"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

20 April 2009

Roussillon: La Petite Baigneuse, Maury

I found the following identical blurb about La Petite Baigneuse (named after the painting by Ingres perhaps?) on these two on-line retailers' websites: www.vinnaturel.fr and cave.gustumo.com, who both list some their wines for €11-€12. So, I guess it came from the same source i.e. the producer: "Domaine La Petite Baigneuse has 12.5 ha (30 acres) of vineyard lying in one spot on the highest part of the Maury appellation bordering wild scrubland. Certain plots face different ways but it's all on the same soil: schist. Philippe and Céline Wies (who are from Alsace by the way) set up this estate in 2008 aiming to make wines "as naturally as possible while letting the site express its full potential..." (a bit of a cliché nowadays but rings true enough looking at the end result, see below). I also found their contact details (as I appear to have lost their card!) on this site: remise2009.free.fr, home of some kind of annual "natural wine" event in Nimes. Anyway, I tried their wines, some of them unfinished as 2008 is their first vintage, at the Fenouillèdes wine fair in late April 2009. I'll update this profile when I go and see them...

2008 Grain de Soleil white (Macabeu) - appley "real cider" aromas/flavours with floral honeyed undercurrents; fresh and crisp bite vs a bit of weight on the finish. 85+
2008 Juste Ciel! white (
Grenache gris) - more mineral and intense in style; quite structured actually, lively and very long with good depth too. 87+
Plaît-il? rosé - elegant & lightly creamy red fruity style, again has that lively "mineral" length. 85+
2008 Trinquette red vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Grenache) - aromatic and floral with cassis and cherry notes; nice grip and dry texture vs ripe peppery fruit. 87
2008 Les Loustics (Grenache & Syrah) - juicier style, attractive and quite straightforward. 80-85
2008 Grand Largue (Lladoner Pelut & Carignan) red Côtes du Roussillon - plenty of enticing juicy spicy fruit, quite lush intense and peppery with solid finish; attractive style. 87+

Route de Lesquerde, 66460 Maury. Tel: 04 68 73 83 25, philippe.wies@orange.fr

17 April 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Rousselin, Lesquerde


Laurence and Pascal Rousselin have been based in the pretty hilltop village of Lesquerde since 2005, one of the so-called 'Village Villages' appellations, if you follow my drift, found in the northern Roussillon a few kilometres southwest of Maury. They have eight hectares (20 acres) of organically farmed vineyards lying around this area at about 350 metres above sea level. I like their "mission statement" on their Facebook page (which is more up-to-date / detailed than their website at the bottom, by the way, and where I copied the photo from): "le virtuel c'est bien, le goûteux, le glouglou, l'échange... c'est mieux!" Which roughly translates as: "Virtual (reality) is good; tasty things, glugging and sharing are better!" You could live and die by that, man.
I talked and tasted with Laurence earlier this year at Millésime Bio organic wine show:
2011 Muscat sec - grapey and crisp with a wilder cider-y side, but not too much, clean and dry finish with nice orange peel vs rounder exotic flavours/texture.
2012 Syrah - pure fruit and spicy nose, a touch awkward on the palate when I tried it (a tank sample) but had good depth.
2012 Grenache (also unfinished) - chewy and dense, spicy black fruits, grippy texture yet with nice tannins though.
2011 Les Orientales Lesquerde (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvedre) - chunky rich and concentrated, spicy dark fruit vs firm structure still, tasty meaty vs lush dark fruit, fresh tight and long. Lovely wine, needs a few more months in bottle to open up fully.
2011 Rivesaltes Grenat Vin Doux Naturel (Grenache) - rich dark cherry, marshmallow and kirsch with meaty edges; lush and dense, pretty firm and grippy mouth-feel though layered with delicious dark sweet fruit, tasty finish; nice balance and style.

And these wines were tasted back in 2009 at the Fenouillèdes wine fair held in Tautavel:
2008 Grenache - very Grenache with lots of liquorice and white pepper.
2008 Syrah - rich and extracted black cherry fruit with spicy finish.
2008 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde (Syrah Carignan Grenache) - nice mix of lush, ripe, toffee-ish fruit and peppery mineral notes underneath; firm and structured vs very fruity. 89
2006 Syrah - developing smoky notes vs quite oaky, rich and structured Rhoney style, still lively although beginning to mature nicely. 87
2007 CdRV Lesquerde - lovely fruit, rounded vs firm bite, turning savoury with dark fruit / chocolate on the finish. €13 88+

104 route départementale 19, 66220 Lesquerde. Tel: 06 12 51 64 58 (mobile) / 04 68 59 17 12 (home/winery). domaine-rousselin.e-monsite.com

16 April 2009

Roussillon: Château La Casenove, Trouillas

ETIENNE MONTES from rhone.vignobles.free.frI tasted most of Etienne Montès' Catalan delights on a fact (and wine) finding mission in May 2007 (and re-tasted the leftovers over the following few days), as you'll see below. Catalan indeed: Etienne now chooses to label all of his wines as vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes in stoical protest, as he fell out with the Roussillon AOC authorities (part philosophical, political and financial: it's a long-ish story...). Casenove is an enchanting serene backwater found down a dirt track signposted off the main road between Trouillas and the N9 (Perpignan-Le Boulou); even if it is located not far from the motorway and the new high-speed train line to Barcelona that's being frantically built, although you wouldn't know it once you're there.
Out stepped a laid-back colourfully cardigan-ed Etienne Montès, who takes great pleasure in showing around, talking and tasting with someone "interested in what we're doing." We discussed many things, although his views on Carignan and Les Aspres Côtes du Roussillon zone are especially worthy of note. The oldest Carignan among Casenove's 50 ha/125 acres dates from 1934, which is "still good... I'd like more old vines in general," while summarising his father's and his re/planting programme over the years. The oldest Syrah is a relative baby at 32 years old with more planted in 1994.
"It's too hot for Syrah in certain areas, and the Grenache we have here isn't so well adapted to the Aspres; you have to be selective. I think we should use more Carignan because of hotter vintages, yet we're told we should decrease the amount of Carignan so they can do a Languedoc in the Roussillon. I'm against this commercial rather than philosophical policy." The Aspres sub-appellation rules limit the amount of Carignan growers are permitted to put in their blend and also extends into the Albères (the hills bordering Spain). "We talked about it for 10 years, they should have chosen Albères for the name. I've never labelled as Aspres as it was wrong from the start by dictating the varieties," Etienne concluded. His wines are well distributed in Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Canada and the US.
2004 Masia M 'Roussillon red wine' (from the most productive Grenache & Carignan 13.5%) - he hopes to build this label into a kind-of mini-brand. Light red pepper and cherry fruit, dry grip and a little weight v easy fruit. Re-tasted: less leafy and more open, cherry with liquorice edges. €6 85
2005 Masia M - more generous and rustic than the 04 with richer fruit and chunkier tannins; bigger with rounded mouth-feel, power and grip. Re-tasted: more seductive with earthy black fruits, quite powerful and firm v lush. €6 87
2004 La Garrigue, Domaine La Casenove (Carignan Grenache Syrah 14.5%) - a bit closed on the nose (had just been bottled), black cherry elderberry and 'inky' liquorice fruit on the palate; quite powerful yet elegant too, subtle fruit v coating of tannins, balanced length closing up a little on the finish. Re-tasted: denser brambly elderberry fruit; quite rich, extracted, powerful and firm v fine fresh intensity and finish. 89-91
2004 Torrespeyres, Domaine La Casenove (Carignan Syrah 14.5%) - fragrant black cherry / blueberry with background coconut oak, fairly intense fruit with dark chocolate nuances; this has bite, grip and power on its tight long finish. Re-tasted: dense and powerful palate with peppery blueberry / blackberry and lusher liquorice; firm and commanding with floral v dark choc v savoury veneer. 90-92
2004 cuvée Francois Jaubert (Syrah) - spicy vanilla oak v chunky fruit and tannins; more 'international' in style but still shows that hallmark fine grip, bite and balanced power. Re-tasted: still quite vanilla oaky but has depth, class and savoury development; robust firm palate v fruit/oak sweetness. 88-90
2001 Rivesaltes rouge - open for a week: quite oxidised black plum and dark roast coffee tones give way to a savoury v sweet palate with bitter choc and blackberry tinges; firm tannins v rounded sweet & sour fruit, powerful but not fiery. 89-91
1998 Rivesaltes ambré (Grenache Macabeu) - the casks spent 2-3 years outside, bottled in 2006: roasted coconut and maple notes, pecan pie richness v tangy coating; oxidised sweetness v fine freshness from the alcohol and acidity. 90-92
Pedro Montès (2003 vintage Grenache Blanc, sun-dried leaving 80 grams of natural residual sugar and 9% alc) - super raisin aromas with complex Madeira type
volatility, very lush yet has nice freshness too. Different: apparently popular with a few Copenhagen restaurants. Etienne commented: "VDN wines need this kind of character otherwise they're just sugar and alcohol."
Consumed (in moderation) August 2007:
2000 Pla del Rei, Domaine St-Luc, Côtes du Roussillon (14.5%) - quite rustic and smoky nose, complex fruit development with savoury v liquorice v leather tones; rich dense palate, quite big alcohol but off-set by nice maturity v solid structure, multi-layered; quite sexy although a bit (too) rustic /
bretty? 87-90?
Casenove update 2009: I caught up with Etienne Montès on a suitably sunny spring day and tried some of his promising 2005s, as well as a couple of sublime eight year-old VDNs. He also told me he has a new importer in London and will be doing "a little bit of Côtes du Roussillon again" with the 2008 vintage, purely because "Fabrice Rieu (the new president of the CIVR, the region's trade body) is a friend of mine."2005 La Colomina vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Carignan Grenache Mourvèdre 14.5%) - slightly volatile and complex maturing leather tones vs attractive herbal berry, baked apple and liquorice edges; rounded 'sweet' palate with a touch of dry grip, freshness and subtle finish. Drink now to 3 years. €6 87
2005 La Garrigue vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Syrah Carignan Grenache 14.5%) - richer and smokier with very light chocolate spicy oak tones; more textured, firm and powerful layered with raspberry and black cherry fruit; quite concentrated with tauter tannins on the finish, although still rounded and attractive needing a year or two to open up. €?? 89+
2004 Torrespeyres (Carignan Syrah 14.5%) - more perfumed and spicier with wild herb and ripe blueberry tones; meaty savoury palate, quite complex and big mouthful showing greater depth with subtle chocolate oak texture; still pretty solid on the finish with plenty of life in it vs nicely maturing and concentrated fruit, structured and long. 90-92
2004 cuvée Jaubert (Syrah 14.5%) - attractive maturing "gravy" aromas with shades of background chocy oak; rich vs firm mouthfeel, vibrant and concentrated with underlying powerful tannins; nice "sweet vs savoury" profile too, quite a mouthful with touches of quite fine
northern Rhone actually. Yum. 92
2001 Rivesaltes Ambré (Grenache Macabeu) - this VDN spent 2-3 years in barriques outside with no topping up (losing almost a third of its volume in evaporation); final blend and bottling in January 2009. Enticing pecan / walnut tones and caramelised raspberries, Madeira-like style and complexity; big sweet palate vs intricate and endless aromas / flavours, wild volatile edges to its delicious voluptuous mouthfeel finishing with orange peel freshness. A one-off. 93-95
La Casenove, 66300 Trouillas. Tel: 04 68 21 66 33,
chateau.la.casenove@wanadoo.fr, rhone.vignobles.free.fr/pagesgb/montes.htm.

11 April 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Rivaton, Latour-de-France

UPDATED 2013 - see below.

Frédéric Rivaton arrived as a young pioneer on the "final frontier" (groan) of the northern Roussillon in 2004 - that was his first vintage I think - and now has 12 ha (30 acres) scattered around the old old "border" village of Latour de France (west of Estagel, southeast of Maury: there's some history there...). He says he likes to work as "naturally" as possible (widely used nowadays without much official definition, although pretty obvious for those who mean it) with a lot of fussy work in the vineyard especially and only using treatments sanctioned by organic viticulture, e.g. sulphur and copper based "natural" chemicals (there I go again with the ").
The two reds below and Frédéric's very lively old-Carignan grape juice ("I can't make wine out of it..." paraphrasing what he told me once) were tasted at the 2009 Fenouillèdes wine fair in Tautavel:
2005 Vieilles Vignes (Carignan Grenache "etc.") - smoky "inky" nose, quite rustic but it's lush with wild fruit flavours and tobacco notes, nice soft spicy fruit and texture with mature supple finish. 87+
2006 Gribouille Côtes du Roussillon Villages "Latour de France" (Carignan Grenache Syrah) - more structured and concentrated with liquorice, tobacco and toffee apple; spice and leather notes too, nice now actually although should improve over the next year or so. 87-89
Carignan 1930 jus de raisin - very nice and refreshing with aromatic sweet vs tart finish. Different!
And this is what I said previously about his wines (the May 2006 wine fair):
2004 Gribouille Latour de France CdRV - (2nd bottle; the one in the blind tasting was bottled too soon and suffered from reductive taint) nice smoky tar and leather tones, rich and ripe v firm and tight, attractive style. 90
2005 Latour de France CdRV ("probably": cask sample) - smoky leather tinged with black cherries, rustic and lush with solid yet elegant finish. 90
And back in January 2005, my first comprehensive (wine) trip to the area:
2004 Domaine Rivaton (unnamed vat sample) - quite chunky fruit and structure, tight long finish, shows promise. 89

Had a chat and taste with Fred earlier this year in Montpellier, who's moved all his wines under the simpler 'Vin de France' umbrella designation. Something to do with bureaucrats not liking and passing his wines for 'appellation', but "they're not going to stop me making wine," he explained with feeling!
Rage against the Machine white (Macabeu, Muscat) - quite wild and cider-y, lively mineral palate with ripe apple and aniseed, crisp long finish. Good in that not-for-everyone style.
Panoramix sparkling rosé (Syrah) - second fermentation in bottle. Nice and fresh with raspberry fruit, crisp lively finish, appealing style.
Panoramix dry white (Macabeu, Carignan blanc, Grenache gris) - appley edges, crisp and mineral vs nutty finish.
2011 Tombé du Ciel red - "a difficult vintage," Fred commented, "and it's (the wine) a bit close to the edge..." Pretty funky 'volatile nose', peppery and concentrated, some nice cherry fruit underneath but it's a little wild, man.
2009 old vines (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah) - quite rich and chunky, attractive dark fruit, still pretty funky although concentrated vs firm and tight still.
2009 Gribouille (same blend but from schist soils) - structured vs lush, very concentrated and less earthy than the others, solid powerful finish. Nice red.

9 rue Gabriel Péri, 66720 Latour de France. Tel: 04 68 51 76 08, v-frivaton@tele2.fr, rivaton.vinsnaturels.fr.

10 April 2009

Roussillon: Domaine de l'Éléphant, Vingrau/Opoul/Espira-de-l’Agly

This newish, apparently Indian-owned estate (hence the name) is made up of vineyard parcels in three lofty village sites (between 250 and 300 metres = c. 900 feet altitude) around Vingrau (spectacularly pictured), Opoul and Espira-de-l’Agly. Resident winery manager Philippe Cambie is working with the well-known consultants Michel Tardieu and Renaud Chastagnol and is implementing organic farming and "low-intervention" winemaking techniques. One to watch perhaps, although they've embarked on a silly-money pricing strategy from the start at €28 and €36 for these two wines respectively, tasted at the Fenouillèdes wine fair in April 2009. Their US importer is Bourgeois Family Selections in North Carolina (hover over pic. for web details). Update to follow.

2007 Estima Vinifera white (Grenache gris/Grenache blanc/Macabeu) - lightly toasty with creamy yeast-lees undertones, exotic fruit vs fresh bite and 14% weight although it's well balanced / handled. 87
2007 Elephant red (Grenache/very-old Carignan) - rather vanilla & coconut oaky but underneath it seems intense and rich with cassis and liquorice flavours; shows subtle concentration perhaps and lush texture vs refreshing and quite stylish finish. Just bottled when I tried it so we'll see if that oak blends in over time... 87-89



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