"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

15 July 2010

'Larging it in the Languedoc' Vignobles Jeanjean and Mas La Chevalière


'Large' in the traditional rather than popular sense (or perhaps not...) but, hey, it amuses me thinking up an in-your-face title. It occurred to me one day that my focus in the Languedoc has perhaps been a bit biased towards small, and sometimes rather "chi-chi" or "trendy" estates, while partly neglecting the big boys (although not entirely e.g. GBertrand, JCMas, Mont Tauch). There's been a noticeable amount of acquisition stuff going on chez Jeanjean over the past few years; the latest major development being the merger with Michel Laroche's already mini-empire (Chablis, Punto Alto in Chile, L'Avenir in South Africa and Mas La Chevalière in the Languedoc) last year and creation of a 'new' wine group, maybe France's largest of its kind, called Advini (I'll say nothing about Romans, although the new slogan "des vignobles et des hommes" sounds a tad macho even if best translated as 'people' rather than 'men': that's the French language for you!). So, their winery line-up now includes Ogier (Chateauneuf-du-Pape), Cazes (Roussillon), Rigal (Cahors), Gassier (Provence) and A. Moueix (St-Emilion) in addition to those mentioned above.
Anyway, we're not going to delve into their corporate strategy blah blah in this piece (you'll be happy to hear); and I've been following La Chevalière for years (I was first invited there back in the late 90s, I think, or maybe 2000) yet realised I knew nothing about Jeanjean's Languedoc properties, except no doubt having quaffed one of their inexpensive own-labels bought at random in a French supermarket. The opportunity cropped up in late April 2010 for a little re-visit to and re-tasting of MLC, combined with an energetic day-out touring no less than five different estates spread across the central/eastern Languedoc in these areas: Faugères, Coteaux du Languedoc, Mireval (sweet and dry Muscat) and the "Sables du Golfe du Lion" on the sandy edges of the Camargue.
Michel Laroche's son Renaud is marketing director of the company's Laroche portfolio, based in Chablis, who was my host at Mas La Chevalière, which lies on the leafy lofty outskirts of west Béziers, or "Béziers Hills" as Renaud affectionately calls it. We were accompanied by production manager Xavier Tamborero on a stroll around their "Roqua Blanca" vineyard, a 30 hectare (75 acre) hillside site nearby, not far from Murviel-les-Béziers. This was completely replanted with red varieties in the late 90s - I realised when we got there that it looked familiar, although back then the whole site had been freshly bulldozed. 2008 was "the first year we got Terra Vitis here (sustainable farming status)," Renaud explained, and that "we started to convert over to organics in 2009... it's an ideal spot..." as the curving vineyards form a kind of natural amphitheatre surrounded by wild scrubland ("garrigue") and trees.
Xavier believes that "the highest lying plots of Syrah are the best..." implanted on strikingly red soils with big chalk stones on top. The other side is dominated by grey stones, and the varietal rows, facing west or east, switch from Syrah to Merlot to Mourvèdre as you move down the slopes, with Grenache and Marselan lower down. They installed a clever drip irrigation system here buried into the earth, which allows them to be very accurate about how much water the plants need, or don't, as it measures humidity levels in the soil and air. "Vignoble Peyroli" is their other, 10ha (25 acre) vineyard reserved for white varieties, lying at higher altitude (450m/1450 feet) up in the hills towards Bédarieux on the edge of the Massif Central range. And there are vines in front of the Mas (an elegant Med-style manor house) itself, planted after Michel Laroche bought it back in the mid 90s; the rest of their fruit is sourced from contract growers. See notes and reviews below.
The next day, I was promptly whizzed off by the "Jeanjean people": Matthieu Carliez, group vineyard manager and winemaker who oversees all their estates, and marketing manager Agnes Boeuf. Our mission ("should you choose to accept it..."): to tour all five properties spread across the Languedoc in one day. And to have a nice barbecue lunch in the middle of picturesque nowhere, of course, to break up the driving (back to that in a minute). Matthieu and Agnes seemed a little dubious we'd manage it; not so much because of the distance we had to cover, but it'd mean having to battle through the Montpellier and Béziers "by-pass" traffic at rush hour later on. So, let's go for it and see how far we get...

First stop, the Faugères hills. Domaine de Fenouillet is found in (the cellar) and around (the vineyards) the tricky-to-pronounce village of Caussiniojouls, between Faugères itself and Cabrerolles. Their man on the ground here is jovial down-to-earth Thierry Roques, who happens to be mayor of Caussiniojouls (that might come in handy) and took us on an entertainingly hairy spin around a few of the superb isolated blocks that make up Dom. Fenouillet, which Jeanjean acquired in 1993. The terrain is very tight, steep and inaccessible here with so much chunky schist in it, that even Thierry's old faithful 4x4 (a proper country one too, not one of these namby-pamby city four wheel drives) was struggling in places. The highest point is called "Combe rouge" (hence the corresponding cuvée tasted below), and there are some more recent plantings of white varieties nearer the "road" below. Also worth noting, by the way, that Thierry organises vineyard tours and events with other local growers, especially in the summer: details from the town hall!
Back on the road heading a good bit east to Mas de Lunès, which really is in the middle of nowhere roughly between Pézenas and Montpellier and the A75 and A9 motorways. Not that you can hear any cars or anything around here... it's a spectacular stone Languedoc farmhouse set among a vast 1000 ha estate (2500 acres) with a mere 80 under vine: no neighbours, no village, one tiny meandering road. The family bought it in 1936, and today it's the seat of Philippe and Frédéric Jeanjean as well as other members of the clan who live there. A quick spin around part of the vineyards revealed "lots of sandstone and big pebbles," as Matthieu explained, "planted mostly with Syrah, old Carignan and Grenache, a bit of Mourvèdre and a parcel of Pinot Noir," with some whites on the other side of the hill.
Unlike Devois des Agneaux (has a certain "perfect with liver and fava beans" ring about it, replacing the "nice little Chianti" with a chunky Languedoc red obviously...), which lies half a km away yet has a "totally different terroir," Matthieu continued, "with hard limestone..." Although both properties are in the "Grès de Montpellier" sub-appellation: arguably the Languedoc's most confusing and, well, bizarre sub-zone, as it stretches out on either side of Montpellier in fact but can hardly be based on the same geology and micro-climate, despite its name... The geographical divide between these two estates is literally that: you can actually see the fault line along a wide gully as you go from one to the other, which marks two different geological periods apparently.

Anyway, enough of the rant on appellation vs terroir vs terrain. Time for a tasting followed by lunch, barbecued side of beef, in the peaceful surroundings of Devois des Agneaux d'Aumélas: its full poetic title meaning "lamb pastures of Aumélas," the hamlet's name. Brigitte and Elizabeth Jeanjean turned this mediaeval barn into a mini-winery in 1999, as well as clearing and planting 15 ha nearby. A couple of throwaway comments: tasting them in a line-up like this (what "normal" person would: see below), their Coteaux du Languedoc reds arguably seemed a bit samey - they're all based on that old reliable (majority) Syrah plus Grenache combo - nevertheless, there are some very attractive wines here and a couple of really good ones showing more complex or "structural" distinction. Once again, my tasting notes below point out how promising white wines are when in the right sites. Matthieu certainly agrees: "I'd like more, it's a great spot for whites... in those white clay soils and less stoney." They already have a fair bit of Grenache blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier and Chardonnay.
I was told "all the properties are being converted over to organic farming... no herbicides have ever been used anyway since the Jeanjean family bought them (Lunès and Devois) in 1936." Domaine Le Pive, "a sandy wilderness" as their press pack accurately describes it, is actually in the second year of conversion, which must be harder work as the climate is much more humid here. It's the latest property to join the fold, located on the sandy edges of the watery wildlife area of the Camargue near Aigues-Mortes. There are "about 2000 to 2500 ha of vines between here and Sainte-Marie," much of it destined for that famous pale rosé called "vin gris." Le Pive is right next to a handsome old chapel called Moncalm bordering rice fields, and has mostly red and "grey" Grenache planted alongside Cinsault, although Merlot and Cabernet are now replacing the traditional Carignan. "Especially Merlot," Matthieu enthused, "as it grows well here at high yields with no disease, but we only use the free-run juice (for the rosés) as otherwise it gives too much colour." They also pick early to avoid getting too much colour in the skins, and "leave grass cover under the vines, otherwise the wind blows the fine sand into dunes!"
Mas Neuf, added to the family empire in 1994, is basically an idyllic Muscat farm: 70 ha (175 acres) of just Muscat surrounded by fenced-off Mediterranean pine forest, which lies between the Gardiole massif and those huge lagoons along the sea between Montpellier and Frontignan. However, the soil here is clay and limestone not sand, as demonstrated by the fine-looking, chalky/stoney and low-yielding 80 year-old parcel used to make their very tasty late-picked Muscat called "L'Incompris" = "misunderstood one," something to do with it originally not fitting into one category or another. Mas Neuf also has on-site holiday gites, and the people running it do bed & breakfast too; you'd be hard-pressed to find a quieter spot on this stretch of overpopulated coastline.
Pictures taken from jeanjean.fr and mas-la-chevaliere.com where you'll find more info on all their estates and wines.
All rights reserved © Richard Mark James July 2010.

Mas La Chevalière - Laroche 'south of France'

Tasted with winemaker Stéphanie Marquier, all "vin de pays d'Oc":
2009 La Chevalière Sauvignon Blanc - pretty typical soft citrus style with grassier edges; attractive zesty length and dry yet juicy fruity finish. 83-85
2009 La Chevalière Chardonnay (blend of Chardy from the hills north of Nimes and coastal sites) - lovely fruity nose with pear and peach notes; zingy mouth-feel and bite vs light leesy creamy flavours/texture, well-made with balanced mix of fruit, weight and crisp finish. 85+
2009 La Chevalière Viognier - enticing and exotic pineapple / apricot aromas; nice "fat" tropical palate with citrus peel twist, zestier "chalky" finish and lively length. 87
2007 Mas La Chevalière white "Vignoble Peyroli" (Chardonnay, Viognier) - toasty milky notes with developing oily creamy profile and exotic edges; still lively vs oily texture, good balance of fruit vs honeyed and nutty vs lightly steely touch. Again well made and attractive, still looking good and fresh yet rounded and creamy. 88+
2009 La Chevalière rosé (Syrah, Merlot, Grenache) - appealing juicy fruity style with lots of raspberry drops; very drinkable fruity mouthful with light, crisp and refreshing finish. 85
2008 Mas La Chevalière red "Roqua Blanca" (Syrah, Merlot) - a bit closed up and toasty/grainy to start; turning more savoury on the palate with spicy coconut, attractive "sweet" fruit and textured tannins; again closes up on the finish (it had just been bottled when I tried it), could be quite fine though. 87+
2007 La Croix Chevalière red (Syrah, Merlot, Grenache) - sexy maturing savoury and tobacco tones, complex developing nose; spicy and chunky mouth-feel with subtle concentration, nice grip although rounded tannins; surprisingly elegant and not overdone, length and style. 90+
Click here for a note on the 1998 (first vintage) Croix Cheval (goes to a blog post).
2009 Grenache (vat sample) - very white pepper vs liquorice and ripe berries, tobacco and herby edges too; meatier palate and quite powerful finish vs "sweet" fruit, attractive style. 87+
2009 Syrah (vat sample) - invitingly smoky dark cherry nose with minty edges; quite concentrated / extracted vs nice spicy juicy fruit, again grippy vs rounded tannins. 87
Previous MLC vintages and words here.

Vignobles Jeanjean

2009 Domaine Le Pive Gris vin des sables (Grenache gris, Grenache noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc 11.5%) - aromatic and elegant with light red fruits and juicy citrus, nice crisp bite and easy juicy finish. 80+
2009 Mas de Lunès white Coteaux du Languedoc (Roussanne, Marsanne 13.5%) - attractive honeysuckle aromas with peachy apricot notes and lightly creamy/oily edges; similar flavour profile on the palate, lively vs richer mouth-feel with nice fresh bite too vs a bit of rounded weight. 87+
2009 Mas de Lunès rosé Coteaux du Languedoc (Grenache, Syrah) - lively and zingy with subtle creamy strawberry / raspberry; attractive and refreshing with crisp finish, nice fruit and again a bit of plumpness too. 85+
2007 Bergerie de Lunès red Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah, Grenache 12.5%) - lovely "sweet" black cherry and liquorice fruit vs wild floral and peppery tones; ripe and lush vs attractive dry bite and light bitter twist, finishing with a flourish of liquorice. Nice style. 85-87
2007 Mas de Lunès red Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah, Grenache 12.5%) - similar but more intense, enticing crunchy berry/cherry fruit with sweeter liquorice edges; a bit more structured and firmer textured vs lingering spicy fruit, quite elegant and more mineral actually. 87+
2007 Mas de Lunès Réserve Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah, Grenache 13%) - still has that attractive aromatic dark cherry and spice on the nose with a deft touch of spicy coconut oak; juicy and concentrated with rounded tannins, hints of dark choco oak on the finish but has tasty "sweet" fruit vs crunchy berries and "garrigue" undertones; firmer finish and bitter twist (these samples were cold though) vs smoother "vinous" feel. 88+
2009 Devois des Agneaux d'Aumélas white Coteaux du Languedoc (Roussanne, Marsanne 12.5%) - similar floral vs exotic profile to the Lunès white above with milky lees edges; fatter spicier palate with nice juicy and zesty length vs a touch oily and apricot/peach flavours. 87
2007 Devois des Agneaux d'Aumélas red Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah, Grenache 13%) - more of those perfumed wild herb aromas and peppery dark cherry too; satisfying dried fruits with subtle concentration vs grippy mouth-feel and a touch of power, then firmer and tighter finish. 87-89
2007 Grand Devois (more Syrah, Grenache 13.5%) - similarly charming "sweet/savoury" fruit mix, "garrigue" tones and black cherry/liquorice profile; richer and more intense probably, pretty solid and tight though vs ripe floral fruit with chewy edges too, nice body vs depth vs balance. 89-91
2008 Domaine de Fenouillet Faugères (Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Mourvèdre 13%) - "sweet" perfumed black/red fruits and "garrigue" notes; dark berry and cherry flavours vs crunchier fruit edges, touch of dark chocolate and spicy liquorice adding lush feel vs firm tannins, punch then tight finish; very nice. 87-89
2008 Domaine de Fenouillet "Combe Rouge" Faugères (mostly Syrah, Grenache) - less accessible and charming now (although again it was cold) with somewhat firm tight and solid mouth-feel vs underlining ripe "sweet" scented blackberry fruit; promising though and also has lively crunchy fruit finish, showing more on that finish than at the start. Needs 2-3 years to express itself. 89-91
2006 Domaine de Fenouillet "Grande Réserve" Faugères (mostly Syrah, Grenache 13%) - more savoury and resin/dried fruit tones; grippier with more choco oak on its lush vs dry texture, complex maturing notes too; a touch extracted perhaps vs power and maturing fruit, certainly has plenty of mouth-feel although it's less charming than the 2007s and 08s probably. 88+
2008 Mas Neuf L'Incompris (late picked Muscat petits grains, 13-14% alc. 60g/l residual sugar) - fermentation stops naturally in barrel. Enticing floral grapey nose; rich and sweet palate vs zestier citrus bite vs rounded, quite punchy and spicy vs delicious sweet grapey Muscat vs tangy and zesty. Very enjoyable style. 89

13 July 2010

Signature Bio: organic wine competition winners

"Bio" as in short for organic in French ("biologique") rather than hazard or biography, this anuual competition for Languedoc and Roussillon wines "made from organically grown grapes" (using the Brussels speak, who by the way have just rejected a motion to sanction the term "organic wine," as obviously that would make it too easy for people to understand label terminology...) widened its reach this year by including other local organic produce/products such as fruit juice, jam and yoghurt.
On the wine front - I didn't take part in the judging in the end as I had an annoying intrusive cough - but I tasted a few of the winners at the press conference where I talked to a couple of the winemakers. There were two trophy-winning bottles: Jérôme Chardon's (who's been doing organics for 20 years and biodynamics since 2002) Bien Luné 2009 red (Syrah & Grenache) from Domaine Terre des Chardons in Costières de Nîmes (fairly priced at €8) - nice peppery and ripe dark cherry nose; lovely rich liquorice fruit with "tar" notes, quite soft tannins and a bit of weight; peppery vs savoury finish and rounded mouth-feel. 88-90. Yum, will have to go and see him sometime: UPDATED June 2013 - new profile HERE.
And Pierre Gabison, owner of Chateau de Caraguilhes in the Corbières, for their top red "Solus" 2008 (€19), which wasn't available for tasting on this occasion but I tried a cask sample of it back in January at the property with winemaker Etienne Besancenot: a serious Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache blend that I rated as a very promising 90-92. Their lovely rosé 2009 (€7 or £9.20 at Waitrose in the UK) also got a gold medal, plus a silver for the 2009 Corbières "classique" rouge (€7, also at Waitrose £7.59): more notes and info on Caraguilhes via the Languedoc Winery A to Z (right-hand column).
I also liked Domaine de Tavernel's vin de pays du Gard rosé 2009: nice chunky fruity rounded and dry style (85), although hardly gold-medal material (you'll find other comments here and there on my experience of French wine competitions, i.e. too many medals); still, a bargain at €3.50. And same goes for Domaine Costeplane's tasty well-made vin de pays d'Oc Chardonnay 2009 (€5). Among the silvers, I've picked out this wine as one I already knew and worth seeking out: Domaines Petit Roubié Picpoul de Pinet white 2009 (€5.20).
As for the crowned jams, this one is a must-try if you like figs: "Confiture de Figues entières" (whole) made by François Fabre in Espira de l'Agly. And from the soft drinks I had a slurp of: Syllvette Serre's delicious varietal apple juices from her orchard in Ponteilla, and "Nectar d'abricot" from Véronique Dajon in Los Masos, all three in the Roussillon by coincidence.
A few "interesting" stats on organic farming in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. It's now 2nd nationally in terms of "usable farming surface area" devoted to organics - 6.4% of the total area (and about 3% of vineyards) - with the fatest growth-rate for converting over to organic farming in France (+27.5% in 2009) and likely to be over 2000 certified organic producers in the region by the end of the year (with probably over 10,000 hectares or 25,000 acres of vines).
Photo by Alain REYNAUD. More info: www.millesime-bio.com and www.agribio-languedoc-roussillon.fr

Signature Bio

"Bio" as in short for organic in French ("biologique") rather than hazard or biography, this anuual competition for Languedoc and Roussillon wines "made from organically grown grapes" (using the Brussels speak, who by the way have just rejected a motion to sanction the term "organic wine," as obviously that would make it too easy for people to understand label terminology...) widened its reach this year by including other local organic produce/products such as fruit juice, jam and yoghurt.
On the wine front - I didn't take part in the judging in the end as I had an annoying intrusive cough - I tasted a few of the winners at the press conference where I talked to a couple of the winemakers. There were two trophy-winning bottles: Jérôme Chardon's (who's been doing organics for 20 years and biodynamics since 2002) Bien Luné 2009 red (Syrah & Grenache) from Domaine Terre des Chardons in Costières de Nîmes (fairly priced at €8) - nice peppery and ripe dark cherry nose; lovely rich liquorice fruit with "tar" notes, quite soft tannins and a bit of weight; peppery vs savoury finish and rounded mouth-feel. 88-90. Will have to go and see him sometime.
And Pierre Gabison, owner of Chateau de Caraguilhes in the Corbières, for their top red "Solus" 2008 (€19), which wasn't available for tasting on this occasion but I tried a cask sample of it back in January at the property with winemaker Etienne Besancenot: a serious Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache blend that I rated as a very promising 90-92. Their lovely rosé 2009 (€7 or £9.20 at Waitrose in the UK) also got a gold medal, plus a silver for the 2009 Corbières "classique" rouge (€7, also at Waitrose £7.59): more notes and info on Caraguilhes here.
I also liked Domaine de Tavernel's vin de pays du Gard rosé 2009: nice chunky fruity rounded and dry style (85), although hardly gold-medal material (more comments here and here on my experience of French wine competitions, i.e. too many medals); still, a bargain at €3.50. And same goes for Domaine Costeplane's tasty well-made vin de pays d'Oc Chardonnay 2009 (€5). Among the silvers, I've picked out this wine as one I already knew and worth seeking out: Domaines Petit Roubié Picpoul de Pinet white 2009 (€5.20).
As for the crowned jams, this one is a must-try if you like figs: "Confiture de Figues entières" (whole) made by François Fabre in Espira de l'Agly. And from the soft drinks I had a slurp of: Syllvette Serre's delicious varietal apple juices from her orchard in Ponteilla, and "Nectar d'abricot" from Véronique Dajon in Los Masos, all three in the Roussillon by coincidence.
A few "interesting" stats on organic farming in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. It's now 2nd nationally in terms of "usable farming surface area" devoted to organics - 6.4% of the total area (and about 3% of vineyards) - with the fatest growth-rate for converting over to organic farming in France (+27.5% in 2009) and likely to be over 2000 certified organic producers in the region by the end of the year (with probably over 10,000 hectares or 25,000 acres of vines).
Photo by Alain REYNAUD. More info: www.millesime-bio.com and www.agribio-languedoc-roussillon.fr

06 July 2010

Serious Languedoc and Roussillon

There's a whole host of new "profiles" now live on FMW.com, featuring several great estates and wineries with lots of tasty Med wine recommendations from these Domaines / Mas / Chateaux: Magellan, Conscience, Cave Embres et Castelmaure, Gayda, Faiteau, Hauterive le Haut, Ollieux Romanis, Meunier St. Louis, Haut-Gléon, Maria Fita, Sainte-Croix, Collin, Rives Blanques, Ecriture (all Languedoc). And from the Roussillon: Clos Perdus, Laguerre, Ch. de Rey, Vinci, Schistes. Click here to go to FrenchMedWine.com...
Plus a new feature: "Larging it in the Languedoc," focus on Vignobles Jeanjean and Mas La Chevalière. More...
Picture = "Flowering" from masdelecriture.fr/blog-vignoble

30 June 2010

R & L "wines of the moment" 2005-2010

Originally posted on WineWriting.com: "Updated regularly or occasionally as fits the mood, these everyday wines, new releases and sporadic superstars caught my attention for one reason or another. Not exactly a wine of the week or month but could be: hopefully more spontaneous than that." From June 2010 onwards, all "wines of the moment" have been featured directly on both blogs as individual posts, as it seemed like a much better idea!


Summer 2010
2009 Château La Grave red Minervois (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) - vibrant spicy black cherry, cassis and liquorice; juicy, fairly easy with soft-ish palate and nice fruity finish. €5.90 cellar door, £6.95 Stone Vine & Sun. 85+

Spring 2010
2007 Castel Fossibus red Faugères Domaine Ollier Taillefer (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre 13.5%) - spicy floral herby vs vibrant black cherry notes underlined by a touch of smoky development; well-handled mix of light oak spice, good fruit and attractive tannins on the palate. €12.50 87-89
2007 Expression Brut Crémant de Limoux Antech (Mauzac, Chardonnay, Chenin 12%) - quite fine fizz (especially at this price) with subtle toasted yeast tones vs creamier fruit vs quite zingy citrus; elegant bubbles with nice bready vs fruity vs oily, off-dry finish. €5.50 87

2009 Côtes du Roussillon rosé Château Pézilla (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan 13%) - vivid deep red cherry colour preempts its lively aromatic red cherry and raspberry fruit; zesty juicy palate, nice fruity finish vs crisp twist. €3.30 85
2007 Carnache Corbières-Boutenac Château Maylandie (Carignan/Grenache 13.5%) - black cherry, damson and cassis with smoky spicy tones, hints of tobacco and light vanilla/coconut too; attractive thick coating of dark chocolate, berries, liquorice and chunky dry tannins; quite concentrated and powerful with dense fruit, sweet vs meaty finish and lively, light coconut grip. Needs a few months in bottle to round out a little, yet pretty promising. March. 89-91
Profile on Maylandie and more tasting notes here.

Winter 2009/2010
2006 Cuvée l'olivette Pic-Saint-Loup Clos Marie (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) - smoky and lush showing nice depth and weight, pretty chunky tannins adding dry texture and bitter twist/bite; fair oomph and grip vs dark cherry liquorice and tobacco, needs a year or so to come together fully. Turns a tad rustic and leather-tinged with very firm framework, but its solid trad Languedoc style seduces you in the end. A bit dear though @ €12.50. 88
2008 "One Block" Côtes du Roussillon Domaine Treloar (mostly Grenache, Syrah 13.5%) - nice upfront chunky, spicy and lightly smoky style; showing lush dark cherry and liquorice vs tad of spicy wood texture and dry grip, then lively peppery dried black fruit finish. Approx €7.50 France, €9.50 Germany, £10 UK. 87+
Profile on Treloar and lots more wines here.
2008 Tautavel Côtes du Roussillon Villages Domaine des Trois Vallées (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) - quite chocolate oaky to start, but it has nice rich fruit too showing liquorice and spicy floral notes; attractive combo of dry grip and refreshing bite on the finish. 87+
2007 Elégant Carignan
"vieilles vignes" Domaine Mastrió vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (13.5%) - aromatic, floral even, blueberry fruit on nose and palate; shows nice elegance vs intensity, rich and ripe vs spicy with subtle oak notes; attractive texture and length too. 90+
Mastrió is a newish Roussillon estate (Bélesta): profile to follow...
2005 Carinyana 1878 Domaine Puig-Parahÿ Roussillon (very old Carignan 14.5%) - a touch stewed/oxidised although attractively mature and meaty/savoury with caramel and tobacco notes too; quirky old style turning more attractive with a bit of air (despite its apparent rapid development) with nice soft liquorice finish vs peppery notes too. 85+
Above wine discovered at a Domaine Treloar wine club "themed" tasting evening. It also prompted me to go and see Georges Puig down in Passa: full profile and tasting notes including a red Rivesaltes (Vin Doux Naturel) from 1945!
2008 Trémoine de Rasiguères rosé Côtes du Roussillon (13.5%) - less chunky and red than the 2007 but still a big fruity winter rosé, with weighty oily mouthfeel vs lively refreshing red fruit finish and light bitter twist too. €5.90 87

Autumn 2009
2008 Terrassous rosé Vignerons de Terrats 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
2008 "Vieilles Vignes"
rosé Arnaud de Villeneuve Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre 13%) - pretty red rosé, fairly full bodied rounded style with quite lush raspberry/strawberry fruit and "vinous" oily mouthfeel vs dry and crisp. €4+ 85
Lots more Roussillon rosés here.


Summer 2009
2008 Muscat sec Domaine de l'Arca vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (12.5%) - simple but well-done, attractive aromatic dry Muscat style with grapey citrus characters; yet also has nice zesty, floral and mineral / oily notes and texture giving it an almost Riesling like profile. €3.90 Casino. 80-85
More Muscat here...
These two reds were discovered at a Domaine Treloar wine club "themed" tasting:
2005 Minervois rouge Château de Puicheric - quite rich blackberry nose with spicy tones and a hint of toasty oak; well-made with a bit of character and nice fruit, weight and rounded tannins; turning more savoury with airing vs underlying liquorice 'sweetness'. Drink now although may improve for another year or two. €6.99 87+
2003 Minervois rouge Domaine Lignon - maturing smoky notes with tobacco and leather vs herby edges, fairly intricate mix turning more rustic and liquoricey; lush smooth mouthfeel with tasty savoury finish, quite punchy alcohol (although not over the top for a heat-wave 2003) but otherwise has concentrated lingering flavours and complex long finish. €11 89-91
More Minervois here and browse down the winery A to Z too.


Winter / spring 2009
2004 Faugères Château Haut Fabrègues (Grenache Mourvèdre Syrah 13.5%) - smoky maturing nose showing 'sweet' black fruits & damsons with shades of leather, liquorice and baked wild herbs too; quite rustic and 'inky' but it's nicely thick-textured with dense fruit and quite dry yet softening tannins; attractive drinking now, probably at its best although not lacking in substance and raw character. €5.50 87+
More Saur family wines here (La Grange d'Aïn).
2001 Corbières rouge Domaine de la Grange - complex and smoky with herbal dried fruits, roast beef and black olives too; quite concentrated and tasty with savoury leather notes, still slightly firm tannins v 'sweet' mature fruit, nice liquorice v meaty gravy finish. Drinking very nicely now although it's not going to die tomorrow. €6 Cave de St-Guilhem in Cabestany (nr. Perpignan), tasted Feb. 2009 at Domaine Treloar's Wine Club. 90+
More Corbières.
2008 Côtes du Roussillon rosé Dom Brial / Cave de Baixas (Syrah Grenache 13%) - classic storming Roussillon rosé style, deep coloured with a light touch of tannin adding dry texture; 'winey' aromatic and crunchy red fruits with rose petal edges, juicy and zingy with chunky fruity mouth-feel and full dry finish. Nice foodie (e.g. hake fillet in Provencal sauce). €4.19 87+
More Brial here.

Winter 2008
2006 Cuvée des Hospices Catalans Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Guy Anderson Wines / Domaine Cazes (Carignan Grenache Syrah 14.5%) - attractive fragrant black cherry, cassis and blueberry with liquorice overtones and lightly earthy/peppery notes; punchy palate with lively juicy fruit v light bitter chocolate tannins adding a bit of grip, otherwise it's quite soft with a warming finish. Gets smoother and richer with 24 hours airing and less earthy / peppery. Nice with lamb steak or roasted Mediterranean vegetables; and even a chunky piece of fresh, pepper-crusted tuna. £8.99 Thresher - buy 2 get the 3rd free (= £5.99). 87-89

Autumn 2008
2007 Côtes du Roussillon blanc Mas Llaro / Maison Lafage (13%) - nice dry white with a bit of character and weight too: floral nutty notes v oilier texture, still quite fresh. €3.20 83-85
More Lafage here.
2007 Côtes du Roussillon rouge Domaine de la Chique / Hervé Bizeul & Associés (Grenache Carignan 13.5%) - countersigned by Mr. Clos des Fées (Roussillon, "F") himself, this is well-made and tasty with plenty of ripe black fruits with dark chocolate, fig and coffee undertones; fair weight and grip but nice fruity drinking at the same time. €4.95 87
2007 Collioure Tradition: Jacques Py, Domaine de la Marquise (14%) - spicy vibrant and floral black fruits with liquorice, light leather notes and dark chocolate edges; big powerful mouthful with nice depth and style, dry v ripe tannins / texture, 'sweet' v savoury touches; not so subtle perhaps but I like its immediate fruit and chunky structure. €6 89

Summer+ 2008
2007 Le Rosé de Terrassous Côtes du Roussillon, Les Vignerons de Terrats (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
2007 Ressac Viognier Vin de Pays d'Oc, Cave de Florensac (12.5%) - attractively lively and aromatic still with lightly exotic apricot and citrus fruits; oily v juicy mouth-feel, a lighter style of Viognier with nice fruit; went well with a fish Jalfezi curry. €4.99. 85+

Spring - summer 2008
2007 Trémoine de Rasiguères rosé, Côtes du Roussillon (14%) - nearer red than rosé in colour, this has chunky aromatic & spicy raspberry/strawberry/cherry fruit with lovely oily texture, pretty potent alcohol yet fresh dry finish too. Serious quintessential Roussillon foodie rosé, it went well with two different restaurant duck dishes; also try with anchovies, grilled Med veggies etc. 87+

Winter 2007/08
2005 Les Serrottes, Vin de Pays d'Oc: La Grange de Quatre Sous (Hildegard Horat-Diop) - very appealing mix of cassis (I think there's some Cab in it?), black cherry, light liquorice and earthy smoky undertones; concentrated and lush palate v firm tannins and commanding mouth-feel (14.5%), tight but not rigid finish with nice coating of fruit v dry grip. Thanks to Isabelle Champart for giving me this bottle and thereby discovering this estate. 88-90
Update 2010: more wines and info on Grange 4 Sous here (Languedoc, "G").

Summer/autumn 2007
2005 Caramany Sélection Vieilles Vignes, Côtes du Roussillon Villages, les Vignerons de Cassagnes-Bélesta (14.5%) - light coconut and cinnamon toasted notes v floral dark cherries and liquorice; powerful, firm and dry palate v lush fruit with dark chocolate twist. A little clumsy perhaps, but a good mouthful of wine for €5. 87
2006 Le Rosé de Terrassous
, Côtes du Roussillon, les Vignerons de Terrats (13%) - lively raspberry fruit and full body v elegant, fresh and attractive style. €3-€4 87
Tête de Cuvée Crémant de Limoux, Marquis de Dompey (AKA Divin'Aude, 12.5%) - inconsistency on the cork front - some bottles slightly musty - but when it's right, this is great value for €3.49 (good old Lidl): attractive creamy yeasty apple and pineapple flavours dissolve into its frothy, invigorating and off-dry whole. 87
2005 Sélection des Vignerons de Maury
, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Carignan 13%) - nice vibrant spicy perfumed black cherry and liquorice aromas lead on to a juicy smoky palate v solid dry grip; good balance between power and quite fine finish. Went down well with fillet steak. €3.50-€4 87-89
2004 Cuvée des Fontanilles Fitou, Domaine du Capitat (13%) - quite rustic and leathery but has nice fruit and grip underneath, then a more elegant finish than it first suggests. €4 83-85
2006 Côtes du Roussillon rosé, Cave des Vignerons de Lesquerde (Syrah Grenache Cinsault Carignan 13%) - pretty typical Roussillon rosé style with plenty of red fruits v zesty dry finish. €3.50 85
2006 Arnaud de Villeneuve vieilles vignes blanc, Côtes du Roussillon (Macabeu Grenache Blanc Malvoisie 13%) - surprisingly nice, dry white wine offering all the zingy freshness you'd want in one mouthful (although it loses its appeal slightly if served anything but cold); coupled with fairly weighty, oily texture. 83-85

April 2007
2006
Minervois blanc, Jean d'Alibert, Languedoc (Grenache Blanc Marsanne 13%, screwcap) - attractive mix of zesty citrus and honeyed roundness, zingy crisp and mineral v fatter texture too. Under €3 87

March 2007
2006 Rasiguères rosé, Vignerons Catalans; Côtes du Roussillon (13.5%) - the latest vintage of this serious rosé doesn't disappoint: deep pink/light cherry colour, youthful fresh and lively with subtle rose petal and morello cherry tones; very zingy with crisp bite and tight length, citrus v red fruit weight v lively finish. Needs a couple of months to fill out. Try with prawn and spinach madras. €4.50 87-89

January 2007
2002 Tradition Côtes du Roussillon Château las Collas (13.5%) - attractive raisin and fig fruit edged with earthy maturing notes and tangier purple plum; quite concentrated and rich v extracted coating of dry tannins, good depth and balance for a 2002 (lesser vintage in the south), still grippy yet has plenty of ripeness and earthy developed fruit. Good with spicy Turkish sausages (beef and mustard). €6 87-90

November-December 2006
2004 Merlot, Vignobles de Carsac, vin de pays d'Oc (13.5%) - smoky plummy fruit set against light toasty notes, full and quite lush yet has attractive bitter twist too. 85+
2004 La Roque, Domaine la Pléiade, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Carignan, 13.5%) - attractive black cherry and liquorice fruit with light leather and cedar, plummy and quite lush mouth-feel v dry firm finish. Bargain at €3: 87+
2000 Côtes du Roussillon, Domaine de l'Auris (mostly Syrah, 12.5%) - attractive traditional style with maturing, earthy leather notes and minty cassis; dried black cherry fruit turning savoury on a fairly elegant palate, light dry tannin on the finish. €4 87

September-October 06
2004 Picpoul de Pinet, Mas Puech, Languedoc (12.5%) - delicious complex dry white, zesty v oily & concentrated with long mineral finish. 87+
2005 Dom Brial rosé, Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah Grenache, 13.5%) - textbook weightier Roussillon rosé with big fruit and texture yet fresh crisp finish. 87+
2005 Latour de France Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Domaine Bousquet (Syrah Carignan, 13.5%) - youthful purple with fresh floral black cherry fruit, up-front and attractive; juicy fruit & soft mouth-feel v light tannin texture, drinking well already but worth keeping for a year. Great value at €3.75: 87
2005 Caramany Côtes du Roussillon Villages, les Vignerons Catalans (Syrah Carignan Grenache, 13%) - deep purple ("smoke on the water...") black colour, very fruity with white pepper and earthy notes, very light oak backdrop; fairly rich and ripe black & red fruits, firm tight & elegant finish. 87+
2003 Cuvée des Presbytes, Caramany Côtes du Roussillon Villages; Vignerons de Cassagnes-Bélesta - lovely peppery pure blackberry/cherry fruit, quite rich and rounded with tobacco edges and dry grip; well-balanced attractive wine. €10 for half bottle in a restaurant: 87-89
2006 Primeur Catalan Syrah-Merlot, vin de pays d'Oc (13%) - pleasant enough, Beaujolais nouveau type - but with more oomph - fruity quaffer; not really my taste, I prefer the white below. 75-80
2006 Primeur Catalan Muscat-Viognier, vin de pays d'Oc (13%) - the latest funkily packaged release from those cunning Vignerons Catalans is very floral and zingy with nice grapey apricot notes, crisp and refreshing; drink it cold "juste comme ça," as the French might say... 83-85
2005 Chardonnay, Mas Sauvy, Vin de Pays d'Oc (13%) - expressive tasty Chardy with plenty of peach and pear fruit, lightly buttery then fresh and crisp. €5.50 87+

July-August 06
2005 Le Pot rosé, Dom Brial/Vignerons de Baixas, Vin de Pays d'Oc (Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon 12.5%) - the 05 is up to the usual standard: lots of raspberry and redcurrant fruit, quite weighty and concentrated finishing zesty and dry. €3.50 87
2001 Côtes du Roussillon rouge, Domaine du Mas Alart (13%) - complex maturing meaty tones layered on liquorice and red pepper fruit, soft and ready to drink with a little dry tannin left to finish. Approx €4.50 89
Fruité Salvat - bright funky easy-drinking range from Domaine Salvat in the Fenouillèdes region, Roussillon: 2005 red, white and rosé Vins de Pays, well made straightforward enjoyment wines. €2.70 80-85
2005 Rosé de la Chevalière, Laroche, Vin de Pays d'Oc (12.5%) - sunny and fruity v fresher zingy tones, easy-drinking and good with simple food. 85

May-June 06
2005 Le Rosé de Terrassous, Cave de Terrats, Côtes du Roussillon (French Catalonia) - fresh aromatic roses and red fruits, tight elegant palate, zesty and dry. €3.82 Auchan 87+
2005 Chasse du Pape Syrah rosé, Gabriel Meffre, Vin de Pays d'Oc (12.5%) - attractive red-leaning style, medium weight v zingy very dry finish. £4.99 Asda & Sainsbury's (on offer at £3.99 from 21st June to 18th July at JS) 85+
2005 Rasiguères rosé, Vignerons de Planèzes-Rasiguères, Côtes du Roussillon (13.5%) - serious and chunky, aromatic rich fruit with fresh acidity and touch of dry tannin, weighty and long; food rosé. €4.50 89


April 06
2003 Latour de France
, Vignerons Catalans, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache & Syrah, 13%) - nice example of rich smoky liquorice Grenache with a bit of Syrah perfume and dry grip, quite powerful yet fairly soft too. €4.60 85-87

1991 Cuvée Fernand Vaquer red, Frédérique et Bernard Vaquer, Vin de Pays Catalan (Carignan Grenache 13%) - mature smoky nose with seductive fig and savoury notes, soft ripe fruit and tannins, still showing elegant concentration and signs of life; drinking nicely now but won't do it any harm by keeping for another 1-2 years even. €10-12 90+
More Vaquer here.
2005 Minervois blanc, Jean d'Alibert, Languedoc (Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc & Roussanne, 12.5%) - attractive perfumed citrus and white peach aromas and flavours, zesty floral and crisp with lively finish. Screw capped (still rare in France), very good value. €2.50 85-87

February 06
2004 Trémoine de Rasiguères rosé, Vignerons de Planèzes-Rasiguères, Côtes du Roussillon (13%) - redder than rosé with full bodied spiced strawberry fruit, shows a tad of dry grip too; a food rosé rather than a quaffer, try with sardines or anchovies. €5 85
2004 Muscat d'Alexandrie sec, Domaine Rossignol, Vin de Pays d'Oc (Muscat, 13%) - yet another exciting example (see below) of a dry, crisp and mineral Muscat; this one is quite concentrated too with good length, try with Thai food. €4 89

December 05 - January 06
2005 Blanc de Blancs de Terrassous
, Vignerons de Terrats (Grenache Blanc Vermentino Macabeo 13%) - tight and steely at this stage, subtle zesty intensity v attractive oily nutty tones, crisp and dry. 88
2005 Muscat Sec, René Sahonet
, Vin de Pays Côtes Catalanes (Muscat, 12.5%) - sound example of this crisp dry style that Roussillon growers are proving very good at; lots of fresh aromatic grapey Muscat fruit, also shows a bit of bite and bitter orange characters on the finish. €3.75 87
2005 Le Primeur Dry Muscat Sec, Dom Brial/Vignerons de Baixas, Vin de Pays d'Oc (Muscat, 13%) - located up the road up bit from the above, shows similar approach and intensity, perhaps a little more concentrated and classy. €4 88
2004 Le Pot rosé, Dom Brial/Vignerons de Baixas, Vin de Pays d'Oc (Syrah & Cabernet Sauvignon) - attractive compote of raspberry and redcurrant fruit, quite weighty mouthfeel, finishing crisper and dry. €3.50 87

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Domaine de Vézian, Vin de Pays Côtes Catalanes (Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5%) - pretty chunky and earthy blackcurrant/cherry fruit wrapped in quite firm tannins, perhaps a touch unripe in the end but still has some charm. €3-4 85
2004 Minervois blanc, Château d'Agel, Languedoc (Macabeu & Muscat, 13%) - a pleasant surprise, given that Minervois isn't famous for whites: fairly rich oily textured palate balanced by lively aromatic fruit. €3-4 88
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Mas Jaume (Carignan, Grenache & Syrah, 14%) - upfront chunky black cherry, raisin and wild herbs; quite big in the mouth yet ends up softer and rounded. €3-4 87
2004 'Fenouill' rosé, Domaine Salvat, Vin de Pays Côtes Catalanes (Syrah & Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5%) - jammy ripe raspberry and strawberry fruit; juicy, rounded and dry finish. €3.50 85

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