"Buy my book about 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

09 April 2008

Languedoc: Domaine de Fourn / Robert, Limoux

UPDATED 2012 - see link at bottom.

This 40-hectare estate, owned by the Robert family and set adrift in the hills not far from the village of Pieusse, is efficiently signposted; otherwise you really would be on a "magical mystery tour" to find it (maybe that's the idea, hush hush and all that). Ardent defenders of the region's distinctive fizz, like Domaine Martinolles below, this is a good place to see how sparkling Limoux is made in the different styles; particularly as the Roberts still use traditional racks to slowly invert the bottles to remove the sediment. This process is mostly automated nowadays, as it is in Champagne and understandably as it's very labour-intensive, where the wines are stored in 'giro-palettes' which jolt every now and then while gradually tilting the bottles. Blanquette is made mainly from the Mauzac variety (90+%) with some Chardonnay and Chenin blanc, depending on producer preference, and can be Brut (quite dry with about 8-10 grams per litre residual sugar (RS) v towards high acidity) or Demi-Sec (actually quite sweet). Crémant is always dry (similar Brut spec. to above) and often based on Chardy and Chenin with some Pinot Noir. Both styles undergo second fermentation in bottle and must be aged on the fine yeast-lees for at least nine months before being disgorged: the best, and certainly the most interesting wines are aged for much longer. The Méthode Ancestrale style is a bit of a local curiosity ("for local people" perhaps) and can be quite attractive: 100% Mauzac, sweet (50+ g/l RS) and refreshingly light in alcohol (around 7%) making them nice with fruit desserts, for example.

I tasted these Robert wines in situ in April 2008:
2004 Blanquette de Limoux Brut Carte Noire (90% Mauzac + Chardy Chenin,12% alc.) - quite fine and appley with light biscuity development and ageing character; crisp elegant and quite dry v subtle chocolate flavours too. 85-87
2001 Crémant de Limoux Brut (60% Mauzac + Chardy Chenin, 12.5%) - richer nuttier aromas, more cakey flavours v quite dry & elegant acidity; nice length and style showing age v finesse. 89
2004 Crémant de Limoux Brut (50% Chardy 30% Chenin Pinot Mauzac, 12%) - tighter and fresher with delicate toasted biscuit flavours, again attractively fine & crisp length. 88-90
2006 Blanquette Ancestrale Doux (100% Mauzac, 7%) - pleasant, buoyant and sweet balanced by nice acidity; try with light desserts. 85

LATEST VINTAGES REVIEWED HERE (Sparkling Limoux report May 2012).

11300 Pieusse. Tel: 04 68 31 15 03, www.robert-blanquette.com.

02 April 2008

Roussillon: "Present and Future, a mini-thesis..."

Click here to read the whole (very long) dissertation with bibliography and appendices (goes to 'more wine words' archive pages).

29 March 2008

Malbec galore Cahors April 4th to 6th

Why not indulge in a weekend of unbridled Malbec (in moderation of course, as Big Brother governments keep reminding us) in the pretty old town of Cahors (a good bit north of Toulouse or east of Bordeaux), at the first 'International Malbec weekend'? There's a somewhat intense-looking trade and press conference called Grape of the 21st Century? taking place on Saturday April 5th in the morning, but otherwise the gen pub is welcome to invade the place and try the region's unique red wines made wholly or mostly from this increasingly trendy (?) variety; and no doubt plenty of opportunity to stuff your face with some lovely southwestern French food specialities (magret de canard, duck breast fillet and a chunky Malbec red sound like a good combo actually). In addition, there'll be a group of winemakers from Argentina, where apparently there's at least five times the surface area of Malbec planted, who presumably will be bringing a few examples for you to taste in their bubble-wrap lined suitcases. More info from www.french-malbec.com. And full marks to the Cahors growers' union, or whoever had the bright idea, for coming up with the latter name for the website rather than something obscure in French that no English speaker would find on Google! Posted 29/3/08.

28 March 2008

Waitrose plants English vineyard

Leckford Farm

Patriotic British supermarket Waitrose recently announced a project to plant vines on the retailer's own 4000 acre (1600 hectares) farm, called Leckford Estate in Hampshire (southern England). The aim is to produce English fizz that should appear in their stores by 2014. "Waitrose has stocked English wine for over twelve years. In 2007, we reported a growth in sales of over 90%," says their press blurb. "There is simply not enough English wine to meet customer demand," they claim, despite stocking at least 28 lines (depending on if and what's made in the local area) in shops and on-line.
It'll take a bit of time to see the results, bearing in mind the vines will need at least three years before they yield the first decent crop of grapes, and then a "two year wine-making and maturation cycle for the production of this high quality sparkling wine." Meaning it's not worth releasing it without at least 15-18 months bottle-ageing on the yeast lees plus a bit more after removing the sediment. Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, chief wine buyer at Waitrose said: "Our customers are really enthusiastic about English wines and we have seen some fantastic quality from Nyetimber, Ridgeview, Chapel Down, Camel Valley and Denbies. We are all incredibly excited about being involved with the planting and growing of our first vineyard."
I'm told Leckford Estate is located on rolling chalk hills either side of the River Test. "There are several sites with a sheltered southern aspect, where the soils have just the right balance of chalk and clay loam for our grapevines." Basically, should be a good spot - I'll find out which varieties they're going to plant and report back. This huge farm has been part of the John Lewis Partnership (owner of Waitrose) for 80 years and is managed to "high environmental standards." It already churns out a variety of produce for the supermarket including cider, apples, pears, apple juice, mushrooms, flour and Leckford chicken. There's also a substantial dairy producing 5 million litres of milk every year from 600 cows (that's a lot of manure for the new vineyard), as well as organic milk, goats milk and no less than 12,000 hens for free range eggs. More info at waitrose.com/wine.

27 March 2008

Lebanese cookery classes Languedoc-style 4-6 April

Full of original ideas to attract wine tourist punters, Château Coujan in Saint-Chinian country is running a Lebanese cookery course over the weekend of 4th - 6th April. The full package includes all meals and accommodation in Coujan's on-site gite and costs €200 or €300 per couple. So, if you're going to be in the Murviel-les-Béziers area (not that far from Béziers) and fancy something different, book it quickly as there's only room for eight people. Contact Florence Guy or Stanislas Pujol: chateau-coujan@orange.fr, www.chateau-coujan.com, tel. +33 (0)4 67 37 80 00. Lebanese wines here.

26 March 2008

Armagnac and curry?

Nicolas and Karen Kitchener at Armagnac and wine producer Domaine de Lauroux in Gascony have become the French distributor for Curry Knights fresh curry sauces. They're recruiting retail stockists as I type these words, and curry-craving ex-pats (or even Madras-mad French people for that matter) can buy them directly from their webshop www.curryknights.com. I'm told they also do 2.7L caterer packs of each sauce, so currily interested restaurant owners should get in touch. More info: tel +33 (0)5 62 08 56 76, www.lauroux.com or SKYPE ID lauroux.


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