"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

02 December 2009

Languedoc: Domaine de Mouscaillo, Limoux

The lost wee village of Roquetaillade really does feel like it's at the end of the road/world, perched up in the handsome hills south of Limoux at the southern end of the appellation area. There are a few good producers based around here including Marie-Claire and Pierre Fort at Domaine Mouscaillo (some of their vines border Domaine de l'Aigle, for example, now owned by the Gérard Bertrand group), whose 4.5 ha/13 acres of vineyards climb up gentle slopes to 400m/1300 feet in altitude. Mainly two varieties and two exposures: the Chardonnay faces north and the Pinot Noir south, more or less (the surging terrain here isn't as black-and-white chiselled out as that). There's "a tiny bit of Chenin and Mauzac too," as Pierre explained on my visit in December 2009.
The Forts returned to the south after many years at the helm of rather well-known Château de Tracy in Pouilly-Fumé (central vineyards, inner Loire valley). Pierre is also quietly optimistic about the future for Pinot planted in prime sites, although it's taken time to find its feet and they only have less than one hectare at the moment! I tend to agree, as you'll see from my notes below and comments made elsewhere on Languedoc producers experimenting with Pinot. Expanding briefly on winemaking techniques used for the Chardy, he told me they "ferment in demi-muids (450 litre barrels of varying ages) with lees-stirring, then leave it until after the following harvest." As for vintage 2009, "we picked from 1 to 12 September. It was hot from June onwards and we had to pick quickly, so acidity is lower than usual but it's not too alcoholic either." I tried a few promising 2009s from cask and all vintages back to 2004, their first actually, in descending order:

09 "younger vines" Chardy - lovely grapefruit and spicy floral notes; turning bready and creamy vs juicy and dry, just a touch of fresh acidity on the finish.
09 "older vines" Chardy - touch toastier and more structured, more powerful too yet with mineral bite, juicy citrus fruit and nice length.
09 "old vines" Chardy (malolactic fermentation done) - richer with more prominent yeast-lees notes vs again attractive juicy citrus zest, then more buttery on the finish vs finer acidity.
09 "old vines" Chardy (no malo-lactic) - much crunchier and fresher with pure lemony fruit, nice bite and length.
These lots of Chardy all end up in the final blend, in differing proportions, as Mouscaillo only does one label.
2009 Pinot Noir (older cask) - attractive perfumed cherry and spicy notes, expressive Pinot style; touch more savoury on the palate with freshness and light grip.
09 Pinot Noir (new barrique) - more structured and firmer tannins, spicier but still has plenty of Pinot character and depth too.
2008 Pinot Noir (from vat) - delicate and quite intricate again showing those perfumed floral cherry tones, subtle creamy depth and "sweet/savoury" flavours; lively and fairly firm finish with nice length. Give it a bit of time in bottle and we'll see. 87(+)
2007 Pinot - richer darker red fruits on the nose; firmer mouthfeel closing up to a pretty structured finish vs elegant perfumed fruit underneath. Needs 2-3 years to open up although again hints at some quality PN touches. 86-88
2008 white Limoux (about to be bottled) - quite honeyed and peachy vs spicy toasted edges; fairly powerful mouthfeel vs refreshing acidity adding mineral bite, then toastier fatter finish. 88+
2007 white - richer and more open with background toast notes, pineapple, peach and citrus too; quite creamy and oily, still a bit toasty on the palate, but it's concentrated and turning nutty too with nice weight on the finish vs fairly crisp acidity actually. 89-91
2006 white - maturing yeasty creamy notes vs background spice; oily and rounded mouthfeel vs attractive refreshing twist, less concentrated with grainier texture although drinking quite well now. 87+
2005 white - delicious buttery Burgundian nose, complex with hazelnut and oaty/leesy development; powerful and full yet tighter than the 06 in the end vs exotic, oily and nutty; good balance with a touch of class even if it's quite toasty/woody still, as there's lots going on plus that attractive maturing and rich vs vibrant finish. 90+
2004 white - oddly the nose is less open at first and toastier perhaps; quite fat and creamy vs a tad more awkward wood on the palate, although does show some depth vs fresh mineral finish. 87

UPDATES: latest vintages etc. here (Limoux report, April 2011).
2014: some news and latest vintages to follow soon...

6 rue du Frêne, 11300 Roquetaillade. Tel: 04 68 31 38 25 / 06 78 93 37 61, mouscaillo.com.

Roussillon: Domaine Puig-Parahÿ, Passa

UPDATED DEC 2012 (see below).

It's true that some European wine estates like to brag about how long they've been messing around in vineyards, but I've not come across (m)any who claim to have records going back to 1446! Latest generation is the charming Georges Puig (pictured), who's been running the show here since 1994. The estate takes in lightly elevated (sloping up to 200-250m altitude) vines old and new all around Passa in particular spots called Fort Saint-Pierre, Sant Lluc and nearby Mas de Miserys (sounds suitably Catalan, dour I mean. Oops!). The Puig-Parahÿ family has the most extraordinary collection of old Rivesaltes VDN wines imaginable - as you'll see from the 1945 below, although the "catalogue" apparently goes back into the 19th Century. Some in bottle, some in vat and some still in cask, as I discovered on a delightful little tour (of history too it felt like, especially as you get the impression Georges' family owns, or used to own, most of the village). Georges has good distribution in the US (Village Wine Imports NYC and also Virginia, Colorado and California: email him for details), UK (Richards Walford and Rare Wine), Tokyo (the Vine) and Germany.

I was lucky enough to taste these wines with him at his place in December 2009:
2008 Sant-Lluc del Puig white vin de pays d'Oc (Macabeu, Grenache blanc, Grenache gris 13.5%) - fresh pear fruit with oily zesty edges; juicy and crisp vs rounded with a bit of weight. Nice style. $10-$15 in the US. 85
2002 Sant-Lluc del Puig white - oxidising nose with oily mineral notes in a mature Riesling way; oily nutty palate still showing good acidity keeping it alive, wacky but good. 87
2008 rosé - attractive raspberry/strawberry fruit with light lees notes; creamy mouthfeel vs juicy and crisp, nice texture, weight and fruit then refreshing bite. $10-$15 85+
2005 Georges Syrah vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (13.5%) - turning meaty and smoky with peppery dark fruit hints; quite rich with ripe liquorice vs firm coating of tannins vs nice weight, finishing with "sweet" vs meaty flavours. More old-fashioned style but nice with it. $13-$15 85-87
2006 Georges Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache, Carignan, Syrah) - similarly smoky peppery nose although shows more liquorice and "Grenache" style; chunky grippy yet lush mouthfeel, the tannins are a tad rustic and dry but it's an appealing soupy mouthful of dark fruit too. 87
2007 Georges Côtes du Roussillon - the nose is a touch closed but this is fruitier and spicier than the 06; livelier and more upfront blackberry and damson fruit on the palate, juicy and rich vs attractive grip and spice. Needs 6 months to open up. 88+
2005 Rivesaltes red Vin Doux Naturel (90% Grenache + Syrah) - beginning to turn oxidised, nutty and Porty with dried cherries and liquorice; quite concentrated and extracted but does have nice balance of lush fruit, dry tannins and alcohol; good finish, tightening up with quite complex, chunky fruit. 87-89
1993 Rivesaltes red (in vat) - turning meaty with touches of Madeira-type complexity, tobacco and cough mixture too; tangy pecan nut palate with dry vs sweet texture, long intricate finish again showing good balance of delicious tasty old vs lively dried fruits. 90
1981 Rivesaltes red (in cask still!) - treacle tart aromas with volatile spicy minty notes; very intense pecans and dried raspberries, appealing bitter twist vs lush mouthfeel then savoury finish. Wow. 90-92
1971 Rivesaltes red - treacle and molasses notes with dark brown/orange tinges, roast walnuts and wood resin too, a tad dusty perhaps (or was that the glass?); rich and sweet vs meaty oxidised, long and unusual flavours, again cough mixture with dried spice undertones. Odd but good! 92+?
1945 Rivesaltes red - extraordinary nose, old oxidised and meaty vs lovely pecan nut and prunes; mouth-filling tasty and tangy flavours, the alcohol's perhaps a tad fiery now but it has an amazing thick palate-coating; doesn't taste as old as this with long liquorice, 'tar' and roast chestnut finish. 95+

Updated 2012: the exuberant Georges was at Millésime Bio wine show in Montpellier tasting just one lonely-looking red, since “it's the only one (vineyard) now certified (organic)... I'm switching some of them over plot by plot (out of a whopping 71 ha/177 acres in total).” Watch this long space then...
2011 Carinyane de Perpignane – juicy jammy and spicy, fresh crunchy berry palate vs sweeter blue red and black fruity combo on its attractive finish. Good+

66300 Passa. Phone: 04 68 38 88 77 / mobile: 06 14 55 71 71, g.puigparahy@free.fr, www.puig-parahy.fr.

01 December 2009

Roussillon: Domaine de Bila-Haut / Chapoutier, Latour-de-France

The big name and big heart of Michel Chapoutier made a relatively discreet move on the Roussillon more than 10 years ago, with his maiden vintage in 2001. Their operation is based in and around the village of Latour-de-France: Bila-Haut now amounts to 65 hectares (160 acres) of their own vineyards here and ten in Lesquerde, the latter eventually becoming the source of a new Côtes du Roussillon Villages ‘Lesquerde’ red label. These plantings are supplemented by grapes purchased from other trusted growers in the area and further south too: a Banyuls and a red Rivesaltes Vin Doux Naturel have been added to the range more recently (I’ve yet to taste these though). Chapoutier’s arrival must have helped in convincing any lingering sceptics, if there were/are any left, that there really are some superb old vineyards in the Agly Valley stretching across the Roussillon's ragged northern reaches. An ideal spot, it would seem (dry and windy), for implementing the company's global philosophy and farming policy of organic/biodynamic winegrowing.
As for the two tasty, although not exactly spectacular, reds reviewed below in December 2009, they're sourced from different parcels with different soils and aspect: gneiss, black and brown schist and limestone, just to hit you with a bit of geology; although these ancient soils do look the part with their variable texture and colour. Certain vineyards are higher lying than others too; and the first wine doesn't see any wood during winemaking, whereas the second has a longer maceration on the grape skins and half of it is aged in casks. The US importer of Domaine Bila-Haut wines is HB Wine Merchants, and Mentzendorff & Co. in London. www.chapoutier.com.

2008 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Carignan 13.5%) - attractive vibrant aromatic fruit and spice, black cherry with liquorice and wilder smoky notes too; juicy and quite lush showing nice weight vs refreshing bite and dry chalky tannins; young obviously but drinking quite well now. Fairly straightforward and gluggable wine and not bad with cannelloni, which the next day (the wine not the pasta) opened up to a fruitier, more peppery, unoaked Crozes-Hermitage look-alike! France on-line shop price €7.50. In the UK: £8 Armit Wines, Bordeaux Index, Genesis Wines. 85-87
The latest medal winning vintage of this wine (2010) is HERE (World Grenache Competition 2013).
2007 Occultum Lapidem Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour-de-France (Syrah Grenache Carignan 14.5%) - richer smokier and denser than above, although has plenty of nice earthy/minty dark fruits, liquorice and meaty/leather/tobacco tones; chunky and lush mouth-feel with light wood grain texture vs rounded tannins, attractive weight and power (and higher alcohol!), spicy vs grippy vs rich fruit on the finish. France on-line €11. UK: £13 Roberson's, Quintessentially Wine. 89+?

M. Chapoutier, Tain l'Hermitage

Apart from their all-encompassing Rhone Valley presence and portfolio (just about everywhere from north to south), Michel Chapoutier has his largely organic/biodynamic fingers in other pies, notably the Roussillon (see link below), Australia (Victoria and South Australia) and Portugal (Estremadura). However, the company is perhaps best known as "the biggest landowner in Hermitage," as it says in their corporate blurb, that somewhat sought-after appellation where they have 34 hectares/85 acres. So, they make a few different wines sourced from these revered, and pretty awesome hillside vineyards. The two below, tasted in December 2009, fit into their 'prestige' range meaning they're Chapoutier's most famous, and dearest, Hermitage "cru" labels: the white comes from three plots with different soils and aspects called "Le Méal", "Les Murets" and "Chante-Alouette" itself; and the red from "Les Bessards", "Le Méal" and "Les Greffieux."

2006 Chante-Alouette white Hermitage (Marsanne 14.5%) - exotic and lightly toasted nose with apricot, honeysuckle and oily/nutty aromas; similar flavours and mouthfeel, pretty big rounded "oxidative" style with nice dry bite and a touch of not unattractive wood texture in the background. Wow, definitely a foodie drinking quite well now although I'm sure it'll develop further as, after that wonderful nose and initial flavours, it closes up a bit on the finish. Next day: creamier, honeyed and more hazelnuttty with oily texture and nice oomph. Fr online €37; UK £36 Tanners, the Wine Society. 90+
2006 Monier de la Sizeranne red Hermitage (Syrah 14%) - wild smoky complex nose with meaty/animal notes, white pepper and dark black cherry, damson and liquorice; lush fruit vs dry grainy coating on the palate, ballsy and mouth-filling followed by attractive bite and length, actually fairly subtle finish closing up giving the impression it needs 2-3 years to express itself better. This was confirmed after 2 days open, as it really opened up showing more liquorice and dark fruits, turning meatier and savoury with dry tannins vs sweet fruit and peppery undertones. Fr online €49; UK £45 Edencroft Fine Wine, Tanners, the Wine Society. 89-91

Click here for a couple of Chapoutier's Roussillon reds and here for a bit of Crozes stuff. Not surprisingly, their wines are well-distributed around the world. More @ www.chapoutier.com.

30 November 2009

Mas Amiel - Roussillon

I've posted a new profile on Mas Amiel and 10+ wine reviews (including a sublime, 93-95 point 1980 Maury) here, the first chapter in my Roussillon guides. A little taster: "Arguably the most famous name in the Maury area (and suitably celeb prices to match, you might be cheeky enough to add), Mas Amiel has been owned by Bordeaux magnate Olivier Decelle... since 1999..." Updated October 2010 with even more reviews...


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