"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

28 November 2011

Germany: Reichsrat von Buhl "Grand Cru" tasting

Kirchenstück single vineyard
"Or 'Grosses Gewächs' tasting to be precise, although the German equivalent of 'Grand Cru' does sound more like a term of abuse than a term describing a first-rate vineyard site..." Sensational taste-off of Von Buhl's 2009 vs 2010 dry Rieslings, sublime 2010 sweet wines and "a little surprise" vintage from the past...
CLICK HERE to read the full works, which goes to the just added German section of my wine words pages where you'll also find these archive features brought across from "old" WineWriting.com:
Riesling Riesling & Riesling or "a couple of racy German tastings combined..."
Terrassen-Mosel: "Extreme vineyard walking, right-angle Rieslings & Mosel-side eating..."
Plus an "international Riesling review" and Lingenfelder's "Vineyard Creatures"...

24 November 2011

Australia: Rhone / Med winter reds (up north anyway)

Following in the shadowy footsteps of a similarly themed post on my other blog called Southern French reds @ Marks & Spencer's, here's a trio of hearty Aus "reds of the mo", if you like, created from Rhone/Med grape varieties and recently shipped neatly onto the shelves of your nearest Marks & Spencer's (well, perhaps, as these two have limited distribution as you can see below) and Asda (added 28 Nov). Discovered at a recent M&S tasting at their HO in London (more recommended wines from that to follow), and the third one in my local Asda store...

2010 Hunter Valley Shiraz - Tyrrell's Wines (100% Shiraz, 13% alc.): odd nose at first turning into sweet cherry and spicy 'medicinal' notes, it's a little at sorts with itself on the palate (still youthful though) but finishes better in a fuller Crozes-Hermitage like way. £9.99 M&S 150 stores.
2008 Marananga Dam Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre - Torbeck, Barossa Valley (44% Grenache, 34% Mourvèdre and the rest Shiraz/Syrah; 13% alc.): rich ripe fruit with meaty edges on the nose, liquorice and pepper aromas/flavours too vs enticing tangier side; punchy and concentrated mouth-feel with attractive sweet/savoury style, then maturing yet still lively finish. Very good although quite pricey: £12.99 M&S 200 stores.
2009 Shiraz/Viognier (14%) - Zilzie Wines, SE Australia: Victoria based Zilzie does a straight Viognier white wine as well as this spicy aromatic red blend, following a bit of a fashion in Aus for adding a drop of white Viognier to red Shiraz/Syrah in the style of traditional northern Rhone reds such as Côte-Rôtie. I liked the not so full-on fruity style of this one with attractive black cherry and cassis hints, a spicy floral side to it too, as I said; nice rounded quite weighty palate with fairly soft tannins and just a hint of chocolate oak adding texture and aroma/flavour. £6 Asda on promotion (usually £10).

More GSM from Aus here.

21 November 2011

Languedoc: Château de Caraguilhes, Corbières

UPDATE: the latest vintage release of one of their top Corbières reds, Solus 2009, crossed my tasting path a couple of months ago in London, which is available in the UK via Les Producteurs et Vignerons de France retailing for a wallet-thinning £16.99...
2009 Solus (60% Syrah, 25% Mourvèdre, 15% Carignan) - vibrant black cherry fruit with chocolate oak tones, structured palate still although has attractive texture with long spicy finish. Very good, needs a few months more to open up.
Click here for a glimpse of the 2010 Solus, an unfinished sample tasted in Montpellier six months ago. And read on for a profile of Caraguilhes with some previous vintages reviewed from 2006 to 2010...

Pierre Gabison, previously a shareholder in this vast picturesque estate and Pech-Latt, bought out Caraguilhes entirely in 2005 and has spent a fortune on restoring the chateau, looking at the sumptuous pictures on their website. He's also continuing a long-standing 'tradition' (true in this case) of organic farming and philosophy, apparently pioneered by the previous owner in the 50s and 60s, which was virtually unheard of back in the golden age of newfangled nasty synthetic sprays and fertilisers. The sizeable 100+ ha (250 acres) of vineyards have been organically certified since 1992, which must be hard work. They lie on pretty rolling hills at slight altitude (up to 180m / 550 feet) surrounded by huge tracts of forest and scrubland, in the middle of nowhere: it's about 30 km (20 miles) from the sea, 15km south of Lézignan and 25 km southwest of Narbonne. Pierre's team includes young Etienne Besancenot, the new-ish "technical director" (senior winemaker I guess in "Anglo-Saxon" speak, as the French love to say as a put-down) who I first bumped into at Chateau de Pibarnon in Bandol back in 2004 (he was working the vintage as part of his studies); and Bruno Averseng in the field, literally.

I tasted these wines at Millésime Bio 2009 in Montpellier:
2008 Domaine de l'Olivette Vin de Pays des Coteaux de la Cabrerisse (Grenache blanc, Marsanne) - nice crisp zesty style with floral and honeyed aromas / flavours. 80-85
2008 Caraguilhes white Corbières (Grenache blanc & Marsanne) - more intense with enticing citrus, honey and exotic fruits; crisp bite and length on the palate. 87

2008 Corbières rosé (50/50 Grenache & Syrah) - delicious, juicy and zesty rose petal and red fruit cocktail; quite big mouth-feel then very crisp to finish. 87+
2007 red Corbières (Carignan Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre) - attractive crunchy cassis and blueberry fruit; very vibrant and tasty with firm v fruity finish. 87+
2007 Solus Corbières (Carignan Grenache Syrah) - richer and more concentrated with a touch of chocolate oak texture, but it's mostly the lush v crunchy fruit that shines through; solid firm tannins countered by lots of liquorice and black cherry. Very nice. 90-92
2005 Prestige Corbières (Carignan Syrah Grenache) - oilier aromas and texture with maturing edges, still quite firm and dry with a touch of wood on the palate; big mouth-feel although has some rich dark fruit underneath, less seductive perhaps. 87+


Update: I paid Etienne a visit in late January 2010 and hence had the opportunity to tread some of the soil on this sizeable and handsome estate, found up a track off the main road between Thézan and St-Laurent. He's been overseeing a bit of ripping up and replanting including some Carignan, which is quite rare nowadays as most people only seem interested in (re)planting Syrah and Grenache. Etienne's pretty excited at being at the helm at Caraguilhes as he thinks "there's huge potential here." We tasted the latest vintages and a couple of experimental wines, which certainly confirm this:
2008 white (60% Marsanne + Grenache blanc) - quite exotic and rich with floral apricot and banana aromas underlined by yeast-lees notes; full and rounded vs crisp biter twist, nice clean vs fruity finish. 87
2008 Grenache blanc (barrel-fermented) - rounded and "sweet" mouthfeel vs quite crisp, vanilla notes but not too toasty overall; perhaps needs more bite and fat, although it's an interesting experiment.
2008 rosé (Syrah Grenache Carignan 13.5%) - very appealing strawberry / raspberry on the nose; weighty / oily palate then refreshing finish. Yum. UK: Waitrose stores. 87
2007 classique red - wilder "garrigue" tones vs very spicy black cherry fruit, ripe liquorice aromas too; quite concentrated with dry vs rounded tannins and lovely fruit too. Waitrose 88+
2007 prestige red (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - more complex nose with its almost animal, meaty and savoury tones; less open on the palate, but it's a more exciting wine underneath showing subtle spicy finish; less charm now but give it a year or two. 89-91
2008 Solus red (more Mourvèdre and Syrah, less Grenache; cask sample) - estery aromas with wild black fruits; quite vanilla-coated adding "sweetness" countered by lovely depth of fruit, again good balance of dry and firm mouthfeel vs lush and ripe; carries the 15% weight well as it's surprisingly elegant and not overworked, finishing with tight bite. Needs 1 to 2 years to round out. 90-92
Caraguilhes reds are priced €6.90, €9.90 and €15 cellar door.

And previously at Millésime Bio organic wine fair in 2006:
2005 Corbières rosé - very appealing strawberry fruit and weight, then fresh crisp and long. 87+
2004 Corbières rouge - nice depth of youthful cherry fruit with tobacco edges, well handled tannins on the finish. 88-90


11220 Saint Laurent de la Cabrerisse. Tel: 04 68 27 88 99, www.caraguilhes.fr

18 November 2011

Roussillon: Domaine of the Bee update

Click here for profile and note on the 2007 vintage of their sumptuous old Grenache and Carignan based red and see below for my impressions of the recently released 2009. Other news includes their 2008 vintage now being available in the US via a distributor who sells in 35 states. More details are on their website domaineofthebee.com under 'Order your wine' then select USA, obviously!
There's a special offer running at the moment too "at the Domaine of the Bee shop," as the blurb goes. Use this code £10NOV2011 and they'll "take a tenner off your bill." One bottle is usually a somewhat pricey £27.95 delivered (£20 single bottle price + £7.95 p+p) so that makes it £17.95. The price does come down as the quantity goes up, here's the maths in a nutshell: 3 bottles = £60 + £7.95 minus £10 = £57.95, or 6 bottles = £108 + £7.95 minus £10 = £105.95, for example. The catch is it's limited to the first 50 people who order and is valid until Sunday 27th November (UK deliveries only). Enough of the sales pitch, you might well be saying (I don't have shares in the Bee incidentally), although you could combine this offer with the charity row (as in boat not argument...) Justin, whose father died of prostate cancer last year, is just about to do in aid of that cause. In their words: "Amanda, Philippe and I have decided to help raise funds by donating £10 to the charity for every 6 bottle case of Domaine of the Bee we sell before 20th November."

Now over to that new-release wine:
2009 Domaine of the Bee IGP Côtes Catalanes (15%) - touches of coconut oak but not too much adding texture and roundness to its ripe tannins and fruit, offering up sweet liquorice and blackberry flavours; powerful mouthful although that 15% alc. is surprisingly well hidden among its concentrated lush black fruit and damson mix with nice peppery edges too; attractive soft tannins vs light bitter chocolate twist and subtle dry grip, this is drinking nicely already actually.

16 November 2011

Undiscovered Spain: Castilla y León

"Home-cured acorn-fed Iberian Black Pig
with La Setera wines"
by Brett Jones
I've just resurrected this tasting & touring feature originally published on "old" WineWriting.com and now here for the first time, as it seemed like a good idea:
"Undiscovered Spain - from Valladolid to the Portuguese border and north beyond León..." Featuring the following Bodegas with restaurant and hotel tips: Pilcar (Cigales region), La Setera (Arribes del Duero), Cenit (Tierra del Vino de Zamora), Zamoranas, Otero (Valles de Benavente), Agribergidum (Bierzo), Margon (Tierra de León) plus get to know your Juan Garcia, Prieto Picudo, Mencía and Godello; grape varieties, that is... "The vast evocative Castilla & León region, which lies roughly between Madrid and the north coast stretching almost from Rioja across to Galicia and Portugal, isn't exactly 'undiscovered' for Spanish wine lovers at least. Hip Ribera del Duero needs little introduction and other areas such as Toro and Rueda, which are found to the east, south and west of Valladolid, appear to have gained some ground in the recognition stakes. But on this tour, we travelled resolutely west..."
Read the full works here (goes to 'SPAIN' wine words archive - scroll down to below Cava guide). Big ham photo © Brett Jones "the Wine Maestro": thewinemaestro.co.uk. More pics in the article and on shutterfly.com.

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