Thursday, 30 September 2010

The fountain of youth

A look in the mirror reminds me that, sadly, I haven't yet managed to find the fountain of youth. Yet this offering from Prieuré du Font Juvenal is just the thing to drown sorrows at the appearance of the latest grey hair or wrinkle.

Just 10km north of Carcassonne, the domaine is tucked away in a beautiful little valley off the road towards Mazamet, right in the middle of the Cabardès region. All the wines are impressive, stylishly made under the ownership of Georges Casadesus.

The 2005 Fontaine de Jouvence is a blend of Cabernet France, Syrah, Merlot, Grenache and Cot. Unoaked. Very deep ruby colour with gentle cassis and plum aromas. Slight spice, clove perhaps. Medium bodied with lovely pure black fruit. The tannins have grip but are well rounded. Good length - a hint of cherry on the finish. Drink now - 2012. Good concentration and elegance and well worth the 7 - 8 euro price-tag that I believe it to be. Can't find the exact price on their website.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Languedoc Roussillon wines - a good investment?

I was chatting to Hamish of Bella wines today about various things and inevitably the conversation turned to the crazy prices of top Bordeaux 2009.

It reminded me of Andrew Jefford's article in the Financial Times in June this year when he talked about the possibility of the Languedoc-Roussillon's top wines being one day considered a good investment. To quote him, 'The investment potential is not so much risible as premature. It seems plausible to me that the best sites in the Languedoc might, in a few decades hence, produce red wines to challenge the best from Cote Rotie, Cornas and Chateauneuf'. He doesn't make a comparison with Bordeaux, presumably because he sees the best wines as being made from Syrah, Grenache et al, not Cabernet and Merlot.

It seems entirely plausible to me too. In fact, in my view, top wines such as Mas Jullien, Gauby, La Peira are as good as top Rhone. But they are not viewed as a good investment in monetary terms.

And do I want them to be? Well if they were it would be evidence that the L-R wines were finally getting the worldwide recognition they deserve. That's good. But it would mean that those of us who actually enjoy drinking the stuff wouldn't be able to afford it any more. We love L-R wines precisely because they are such great value for money, even at the top end.

I've just come across the press page from la Peira which considers this very subject. Most eloquently. Have a look.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Fire fighting at Domaine de la Trimballe

Spare a thought for Sabine and Olivier Durand of Domaine de la Triballe who are currently harvesting grapes amidst the devastation of burnt woodland and singed vines.

On 31 August this year a massive fire destroyed 3000 hectares of garrigue, pine forest and vineyards in the north east of the Herault. Unfortunately for the Durands, their estate was in its path and 40 hectares of their forest went up in smoke and the edges of their vineyards were badly singed.

The telephone lines were restored this week, hence the email and pictures. And a wry comment that the harvest does at least take their minds off the devastation. One wonders if the 2010 wines will have an intriguing hint of smoke, a phenomenon found in wines from other fire-damaged vineyards (eg South Africa).

The Durands are bullish about the quality of the grapes. They farm organically so they will no doubt be at Millisime Bio in Montpellier next year when we will be able to taste the 2010s for ourselves.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Chateau Canet La Chapelle 2009

Chateau Canet is in the Carcassonne end of the Minervois, near the pretty little village of Rustiques. It is owned by a Dutch/New Zealand couple, Floris and Victoria Lemstra-Bake who previously spent 17 years in Burgundy working in the wine and tourism industry respectively. They have put their experiences there to good use at Canet where they have a collection of well appointed holiday cottages as well as the wine estate.

They have 45 hectares of vines and their newest release comes from their oldest plot of Grenache vines which lies on the site of the old 11th Century chapel - hence the name La Chapelle. It is the 2009 vintage so very young. It is deliberately not oak aged and bottled early to capture the grape's fruitiness. Hand harvesting and daily foot-treading says the back label (well the French bit anyway. Interestingly the French and English blurb on the back label are completely different!). Coupled with an extremely heavy bottle, this is clearly aiming to be a top notch product.

And, yes, it is pretty smart. Floris recommended decanting this. I didn't but I poured a generous tasting glass and kept going back to it over the afternoon which amounts to the same thing. The aromas took several hours to unfurl and are now very enticing with black cherry and raspberry notes. There is lots of generous, fleshy fruit on the palate. Again raspberry, hint of violet. Plum skin. Just a touch of a leathery character which will no doubt develop in bottle. There's a fair bit of tannin here but it's well balanced as there is so much fruit. This is a big wine - the label says 14.5% but I reckon it's closer to 15%.

Open a bottle of this on a cold winters evening when the fire is blazing. Drink with something slightly gamy such as pheasant or woodcock. Mushrooms will work too. Make sure you're not driving. And decant it. At least 2 hours in advance.

Friday, 24 September 2010

New tiers for Languedoc wine - good news?

The announcement of new wine legislation rarely fills me with joy as it is so often producer led with little or no thought as to the consumer. Result = more confusing labels which the average wine drinker has no hope of understanding.

So are the latest proposals for Languedoc AOCs any different?

First of all, some detail. CIVL, the organisation that represents Languedoc's AOC wines, is creating two new AOC tiers: Grands vins du Languedoc and Grands crus du Languedoc.

The first category, Grands vins du Languedoc, is at the broader AOC level. So far, the AOCs that qualify for this category are Minervois, St Chinian, Corbières, Limoux fizz, Faugères, Cabardès, Malpère and some parts of the sprawling Coteaux du Languedoc AOC.

The Grands crus du Languedoc includes sub-regions within some of those AOCs. The qualifying regions are Minervois La Livinière, Corbières Boutenac, St Chinian Roquebrun, Terrasses de Larzac, Gres de Montpellier, Pic St Loup, La Clape, Pezenas

Now while I'm not exactly jumping with excitement at all this, on the face of it, it seems a positive move. The promotion of quality Languedoc wines is a good thing. While the first category seems very general (and potentially meaningless), the regions in the Grands Crus du Languedoc AOC are all hotspots where there are a high concentration of producers making excellent and exciting wine. Of course some excellent producers will fall outside these areas, but it is nigh on impossible to come up with a simple system that includes everyone.

It's success will depend on how it is implemented and communicated to the consumer. Let's wait and see.