"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 (below)." Richard Mark James

30 October 2014

Languedoc: Special Supplement 2014

Now available as a 30-page glossy inserted into an even massive-r French wine e-magazine HERE: "a huge roller-coaster of a Languedoc special with sizzling pages" crammed with (occasionally rather critical) commentary, my top wine and value-for-money tips from across the region, winery profiles and latest insights on the Languedoc wine landscape and some of the people behind it (has that sold it for you?)...

Touring Languedoc vineyards in a 2CV: “it's so French.”
Featuring reports, opinions and hundreds of wine reviews from these regions:
Corbières and Boutenac (mostly 2011 to 2013 vintage reds, whites and rosés) - some of my particular favourites include 2 Anes, Lastours, Grand Caumont, Pech Latt, Maylandie, Villemajou, les Palais, Caraguilhes, Vieux Moulin, Montfin, Caves Rocbère, Clos Canos.
Minervois and La Livinière reds & whites (the whites more exciting actually) including Le Cazal, Calmel & Joseph, Sainte Leocadie, Vordy, la Siranière, Gérard Bertrand, Sainte-Eulalie, Pépusque, Villerambert-Julien, La Grave, d'Agel and profile on Château Cabezac.
La Clape whites: Mire l'Etang, Abbaye Monges, d'Anglès, Sarrat de Goundy, Ricardelle with a focus on Capitoul and Mas Soleilla.
Saint Chinian: winery profile Château Viranel plus Borie Vitarèle, Cazal Viel and Saint Cels.
Faugères: plenty to recommend here including Fenouillet, Près Lasses, Onésime, La Liquière, les Fusionels, Lorgeril, Cébène, Capitelles, Saint Antonin.
Crémant de Limoux: Taudou, Antech, Sieur d'Arques, Rosier, J.Laurens all offering class and value. And white & red: Anne Joyeuse, Mouscaillo, Rives Blanques.
Pézenas: one of the most promising new subzones including hot wines from Les Aurelles, Conte des Floris, Pech Rome, Villa Tempora, Belles Eaux, La Grange and profile on Château Condamine Bertrand.
Montpeyroux: d'Aupilhac, Chabanon, Divem.
Grès de Montpellier: Skalli, l'Engarran, Roquemale, Jeanjean, Tissot.
Picpoul de Pinet: Petit Roubié, Félines Jourdan, Lauriers, Vignerons Florensac, Château Pinet, Costières Pomerols.
Pays d'Oc and IGP: Mas Dames, Engelvin, Enfants Sauvages and winery profiles on Domaines Lys, Montrose and la Provenquière.
Plus: La Cité de Carcassonne, classic touristy cliché yet guaranteed to wow. A few words and recommendations for staying, eating and an alternative way of touring the area - yes, it's those much-talked-about convertible 2 CVs again (Vin4 Heures Wine Tours)...

Latest report now available (July 2015): LANGUEDOC SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT 2015

06 October 2014

Beer: Harviestoun, Scotland

A warmly welcome trip down memory lane lightened my weary path after a long day's (wine) tasting at the not-so-long-ago London Wine Fair (yes, there was beer there too). Back in another life in the hazy mid 80s, when I was president of the St. Andrews Uni Real Ale Society (without long hair or beard I hasten to add: more in the floppy fringed goth style actually), we organised a wee day trip to a small unheard-of independent (sorry, touchy word at the mo in a Scottish context) start-up 'brewery' lost somewhere in the hills near Dollar, Clackmannanshire. Not easy to find, and when we did, we weren't sure we were there, as it was just a shack in the middle of nowhere from memory. Harviestoun was dreamt up, set up and improvised together by Ken Brooker in 1983, who moved into his first 'proper' brewing premises three years later. Our group was so impressed with the tasty ale we sampled there that some serious lobbying was in order back in St. Andrews, resulting in one (the only?) of their brews being given a slot in the, at the time, fairly new student union bar.
Anyway, looking at their website, how times and things have changed (two lots of brew houses, a lot more people working for them, from one real ale to a whole range of cask, keg and bottled beers, and a sort-of couple of ownership switches later...). To the better, it would appear from this obviously innovative brewery's point of view and their now international customers.
So, there I was cruising past a series of crowded small tables among the show's "niche importer/retailer/producer" tasting area looking for something refreshing to finish the day's 'work' with; and I suddenly saw the Harviestoun Brewery name, garnished with a stack of unfamiliar-looking bottles, prompting the aforementioned vivid flashback. Well done guys, keep up the good work. 'Ola Dubh 18' bottle shot downloaded from www.harviestoun.com where you'll find tuns (ho ho) more info.

Schiehallion Craft Lager (4.8% abv) - refreshing crisp and citrus-y style, quite intense and tasty finish. Equivalent to about £1.88 per 500 ml bottle (you can buy different case sizes of their beers online - I've given an indicative bottle price here).
Broken Dial Amber Ale (4.5% abv) - pungent hoppy and yeasty nose with malty edges, sweeter palate but still nice and crisp, tight and tasty finish. £1.42 330 ml
Old Engine Oil Black Ale (6% abv) - dark and malty with chocolate and coffee notes vs nice bitter twist and bite; lovely Porter style. £1.58 330 ml
Ola Dubh 18 (aged in 18 year-old Highland Park barrels, 8% abv) - complex aromatic whisky-tinged nose, rich and dark palate with smoother stronger finish; very unusual, amazing beer. £6 330 ml

02 October 2014

Languedoc: Château Cabezac, Minervois


This charming swanky 75 hectare estate hidden away outside the wee village of Bize-Minervois (between Capestang and Homps on the region's northern edge with the bottom tip of the Saint-Chinian appellation, if you get what I mean: or look at a map...) was bought by Gontran Dondain in 1997, who must have invested a good deal of time and wonga into restoring the property and vineyards. The newest developments are on-site apartments and spa complex to complement their hotel and seasonal restaurant (open May to end Sept). What self-respecting poshly renovated château in the Languedoc doesn't have this nowadays!
Some good wines being made here but their “top” reds are quite pricey, although 2009 wasn't perhaps the best vintage to judge them on (hot and dry, many of them are now looking a bit clunky and out of balance with austere tannins), so I look forward to tasting some more recent vintages in the future. More info @ www.chateaucabezac.com where I pinched the handsome photo from.

2013 Cuvée Alice white (Maccabeu, Vermentino, Roussanne, Grenache blanc; 14% abv) – touches of honey/banana and yeast-lees vs a crisp 'mineral' side, juicy and refreshing with some roundness too. €7.30 cellar door / £8.77 UK.
2012 Rosé (Syrah, Grenache; 13.5%) - nice red fruity vs creamy style, a hint of rounded mouth-feel vs crisper finish. €7.30 / £8.77
2011 La Tradition red (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah; 14.5%) - attractive sweet fruit with perfumed floral tones, crunchy berries vs riper liquorice etc. with powerful weighty finish. Nice style. £8.77
2009 Carinu (Carignan; 15%) - maturing savoury and smoky vs a tarter herbier side, power vs bite on the palate, still quite tannic with lingering meaty development; those tannins are a bit too “09” but it's an interesting red I suppose. €12.80 / £11.48
2009 Cuvée Arthur (Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache; 14.5%) - fairly oaky smoky and extracted with structured powerful mouth-feel, that oak lingers a little combined with oomph, savoury fruit and a bitter twist of tannin. One for sipping gently around the round table no doubt. €17.10 / £15.11
2009 Grande Cuvée Belvèze (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache; 14.5%) - again showing plenty of dark chocolate oak with grippy punchy palate, better sweet fruit coming through vs similar bitter twist of tannins. €27.80 / £21.51

This is a preview snippet from my forthcoming 2014 Languedoc report - coming soon, honest!

29 August 2014

Languedoc: new "special supplement" coming soon

No, I haven't done a French-style August close-down but have been adding material to my WineWriting.com blog (click to read all about my latest Portuguese wine special for instance) among other (more constructive) things to do. Anyway, I'm now working on a hopefully substantial "special supplement" (for want of a better description) drawing on all things and people Languedoc tasted, seen and encountered over the course of the first half of this year: a trip to the region in April to the "Millésimes en Languedoc" showcase based in and around the City of Carcassonne (including some nice pics like the one I took below plus tips on eating, staying and alternative things to do, such as hiring or being driven around in a brightly coloured Citroen 2CV...), a tasting in Dublin and a couple of wine events in London.

"Mediaeval Disneyland France" aka la Cité de Carcassonne

23 August 2014

Portugal: Bairrada, Dão, Douro - new winery profiles and updates on Aliança, Portal and Romeu

Fully updated profiles on Quinta do Portal and Aliança Vinhos de Portugal with their latest ranges reviewed (including a Portal Vintage Port retrospective featuring vintages from 1995 to 2000...), can be found in my new special Portugal report (click there for more info and to buy for just £2.50 or free if you subscribe for £10 a year). Includes RMJ's complete run-down on these wineries and several new wines. There's also a summary on my Portugal archive page HERE (scroll down).

From quintadoromeu.com
Quinta do Romeu – Douro Valley
A taster:
"The Menéres family estate was established in 1874, and the company is now run by João Pedro Menéres, José Clemente Menéres and Manuel Menéres Sampaio... "... We do not use any chemicals in our farming,” their site goes on in that glib manner. Ahh! That's the one thing that annoys me most about organic producers..." The complete rant, profile, reviews of the tasty wines below and where to get them can be found in my new special Portugal report (click there for more info and to buy or subscribe).

2013 Rosé (Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional – tank sample at the time) – yeast-lees notes, nice gummy zippy mouth-feel with fresh and gentle red fruit finish. Expensive though (in the UK anyway): £10.99. €6.25 cellar door.
2011 Moinho do Gato red (Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz) – attractive soft fruity style with peppery touches, has a bit of grip vs juicy fruit on the finish. £8.99, $15. €4.50 cellar door.
2010 Quinta do Romeu red (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Sousão) – aromatic floral red/blue berry fruits, nice soft fruity palate with light tannins and fresh acidity too; very attractive red drinking now. £10.85, $19. €6.25 cellar door.
2010 Reserva red (“field blend picked and fermented together with some oak ageing,” mostly Touriga Nacional with Touriga Franca and Sousão) – touch of coco oak and more structured vs still plenty of that nice juicy fruit, firmer finish yet well rounded too. £14.99, $27. €10.50 cellar door.

16 August 2014

Portugal: Lisboa wine focus


"Stretching out to the north and west of energetic Lisbon, this big wine-producing region used to be called Estremadura... renaming it 'Lisboa' seems logical (captain) thereby closely associating location and identity with the Portuguese capital... The most common grape varieties planted here are, for reds, Aragonez or Aragonês aka Tinta Roriz (isn't that often the way just to add a little charismatic confusion, and the Spanish call it Tempranillo, Tinta Fina, Cencibel...), Touriga Nacional, Castelão and Touriga Franca, with expanding plantings of Syrah and other French varieties..."
Available as a special 20-page report with pics focusing on the exciting Lisboa wine region and featuring these ten wineries and my reviews of their ranges: Vale da Capucha - Quinta de São José, Sociedade Agricola Labrugeira – Vale das Areias, Quinta de Sant'Ana, Quinta do Monte d'Oiro, Quinta de Chocapalha, Marta Vine - Azulejo (Casa Santos Lima), Félix Rocha – Quinta da Ribeira, Quinta do Pinto, Companhia das Quintas - Quinta de Pancas.
Plus three extra winery profiles in different regions: Aliança Vinhos de Portugal - Bairrada, Dão. Douro Valley: Quinta do Portal (including a Vintage Port retrospective 1995 to 2000) and Quinta do Romeu (organic)...
And two bonus retro features: Niepoort Port 'masterclass' led by Dirk Niepoort including Garrafeira, Colheita and Vintage ports spanning a century back to 1912...
And my tasty Algarve and Tavira wine and food touring article...
All yours for a mere £1.99 - this special report is published in PDF format and emailed to you once I receive confirmation of payment from PayPal (pay by card or use your own PP account, although you don't need one to do so: select it in the drop-down menu).


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"Vasco da Gama Bridge and Tagus River, Lisbon" - Photo by Jose Manuel from www.imagesofportugal.com.

MORE ON PORTUGAL HERE.

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