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06 July 2006

Languedoc: Château de Sérame, Corbières/Minervois

Château de Sérame

"...Delving deeper into the Corbières, this huge region has been witnessing an impressive transformation with several very serious investors on the scene. Château de Sérame is an extensive property straddling both Corbières and Minervois, who went into partnership with Bordeaux magnate Dourthe four years ago. With 120 hectares in production and 10 being replanted every year, “our aim is benchmark wines” commented winemaker Vincent Bernard..." Read the rest of this article for more info (scroll down to OLN 2006).

Tasted July 2006:
2003 Minervois (Syrah Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre) - warm blackberry and liquorice fruit with light toasty oak, slightly 'reductive' tang and complexity; nice soft-ish texture v depth of fruit, weight (13.5%) and chocolate coating; quite big yet the fruit wins the day. 87-89
2004 Minervois (Syrah Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre) - touch more vanilla but also lively floral spice notes; attractive juicy v fresh and tight mouthfeel, enough black cherry fruit to absorb the choco oak; more elegant and perfumed than the 2003. 89+
2004 Corbières (variation of same grapes) - tighter more blackcurranty fruit, again very light oak and reductive notes; nice concentration v firm tannins, elegant and long; needs a little time to express itself. 87-89
2003 L’Icone Corbières - powerful barrel-fermented, limited series red: pretty rich, spicy and toasty nose leads to very concentrated choco palate, sweet fruit v solid rounded mouthfeel, actually 15% but not so obvious. Quite wow Parker-esque style (sorry Robert for that sweeping comment), not sure I'd want to drink more than a glass. 90 (purely as a 'show' wine)

Domaine de Sérame
2005 Merlot Réserve, Vin de pays d'Oc - appealing plum and cherry aromas with very background oak, good varietal character; aromatic v chunky, attractive style. 87-89
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Réserve, Vin de pays d'Oc - quite tangy and tight, perhaps bottle-shocked needing a few months; it does say Cab with less charm than the Merlot, maybe an awkward adolescence...
2005 Viognier Réserve, Vin de pays d'Oc - delicious floral apricot notes, gummy and fresh v fatter 'sweet' fruit, clean long finish. 87-89
2005 Muscat sec Réserve, Vin de pays d'Oc - sexy pure piercing orange peel and grape aromas build to a very zesty palate, 13.5% adds weight yet it's long and fine. 90

Latest vintages tasted here (Corbières report May 2011).

North of Lézignanwww.chateaudeserame.com

30 June 2006

Signature Bio organic wine competition

Signature Bio organic wine competition June 2006

I was Judge Dredd at this organic wine competition held in rather-hot-June at the AIVBLR's HQ (Languedoc-Roussillon organic growers' association, with the very French 'interprofession' word in it), who also organise Millésime Bio trade show where the medal winners are officially honoured. Apart from my pick of the ones I tasted - blind of course, their identity was revealed afterwards - I've also included notes and scores for all the gold-decorated wines. The competition covers the whole of Mediterranean France, so organic growers from Provence and southern Rhône as well as Languedoc-Roussillon. Two things stand out in particular: many of them are under €10 and are vins de pays, which certain people strangely regard as inferior to appellation wines! As for the judging process and results, I think it's worth adding a few candid comments.

The wines were marked out of twenty - 12 to 13 for a Bronze medal (equivalent to 80-84 on the 100 point scale), 14 to 15 for Silver (85-89) and 16 to 20 for Gold (90-100). This seems a little generous to me, and why such a wide band for gold medal? Compare this to the International Wine Challenge, for example: Gold 95-100, Silver 90-94, Bronze 85-89 and Seal of Approval 80-84 (whatever that means). Each wine category was divided into tasting flights by style and vintage (certain judges weren't comfortable with this, as the appellation wines and vins de pays were mixed together; who cares, I say) with a 'possible number of medals' depending on how many wines in each flight, coming to max 29% of 197 samples in total. Is it a good idea to suggest up-front how many medals could/should be awarded? Surely best to let the juries decide which wines are worth what...

In the end, 23% of the wines were given medals including nearly 7% gold (11 plus 2 'highly rated') and more silvers than bronzes. The IWC "rewarded 64% of entries" including the more modest Seal of Approval but only 3% gold medals. I should also add I was frustrated by some of the judges' inability to spot faults. For example, I tasted the gold medal winning Marselan from Dom. de l'Attilon (see below) three times, blind and uncovered, and found excessive reductive/sulphide notes. Admittedly it was a youthful red perhaps only just bottled; this does happen and the off-smells can disappear, but the level here went beyond potential aromatic complexity! Anyway, enough of the maths and chemistry, let's move on to the wines. The panel I was on tasted Provence, southern Rhône and Côte d'Azur reds by the way.


Highly rated: 2001 Cuvée des Cadettes Château la Nerthe, Châteauneuf-du-Pape - ripe smoky and oaky on the nose, rich extracted and concentrated with nice dark fruit and rounded tannins; powerful finish but still too much vanilla oak, which by my reckoning leaves it just short of gold. By far the most expensive wine in the show at €56.50. 15 / 87-89
More La Nerthe here.

Highly rated: 2005 Le Sol Blanc Château Veredus, vin de pays (VDP) d'Oc - peachy fruit v good mineral intensity, crisp long finish. Very attractive but not really competition winning wine, although good value at €4. 14.5 / 87
2005 Cuvée Inès Château la Rèze, Minervois - lively citrus fruit edged with intricate yeast-lees notes, very light toast and fatness v crisp length. €6.80 15.5 / 88-90
2005 Cuvée Tradition rosé Domaine des Aspras, Côtes de Provence - classic delicate style, tight zesty and long. €6.50 15 / 87-89
2005 Merlot Domaine des Soulié, VDP des Monts de la Grage - cherry fruit aromas with meaty notes, a bit oxidised; spicy dark fruit palate, quite inky with menthol undertones. €5.50 14.5 / 87
2005 Côtes du Rhône Château les Quatre Filles - rustic spicy nose leads to tight cherry-fruited palate, firm tannins and good length. €5.20 15 / 87-89

2002 Prestige Château Bousquette, Saint Chinian - smoky black fruit notes edged with nice minty spicy chocolate, quite rich mouth-feel with tight firm finish. €8.95 16 / 89-91
2003 La Lignée Julien Mas de Janiny, Coteaux du Languedoc - leather and pepper tones set the scene for ripe liquorice fruit v solid tannins and impressive finish. €11.50 17 / 90-92
2004 Alix Château Pech-Latt, Corbières - the bottle I tasted was faulty, a bit oxidised and dusty? At
Millésime Bio back in January I said this about it: ripe and silky liquorice and herb flavours build to dry grip and elegant length. €18.30 16 / 89-91
2004 Grenache de l'Etoile Domaine de Clairac, VDP de l'Hérault - smoky toasty aromas with very intense cassis fruit, shows good length and balance. €8.50 16 / 89-91
2004 Pioch de l'Oule Domaine Costeplane, VDP d'Oc - quite jammy with oaky background, nice enough but fairly simple. €7.40 14 / 85-87
2005 Marselan Domaine de l'Attilon, VDP des Bouches du Rhône - 1. a bit reductive, spicy cherry fruit but rather over-extracted tannins. 2. similar nose and palate, the fruit's coming through better this time. 3. Sulphide notes still dominate, crisp cassis and cherry fruit, still rather firm yet elegant. €4 13 / 85
2004 Confidentiel Domaine Montirius, Gigondas - blackcurrant & blueberry fruit with savoury backdrop, tight firm palate but elegant too v power. €29 15 / 87-89


2004 VDP de Vaucluse Château la Canorgue - shades of meaty complexity, lovely peppery fruit on the palate supported by subtle oak, rich concentrated and powerful. €12 15-16 / 88-90
2003 La Chapelle de Romanin Château Romanin, les Baux-de-Provence - attractive rustic wild herb aromas layered with liquorice, good depth of fruit and balance, ripe v firm; stylish. €9.40 15-16 / 88-90
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Domaine des Beynes, VDP Bouches du Rhône - ripe and smoky with spicy savoury undertones, quite extracted rustic fruit and firm tannins with background oak, muscular finish. €4 13 / 85
2005 VDP Bouches du Rhône Mas du Petit Azégat - herbal slightly reduced yet interesting nose, spicy wild cassis fruit, elegant and unusual although lacks a bit of ripeness. Still, it only costs €2.50. 13.5 / 85

Other SILVER MEDALS I didn't taste:

Domaine du Jas d’Esclans Côtes de Provence Cru Classé Cuvée du Loup Rosé 2005
Château La Nerthe
Clos de Beauvenir 2003
VDP du Gard Domaine de Tavernel 2005
Domaine de Tavernel VDP du Gard 2005
Minervois Château La Rèze 2004
Clos de Barbéjo
VDP d'Oc
Elégance 2004
Château La Canorgue
VDP de Vaucluse
Viognier 2005
Peter Riegel
VDP du Gard
Le Corbeau Rosé 2005
Château Les Eydins
Côtes du Lubéron
Cuvée des Consuls 2004
Château Les Eydins
Côtes du Lubéron
Fontête 2004
Domaine Siméoni
VDP d'Oc Mourvèdre 2004 - at
Millésime Bio I said this about it: youthful black cherry fruit with earthy peppery notes, nice olive fruit and grip on the finish. 87
Château de Brau
Le Suc de Brau 2002
Château de Brau
VDP Cité de Carcassonne
Méditation Syrah 2004
Les Vignerons de Correns
Côtes de Provence
Croix de Basson Rosé 2005
Domaine Grand Corbière
VDP Sables du Golfe du Lion
Chardonnay 2005
Domaine Grand Corbière
VDP Sables du Golfe du Lion
Gris de Gris Rosé 2005
Château de l’Ou Côtes du Roussillon 2005


Château de Bastet Côtes du Rhône Les Acacias 2005
Domaine Bassac VDP Côtes de Thongue Syrah 2005
Château Sainte-Marguerite Côtes de Provence Grande Réserve Rosé 2005
Domaine de la Grande Pallière Côtes de Provence 2005
Domaine de Clairac VDP d'Oc Réserve de Chasse 2004
Domaine Pastouret Costières de Nîmes 2005
Latest wines and profile on Pastouret: go to Languedoc winery A to Z, right hand column.
Château Bousquette St Chinian Cuvée Pruneyrac 2004
Peter Riegel VDP d'Oc Soliano Merlot 2005
Domaine de la Sauveuse Côtes de Provence Cuvée Philippine 2004
Domaine du Revaou Côtes de Provence 2004
Domaine du Revaou Côtes de Provence Rosé 2005
Les Vignerons de Tornac VDP des Cévennes Rosé 2005

For some reason our panel didn't put through any wines for Bronze, which were deemed to miss Silver medal. Anyway, I thought these deserved it:
2003 Mas de Gourgonnier Réserve du Mas, les Baux-de-Provence - complex earthy medicine notes, maturing spicy fruit turning savoury with balanced dry tannins. We tasted this one twice in fact, so what happened? €8.80 15 / 87-89
2005 Marselan Domaine des Beynes, VDP Bouches du Rhône - better than their Cabernet, in my humble opinion: closed nose, some pure blackcurrant fruit; firm and tight yet has reasonable concentration, more savoury finish. €4 14.5 / 85-87

Click here for a post on Signature Bio 2010.

15 June 2006

Winetourisminfrance.com goes live

Winetourisminfrance.com goes live
A new website dedicated to, erm, all things wine tourism in France has just been launched: click on the title above to check it out. At the moment, the site's just in French but it will soon be available in English (translated by yours truly) and Chinese. Magazine, regional winery and restaurant guide, what's-on, organised tours and tastings, wine books and films... you can plan your trip around where the best vineyards are; find all the useful addresses, phone numbers and websites, and also sign up for their newsletter if you like. More news and information to follow.

06 June 2006

New Zealand: Auntsfield Estate, Marlborough

Auntsfield Estate - Marlborough

Graeme and Linda Cowley are renovating and replanting this vineyard in the upper Wairau Valley, which had been abandoned for 100 years. The fruit for the Sauvignon, International Wine Challenge 2006 gold medal winner, was grown near the earthily named "long cow paddock." The Hawk Hill Pinot is named after "magnificent harrier hawks riding the thermal currents" over Auntsfield’s north-facing slopes, and was awarded two silver medals (IWC and Decanter World Wine Awards 2006). Tasted June 2006:

2005 Long Cow Sauvignon Blanc - lovely classic style capturing the best of Marlborough's climate: purity and intensity of green yet tropical edged fruit, nice elegance and length v concentration and power. 90+
2005 Hawk Hill Pinot Noir - I found this a bit clumsy when first opened with charred oak and high alcohol (at least 14.5% from memory) dominating; the next day it better expressed those hoped-for floral 'sweet and savoury' Pinot characters, which pulled in the reins a little. Perhaps just too young at the moment, but I'd prefer much less toasted new oak a wine like this... 87

Languedoc: Château Coujan, Saint-Chinian

Château Coujan

Florence Guy makes quite a large and varied range at this peaceful estate found a few km out of Murviel-lès-Béziers, on the eastern side of the Saint-Chinian appellation. Her top wines are definitely worth seeking out, e.g. an off-the-wall 100% Mourvèdre that varies in taste-profile according to vintage - sometimes labelled as St-Chinian, sometimes Vin de Pays if ‘non-conformist’ in terms of alcohol or residual sugar content - see below for explanation! Her team also organises walks, wine dinners, summer concerts and art and cookery classes even (the Lebanese food weekend was a big hit apparently). There are also two on-site family gîtes available all year round (see website); it's quite nice just to hang out here sitting outside, and why not try Coujan’s olive oil while you're at it, listening to the roaming peacocks squawking (funny birds aren't they). Wines tasted June 2006:
2005 Rolle, Vin de Pays Coteaux de Murviel - floral and honeyed, crisp mineral tones v fatter fruit; different. €4.95 85
2005 Bois Joli, Saint-Chinian blanc (Rolle Grenache Blanc Roussanne) - barrel sample: light toast with mealy creamy notes, good weight and concentration v citrus zest. €6.90 87+
2004 Tradition rosé, Saint-Chinian (80%+ Mourvèdre) - attractive tangy strawberry fruit with still quite crisp and lively palate, fat v fresh finish. €4.60 87+
2003 Cuvée Gabrielle de Spinola, Saint-Chinian (Mourvèdre Syrah Grenache Cinsault) - lovely black cherry & olive aromas, liquorice v peppery; solid fruity mouthful, powerful yet balanced. €5.90 87-89
2002 Cuvée Spéciale Bois Joli, Saint-Chinian (Mourvèdre Syrah) - rich leather and spice tones with light chocolate, quite mature with nicely textured tannins. €12 87-89
2004 Ile de Corail, Vin de Pays Coteaux de Murviel (100%Mourvèdre) - gorgeous ripe wild herb, liquorice and cherry tones; rich lush mouthfeel v structured and fresh, very different. Actually has 10 grams residual sugar and 15% alc, hence why it's VDP this vintage! €23 90+

34490 Murviel-lès-Béziers. Tel: 04 67 37 80 00, chateau-coujan@orange.fr or stanislas.pujol@wanadoo.frwww.chateau-coujan.com.


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