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21 September 2011

Roussillon: Domaine Piquemal, Espira-de-l'Agly

The now pretty well-established Piquemal estate originally dates from the early 20th Century and comes to 50 ha (125 acres) lying across the Agly Valley in the beautiful untamed northern Roussillon. The family started replanting and acquiring vineyards in the 1970s, and restoring those old bush vine plots worth keeping, which lie on typically varied soils: "from one parcel to another, the earth changes notably from red to black to white," as they describe on their site, thanks to lots of lovely chalk/clay splashes and marl with chunky schist. Enough of the geology talk, ed...
As one of the area's pioneers in many ways, they bottled their first own-estate wines back in 1983 (as opposed to delivering grapes to a co-op or bulk vintner presumably), and have just built a shiny new winery outside of 'town' (not much choice really in Espira: no room between the houses and streets in this typical tight oldie Catalan village). The team comprises Annie and Pierre, who still like to keep a watchful eye over their 'kids' running the estate: Franck the winemaker and daughter Marie-Pierre, who looks after sales & marketing in France and export markets. Eyes right for enlightenment on those 1, 2, 3 "scores"...

Tasted May 2011 on the Sud de France stand at the London Wine Trade Fair:

2008 Galatée Cotes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) - nice chunky Grenache-led style, powerful and rich vs firm and concentrated. 2+ £16.95 UK distributor: Seabright & Seabright.
2007 Pygmalion Cotes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) - herbal 'reductive' and peppery nose, quite punchy and lush on the palate, impressive/extracted style in the end. £16.95 UK distributor: Seabright & Seabright.

From the Saint-Bacchus awards 2009:
2007 "Les Audacieux" Pierre Audonnet 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. 87-89
US importers: Beaune Imports, Berkeley CA and Idela Wines & Spirit co. Inc, Medford MA.

At a 100th anniversary commemorative event of the Winegrowers' Revolt held in November 2007 in the region:
2000 cuvée Justin Piquemal Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes – smoky and spicy with rich tar and meaty edges, concentrated v maturing finish. 90-92

Chile: Syrah / Shiraz

An aloof themed tasting table sat, literally, on a raised stage at the recent Wines of Chile annual London bash, dramatically billed as “Sensational Syrah”; but I think the Haydn-esque fanfare for fab Syrah from Chile is a little premature. Out of nearly 50 wines tasted, I found it quite hard going to find enough star Syrah / Shiraz to warrant this trail-blazing title;

15 September 2011

Italy: south by northwest

So to speak... but I do enjoy a nice little movie reference pun every now and then (answers on an e-card please, a clue: Cary Grant snapping his fingers at a waiter at the wrong moment...). London based wine merchant Armit has a bit of a reputation for its posh Italian wines (and just posh wines full-stop actually), e.g. luxury-priced Gaja; and I tried a few recently so decided to theme it up, posting-wise, starting with Italy. Because, well, why not when there are seductive red and white wines like these out there waiting to be discovered. The selection I've tasting-noted below does indeed run from the glorious south (Salento) via the solid middle (Tuscany) to the unexpected northeast (Valpolicella) then heads way out west (Liguria and Piemonte). Plus a bonus island red thrown in from Sardinia, as you do. And you know what to do for more about 1, 2, 3...

2007 Salice Salentino Riserva, Puglia - Cantele (Negroamaro/Malvasia Nero, 13% alc.): perfumed nose enhanced by pruney dried fruit notes, smoky and lush palate with dry vs sweet texture, fairly mature and very attractive now with tasty savoury finish. 1+ £9.85
2008 Montessu; Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardinia - Agricola Punica (14%): sunshine wine with dried figs, hints of tobacco and savoury meaty edges; powerful grippy mouth-feel balanced by nice maturing fruit, tasty traditional Med style. 2 £15.99

2008 Promis, Ca'Marcanda, Tuscany - Gaja (Merlot/Syrah/Sangiovese, 14%): smoky rustic vs herbal peppery notes, quite rich dark fruits and punchy weight vs 'inky' peppery, tight vs maturing finish showing subtle concentration. Good oldie style. 2 £25
2008 Magari, Ca'Marcanda, Tuscany - Gaja (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, 14.5%): more Morello cherry and less earthy, again quite concentrated and lush with dark plum and a touch of chocolate oak, finer and more textured although has a bit more oomph too; fairly classy. 2+ £32.17
2004 Ca'Marcanda; Bolgheri, Tuscany - Gaja (Merlot, Cab Sauv & Cab Franc, 14.5%): complex savoury nose with liquorice and earthy tobacco tinges, rich dark and concentrated palate with smoky edges, punchy and lively still with underlying grip and acidity. 2-3 £67.17
2009 Le Volte, Tuscany - Tenuta dell'Ornellaia (13.5%): smoky dried fruit aromas, lush cherry fruit with sweet vs dry mouth-feel, maturing edges and attractive drinking now. 1+ £15.17
2009 Le Difese, Tuscany - Tenuta San Guido (14%): smoky Morello nose, dried fruits, liquorice vs tobacco hints; powerful vs fresh, layered with sweet maturing earthy fruit. 1+ £15.37
2009 Guidalberto, Tuscany - Tenuta San Guido (Cab Sauv/Merlot, 14%): sweeter fruit although it seems 1-2 years younger, intense and concentrated, stylish balanced palate with power and bite and delicious long finish. Yum. 2-3 £27.17
2006 Sugarille; Brunello di Montalcino, Pieve di Santa Restituta, Tuscany - Gaja (Sangiovese, 15%): lovely coffee and tobacco notes vs dried cherry fruit, a touch of coco/chocolate on the palate adding roundness to its punchy lively firmer side, the alcohol's a tad warm but this is very concentrated and tasty. 2 £89

2005 Valpolicella Superiore - Romano dal Forno (Rondinella/Molinara, 15%): "lightly appasite" it said on the backlabel, meaning towards Amarone style I think. Seductive smoky dark fruits with hints of chocolate and cedar, lush vs tangy palate with cassis vs prune fruit profile, still pretty solid and impressive yet balanced too. 2-3 £61
2006 Barolo, Piemonte - Giacomo Fenocchio: pretty classic Nebbiolo profile with maturing dried fruits and 'cheesy' edges, soft vs firm palate and tasty savoury finish. 1-2 £29

2010 Vermentino; Colli di Luni, Liguria - Cantine Lunae (12.5%): zesty zingy citrus with peachy apricot hints, tasty and refreshing with nutty vs 'mineral' intensity, roundish yet crisp finish. Nice style. 1-2 £12.99
2010 Roero Arneis, Piemonte - Bruno Giacosa (12.5%): aromatic nutty nose, tighter more 'mineral' palate, juicy and lees-y too with fresh acidity. Dear though at £21. 1
I didn't like this guy's reds by the way...

More 'themes' on the way from this tasting: Pinot Noir, Champers vs English fizz, classic Rioja, Quinta da Falorca (Portugal), a couple of enticing red Rhones & white Burgundies...

13 September 2011

Languedoc: Charlotte & Jean-Baptiste Sénat, Minervois

The Sénat's wine estate comes to 15 organically tended ha (37 acres) lying near the lost village of Trausse-Minervois almost in the shadow of the brooding Montagne Noire range. As their 'had enough, jack it in and start afresh' story goes, Charlotte and Jean-Baptiste Sénat upped and left a cosy Parisian life in 1995 to take on some abandoned vineyards and old cellar owned by the family in stunningly isolated Minervois country. Les Caves de Pyrène ship these wines into the UK, which retail for about £10 to £15; or €10 and €13 cellar door if you get the chance to check them out first-hand.

2009 “La Nine” red Minervois (Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsault) - quite rich and punchy with tight tannins and structured palate, earthy vs sweet fruit mix, needs time to open up.
2010 “Mais où est donc Ornicar” red Minervois (Grenache 50%, Cinsault 25%, Mourvèdre 25%) - odd spicy Beaujolais cum Loire style although laced with sunshine, different anyway.

10 September 2011

Languedoc: Domaine d’Aupilhac, Montpeyroux

Sylvain Fadat (pic.) is the latest in a long line to steer the now organically certified ship (with biodynamic bits thrown in too), with five centuries of grape-growing under the family's belt apparently, although they 'only' built their own little winery/cellar in 1989. Most of the vineyard lies on southwest facing terraces on a site actually called "Aupilhac," where Carignan and Mourvèdre dominate; and the rest of the vines are found on a northwest facing slope called "Les Cocalières" at an altitude of 350 metres (1150 feet), where Syrah is king. This panoramic setting overlooks the old-as-time village of Montpeyroux, where they also have on-site holiday gite accommodation for rent: see aupilhac.net for details. These wines are shipped by Les Caves de Pyrène and cost about £10 to £15, or €9 to €13 cellar door. Understanding my "scoring" is as easy as 1, 2, 3... see right-hand column.

2010 “Les Servières” red vin de pays de l’Hérault (100 year-old Cinsault) - floral tangy cassis and blueberry notes, crunchy vs ripe and spicy vs ‘sweet’ profile; different. 1+
2008 “Les Truffières” red Languedoc "Montpeyroux" (Carignan, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsault) - sweet and floral nose/palate with intense minty spicy tones, firm closed up tannins with a little fresh acidity too, long elegant finish. 2


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