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18 January 2012

Chile: 'no way rosé!' part 3

Or my latest 'rosé of the mo' even: this tasty pinkie is part of the Co-Op's (UK) 'Fairtrade' range - that term makes a slight cynic like me slightly suspicious of the otherwise implied "we really stitch up our other 'non-fairtrade' wine suppliers," although the concept is commendable of course. It's sourced from Chile's Curicó Valley - I only kept the front label so don't know who made it - but, anyway, was £5.99 I think and is a Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot blend.

Languedoc: Château de la Negly, La Clape

Negly, with a sizeable 50 ha (125 acres) of vines surrounding its handsome yet workmanlike chateau, is owned by Jean-Paul Rosset, whose talented winemaker is Cyril Chamontin working with uber-consultant Claude Gros. Jean-Paul’s father used to grow grapes for the local co-op but he upped the quality stakes massively in vineyard and cellar from the mid 90s, and this is now one of the best estates on La Clape, out of quite a few very good ones it has to be said, if not the Languedoc (he types pushing the proverbial boat out). Their tasty reds age well too, as you'll see from my glowing notes on the 1998 'Falaise' below... I love what they cram into a glass, typical of that quintessential 'Clape' style showing concentrated warm ripe fruit with deliciously natural wilder edges (garrigue if you like, it's what the French call it) and heady Med 'sweet/savoury' mix. The first two were sampled and 'assessed' at a tasting in London a few months ago:

2008 La Falaise (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre Carignan) - aromatic herby black cherry and liquorice notes, peppery and rich mouthful with powerful structured palate; lovely mix of concentrated fruit and firm chunky tannins, tight long finish too. Excellent. £17-£20 Thorman Hunt & Co, Bancroft Wines (London).
2007 La Porte du Ciel (15%) - dense dark colour, savoury maturing leather tones vs coconut oak vs very concentrated lush dark fruit, solid yet nicely textured tannins with very long powerful but balanced finish, still very much alive. Yum. €75 although apparently they only make a couple of hundred cases or so! Alexander Krossa Wines (based in the Languedoc selling mostly to Germany and a few other markets now as well e.g. the UK: profile on him with lots more wines to follow. I copied the photo off his site, by the way...)
1998 La Falaise – wow! That wild Clape nose comes through loud and clear, like burnt lavender plus lovely smoky mature fruit, delicious wine you just want to have more of... (tasted March 2011).

James Nicholson (Northern Ireland) also stocks a wide range of Negly wines including older vintages.

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


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