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03 February 2012

Bordeaux: Château Fougas, Côtes de Bourg

I 'met' the owner-growers of Ch. Fougas, Jean-Yves and Michele Bechet, across the other side of a nevertheless cosy round table (knights of Côtes de Bourg perhaps, ho ho) at lunch at the recent Millésime Bio wine show in Montpellier (Languedoc). Their 17.5 hectare (43 acre) property, "one of the oldest in the area" (as it says on their site) and lying in Lansac just inland from the town of Bourg and hence the Dordogne River (for more info on the appellation, see link to feature below), is another recent convert over to organics (not many round these parts, I don't think by the way). 2010 was their first "officially certified" organic vintage, hence it was the only one they were allowed to have on tasting at the fair. And hence, being a recent vintage red, had just been bottled in time to bring along and was a little closed up although promising I'd say:

2010 Château Fougas 'Maldoror' (75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon) - quite new-oaky on the nose (but was just bottled and a little awkward because of this, I think) although showing good depth of fairly dark cassis fruit; firm tight and structured palate, concentrated with attractive tannin texture. Needs a year or two to begin to blossom, very good though. www.fougas.com

And here's a snippet from a tasting & touring piece I penned on the Côtes de Bourg region following a great trip back in autumn 2009, including a nice note on the Fougas 2005:
"Côtes de where? Not the favourite coastal or riverbank hang-out for Jean-Luc Picard's scariest enemy, but a lesser-known "Right Bank" appellation... it's surprisingly easy to get your geography in a twist on this side of the river and forget you're actually opposite Margaux..." Notes on 40 wines including these favourites: Fougas, Clos du Piat, Relais de la Poste, Coulée de Bayon, Améthyste de Génibon, Haut-Guiraud, Labadie... plus thoughts on image, tasting grapes, Malbec and wine travel tips..." And "...challenge yourself while savouring the imperial grandeur and wines of these handsome properties in Listrac-Médoc: Fourcas-Dupré, Fonréaud, Lestage, Fourcas-Hosten..." Read on here (goes to "wine words" archive)!

Bordeaux: Château Fougas, Côtes de Bourg

I've moved this post here... (just to annoy you - click again there please).

30 January 2012

Bandol: Château Tournier Guilhem

Guilhem, Henri and Genevieve Tournier’s compact and bijou property, lying not far from the cute hilltop village of La Cadière d’Azur a fair trek to the north of Bandol town, has two almost unique characteristics about it in context of the wider Bandol appellation. At six hectares (15 acres), it’s one of the smallest vineyards in an area probably better known for quite large estates (think Ch. Pibarnon at 50 ha or Dom. Tempier at 30, for instance); and it’s now certified organic (from 2011). “We were one of the first to convert to organics,” Genevieve confirmed in fact as I tasted at their stand at ‘Millésime Bio’ organic wine show in Montpellier last week. There was only one other organic estate from Bandol at the show - the ultra ‘natural’ and quirky Château Sainte-Anne (see post directly below) - which got me thinking why aren’t there more in this very French Mediterranean wine region? Not a criticism - people have their reasons and many non-organic growers (or not officially certified but more or less are anyway) are sensible about what they use, how much and why (as I’ve said before, I’ve never aimed to make this blog exclusively organic; it just so happens that an increasing amount of the best ones are, or in the process of) - but a question worth asking.

I digress - back to the Tournier’s wines, which were definitely worth unearthing after deciding it seemed like a good idea to see how many organic Bandol producers were exhibiting! I’ve also just re-published a towards-huge wad of exciting material on Bandol and its kingpin variety, Mourvèdre, originally gathered and scribbled from 2003 to 2006 (I lived in nearby Marseille for two of those years, by the way): click here and here for much more info then (goes to two pages in my “wine words” archive: the former featuring 150+ wines and a few winery touring pieces / profiles, the latter a more academic article called ‘Understanding Mourvèdre’ written for Wine Business, USA).

2011 Bandol rosé (majority Mourvèdre + Cinsault and Grenache, tank sample) - attractive juicy crisp rosé in that more elegant and mineral style, although has a bit of weight as well, showing aromatic citrus fruit with floral rose petal edges, nice structured bite and almost salty tangy finish.
2010 Bandol rosé - hints of yeast-lees, fuller rounder and oilier texture with developing red fruit flavours and still has a fresher side too; good although the 2011 will be better. €15 (that's trendy Bandol for you...)
2008 Bandol rouge (85% Mourvèdre) - light touches of coconut oak aromas and grainy texture, concentrated dark vs savoury fruit with tight grippy mouth-feel, subtle and still a little closed up vs developing meaty edges. Very good, promising too. €18
2009 Bandol rouge - meatier and more powerful with lovely rich black cherry with spicy savoury dark olive notes, firmer bigger palate with weighty finish vs attractively rounded tannins. A slightly more in-your-face vintage maybe but it’s still good stuff.

Bandol: Château Sainte-Anne

Château Sainte-Anne
from maisondesvins-bandol.com
As I mentioned in the post above, the ‘natural’ quirky Sainte-Anne style has been with us for a while: this 15 ha (37 acre) estate, lying on the northeastern side of the Bandol appellation in Sainte-Anne d’Evenos, has been farmed organically(+) for twenty years by larger than life owners Françoise and Jean-Baptiste Dutheil de la Rochere. ‘Natural’ in the sense of not much used, done or added in the vineyard and cellar - “very few treatments in the field…” and “no SO2, fining nor filtration (for red winemaking),” for example - apart from working the vines and soil, picking the grapes, fermenting them and watching over their ageing in barrels. Bit of a simplistic cliché maybe but they like to keep it nice and simple. I went to the property and interviewed Françoise back in 2004 and tasted quite a few blends and vintages of their red wines, and my memory was something like a rollercoaster road of discovery. Certain wines were very traditional and pretty awesome in that way, while one or two others were teetering on the brink or probably a little more rustic than you might like. Jean-Baptiste agreed, when I tried their latest vintages at Millésime Bio wine show in Montpellier (Languedoc) last week, that “our wines have always been a bit on the wild side.” Right on, man.

Here are my condensed notes from that aforementioned late autumn 2004 trip just to weave in a touch of background and detail, extracted from a load of other material for a paper (yawn) I was doing on Mourvèdre back in 2005/06, although I don’t imagine much has changed essentially at Ste-Anne.
Françoise told me she believes “the microclimate here comes from the usually cool nights we get from the end of August, meaning we are among the latest to pick Mourvèdre (coupled with a lower risk of rot, so they can chance it more).” Her Bandol vineyards are on the higher ground facing southwest, and the lower-lying areas are classified as Côtes de Provence. A protective circle is formed by a range of hills all the way round to Le Beausset and the terraces behind the vineyard. Sainte Anne has clay/limestone soils with veins of sand underneath meaning it’s better drained, a “less heavy soil favourable to elegant reds,” as she put it. Their organic/biodynamic methodology takes in growing wild mustard grass between the vine rows and only using fertilisers from organic matter (shite). This is a “very old family property going back five generations, so there’s plenty of old vine stock,” although escat (a disease attacking and causing the wood to die) is a problem here limiting their age. They don’t use trellising since “it’s not easy to do and Mourvèdre stands up well in gobelets (bush vines) anyway!” And something mystical too about “creating magnetism…” or whatever I scribbled down followed by a double question mark??

On picking Mourvèdre at the right moment: “When it’s perfectly ripe and you squeeze the grapes, it leaves finger marks because of its thick skins,” Françoise explained. Fruit for their Cuvée Collection is usually left a day or so longer, in specific plots, for extra ripeness. “No SO2 is used for white and rosé before fermentation and usually none at all for reds.” Typical winemaking ‘techniques’, as exemplified by the very good 2001 vintage, include a relatively short period in vat of 12-13 days with one remontage (pump-over) per day. “It needs a good aeration each day but no more than that, otherwise the must becomes too extracted.” The reds are matured for about 18 months in old 50 hl foudres (very large tuns) - in fact they don’t use any new wood at all - “just for slow oxidation.” Blending is done after cask-ageing “because of Mourvèdre’s richness, I leave it pure (until then).” The S-A basic cuvée is made up of 60% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache and 20% Cinsault. But her Cuvée Collection is typically 95-98% Mourvèdre selected by parcel (and slightly later picked) and isn’t made every year: 2003 and 2004 were looking likely at that time, none in 2002 as it was “too dilute,” 2001 and 2000 were both very good and 1999 was “unspectacular but well balanced.”

Click here to view my notes and reviews of those older vintages (goes to my mega-Bandol page in the "wine words" archive: scroll down quite a lot towards the bottom). There are more Ste-Anne wines here (Millésime Bio 2006) too.
And now, over to those ‘latest’ vintages tasted last week:
2010 Bandol white (Ugni Blanc, Clairette Verte) - oily honeyed nose and palate, quite full then becomes more mineral and elegant with crisp bite. Good. About €15.
2010 Bandol rosé (Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cinsault- quite developed with ripe raspberry fruit and rounded mouth-feel, lacks a bit of bite. Expensive too at €14.
2008 Bandol red (60% Mourvèdre) - nice ‘sweet’ black cherry with savoury black olive undertones, a hint of spice too with attractive tannins and subtle depth of fruit; 'lighter' more elegant style. €19
2005 Bandol red - developing savoury notes, richer chunkier firmer wine vs appealing maturing leather characters.
2006 Bandol Collection - more of that dark cherry fruit vs a wilder ‘animal’ side, solid gripping yet still rounded palate, it’s balanced and complex with it.

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