"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

11 October 2008

Les Grands Chemins festival, Minervois

This enticingly arty-sounding event combines discovery and tasting of wines from the Minervois area with art exhibitions and a cinema festival rolled into one. It takes place from 24th October to 5th November 2008 in and around the awesome historic town of Minerve (worth the trip all by its self), kicking off with a wine weekend 24-26 October where you get to taste and visit producers in the Minervois and Minervois La Livinière appellations. More info and booking:
Syndicat d'Initiative de Minerve, 9 rue des Martyrs, 34210 Minerve. Tel/fax:, minerve.accueil@wanadoo.fr - www.les-grands-chemins.com.
Look at my posts in two or three weeks time for profiles of wineries visited on this trip.

10 October 2008

Roussillon: Domaine Lafage, Perpignan /Tordères / Maury

Les Onze Terrasses in Les Aspres - see below.
Eliane (nee Salinas) and Jean-Marc Lafage have been at the helm of this expanding, tri-location estate for a relatively short time (in the scheme of things), having both travelled and worked at different wineries from California to Australia for a few years beforehand. Overall, they now have 140 hectares (345 acres) of vineyards across the Roussillon. More than half of them, planted primarily with Grenache blanc, Muscat and Syrah, are located between Perpignan and Canet overlooking the sea; the original Lafage family estate which they took over from Jean-Marc's father in 2001. The winery has since been refitted and a cellar-cum-shop renovated next to it, where you can taste the whole range (my first visit there and tasting of their wines - see below* - was in October 2006).
Back in 1996, they'd already bought about 30 ha of terraced vineyards called Le Vignon, near Tordères in central-southern Roussillon towards the mountains in an area called Les Aspres. It was largely remodelled and is home to Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Marsanne and Muscat (see my October 2008 update below). Continuing the altitude theme, they also have a few plots in the wilds of the Agly valley, not far from Maury, planted with Muscat, Grenache and Carignan. These very different terroirs, to use the terrifying T word, allow them to fashion very good examples of all the regional styles; from dry and sweet whites - including one of the best, award-winning Chardonnays I've tried from round this way - a tasty gourmet rosé, intricate reds such as their Cuvée Léa to traditional aged Vins Doux Naturels.
2007 update: Waitrose (upmarket UK supermarket chain) listed two of Lafage's red and white Roussillon wines for their April/May 'showcase'; and I heard rumours that they'd bought Château Saint Roch (see A to Z) in Maury, but admittedly I wasn't able to go along to a couple of recent events they put on so haven't asked them what the latest is! Watch this space... Yes indeed, Saint-Roch is being integrated into the Lafage empire.

*2005 Côté Chardonnay - exotic honeyed nose (maybe some botrytis in there?), full & creamy but not oaky, quite rich fruit v fresh mineral intensity and very light coconut spice. 89+
*2005 Centenaire
Côtes du Roussillon blanc (mostly Grenache Blanc) - quite complex herbal honey and wild flower notes, nice freshness v weight and subtle spicy wood. 87
*2005 Côté Muscat sec - zippy and gummy, elegant grape and clementine flavours, nice length and bite. 87
*2005 Parfum de Vignes Côtes du Roussillon rosé - delicious floral red fruit cocktail, quite concentrated and chunky with fine dry finish bathed in aromatic fruit. 87-89
*2003 Côté Grenache noir (14.5%) - a bit cold and oxidised (been open for a few days); however, it shows attractive liquorice and leather tones, powerful mouth-feel yet not out of kilter thanks to some freshness and dry grip.
*2003 Cuvée Léa, Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres (Grenache Syrah Carignan) - interesting mixture of delicate smokiness and coconut v earthy yet ripe black fruits; a touch of oak notes and texture balanced by sufficient fruit, power and panache. 89-91
*2005 Grain de Vignes Muscat de Rivesaltes - lovely fresh fruit, once again offering zesty bite v extract, not so sweet in the end. 87-89
*2003 Rimage Rivesaltes Tuilé (Grenache) - quite closed up to start, meaty v black fruit undertones, tight and concentrated with light oak texture v depth of sweet fruit; needs a few years to mellow. 90-92
*1998 Vintage Rivesaltes (Grenache) - appealing savoury maturity v fig and raisin richness, quite chunky tannins v meaty fruit and sugar; drinking nicely now. 88-90

Lafage update October 2008
I was invited to clamber up the spectacularly located Le Vignon to witness the makings of 2008 vintage Les Onze Terrasses, their premium red wine sourced from selected parcels which are left until around mid October before picking. The view really is magnificent from just above the top of the vineyards, planted up to about 300 metres (950 feet), where you can see the terraced contours rolling down the slope (pictured above) and all points south (the Albères hills along the border with Spain), east (the Med), north (the Corbières) and, over the other side, Mont Canigou west-ish.
2005 Les 11 Terrasses is a blend of hand-selected Syrah (mostly), Carignan and Grenache, which are literally sorted grape by grape - removing any under- or over-ripe or rotten berries - and put directly into 500 litre barrels in situ. A bit of a publicity stunt perhaps, but there can't be many in the region making a red like this. There were two barrels this year the day I was there, but the quantity bottled of the 2005 suggests three. Apparently these are left for ten days, taken to the cellar then pressed down with wooden plungers and allowed to bubble away, with squashed whole berries still inside, for a further six to eight weeks before being emptied into a vat. After pressing, the wine goes back into new barrels for about 20 months. The 2005 was first released in Dec. 07, and 2006 will be available this Christmas; the attractive modernist label is designed by local artist Patrick Loste. 'T 11' is already sold in Belgium, Germany, Japan and the US, I'm told; I'll have to check the price but I know it's suitably expensive! Les Onze Terrasses (15%) - rather chocolate oak dominated to start although has lovely black fruits lurking underneath, gradually opens up to show depth, spicy intensity and purity; dark chocolate rounded texture v freshness, black olive & ripe blueberry flavours. Despite the oak (I can't help thinking they should take it out of barrel sooner), it does have nice balance and some kind of elegance, surprisingly that high alcohol is quite well-integrated. Went well with black pudding, saucisson and chorizo; a bit overpowering for the cured ham. Needs a couple of years to express itself better. 90+

More Lafage here (2009 Saint-Bacchus awards).
Plus the latest medal-winning vintages of some of these wines are featured HERE (World Grenache Competition 2013).

Mas Miraflors, Route de Canet, 66000 Perpignan. Tel: 04 68 80 35 82, contact@domaine-lafage.com, domaine-lafage.com.

Fair Wind Wine

The latest in slightly mad but why-not, eco-friendly marketing ideas comes from Sud de France - South of France wines, who recently shipped in a stash of bottles from the Languedoc and Roussillon into London by sail (having done the same into Dublin back in July). According to their blurb, "each bottle transported will have saved 4.9 oz of carbon emissions." I guess we'll have to take their word for it. The 100 year-old sailing ship Kathleen & May was moored at St. Katharine’s Dock until today, Friday October 10th, where they held a tasting of the wave-soothed wines for the trade and press, before they make their way into your local wine shop presumably (by electric lorry perhaps?!).

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


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