"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

20 November 2009

Languedoc: La Grange d'Aïn, Faugères

La Grange d'Aïn

Cédric Saur's family owns and runs the quite well-known Château Haut-Fabrègues near Cabrerolles, found in the middle of nowhere in deepest Faugères country. La Grange d'Aïn is Cédric's baby, 12 hectares (30 acres) of plum old vineyards planted with Grenache, Carignan and Syrah and farmed organically. He's making some pretty serious reds showing lots of fruit extract, big tannins, power and occasionally oak. Nevertheless, they're very well-made, tasty, full of character and obviously built from true quality fruit and a hand-made approach, rather than just show-stopping competition wines you wouldn't actually want to drink. These three were sampled at the Millésime Bio organic wine show (Perpignan Jan 2008). More info to follow as he's definitely on my Faugères-visiting list (along with another dozen or so...): see below below in fact!
2004 Le Penchant du Cerisier Faugères (mostly Carignan +Grenache, 2 years in barriques) - rich smoky nose, very ripe and dense fruit with tobacco edges; really solid framework although finishing with attractive liquorice and spice flavours to balance. €12 90-92
2006 Le Cèdre Faugères (mostly Grenache + Carignan) - similarly smoky and ripe profile with dense structure, although a tad fruitier v solid tannins and hallmark liquorice & tobacco flavours. €11 88-90
2003 Les Mimosas (old vine Syrah, 4 years in barriques!) - plush oily raisin fruit coated with lots of coconut tannins; the wood is a bit intrusive and overall the wine a bit too extracted, but it's certainly impressive and quirky. 87-89?

 Update: I called in on Cédric on a dull and cold November's day, 2009, and tried the latest vintages. We talked a little about it really means to "go organic", and he said some interesting things apart from the obvious "environmentally friendly" reasons. Briefly paraphrased, the most important shift in thinking for him is "the way it made/makes him look at growing grapes and making wine in a totally new light... once you remove that guaranteed efficiency (from synthetic products)," Cédric mused, "you have to work the vineyard in a very different way." Basically, much more plot by plot watching and analysing how each variety or vine reacts in each location; whether there's a problem and how to deal with it, or whether you should just leave it alone. Food for thought... La Grange d'Aïn wines are now quite big in China, I'm told, as well as certain Paris restaurants.
2007 Le Cèdre Faugères (mostly Grenache + Carignan 14.5%) - dark cherry with a tad of choco oak, turning riper and spicier with meatier edges; lush smoky and peppery, quite concentrated and structured, big mouthful vs "sweet" vs firm yet attractive texture and finish. Underlying lightly volatile complex notes too (he only adds a little SO2 at bottling). 89+
2007 Le Penchant du Cérisier Faugères (80% Carignan +Grenache 14.5%) - less obvious on the nose, although again has meaty / leather tinges; vibrant blueberry and damson fruit, spicy and grippy mouthfeel with lively length, "sweet/savoury" finish with more of it than the above; delicious crunchy vs ripe berry with fine dry bite. 90-92
2003 Les Mimosas (mostly Syrah 14.5%) - spent four years in barrel but it only has a lightly dusty coconut coating vs meaty, leathery and smoked bacon tones; dry texture yet there's lots of ripe dried fruits and real depth of character plus a wilder side; chunky vs maturing finish. 90-92
2007 Le Penchant du Cérisier (3-litre bottle, bottled with no SO2 from "our favourite barrel!") - actually more open and smokier, perhaps the oak is a tad more upfront and grainy; but has attractive chunky powerful vs lush mouthfeel with blackberry fruit, grippy texture and firmer coating on the finish.90+
2003 Le Penchant du Cérisier (their first vintage) - reductive sulphide notes but has complex leather and dried fruit underneath; quite rustic although I like its delicious richness vs concentrated and firm feel, leaving a nice coating on the finish; actually well-balanced for a 2003 (alcohol/acidity/concentration/tannins). 88-90

Fontanilles, Lenthéric near 34480 Cabrerolles. Tel: 06 12 10 31 02, cedricsaur@hotmail.comwww.cookandwine.com.

02 November 2009

Languedoc: Château La Liquière, Faugères

Château La Liquière

La Liquière, all 60 ha/150 acres of it, occupies a rather picturesque spot up on the undulating hills around Cabrerolles, the rustic Cévennes foothills, in the northwest corner of the increasingly exciting Faugères appellation. The Vidal-Dumoulin family's vines, quivering across trim wavy terraces at 150-350m altitude (500-1000+ feet) and embedded in schist, stones and clay, are in the process of being converted over to certified organic growing. Meaning they already are practising it, and have been for a while I believe, but have to wait another couple of years to get the official bit of paper (recycled no doubt). These wines were tasted in situ (in the refurbished old-stone caveau, open usual office hours for tastings and sales: see website below for more info) with Francois Vidal in November 2009:

2008 Les Amandiers white Coteaux du Languedoc (Grenache blancRoussanneViognierTerretVermentino 13%) - floral and slightly exotic with yeast-lees edges; quite rich and oily mouthfeel vs nice crisp bite, balance and length. €6 85+
2008 Cistus white Faugères (Grenache blancRoussanne,Vermentino 14%) - lightly toasty and spicy wood notes on the nose but still has plenty of lovely aromatic honeyed fruit; juicy and crisp vs weighty, good depth and balance too. €10 87-89
2008 Les Amandiers rosé (CinsaultMourvèdreGrenache 13%) - elegant floral cherry blossom aromas; juicier and creamier red-fruit palate with strawberry vs crisp and refreshing finish. €6 85+
2008 Les Amandiers red (GrenacheCarignanSyrahMourvèdre13.5%) - lightly smoky while very fruity with dried fruits, black cherry and liquorice plus a touch of black olive even; very attractive juicy fruity mouthfeel more serious finish showing grip, crunchy fruits and bite and a bit of weight. €6 87
2007 "Vieilles Vignes" Faugères (GrenacheCarignan 14%) - smokier and quite complex, very ripe then turning savoury/tobacco-ish; attractive dry texture vs lush maturing fruit, then closes up on the finish. €8.30 88+?
2007 Nos Racines Faugères (oldest Carignan plus splash ofGrenache 14%) - rich "tar"/tobacco, ripe fruit and olive tones; pretty concentrated yet has appealing lively side and subtle tannins, long and quite fine finish. €11 90+
2006 Cistus Faugères (Syrah barrique-aged, Grenache,Mourvèdre, Carignan 14%) - complex maturing fruit on the nose, turning meaty with spicy edges; lush chunky and concentrated but again has nice balance, firmer structure and more powerful than above vs soft dark fruit and understated chocolate oak texture; lovely tasty lingering flavours. €14 92+

Liquière vintages tasted here ("Faugeres Focus" April 2011) and here ("2009 vintage report" June 2010).

Liquière wines are available from the Wine Society in the UK; and via Bonhomie Wine Imports, New Jersey, Ideal Wine, Boston, and also in California.

La Liquière, 34480 Cabrerolles. Tel: 04 67 90 29 20, www.chateaulaliquiere.com.

01 November 2009

Bordeaux: Côtes de Bourg and Listrac-Médoc

"Côtes de where? Not the favourite coastal or riverbank hang-out for Jean-Luc Picard's scariest enemy, but a lesser-known 'Right Bank' Bordeaux appellation. Somehow, it's surprisingly easy to get your geography in a twist on this side of the river and forget you're actually opposite Margaux 'just across' the water..."
Read it here.

Roussillon: Domaine des Enfants, Maury

Photo by Ron Scherl

There are more children (see 'Les Enfants Sauvages' too) found a little up the hill in Maury off the Cucugnan road (almost next door to Dept 66): Swiss-owned Domaine des Enfants is another great-potential 'start-up' estate. When I called by in late 2009, Marcel Bühler was brewing up his third vintage in his compact cellar, formerly owned by Serge Rousse (of the sadly defunct Domaine Terre Rousse)...

30 October 2009

Roussillon: Domaine of the Bee, Maury

What's all this English then, you might be wondering? Bit of a giveaway but the name has a certain ring to it. The people behind the Bee are Justin Howard-Sneyd MW "biggest nose" (I quote from their website), aka former head of Waitrose wine buying then Direct Wines/Laithwaite's, and long-time enthusiast for south of France wines; Philippe Sacerdot "biggest brains" and Justin's wife Amanda "biggest hair." Back in 2003, a second family trip to the Maury area (so the story goes...) instilled a minor obsession to buy a few plots of vines, which now total nearly 4 hectares of old Grenache and Carignan, "about the size of 5 football pitches" (not being a soccer type, it never occurred to me to use that comparison to explain ha but it does the trick).
These exposed (big wind and sun) vineyard parcels are managed by Richard Case at Domaine de la Pertuisane, who also makes the wine at his / American partner's new mega-winery up the hill from Maury (more on that to follow...). I say 'wine' as there's only one so far, hence the single tasting note below on the promising 2007 vintage. Before that, the grapes went into various Pertuisane wines. There's a lot of blah blah said about yields in this area (and just about everywhere really), but they sum it up quite neatly on the site referring to quantity produced in 07: "Imagine a square 4 metres by 4 metres with one bottle sitting in the middle. That's roughly the yield that these ancient vines give us." Anyway, this translates as the wine costing £16-£20 a bottle depending on how many and whether you buy it in the UK or France. More details from www.domaineofthebee.com, where there's even an honest FAQ justifying "why is it so expensive?" I like your nerve!

Tasted in late October 2009:
2007 Domaine of the Bee vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Grenache, Carignan 15%) - a dusting of coconut oak layered with very ripe dark fruits; spicy and chunky mouthfeel with dry vs quite soft texture, rich and powerful yet balanced with fairly intense but not too huge finish. 87-89

UPDATE: November 2011. Click here for the latest buzzings-on at the Bee camp including a note on their recently released and rather tasty 2009 vintage red. More updates to follow e.g. the Bee has since moved wineries to Chateau Saint Roch just outside Maury.


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