"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

01 October 2009

Roussillon: Domaine de l'Edre, Vingrau

Pascal Dieunidou and Jacques Castany are almost "old-timers" (relative to the many young-gun estates now around, I mean), having joined forces and vineyards in the Vingrau area eight years ago. 2002 was the first year they decided to take the winemaking plunge and actually make their own wine (one), although they've both had a few plots of vines for longer than that and previously delivered their grapes to the local co-op. Jacques' father also used to be a co-op grower and Pascal started "lending a hand" (as it says on their site, see link below) tending a friend's vineyard in 1999. And it all took off from there, as the story goes... Edre does have a pretty good reputation among in-the-know fans of small-production Roussillon wines, and my notes seem to confirm that. They now make two red blends and a very good white too. I tasted two vintages of one of the reds back in October 2009:
2007 "Carrément rouge" Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah/Grenache/Carignan 15%) - herbal funky edges on the nose underlined by spicy Syrah-dominated fruit; ripe liquorice flavours vs firm dry texture, pretty powerful finish but it's concentrated. 88(+)
2008 "Carrément rouge" - spicy minty aromas vs gorgeous lush fruit and mouthfeel, juicy and dark finishing with attractive "sweet" yet savoury profile. Yum. 90
And previously, tasted at the
6th Fenouillèdes wine show 2006:
2005 Côtes du Roussillon blanc - yeasty and fat start leads to fresh mineral poise, crisp and dry v rich mouth-feel. 87-89
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Carignan) - rich vibrant blackberry fruit with chocolate oak texture, firm closed up finish but it reveals more with a little aeration, dense and powerful (14.5%) yet has nice bite too. Needs time. 87-89

81 rue du Maréchal Joffre, 66600 Vingrau. By appointment only, phone numbers are on www.edre.fr

Roussillon: Saint-Bacchus Awards 2009

The award-winning wines gleaned from this annual French Catalan taste-off were this year (2009) billed as "the finest representation of the Roussillon region," which it probably isn't although for sure there are some good wines to pick from here. As in any competition, the winners are only as good as the wines submitted in the first place and, I assume as I don't know what the original 'pre-selected' line-up was, it appears the majority of the Roussillon's best growers and winemakers didn't/don't actually enter the Saint-Bacchus. Why don't they? Instead of moaning that it's a PR stunt for co-ops and big wineries (paraphrasing what I've heard from more than one source, and admittedly there's apparently a minimum volume requirement for any wine entered), they should put their wine where their mouth is, so to speak, so in the end it does truly represent "the region's finest." By the way, this rant certainly isn't a criticism of the tasters (I know and respect some of them) nor judging process; wine judges can only give their verdict on the bottles put in front of them. Just a missed opportunity maybe due to local wine politics! So, why not allow any wine regardless of the quantity available?
Talking of judges, just to fill you in a little on how the competition works... 158 wines out of 327 submitted (see what I mean, not that many) were singled out in Perpignan last April by local winemakers, sommeliers and wine merchants. These were then sent to London the following month to be tasted blind by an "international" panel (eight different nationalities I'm told) at the Maison de la Région Languedoc-Roussillon (yes, they've blown a load of money on some swanky premises in the West End), who picked 21 winners. I tasted all of these in September 2009, not blind and mostly in the kitchen over dinner by the way! See my notes & reviews opposite, for what it's worth... Many thanks to the CIVR (Roussillon wine industry body) for the samples, who are doing a bit of a St-Bacchus autumn road-show around France and further afield: more info from www.vinsduroussillon.com.

In no particular order, apart from colour/style and when they were opened... Search through the 'Winery A to Z' (right) for lots more wines from most of these wineries.

2008 Le Petit Blanc de Saint Roch, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (13%) - tastes like a closet dry Muscat (doesn't specify the grapes although it's actually 50/50 Muscat/Sauvignon blanc) with floral, grapey, orange peel notes; not bad weight and roundness, oily texture and a bit of depth vs crisp and dry, fairly simple style but attractive. €6 cellar door. 83-85
2008 Cuvée Centenaire Domaine Lafage, Côtes du Roussillon ( Grenache blanc & Roussanne 13.5%) - well-made "New Worldy" white with just a hint of oak, quite fat and creamy with "sweet" fruit vs lovely fresh mineral bite; juicy yeast-lees notes vs crisp and dry finish, nice balance and style. €8.50 cellar door, £9.50 Bibendum Wines, London; US: European Cellars, Charlotte NC. 87-89
2008 Viognier Arnaud de Villeneuve, vin de pays d'Oc (13%) - leaner zingy style showing very lightly exotic peach and pear fruit vs juicy crisp mouthfeel; not very Viognier in the end, although it's a refreshing wine and went well with a quite strong chicken curry actually! £6.99 Liberty Wines, London. 80-85
2008 Collioure Cornet & Cie (Cave Abbé Rous, mostly Grenache grisRoussanne, Marsanne, Vermentino 14%) - the second time I've tried this wine and I can't really get on with it I'm afraid: perhaps less oaky than I remember and juicier, oilier and more mineral although still rather toasted; powerful with a touch of crispness on the finish, but it's quite charred too vs not enough "fat" for me. Mind you, my neighbours liked it so there you go. €11.50 cellar door, £8.99 M&S (from November).
2008 Côtes du Roussillon Château Rombeau (14%) - peachier and spicier style with creamy lees notes too; more exotic and richer vs lightly toasted flavour/texture; honeyed leesy creamy palate vs crisp bite and spicy bitter edges, pretty weighty mouthfeel too. Perhaps better even after being open for 24 hours. €7.50 cellar door. 87+

2008 Rosé des Vents Château de Caladroy, Côtes du Roussillon (GrenacheCarignanSyrah 13%) - full-on rounded fruity "vinous" style (as the French say) with lots of raspberry fruit and rose petal edges; chunky mouthfull with a tad of tannin even vs dry crisp finish. Well-made gourmet rosé. €6.50 cellar door and French supermarkets/wine shops, US importer: Vintage 59, Washington DC. 87+
2008 Parfum de Vignes Domaine Lafage, Côtes du Roussillon ( SyrahGrenacheCarignan 13%) - quite full and "chunky" with attractive rounded creamy strawberry fruit vs fresher edges and food-friendly weight; perhaps lacks a bit of zing though. €8.50 cellar door, £8.25 Bibendum. 85+
2008 "Rozy" Dom Brial, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Syrah & Muscat 13%) - quite aromatic Muscaty nose, moves on to a leaner Provence style palate showing nice light floral red fruits, oily mouthfeel and dry bite; keep it well chilled though. €5.50 cellar door. 80-83
2007 "Colline Matisse" Le Dominicain, Collioure ( Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan 14.5%) - a touch reduced / vegetal to start vs "sweet" liquorice and black cherry; mouth-filling and fairly soft, a bit clunky and unbalanced but it's an attractive enough, big-hearted style. €7 cellar door. 85
2006 "Le Grand A" Domaine Arguti, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (GrenacheCarignanSyrah 14.5%) - well-made polished style, powerful and peppery with maturing dark fruits vs coconut oak spice and textured tannins; drinking quite well with e.g. fillet steak although it's a bit too punchy and warm on its own. Leave it till winter. However, it does have attractive dry vs lush fruity texture vs savoury flavours; the next day, it was meatier with more savoury/leather notes vs that "sweet" dark fruit and the oak merging into it better; quite nice tannins with a bitter twist, although I still found the alcohol a touch dominant, definitely a big food wine. 89+
2007 "Les Audacieux" Pierre Audonnet Domaine Piquemal, vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes ( Merlot Syrah Grenache 13.5%) - smoky spicy liquorice aromas mingle with earthy herbal red pepper tones; turning into blackcurrant and plum with darker cherry and chocolate, chunky fruity style underpinned by a bit of grip and power; tasty and savoury vs "sweet" and spicy, nice now although has a good 2-3 years in it yet. US: Beaune Imports, Berkeley CA and Idela Wines & Spirit co. Inc, Medford MA. 87-89
2007 "Kerbuccio" Château Saint-Roch Domaine Lafage, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache, SyrahMourvèdre 15%) - dense rich colour and nose, very powerful with white pepper, liquorice, black cherry and damsons vs light background oak; juicy plump fruity palate vs dry and firm texture although rounded "chocolate" tannins adding light oak texture too (much more subtle than previous vintages); that 15% is pretty punchy and peppery on the finish, putting it out of balance (at the moment anyway) but difficult not to be seduced by its lush fruit vs dry coating. €23 cellar door, £18.95 Harrods; US: European Cellars, Charlotte NC. 89+
2006 "Soleil Rouge" Mas Baux, Côtes du Roussillon (Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache 14.5%) - has certain charm with maturing smoky raisiny fruit and leafy cassis (funny mix of ripe vs not very); dry tannins vs savoury black olive flavours on the palate, the alcohol is a bit overpowering vs lack of concentration and lushness. Quirky style that gets better with food after airing, although perhaps still lacks substance over power. €12 cellar door, US: Small Production Wines, Portland OR. 85+
2007 "Cuvée Alexandre" Domaine St. Sébastien, Collioure (14.5%) - punchy and spicy with quite attractive "sweet" liquorice fruit and hint of vanilla oak; big rounded palate, again lacks a bit of depth vs that %, although improves over 24 hours turning smoother, less fiery and strangely more chocolate oaky; again quite a nice foodie in the end. 87


2008 Muscat de Rivesaltes Château L'Esparrou - hmm, I don't get it: I've tried much better Muscat de Rivesaltes than this! When first opened, a bit odd, simple and "chemistry lab" (sugar, alcohol, aromas...) without really coming together. But it got better with aeration turning into, well, a rather heavy sweet Muscat... €8 cellar door.
1974 Terrassous "Rancio" Cave de Terrats/Vignobles de Constance Rivesaltes Ambré "Hors d'Age" ( Grenache blanc & gris 15.5%) - yes, the vintage is right. Very complex oxidised pecan-nutty aromas with lightly cheesy Madeira-like edges; coconut sweetness vs tangy toasted nuts on the palate, turning more treacly yet with subtle cut underneath; very long and smooth sweet/sour finish with caramel and intense roasted pecan/hazelnut flavours. Keeps well in the fridge so tasted again and again: toffee apple and baked nuts, quite intensely sweet yet it gets more intricate, nuttier and tangier too. €35 cellar door. 93-95
2003 "Camille Descossy" Le Dominicain Banyuls "Grand Cru" ( Grenache 16.5%) - coffee and cherry liqueur aromas, perhaps not as oxidised as and much redder than some BGC although is characteristically dried and wild herby; the % is quite punchy supported by lush liquorice and quite firm coating, savoury vs sweet with nice cut and maturing leather and cough mixture notes! Leaves lovely dried fruit, coffee and meaty aromas in the glass and turns more savoury, toasted and complex after a few days open; smoother and less fiery too with a bit of bite vs liquorice and dried fruits. Kind of between LBV and Tawny in style. €13.50 cellar door. 90+
1993 Muscat de Rivesaltes Château les Pins / Dom Brial (15.5%) - its quite big ullage didn't really seem to have affected this unusual "oxidative" Muscat style: golden brown/amber colour, oxidised cooked marmalade fruit character; oily and exotic orange peel vs sweet nut notes, odd but very attractive with the alcohol nicely melted into its caramelised citrus and clove finish. Complex lingering sweet vs tangy flavours, turning more quince and dried apricots after a day or so open, really quite delicious and intricate fruit/citrus cake wine! €9.20 cellar door, US importer: La Ville Imports. 90-92
2005 Banyuls "Muté sur Grains Mise Tardive" Cornet & Cie ( Grenache 16%) - very different from the "Grand Cru" wine above, this "modern" LBV style ("mise tardive" means this) shows vibrant extracted blackberry and plum fruit with touches of sweet oak; nice lush palate vs good grip and power. Very attractive, although ironically it doesn't really keep for long after opening as it oxidised quite quickly! About €18 cellar door and on-line merchants, Michael Jobling Wines UK and several distributors in the US (see www.abberous.com). 89
1995 Maury "Vieille Réserve" Vignerons de Maury ( Grenache 16%) - ...whereas this one is pretty indestructible! Fragrant caramelised molasses touches and squashed dried raspberries, intricate "red Madeira" style with liquorice and brown sugar flavours vs tangy walnut, light bite of tannins and nice cut; sweet kirsch layered with marinated dried olive and mature cheese notes, not so sweet thanks to those tangy savoury flavours and lingering alcohol underneath keeping it alive. Gets richer/sweeter yet better too after opening (keeps well in the fridge actually), turning more toffee-ish and pecan pie vs complex and old; surprisingly good with apple crumble or a nice mature Cantal (cheese from the Auvergne). €13.70 cellar door. 91-93
1990 Rivesaltes Tuilé Domaine Cazes ( Grenache 16.5%) - in fact, this is "red Madeira"! Very complex pecan/walnut/hazelnut nose with molasses and dried raspberry too; rich caramel vs nice bite of alcohol/tannins, perhaps tastes drier (and certainly older) than the Maury although probably isn't, lovely tangy oxidised fruit and powerful long tasty finish. Coming back to it (again keep it in the fridge): still quite complex in a 20 year-old Tawny kind-of way, sweeter and perhaps becomes less interesting and less alive than the Maury in the end. €19 cellar door. 89-91

All rights © Richard Mark James October 2009

Roussillon: Vignerons de Terrats

This usually exemplary co-operative winery, sporting a bizarre kind of giant stack of vats work of art visible from kms around, dates from 1932 and is found in the so-called Aspres zone in the middle of Côtes du Roussillon country a little southwest of Perpignan or northwest of Collioure. The very Catalan village of Terrats is a bit dead but the scenery all around it, with its red-clay coated rolling vineyards, is very attractive (I used to live down the road, by the way). They're now part of the Vignobles de Constance alliance with local co-ops in Thuir and Fourques (I think). Tasted their wines on and off over a five-plus year period, which can be bought at the cellar shop or in all supermarkets and restaurants in the area, which were usually very reliable, although something odd happened with their 2009 rosé and white with strange background flavours on at least three bottles I tried, from memory. Anyway, here's a bit of a back-catalogue:

August-September 2005:
2004 Le Blanc de Blancs de Terrassous (Grenache Blanc Vermentino Macabeo 12.5%) - Nice and dry & smooth, interesting nutty floral leafy characters underneath, crisp but has weight too. €4 from the cellar or supermarkets. 87
2004 Le Rosé de Terrassous (13%) - Ample ripe juicy red fruits and medium-full rounded yet dry palate with a hint of crispness to balance. €3.90 from the Cave. 87
2001 Terrassous Côtes du Roussillon red (Grenache Carignan Syrah 13.5%) - Attractive ripe developed fruit showing gamey leather edges, liquorice and plum with earthy backdrop and firm-ish tannins. About €4.50 from the cellar. 89
2004 Terrassous Côtes du Roussillon red (Grenache Carignan Syrah 13.5%) - Straightforward enjoyable blackcurrant/berry and blueberry fruit, medium weight finishing with light bite of tannins and acidity. €4 from the cellars or supermarkets. 85

And some of my French "wines of the moment" originally posted on WineWriting.com...
December 05/January 06:
2005 Blanc de Blancs de Terrassous
(Grenache Blanc Vermentino Macabeo 13%) - tight and steely at this stage, subtle zesty intensity v attractive oily nutty tones, crisp and dry. 88
May-June 06:
2005 Le Rosé de Terrassous Côtes du Roussillon - fresh aromatic roses and red fruits, tight elegant palate, zesty and dry. €3.82 Auchan 87+
Summer 2007:
2006 Le Rosé de Terrassous, Côtes du Roussillon (13%) - lively raspberry fruit and full body v elegant, fresh and attractive style. €3-€4 87
Summer 2008:
2007 Le Rosé de Terrassous Côtes du Roussillon (13%) - fairly chunky red fruity style with nice food-demanding weight, turning rounded and slick with underlying wild red fruit and biscuit notes; still alive and well. €4 87
Autumn 2009:
2008 Terrassous rosé Côtes du Roussillon (13%) - quite chunky vs creamy red fruit cocktail making this a good all-round foodie rosé style; rounded and oily with wild cherry fruit and refreshing dry finish. €4.50 87

And a sensational, very old, medal-winning Rivesaltes from the 2009 Saint-Bacchus awards:
1974 Terrassous "Rancio" Rivesaltes Ambré "Hors d'Age" (Grenache blanc & gris 15.5%) - yes, the vintage is right. Very complex oxidised pecan-nutty aromas with lightly cheesy Madeira-like edges; coconut sweetness vs tangy toasted nuts on the palate, turning more treacly yet with subtle cut underneath; very long and smooth sweet/sour finish with caramel and intense roasted pecan/hazelnut flavours. Keeps well in the fridge so tasted again and again: toffee apple and baked nuts, quite intensely sweet yet it gets more intricate, nuttier and tangier too. €35 cellar door. 93-95  

09 September 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Sarda Malet, Perpignan


Bearing in mind it’s located on the city's southern outskirts not far from the motorway, this sizeable estate (50 hectares, 124 acres) isn't easy to find. And once you get there, you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere: best approached from the by-pass between the two N9 turnoffs - Girona and Perpignan centre or vice versa - look out for the prison on the other side of the road! Or try the Perpignan south - Canohès rough back road.
One of the leading lights in the Perpignan city area, the winery and vineyards are run by Suzie Sarda-Malet and her young estate manager Vincent Bascou. Their Carignan and Grenache were mostly planted in the 1930s and 40s; in the 80s, Suzie and her father stopped using synthetic sprays to return to traditional manual work in the vineyards. At the same time, they started replanting Syrah and Mourvèdre and white varieties Roussanne, Marsanne, Malvoisie and Viognier to supplement the old Grenache blanc & Macabeo.
I tasted some of their range on a warm sunny mid October day:
2005 Le Sarda Côtes du Roussillon blanc - perfumed and floral with lightly volatile complexity, interestingly fresh and mineral palate. 85
2005 Le Sarda Côtes du Roussillon rouge - delicious black cherry / currant fruit leads to a liquorice palate, juicy and attractive v light tannins in the background. 85-87
2003 Réserve Côtes du Roussillon rouge - intricate leather and spice notes, ripe and rounded showing subtle oak v plenty of developing fruit; good bite and length, elegant for a 2003 (hot vintage). 88-90
2003 Terroir Mailloles (low yielding parcels of Syrah and Mourvèdre) - enticingly smoky nose, lush dark fruit and background oak; oakier on the palate but there's more of those nice black fruits with chocolate texture, concentrated and powerful yet hides its 14% and new-ish oak quite well. 89-91
L'Insouciant 4 (100% low yielding Grenache, 2004 vintage but they aren't allowed to state the year - hence the cryptic 4 - as it's classed as table wine!) - attractive 'sweet' fruit and spices, soft and leathery v oomph (the 15% isn't obvious though); in the end quite fine actually, very enjoyable mouthful. 90-92

2003 Terroir Mailloles blanc - toasty yet has lots of floral apricot fruit, quite rich and fat then fresher finish; pretty oaky but it works thanks to that lovely maturing fruit. 89
2005 Muscat de Rivesaltes - appealing freshness v concentrated and sweet, plenty of flavour and pizzazz on the finish. 89
1999 La Carbasse Rivesaltes (Grenache) - liquorice and ageing fruit, oxidised truffle notes too; dark chocolate mouth-feel with delicious complex maturing fruit, not so sweet in the end with very long finish, keeps opening up. 92-94

News update 2009: Le Sarda red and white are now available at independent merchants Lea & Sandeman (4 shops in southwest and west London) for £8.95.

Chemin de Sainte Barbe, 66000 Perpignan. Tel: 04 68 56 72 38, www.sarda-malet.com.

01 September 2009

Roussillon: Domaine Arguti, St-Paul de Fenouillet

This is Ugo, Marie-Christine and daughter Angélique Arguti's promising little estate, yet another Bordeaux (Saint-Emilion to be precise) winemaker who realised the Roussillon is better! On a haphazard journey through the region in April 2004, they were so struck by the steep elevated (at 300 metres/1000 feet altitude) vine landscape around Saint-Paul, that they bought four hectares (10 acres) within a few hours. Or so the romantic story goes... These two 2006 wines presented at the Fenouillèdes wine show, held in April 2007 in Tautavel, were barrel samples.
2006 Grenache Gris, vin de pays - pretty toasty but creamy and spicy, nice juicy fruit and concentration, weighty yet fresh too. We'll see how it develops once in bottle. 87-89
2006 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan Syrah) - lovely intense aromas, black cherry fruit v rich ripe tannins; delicious already!

2009 update: gosh, two years have just whizzed by again! So, these three Argutis were tasted at the Fenouillèdes wine fair, April 2009:
2008 Le Grand A white (Grenache Gris) - lightly toasty coconut vs juicy lees notes, refreshing mineral mouthfeel vs fatter apricot fruit. 87
2007 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache/Syrah/Carignan) - quite coconut oaky at the moment although quite rich, spicy and structured too for an 07; tight and firm palate vs dark berry and liquorice fruit. 87-89
2008 CdRV (cask sample) - darker fruit profile, perhaps more concentrated with chunky framework, attractive fruit and style; liquorice and pepper vs solid and dry on the finish. 89+

And this wine in early September 2009 (a medal-winner in this year's St-Bacchus competition - click for full report and reviews of all the wines):
2006 Le Grand A Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan Syrah 14.5%) - well-made polished style, powerful and peppery with maturing dark fruits vs coconut oak spice and textured tannins; drinking quite well with e.g. fillet steak although it's a bit too punchy and warm on its own. Leave it till winter. However, it does have attractive dry vs lush fruity texture vs savoury flavours; the next day, it was meatier with more savoury/leather notes vs that "sweet" dark fruit and the oak merging into it better; quite nice tannins with a bitter twist, although I still found the alcohol a touch dominant, definitely a big food wine. 89(+)

14 avenue du 16 août 1944, 66220 St-Paul de Fenouillet. Tel: 05 57 74 69 82 (in Bordeaux), mobile 06 80 18 36 22, domainearguti.fr.


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