan Syrah Mourvèdre) - smoky and intense, a little oxidised but not too much, spicy tobacco and liquorice fruit set against firm fresh finish. 87
2005 CdRV (before going into barrique) - delicious wild herbal black cherry fruit, firm dry structure and power v sexy fruit and length. Does it need oak? 89-91

Domaine de la Balmière
2005 Muscat sec - very lively mineral style with crisp citrus fruit v lightly rounded finish. 87
2005 Côtes du Roussillon (CdR) rosé - floral white peach and redcurrant fruit, attractive dry finish and length. 87
2005 Latour de France CdRV (1/4 each of Grenache Carignan Syrah Mourvèdre) - lovely peppery ripe black fruits and olive, firm dry mouth-feel with generous rounded texture. Promising. 88-90

Domaine de la Pertuisane
2004 Le Nain Violet (Grenache Carignan Syrah) - closed up and difficult to taste as it had just been bottled: firm yet elegant and long with attractive underlying fruit and well handled wood texture. 88-90
2004 La Pertuisane (90% Grenache, Carignan) - similar story to above: pretty oaky at the moment with fleshy underlying fruit, very concentrated and powerful with firm grip and oak coating. However, it is balanced despite all this and 15% alc, thanks to its subtle mineral freshness and that lovely dark fruit. Needs time. 90-92These wines are available in London from Planet of the Grapes on New Oxford Street, priced from £15 to £40.

Mas Karolina
2004 CdRV (Grenache Syrah Carignan)  - smoky and sweet-scented, nice ripe black fruit, concentrated and powerful enough to soak up the oak, dry grip v sweet coating; brawny (15%) but brainy too. 89-90
Maury Vin Doux Naturel (VDN) - luscious black cherry and liquorice, opulent and sweet balanced by lively bite of alcohol and tannins; try with a mature hard cheese such as Gruyere. 90-92

Vignerons de Caramany
2004 CdRV - a bit cardboardy on the nose but this was a vat sample, elegant layered fruit with subtle tannins and fresh bite. 85-87

Domaine Jouret et Fils
2004 Cuvée les 3 Soeurs CdRV - red pepper and spicy black live aromas, 'sweet' v floral; stiff and fresh mouth-feel with interesting wild ripe side. 87

Mas de Lavail
2004 la Désirade CdRV - ripe 'tar' notes lead to an oaky palate, rounded and full; closes up firmly with slight bitterness, again too young to tell. 89+
2004 Tradition CdRV - subtle perfumed fruit showing damsons with light oak, perhaps a little 'burnt' in style yet has good power and black fruit centre. 87-89

Clos de l'Oum
2004 Numéro Uno CdRV - the nose is a bit 'reductive', moving on to a concentrated firm palate set against blackberry/olive fruit; rather closed up and awkward but could develop nicely. 87-89+

Domaine de la Fou
2004 Ricochet CdRV - alluring cassis and black cherry fruit, fine and soft v fresh and firm, stylish length. 87-89
2004 la Clue (Cinsault Grenache) - closed nose to start, cinnamon spice and raisin fruit on the palate, quite big and firm yet nice ripe depth of fruit too. 87

Les Clos Perdus
L'Extreme Vin de table - wild rustic notes surrounded by rich black cherry, attractive mouth-feel with earthy black olive undertones, grippy and powerful with lively core. 87-89

Mas des Frèdes
2004 Grenache Noir, vin de pays Côtes Catalanes - attractive floral cherry and liquorice, elegant fruit v a tad of dry tannin, nice easy drinking style. 85-87

22 April 2006

Bordeaux École du Vin new programme

The Bordeaux Wine School, whose office and tasting rooms are based in the city centre, now offers three levels of intensive courses in English:
Level 1: Learning how to taste and discover Bordeaux wine.
Level 2: The Essence of Bordeaux – Proficiency Course.
Level 3: Legendary Châteaux of Bordeaux: classifications and wines.
Shorter courses have also been added including a two-hour “Introduction to Bordeaux wines” and one-day “Saturday at school” (sounds fun). Between May and October, they're holding wine weekends such as ‘Bordeaux Classics’ and ‘Bordeaux off the Beaten Track.’ Classes are tutored by local wine makers and are supplemented by field visits and tastings at local estates. More info at:

04 April 2006

German wines on the up

Wine exports from Germany increased by 10% in 2005 to a value of €475 million, according to the DWI (German Wine Institute), the highest for 20 years. This figure also includes some wines from other countries re-exported by German shippers. The UK remains their largest market with a 27% share, although down nearly 8% in volume yet slightly up in money terms (meaning less cheap crap sold and at last the Brits are buying better quality German wines), with the USA accounting for 16% and Netherlands 12%...

30 March 2006

Gîtes de France and Languedoc 'Escapades Vigneronnes’

Gîtes de France and Languedoc producers have launched a new wine tourism partnership packaged as ‘Le coffret Escapades Vigneronnes’. A smart boxed kit containing a glossy guide and CD will be sold on-line and in book shops and wine merchants throughout the region for 19€. The guide includes details of each gîte property located on participating wine estates in the Hérault département, as well as information on the area’s vineyards, seasons and tourist attractions. The wine trail stretches from east and north of Montpellier across to St-Chinian, Minervois and Narbonne. The CD offers tips on tasting, grape varieties and winemaking styles. “We wanted to make it educational rather than technical and try not to be too highbrow or trade focused,” Dominique Dupeyroux explained, director of Gîtes de France Hérault. “It’s aimed at different levels of wine enthusiast. We can go further in the next edition, and an English language version is a possibility if we can find a suitable publishing partner.” The guide also gives suggestions with prices for two and three day tailor-made wine and food tours including accommodation and itinerary, which can be booked on-line and offered as a present. More information is available at www.sejour-en-vignoble.fr
March 2006. A version also appeared in Decanter magazine.

27 March 2006

Chimpanzés et bonobos…

Chimpanzés et bonobos…
En France, l'évolution de la société est-elle possible sans violence, sans révolution ? Chez nous des mots ont perdu leur sens : concertation, écoute, négociation, compromis, ouverture, non-violence… D’autres sont menacés : démocratie, modernisation, progrés social…
Pourquoi se mêler de ce débat ? Parce qu’il y a des points communs entre les manifestations étudiantes, syndicales et les manifestations vigneronnes. D’abord leur violence inutile : pourquoi dégrader La Sorbonne quand on est étudiant ?
Pourquoi détruire du vin et des chais quand on est vigneron ?
Ensuite, abrités derrière le paravent de « l’exception française » nous ne voyons pas que le monde avance, mais sans nous !
Dans les forêts équatoriales, les chimpanzés querelleurs et agressifs sont en régression, les bonobos pacifiques et positifs seraient à nouveau en expansion…
Taken from
E-lettre Vitisphere.com 27th March 2006.
My translation:
"Can we change society in France without violence or revolution? Words have lost their meaning round our way: dialogue, listening, negotiation, compromise, opening up, non-violence... Others are under threat: democracy, modernisation, social progress...
Why get involved in this debate? Because the student and union demonstrations have something in common with the winegrowers' demos. First of all their pointless violence: why deface the Sorbonne when you're a student? Why destroy wine and cellars when you're a winegrower? (news piece in French on sabotage at the Val d'Orbieu group.) Secondly, shielded by 'the French Exception', we can't see the world is moving on, but without us!
In the equatorial rainforests, antagonistic and aggressive chimps are on the way out, peaceful and constructive bonobos (couldn't find that in the dictionary but must be a kind of ape!) will soon be on the up..."


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