Friday, 27 November 2009
I spent a fun few days in Rioja earlier this month attending a wine industry conference entitled Wine Future Rioja. It was organised by the dynamic wine academy of Spain, headed by Pancho Campo MW. All in all, an impressive event attended by some of the wine world's shining stars: Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson, Gary Vaynerchuk, Miguel Torres, Paul Pontallier (Ch Margaux), Robert Joseph, Mel Dick etc etc etc. As the name suggests, the theme of the conference was the future of wine. This was addressed by some speakers, but not all. Some excellent speakers - Tim Hanni MW, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jeremy Benson, Justin Howard Sneyd, Robert Joseph all stood out. But also quite a few speakers just plugging their particular product or program which was tedious. Hopefully the speakers will be better briefed next time.
The highlight of the conference was a swanky tasting of 20 Grenache based wines, tutored by the man himself, E Robert Parker Jr (see grainy photo). Actually he seemed like a nice guy - not at all arrogant. Over 500 people attended the tasting and used 10,600 glasses. I should know as muggins here helped to clear them up! No L-R in the line up unfortunately.
There was a mini salon going on throughout the conference with about 50 wineries there. Only one from the Languedoc, Domaine O vineyards in Cabardes (of which more later). I was pleased to see a good showing from the Sud de France export guys. There were over 50 wines in all, accompanied by a handy little booklet with some background on each wine, contact details and a guide price. I didn't taste them all but highlights were Mas Jullien '99 in magnum, 2006 Fitou from Bertrand Bergé and a star from the Roussillon, Clos des Fées 2007. Also Gerard Bertrand's upmarket Corbières La Forge.
Monday, 28 September 2009
Two of the most interesting wines were white, both from 2006. The first was Silice, a barrel fermented and matured Sauvignon Blanc from Domaine Les Eminades. I confess that I am not a great fan of oak and sauvignon blanc as they are flavours that are more often at war with each other than not. And tasting this wine when newly bottled only confirmed this opinion. However, with a bit of bottle age, this wine is transformed. It has an intriguing smoky, floral nose and a finely structured, minerally palate with flavours of citrus, toast, smoke. Very pure flavours with an elegant seam of acidity and a long finish. Very good now but has the freshness and concentration to develop over the next couple of years. About 12 euros retail I think.
The 2006 Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc was another wine that had disappointed in its first youth. I first tasted it about 15 months ago and it was unremarkable. Again, a bit of bottle age has transformed it. It has a gorgeously scented floral, peachy, musky nose and a broad, complex palate of apricot, vanilla, lime. Good balancing acidity and a long finish. Like the Silice, this is a Vin de Pays but it is a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng and Chenin Blanc.
On balance, the Mas de Daumas Gassac was the better of the two wines. The nose is lovely and it had more complexity on the palate. But it is more expensive - 35 euros (although half the price en primeur).
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
But I did indulge in an orgy of spending today at the Foire aux Vins in Carrefour. Every September, all the major supermarkets have their big, annual wine promotion where some of the big names in the French wine world are for sale at, supposedly, knock down prices.
Given that 80% of what I drink is from the Languedoc, I was looking for wines from further afield. And mostly white. Although Bordeaux is centre stage at most supermarkets' F aux Vins I managed to avoid buying a single bottle of Claret. My cellar is full of the stuff, mostly bought in the UK where I paid silly duty, and then repatriated back to France when I moved here. And we hardly ever drink it.
Instead, my chariot was bursting with white burgundy. A dozen bottles of Jean-Marc Brocard's flinty, unoaked Chablis and a selection of his Bourgogne Blanc from different soil types. At 5,95€, worth a try. I'm looking forward to trying the Macon Villages from Verget too. From elsewhere in France, I got some cheap and cheerful Alsace Gewurztraminer, plus some Pinot Gris. Sancerre is so overpriced these days but I couldn't resist a few bottles of Gitton 2008. We'll see whether it's worth it. A few bottles of Beaujolais, some of Lurton Carmenère from Chile, a Jumilla from Spain and 3 bottles of my favourite Chianti from Fonterutoli. The latter is probably the wine I'm looking forward to trying most. I managed to resist the Yellowtail Oz reds - prefer my red wine without a hefty dose of residual sugar.
Overall, the selection in Carrefour is good, even in provincial Narbonne, but the prices weren't amazing. I was there with my shopping head on so bought anyway and came away happy with the selection but not feeling that I'd nabbed some real bargains.
A gripe or two about Carrefour. There is noone around to ask about anything. No wines available for tasting (at a wine promotion - perish the thought!)And no empty cartons to put in loose bottles of wine. Apparently they dismantle them and throw them away immediately. So I had to drive home with them rolling around in the back of the car.
Oh I did buy a few bottles of Languedoc wine. Just couldn't resist it. Some very cheap Jean Jean Picpoul for the masses, La Chapelle de Bebian from the famous Prieuré de Bebian near Pezenas and a promising Corbières from Ch Ollieux Romanis.
Thursday, 13 August 2009
Today I spoke to 2 producers in St Chinian and Minervois who tell me they will begin harvesting their white varietals next week.
Alain Clerbout of Domaine Lou Colombier will be harvesting his chardonnay on Monday. At 3am to be precise. When it is cool so as to preserve freshness in the grapes and to limit the mechanical cooling that needs to be done in tank once the grapes are pressed. This is one of the clear advantages of machine harvesters - they can pick at night whereas human harvesters have to wait until dawn.
Luc Bettoni of Domaine Les Eminades will be picking his Sauvignon Blanc sometime next week. Unusually for SB this will be fermented in barrel rather than tank.
So the harvest 2009 is beginning. Lets hope it's a good one!
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Marselan is a relatively recent crossing of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache which was authorised for Vin de Pays in 1990. It was developed specifically for the Languedoc and copes well with both wet and dry conditions and is resistant to fungal diseases. It also produces good colour which is sometimes lacking in Grenache.
There are smatterings of Marselan throughout the Languedoc and I have tasted maybe 10 examples. Most of those have been unimpressive (and a couple downright horrid!) and the best by far is from Chateau de Complazens in La Clape. Susan and Peter Close have 5 hectares of Marselan and are so convinced by the quality of the grape that they are lobbying to have it authorised for the production of AOC Coteaux du Languedoc La Clape. It is currently a Vin de Pays d'Oc and the 2007 vintage was deep coloured with attractive black fruit with a spicy (slightly hard) edge and ripe, supple tannins. A pleasant everyday drinking wine.
Yes it was a very good example of Marselan but it's not my favourite of the Complazens wines. I prefer their Syrah (again vin de pays) which is full of intense, creamy black fruit balanced by grippy but ripe tannins. A classy wine. They also do a simply fruity Grenache which has oodles of simple cherry fruit and soft tannins. Up a notch in quality and price is the Complazens premium 2006 which is blend of 75% Syrah with Grenache. It has excellent concentration of dark plum and blackcurrant fruit with well balanced oak. Ripe smooth tannins and a long finish. Still very young - ideally keep for another year.
Friday, 19 June 2009
In a previous post I mentioned the delicously fragrant Viognier from Domaine Murettes in La Livinière. The 2008 is at least as good as the 2007 and well worth €6,50. There isn't much made of this wine and I've only ever seen it at the domaine itself. Another excellent Viognier is from Domaine Coudoulet in Cesseras. A flowery, peachy, elegant brew for under €6 a bottle. Berry Brothers sell it in the UK for a curious £6.74/bottle.
Chateau de la Negly in La Clape make a stylish Coteaux du Languedoc called La Brise Marine. Made from Bourboulenc with Roussanne and some Marsanne, this is rich without being showy with stylish flavours of lemon and peach kernel with a minerally edge . And all for 8 euros a bottle.
A terrific Minervois Blanc comes from Chateau Canet in Rustiques. Again, Bourboulenc and Roussane are the grape varieties here, vinified cool but then given the slightest touch of oak to add richness but not oaky flavours. €8,95/bottle
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
The story of the success of Mas de Daumas Gassac is an extraordinary one. Aimé Guibert, a prosperous businessman, owned a glove factory near Millau but also had an unassuming farmhouse near the Languedoc village of Aniane. It had land but no vineyards and he did not intend to make wine. However a visit by one of France's leading geologists, Henri Enjalbert, convinced him that the red, glacial soil was perfect for viticulture and for making top quality red wine. He planted Cabernet Sauvignon and employed Emile Peynaud, the celebrated Bordeaux winemaker, as consultant.
The first vintage was 1978 and the wine was (and still is) a mere Vin de Pays as Cabernet Sauvignon is forbidden in Languedoc AOC wine. The 1978 eventually attracted the attention of the French and International press who acclaimed it as a Grand Cru of the Languedoc. Its reputation was made.
This success was important, not just for the Guibert family, but also for Languedoc wine as a whole. Mas de Daumas Gassac showed that the Languedoc was capable of making great wine and this inspired other producers to follow suit. Today there is no shortage of independent producers in the Languedoc who are making excellent quality wines which express their terroir.
Last week, I was lucky enough to taste 18 vintages of this legendary red wine. This was thanks to David Gilmour who was the first to import Mas de Daumas Gassac into the UK. Also tasting were David's wife Sheena, Paul and Jeanne Strang, authors of, respectively, 'Languedoc Roussillon - the wines and winemakers' and 'Goosefat and Garlic'. And Languedoc based chef Peter Shaw and his wife Sally. And my multi-talented husband Simon.
This was a fascinating tasting as it showed how well this wine can age - and also how approachable it can be in its youth. The 2006 was surprisingly accessible and elegant. Highlights of the tasting for me were the lusciously ripe 2005, the stylish 2001 and the quite delicious 1994 which is drinking beautifully now. The 2004 and 2000 were also good but not quite as beguiling. The 1998 was the most butch in the line -up and would be magnificent with game. Of the older vintages the 1983 was excellent and just right now. The 1980 was also surprisingly sprightly with soft, sweet fruit flavours. And as for that legendary first vintage, it was beginning to show signs of age but had attractive sweet berried fruit mid palate and elegant tannins. Initial vintages were 100% Cabernet Sauvignon but gradually other weird and wonderful grape varieties have been introduced so most recent releases are 80% Cabernet and 20% 'other'.
On the strength of this tasting, it would seem that there is some truth in the legend on the back label 'ce grand vin puissant, complexe, original, peut se boire en fruit de 3 à 5 ans, en maturité de 10 à 15 ans, en majesté de 15 à 25 ans'.
Thank you David for so generously sharing your wines with us.
If you would like to see full tasting notes, contact me. Or tell me how to attach a word document to a blog post!
Thursday, 4 June 2009
In my last post I started off by talking about some 107 year old Carignan vines but then got distracted and veered off into a history lesson. Where I meant to end up was talking about the wine made from said Carignan vines and the producer responsible for it, Luc Bettoni of Domaine Les Eminades in Cebezan.
Tuesday, 2 June 2009
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Friday, 24 April 2009
One of my favourite wines at the moment comes from Montpeyroux, one of the Languedoc's quality hotspots. The village of Montpeyroux has its share of top producers - Domaine Aupilhac, Alain Chabanon and Domaine Aigueliere are the best known. La Jasse Castel is a fairly recent arrival to Montpeyroux. Pascale Marcillaud and her husband Laurent made their first vintage in 1998 and have just 8 hectares of prime, low yielding vineyards on the slopes of Mount Baudile.
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Good red wines abound in the Languedoc but it is trickier to find a really good white. The Saint Aphrodise concours, held in Beziers every year, aims to address this as it is a wine competition for white wines only. I was part of a 4 strong MW team who was invited along to help judge nearly 200 white wines which came from all over the Languedoc.
Friday, 3 April 2009
Wednesday, 1 April 2009
Friday, 27 March 2009
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Carthagène (or Cartagène) is a languedoc speciality, a vin de liqueur or mistelle which is made by mixing grape spirit with grape juice and so the wine does not ferment. The alcohol comes purely from the grape spirit and because the juice never ferments it retains all the sugar from the grapes. Pineau de Charente is made in the same way and is the Cognac region's version of a vin de liqueur.
Carthagène was normally made by winemakers for their own use. A couple of old barrels or whatever container that was lying around would be filled with grape juice (whatever grapes they had - grenache, carignan, aramon etc) and spirit and then forgotten for a few months or even years. And then gradually consumed by the family. It is still made this way today with the difference that producers may bottle it for sale, either at the cellar door or via local restaurants. Very little is exported.
The best Carthagène I have tried recently is made by my neighbours, the Frances family of Domaine Camberaud. Made of 100% Grenache, it is a deep red with enticing aromas of cherries and kirsch. It has gorgeous sweet plum/cherry flavours and is slightly chocolatey and spicy. There is a slight spiritiness but this is well balanced by the generous fruit. I showed this to a group of Australians on board the Athos barge on the canal du mid and they loved it.
Locals drink Carthagène as an aperitif but it would also go well with blue cheese and rich chocolate puddings.
Monday, 16 March 2009
When we bought our house 2 years ago, we inherited a collection of about 100 dusty bottles in various shapes and sizes. Most are label-less and contain a liquid of an indeterminate mid brown colour, together with a fair quantity of muddy deposit. There are a few labels remaining which provide clues as to the contents.`1954 Maccabeu``1964 Carthagene`Èau de Vie`.
Over the last few days I've been opening a few bottles each day in an effort to free up some space. And, yes, not surprisingly the wines are pretty disgusting and completely past it. With a burnt, madeira like smell too which comes from the estufa conditions in our attic - 40°C in summer and 2°C in winter.
But it got me thinking about how well Languedoc wines age. Obviously not the ones in my attic but in the 1950s there were hardly any serious wines coming out of the Languedoc. It wasn't until the late 70s, early 80s that more producers, old and newly established, started bottling wines that had the stuffing to age. I've tasted some excellent 1998s recently which still taste youthful and have at least 5 years more life in them. And the 1982 Mas de Daumas Gassac is, by all accounts, still very sprightly. I'd be interested to hear of any good, old bottles that readers have come across.
Friday, 13 March 2009
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
The Chai Port Minervois, beside the canal du midi in Homps, is an excellent shop window for Minervois wines. Its manager Laurent de Roulhac, is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about local wines and each year he organises as series of tastings to select the best wines for the Chai.
The tastings are held at the Maison du Minervois in Siran and involve tasting various flights blind and rating them in terms of quality and value for money. I tasted a flight of upmarket Minervois reds, ranging in price from €6 - €11. It was a respectable line-up with no real mingers. My favourite was 2006 Chateau du Donjon, a beautifully balanced, elegant Minervois with fine tannins and good depth of black fruit with hints of tea and smoke. Well worth €9/bottle. I also enjoyed the Cuvée Vincent Minervois from Domaine Festiano in Tourouzelles. It was brimming with ripe blackerry and raspberry fruit and good value at €7.10. I liked the Minervois from Domaine Entretan, finding it concentrated and long with a lovely garrigue nose. Sadly, my co-tasters disagreed with me. The 1997 Chateau Maris had attractive depth of black fruits on the palate, framed by youthful but smooth tannins, and an impressively long finish. It lost points from me for an overly reductive nose.
Saturday, 7 March 2009
Thursday, 5 March 2009
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
When I visited in mid December, Roland was very preoccupied getting ready for bottling his 2008 whites. As I tasted the 2008 whites from tank he was anxiously pacing the floor to check that the bottling line would fit his small cellar. Nevertheless, he and Isabelle were very welcoming and one senses that they have a loyal clientele who appreciate, not only the quality and fair prices of their wines, but the passion and care of the people who make them.
2008 Corbières Blanc, Carte Noire (tank sample)Appealing, fresh, zesty nose. Similarly fresh, peachy fruit with a hint of peach kernel; Good balancing and acidity and medium length. 15/20
2008 their biggest vintage ever and they are very happy with the quality.
2008 Blanc Vieilles Vignes (tank sample). Similar (to previous wine) peach, nutty fruit on nose and palate but with more breadth and slight leesiness. Good acidity and long finish. Very promising. 16/20
2007 Corbières Vieilles Vignes
leesy nose, apricot kernel. Attractive nutty, yeasty palate. Medium depth, balanced. Slightly hot finish. 14/20
Corbières Tradition Rouge 2006 €5
Upfront aromas of cherry and tar. Explosively fruity palate – cherry – almost jam – hint of bitter chocolate, firmness to tannins, slightly rustic, but essentially a very fruity, appealing wine which represents excellent value. 14/20
Monday, 9 February 2009
Saturday, 7 February 2009
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Friday, 30 January 2009
This week over 300 producers of organic wine converged on Montpellier for the annual 'Millésime Bio' wine fair. This event was created in 1993 by a small group of organic wine producers in the Languedoc Roussillon. The original goal was to promote L-R wines to potential purchasers and although it is still geared towards international buyers, the event has expanded each year and now attracts exhibitors from 13 different countries.
Sunday, 25 January 2009
Friday, 23 January 2009
Friday, 16 January 2009
Thursday, 15 January 2009
There are 3 terroirs on the estate. On the other side of the valley, near the road towards Berlou, the terroir is schist. Right next to the winery there is more sandstone, with some flint whilst the other side of the domaine is limestone. There is attention to detail at all stages: all the grapes are handharvested, destemmed, lightly crushed and fermented in stainless steel tanks. Fermentation is controlled to about 25°C and instead of pumping over, they practice delestage which extracts maximum fruit and colour without overworking the grapes and extracting bitter tannins. Their impressive barrel cellar contains barrels only from the Vicard cooperage - if it works, why change it?- and their top wine, Les Terrasses Grillées, typically spends 15 months in oak, a third of it new.
The range of wines (all AOC St Chinian) chez Moulinier is succinct. My notes are equally so as it was so cold I could barely hold a pen!
A pale pink, fruity, quaffing rosé - exactly as rosés should be - provides cash flow. 50/50 Grenache/Syrah.
The Tradition red both in tank and bottle is abundant in berried fruit, a hint of spice and nicely managed tannins. Properly priced at €6.
Les Sigillaires 2005 . Sigillaires means 'plant fossil' and there are many examples of these, as well as dinosaur eggs and bronze age arrow heads, in the estate's tasting room.
Slight licquorice, almost medicinal nose. Attractive round fruit on palate. Good balance of fruit and oak, round tannins, good length.
Les Terrasses Grillées 2006. From schistous soils.
Smoky nose, oak. Very concentrated, pure peppery fruit. Grip to tannins. Lovely length. Very pure.
2003 Terrasses Grillé
Broad, leathery fruit, grippy tannins, good length. Quite butch but good balance. Perfect for drinking now.
Terrasses Grilleé 2000
n. Olive, green pepper, licquorice
Very good concentration of leathery, gamy fruit. Smoke, pepper. Needs time to evolve. Fine grained tannins. Good length. Classy stuff.
There is clearly much attention to detail here and an unwillingness to compromise on wine quality. And the Mouliniers are not afraid to experiment with different projects, such as their fruity `Homo Erectus`red and the wine merchant in St Chinian. Stéphane was reluctant to talk about these and I sensed that he felt they were distractions from the real job. Which is making bloody good wine.