My favourite wine of the year and, therefore, a definite for this selection was the Casa Pardet Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Costers Del Segre. This is how I described the tasting at La Remise in Arles in March. “The breathtaking wines were Cabernet Sauvignons, not usually my favourite cépage. These wines, from Tarragona, were stunning, amongst the best wines I have tasted in my 30 years of wine drinking. I was served this wine from 2014, 13, 11 and 2003. Every one was a stunner, rich, deep and complex. Marrying power and elegance, fruit and some oak the flavours simply rolled around the mouth and left me reeling. The 2003 was still youthful, hugely aromatic with dark, brooding fruits and yet a light touch. Beautiful. Just joyful wines.”
The 2011 was my favourite though all four would qualify for the case. A rare moment when drinking a great wine makes nothing else matter for that moment, just the sheer delight of what was in my glass. Superb. I just hope I can find some to buy in 2016!
Other than Mas Coutelou wines Clos Fantine Tradition, Faugères 2013 has consistently given me the great pleasure throughout 2015. I started the year with the 2012, also great wine, but, as the 2013 was released, it was this vintage which appeared again and again on my table. Corine, Olivier and Carole took over their father’s domaine in La Liquière, part of the Faugères appellation, and have gradually built it up and transformed the vineyards and winemaking. This is a natural wine of clear freshness, fruit, complexity and depth. Carignan and Grenache, those quintessential Mediterranean varieties, dominate and deliver a wine which I would choose as quintessential Languedoc, Faugères and natural wine. My visits to the domaine were some of the highlights of 2015 for me, I greatly admire the family, and this wine is such a reflection of their passion and their beautiful, gobelet vineyards.
Faugères was the wine region which became my favourite of the Languedoc during 2015. I was fortunate to taste most of the domaines’ wines across various tastings and events and to make friends of many excellent winemakers from there. I would recommend wines from Haut Lignières, Ch. La Liquière, Barral, Causse Noir, Mas D’Alezon, Mas Sibert, Capitelles and, the domaine which first attracted me to the Languedoc, Ollier Taillefer.
One Domaine though which I rank very highly is Cébène. Brigitte Chevalier had experience of winemaking, especially in her native Bordeaux but came to Faugères because of its schist soils and the freedom to make wines as she wanted. I have been fortunate to become a friend but that is not why I have chosen Domaine De Cébène, Felgaria 2013 for my case. This was one of those wines which, when I first tasted it, made me think ‘this is good’ but which I didn’t rank as outstanding. Then I tasted it again in July at the village wine fair and it had developed into something exceptional, the extra few months had brought it together. As I tasted it was another wine which made me stop analysing, stop thinking about it and just revel in the moment. Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache come together in a stunning wine.
The Languedoc Roussillon region naturally dominated my tasting this year. I did taste great reds from Italy (Le Carline), Gaillac (De Brin and Plageoles), the Ardèche (Bock and Les Deux Terres), Burgundy (Magnien and Ardhuy), Rhone (Ferme St. Martin, Vieux Télégraphe), Spain (Descendentes Palacios) plus many others. However, there were so many great Languedocs from La Marfée, Maris, La Baronne, 2 Ànes, Mas Des Chimères, Pelletier, Navarre etc etc. It was difficult to select just a few for this case and then I opened a bottle on December from the back of my collection and it leaped into this case.
In fact it is from Roussillon and from another wine first supplied by Leon Stolarski. This led me to Domaine Treloar when I started to travel in the region. Founded by Jonathan Hesford and Rachel Treloar, they have established themselves in the region and won plaudits and respect for their work and wines. Their first wines were produced in 2006 and it was a wine from that vintage which I enjoyed so much. Domaine Treloar, Motus 2006 is 80% Mourvèdre with 10% each of Grenache and Syrah. This was always a favourite of mine but the extra years in bottle have added even more complexity to the dark fruits and classic Mourvèdre notes of leather and spice. With the work they have put into their vineyards and further winemaking experience Treloar wines will continue to improve but this debut wine has really hit its stride and deserves its place in the case.
Wine 5 is more controversial and I’d never have thought I would choose it at the start of this year. In 2014 I had a great holiday on the beautiful island of Sicily and had the good fortune to attend the Contrade Etna, the local wine fair. Amongst very many good wines I tasted those of Frank Cornelissen, the natural producer of all natural producers, making wines without sulphur on the most active volcano in the world. His wines divide critics and are used to berate natural wines by many. And at the Contrade I hated them, they were unbelievably wild, strange and seemed to be made of components fighting each other. So when I tasted the wines again in Arles I had low expectations. I still did not like some of the wines but one amazed me, Frank Cornelissen, Magma 10 (2012). All sorts of aromas from fruit to caramel, flavours of strawberry, plums and spice which opened gradually and lasted a long, long time. Would I want to drink it regularly? Probably not, it is a wine which I admire and remember as a landmark in my tasting history, it was so explosive (appropriately for Etna) and memorable but not easy drinking. Plus enormously expensive and rare. I had to include it here because it was a wine which challenged expectations and made such a big impact.
Incidentally it also speaks volumes about Casa Pardet that I tasted their Cabernet after tasting Magma and was even more mesmerised by their wine than the Cornelissen
Other ‘challenging’ wines I really enjoyed included Terre Inconnue, Léonie 2005 and a fascinating wine from Georgia, cradle of winemaking, from the Alaverdi Monastery, Rkatsiteli 1011.
My final choice though goes to the Rhone. Back in June we were bottling at Mas Coutelou when Carole brought along a bottle which was instantly something special, Domaine De Coulet, Brise Cailloux, Cornas 2012. Mathieu Barret’s wine is obviously pure Syrah being a Cornas, and the word pure is very apt. It is clean, fresh and fruity with a razor sharp purity of flavour, aroma and acidity. I have always struggled a little with Cornas because it is so often dense and tannic but this is already drinking brilliantly and yet has the freshness which indicates a wine that will age and become even better. I am in the fortunate position of being able to taste so many great wines but this Cornas stood out immediately as something special. Thanks to Carole for sharing it.
So there we go an almost impossible decision to refine my list to just six wines. Any feedback and choices of your own would be very welcome.
December 15, 2015 at 7:08 pm
Alan, a lovely selection. I’ve had a few Cébène wines and I’d always recommend them. Magma is a truly great wine, though so many of Frank’s wines have been spoiled by what I’m convinced is poor UK storage.
I don’t really know where to start with my wines of the year.
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December 15, 2015 at 8:00 pm
I just thought of what were the show stopping moments and Pardet / Cébene stood out. The Cornelissen too because of its confounding of expectations. The Treloar was a late delight, Fantine was the go to wine all year. I went through my various sets of notes and the Cornas came back to me like a bolt from the blue and how much that clear fruit was my thing. So it was mainly heart rather than head, the wines that moved me.
The Cornelissen wines at the Contrade were truly shocking, I was horrified by them. So the change was a complete shock.
December 16, 2015 at 5:18 am
I’m trusting your judgement on the Casa Pardet Cabaret Sauvignon, Alan – I’ve just ordered a couple of bottles of the 2012 as part of an order with a merchant in Spain(!)
Glad to see two of my growers feature in your list of best reds, plus honourable mentions for two others. 🙂
As for Cornelissen, I tasted a couple of the Magma reds (2006 and 2008). The former was brilliantly quirky and delicious, whilst the latter (plus, it has to be said, most of his other wines) was pretty much undrinkable. See here………..
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December 16, 2015 at 10:05 am
Leon, The Cabaret is a different wine to the Cabernet. I bought a couple in Barcelona. Leave them for the time being. I opened one and it was really wild, very much in need of time. I haven’t found the Cabernet anywhere hence my final comment. The only ones I have seen were at the tasting and bottles swapped with Jeff and Joe Jefferies. If they are at La Remise again I shall be all over it. Cabaret was as wild as the name suggests.
I’ve included your name because you played a huge role in developing my love of the region and its wines. Your selections have led me to the door of great winemakers such as Jonathan, Brigitte, Fabien and I am happy to now call them friends. Your nose for good wine is justified time and time again, hence I always share your name when people ask where they can get top Languedoc Roussillon and other wines. La Marfée, Combe Blanche etc etc. Chapeau.
December 16, 2015 at 12:03 pm
That’s naughty of them, to have a “Cabaret” and a “Cabernet”! Never mind, it still sounds very interesting. Plus, it gave me an opportunity to order some keenly-priced wines from Lopez de Heredia and Eric Texier. Now all I have to do it tell the wife I’ve been spending again! 😉
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December 16, 2015 at 10:19 am
Interesting on the notes, I remember reading them at the time. The contrast between the tastings was so enormous, unrecognisable from each other. I still didn’t like the red Contado. But I really did like everything else and the Magma was something else. Would I buy? No, the variability would put me off though I note in that Tim Atkin link that Cornelissen is clearly recognizing the issues. I admire his pioneering spirit and that Magma will stay with me.
Incidentally, good to see your notes on COS, I really liked everything of theirs and the frappato stole my heart as I said in the everyday case. I must seek some out.
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