"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

26 December 2011

Languedoc: Gérard Bertrand 'Grand Vin', La Clape

UPDATE: One of the Bertrand empire's top reds, from his country wine estate and hotel lying up on the almost-island 'La Clape' sub-appellation nestling between Narbonne beach and Narbonne town, was up for tasting at a London show a few months ago (just rediscovered my notes...). It sells for about twenty quid in the UK, imported by Thierry's Wines, but it's pretty damn good virtually every vintage.

2008 Château l'Hospitalet Grand Vin (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache) - complex wild flowers, herbs and berry fruits on the nose/palate, lush concentrated mouthful vs still very firm tannins and powerful long finish, lovely lingering wild flavours too. Needs a few years to blossom, great stuff.

More GB on this blog:
Features, winery profiles and reviews from wine touring and tasting 2006-2008 (goes to "King of the Languedoc?" page  in my "more wine words" archive).
2009 & 2008 Languedoc vintage tasting reports (also in "more wine words").
LimouxLa ClapeCorbières & BoutenacApril & May 2011, a trio of shorter posts on the Languedoc 2010 vintage showcase (including 2009s and 2008s revisited) by wine area / theme...

19 December 2011

France: the Original Malbec

A little Vs-up to Argentina perhaps, where Malbec is thriving in certain places made by certain wineries; but this red variety did come from southwest France originally and is still very much alive in the Cahors region (some winemakers have even been replanting it in parts of the Bordeaux wine-lands). Rigal, a major Cahors producer and owned by the ever-expanding JeanJean group (link goes to a Languedoc feature on my other blog), has launched a tasty gutsy fruit-driven varietal Malbec (vin de pays du Lot, the name of the département and the long river that runs through it) called The Original Malbec (2010 vintage, 13% alcohol), which has lots of vibrant spicy character, nice weight, red/black berry fruits and dry yet rounded finish. Maybe a good Christmas-y "red of the mo" even... A Fiver on offer at Asda, usually over £7 I think.

12 December 2011

Languedoc: Cave d'Embres et Castelmaure, Corbières

UPDATE: the brooding 2008 vintage of one of their top Corbières reds, called La Pompadou, is now available in the UK via Laithwaites / Direct Wines at £11.99. My impressions of it have been chiselled below, as well as a profile penned last year including a fascinating insight into why the bright hypnotic stripes, and notes on a few of their range sampled on that particular occasion. Here we go:
2008 La Pompadou (Carignan, Grenache) - perfumed blueberry aromas / flavours, quite tight and fresh mouth-feel with grip, power and concentration lurking underneath. Still seemed a bit young when I tasted it a few months ago, very good though.

The Embres & Castelmaure name evokes myth and legend, as a wonderful place lost in time yet one of the first co-op cellars (although much smaller than many) to understand what changes needed to be made to move forwards into the, perhaps inevitably and certainly very competitive, quality wine arena. This enchanting mediaeval village, or rather (later) merger of two villages, lying at the southern end of the Corbières, was where Patrick de Hoym de Marien, who's still the president, and MD Bernard Pueyo instigated a major rethink and replanting program in the 80s; as well as identifying and mapping out all vineyard plots owned by the co-op's 70 members. This thorough "back to basics" in the vineyards - proper pruning, tilling, controlling yields, selecting grapes etc. - was complemented by upgrading winemaking and ageing techniques and equipment, with timely advice from a few key consultants and culminating in building a brand new cellar opened in 2007.
By the way, I pinched the picture, with the loud coloured stripes featured on their labels, off their poetic website, where you'll also find some stunning pictures and tips for staying and eating in this lost corner of the Corbières (the "main road" to the village only goes to, erm, the village). I sampled these wines at the enigmatically named "Salon du X" - it's not that much of a mystery, actually, a tasting organised by their agent Xavier Peyrot des Gachons with a dozen Languedoc & Roussillon winegrowers present (there were originally 10 in his "gang", I think) hence the X - in April 2010 at Domaine Gayda's impressive winery & restaurant complex, found between Limoux and Castelnaudary.

2009 Corbières white (Grenache blancMacabeu) - juicy and zesty vs exotic banana fruit; nice depth and oily vs crisp mouth-feel. 85+
2008 La comporte du garage (barrel-fermented Grenache blanc) - a bit spicy wood dominated vs juicy and colourful fruit; lightly creamy and maturing notes vs a bit of zing on the finish. 85+
2009 rosé - attractive "boiled sweets" fruity style, crisp and zesty to finish. 80+
La Buvette (mostly  .
Grenache Carignan 14.5%) - light colour with lovely ripe soft raspberry and sweet liquorice notes; quite stocky actually with a light touch of tannin, nice easy style. 85
2008 Castelmaure (Carignan 
Grenache Syrah) - scented "garrigue" with vibrant blueberry and blackberry fruit; juicy lively palate with a bit of weight and grip, subtle lingering fruit. 87
2007 La Pompadou (Carignan 
Grenache Syrah) - enticing cassis and black cherry fruit with more depth and concentration and a hint of chocolate oak; appealing "sweet" vs perfumed vs chunky finish, again tasty and well-balanced. 88+
2007 Grande Cuvée (
Grenache Syrah) - riper liquorice nose and spicier too; fairly lush texture with a tad more oak, attractive depth and grip vs quite concentrated with "sweet" vs dry finish. 89+

4 Route des Canelles, 11360 Embres & Castelmaure. 04 68 45 91 83 / www.castelmaure.com

Wine courses in the Belfast area (updated)

Wine Education Service, which runs consumer wine courses and tastings at various centres around the UK, and yours truly RMJ have teamed up to launch a new introductory evening wine course and a one day wine workshop. The five week course starts in April 2012 in Belfast City Centre and in Bangor (Co. Down), and the one day event is on Saturday 31 March in Belfast. Details as follows:

1 day workshop "the World of Wine" on Saturday March 31: £75 per person including tasting approx 15 wines with tuition, lunch with wine and a course manual.
Oscar Wilde room, Ramada Encore Hotel, Saint Anne's Square, Belfast BT1 2LD. www.encorebelfast.co.uk
5 week introductory course Tuesday evenings starting 3 April until 1 May inclusive: £125 including half-a-dozen wines tasted each session, tuition and in-depth course material. At the Ramada as above.

5 week introductory course Wednesday evenings starting in April: £125 including half-a-dozen wines tasted each session, tuition and in-depth course material. One day workshop and other wine tasting & food events possible - details to follow.
Upstairs @ the AVA vin café bar & grill, 132 Main Street, Bangor (opposite the rail station). www.theava.co.uk

More information and booking: www.wine-education-service.co.uk, tel: 020 8991 8213. Or email Richard James.

08 December 2011

Languedoc: Domaine Gayda, pays d'Oc / Malepère

UPDATE: this quirky red, in the sense that you don't find much Cabernet Franc planted in the region and some growers / winemakers are getting interesting results from it, was tasted in London not so long ago...

2009 Figure Libre Cabernet Franc, IGP Pays d'Oc - leafy spicy nose, unusual 'inky' vs rich profile, nice tannins and pretty intense long finish. Good stuff and certainly different although again it's quite expensive at £16.99 (New Generation Wines, UK).
And this is what I said about Gayda (the winery rather than a device used by gay men to catch like-minded wavelengths...) and sampled in situ back in April 2010:
All the wines featured below are labelled up as Pays d'Oc (their winemaking policy) but, to help you pinpoint where to locate, in mind and on map, Domaine Gayda's impressive winery & restaurant complex (modern yet Mediterranean), it's found between Limoux and Castelnaudary just before the tiny village of Brugairolles (you can't miss it). Gayda is technically in the virtually unknown Malepère appellation, although, as I said, this isn't what motivates owners South African Anthony Record and Englishman Tim Ford's wine styles (Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof in the Cape is also listed as a "non-executive director," by the way). They bought the estate in 2003 with 11 hectares (27 acres) of vineyard circling the winery and another eight near La Liviniere in Minervois; plus they source grapes from other growers: e.g. in Tresserre, Opoul and Maury in the Roussillon; and Fontfroide in the Corbières. Their wines are sold by New Generation Wines in the UK, James Nicholson in Ireland, various importers in the US (see "where to buy" on their site, link below) and Sean Robson in Hong Kong. The premises are also used by British owned wine school Vin Ecole. I tasted these in April 2010 in situ:

2009 Sauvignon Blanc - nice towards New Zealand style with mix of ripe and exotic vs grassier side; pretty textbook zingy SB with a hint of class too. 85+
2009 Viognier - light peach and apricot with a touch of spice too; creamier mouth-feel with lees notes, aromatic crunchy yellow fruits with clean yet punchy finish. 85+
2007 Figure Libre Maccabeo - nutty oily and developed nose, toasty with "sweet" fruit too; lees-edged and mineral palate vs fair weight and nice nutty oily finish. 87
2009 Gayda rosé - attractive creamy vs red fruity style, crisp juicy and tasty. €6.50 85
2008 Gayda Syrah - attractive pure spicy black cherry aromas/flavours; juicy fruit with a bit of depth, a tad of oak and grip although nicely done. €6.50 87
2008 Figure Libre Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon - cassis and red pepper with spicy, "inky" and tobacco tones; lively and quite concentrated palate with tasty "sweet/savoury" finish, dry vs rounded texture. €14 87-89
2007 Chemin de Moscou (GrenacheSyrah etc. 14%) - showing more chocolate and coconut oak, although it's lush with dark fruit and appealing rounded tannins; powerful with fruity vs dry texture, perhaps lacks a bit of character but still good (although not value-wise at €19.50). 87
2005 Chemin de Moscou (14.5%) - maturing "sweet/savoury" nose, juicy and concentrated with solid mouth-feel and hints of coconut spice; firmly textured and powerful, still needs a couple of years or so to open up. 88-90

11300 Brugairolles. 04 68 31 64 14 / www.domainegayda.com.


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