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04 February 2013

Alsace: Cave de Turckheim: big French co-ops part 2

Riesling 'Brand' from
Continuing this compelling mini-mini-series on large but good French co-op wineries and their wines, which I started on my other blog with this post: Rhône: Cave de Tain: big co-ops part 1... Cave de Turckheim was founded post-War and is a substantial vineyard owner in the must-tour region of Alsace nestling on France's eastern border with Germany, separated by the River Rhein yet sharing certain grape varieties and a long mutual history (not always a happy one, mind you) and aspects of culture (the hearty local food springs to mind). Anyway, you've probably tried a white wine from Turckheim, especially their always consistent Gewurztraminer available under many different guises and own-labels throughout the world. But the winery's 200+ co-op members also own plots in some stunning vineyard sites such as the Brand (meaning 'burnt' in the same sense as the northern Rhone's Cote Rotie, i.e. it gets a lot of sunshine) Grand Cru, as you'll see from my glowing notes on their superb Riesling and other varietals sourced from this steep slope of vines overlooking the twee town of Turckheim. And their 'old-vine' wines can be surprisingly good too, even from a scorned and usually rather characterless variety like Sylvaner. The man in charge of winemaking and vineyards here is Michel Lihrmann, by the way.

I tasted these wines with export director Emmanuelle Gallis on their UK importer's stand, Boutinot Wines, at the London International Wine Fair last year (yet more forgotten-about notes...). Prices quoted below are in euros per bottle for cases of three bought in France cellar door or on-line, to give you an idea. In the UK, their 'standard' Gewurz sells for about £7-£8; so the Pinot would be about £6, I'd guess, the Brands about £15-£17 and going up to £18-£20 for their sumptuous late harvest Gewurz.

2011 Pinot Blanc - nice crisp 'mineral' tones vs light honeyed flavours, has a bit of substance too and attractive fresh bite. €5.45
2009 Sylvaner vieilles vignes - nutty rounded and concentrated vs crisp tight mouth-feel, delicious maturing notes with long tasty finish. Surprising. €5.95
2008 Riesling vieilles vignes - turning oily and mineral edged, intense pure Riesling style with zesty crisp vs oily palate, very long and fine with stylish finish. Classic dry Riesling. €7.95
2007 Riesling Grand Cru Brand - maturing 'kerosene' (!) tones with floral mineral nuances, rich and concentrated, beautiful Riesling style, intense with 'cut' and huge length. Superb. €15.35
2008 Pinot Gris Grand Cru Brand - lush and honeyed, very ripe and full-bodied vs lovely bite and length, spicy rich finish. Delicious again. €15.35
2008 Gewurztraminer vieilles vignes - intense lychee and rose water aromas and flavours, full and rounded vs tight intense and long mouth-feel, crisp vs aromatic 'sweet' fruit. €10.20
2010 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Brand - relatively closed up to start with, very lychee on the palate, big and fruity vs again has freshness and class, powerful too then closes up a little. Needs a few years to develop. €15.95
2008 Gewurztraminer vendanges tardives - oily honeyed aromas with exotic lychee and mango, rich and sweet vs lovely 'cut' and length, beautiful balance and class with fresh acidity vs exotic fruit. €17.50 50cl.

More Alsace producers and wines HERE: e.g. Martin Schaetzel and Eblin-Fuchs.
And previously on this blog: Juilen FreyEguisheim co-opBeer of the moment: FischerAndré KleinknechtDomaine Josmeyer and several more in this 2007 piece: Organically focused on Alsace Riesling...

22 January 2013

Rhône: Cave de Tain: big co-ops part 1

The sizeable Cave de Tain l'Hermitage co-operative winery dominates the 'big-boy' field in the northern Rhône Valley, although that's not necessarily a bad thing at all when you taste right across their varied range (or even just drink a glass or two of one of them, of course); including a rare back-cellar of some excellent older vintages too (e.g. 1990 red noted at bottom of page), if you're lucky enough to get the chance. I wouldn't be the first or last one to say that they almost always make very reliable Crozes-Hermitage red, which is nicely representative of pure tasty fruity spicy Syrah (all their reds are 100% sexy Syrah) and widely imported under many own-labels into many countries (see web link below photo for more info). Or white Crozes for that matter: as you'll see here, Cave de Tain's white wines, and northern Rhône whites in general other than that trophy-hunter wine Condrieu perhaps (and I can see why), are sometimes overlooked but definitely worth a look (although not always all of them...)

Steep Syrah steps from www.cavedetain.com
A few quick facts & figures might help set the scene here, although I'm not going to rehash everything on their site. The co-op growers' total wine-lands come to over 1000 ha (about 2500 acres; told you they were 'big'), and they do own vineyards in certain top sites especially the Hermitage, Cornas and Saint Joseph cru appellations. These growers are backed up by the usual, and essential, modern winery operation with a solid team of winemakers, marketeers, sales people etc. Something worth pointing out in particular is Cave de Tain's recently restored estate and property, Le Fief de Gambert de Loche, found among precious Hermitage hillside vine-land. This has become a kind of wine tourism centre focusing on the area's history and the Syrah variety, and regular tutored tasting events can be booked and are held in situ. If you're planning on staying around here, two co-op grower families have holiday accommodation available: again check out the CdT site.
I sampled these wines with the export manager on their UK importer's stand, Boutinot Wines, at the London International Wine Fair last year (yet more forgotten-about notes, still worth resurrecting though). Prices are in euros per bottle for cases of six bought on-line, to give you an idea.

White - all 100% Marsanne

2011 Marsanne - attractive yeast-lees notes with white peach fruit, honeyed and creamy too vs crisp mouth-feel with the odd aniseed flavour. Nice style and good value. €3.50
2010 Crozes-Hermitage - similar characters to above although quite closed up when I tried it, probably more intense yet seems to fall a little flat in the end? €7.90
2003 Hermitage - rich colour and oxidized nutty nose, toasted hazelnut notes, rounded and buttery vs mineral tones, surprisingly complex and alive still underneath all those lovely developed flavours (03 was a very hot vintage). About €25?
2008 Hermitage Au Coeur des Siecles (selected from two 100 year-old vineyards) - nutty maturing nose/palate vs fresh mouth-feel underneath, buttery and toasty vs crisp mineral and classy. Serious foodie. €30


2010 Syrah - nice simple aromatic peppery style, light easy and tasty. €3.50
2009 St-Joseph - aromatic perfumed Syrah with spicy black cherry, firm vs ripe mouth-feel, nice balance and style with enticing lingering minty fruit. About €10.
2010 Crozes-Hermitage - floral spicy typical young Syrah nose, firm and tangy vs delicious simple fruit. €7.90
2009 Les Hauts de Fief Crozes-Hermitage (plot selection) - a bit heavy on the pencil-shaving / coconut oak, although has lively fruit too; solid vs maturing tones, concentrated but a touch samey on the winemaking front. €11.80
2007 Cornas Arenes Sauvages - smoky maturing meaty nose with peppery tones, still structured vs nicely maturing, has power weight and grip vs lovely fruit. Great stuff. €22
2009 Hermitage - touches of oak on the nose, quite closed up and firm still vs lots of ripe dark fruit lurking in there; punchy on its tight taut finish, not expressing itself so well at the moment but has great potential. About €25.
1990 Hermitage - a classic vintage in the Rhone, north and south from memory. Complex leather and tobacco notes, meaty vs dried dark 'sweet' fruit, still has plenty of substance vs developing savoury fruit; firm vs rounded mouth-feel on its long tasty classy finish. Wow. Yum.

More Crozes et al on this blog:
Wine touring feature here (2007 road-trip).

Southern French reds @ Marks & Spencer's (Nov 2011).

Big French co-ops part 2 to follow soon on www.winewriting.com:

18 January 2013

Chile: no way rosé, part 4!

This latest post carries on the spirit of my slightly obsessive rosé-tinted-spectacles theme started in back 2011 (click there), exploring the perhaps contentious argument that Chile is making some of the best rosés coming out of the 'New World' or South and North America even. These two 'serious' food-demanding rosados tasting-noted below came my way recently, one bought from Marks & Spencer and the other a probably widely distributed brand from Torres.

17 January 2013

Roussillon: Domaine Les Conques, Fourques/Villemolaque

François Douville started up this not widely known estate in 2004, which encompasses 7 ha/17 acres of vines (tended organically since 2008 by the way) found on a site known as Las Counques in Catalan, reflecting this particular shape of seashell apparently. Besides vines, the pretty rolling slopes around here in Les Aspres country are home to cork oak trees (this area used to be a big production centre), woods and wild bushes with thick hedges hemming in the vineyards, where natural grass cover is left to protect the soil from erosion and help foster wildlife. Man. In 2009, François refitted some old farm buildings with a new cellar and shop, which you'll find on 2 Route de Passa in the village of Villemolaque, down the road from the family home (5 Place de la mairie, 66300 Fourques). Phone 04 6852 8256 or 06 8151 3699. francois.douville@wanadoo.fr, www.lesconques.fr.

2011 Bohême white Côtes du Roussillon (Macabeu, Grenache blanc; part-aged in barrel for a few months) – quite concentrated and nutty, intense mineral notes vs richer texture and flavour. Good+
2009 Vitis red Côtes du Roussillon (mostly Carignan plus Grenache/Syrah) – jammy and spicy nose, firm and taut mouth-feel vs subtle concentration too, attractive crunchy vs dark fruit profile with rustic edges.
2011 Vitis red - similar warm and spicy character, fruitier and less 'earthy' than the 09, again has concentrated and intense finish with crunchy vs dark fruit mix. Very good.

15 January 2013

Roussillon: Domaine Cayrol, Espira/Rivesaltes

Geographically speaking, Cayrol should really be mentioned in the same sentence as Espira de l'Agly neighbours Domaine Joliette et al, as that's where their vineyards are... But you'll find cellar and home in Rivesaltes town, so that's maybe where you're more likely to taste the wines if you're touring the area. Danièle Cayrol made their first certified organic vintage in 2011, by the way, hence this is what I tasted at last year's Millésime Bio show. More info to follow when I find some (the web address I was given doesn't work)... from this year's show perhaps...
Where to find them: 15 rue du 4 Septembre, 66600 Rivesaltes. Phone: 06 86 53 82 71, dancay@hotmail.fr

2011 Cuvée Rebin white (Muscat) – lively aromatic citrus and grapefruit notes, nice and crisp & refreshing.
2011 Cuvée Sébastien rosé (Grenache) – clean and crisp style, a bit baked?
2011 Cayrol rouge (Grenache) – attractive warm fruity style, peppery with liquorice fruit, ripe and soft vs powerful and dry grip, nice lively youthful fruity finish. Good.
2011 Cuvée Anaïs(Carignan, Grenache) – concentrated blue and black fruits, spicy crunchy side vs ripe fruity texture, tasty fresh vs lush finish. Good stuff.


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