"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

31 March 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Hylari, Estagel

Jean-Michel and Isabelle Hylari are based in the village of Estagel, where the micro-winemaking takes place in a cosy backstreet cellar, and have another barrel cellar in nearby Tautavel (both found northwest of Perpignan). They concentrate on making small quantities of distinctive reds, dry whites and complex fortified Rivesaltes: cask-aged red Tuilé & 'white' (as in varieties used but the wines aren't at all in colour) Ambré styles as well as youthful Muscat. Wines below sampled at the Fenouillèdes wine tastings in the region in January 2005 and April 2007, and when I called in at the winery in autumn 2005 and March 2009.
Jean-Michel once took me for a spin past some of the 'new' vineyards he's purchased; actually a few old parcels between Estagel and Maury (not far from Mas Amiel) packed with crumbly dark grey schist and big pebbles. He's also been selectively replanting or re-trellising some Syrah while maintaining treasured old Grenache (red and white) and Carignan. Good to see he remains a fan of Mourvèdre too, which plays a supporting role in the intricate screenplay behind his quadruple-blend red wines. Jean-Michel hopes his son and daughter will get involved in the family estate, not a given nowadays (young French people probably don't think there's any money in wine, wonder where they get that idea from!), once they've finished their studies to bring a new winemaking and marketing dimension perhaps.

Dry white

2005 Muscat sec – still fresh and mineral, ripe fruity palate v zingy elegant and long. 85-87
2004 Muscat sec Vin de Pays Catalan (13%) - Very floral, grapey and zesty with lemon and orange peel notes; fresh and crisp palate with quite good weight too. 87


2005 Coeur de Gamme Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Carignan Mourvèdre) – spicy fruit and background dark chocolate oak vs quite rich black fruit cocktail; firm vs rounded mouthfeel with light vanilla and coconut tannins and texture; perhaps slightly smokier, riper and more forward now, tasty and well-made. 89
2005 Haut de Gamme Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Carignan Mourvèdre from selected barrels) – quite similar at first, although you get the impression it has firmer structure and is more concentrated / powerful ("there's no real difference in alcohol strength or varietal blend," J-M confirmed, so it's all down to nuances in barrique-ageing and arduous lot selection by tasting); very attractive black cherry and liquorice fruit, perhaps showing better integration of the wood with rounder mouthfeel despite its dry texture; again well-made and -balanced, after a bit of aeration shows an enticing 'sweet vs savoury' finish vs grip. Can be drunk now although no hurry. 90-92
2003 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - Developing attractive smoky savoury notes on top of chocolate and liquorice black plum fruit, good depth and style with pretty grippy bite still, but it's also rounded on the finish. 90
2003 CdRV - tasted four years earlier: perfumed spice plus a hint of oak, chunky blackberry/cherry fruit, concentrated yet pretty firm and closed up on the finish at the moment; however, shows nice bite, elegance and ripeness with well handled oak. 87-89
2001 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Carignan 13%) - Beginning to oxidise and dry out a little, but still a nice drink now with its rustic liquorice fruit and dry yet ripe palate; lighter than the 2003. 85
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - enticing black cherry & olive fruit with background cedar spice notes, nice elegant liquorice and ripe plum style rounded off by firm dry yet supple tannins. 88-90

Tasted two years before:

2004 CdRV (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre) – similar ripe smoky plum and black cherry fruit, nice juicy texture v dry grip and liquorice fruit, elegant too. 88-90
2004 Fûts de Chêne Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre) – ripe smoky plum and liquorice fruit with a light touch of oak, rounded and full with lively bite of tannins and acidity on its attractive length. 90-92

2005 tank samples tasted in his cellar, late Sept 05:

Muscat d'Alexandrie - super aromatic with juicy grapey flavours, lovely depth of fruit and fresh acidity.
Muscat à Petits Grains (Frontignan) - richer than above yet more apple and citrus too, nice concentration and intensity of flavour.
Syrah (best parcels low yielding) - delicious perfumed ripe blackberry nose, nice dry grip and extract v concentration and fresh bite.
Syrah (fermented at lower temperature) - attractive fruit although less generous at this stage and firmer, perhaps more straightforward yet still very nice.
Grenache (after 4 days fermentation) - lovely fruity spicy black cherry and liquorice tones, rich and ripe v fresher cut; still plenty of sugar left, should reach at least 15.5% (will be blended with lower degree Syrah and Mourvèdre).

Vins Doux Naturels

2002 Vendanges d'Or et de Pierre Rivesaltes Ambré (old vine Grenache gris & Macabeu, 16% + 85 grams/litre residual sugar) - complex 'cheesy' oxidising nose with pecan nut notes, turning to toffee vs tangy walnut and Fino aromas/flavours; lively punch with attractive sweet vs savoury texture and finish, beginning to mellow nicely although has plenty of time ahead of it. Good with the foie gras and Maury jelly we had at lunch (at Le Relais des Corbières/La Garrigue in Saint-Paul de Fenouillet), making it taste lusher and more "late-harvest" in style with delicious grapier finish. 90+
1994 Rivesaltes Tuilé (Grenache 16%) - delicious Porty aromas of black fruits, liquorice, leather and cinnamon; rich sweet powerful palate balanced by textured tannins, fresh cut of alcohol and mature earthy dried fruit. Yum, nice with Gruyere, Comté or mature cheddar. 92+ 
1997 Rivesaltes Ambré - quite intense toffee and walnut notes, shows attractive bite and length v warming sweetness. 90

12 Rue Urbain Paret, 66310 Estagel. Tel: 04 68 29 01 21, mobile: 06 70 48 39 79.

30 March 2009

Languedoc: Château de Pennautier/Vignobles Lorgeril, Cabardès/Minervois/St-Chinian/Roussillon...

Château de Pennautier - Vignobles Lorgeril

The Lorgeril family wine empire, based at this marvellous aristocratic 17th-Century Ch
âteau in Cabardès country northwest of Carcassonne, now not only takes in many appellations and promising estates in the Languedoc, but they've also recently dipped their toe into French Catalan territory by purchasing vineyards in Côtes du Roussillon Villages AOC. They own two other properties in the Carcassonne area, Château La Bastide and Château de Caunettes, all adding up to a significant amount of total Cabardès production; plus another leading one in Minervois-La-Livinière called La Borie Blanche; as well as having interests in or partnerships with domaines in Saint-Chinian, Faugères and Corbières. Which makes them a pretty formidable player in the South. Although overall the company produces quite a lot of wine including a wide range of AOC blends and Vin de Pays varietals - such as a fairly benchmark, chunky barrel-fermented Chardonnay, a handful of good rosés and reds full of character - their top Cabardès wine called L’Esprit, made from Syrah, Cabernet and/or Merlot, develops real complexity after five years ageing and certainly makes a serious quality statement (see below).
Back in Pennautier on the wine tourism front, the mini-empire also has a campsite and gîte complex adjoining the chateau’s grounds and good wine bar/restaurant/wine shop located on the left as you arrive in the village, next to the winery just before the bridge, where you can taste from the whole Lorgeril range. If you want to visit the chateau itself (just over the bridge on the right), and after they've finished all the work, you’ll need to make an appointment (see link below for accommodation options).

The wines below were sampled at Vinisud Montpellier, February 2008, and/or in situ when I visited in April 08.
Sauvignon BlancVin de Pays d'Oc (13%) - oily ripe citrus style finishing with fresh crisp bite. 85
2006 Chardonnay (13%) - again shows nice ripe peachy fruit in a Chile style, quite concentrated actually then crisp with fair length. 85-87

Viognier (13%) - zesty and aromatic with lightly exotic fruit, citrus flavours too v weight and fatness. 85
2005 Marquis de Pennautier blanc, 
Vin de Pays d'Oc (Roussanne Marsanne Bourboulenc Grenache blanc 13%) - waxy mature almost botrytis nose, creamy palate with nutty maturity v citrus too; very attractive food white and still just alive. 87
2006 Marquis de Pennautier
Chardonnay Terroirs d'Altitude - light toast and oatmeal enhanced by exotic and oily flavours/textures, a bit flabby and toasty but it's quite crisp too. 85
2005 Marquis de Pennautier 
Chardonnay - much richer exotic fruit v still tight acidity lending a little freshness; ripe oily oatmeal, chunky maturing 'sweet' fruit and subtle toast then cleaner length. 87-90
2007 Mouline de Ciffre, Languedoc 
rosé - strawberry and raspberry fruit; crisp and dry v rounded, lightly creamy and sturdy even. 85+
2007 L'Orangerie de Pennautier 
rosé (12.5%) - fresh rose petal and crunchy red fruits, zesty & crisp v nice depth of fruit. 87
Château de PennautierCabardès rosé (13%) - similar to above two yet has tighter structure and zingier length v a bit fuller and chunkier. 87+
Château de PennautierCabardès red (13.5%) - bright cassis / black cherry with light red pepper and redcurrant notes; quite grippy v vibrant lightly creamy fruit, dry v 'sweet' texture. 85-87
 Château de PennautierCabardès Collection Privée - attractive smoky development showing savoury leather, liquorice and raisin edges; still pretty firm but concentrated, powerful and balanced in the end thanks to maturing fruit and rounded v dry texture. 89-91
2001 Esprit
 de PennautierCabardès (Syrah Cabernet 13.5%) - smoky herbal & complex, maturing meaty fruit with liquorice, dark cherry and chocolate tones; concentrated and rich v solid tannins, lovely savoury/sweet fruit v power and length. 94
Esprit de PennautierCabardès (Syrah Merlot) - mature v herbal nose, rich fruit v big tannins, attractive ripeness turning savoury with leather and mushroom. 92-94
2006 La Borie Blanche
Minervois (14%) - smoky rustic notes enhanced by delicious wild black fruits and herbal mint tones, ripe yet dry tannins set on a juicy fruit finish; very attractive. The next time I found it more austere and not quite right, must have been a funny bottle. So we'll go with initial score.87-89
2006 Moulin de Ciffre
Saint-Chinian - more extracted and less charming now but it has underlying blackberry fruit v those solid tannins. 87
2003 Les Hauts de l'Enclos des Bories
Minervois-La-Livinière - still quite youthful with peppery black cherry fruit and liquorice v meaty edges; very firm tannins lined with more liquorice, pretty powerful alcohol (welcome to 2003) but it works, just. Wow indeed. 90-92
2003 Les Hauts de la Borie Blanche
Minervois-La-Livinière - subtle oak with menthol and spicy black cherry, very concentrated with extracted tannins but it's well-balanced. Not sure what the difference is to above wine but my notes aren't the same anyway. 92+
Château de Ciffre FaugèresTerroirs d'Altitude (barrel sample) - gorgeous spicy vibrant fruit with subtle depth on the palate, promising although don't leave it in oak for too long! 89-91
Château de CiffreSaint-Chinian (barrel sample) - the property straddles both AOCs by the way. More lifted perfumed Syrah style, chunky mouth-feel with liquorice and spice; yum. 90-92
2007 Mas des Montagnes
Côtes du Roussillon Villages (vat sample) - nice fruit and spicy liquorice Grenache style, grip v ripe and rounded. 85+

2007 Mas des Montagnes Terroirs d'Altitude, Côtes du Roussillon Villages(cask sample) - similar fruit but much more concentrated, firm tannins v vibrant liquorice with savoury leather edges. 89
2006 Domaine des Causses
St-Chinian (13%) - a bit thinner than the others, OK but lacking. 80
2006 La Combe des Oliviers
Corbières (70% Mourvèdre 13%) - attractive resiny ripe nose leads on to a 'sweet' v spicy palate; good depth, style and length & balance of fruit concentration v tannins. Aromatic Bandol-esque liquorice, black olive and tea notes; lush fragrant fruit v grippy tannins v weight. 90-92
2003 Les 
CèdresVin de Pays d'Oc (Syrah Malbec) - nice mix of 'sweet 'n' sour' with very chunky fruit and tannins, rustic v tangy finish showing real depth too. 92+
2005 Pinot Noir, Le Clos de St-Jean - pretty tight and closed with fresh acidity, background wood and elegant fruit; not getting much, needs airing perhaps.

Spring 2009 update: I tasted a few new wines with English (yet another invader in the south of France!) export sales director Tim Smith (who's since left to work for Gérard Bertrand I was told, Ed.), who also took me on a tour around the recently restored Château de Pennautier. For more info on that, read my article from the July 2009 issue of Decanter magazine (go to "western Languedoc travel"). The Lorgeril range is well represented in the UK and US - send them an email for details (click below).
2007 Saint-Chinian 
Terroirs d'Altitude - enticing dark cherry and tobacco notes on the nose; spicy and lush mouthfeel vs grippy and powerful, pretty chunky texture vs nice fruit and length. €8 89
Faugères Terroirs d'Altitude - same blend of grapes and treatment, different vineyards (although adjacent where the two appellations border each other). Spicier and more structured, dense and concentrated with underlying dark ripe fruit. €9.70 89+
2007 Mas des Montagnes 
Côtes du Roussillon Villages - richer "sweeter" spicy liquorice fruit (more Grenache in this wine); attractive rounded palate, juicy and lively vs a touch of grip. €6.10 87
Mas des Montagnes Terroirs d'Altitude Côtes du Roussillon Villages -more closed up on the nose showing a hint of chocolate oak; punchier, firm and tight palate vs good depth of fruit, a bit unrevealing but should develop nicely. €9.25 89+

More Lorgeril / Pennautier here (tasting report May 2011 when I actually stayed at the château château, will be restored...).
And the latest Pennautier Cabardès vintages are now here (June 2012).

Route de Carcassonne, 11610 Pennautier. Tel: 04 68 72 65 29, contact@lorgeril.comwww.vignobles-lorgeril.com.

16 March 2009

Roussillon: Clos de l'Origine, Maury

New age Marc Barriot, who's working towards biodynamic certification, is a pleasure to talk to, always buzzing with ideas and opinions, which he doesn't hold back on! Click here for previous notes on his wines, and here's a little philosophical snippet translated from his website: "As wine should be and remain a living product, I don't aim to make perfect boring wines..." Way to go, Marc, as our transatlantic friends might say. As you'll see from the picture (right), he does sometimes use a mule to get rid of unwanted weeds and churn the soil on his vineyards' trickiest slopes. Marc has disparate parcels totalling 5 ha (12.5 acres) around Maury and in Calce, Estagel and Montner; so he must clock up quite a bit of "kilometre-age" knowing how much time he spends in the vineyard. He's also experimenting with low or no-sulphur winemaking and keeping things as natural as possible; a bit of a cliché, I know, but in his case it seems genuine (as long as you keep a close eye on everything). He's also something of a Greenpeace-type when it comes to environmental issues, local or global. Marc's experimented with a variety of arty and/or humorous labels; the current ones feature portraits of 'the big guy himself'.

I tasted these wines at the Fenouillèdes wine show in April 2007:
2005 L'Original blanc, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes (Macabeu Muscat à petits grains) – attractive juicy apple fruit with intense mineral palate, crisp v concentrated. 85-87
2005 Soif de Plaisirs, Côtes du Roussillon red (60% Carignan, Grenache Syrah) – nice ripe black cherry and liquorice intensity tinged with a touch of VA complexity; quite concentrated and rich with subtle grip and length. 87-89

2004 Clos de l'Origine, Côtes du Roussillon red – pure aromas with more intense blackcurrant/cherry notes, again showing that hallmark intensity; subtle concentration with appealing fresh bite and length wrapped in liquorice fruit. 90

Update 2009: a comprehensive tasting tour around, and from, Marc's increasing collection of varying sizes of vats and barrels in March produced the following notes and comments.
2008 Grenache gris / Grenache blanc (already blended in a six year-old cask) - light apricot aromas & flavours vs appley and crisp; very dry yet honeyed and floral, nice style.
2008 Grenache gris / Grenache blanc (same blend, one year-old 400 litre barrel) - a bit fatter with yeast-less juiciness, pineapple fruit then turns crisp and fresh with good length. He'll blend the two probably.
2008 Macabeu / Muscat - attractive mix of juicy and spicy vs aromatic, grapey
and clean.
2008 Grenache rosé (from Maury, picked 25 August with 13.5%, run off quickly) - appealing juicy spicy light red fruit cocktail, crisp dry and tasty.
2008 Muscat ("petits grains" on schist) - picked on 18 August around 12% potential: lively aromatic grapey and citrus notes, clean "straight" and crisp palate.
2008 Syrah ("carbonic maceration") - perfumed spicy very-Syrah nose with rustic edges, juicy cherry fruit; quite easy although has a bit of grip though.
2008 Carignan (+ splash of Lladoner Pelut, from Montner & Estagel) - tangy and structured with elder/blueberry aromas / flavours, firm tannins vs quite delicate mineral frisson.
2008 Grenache (Maury, picked 30 September from north-facing clay-chalk slopes, 14%) - quite tautly textured actually with very solid framework vs delicious liquorice and spice flavours. Should be an excellent element in the blend.
2007 Soif (Carignan Grenache Syrah) - the only finished wine I tried this time: aromatic dark cherries with smoky tobacco notes and wild strawberries too; nice depth of fruit set on firm tannins and fresh bite, very tasty and, erm, thirst-quenching I guess (soif = thirst)! 87+
2007 Grenache - a bit volatile and/or dirty or
reduced; something odd on the nose for sure? But its powerful structured mouthfeel finishes with much nicer wild fruits and herbs.
2008 Muscat "Alexandrie" - a bit "fatter" than above with exotic curry (I can't read my notes very well but that's what it looks like!) and orange/lemon twang; nice cut with clean aromatic finish.

1 Route de Lesquerde, 66460 Maury
. Tel: 04 68 53 10 38, mobile 06 75 03 71 71; closdelorigine@gmail.com, closdelorigine.free.fr.

13 March 2009

Languedoc: Château de Stony, Frontignan

Château de Stony

Frédéric and Henri Nodet live and breathe Muscat: in addition to a couple of classic Muscat de Frontignan Vin Doux Naturel styles, and a drink-young zesty dry white; their sometimes sublime Lumière d’Automne speciality is made from very ripe, late-picked grapes (leaving 50 grams/litre residual sugar) and aged in oak. They also make an aromatic tasty Muscat (Petits Grains) grape juice and "real" honey on the estate. To find Chateau de Stony, follow signs for La Peyrade rather than Frontignan town centre: this peaceful pretty property feels quite isolated, once you go down the dusty track into their yard, even though it's on the edge of a residential area and not that far from the, erm, least attractive side of Sète (slight understatement but if you do visit the latter, ignore the rather grisly eastern side and head straight for its attractive, canal-side centre).

I visited Stony and tasted these in March 2009:
2007 Muscat sec - distinctly Muscaty nose, aromatic and grapey; still quite crisp and aniseedy although, in the end, best to move on to the 2008 soon. 85
2006 Kermès Vin de Pays d'Oc (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache13.5%) - showing quite a bit of vanilla oak on the nose but also has nice red fruits and spices; dry v coconut texture with chunky finish, needs a few months to open up fully. 87
2007 Muscat de Frontignan Sélection de Vendanges (15%) - attractive juicy grapey style with honey and marmalade notes; lush and sweet yet has nice citrus / orange peel finish and cut and the alcohol doesn't hit you staying in the background, so quite elegant actually in the end. 87+
2004 Lumière d’Automne Vin de Pays d'Oc (Muscat 14%) - oxidising pecan nut nose, luscious fruit v light oak texture; actually quite powerful with fresh acidity too v underlying sweetness. Different. 89
Previous vintages here ("Fetes des Vignes," Montpellier 2004).

Route de Balaruc, La Peyrade, 34110 Frontignan. Tel: 04 67 18 80 30, frederic.nodet@9online.fr.

10 March 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Piétri-Géraud, Collioure

The feminine touch of mother and daughter Maguy and Laetitia Piétri-Géraud might explain this small-scale winery's more elegant yet still structured Collioure reds, such as their Moulin de la Cortine sporting less Grenache, more Syrah and Mourvèdre. They also make a scarcer white Banyuls as well as very attractive examples of all the red styles: lush fruity Rimage to oxidised toffee-like Cuvée du Soleil, which is matured outdoors entirely in bonbonnes, glass demijohns. They have a tasting shop in bijou old town Collioure and cramped little cellar up the road a bit.

I sampled the following wines in October 2006 - Laetitia also does a tasty rosé but didn't have any left to try! (NB see update below below for notes on her 2008 rosé.)
2004 L'Ecume Collioure blanc (Grenache blanc & gris Vermentino, 13.5%) - oily nutty oxidising style, dry and mineral with very light oak texture; subtle intensity and freshness. €11 85
2004 Collioure red (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre Carignan) - nice perfumed ripe fruit, light bite and easier drink-now style. €9.50 85
2004 Le Moulin de la Cortine Collioure (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - peppery smokier fruit, tighter firmer palate, long and elegant; needs a bit of time to open up. €12 87-
892004 Banyuls blanc - quite floral and honeyed v lightly oxidised almond notes, sweet v interesting fresh cut. €14.50 87
2004 Banyuls Rimage Mademoiselle (fortified on the fruit and skins before pressing) - lovely raspberry summer fruits, soft mouth-feel with dried fruit and light leather to finish; very fruity v nice bite of tannins/alcohol. €11 88
1998 Banyuls cuvée Joseph Géraud (aged for 7 years in large casks plus some in demijohns outside) - delicious maturing dried fruits with rich fig and raisin notes, seems less sweet on the finish with those oxidised pecan nut tones and the alcohol lending freshness. €12 89+
2000 cuvée Méditerranée (5 years in newer barrels) - more aromatic with intense prune fruit, drier grip and more structured finish. €14 90+
2000 cuvée du Soleil - much more toffee-ish and roasted pecans, actually doesn't taste so oxidised, more Madeira like; long and sumptuous. €20 50cl

Update spring 2009:
2008 Collioure rosé (
Grenache Syrah) - nice fruity and actually relatively light / elegant style despite being 13.5%: tight zingy mouthfeel with subtle red fruits lurking underneath. 85+
2007 Sine Nomine Collioure red (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre Carignan) - perfumed and spicy with enticing ripe fruit and liquorice; tangy and dry textured vs powerful yet quite soft, nice now actually. 87
2007 Banyuls blanc (just bottled) - lightly honeyed with a hint of toasted wood; rounded and oily palate beginning to turn nutty and not too punchy, closes up a bit so needs 6 to 12 months to express itself better. €12
2007 Banyuls Rimage - floral with lots of cassis notes; lively and lush vs crunchy and dry textured, quite elegant finish. 87+
2000 Banyuls cuvée Joseph Géraud - turning toffee-ish with roasted coffee notes, sweet raspberries and chocolate too; savoury drier finish with a bit of kick vs lush coating. €13 89+
2003 Méditerranée ("no barriques and less oxidation") - complex coffee and stewed raspberry aromas, mature and meaty vs sweet and pruney then shows some fresher cut; attractive now with its dried fruit finish. €14 88+
2003 Cuvée du Soleil (3 years in demijohns) - deep amber / golden brown colour, lovely pecan nut and toffee aromas / flavours; intricate nutty and tangy vs rich and toasted, dried apricots and orange peel vs honey on toast, very long and seductive. 92-94
2005 Muscat Vendanges Tardives vin de pays d'Oc (picked from mid Oct. into Nov.) - oxidised, super honeyed and raisiny vs nutty and "straw" notes too; perfumed lush fruit with quince tones and lightly grainy texture, sweet yet not too heavy. Different.

22 rue Pasteur, 66190 Collioure (shop, tasting and barrel store – their cramped cellar is on rue du Docteur Coste). Tel: 04 68 82 07 42, fax 04 68 98 02 58; domaine.pietri-geraud@wanadoo.fr.


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