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


10 things I think I think

As a fan of the writing of NFL journalist Peter King I have ‘borrowed’ the idea for this post from his FMIA articles.

1. An update from Jeff. Mildew hit badly in late May early June and Jeff sent countless hours treating the vines with his organic prophylactics and treatments. As was the case in 2018 it was the Carignan of Rec D’Oulette (Flambadou) and the Grenache of Ste. Suzanne which was most affected. This suggests the spores are well embedded in the soils there perhaps and Jeff must take extra care when working in these vineyards. Fortunately he reported to me last week that he seems to have mastered the outbreak and rescued the crop. Good news.

Photo from Jeff showing mildew on a leaf

2. I have read a few books about wine recently, here’s a couple of recommendations. ‘Vignette’ by Jane Lopes is one of the more interesting books. It made me feel uncomfortable at times as it is very honest and open about her own personal life but this was combined with recommendations, pictures and information about wines which were presented in a fascinating way. Max Allen’s ‘The Future Makers’ is not new at all but I found it a very useful guide to how Australian wines are shifting in light of climate change and the organic/biodynamic culture.

3. I am conflicted about the role of sommeliers, their influence seems to be ever growing in the wine world. I know some and they are passionate about their work. I recall one or two who improved restaurant experiences for me, a New Zealander at The Ledbury for example, but I have met some poor ones too. Sommeliers such as Pascaline Lepeltier are extremely knowledgeable and their writings teach me a lot. However, I have read some amazingly entitled social media posts from certain sommeliers (and writers to be fair) recently, for example demanding samples be sent in half bottles at extra cost to the producer.

4. Lots of wines tasted during this period, I have assembled a montage of photos of some but it is certainly not exhaustive. Producers such as Testalonga, Valle Unite in Barbaresco and Jeff have been regular sources of good wines. The Muster wines are always a pleasure.

I am very happy to report that English wine goes from strength to strength with Westwell and Davenport both reliable and exciting.

5. As we emerge from lockdown I hope that customers continue to support the local independent merchants who have gone out of their way to provide a service during these extraordinary months. Caves De Pyrene, Buonvino, Vintage Roots are three whose services I shall continue to use. Please give them your custom. One more I need to mention is Leon Stolarski. Leon is a friend (full disclosure) and it is no coincidence that he has Jeff’s wines in the UK. Leon has a very good range of wines and his service is second to none. New in are the Coutelou 2018s Couleurs Réunies, La Vigne Haute and L’Oublié. All recommended of course.

The two on the right came from Leon

6. Sherry continues to provide me with great drinking pleasure and value for money. The Gonzalez Byass Una Palma was a lovely rich fino with more depth than many other of that type. I tasted the full range of Palmas wines (special barrels) a few years ago and loved them but they are expensive and hard to get hold of. I especially enjoyed the Cesar Florido Fino En Rama. En rama sherries are very lightly filtered, if at all, and in my view, this leaves more flavour in the wine. It was delicious.

7. Hybrid grapes are being discussed more and more. The effects of climate change are bringing more examples of disease and heat stress and winemakers are exploring grape varieties which are bred and engineered to resist these problems. Many have proved to be pretty undrinkable with odd flavours, I have tasted a few myself. However, there are signs of promise with other hybrids. One to watch. These articles might offer you more insight than I can provide at present, by Simon Woolf and Shelby Vittek.

8. Good to see Jancis Robinson leading the way in addressing the Black Lives Matter issue. At Jeff’s we are used to seeing people from all backgrounds, races and religions but that appears to be unusual. Robinson wrote an article for The Financial Times highlighting the under representation of black people working in the wine industry. I was shocked and saddened to read some of the comments from readers. There is a long way to go.

9. A website to recommend. Little Wine is the work of Christina Rasmussen and Daniela Pillhofer. Packed with articles, interviews and sales of natural wines in particular it is beautifully presented and well worth the £24 annual fee. I am finding a lot of fascinating information there including one article to which I shall return soon. There is free content too, so have a look.

10. On a personal note. Thank you for the various emails asking whether I am ok due to the length of time since the last article. It is appreciated that you show concern. And what joy with the 19th league win for Liverpool. I was fortunate to witness a number of league wins in person but after 30 years of poor teams and near misses it finally happened. I ought to have opened a German Riesling to honour Jurgen Klopp who has transformed the club but what else would I choose? La Vigne Haute 2018.


The wider world of wine


                                Splendid setting

Being in the UK for the last two weeks and for the next few weeks I thought it was time to write regions other than the Languedoc Roussillon, though I shall be returning to my first wine love soon. Incidentally apologies to my friend David Crossley whose excellent blog‘s name I have pilfered for this post.

On Saturday I attended the Wine Gang Fair in the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh and it was an opportunity to taste wines from around the world including a first for me with a wine from Turkey. I have long been a member of the winepages forum and its founder Tom Cannavan is one of the Wine Gang along with other respected wine writers.

The tasting combined a walk around tasting, with stands from various merchants, supermarkets and specialist importers, but also some specialist masterclasses. In previous years I had tasted some of the most memorable wines of my life including some wonderful Charles Heidsieck champagnes and a range of Gonzalez Byass Palmas sherries.

In the walk around tasting I particularly appreciated the sherries (again) and a few port wines too. There were some good table wines too and these were my highlights.

Torresilo, Cillar de Silos, 2011, Ribera Del Duero, Spain – a big red, lots of structure and power but balanced with lovely red fruit. Expensive though (£37).

Kydonista, Theodorakakos, 2014, Lakonia, Greece – lovely round, harmonious white, fruity and clean, named after quince apparently though I didn’t detect any in flavour (£12.50)

Santorini, Gavalas, 2014, Santorini, Greece – dry, clean, yellow fruits, long (£13)

Most Wanted Albarino, 2014, Rias Baxas, Spain – I like Albarino wines from Galicia and this added some distinct peachy flavour to the clean, nutty dry nature of the grape. A good buy at £8 from the Co-op supermarket.

Carinena 3c, 2014, Grandes Vinos y Vinedos, Spain – Lovely red fruits and freshness, easy drinking but plenty of long lasting flavour from The Wine Society at £5.25! I noticed this was chosen in the Telegraph as an essential Christmas wine, so I am not alone in liking it.

Berry Bros & Rudd Grand Cru Champagne, Mailly, France – Lovely, real depth with toasty aromas and yeasty flavours, very Pinot character. Real complexity (£27)

Wine Society’s Champagne Brut, Gratien, France – well balanced, clean and dry with plenty of toasty, bready flavour, nice but not as good as the BB&R wine. (£28)


Talking to the representative from The Wine Society

A word of praise for Aldi, a supermarket whose wines were interesting and well priced. I enjoyed the Clare Valley Riesling, Sancerre, both 2014, and Chateauneuf Du Pape from La Père Papite 2013. In particular the own label Maynards 40 year old Tawny Port was well balanced, rich but dry, a little oak but lovely. £30 but for a 40 year old wine of such complexity that is a good price.

Sadly, the Languedoc was only represented by two wines both of which were awful and the Roussillon had no wines on show. It remains a mystery to me how my region is so poorly represented so often in the UK.

Good port came from Berry Bros & Rudd’s 20 year old Tawny, Quinta da Noval which was fresh, dry but carried dark fruits and richness, very long flavours and a treat. (£27). Equally good was Krohn’s Colheita 2001, part of a masterclass, which was dry, nutty balanced with a little fruitiness. This was aged in barrels for 13 years and not topped up as some evaporated leading to its oxidative style. Very nice . (£20)

Sherry was well represented though nothing of the standard of the beautiful Palmas wines tasted three years ago. Puerto Fino from Lustau was lovely, fresh and bone dry, perfect aperitif wine (£16.49). Vina AB Amontillado from Gonzalez Byass was even better but then I love Amontillado sherries. This starts life as Tio Pepe but then given extra age as the flor dies and becomes, darker coloured, nuttier and a lovely saltiness to refresh. (£13.50). Pedro’s Almacenista Selection Oloroso was very good, nutty and dry (£13.49). Even better in a similar style was Olorosa Solera 1842 VOS, Valdespino. Intense, nutty, rich and so long and refreshing, lovely wine though £39 sadly.

Best of all and probably my wine of the day was the Palo Cortado Solera, Cayetano del Pino. Nutty, round, fresh and full, this was really intense and beautifully balanced. Loved it and at £14.50 from The Wine Society this is well worth seeking out, you’d struggle to find a wine of this quality at such a price elsewhere.

I shall report on the Masterclasses in my next post, with notes on Nyetimber, Wynns and Cloudy Bay.