"Buy my book about the Roussillon on Amazon UK in paperback or eBook or black & white version, and Amazon USA: paperback or eBook or black & white. OR BUY IT DIRECT FROM ME (UK & EU only). Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook. For other countries, tap on the link above the cover photo (below right)." Richard Mark James

21 October 2008

Languedoc: Château Lacour Manoy, Corbières

Château Lacour Manoy

The Arnaud family has been nursing vines around here (near the village of Boutenac) for quite a while (originally set up shop in the 18th Century apparently). The present boss is André-Jacques, who's making some quite good reds as featured below, although admittedly I didn't like a couple of the others I tasted, and a reasonably attractive sweet white vin de pay. They also have two spacious holiday gites on the property - for info, click on their website lurking at the bottom of this blurb. I picked out these two wines, for your amusement, from a tasting organised by the Corbières people at Château Boutenac in late October 2008:


2002 cuvée Louis Domairon (50% old Carignan + Syrah Grenache) - vanilla notes lead on to savoury v resiny fruit with smoky edges; very firm mouth-feel (a little too perhaps), but it's got nice depth underneath even if essentially mature now. 87
2004 cuvée Louis Domairon - much richer and more concentrated with vibrant black fruits layered on spicy chocolate oak; promising I'd say with grippy v rounded texture. 89

11200 Montséret Tel: 04 68 433 959, www.aristidou.fr.

13 October 2008

Roussillon: Domaine Rouaud, Pézilla-la-Rivière

Jérôme Rouaud and his wife Sophie set up their domaine 6 years ago, farming nine hectares (22 acres) organically from the start; which means they got certified status from the 2005 vintage. Before that, Jérôme worked in the car industry in Paris (yawn) then for Nicolas wine shops; went to Bordeaux to study winemaking and viticulture, moved to the Roussillon to work as a winery assistant, and finally bought, ripped out and rebuilt an old cellar in Pézilla west of Perpignan.
Wines tasted June 2006:
2005 Têt blanc (Carignan blanc) - he has a few, rare white Carignan vines mixed in with the red ones. Mineral tones with light toast and creamy edges, fat mouthfeel v lively intensity v power too; interesting. 87+
2005 Frivole doux (Muscat petits-grains) - less residual sugar than Muscat de Rivesaltes with 33 grams/litre and 12% alc. Nice fresh grapey style, more medium dry really on its clean finish. 85
2004 Barbacane Grenache vin de pays Côtes Catalanes - attractive spicy black fruits with tobacco tones, ripe with soft tannins and attractive pure flavours. 87-89
2003 Côtes du Roussillon rouge (Syrah Carignan Grenache) - lovely dried fruits displaying liquorice and black cherry notes, appealing maturing spicy fruit with oily texture and background dry tannins; weighty length with lingering tobacco fruit. 89+
2004 Têt Pourpre Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Carignan Grenache) - more overt coconut oak immersed in delicious spicy fruit, blackberry/olive; full bodied with good depth v firm tannins, tight lively length, beginning to develop on the finish. 90+
2003 Tuilé (will go back into barriques before bottling) - intense peppery oxidised plum and tobacco aromas, rich and sweet v nice cut of alcohol.
2005 Frivole rosé vin de Pays Côtes Catalanes (purely so he can put Syrah Grenache on the label) - juicy red fruit style, quite chunky without being blowsy, nice fresh finish. 87
These wines are priced from around €5 to €10. More of them here and here.


Updates: the two reds below were tasted at the 2008 Millésime Bio wine show (Perpignan):
2005 Barbacane (100% Grenache) - smoky and rich style, a tad of awkward background wood that jars a little? Ripe v firm finish.
2006 Têt Pourpre, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Carignan Grenache) - lush spicy fruit set on chunky rounded tannins, very tight and lively finish. 89-91

October 2008 - I called in at Jérôme's cellar to see what was new: they now have 13 ha of vineyards after buying and leasing a few more parcels on the slopes just outside Pézilla.
2007 Frivole 'light red' (Grenache Syrah) - slightly fruity liquorice v crunchy black cherry, a bit of dry texture; neither one thing nor the other really: 80+. The 2008 from vat had nicer fruit.
2006 Barbacane (Grenache 13%) - delicious Grenache fruit showing liquorice, spice and turning slightly tobacco-ish; good depth v grip and length, well-balanced and attractive. 89+
2006 Têt Pourpre Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Carignan Syrah Grenache 13.5%) - a touch of subtle spicy oak on the nose and palate, but this has lots of lovely black fruits with savoury edges; solid structured finish, needs 6 to 12 months to open up more. 90-92
2006 Ganaxe Rivesaltes Grenat (Grenache muté sur grains) - enticing dark fruit with peppery and meaty edges; nice balance of sweetness, crunchy fruit and dry tannins. 88-90


LATEST UPDATE (2012) TO FOLLOW...

7 Rue du Portal d’Amont, 66370 Pézilla-la-Rivière. Tel: 04 68 92 46 59, mobile: 06 98 17 22 81; rouaud.vigneron.66@orange.fr.

11 October 2008

Chocolate week at Gauchos 13-19 October

I, probably along with thousands of others, didn't know it was National Chocolate week in the UK next week; so Gauchos restaurants are offering what sounds like a tantalisingly South American choc based pudding matched with apparently "Argentina's first fortified red wine." So why not pop in and try their Chocolate Tres Leches with a glass of Malamado Malbec made by merit-worthy winery Familia Zuccardi (a tad steep perhaps at £12, pud and wine together that is, although I'm a bit out of touch with London prices). More info from: www.gauchorestaurants.co.uk and www.familiazuccardi.com (wasn't working when I tried).

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: 04.68.91.81.43, 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?!).

'RED'

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