amarchinthevines

Learning about wine, vines and vignerons whilst living in the Languedoc


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Exploring the 7Cs – Day 7

Carignan

Since moving down to Margon it has been evident to me that many of my favourite bottles have been based around Carignan. A variety which received so much scorn for many years is now fighting back. The excellent wine writer Michel Smith has been in the vanguard by writing a series of articles called Carignan Story on the les5duvin blog, championing the variety and the people who produce great bottles of it. Moreover he is producing some himself in the Roussillon. (The blog is a must follow incidentally).

I shall start with Mas Coutelou this time as Flambadou is the star of the 2013 vintage at the domaine and is a wine which ages brilliantly as a memorable 2007 testified during a vendange lunchtime. If you opened the link to Michel’s Carignan Story you will have already seen his support for this wine too.

A magnum (even better!). From Amicalementvin website

Jeff himself rates Cyril Fahl’s Clos du Rouge Gorge as one of the outstanding Carignan wines and based on my tasting in November (see Day 5) I would not argue. Domaine d’Aupilhac in Montperoux is another which has championed Carignan, blended in some cuvées or on its own in Le Cargnan which is a lovely wine showing the leathery, dark fruit flavours of the grape.

I must mention the wine ‘Les vignes qu’on abat’ of Domaine La Marfée produced in Murviel lès Montpellier, a deep, dark joyful wine which needs a little patience in cellaring.

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Other lovely Carignan bottles tasted include Cébene‘s Belle Lurette and Treloar‘s Le Maudit, plus the cuvées Les Premiers Pas and Fontanilles from Les 2 Anes. Domaine Sainte Croix (see Corbieres, Day 3) produces a couple of Carignan – led wines Magneric and Le Carignan, both express the wild garrigue of the Corbieres hillsides, lovely wines. In the Minervois, Chateau Maris also produces lovely Carignans such as Anciens and (again) Le Carignan.

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Finally, I should mention a domaine close to me in Gabian, Cadablès run by Bernard Isarn is starting to produce some really good wines not least the Carignan led Champ de Pierres.

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These are all wines I would heartily recommend, but that’s not the end of the story.

Carignan Blanc is fairly unsual in the region but two of my favourite white wines come from this grape and both from Caux where we started. Mas Gabriel‘s Clos Des Papillons is dry, fruity and clean, with a rich texture that fills the mouth, simply delicious. Le Conte De Floris produces Lune Blanche which is just as good and I was happy to find some bottles in the wine bar in Pézenas recently. So Carignan, red and white, is a variety to investigate. Dare I mention that Jeff produces another very good example of Carignan Blanc? Well I did leave him out of my 7Cs so I think it’s only fair.

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So those are my 7Cs, villages, areas and grapes which are all a source of great wine pleasure. I could have added more with St Chinian as just one example. Proof that Languedoc Roussillon is a region of great variety, a region of great excitement as winemakers rediscover and redevelop the character of wine in this fabulous part of France. Any feedback is always welcome.


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Exploring the 7Cs – Day 6

Cinsault

Version Francaise

 Four or five years ago I drank a bottle of ‘L’Oeillade’ of Mas Des Chimeres, a domaine near Lac Salagou. Oeillade is a local name for Cinsault (possibly a forerunner of Cinsault) and the wine is a light, dangerously gluggable red which was an excellent wine for the summer when I drank it. That makes the wine sound simple but it has complexity too. Incidentally, I tasted the Chimeres range at Millésime Bio and enjoyed them a great deal. Look out for Domaine La Fontude in the same area which is also making lovely wines including Cinsault.

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Mas De Chimeres range including L’Oeillade

That Cinsault wine surprised me as I associated the grape with rosé wines and indeed that is how most winemakers use it in the region. However, since then I have come across more red Cinsault bottles which have excited me. Les Chemins De Traverse is produced by La Baronne in Corbieres (see Day 3) whilst L’Oiselet is a lovely wine made by Yannick Pelletier in the St Chinian area. Incidentally all of  Yannick’s wines are absolutely terrific. Truly a viticulteur to look out for and buy if possible, you would not regret it. Just today (March 30th) I also tasted a really good Cinsault from Julien Peyras called ‘Gourmandise’, part of another excellent range of wines, again look out for him.

All of these Cinsaults are deceptively easy to drink but have complexity too.

I must also add two Cinsaults produced by Mas Coutelou. 5SO is a light version ready for drinking and delicious it is too, including the newly bottled 2014 which I can confirm is excellent.

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Then there is Copains a Cinsault which is again apparently easy to drink but carries real weight and will be at its best in years to come, and if you think I might be being biased read this review from the excellent blog by David Farge (Abistodenas).

Cinsault is a variety enjoying a renaissance as winemakers realise its potential and vinify it to be something more than just a quaffing wine. There is room for both types of wine so give them a go.


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Exploring the 7Cs – Day 5

Cotes de Roussillon, Cotes Catalanes

The Roussillon is a region which is producing some elegant, complex and very enjoyable wines. It is a large area stretching from the edges of the Corbieres down to the Spanish border and including areas such as Calce, Latour De France, Maury, Banyuls and the foothills of the Pyrenees. A wide variety of wines match the rich variety of landscapes from coast to mountains. Fortified dessert wines such as Banyuls, crisp whites especially those based around Grenache Gris and rich, elegant reds. Established producers such as Gauby and Pithon have raised the bar and there are many new producers in the region picking up that challenge to make Roussillon one of the great wine regions of the world.

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Vineyards with the Pyrenees as background

In November I attended a very good Portes Ouvertes event at Latour De France, a showcase of natural wines (report here) and was really taken by the wines of Cyril Fahl at Domaine Rouge Gorge. His wines are to be found in many top restaurants and deserve their excellent reputation. Wines which reflect the beauty and also the ruggedness of the area.

I also met Saskia van der Horst of Domaine Les Arabesques and was happy to taste her wines again at Biotop at Millésime Bio. Saskia is a relatively new winemaker running a small domaine but is already producing lovely, well balanced wines. I look forward to following her career. Look out for her at RAW in London in May.

Saskia van der Horst produit une excellents gamme de Roussillon. Viticultrice a suivre

Saskia van der Horst talking to me

Domaine Treloar is in Trouillas and run by Jonathan and Rachel Hesford. I have mentioned them many times and I love their wines, the white Terre Promise is one of my favourite white wines of any region and the reds are just as good, cuvées such as Tahi and Le Maudit, (not forgetting a beautifully balanced Muscat de Rivesaltes).

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I look forward to returning to Roussillon soon as it is a hugely exciting area of established and upcoming producers who are transforming the region’s wines.

(Update: already met a number of new Roussillon producers today March 29th in Arles who confirm my opinion that this is a region producing exciting wines,more to follow soon)


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Exploring the 7Cs – Day 4

Excellent map of Languedoc Roussillon wine areas by Quentin Sadler whose blog can be found at https://quentinsadler.wordpress.com/

Cabrerolles, Caussiniojouls

Version francaise

OK this is a bit of a cheat but I wanted to fit Faugeres into this post and these are two of the central villages to the AOP. As it happens the domaines I have really enjoyed recently are based in the communes of the two Cs. There is little doubt that Faugeres is on the march, a caviste I spoke to a few weeks ago was telling me he can charge at least an extra euro or two for Faugeres compared to wines of similar quality from other AOPs.

I should start with the wines of Didier Barral (based in Lentheric a hamlet in the commune of Cabrerolles) whose domaines is called Leon Barral, I believe named in honour of Didier’s grandfather. It was Jeff Coutelou who told me that Didier is “a star” and I finally tasted a couple of the wines and the judgement is accurate. These are great wines by any standards, produced in a natural way on a domaine where Didier grows other crops too and has cows pastured on the vineyards over the winter period. They are relatively expensive but not compared to wines of lesser quality from regions such as Bordeaux or Burgundy.

Domaine de Cébène  has been a favourite for many years, again after buying some from Leon Stolarski. Brigitte Chevalier was based in Caussiniojouls when I first visited her domaine though now has a new cellar in Faugeres. These are complex wines which age beautifully but are lovely to drink young too if you can’t wait. Brigitte has quickly earned herself a lot of top awards together with wide recognition. I remember a lovely afternoon touring her vineyards 4 years ago and she was planning how to improve the quality of the vineyards, a plan which is certainly bearing fruit. A book about the working of the domaine is being written by Janice Macdonald, I am sure it will be well worth reading, as you drink a Cébène wine, eg my personal favourite Les Bancels.

Brigitte m'explique son oeuvre

Brigitte talking to me in January

The other domaine which has captured my attention is Clos Fantine also based in Lentheric. This family run domaine works organically and produces delicious natural wines, fruity, long and complex. These are wines I shall be buying increasingly and I hope to be visiting the domaine next month.

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Faugeres is an exciting area with its soils of schist and granite as well as basalt and limestone. So many good wines from the AOP are available but these three are my selections from the ‘C’ villages. Look out elsewhere for the likes of Alquier, Mas Sibert (read more), Trinités and Ollier Taillefer.


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Exploring the 7Cs – Day 3

Corbières

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Cabrières, Corbières and there is also Cabrerolles in the Languedoc, easy to get confused. The Corbières is a hilly, wild area to the west of Narbonne and has long been known for its cheap, big, fruity simple wines. However, I have tasted a number of very good domaine based wines in recent months and visited some too. There seems to be a new wave of producers who are raising quality in the region.

Chief amongst these is Maxime Magnon, a winemaker whose reputation is very high with other winemakers in the region and beyond. Based on just one wine tasted personally I could see why there is a buzz around his name and I hope to taste more soon. Another exciting domaine I got to know through a bottle in the well known O Tonneau restaurant in the seaside village of Peyriac de Mer. Domaine Des 2 Anes is based in that village and I was able to taste ore of their range at Millésime Bio, very exciting too. Natural in style and really well made wines, rich with power and elegance.

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Wines of Les 2 Anes, one of my favourite domaines

Le Grand Guilhem, La Baronne and Sainte Croix (gold medal winners at Millésime Bio) are all domaines whose wines excited me at Millésime Bio (see notes here and here) and are worth seeking out.

Another domaine introduced to me by Dominic George at Le Wine Shop in Pezenas is Aonghusa, I have tried 3 of the wines and they are all full, rich and have a hint of spice and of the wild garrigue in the area’s hills. Owned and run by an Irishman, Pat Neville, Aonghusa has quickly become my house wine. I really like the wines so thank you Dominic!

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Aonghusa Laval 2012, delicious

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Aonghusa’s Bentouly 2012

 

My final recommendation would be Pech Latt which I visited last October, a remote domaine near Ribaute producing lovely wines including some interesting sweet wines from Grenache. Long standing organic producers Pech Latt is areliable source of good wine.Picture

There are also some good white wines from Les Cascades though I found the reds a little oaky for my taste, other than the entry level which is good. This can be a region difficult to master but there appears to be a group of producers who are succeeding in doing so and improving the profile of the Corbières. For me this is the most improved region in the Languedoc. The sleeping giant is awakening.

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Peyriac de Mer

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Lagrasse, in the heart of the Corbieres


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Exploring the 7Cs – Day 2

Cabrières

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Excellent map of Languedoc Roussillon wine areas by Quentin Sadler whose blog can be found at https://quentinsadler.wordpress.com/

Just over the hill from Caux is the AOP Languedoc Cabrières vineyard and village, protected by the stunning Pic de Vissou. This is a village which until recently was best known for its Cave Cooperative, its rosé wine and seemed to be living on past success. However, new blood has revitalised the village’s wines.

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Véronique Atout (on the right) explains the wines of Mas Coris at a tasting in November.

Mas Coris, run by Véronique and Jean Attard, use organic methods and modern technology to produce a series of good wines in their small cellar in the heart of the village. A new Clairette has come on stream this year. This was a grape for which the village used to be renowned and I know that the Atouts went to great lengths to ensure that theirs has the AOP label. The story of the domaine is really interesting and it is well worth reading about it on their website, as well as buying the wine!

Mas Coris wines 2015

Another domaine making waves from Cabrières is Clos Romain, which also produces olive oil and rents out ecogites. Their vineyards are run along organic lines and Romain Cabanes is experimenting with vinification in amphorae. I will be visiting the domaine in April and will report back, but the domaine has received some very good reports including in La Revue des Vins De France.

So, if you want to discover a wine village which is on the up and off the beaten track,head to Cabrières. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Vachement, c'est Gobelet

Pastoral vineyard scene in Cabrieres

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Pic De Vissou in the distance seen from Margon


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Exploring the 7Cs (Day 1)

Excellent map of Languedoc Roussillon wine areas by Quentin Sadler whose blog can be found at https://quentinsadler.wordpress.com/

Version francaise

After 6 months in the Languedoc Roussillon I have been thinking through my experiences and impressions about the wines of the region. I shall be publishing them one at a time over the next seven days. I have had a few conversations about wines recently centred around some villages, areas and grape varieties and I noticed they had one thing in common, all 7 began with the letter C. I shall be posting one each day over the next week.

Caux

This village in the fairly new AOP of Coteaux du Languedoc – Pézenas seems to be the centre of some very good winemaking. I have mentioned Mas Gabriel, owned and run by Peter and Deborah Core, several times in the past as it has long been one of my favourite domaines in the region.

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A recent Gold medal at Millésime Bio for Clos des Lievres 2012 was richly deserved and a sign of the improvement they are making to both their vineyards and wines.

Their property was once part of Domaine La Garance, whose wines also have an excellent reputation, though I have thus far only drunk the white vin de table which was delicious in a natural style. I know that the Cores and Leon Stolarski rate them highly, and I trust their judgements.

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The wines of the Conte De Floris were amongst the highlights of Millésime Bio (see my notes) seemingly light in body but powerful and long lasting, delicious wines. I was delighted to find some of the domaine’s wines in Le Vintage, a wine bar in Pézenas to stock up.

I have also enjoyed a couple of wines from Lacroix Vanel based in the village. The estate whose wines I really want to get to know are those of Fontedicto a natural wine domaine whose owner uses horses to plough. I am told they are very good wines. So this small village is home to a number of very good domaines, Caux is a centre of excellence.

Caux