"Buy my book about the Roussillon region on Amazon UK in colour paperback and eBook or black & white version, and Amazon USA: colour paperback and eBook or black & white. Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook. For other countries, tap on the link below above the cover image." Richard Mark James

24 February 2021

Zeitgeisty wines

Zeitgeisty is admittedly a little literary and pretentious, and I wasn't aware it was a word as such, in the adjective form with a 'y' ending, until I saw it recently in a one-line review on the back cover of a new book (quoting a well-known writer so it must be okay). Any road, this latest batch of wine buy tips kicks off with a handful of tasty drops of bubbly, which always has a certain 'spirit of the times' feel about it on any occasion and any time of year, especially to toast in winter drawing to a close sooner rather than later.

From https://www.facebook.com/vinoltrepo

LombardyItaly
Oltrepò Pavese Pinot Nero Metodo Classico Brut - I didn't make a note of the producer, or whether it was vintage or non-vintage, of this delightful bottle bought in a supermarket in Sicily several months ago. Nevertheless, it serves as a great 'generic' example of one of Italy's best 'traditional method' sparkling wines made from Pinot Noir in the north. Classy bubbles with rich toasty brioche notes, maturing savoury sourdough flavours and fresh acidity still running through the lively finish.
Photo above from the Consorzio Tutela Vini Oltrepò Pavese's Facebook page (hover over image).

Catalunya, Spain
Mas Miralda Cava Rosado Vintage 2017 and 2016 (12% abv) - One of Asda's 'Extra Special' labels and almost always on offer at a bargain £6 or £7 (£8 'usually'), this superior rosé Cava is produced by the Marques de la Concordia group although not sure if it always was? As the latest 2017 vintage tastes quite different from the previous 2016 (also reviewed last year) - this could just be an age thing as the '16 was richer toastier and fruitier, and the '17 is fresher and more appley although still a nice buy and may well deepen in flavour in bottle.
Marques del Norte Cava Vintage 2018, Jaume Serra (11.5%) - Another good Asda buy at £6, this reliable Cava offers nutty and apple notes with refreshing frothy finish.
Emendis Nu Allongé Cava Brut Nature (11.5%) - Made by Anna and Jordi Valles from the Xarel-lo grape variety, this classy Catalan fizz treads the fine line well between toasty yeasty and roasted almond with aromatic freshness and very dry finish. £11.99 Virgin Wines (excluding any wine club members' discount).

Hungary
Andoni Sparkling Wine Sec NV (11.5%) - It says 'blended from four of Hungary's native grape varieties' on Virgin Wines' website, so your guess is as good as mine: easy-going fizz modelled in the style of 'Hungarian Prosecco' with a light touch and off-dry finish (£10.99 although I paid a good bit under a tenner).

France
La Burgondie Bourgogne Chardonnay 2019, Vignerons de Buxy (13%) - White peach and citrus turning creamier with nutty aromas and flavours too, elegant dry and fruity mouth-feel with fresh acidity yet a touch of oily roundness. Quite stylish Chardy, a good all-rounder. Tesco £10/£9 on offer.
Gayda Collection Grenache 2019, IGP Pays d'Oc (14%) - Delicious unoaked Grenache from this go-getting Languedoc winery (I'll spare you the gay sixth sense giggle concerning its name) with kirsch and dark chocolate tones, fairly soft cherry and liquorice finish, just a hint of tannin and oomph too. £9.99 James Nicholson (JN) Wines (less 20% January sale discount, 10% off mixed case). Good with duck.
Petit Mazuret Viognier 2019, IGP Méditerranée (14%) - Thought-provoking style of Viognier from southern Provence that downplays the overt apricot/peach characters, although it's certainly aromatic with rich spicy honeyed fruit, rounded oily texture and quite concentrated finish. Try with smoked haddock. £9.50 JN Wines (less 20% January sale discount, 10% off mixed case).

Italy
Villa Bianchi Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico 2019, Umani Ronchi, Marche (12.5%) - Typical example of this popular central-eastern Italian dry white: peachy floral and flavoursome with crisp chalky and elegant aftertaste. Apparently from organic vineyards although I don't remember seeing a certification symbol on the bottle? £9.99 JN Wines (less 20% January sale discount, 10% off mixed case).

Portugal
Porta 6 Vinho Regional Lisboa 2019, Vidigal Wines (50% Tinta Roriz, 40% Castelão and 10% Touriga Nacional, 13.5% abv) - Very attractive smooth red with ripe black cherry/berry fruit, violets liquorice and spice, a hint of dry tannin in the mouth with powerful but balanced finish. £7.50 Tesco (the funky label was based on a Lisbon street painting, copied from Tesco's site).

South Africa
Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2019, Swaartland, Badenhorst Family (13.5%) - Shaped by 50+ year-old bush vines giving lush concentrated very ripe fruit, this wine was partly fermented in large old casks lending rounded oily texture, as well as extended ageing on the yeast-less adding complex flavours. Rich honeyed pineapple/apricot with tangy nutty edges lending a sweet-sour twist, lingering weighty mouthfeel. £11.50 JN Wines (less 20% January sale discount, 10% off mixed case).

22 February 2021

'Noir, blanc or gris: Grenache is at home in the wild south' - The Wine Merchant magazine

Screenshot from the latest digital edition:

This short paragraph from an article in the February 2021 edition of The Wine Merchant magazine (UK business publication) is a taster of a few combined extracts from my book on the Roussillon region themed around the Grenache variety. Follow the link above to read the feature (and the full digital issue) or scan the QR code below. Or go to winemerchantmag.com to find out more and buy a printed copy.

"There seems to be a minor buzz about the Grenache variety whether from the south of France, the better-established southern Rhone Valley regions, northeast Spain or South Australia. Best known as a red or ‘black’ variety, Grenache noir in French, in fact it’s a family of grape varieties in three different shades. There’s a strong heritage of old vine Grenache in the Roussillon for making Port-style Vins Doux Naturels, but it has become the region’s defining grape for red (and rosé) wines giving them power (sometimes an unfashionably elevated alcohol level) and lush spicy fruit, although not necessarily such a deep colour or firm tannins. There were 6000 hectares of Grenache in 2016 falling from over 7000 ha ten years earlier; if it continued to diminish while not being replaced sufficiently, that heritage could be lost for ever at the expense of newer arrivals such as Syrah..."



20 January 2021

Red & rosé wines of trying times

Whereas the 50-odd 'white wines of the cosmos' in my previous feature were arranged by store, these 40 red and rosé tips have been grouped by good old-fashioned grape variety (or combinations of). Once again no apologies offered for, this time, an irrational amount of Grenache, including GSM (Grenache / Garnacha, Shiraz / Syrah and Mourvèdre blends), and Pinot Noir.

Grenache / Garnacha with GSM and similar combos

Finest GSM 2017, D'Arenberg, McLaren Vale, South Australia (14.5% abv) - Made by Grenache supremo D'Arenberg (they have some very very old Grenache and Shiraz vines planted), this alluring red shows maturing colour and nose with spicy kirsch and black cherry, punchy palate but quite soft with peppery sweet berries and pruney earthy olive. Tesco £9.
Willunga 100 Grenache 2016, McLaren Vale, South Australia - Pricier but classy red from another McLaren Grenache specialist: concentrated, meaty and powerful with lingering savoury and spicy fruit flavours. £13-£14 independent wine stores (imported by Liberty Wines in London, where the photo was downloaded from).
McWilliam's Markview Shiraz 2018, New South Wales, Australia - Okay, this is a straight 'S' rather than GSM but I wasn't going to leave it on its own. Very good value and better than many Oz reds at this price, it delivers soft dark peppery fruit and simple quaffing. WineMark £6.99 (I think - their website is crap) and sometimes Tesco.
Monfil Garnacha 2018, Cariñena, Spain (13.5%) - From Aragon, the home of Garnacha / Grenache (it's official apparently), this easy-going soft-ish although powerful and floral cherry fruited little number does what it says on the label (in big letters): a taste of sunny Garnacha. JN Wine £8.99 / £8.09 (with 10% case discount).
Águila Chillando Garnacha 2018, Cariñena, Spain (14.5%) - A Garnacha for chilling out perhaps (chill + Spanish gerund?) although it's pretty weighty; this one is similar in style to the Monfil with upfront peppery berry fruits and no obvious oak. Virgin Wines £8.49 was £9.99 (now 2019 vintage).
Campo Viejo Rioja Rosé 2019 (100% Garnacha, 13.5%) - Strawberry and roses, ripe and full-bodied with crisp finish. Widely available £7-£8 (Asda, Tesco, JS, Morrisons et al).
Finca Manzanos Rioja Rosado 2019 (Garnacha & Tempranillo, 13%) - Similar to above, perhaps a tad more elegant and with a bit more depth of flavour. Virgin Wines £9.89 was £10.99.
Sangre de Toro Original 2018, Catalunya, Spain, Bodegas Torres (13.5%) - Pitches Garnacha with some Cariñena (the variety not the region = Carignan) and sporting a tiny black plastic bull attached to the neck (classy touch), this is a seminal easy-going Torres classic red with wild berry fruits and chunky yet rounded palate. WineMark, Tesco, Asda £6.50-£7.50.
L'effet papillon Grenache noir & Syrah 2019, Côtes Catalanes, France (14.2%) - Part of a less expensive trio made by the owners of Roc des Anges in the Roussillon, this solid lightly rustic Grenache and Syrah blend offers lush spicy plum fruit and chunky framework. JN Wine £12 / £10.80. There's a Grenache rosé too: the 2018 I bought was tasty and rounded although looking a little old (JN appears to be out of stock so perhaps some of the 2019 is on the way).
Le Petit Mod'Amour 2018, Côtes du Roussillon rouge, Domaine Modat, France (unoaked Carignan, Grenache and Syrah, 14.5%) - Appealing wild-edged red with rustic berries and liquorice, weighty and quite concentrated although a tad pricey. JN Wine £14.50 / £13.05. Pictured below with my book (hover over image).
Chateau Pesquié Terrasses Rosé 2019, Ventoux, France (Cinsault 50%, Grenache 40%, Syrah 10%) - Either a replacement for the rosé I ordered or a mistake - should have been Domaine Negly's Les Terrasses Languedoc rosé made from Malbec - but a result for me in the end, as Pesquié costs £12.99 / £11.69 and the Negly £9.99 / £8.99 which is what I paid (JN Wine). Stylish dry southern rosé with gooseberry, raspberry and long lively finish.
Gold Label Rosé 2019, Pays d'Oc, France (Syrah & Grenache) - Attractive simple fruity and well-made rosé from M&S: a good option as part of their meal deal. £7
Les Arbousiers Coteaux du Languedoc rosé 2019 (Cinsault & Grenache, 13.5%) - Refreshing but quite full-bodied, another good quality versatile dry Med rosé. Virgin Wines £9.99.
Domaine Gayda Grenache 2017, IGP Pays d'Oc, France - Bought this in my local Chinese, Malaysian and Thai restaurant (Lemongrass) but as a lockdown carry-out in a half-price sale (can't remember how much now): it was lovely and mature with savoury liquorice notes to its soft spicy fruit.
Finest Saint-Chinian 2018, Languedoc, France, Maison Fortant (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan, 13.5%) - Probably a slight majority Syrah this time, its spicy black fruity wild herby character offered a good mouthful for the price. Tesco £9 (now 2019).

And more Grenache / Garnacha HERE (Maury sec vs South Australia vs Catalunya).

https://www.winewriting.com/2020/10/roussillon-french-catalonia-book.html
Domaine Modat: it's in the book!

Pinot Noir

Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2019, Marlborough, New Zealand (13.5%) - Although a little oakier and firmer than the more obviously tasty 2018 vintage (quite rounded and mature), this popular brand still has plenty of appealing Pinot Noir fruit and character with a sweet/savoury side. Widely available in the UK from £10 to £11, £9 or so on offer.
Finest Marlborough Pinot Noir 2018, Indevin, New Zealand (13%) - Perfumed and silky with delicate maturing fruit, still quite refreshing though. Tesco £9 (now 2019).
Errázuriz Cuvée Aconcagua Pinot Noir 2019, Aconcagua, Chile (13.5%) - Aged in French oak barrels for 9 months (it says) but nicely done (Errázuriz's chief winemaker Francisco Baettig knows what he's doing), as it adds texture rather than overt oak; chunky and youthful at the moment (I found it better after being open for a day or two) although supple and concentrated. Not sure if the striking black, gold and red label denotes a new wine or simply different packaging for what is called Estate Series, Reserve or Aconcagua Costa elsewhere (Majestic, WineMark, Ocado), as all their Pinots come from Aconcagua vineyards. Tesco £11.
Errázuriz Wild Ferment Pinot Noir 2019, Aconcagua, Chile (13%) - A special batch Pinot fermented in open top vats using indigenous yeasts, which add wilder funkier edges to its lovely floral berry and spice fruit, concentrated and quite fine. I think I bought it at bin-end like price at Asda (no longer available), otherwise it costs about £14 at independent merchants and Majestic.
Viña Casablanca Céfiro Pinot Noir Cool Reserve 2018, Casablanca Valley, Chile - Another good quality and value Chilean Pinot with attractive maturing savoury fruit, subtle intensity even if drinking well now; good match with leg of lamb (deboned and rolled) on Christmas day. JN Wine £10.50 / £9.45.
De Martino Lote 02 Pinot Noir 2019, Limarí Valley, Chile (13.5%) - Classy Pinot from this leading 'natural'-leaning winery combining body and delicacy with fragrant red fruits and an earthier more savoury side. Virgin has a tempting offer running: £10.99 (was £14.99).
Extra Special Pinot Noir 2018, Leyda Valley, Chile (14%) - Not the most polished of Chilean Pinots, but for this price you can't go wrong. Lightly balsamic tones with savoury red fruits, punchy yet rounded; good with Chinese style duck. Asda £6.50.
By the way, what happened to a previous Asda Extra Special Pinot Noir, from the Yarra Valley Australia made by De Bortoli? The 2018 was very tasty indeed. Showing as unavailable on their site so hopefully it will return.
Finest Pinot Noir 2018, Casablanca, Chile, Cono Sur (13.5%) - We liked this smooth Pinot at first, but recent bottles seem to have changed in style a little becoming a bit oaky. Otherwise a good buy on offer! Tesco £9.
Grand Conseiller Pinot Noir 2018, France, Bouchard Ainé & Fils (12.5%) - A leaner type of Pinot but still tasty enough. Tesco £7 on offer / £9.
Bradshaw Pinot Noir The Peacock Series, Romania (12.5%) - Not exactly 'fine' but distinctly Pinot in character with easy-going cherry fruit and elegant finish. Crazy price: Asda £5.50.
Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rosé 2019, Pfalz, Germany, Ernst Loosen (11.5%) - Stylish light and zesty rosé from Germany with elegant raspberry and yeast-lees notes. JN Wine £11.00 / £9.90.
Lergenmüller Saigner Spätburgunder Rosé Trocken 2019, Pfalz (11.5%) - Another classy delicate German Pinot Noir rosé, although expensive. Similar to above though perhaps livelier and leesier with creamy red fruits and zingy mouth-feel. £12.99 Virgin.

https://www.winesofchile.org/
Limarí Valley, Chile

Malbec

Finest Malbec Rosé 2020, Mendoza, Argentina, Bodegas Catena (13.5%) -  Oozes spot-on balance of strawberry fruit, full-bodied mouth-feel and zesty freshness; an all-year-round rosé (like any decent dry rosé as far as I'm concerned) that's very versatile with food. Tesco £8 / £6 on offer (bargain). Updated February 2021: the latest batch of this rosé was disappointing, not sure if it's just not the same wine or possibly because of intrusive sulphites?
Santa Julia Malbec Rosé 2019/20, Mendoza, Argentina (14%) - Another flavoursome crisp yet full-on rosé from Argentina (Malbec seems to work well in this big style) produced by quality winery Zuccardi. Sainsbury's £9.

Tempranillo (and combos)

Campo Viejo Reserva 2015, Rioja, Spain (Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo, 13.5%) - Very consistent traditional cask-aged Rioja from vintage to vintage, this huge winery knows how to bottle that seductive smoky style with dried fruits and spices, a little bit of dry tannin but otherwise smooth and ready to drink. Widely available for £10-£11 but routinely on promotion somewhere for a couple of quid less.
M&S No. 21 Lomas del Marqués Rioja Reserva 2014, Spain (Tempranillo with Graciano, 14%) - I wouldn't argue with Mark's about this sumptuous red's standing in their new 'classics' range. Lovely mature Rioja styling with spicy oak (2 years in cask) melting into lush and meaty dark fruit, some tannin lingering on the palate but it's essentially ready to drink; with lamb or beef I guess, although a good quality mature cheese would do nicely too. Excellent value at £9.
Gym Dão 2017, Agricola Boas Quintas, Portugal (Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro & Tinta Roriz, 13%) - Tinta Roriz is what viticulturalists call a 'clone' of Tempranillo, so they're like twins; it's also called Aragonês in southern Portugal. Juicy damson and liquorice with spicy violets, chunky but attractive tannins. From Aldi although it might all be gone now.


Merlot & Cabernet

Château Peymouton Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2016, Bordeaux, France (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, 14%) - Stylish maturing red with lush smoky fruit and still a little structure on the palate. Was on offer at WineMark a while ago for about £10-£12 (great price), otherwise it's £15.99 from Ocado (2014 or 2017 but 'out of stock') or more depending on vintage. Looks like Aldi stores once had some too.

Other grapes - Italy

Barone di Bernaj Frappato 2019, Cantine Madaudo, Sicily - Sicilian red variety Frappato produces relatively light spicy and fruity wines, this one was delicious ever so lightly chilled.
Isoletta Nero d'Avola Rosato 2019, Cantine Settesoli, Sicily - Nero d'Avola makes a variety of types of red wine, usually rich ripe and earthy, and full-bodied dry fruity rosés like this very nice example from this well-known co-op winery.
Valpolicella Ripasso Extra Special 2016, Lake Garda, Verona (Corvina & Rondinella, 14%) - The 2016 may no longer be available, but buy the oldest vintage you can find as the savoury maturity that comes with it is a bonus. Smoky balsamic dried fruits and firm yet ageing mouth-feel, a tasty mini-Amarone in style and price. Asda £9.50.

15 January 2021

White wines of the cosmos

'Here we are in the ship of the imagination...' Remember that awe-inspiring space travel programme 'Cosmos' back in the 80s by Carl Sagan (paraphrasing one of his most cosmological lines)? Don't know why I thought of that though: stellar white wines of the split-atom millisecond perhaps? Sounds more out-there than international or global, especially as these words are usually stranded with media-nouns like crisis, conflict or pandemic; or similar marketing babble.

Photo from amazon.co.uk

Just for a change of scenery, these 50-something white wine recommendations sampled over the past several months are listed by retailer (mostly UK with some in Ireland, Germany and the US) rather than grape variety or country. By the way, this is a Sauvignon Blanc-free zone and features an unapologetic amount of Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay, as well as a few sexy Italian, Mediterranean and Eastern European varieties! Rosés, reds and cider to follow.

Tesco
Finest Torrontés 2018, Salta, Argentina (13% abv) - A little old but still surprising in an aromatic yet mature oily Riesling-esque way. Good but look out for the 2019 or 2020 vintage. Made from this underrated unknown variety by the usually very good Catena family winery grown in high altitude vineyards. The vines I mean, not the family. £7 (£ = GBP).
Finest Gewurztraminer 2018, Alsace, France (14%) - From the Maison Arthur Metz co-op winery, this vintage probably needs drinking up but it offers all the rich Turkish Delight and lychee flavours you might like. It's medium-dry so try with spicy food.
Gewurztraminer de Colmar 2019 (14%) - This 2019 Gewurz has replaced the above being fairly new at Tesco: plenty of smooth drinking oomph, rose water honey and spicy lychee notes but maybe drier than the old Finest one although with unctuous mouth-feel. Too easy to drink although essentially a food wine e.g. King Prawn Nasi Goreng. Made by Domaine de la Ville de Colmar, and full marks to them as it seems to be getting harder to make good Alsace Gewurz for under a tenner: £9.
Finest Greco di Tufo 2019, Campania, Italy (12.5%) - Superior Italian dry white made from a superior southern grape, Greco, by the well-known Feudi winery. Nutty and zingy with oily yet crisp mouth-feel. £9
Finest Gavi 2019, Piemonte, Italy, Fratelli Martini Secondo Luigi (12.5%) - Produced from Cortese in northwest Italy, this was perhaps a little less zesty and exciting than previous vintages but still worth a go. £8.50
Finest Pinot Grigio 2019, Trentino, Italy (12.5%) - Produced by the very reliable co-op winery Ca'Vit in the far north of Italy (Austria is the other side of the mountains, and some of the locals there even speak a dialect of German), whose Pinot Grigio is always more flavoursome than many other wishy-washy ones from Italy. £7
Finest Passerina 2019, Abruzzo, Italy (13%) - The winery is Codice Citra whoever that is based in this central-southern region next door to Lazio on the Adriatic side. You don't see the Passerina variety (apparently named after the wee bird featured on the label) much outside of there and perhaps in the Marche to the north, and it delivers a tasty white balancing ripe and peachy with honeyed edges and refreshing finish. £7
Finest Soave Superiore Classico 2018, Veneto, Italy, Cantina di Monteforte (Garganega variety, 13.5%) - Another good example (and this accomplished co-op cellar too) of well-known with knobs on; for not much more money, what's the point in buying cheap Soave. This was quite lush and full-bodied in fact with nutty oily texture (supposedly part-aged in oak but it doesn't taste of it luckily) and very ripe fruit; nice and mature: watch out for any older badly rotated vintage (we were delivered a 2017 which was past it), or better still the 2019. £7.50
Fiano 2019, Sicily, Italy (Fiano, 12.5%) - A constant bargain at £5.75: aromatic and fresh with attractive rounded texture and white peach fruit.
Verdicchio di Matelica 2019, Marche, Italy (12.5%) - Easy-drinking Verdicchio from the eastern central hills (this variety is often seen from the more famous neighbouring Castelli dei Jesi area, and in the same distinctive amphora bottle, which is probably more expensive hence Tesco switching supply?) with peach and pear fruit and refreshing finish. £6.50
Wairau Cove Chardonnay 2019, Gisborne, New Zealand (13%) - Not the most spectacular southern hemisphere Chardy you can find, but this is one of a range from NZ that Tesco has shipped and bottled in the UK. Good for the price though and refreshingly unoaked with light buttery notes crossed with zingy citrus. £7
Viñalba Chardonnay 2019, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina, Bodegas Fabre (13%) - Classy 'Argie Chablis' (oops) mixing up elegance and restrained winemaking with pure unoaked and lightly creamy pineapple fruit. £10
Bellingham Chardonnay 2018 Stellenbosch, South Africa (13.5%) - Partly barrel-fermented with lees-stirring but not too oaky at all adding butterscotch and spice to its ripe fruit and weighty palate. £8 on offer / £10. Bellingham's stylishly different Bernard Series Chenin Blanc is also available in selected stores and at the same offer price at the moment.
Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2019, Chile (12.5%) - Not as rich, lighter and perhaps less dry than previous vintages but still a nice quaffer for those who like the exotic flavours of Gewurz at a lesser price! £7.50 / £6 on offer. It's often £6 on promotion at Asda too, usually £7.25. Their Viognier 2020 vintage is now out though, and a return to form with perfumed spicy apricot, quite lush and oily moth-feel (with weightier 13.5% abv too) and zesty finish.
Cono Sur Riesling 2018 Reserva Especial Valley Collection, Bío Bío, Chile (12.5%) - Lovely example of where Chile is at with the Riesling variety: aromatic intricate and oily with chalky lime notes on the finish. Currently out of stock (?) but was about £9-£10: or perhaps they've switched to Cono Sur's regular Riesling, a not-bad substitute (£7.50 / £6 on promo).


Marks & Spencer
Merinas Organic White Wine Airen - Viura - Verdejo 2019, Spain (12.5%) - A new good-value white from Spain, not very demanding with zesty citrus and pear. Could be one of the options in their meal deal? £7
Macon-Villages 2018, Burgundy, France, Vignerons des Grandes Vignes Prissé (12.5%) - Very reliable tasty unoaked Chardy from southern Burgundy, ripe and creamy with juicy finish. £9
Coteaux Bourguignon 2018, Burgundy, France, Collin-Bourisset - Another good Chardy in similar style to above, perhaps a little steelier and classier. Couldn't find it on Mark's site though, so perhaps they don't stock it any more.
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2019, Marche, Italy (13%) - Another one that's 'no longer available' but that could just mean online. Again, a tasty well-made example of this Italian dry white as detailed above.
Mineralstein Riesling 2019, Pfalz, Germany, Gerd Stepp - This lovely modern and fairly dry German Riesling is now labelled with Mark's new M&S Classics label: zesty and stylish. £9.50
Baron de Hoen Gewurztraminer 2018 Grande Réserve, Alsace, France - This wine has also been revamped under the M&S Classics moniker (that Baron de Hoen label was fairly ghastly in any case), and the 2019 now on shelf is produced by Cave de Turckheim, so it should be perfectly sound. £10

Asda
Farmers of Wine Organic white wine, Italy (12.5%) - The virtually information-free packaging comes in the form of a suitably earthy recycled brown paper bag: all it says is Vino Bianco from Italy and it's bottled in Bardolino in the north. Not the most exciting of several Asda dry whites from Italy purchased in recent times, but perfectly enjoyable for only £5 a bottle!
Lugana 2019, Lake Garda, Italy, Tenuta Roveglia (13%) - On the other hand, this delicious Lugana is one of Asda's best Italian whites, if not the best given how many bottles we've had delivered over the past few months! Made from the Turbiana variety, which is the local name for Trebbiano di Lugana that apparently is a very close relative of Verdicchio rather than the usually rather insipid Trebbiano found elsewhere in Italy in huge volumes. Concentrated ripe peachy fruit, quite full and rounded with nutty citrus finish. £9.50
Languedoc Blanc 2018, Languedoc, France (12.5%) - Produced by the huge Vignerons de la Méditerranée co-op group based in Narbonne, this tasty quite richly textured dry white is made from the southern grapes Grenache blanc, Marsanne and Bourboulenc. However, the recently arrived 2019 is a bit oaky though in an intrusive way. £7
La Chasse Chardonnay Viognier 2019, Languedoc, France, Gabriel Meffre (12.5%) - Another super-consistent easy-drinking southern French wine (Meffre is gifted at that) blending lively citrus with more tropical fruit and roundness too. £6
Chablis 2018, Burgundy, France (12.5%) - Lovely example from the Chablis co-op winery of steely yet buttery unoaked Chardy. Appears to be temporarily out of stock (disappeared from their website), but it was something like £12 a bottle or £9-£10 on offer. Hopefully not a post-Brexit casualty.
Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2019, Western Cape, South Africa (13%) - Chenin always makes a change from Chardy or Sauvignon: tropical melon fruit, chalky and refreshing mouth-feel. £6
Zuncho Chardonnay Viognier 2019, Colchagua Costa, Chile, Luis Felipe Edwards (13.5%) - Weightier and more tropical than the Meffre but similarly unoaked and lively; it disappeared off Asda's site for a while but is back again. £7
Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2019/2020 - See Tesco above.
The Wine Atlas Feteasca Regala 2019, Romania (11.5%) - This well-made version of an obscure native grape variety is very good value and a refreshing zesty and light alternative to Sauvignon blanc, although more interesting frankly! Versatile with food too. £5.25

Winemark
Vina Esmeralda 2018, Catalunya, Spain, Torres (11.5%) - A light aromatic and off-dry blend of Muscat and Gewurztraminer offering grapey lychee notes and fairly zingy aftertaste.
Louis Jadot Macon-Villages 2018, Les Petites Pierres, Burgundy, France (13%) - This reliable quality unoaked French Chardonnay is widely available in fact including Tesco, Majestic, Asda and independent stores, and only worth getting at Winemark (NI) if you buy two bottles as part of a money-off deal otherwise it's too dear (like most of their single bottle prices). Soft creamy and quite concentrated with balanced fresh finish. The 2019 is now on-shelf and nicely retains its pure Chardy-fruit class in a 'cheaper and less acidic than Chablis' way. Have since purchased several bottles of the 2019, simply a very tasty unoaked Chardonnay. About £9-£10.

Sainsbury's
Taste the Difference Gewurztraminer 2019, Alsace, France (13.5%) - As usual, talented co-op winery Cave de Turckheim comes up trumps with a spot-on Gewurz mixing up zestiness, lychee and rose water flavours and a bit of oomph. Try with smoked salmon risotto. £8.50
Rocca Murer Pinot Grigio 2019, Trentino, Italy (12.5%) - Superior PG from the Ca'Vit winery (same producer as the Tesco Finest wine) with more depth and flavour than most and juicy honeysuckle tones. £7
The Bernard Series Whole Bunch Roussanne Limited Release 2019, Wellington, South Africa, Bellingham (13.5%) - Special occasion full-bodied white from top producer Bellingham (see Tesco) with subtle oak handling adding weight and yeasty edges to its distinctive floral herbal notes, then richer lingering spicy pineapple and peach flavours. £10.25
Montagny Signé Bourgogne 2016, Burgundy, France - I doubt they have any 2016 left but buy the oldest vintage you can find, honestly: it has lovely mature buttery fruit, although don't keep it long. £10
Not too many wines from Sainsbury's recommended here because they forgot to bring all of the wine (disaster) as part of a screwed-up online delivery! Pity as the JS range is good. Plus we got chocolate bars dated Christmas Day 2019 and sausages (Tesco's in fact can you believe!) two days past the sell-by date. Well done JS, never again. It doesn't help either that my nearest store's staff is generally un-customer-friendly and seemingly Covid oblivious.

Lidl
Giuseppe & Luigi Traminer Aromatico 2018, Veneto, Italy (12.5%) - Appealing lighter drier type of Gewurz from north-eastern Italy with floral zesty finish. €9 or €10 at Lidl Ireland (€6.99 in Germany).
Gewurztraminer Reserva Especial 2019, Valle Central, Chile (14%) - Bargain at €7.50 reduced to clear, with plenty of aromatic tropical Gewurz style although dry as well.
Casal Montani Frascati Superiore 2018, Lazio, Italy - Another one-off in their Irish stores I think (looks available in Germany and the Netherlands though), this was a surprising example of a sometimes neutral wine with fair amount of character and depth of flavour for the price.

Aldi
Exquisite Collection Padthaway Chardonnay 2019 (Taylor's Wines aka Wakefield?), South Australia (13.5%) - Consistent favourite unoaked Chardy offering ripe juicy melon peach and pineapple with creamy fruity palate while deceptively full-on yet well-balanced. Lidl Ireland €7.99, UK £5.99.
Pinot Gris 2020, Gisborne, New Zealand (13%) - Not sure if this was in the same range or a different label, but it cost €8.15 and was juicy and Brazil nutty with dry-ish finish; good with Chinese or Thai king prawn dishes.

Virgin Wines
I've included each wine's (my favourite whites from a pick and mix type case ordered) full price here but did have a big discount voucher making them very reasonable (you probably wouldn't pay their full slightly inflated prices in any case); and apparently you'd get a discount if you became a Discovery Club member. Virgin has a US wine site too with a similar range.
Vitalita Falanghina 2018, Puglia, Italy (12.5%) - Has some attractive character and maturing fruit with fresh mineral finish. £9.99
The Last Stand Chardonnay 2018, Victoria, Australia (12.5%) - Appealing start with lightly creamy and ripe juicy fruit, not too heavy although the overly zippy finish jars a little. Good price though £8.99.
Kuehn Muscat 2019, Alsace, France (12.5%) - One of the best in my case, this elegant perfumed DRY Muscat is great with Malaysian dishes. £11.99
Villa Wolf Gewurztraminer 2019, Ernst Loosen, Pfalz, Germany (12%) - Pricey but flavoursome Gewurz, more subtle lighter leaner and drier than its French counterparts although still aromatic with 'sweet' spice. £12.99
Velea Malvasia 2017, Salento, Italy (12.5%) - Malvasia is a secret star variety: complex oily mature tones (but it wasn't too old though surprisingly) with floral peachy fruit and a 'salty' tang, different. Reduced to £9.99.

James Nicholson Wines
The prices stated include 10% off the full list price for a 12 bottle delivery. JN Wine also sells in the Republic of Ireland (see website for Euro prices).
Quinta de Chocapalha Arinto 2019, Lisboa, Portugal - Arinto is one of several fab Portuguese white grapes: intense with yeast-lees notes, floral grapefruit and crisp dry finish. £10.35
Domaine Gayda Flying Solo Grenache Blanc Viognier 2019, Languedoc, France - Probably not the most exciting white from the talented Gayda winery, but attractive and easy-going with freshness and a little weight too. £8.10
JN stocks Villa Wolf Gewurztraminer as well (see Virgin above) but for less: £10.35 including the 10% case discount.
L’Effet Papillon Grenache blanc & Macabeu, IGP Côtes Catalanes (13%) - This tasty aromatic white is one of a less expensive trio made by Domaine Roc des Anges in the Roussillon, southern France: read all about them in my book. Enticing juicy pear fruit with yeast-lees and almost wild herbal notes, subtle soft lingering flavours. £10.35
Pajzos T Hárslevelű 2018, Tokaji, Hungary (12.5%) - Something really original, this flavoursome dry white is made from one of the Tokay region's classic sweet wine grapes (the tricky to pronounce one). Fragrant floral with oily aniseed undertones, juicy intense and dry. £9.45

Sicily
A trio of dry whites enjoyed, noted and photo-ed while on the beautiful island:
Isoletta Vermentino 2019, Cantine Settesoli (organic) - Fragrant and zesty/lees-y with citrus and aniseed undertones.
Aura Antiche Cantine Rosso 2019, IGT Terre Siciliane (13.5%) - Made mostly from sumptuous Sicilian grape variety Grillo (with a splash of Fiano) by a small organic producer in Ragusa province, this natural-edged deep-coloured wine is rich exotic and quirky with stewed apple and yeast notes, long dry finish.
Barone di Bernaj Grillo 2019, Cantine Madaudo - A different style of Grillo bought in a supermarket: more typical Grillo character with perfumed apricot, full rounded palate and fresh finish.

Finally, yet another Gewurz found in a wine store in Leamington Spa (England), although I can't remember which one.
Kuhlmann-Platz Gewürztraminer Cuvée Prestige 2017, Cave de Hunawihr, Alsace - Aromatic lush fruity and spicy, pretty classic off-dry style. The 2018 is available at Majestic for £12.99/£10.99 (if you buy 6 bottles).


16 December 2020

Roussillon: top 100 red wines


Apart from another excuse to plug my new book on the Roussillon (links to previous post with details, or go straight to Amazon UK or USA or Barnes & Noble to buy it - other formats and countries' stores are also linked in the post above), here are some of my hot red wine tips from the region made by producers featured in the book. Many winemakers have just released their 2018 and 2019 reds, and I look forward to tasting more of these next year (?!) when we're able to travel safely to France again thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 situation. In the meantime, I've bought some of these vintages although it's easier said than done living where I do (limited presence of Roussillon wines locally).
Hence this pick of some of my favourites includes red wines mostly from three earlier and quite different vintages (2017, 2016 and 2015), some of which will still be available, plus a few older ones that stood out in a tasty maturing way (2014 to 2010) as well as a couple from 2018 and 2019. The idea was to keep this 'list' as focused as possible (not successful then), as there are many more good wines that could have been included and are detailed in the book.
Similarly to my article on Roussillon white wines published (was it really that long ago) over two years ago, this top 100 (approx) red wine frenzy is simply arranged by village area meandering from north to south (like the winery profile section of the book) to avoid any kind of false judgmental 'this appellation is better than that one' type generalisations. Naturally, to find out more about these winemakers, vineyards, wine villages, sightseeing tips and other regional wine info, you'll have to buy my book. Did I mention that already?!
Photo = 'Lavail vigne' © CIVR: vine-scape near Maury. The villages listed in each header are where the wineries are based (but not necessarily their vineyards); the village names following Côtes du Roussillon Villages... (CRV) AOP e.g. CRV Latour-de-France, are one of a handful of subzone designations within the CRV appellation. IGP = Indication Géographique Protegée with Côtes Catalanes being the largest and most popular (covers the entire wine-growing area in Les Pyrénées Orientales, the Roussillon's département name).

North

Maury
Domaine de Vénus ‘Terre d’Ocre’ CRV 2015 (unoaked Grenache, Syrah and Carignan) - Lovely spicy fruit, chunky texture and fine tannins.
Domaine Thunevin-Calvet ‘Les Dentelles’ CRV 2015 (old-vine Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, eighteen months in barrels and concrete vats) - Ripe textured, powerful with gamey edges and spicy kirsch, black cherry, liquorice fruit, well-balanced.
Domaine de la Pertuisane ‘Le Nain Violet’ Côtes Catalanes IGP 2016 (old Grenache, fifteen months in cask) - Powerful with lots of spicy aromatic dark berry fruits and fine-grained tannins.
D66 Côtes Catalanes IGP 2016 (85% Grenache with Syrah and Carignan) - Big fruity extracted style although has plenty of substance behind the oaky façade, developing savoury notes with age.
Domaine La Toupie ‘Sur un Fil Rouge’ Maury sec 2016 (Grenache 70% with one-quarter Syrah and the rest Mourvèdre) - Tasty concentrated red showing aromatic dark berry fruit with savoury and chocolate sides, well-poised considering powerful sometimes 15% abv and tautly textured tannins.
Vignerons de Maury 'Granit Tradition' CRV Lesquerde 2017 (Syrah and Grenache) - Offers plenty of vibrant peppery black cherry fruit. Their 'Tradition' Maury sec 2016 was good too.
Clos des Vins d’Amour ‘1 + 1 = 3’ Maury sec 2015 (60% Grenache, Carignan and Syrah fermented in vat) - Quite delicate with spicy berry fruit then more structured chalky texture on a subtle finish.
Mas Mudigliza ‘Carminé’ CRV 2014 (Grenache and Syrah) - Powerful with plenty of black fruits, liquorice and spice.
Domaine Semper ‘Voluptas’ CRV Lesquerde 2014 (majority Syrah with Carignan and Grenache, partly barrel-fermented but mostly in vat) - minty with rich and tasty palate.
Domaine of the Bee CRV 2015 (Grenache & Carignan; the best Grenache fermented in open-top barrels while the rest and all the Carignan in stainless steel tanks, then aged in cask for 12-18 months) - Deft combo of coconut oak, concentrated dark and spicy fruit with trademark oomph on the palate. Their top cuvée ‘Les Genoux’ 2015 (mostly Grenache with some white and pink grapes) also had hints of spicy oak yet was surprisingly subtle with intense taut finish.
Château Saint-Roch ‘Chimères’ CRV 2015 (60-65% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 5-10% Carignan) - Lovely savoury fruited and well-textured red, although the 2016 didn’t show well in a blind tasting. Their ‘Kerbuccio’ label has been a Maury sec (60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre) since the classy 2011 vintage to the structured savoury 2014 and intense but awkward 2015. One of two impressive old-vine Carignans was the lovely fragrant ‘Tesselae’ Côtes Catalanes 2015.
Domaine Pouderoux–Lavista - Their excellent ‘Montpin’ Maury sec 2014 was featured in an earlier post linked below. And ‘Latour de Grés’ CRV 2015 (60% Carignan planted in 1901 with Mourvèdre and Syrah, aged in cask for 12 months) showed lovely balance of structured mouth-feel, dark fruit and complex savoury edges.
Domaine des Enfants 'L’Enfant Perdu' Côtes Catalanes 2012 (Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, Lladoner Pelut) – Coconut notes with peppery berry fruit, maturing elegant finish with good depth. Another solid 2012 red was 'Suis l’Etoile' (Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre): more intense and concentrated with blue fruits, light bitter twist on its long finish.

Saint-Paul de Fenouillet, Saint-Martin de Fenouillet & Prugnanes
Domaine de la Préceptorie ‘Terres Nouvelles’ 2015 (mostly Grenache with Carignan, two years in large old casks) - Tightly structured and concentrated; another solid example of the Maury sec appellation like their 'Copain Comme Cochon' 2016.
Maison Jean Pla ‘Le Ver Vert Bio2’ CRV 2015 (organic Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre from Vingrau and Espira) - Quite concentrated with fine tannins.
Domaine Laguerre ‘Le Ciste’ CdR 2015 (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre matured in wood vats and barriques for 12-15 months) - Structured when young, powerful concentrated yet well poised. Two good 2016s as well: ‘Eos’ rouge (mostly Grenache with Syrah) with lovely perfumed fruit and chalky tannins; and ‘Le Passage’ (80% Carignan plus Syrah, sometimes Grenache) which was tightly textured with pure spicy fruit.
Domaine Le Soula ‘Trigone’ rouge (majority Syrah with old-vine Carignan and occasionally Grenache - it’s usually a blend of three vintages - two-thirds aged in cask) - Sometimes slightly ‘reduced’ and ‘funky’ on the nose at first but moves on to lively spicy Syrah style with black cherry plus crunchier blueberry fruit, good depth and subtle grip while developing hints of liquorice.

Lesquerde, Saint-Arnac & Lansac
Domaine Paul Meunier-Centernach ‘Pétaillat’ Côtes Catalanes 2015 (single site with Grenache and a hint of Macabeu, matured in barrel for fourteen months) - Firm and chunky while dark and savoury, serious red.

Tautavel & Vingrau
Mas de la Devèze Maury sec 2016 (two-thirds Grenache, 25% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre, 12 months in barrels) - Powerful and structured with aromatic berry and kirsch fruit, taut yet supple tannins. Their 2015 ‘Pandore’ CRV (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan) had lovely dark fruit and integrated oak/tannins, although the 2016 didn’t show well a year later.
Mas Janeil ‘sans soufre’ CRV 2016 (meaning no added sulphites; up to half Mourvèdre with Grenache, Carignan and Syrah) - Rich lively and quite concentrated with fragrant blackcurrant/cherry, although the 2017 had turned a tad baked? Their limited-edition ‘Le Pas de la Mule’ (mostly old Grenache aged for 12 months in new casks) needs time to integrate with the oak, like the tasty concentrated and savoury 2010 vintage; or the beefy closed-up 2015, oaky but promising.
Domaine La Différence ‘La Racine Carrée’ CRV 2016 - Enticing fruit, supple tannins, powerful yet well-balanced.
Domaine Val de Ray ‘Fusion’ CRV Tautavel 2014 (60% Mourvèdre, 40% Syrah) - Chunkier and fruitier than three other equally good Tautavel reds (‘Charme’, ‘Attraction’ and ‘Séduction’) with fine tannins.
Domaine des Soulanes ‘Bastoul Laffite’ Maury sec 2013 (old vine Grenache 80% with Carignan) is featured in a previous post as mentioned below; and the 2012 was impressive too. Their ‘Kaya’ rouge Côtes Catalanes 2014 (mostly Carignan) was juicy perfumed and elegant blueberry fruit, lively with succulent tannins.

Latour-de-France
Domaine Rancy CRV Latour-de-France 2016 (often 50-50 Carignan and Mourvèdre, sometimes with Grenache) - Attractive savoury-edged fruit and firm yet rounded tannins; and ‘Els Petits Raims’ 2015 was an unexpected, rich and meaty blend of Grenache and Mourvèdre with 10% Tannat.
Le Roc des Anges 'L'Effet Papillon' Côtes Catalanes 2019 (Grenache & Syrah) - Deep coloured and dry textured but ripe, rounded and fruity with peppery kirsch and black cherry. And ‘Australe’ 2015 from ‘very old Syrah' was peppery and perfumed with velvety tannins and intense finish.
Domaine de Bila-Haut (M. Chapoutier) ‘Les Vignes de Bila-Haut’ CRV 2015 (Syrah, Grenache and Carignan; no wood) - Lovely balance of sweet fruit, power and fresher bite. Their 2015 ‘L’Esquerda’ CRV Lesquerde was delicious too, peppery black cherry fruited and powerful.
Domaine de L’Ausseil ‘La Capitelle’ CRV Latour-de-France 2014 (old-vine block of Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre and sometimes Syrah) - Consistently good natural-leaning style, funky chunky and concentrated with chalky tannins; and the Merlot-based ‘P’Tit Piaf’ Côtes Catalanes 2016 was a tasty starter red with blackcurrant/cherry and savoury edges.
Domaine Jean Louis Tribouley ‘L’Alba’ Vin de France 2012 (70% Carignan with Grenache and Syrah, very long maceration) - Funky and meaty vs lush and concentrated, wilder side 'natural' red.
Domaine Rivaton ‘Vieilles Vignes’2012 (Carignan, Grenache and Syrah) - Quite smoky and wild but enticingly done with ripe yet savoury black olive notes. This red has become part of ‘Vieilles Bouilles’ Vin de France ‘natural’ wine with no added SO2.
Domaine de Sabbat ‘100% Grenache’ Côtes Catalanes - the structured 2015 was closed up when last tasted; previously, the serious meaty 2012 grabbed attention with its rich extracted style layered with savoury black olive.

Estagel & Montner
Domaine des Schistes ‘La Coumeille’ CRV 2016 (85% Syrah single site between Maury and Tautavel, aged twelve months in 500 litre barrels) - Concentrated, lush and robust with attractive tannin texture.
Domaine Gilles Troullier ‘Boréal’ Côtes Catalanes 2010 (tiny block of Syrah at 600 metres altitude) - Developed intriguing smoky savoury notes and complex rustic richness. And ‘L’Esprit du Temps’ 2013 (80+ year-old Grenache noir) had alluring varietal character with lush kirsch fruit.
Vignerons des Côtes d’Agly ‘Mont d’Estagel’ CRV 2015 (50% Syrah, 40% Mourvèdre and a splash of old-vine Carignan) - Attractive mix of fruit, tannin, oak and maturing rustic notes.

Espira de l’Agly & Cases-de-Pène
Domaine Piquemal ‘Galatée’ CRV 2016 (Grenache 75% with Syrah and Carignan) - Chunky Grenache-led style, powerful rich firm and concentrated.
Clos Serre Romani ‘Le Schiste’ CRV 2016 (60% Syrah, 40% Grenache, unoaked) - Peppery dark-fruited and elegant.
Domaine Gardiés ‘Les Millères’ CRV 2015 (40% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 20% Carignan, 5% Mourvèdre) - Deliciously rich, spicy and chunky. And the relatively new 100% Mourvèdre ‘Je Cherche le Ciel’ 2016 was firm and serious with textured tannins and tasty black olive/cherry fruit.
Mas Castello Domaine Cachau-Dubournais CRV (Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Grenache) - Tasty aromatic, spicy and tight in a more austere vintage such as 2014, or funkier, chunkier and more concentrated in a warm vintage like 2015.
Domaine des Balmettes ‘Les Amandiers’ 2013 - Wild, intense and dense Grenache noir sourced from a small block, which is whole-bunch fermented and not oaked.

Rivesaltes, Salses-Le-Château & Saint-Laurent-de-la-Salanque
Clos des Fées ‘Vieilles Vignes’ CRV 2013 (50-100 year-old Grenache/Lladoner Pelut (50%) with Carignan and Syrah) - The winery is now based in Rivesaltes but the vineyards are spread across a wide area from Vingrau to Maury: lush oak-textured red showing lovely dense fruit and tannins.
Domaine Cazes ‘Ego’ CRV 2015 (Grenache 60%, Syrah 30% and Mourvèdre) - Fleshy dark cherry fruit with weight and rounded structure.
Domaine de Rombeau ‘Elise’ CRV 2011 (80% Syrah, oak-aged) - Concentrated, chunky and fruity red.
Clos de la Bresse ‘La Bresse’ CRV 2016 - Good fruit with chunky mouth-feel and silky tannins.
Domaine Singla ‘El Serrat’ 2011 (80%+ Mourvèdre with Syrah) - Wild-edged and dense with textured tannins and savoury development, delicious black olive and liquorice too. And ‘Les Quatre Vents’ based on Carignan with ‘a hint of Grenache’ aged for two years in barriques, which absorbs the oak well adding lush texture to this concentrated cassis-tinged wine: 2013 and 2011 were both very good.
Domaine de Besombes Mas Saint-Michel ‘Esprit’ 2015 (Grenache and Syrah with a little Mourvèdre and Carignan) - Concentrated and weighty red; and ‘Les Fontenilles’ CRV 2015 and 2014 (Grenache & Syrah) - Peppery and structured, lightly coco-oaky when young turning dark fruited.

Caramany, Cassagnes & Bélesta
Vignerons de Caramany ‘Rouge Carmin Réserve’ CRV Caramany 2016 (unoaked Carignan, Syrah and Grenache) - Spicy and firm with enticing minty notes.
Domaine Modat ‘Sans plus attendre’ CRV Caramany 2015 (up to 70% Syrah with Grenache and Carignan, half of it spent ten months in barrel) - Rich and rustic with powerful finish gaining savoury notes and soft texture with bottle age. Their 'Le Petit Modamour' CdR 2018 is tasty too (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah): peppery smoky nose with cassis, black cherry and liquorice, quite soft mouth-feel although punchy (14% abv).
Château de Caladroy ‘Passion’ CRV 2016 - A spicy, rounded and elegant Syrah-led blend. And the more serious and structured ‘La Pierre Droite’ CRV 2014 (80% Mourvèdre with Syrah) - Dark, savoury and concentrated with subtle oak texture.
Clot de l’Oum - Usually a reliable favourite but... the ‘Gavatx’ CRV Caramany 2015 (predominantly Grenache) was intense, concentrated and spicy the first time it was sampled, yet the same vintage showed badly in a tasting a year later. Same goes for ‘La Compagnie des Papillons’: the 2015 was very tasty but 2016 was faulty. Their ‘Le Clot’ 2014 was delicious though: a plot-selection majority Syrah with pure varietal style, minty peppery dark cherry and lovely depth.
Vignoble Réveille ‘Elan’ 2015 (Grenache, Carignan and Syrah) - Funky concentrated and spicy balancing depth and elegance. And ‘Ultra Violet’ 2014 (100% Syrah, no sulphites added) was wild-edged and chunky with herbal minty spicy fruit.
Domaine Paetzold ‘Mastrio Carignan’ Côtes Catalanes 2015 - Silky textured with attractive sweet/sour blue fruit combo, almost Pinot Noir-esque in style. And ‘Nagello’ 2014 was a seductive ripe Syrah with dark spicy fruit and wild herb notes, smooth and rounded.

Calce & Baixas
Domaine Olivier Pithon ‘Cuvée Laïs’ rouge 2015 (unoaked Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre) - Quite structured and funky although had good depth. And his ‘Le Colt’ 2014 (parcel of Grenache, 18 months in cask) had perfumed spicy fruit, taut tannins and weight with attractive savoury finish.
Vignobles Dom Brial ‘Mirade’ CRV 2014 (60% Syrah with Grenache and Mourvèdre, unoaked) - Fairly concentrated with tasty dark berry fruit. The ‘Crest Petit’ 2012 single-site project red is worth a mention too.

Corneilla de la Rivière
Domaine Boucabeille ‘Les Terrasses de Régis Boucabeille’ CRV 2016 (unoaked Grenache and Syrah, about 50-50) - Lovely minty style with black cherry and chalky tannins; and the more powerful structured but well-textured ‘Monte Nero’ CRV 2015 (40% Syrah with Grenache and Mourvèdre).

There are another 15 top Maury sec reds (vintages 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013) recommended in this piece: Grenache/Garnacha: Australia, Roussillon, Catalonia including Domaine de la Préceptorie, Domaine Dernier Bastion, Domaine Cazes, Les Vignerons de Tautavel-Vingrau, Domaine FontanelDomaine des Soulanes, Mas Amiel (a few different wines), Domaine Pouderoux and Château Saint-Roch.

Wineries with vineyards in the northern Roussillon but based in the Aude:
Domaine Jones Rouge Grenache noir 2015 (old Grenache from Maury, sometimes with a splash of Carignan) - This concentrated red has been perfected over the years: firmly structured when young but developing tasty liquorice and cherry fruit.
Les Clos Perdus ‘Extreme’ rouge Côtes Catalanes 2013 (75% Lladoner Pelut and Syrah with low sulphites, oak-aged) - Very concentrated with dark spicy fruit; the 2014 was very good too, tighter and more elegant.

Centre & East

(CdR = Côtes du Roussillon)
Perpignan, Canet en Roussillon & Saleilles
Domaine Lafage ‘Cuvée Léa’ CRV Les Aspres 2015 and 2016 (low-yielding Grenache, Carignan and Syrah grown at altitude, barrique-aged) - Ripe spicy concentrated fruit, sometimes with smoky tobacco notes and silky texture, sometimes with tighter firmer finish. The 100% Grenache 'Nicolas' Côtes Catalanes 2015 was also delicious; and it's worth mentioning their icon label ‘Les Onze Terrasses’ from the Aspres high-ground: latest vintage tasted was the immense, structured and savoury-edged 2011 showing great promise (and suitably expensive).
Domaine Rousdellaro ‘Tanawa’ 2017 (Grenache 65%, Syrah 35%, unoaked) - Fuller, richer and spicier than one of their other reds.
Château de Rey ‘Mine de Rey’ CdR 2016 - Tasty limited edition Mourvèdre-dominant red.
Mas Baux ‘Mataro Boy’ 2016 - Concentrated black-olive-tinged 100% Mourvèdre; and ‘Velours’ 2016 was a lovely spicy fruity mix of Grenache and Syrah.
Les Vignobles du Soleil 'B' CdR 2016 (majority Syrah) - And it shows but in the most attractive way: concentrated with black cherry fruit and minty edges, nice ripe tannins.

Pollestres, Villeneuve de la Raho, Corneilla del Vercol & Montescot
Château Cap de Fouste ‘Tradition’ CdR 2016 - Quite concentrated with fruity spicy profile and rounded tannins,
Domaine C&D Deneufbourg Marselan Côtes Catalanes 2015 - Firm, meaty and spicy, quite a big wine.
Château Corneilla Jonquères d’Oriola ‘Cavalcade’ Les Aspres 2014 (Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre; eight months in barrel) - Classy concentrated red with good balance of oak, supple tannins and depth, although the 2015 didn’t show well in a later blind tasting.
Château de l’Ou ‘Ipsou Facto’ 2015 - Very good special selection Syrah reflecting the best grapes from across their vineyards: rich toasty and extracted, solid and dense but with great tannins and lovely Syrah fruit, it needed time. And ‘L’Ove’ (also Côtes Catalanes) 2015 was a tasty unoaked spicy pure Syrah style too.

Le Soler, Thuir, Camélas, Terrats, Trouillas & Ponteilla
Domaine de la Perdrix ‘Pour Ceux qui Rêvent le Jour’ CdR 2017 (Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah) - Offers attractive fruit, soft mouth-feel and tasty finish. Their 2016 ‘Joseph Sébastien Pons’ red was rated too.
Domaine Treloar ‘Motus’ CdR 2015 (80% or more Mourvèdre with Syrah or sometimes Grenache, like the epic 2010, 2011 and 2013 vintages; matured for two years in a mix of new and used barrels, some American oak) - This slightly feral Bandol-esque red and is rich, meaty and textured, dense palate showing ageing promise. Their consistently good ‘Three Peaks’ CdR is also recommended (2015); and top-of-the-range ‘Tahi’ (selected Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache aged in 50% new French oak): the delicious 2011 was very concentrated yet well-balanced with savoury smoky and minty tones.
Domaine de la Meunerie CdR ‘Caruso’ 2016 and ‘Réminiscence’ 2016 - The pure-fruited peppery and powerful ‘Caruso’ was 50%+ Grenache with Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan that undergoes five months’ cask-ageing. And ‘Réminiscence’ was a more concentrated and extracted majority Syrah with Mourvèdre, showing lovely minty black fruits and hints of dark chocolate (similar oak regime to the other).
Domaine La Casenove ‘La Colomina’ CdR 2016 (50% Carignan, 25% Syrah, 20% Grenache and Mourvèdre) - Blueberry and liquorice notes with a touch of grip, good depth of sweet fruit and a subtler fresher side.
Les Vignobles du Terrassous ‘Villaré Juliani’ Côtes du Roussillon 2016 (Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre; no oak ageing) - Minty black cherry and liquorice fruit, ripe and juicy with structured tannins. Their top red ‘Les Pierres Plates’ CRV Les Aspres 2015 was another SGM: smoky and savoury after a few years in bottle with big spicy finish (the 2013 was tasty too).
Domaine Ferrer-Ribière - Two 2015s both called ‘Empreinte du Temps’: Carignan (made from 138 year-old vines, fermented in egg-shaped vats) was a lovely intense and aromatic wine; and a varietal Mourvèdre with firm yet rounded tannins and great depth of peppery black olive fruit.
Château Lauriga ‘Grande Réserve’ CdR 2016 (60% Syrah, 30% Carignan, 10% Grenache) - Mixes light oak with sweet fruit and rounded tannins, developing savoury tones on the finish.
Domaine de l’Architecte 'Earth' CdR 2015 - Structured with enticing maturing fruit with herby berry edges.
Château Las Collas ‘1924 Carignan’ Vin de France 2015 - Presumably the vines’ age: oaky when young but concentrated, fresh blue fruits and elegance despite its power.
Château Nadal Hainaut ‘Signum’ CdR 2015 (Syrah 70% and Grenache) - Big minty fruit and alcohol, a good wine even if a little over the top.
Domaine Bellavista ‘Roméo’ Côtes Catalanes 2016 - A lively dark and spicy Syrah made without added SO2; and the delicious ‘Réserve d’Ava’ CdR 2015 (Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre; half aged in barrels) was more concentrated, meaty and fruity with rounded tannins.
Mas Bécha ‘Excellence Rouge, Charles’ CRV Les Aspres 2016 - Another tasty concentrated ‘SGM’ but with 80% Syrah this time with lush black cherry fruit and appealing chalky tannins.

Passa, Tresserre & Banyuls dels Aspres
Domaine Vaquer ‘L’Exception’ CRV Les Aspres 2014 & 2015 (mostly old Grenache and a quarter each Carignan and Syrah; aged in used casks) - Wild-edged and chunky with berry fruits.
Domaine Trilles ‘Pedra Lluna’ Les Aspres 2015 - Excellent example from this subzone based on majority Mourvèdre with Syrah aged for 12 months in oak: powerful and rich, firm when young yet well-textured with wild berry and black olive flavours. And ‘Calignan’ Côtes Catalanes 2016 was a quirky star shaped by 100+ year-old Carignan but not using carbonic maceration (the ‘norm’ if there is one): intense powerful yet ripe and aromatic showing what can be done with this variety.
Château Montana ‘Silencio’ CRV Les Aspres 2015 (Syrah aged 12 months in barrel with Carignan and Grenache) - Oak-grained red but with good depth and fruit, although quite dear.

South

Argelès-sur-mer
Château Valmy ‘Premier de Valmy’ Côtes Catalanes 2015 (SGM blend aged 12 to 14 months in new casks) - Coco-oaky smoky on the nose but is lush concentrated with savoury edges and balanced overall.
Mas Cristine CdR rouge (50% Syrah, 38% Grenache, 12% Carignan with the Syrah spending time in barrel ‘but no new oak.’) - Typically ripe, fruity and concentrated with silky tannins like the attractive 2015, although the 2016 was rather austere.

Collioure & Banyuls-sur-mer
Domaine Madeloc ‘Magenca’ Collioure 2016 (Grenache with 20% Carignan, both from 100 year-old vines, and 20% Mourvèdre, matured for 18 months in wood) - Lush concentrated minty kirsch fruit, impressive and structured yet still juicy and elegant.
Terrimbo Collioure 2016 (Grenache and Syrah, barrel aged) - Set up by Philippe Gard of Coume del Mas and Tramontane Wines with Jacky Loos sourced from an organic block: an earthy rich rounded red (there's a full-on rosé too).
Coume del Mas ‘Schistes’ 2015 and ‘Quadratur’ 2015 (both Collioure AOP) - The former is mostly old vine Grenache from coastal vineyards fermented and stored in stainless vats: pure kirsch, liquorice and pepper aromas with lush soft palate and bitter twist. The latter is 50% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre and 20% 'very old-vine' Carignan that spends 12 to 14 months in barrel: firm solid red with grainy texture layered with spicy fruit, needing a couple of years to open up. But the 2016s of ‘Schistes’ and ‘Quadratur’ both came across as over-extracted and not so charming in a more recent line-up tasting.
Domaine La Tour Vieille Collioure ‘Puig Oriol’ 2016 (selected Syrah 70% with Grenache 25% plus some Carignan sourced from this named site) - One of two delicious 2016s (‘La Pinède’ is the other) that shows peppery herbal notes with juicy blackberry-cherry then some delicious sweet Grenache liquorice fruit comes through, tight well-textured tannins.
Domaine Piétri-Géraud ‘Le Moulin de la Cortine’ Collioure 2013 (majority Syrah with Grenache and Mourvèdre, un-oaked) - Fragrant, ripe and spicy with weighty palate. I wasn't keen on a couple of their 2015 and 2016 reds though.
Cave de L’Etoile Collioure ‘Le Clos du Fourat’ 2016 (50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and Mourvèdre, twelve months’ barrel-ageing) - Peppery notes with aromatic liquorice fruit, rounded oak-tinged palate with attractive tannins and dark fruit. Their 2016 ‘Montagne’ GSM was also good.
Domaine Clos Saint-Sébastien Collioure ‘Inspiration ‘Marine’ 2016 (90% coastal Mourvèdre, one year in large casks) - Aromatic elegant and intriguing with refined tannins. The 2016 and 2015 ‘Céleste’ (mostly Grenache + Carignan) were also highly recommended.
Domaine Augustin Collioure (old vine Grenache and Carignan) - Can be lightly rustic and well-balanced, although the 2015 was somewhat grainy and solid at first.
Domaine de la Rectorie ‘Barlande’ Collioure 2016 (old-vine Grenache and Carignan from this single plot) - Tasty new-ish red forming a pair with a classy white. Their 'entry-level' ‘Côté Mer’ 2015 (Syrah 50%, Grenache 40% and Carignan) was good too: chunky and funky with lots of black cherry fruit.
Domaine Vial-Magnères ‘Les Espérades’ Collioure 2014 (two-thirds Grenache with Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre; 18 months in cask) - Mixes up background oak with dark berry fruits and savoury hints.
Domaine Pic Joan Collioure (Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre) - The 2014 was serious, powerful and concentrated; the 2016 showed as a little oaky when young.
Domaine du Traginer Collioure ‘Cuvée Capatas’ 2014 (50% Syrah with the three other varieties) - Dark chocolate and solid palate when young with black fruits and olive, turning meaty with age. The very concentrated 2014 was the first vintage this wine was made without added sulphites.
Domaine de la Casa Blanca ‘Calells’ Collioure 2015 (Grenache dominant with Syrah) - Funkier than their other red yet more complex, concentrated and structured with dark vs crunchy fruit.

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