"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

30 September 2008

Languedoc: Gérard Bertrand autumn road-trip

Gérard Bertrand: 'King of the Languedoc..?'
Autumn road-trip 2008: "A dose of La Clape, picking Cinsault, vertical tastings and barbecued wild boar... Villemajou is where the story begins, as they say, the original Bértrand family property... Hospitalet lies on the rugged eponymous hillock, which has given its name to this Languedoc sub-appellation (I won't labour the 'unfortunately-named theme')... Aigle Royal is sourced from one of the highest vineyard parcels, at 500 metres altitude, so think Where Eagles Dare..." Comprehensive reviews across their range including La Forge 2000 to 2005, Cigalus red/white 2001 to 2007, Le Viala 2000 to 2005, Aigle Pinot Noir & Chardonnay, L'Hospitalitas.
Click here for the full monty.

11 September 2008

Languedoc: Domaines de Petit Roubié, Picpoul de Pinet/pays d'Oc

Domaines de Petit Roubié

Floriane and Olivier Azan’s specialities include delicious examples of arguably the Languedoc's most distinctive, dry white wine discovery: Picpoul de Pinet. Often concentrated, zesty and lively when young yet filling out with a year's bottle age turning peachier, honeyed and towards creamy yet still with 'mineral' edges. 
This medium-sized (by Languedoc standards: it actually covers over 1000 hectares) appellation is located to the north & west of the Bassin de Thau - an unexpected, picturesque and sometimes smelly lake/lagoon lying not far from the sea that shelters those world-famous Bouzigues oyster farms - which is a good 30-40 minutes southwest of Montpellier. Meaning the Picpoul vineyards lie roughly between Sète, Agde and Pézenas. Growers here are working towards becoming a separate AOC by honing the borders and production rules, which might actually exclude certain less good sites and producers, I'm told.
Other Pinet estates to look out for include Château de Pinet and Domaines Félines-Jourdan, des Lauriers and Mas Saint-Antoine. Picpoul wines, rather unique in a world of samey Chardonnays etc. and often good quality / value for money, deserve to be more widely appreciated around the world (I'll get off my soap box now). A bit obscure perhaps but it's one of those once you've tried it, assuming you can find it in the first place, you're converted wines (well, most of the time anyway). More info can be found on www.picpoul-de-pinet.com. Back to Roubié, 
I tasted this pretty quintessential P de P, as far as I'm concerned, at Millésime Bio in Perpignan, January 2008. And below that, a couple of notes on older vintages and other wines at Millésime Bio 2006 including their characterful varietal Marsanne, one of 16 varieties (more white than red in fact) planted across their organically farmed (since 1985, so a serious track record there) 40 hectares.

2007 Chateau Petit Roubié, Picpoul de Pinet (12.5%) - very zesty citrus v oily apricot and white peach notes; lovely yeast lees tanginess, concentrated fruit extract and zingy fine length. 90
The above Picpoul was re-enjoyed, in moderation of course, in September 2008 following a quick visit to the domaine. It's lost some of its immediate freshness and zestiness, not surprisingly, but it's still a lovely wine; rounder, more honeyed and peachier showing medium weight, tasty fish-friendly style and classy finish. Value @ under €5. 88-90
And from MB 2006 as mentioned above:
2005 Marsanne
 - characterful waxy honeysuckle fruit, nice fresh bite v yeast lees intensity. 87
2004 Picpoul de Pinet - lovely concentrated zesty gummy fruit balanced by crisp acidity and fine length. 90

Roubié, 34850 Pinet. Tel: 04 67 77 09 28, roubie@club-internet.frwww.picpoul-de-pinet.com/petit-roubie

01 August 2008

Roussillon: Domaine de la Perdrix, Trouillas

From www.domaine-de-la-perdrix.frA very brief snapshot of André and Virginie Gil's well-regarded 30 ha/75 acre estate, including four vintages of their extraordinary white Côtes du Roussillon called Cuvée J-S Pons: 2006, 2005, 2004 and 2000. These complex rich barrel-fermented whites do age well and show that the Roussillon isn't just red wine country, given the right varieties, vine age, site etc. (JS is made from 100% old-vine Grenache blanc rooted on rolling slopes at slight altitude). We tasted them over a casual summer barbecue in semi-darkness at neighbour Domaine Treloar, along with their tasty 2005 Carignan. So I do have a slight excuse for not delivering 'proper' tasting notes and assessment. From memory, the 2006 showed lightness of touch in terms of creamy oak and quite fine acidity lending nice balance; the 05 was similar but fuller, the 04 again quite fine and beginning to show oily maturity; and the 2000 a real treat, all buttery and nutty in a quality white Burgundy kinda way. Call back when I've completed this profile; I really must pop down to their winery sooner rather than later...
2010 update: they've built a bold new orangey brown winery alongside the main road before the village of Trouillas (you can't miss it), fitted out with tasting room and shop.

7 Rue des Platanes, 66300 Trouillas. Tel: 04 68 53 12 74, contact@domaine-de-la-perdrix.fr; www.domaine-de-la-perdrix.fr

17 July 2008

A night in Trouillas

Lunch @ Treloar

Domaine Treloar, located on the edge of the village of Trouillas in the central-southern Roussillon, has teamed up with their neighbour Domaine de la Perdrix to hold a six course 'degustation' dinner on Saturday 9th August. Each course will be matched with a wine produced by either estate, with the added bonus that André Gil at Perdrix was a chef in top Paris and London hotels in a previous life. All in all, sounds like a nice way to try eight different wines with some tasty food while talking to the people who grew and made them. The blurb says: "Aperitifs will commence at André’s cave at 7.30pm, followed by a short walk though the village to our refreshingly cool cave where the meal will be served." Tickets are limited and cost €28 per person booked in advance. For menu details and more information, contact Rachel and Jonathan at www.domainetreloar.com. Treloar is open for tastings, wine sales, tours and lunches on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons plus also Sunday afternoons throughout July and August; otherwise by appointment.

04 July 2008

New Wave Spanish wine awards 2008

This thought-provoking tasting, held in London in July 2008, was designed as a showcase for the top 100+ Spanish wines deemed award-worthy, which had already been selected from a considerably more marathon taste-off judged by a team of UK trade and press hardened palates. Although there were some great wines here - see my pick below - I have to say I was disappointed. Part of the problem was the perennial difficulty of keeping white, rosé and sparkling wines pleasantly cool in a warm room without killing them off with ice. So some of these styles would probably show better well-chilled with food: e.g. Castillo de Perelada Cava Rosado Brut (usually very fruity, refreshing and quite classy; £8.99); Tesco's 2007 Finest Albariño from Rías Baixas in Galicia, in the northwest (zesty, juicy and elegant; £6.19); or the two Rueda whites from Bodegas Antaño.
As for the reds, I wasn't the only one who found lots of very oaky, over-extracted and unbalanced (too powerful) wines that left me wondering whether some Spanish winemakers have really moved forwards. Especially from the trendy regions of Ribera del Duero, Priorat and up-and-coming Vino de la Tierra areas such as Castilla y León. For example, Abadía Retuerta's 2005 Pago Garduna (impressive competition wine but undrinkable; but I did like their less expensive one, see below), the 2004 Durius Magister (wood and alcohol) or Marqués de Grinon's cult Eméritus 2004 (trying to be grown up but so immature). And a few of the Catalan reds didn't deliver what I'd hoped for. Actually, call me old-fashioned but the best, certainly most enjoyable, reds on tasting were good old charming Rioja (although some quite expensive): so I've done a separate paragraph for those. As for the multitude of different sherries, it's been said before by winey types what high quality and relatively good value you get; but sadly does anybody else drink these unique wines? Hardly 'new wave' though. Anyway, I loved some of them! As ever, the rant is now over and out and, for what it's worth, here's what made the earth move for me.

Key: Producer Wine Grape variety Region - "Awarded..." £UK retail price and agent 100 point scale.


Adegas d'Altamira
2007 Brandal
Rías Baixas (13%) - aromatic mix of grape juice and celery; a bit more weight on the palate than some of the others from this region (perhaps the slightly higher alcohol), giving it more length and presence with lively fresh acidity too. £8.99 Oakley Wine Agencies. 87-89
Pazo de Señorans
2003 Selección Añada Rías Baixas (12.5%) - complex greengage flavours enhanced by a very oily Riesling type profile, rounded and mature yet still with firm acidity underneath; it's good and certainly different but £40 a bottle?! Shipped by Vinites. 87-89
Marqués de Murrieta
2003 Capellanía Rioja (13.5%) - mature oxidised Fino sherry notes move on to nutty textured and very dry mouth-feel, intricate lingering flavours; drinking now, I like it but many won't! £14.50 Maisons Marques & Domaines. 89-91


Bodegas Victoria
2007 Pardina Cariñena (13.5%) - delicious strawberry and raspberry fruit, nice juicy v weighty mouth-feel then crisp dry finish; very attractive foodie rosé. £4.99 Anglo Peruvian Trading. 87
Bodegas Santo Cristo
2007 Viña Collado Campo de Borja - more 'serious' and biscuity in style, has a tad of dry tannin even v rich juicy fruit. £5.50 Burridges of Arlington St. 87


Abadía Retuerta
2005 Selección Especial Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León (14%) - lush blackberry and spice flavours layered with stonky, extracted tannins and rich fruit; but in the end it's balanced showing nice panache. £16.49 Liberty Wines. 89-91
Bodegas Fariña
1998 Gran Colegiata Reserva
Toro (13.5%) - mature savoury mint edged v berry fruit, at its best but has enough of that attractive savoury tobacco fruit and firm tannins to pull it off. £14.25 Bibendum Wines. 89
Jean León
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Penedés (13.5%) - nice savoury and leather tones with dried cassis fruit (and a tad of old wood?), still firmly structured v mature fruit and quite charming old-fashioned style. £13.95 Bibendum Wines. 87-89
2006 Monastrell Yecla (14%) - not a fancy wine but finally, after too many hard woody fiery reds, something with nice black cherry and olive fruit, aromatic v chunky with attractive fruity finish. £5.49 Averys. Value. 87
Bodegas San Marcos
2007 Pilgrimage Mazuelo Extremadura (14%) - wild rustic fruit with black cherry/berry and light leather edges, powerful palate yet nice compensating fruit. £6.99 Guy Anderson Wines. 87
Bodegas Ochoa
2005 Graciano/Garnacha Navarra (13%) - chocolate oak up front, this has nice depth of smoky fruit, firm mouth-feel but it's more generous. "Best red under £10." £8.99 Pol Roger UK. 87-89
Bodegas Julian Chivite
2002 Colección 125 Reserva Navarra (13.5%) - also oaky but there's definitely something going on here, with its compelling herbal smoky tones; pretty rich v solid palate with power, fair class and balance. £20+ Berkmann Wine Cellars. 90


Bodegas Palacio
2005 Cosme Palacio (13.5%) - quite oaky and extracted although there's some attractive smoky ripe fruit lurking underneath, tight long finish. £8.49 Antonio Barceló. 89+?
2005 Palacio Crianza (13%) - drinking well now, has nice resin v rustic v vibrant fruit; oily texture yet solid rounded tannins. £6.99 Antonio Barceló. 89
2004 Cosme Palacio Reserva (13.5%) - again oaky and extracted but its pure concentration and depth of fruit win you over; very tight and fresh finish with some underlying class. £12.99 Antonio Barceló. 89-91
2005 Viña del Olivo (mostly Tempranillo + Graciano 14%) - seductive oak coating but this is rich and concentrated, elegant too despite its punch on the finish; that oak dominates at the moment but this is classy and has plenty of life ahead of it. £45 Hatch Mansfield. 90-92
2001 Viña del Olivo (mostly Tempranillo + Graciano 14%) - complex meaty and 'cheesy', very tasty palate showing class and elegance, maturing v still tight and focused. £45 Hatch Mansfield. 92-94
2001 Real de Asúa (14%) - lovely smoky maturing fruit with very light cedar texture; lush v tightly focused mouth-feel, fine acidity and poise too. Yum. £45 Hatch Mansfield. 92-94
Bodegas Luis Cañas
2005 Hiru 3 Racimos
(14.5%) - impressive extracted style although it shows good fruit v very firm dry tannins; a bit of a monster but it's still better balanced than certain wines from certain regions. £60! Alliance Wine. 89
2002 Reserva Especial Amaren (Tempranillo 14%) - cheesy v vanilla oaky v fruity, powerhouse extracted palate, vibrant fruit v grippy tannins; the latter a bit much but overall this has style. "Best red of the show." £25 Laithwaite's. 90-92
Bodegas Viña Herminia
2004 Crianza
(14%) - quite tight and fine with cedar grained texture, revealing nice savoury fruit underneath. £8.49 Michael Hall Wines. 88-90
Bodega Ysios
2004 Reserva (13.5%) - lots of coco and choc oak but this has real class, concentration and power all together; very taut framework of fresh tannins and acidity, needs 5+ years to develop. "Joint best red over £10," so at £14.99 (Pernod Ricard UK has stockist info) better value than some of the dearer ones. 94
Bodegas Roda
2004 Roda I Reserva (14.5%) - attractive and intricate nose with 'cheesy' meaty notes; this is serious stuff with powerful solid mouth-feel v superb depth and class, savoury v liquorice finish; the alcohol is just a bit out of kilter but a great wine (I'd have graded it 95 otherwise). £35 Mentzendorff. 92-94
2004 Roda Reserva (14%) - again has that old-fashioned complex meaty cheesy nose; concentrated and refined palate, finishing firm yet elegant and well balanced. £24 Mentzendorff. 93-95


Bodegas Valdivia
La Rubia Manzanilla - pretty classic style showing fresh toasted almonds; very dry with nice refreshing yeasty tang. £7.50 50cl Laymont & Shaw. 87-89
Sacramonte Oloroso (20%) - Madeira-like intricate, weird and wonderful nose; intense roasted walnuts, super tangy and long although a bit 'hotter' than Lustau's (below). £15. 93
Tesco Finest Manzanilla Pasada - an aged Manzanilla style, very crisp v oily and nutty with nice bite v weight; different. £6.99. 87-89
La Gitana Jerez Cortado Wellington VOS (17.5%) - 'lighter' alcohol, again nice walnut v almond v yeasty v caramel; dry intense long finish. £20 Mentzendorff. 90+
Manzanilla Olorosa - attractive traditional dry Amontillado style with plenty of Brazil nut flavour; good bite and complex long finish. £11.49 37.5cl Laithwaites. 89-91
Waitrose Solera Jerezana Puerto Fino (16.5%) - roasted almonds mingle with an enticingly odd 'cheesy' complexity, a bit wacky; very dry v oily and nutty texture/flavour, delicious actually. "Best own label sherry." £7.49 = value. 90-92
Dry Oloroso (20%) - wow, what incredible flavours; powerful yeasty tangy characters v toasted hazelnuts and caramel; very long developing finish. £17 Laithwaites. 95
Beltran Domecq at Harveys
Fine Old Amontillado VORS (19%) - voluptuous haunting nose, rich and nutty v very dry and alive; lovely style, class and length. "Joint best dry Sherry." £20 Beam Global. 95
Palo Cortado VORS (19%) - caramelised hazel/walnut with fresher almond notes too; tight and tangy palate, once again classy and long v dry and intense. £20. 90+
Royal Esmeralda VOS Dry Amontillado (20%) - richer and more 'caramelised' than above, delicious tangy yeasty flavours set against walnut and Brazil 'sweetness'. £11 Stevens Garnier. 92-94
Fernando de Castilla
Antique Oloroso (20%) - more vanilla and caramel than some of the others; tight, tangy and complex though with enticing roasted nut flavours; also a bit 'hot' but it's very nice. £20 Boutinot. 90

01 July 2008

Delicata Wine Festival Malta

Any wine lovers finding themselves in Malta this summer or looking for an alternative wine-themed holiday, then this might be up your street. All Events Malta are offering (with prices starting at 582 euros perhaps a bit pricey but it sounds pretty deluxe) four or seven day packages from the 7th August 2008, which take in the island's Delicata Wine Festival. Further details from: www.alleventsmalta.com, office@alleventsmalta.com or call 00356 21332505.


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