"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

21 March 2012

Languedoc: La Bergerie du Capucin, Pic Saint Loup

La Bergerie du Capucin 2009 Dame Jeanne, Pic Saint Loup (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) - lush blackberry aromas/flavours with a touch of chocolate, firm vs fruity vs punchy profile, attractive tannins on the finish. Tasty. £12.25 (Christopher Piper Wines, UK) or about €11 cellar door.

La Bergerie comes to 12 ha (30 acres) of vines lying around the villages of Valflaunès and Lauret thick in the beating heart of Pic Saint Loup country, found to the north of Montpellier. It's been looked after by 40 year-old winegrower/maker Guilhem Viau for many years now, who decided to actually focus and control the making of their own wines at the estate relatively recently. Guilhem says he's committed to sustainable, towards organic wine production including a number of measures put into place to conserve energy and water. This particular GSM blend is named after legendary family figure Jeanne, who took over the property more than 60 years ago, which is fitting for a winery / label that's become ever so slightly cult. They also grow a bit of Chardonnay and Viognier for their white wines (obviously, doh!).
More BdC wines here and info on the region (PSL tasting report and wild wine walking, April 2011). Photo taken from bergerieducapucin.fr.

Chile: De Martino Carmenere vertical tasting and more...

Welcome to "the dark side of my winemaking," as De Martino's winemaker Marcelo Retamal put it, tongue in cheek, as we tasted the 2007 vintage of their single-vineyard Carmenere. Fortunately for us, he didn't don the full-monty black cape and dodgy breathing apparatus and convert to the Dark Side permanently. In fact, he saw the light again and came back down the righteous sky-walk of sensible winemaking and vineyard practices.

07 March 2012

Roussillon: 'dry' Maury, hooray...

So, it comes to pass. A little bit of common sense has arguably prevailed behind the creation of a new Cotes du Roussillon Villages (CdRV) subzone for dry red wines, also called Maury. These wines will come (first ones will be vintage 2011 appearing in about a year's time) from the same appellation area (Maury, Tautavel, Saint-Paul de Fenouillet and Rasiguères) as for the already well-known Maury 'Vins Doux Naturels' (sweet fortified reds), so a big advantage on the marketing front from the start then.
In France, they'll have to put 'sec' (dry) on the label as the 'wine authorities' are needlessly paranoid that consumers won't understand the idea of a regular 'dry' red coming from this area, since the Maury VDN name is much better established over the Channel / Sleeve than in the UK, Ireland or the US, for example. This could have been one reason why this new appellation took such a long time to surface, agreeing on the name etc. as well as all the inevitable rules & regs; but I don't think they need to worry. Rasteau, in the southern Rhone Valley, did the same thing a few years ago and it wasn't a big deal: perhaps producers should leave the 'Roussillon Villages' bit on the label for the time-being so the village-area 'concept' is clearer.
Anyway, does the Roussillon, or France even, need yet another, to non-wine die-hards at least, obscure village name on the label? Well, this one has a certain logic - perhaps more so than e.g. nearby CdRV Rasiguères (will this survive given that the latter village is within the new Maury zone? Confusing or what...) - and doesn't make the same original mistake they made with straight CdRV by telling winegrowers they had to have a certain proportion of Syrah in their wine, even if they didn't have / didn't want any. This one does say you have to have a "minimum of 60% Grenache (Noir)" in the blend, which is after all THE sexy Maury grape variety, but, whoopee, no fascist diktat ordering them to include Syrah.
Nothing against Syrah, but this really does give winemakers the opportunity of crafting distinctive wines that taste a bit different from many from the Languedoc and Roussillon. Lovely rich Mediterranean / Catalan reds. Pity the regs insist on having a blend of "at least two varieties" - why not a 100% Grenache, if the winemaker is clever enough not to make something too overblown, as can happen with pure Grenache - although this does mean growers can make up the balance with good old (being the operative word around these parts) Carignan if they like. Or Syrah, I suppose...
Looking forward to trying some of the new wines next year (goes to my World Grenache Competition 2013 report on Châteauneuf-du-Pape & Roussillon, where you'll find some 2011s), or sooner from barrel / vat in the cellar hopefully. Oh, by the way, dry white Maury might well be next on the cards, which also seems like a good idea as certain wineries are already making some excellent whites from this area (currently called plain old CdR).
Sources: Vins du Roussillon and Vitisphere.com.

A fuller version of this piece (including a few "dry Maury" recommendations drawn from this blog) is viewable on Palate Press Story Bank.

28 February 2012

Pass the Bolly or "If it's the 85, you were expecting me..."

A blast from the past that amused me enough to bring your attention to it again, click on the link below:
Pass the Bolly or "If it's the 85, you were expecting me..."

27 February 2012

Languedoc: Syrah, Minervois, La Rouviole & Borie de Maurel

Léonor family lurking among barrels
I suddenly felt a little comparative theme come on when I rediscovered notes on two wines tasted last year from these almost neighbouring wineries in Minervois (well, one in Siran and t'other in Félines-Minervois a couple or so of km away). Both of them are made intriguingly from 100% Syrah, which is 'allowed' in this appellation area but not in any other one in the Languedoc (apart from IGP/vin de pays wines), as far as I can think of off the top of my head. Syrah homogenisation or style/quality statement? And does it really matter, varietal vs blended appellation wine, as long as it tastes good and has character? Mull it over and you decide...

Domaine La Rouviole 2007 Coup de Théatre, Minervois (Syrah) - 100% Syrah in fact, giving nice pure floral spicy cherry fruit; powerful extracted palate yet reasonably well-balanced with it, concentrated vs firm tight finish still for a 07. Very good although quite pricey at £16.99 (Hallgarten Druitt, UK).
DLR is found in the Minervois La Livinière subzone (although this wine isn’t labelled up / 'classified' as such) and has been owned by the Léonor family since the 1950s, who’ve restored its hillside vineyards over the years to become one of the area’s leading estates. The terrain sprawls over 40 ha in total (100 acres) including swathes of wild scrubland and olive trees as well as vines. Their wines are also available in Germany, Belgium, Canada, Poland, Switzerland, Japan, Singapore. More info @ larouviole.fr.

Domaine Borie de Maurel 2008 Sylla, Minervois (100% Syrah) - ‘reductive’ herby notes/style to start with, tight and firm mouth-feel vs concentrated and nicely textured tannins actually, still young and closed up although promising. Another dear wine though at £27.95 (Terroir Languedoc, UK).
Owned by Michel and Sylvie Escande since 1989, who were also leading lights behind the creation of the La Livinière subzone kick-started in the late 90s, and aided and abetted by son Gabriel. BDM’s 35 ha (85 acres) of vineyards lie on the 'Petit Causse' on the edges of the Montagne Noire hills, some of them up to 300m altitude (1000 feet). They opened their own on-site "bar" in 2008 serving wine by the glass or bottle (theirs naturally) with "Occitan tapas" and home-grown vegetables.
More @ boriedemaurel.fr including poetic words, if you read French, and pretty photos such as "the windmill" above. And click here for notes on the latest BdM vintages and news from Michel:
Languedoc: Minervois, red white rosé 2010 and 2011 (tasting and touring report July 2012).


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