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13 October 2007

Languedoc: Château La Roque, Pic-Saint-Loup

Updated Dec 2012 - see below.

The elegantly imposing country château is the first thing that hits you coming up the dusty gravelly drive: it is indeed made from rock, although the estate's actually named after an eponymous 13th Century noble family. Old rock too: the tasting cellar vault is part of a restored, former Medieval post-house, I'm told. La Roque is a long-standing ambassador for the Pic-Saint-Loup appellation, which is found not far north of Montpellier scattered around its namesake peak (650 metres/2000 feet high), although the Languedoc capital feels a long way off given how quickly the terrain transforms into untamed scrub-land and pointy cliff-faces.

La Roque's specialities include their often superb Cuvée Mourvèdre, a challenging variety in this area but rewarding in certain sites in the right hands*; Syrah-based Cupa Numismae and Clos des Bénédictins, an unusual barrel fermented white. The property was taken over by Jacques and Marion Figuette in late 2006 (I didn't have the cheek to ask them how much €...), who sensibly appear happy not to make any major changes and have kept prices fairly reasonable, for such a sought-after name: €7 to €13 a bottle across the range.
*Previous owner Jack Boutin planted 9 ha/22 acres (out of 42) of Mourvèdre, which faces due south on steep pebbly terraces at approx. 200 m/650 ft altitude. Another local Mourvèdre fan is Jean Orliac at Domaine de l’Hortus (Valflaunès), who has 11 ha ("and increasing" as he told me back in 2005) in one similarly elevated vineyard sitting smack-bang between Pic St-Loup and Mont de l’Hortus.*

I tasted these Ch. La Roque wines with Marion Figuette in October 2007:
2005 Tradition blanc (Rolle Roussanne Marsanne) – oily honeysuckle tones, nice texture and maturing fruit v lightly crisp elegant finish. 85-87
2006 Clos des Bénédictins blanc (Rolle Roussanne Marsanne) – toastier and creamier yet very floral with exotic white peach tones; zingy v fat with attractive balance and style. 87-89
2004 Tradition rouge (Syrah Mourvèdre Grenache) – tangy cassis and cherry fruit, lightly creamy palate with firm fresh bite, drinking well now in fact. 85-87
2005 – a touch richer and more concentrated than above with attractive cherry and liquorice fruit, followed by dry grip and good length. 87-89
2003 Cupa Numismae (60% Syrah 40% Mourvèdre) – smoky and slightly animal showing lush dark cherry and blackberry/olive notes, a bit of spicy oak adds texture to a solid firm palate; good balance of ripe v structured and maturing v a few years ahead of it. 89-91
2004 – more fragrant floral and spicy (the Syrah comes out more), more delicate mouth-feel yet still juicy lush and firm with elegant length. 89-91
2005 – closed and chunky, attractive concentration and rounded fruit, powerful tannins at the moment which should unfurl nicely.89-91
2003 Cuvée Mourvèdre (90% plus 10% Grenache) – 'sweet' herbs liquorice and black olive, ripe with resiny development, quite delicate actually (considering the hot vintage) v dry tannins and lovely length. 90-92
2005 – smokier and a tad toastier yet still 'sweet' herbal and liquoricey, delicious fruit concentration and fine tannins on a commanding, mouth-coating finish; yum, give it a couple of years to really shine. 92-94

UPDATE: latest La Roque wines here (PSL report April 2011). 

UPDATE 2012

34 ha (85 acres) of vineyards are now certified organic since vintage 2011, hence these wines below are their first 'official' samples aired and tasted earlier this year at Millésime Bio wine show in Montpellier.

Languedoc Pic Saint Loup
2011 white - nice creamy yeasty edges with exotic fruit notes, aromatic and floral too then crisp fresh finish. Good.
2011 rosé - rose petal aromas with creamy red fruits, quite full and rounded with oily notes and nice fruity vs crisp finish.
2011 red (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) - enticing aromatic spicy minty fruit, fairly rich and fruity with a meatier side too, concentrated vs softer mouth-feel. Should be good.

Older vintages in this post including 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003 Cuvée Mourvèdre; from a visit in 2005.

Château La Roque, 34270 Fontanès. Tel: 04 67 55 34 47, contact@chateau-laroque.eu, www.chateau-laroque.fr

05 October 2007

Languedoc: Château l'Euzière, Pic-Saint-Loup

Château L'Euzière

Brother and sister Michel and Marcelle Causse run this charming, old family property found on the main road through Fontanès. Or rather their mini-manor house and winery at least: the 23 ha/55 acres of vineyard spread out around the village, a mixture of older vines and more recent plantings as they continue to improve quality in the field. The top red cuvée, les Escarboucles, is based mostly on Syrah; L'Almandin is an earlier-drinking, 'SGM' blend but still quite serious with aromatic pure fruit; and they also make a very nice white called Grains de Lune. One to watch and relatively reasonably priced (
Pic-Saint-Loup commands higher prices than other parts of the Languedoc) at €6 to €12.50 across their range. These wines sampled in their cellar and handsome vaulted stone tasting room in October 2007:


2006 Almandin (tank sample, 
Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre) – lovely perfumed black cherry with gamey edges developing into liquorice and violets, firm and fresh showing nice elegance with a touch of weight and length too. 89
2006 Escarboucles (barrel sample, more 
Syrah + Grenache Mourvèdre) – quite a bit of spicy coconut at the moment (12 to 14 months in one year-old casks) but again has that delicious black cherry fruit, more structured with firmer tannins; closed finish with dry texture v underlying 'sweetness'. 89-91
2005 – quite smoky with blackberry and cassis, a little closed up offering light spice and liquorice tones with gamey edges, rounded v soild mouth-feel although again it's quite elegant. 
90+

More of their wines here (Vinisud 2006).

Ancien Chemin d’Anduze, 34270 
Fontanès. Tel: 04 67 55 21 41, leuziere@chateauleuziere.frwww.chateauleuziere.fr


30 September 2007

John Platter Guide 2008

The John Platter Wine Guide, South Africa's benchmark annual guide (actually, it recently got the 2007 Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Award in the latter category) published by Andrew McDowall and edited by Philip van Zyl, has revealed a record 21 'five-star' wines in the forthcoming 2008 edition. "Given the enormous number of ranges and individual products tasted, the wines which merit a five-star rating make up a very select group indeed," McDowall explained. "The Guide, which strives to rate, as far as is practically possible, all of the wines that are available for the duration of the particular edition, locally as well as abroad, tasted and assessed nearly 6000 individual wines over several months." The asbestos-palated team of tasters ranked them on the guide's five-point scale, ranging from 0 ("Somewhat less than ordinary") up to 5 ("Superlative. A Cape classic"). Their top wines include a few recurring names such as Ken Forrester, Bouchard Finlayson, Vergelegen and Kanonkop. For more info or to buy the guide, check out www.platteronline.com. Posted 28/9/07.

28 September 2007

Sensation Vin autumn courses Beaune, Lyon and Paris

Damien Delattre, owner of the Sensation Vin wine school in Beaune, in the heart of Burgundy, has 'rolled out' their autumn tasting program with tailor-made courses and weekend events now available in English. These include new ideas such as tutored tastings of classic Burgundies from the 1990s. Another novelty is the Sensation Vin 'road show', where Damien or one of his qualified colleagues will come to Paris or Lyon to create your own group tasting experience. 1 rue d'Enfer (Hell street!), 21200 Beaune. Tel: +33.3.80.22.17.57.
www.sensation-vin.com, contact@sensation-vin.com.

26 September 2007

BK Wine Tours autumn 07 & spring 08

In commendably un-PC style, BK Wine aka Britt and Per Karlsson, Paris' most famous vinous Swedes, are running a tour called Truffle, wine, duck and foie gras in the south west of France from February 13-17th 2008. I can understand vegetarians getting upset about foie gras, and I know it's not a very nice way to rear birds (although the result is too delicious to think about what those goose farmers actually get up to...); but I find it baffling when regular meat-eating folk (like in California or the UK or Ireland for example) condemn it, yet carry on scoffing steak or whatever.
Anyway, enough of the rant. Click on the highlighted link above if this sounds right up your street. Britt is also doing a wine tour to Portugal's stunning Alentejo region this October 17-21. And the busy couple has just published a book on the Languedoc, although only in Swedish at the moment: interested English language publishers should get in touch. For more info or sign up to Britt's newsletter: info@bkwine.com. Posted 28/9/07.
Update on BK's wine tour programme for 2008 on www.bkwine.com.

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