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01 November 2011

Languedoc: Pinot Noir, Domaine de Clovallon

Further to my comments chiselled into a piece posted on WineWriting.com (Pinot Noir: Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand) on a case of 'Pinot fraud,' I'd say this one’s definitely Pinot. It's from this slightly off-the-wall estate found in Bédarieux on the ragged fringes of the Massif Central mountains.
2008 Les Pomarèdes Pinot Noir vin de pays d’Oc Domaine de Clovallon - Succulent silky “sweet/savoury” style and attractive Pinot character, shows a touch of dry grip vs fresh acidity on the finish. Very good for Languedoc PN although dear at £15.75 in the UK (Terroir Languedoc).
Click here to see my note on their lovely white wine. Mind you, most of the best ones are made in Limoux: click here for a bit of a rant and a few recommended producers.

31 October 2011

Spain: Catalonia & Aragón

Here are four tasty "wines of the moment" worth looking out for, sourced from two almost neighbouring, dynamic regions in northeast Spain, which are newish releases from Spanish specialist importer Burridges of Arlington St. based in Sussex, England, who supplies wine shops throughout the UK and Ireland. Stockists for the Cava include Firth Wines, Thomas Panton, some branches of Spirited Wines and members of the Merchant Vintners consortium: such as S.H.Jones, Portland Wine, House of Townend, Wallaces, Wineservice, The Vineyard (IOM) and Tanners. Retail price is about £8-£10 a bottle. More info @ burridgewine.com.

Castell d'Olérdola - Cava
I first came across this good-value Cava label in supermarkets and wine shops when I lived up the coast a bit from Barcelona for nine months back in the not too dim and distant. They're already listed in my Cava mini-guide, so it was good to retry a couple from this range made by the well-known Castillo Perelada group. Both wines sampled here see around 12 months lees-ageing in bottle, although the Reserva is then matured in their cavernous cellars for up to two more years after 'disgorgement' (ejecting the yeast sediment). They also produce Kosher Cava too, by the way.
Rosado (Trepat, Monastrell; 11.5% alc.) - the first one is a rare red Catalan variety, the second is what the Spanish call Mourvèdre; then again, they can call this Med-est of reds what they like, it all came from Spain originally! Quite delicate rosé fizz with lightly toasty notes vs red fruit cocktail, rounded off-dry vs lively mouth-feel and finish.
Reserva (Macabeu, Xarel.lo, Parellada; 11.5%) - made from the three white Catalan staples: classier and drier, quite rich with oat biscuit flavours vs intense and crisp-ish. Nice quality fizz.

Bodegas Esteban Martín - Cariñena
This relatively small region lies east of Calatayud and west of Catalunya, and its vineyards are found on a dramatic plateau at 400 to 800m altitude making it a little cooler in summer (but still hot and dry) and pretty cold in winter. Established in 2003, Viñedos y Bodegas Esteban Martín is a modern family-run winery based in Alfamén smack in the middle of Cariñena, and is circled by a whopping 150 hectares (375 acres) of their own vines mixing Spanish and French varieties.
Vinem Crianza red 2008 (mostly old-vine Garnacha, Cabernet, Syrah, Merlot; 14% alc.) - touches of oak grain adding coco notes and texture, quite lush and plummy with sweet fruit vs savoury edges, chunky and powerful with well-balanced oak / tannins / alcohol vs attractive fruit.
Vinem red 2010 (Garnacha, Syrah; 13.5%) - peppery with black cherry and liquorice, soft fruity style vs a hint of dry grip and oomph, attractive easy-drinking red with some guts too.

25 October 2011

Spain: La Rioja Alta

There’s something sublimely seductive, enticingly delicate and just pure pleasure to taste and drink about this absolutely classic style of wonderful old-fashioned Rioja, which really blossoms and shines after 10+ years of age and quietly puts to shame some of those new-fangled, over-extracted, heavy-handed, monster reds coming out of other regions of Spain; or even Rioja too nowadays. La Rioja Alta winery is an undisputed master, whose cask-aged Reserva and Gran Reserva reds show a lightness of touch, sometimes only 12.5% alcohol yet bags of character and complex developing aromas/flavours. And, considering the quality and charming maturity you get for your money, they’re relatively good value as well compared to, say, expensive young Priorat, Bordeaux or California.
Mind you, La Rioja Alta isn’t just a perfectionist in this enduring and hopefully not disappearing style. With their Torre de Oña Reserva, they’ve succeeded in creating a more ‘modern’ Rioja with all the class of their better-known names such as 904 or Ardanza. These lovely reds are based on Tempranillo with a splash of other varieties (see below for details) sourced from different vineyards and districts of Rioja Alta - it's a subzone, the upper or higher bit, as well as the winery's name (they probably had it first otherwise I don't imagine they'd be allowed to use the term). Thank you for sharing these bottles, wise folk at Armit Wines, London, which are sold by numerous other wine shops and restaurants.

2007 Torre de Oña Reserva (Tempranillo, Mazuelo; 13.5% alc.) - oakier and chunkier than the others but with seductive smoky and lush mouth-feel / flavours, lots of black and red fruits with a splash of vanilla set on solid backdrop with fresh vs punchy finish, tasty and stylish too. £19
2004 Viña Arana Reserva (Tempranillo, Mazuelo; 13%) - ‘cheesy’ developing notes vs lovely sweet berry fruit, has a bit of grip and freshness with firmer tighter finish than the older wines; still a relative baby and very promising. £20
2001 Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial (Tempranillo, Garnacha; 13.5%) - the grapes are mostly sourced from their Ardanza estate in Fuenmayor. Beautiful classy nose, smoky maturing and ‘volatile’ with enticing sweet fruit, has a bit more oomph vs fresh bite and elegant savoury finish; the alcohol’s more obvious than on the others, but it adds to its more structured make-up and this is definitely still very good wine. £25
1998 Gran Reserva 904 (Tempranillo, Graciano; 12.5%) - browny red colour, delicious ‘cheesy’ vs sweet-fruit nose with dried berries and light touch of vanilla, complex maturing savoury flavours yet it’s still alive and fresh; brilliant classic trad style. £35
1997 Gran Reserva 904 (13%) - ‘cheesier’ still with dried fruit vs savoury silky palate, meaty vs sweet profile, elegant and tasty, ageing yet still alive with a hint of lingering acidity and long cheesy/meaty flavours. Superb. £35
More info @ riojalta.com

20 October 2011

Languedoc: vibrant variety of whites

Following on from my succinct yet poignant Roussillon: white wines post below this one, the general excitement surrounding quality, range of styles and now availability (in the UK anyway) of attractive whites also extends to the Languedoc, of course. So, here's right royal mix tasted and enjoyed in recent times including three lively Picpouls from the Thau Lagoon area, a few richer complex barrel-fermented/aged wines from the hills and a luscious Muscat with its toe tranquilly dipped in the Med. Mind you, there aren't any bargains among this lot; the least dear is an £8 one from M&S. The Languedoc does neatly churn out quite a lot of successful tasty varietals though, such as crowd-pleasing Chardy and increasingly good Viognier, it has to be said.
2010 Maison du Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet, JeanJean - nice juicy style from this ever-growing family wine group, with waxy honeyed notes then crisp vs fuller oilier finish. £10 D&D Wines International.
Lots more JeanJean here.
2010 L'Enfant Terrible Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine la Grangette - tighter and zingier, peachy fruit vs aromatic green fruits and melon, attractive length and style. £10.49 Hallgarten Druitt.
2010 Picpoul de Pinet Les Vignerons de Florensac (12%) - enticing yeast-lees notes on the nose, very steely and zesty mouth-feel with gala melon fruit, nice crisp 'chalky' bite too. £7.99 Marks & Spencer (100 stores).
More Picpoul de Pinet here - as you'll see, generally I wasn't hugely impressed by the 2010 vintage from this region, which usually makes some of my favourite unoaked dry whites in the Languedoc.
2010 Les Mûriers Coteaux du Languedoc, Mas Bruguière (Roussanne, Marsanne) – complex mix of tight and structured palate vs rich exotic fruit, subtle and quite unrevealing at the moment but very promising. £12.50 Yapp Brothers.
More Mas Bruguière wines and profile here.
2009 Les Aurièges vin de pays Haute Vallée de l'Orb, Domaine de Clovallon (Chardonnay, Viognier, Clairette, Petit Manseng) - quirky varietal melange produces a fairly exotic and lush wine, chunky texture vs 'mineral' bite, power vs a little freshness. Good stuff. £15.75 Terroir Languedoc. Note on their lovely Pinot Noir here.
2009 Cigalus pays d'Oc Gérard Bertrand (Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon) - pretty rich toasty and creamy, concentrated and honeyed with punchy finish, quite classy though with good substance, bite and fruit vs still a bit toasty. Should develop well. £20 Bibendum.
More GB wines inc. vertical of Cigalus white.
2008 Pierres d'Argent Coteaux du Languedoc Chateau de Lascaux (Vermentino, Roussanne, Marsanne) - intricate maturing mealy buttery aromas & flavours vs crisp and 'mineral'. Lovely style, very good. £15 HG Wines.
2008 L'Incompris vdp d'Oc, Domaine du Mas Neuf / JeanJean (Muscat petits grains) - intense Muscat characters, sweet and punchy vs crisp underneath, delicious fruit pudding style. Grown on an amazingly isolated vineyard surrounded by pine forest sandwiched between the Med, nearby lagoons and a sheer limestone cliff face (the Massif de Gardiole). £25 D&D Wines.
2005 Virgile white vdp de l'Hérault Domaine Virgile Joly (Grenache blanc) - nutty Fino nose and palate, intense 'mineral' style with a bit of weight and roundness. Not everyone's cup of tea but it's still got hints of class. Expensive though at £27, Dudley & de Fleury Wines.
Click here for more Virgile Joly.

15 October 2011

Pinot Noir: Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand

Monthélie vineyards
This dual-hemisphere array of tasty Pinot was sampled and selected from a triad of recent tastings in London (Marks & Spencer, Wines of Chile, Armit), all going to show that Burgundy, home of Pinot if you like, really does have its work cut out nowadays. Although the Nuits St. Georges, Volnay or Corton-Bressandes scrutinized below were particularly good, French Pinot does sometimes lack a bit of obvious charm; whether because a certain wine just needs more time to open up or simply just isn't as good as it should be, given its high price and reputation of the producer, area or vineyard it comes from.


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