Week 52 – December 12th to 18th
Noëlla Morantin, LBL, Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Another lovely wine sourced at Christian Venier’s Portes Ouvertes. Noëlla Morantin makes this lovely Sauvignon Blanc in the Loire. It has a roundness as well as classic Sauvignon zestiness. Very long flavours and a clean, grassy, citrus nose.
As the year has worn on it becomes increasingly apparent how good the standard of wines was at that event, Cédric Bernard, Venier, Morantin, Saillard et al. The Loire is blessed with some great winemakers.
Week 51 – December 5th to 11th
Domaine Francois Baur, Riesling Grand Cru Brand 2005
A contrast to last week’s wine. This was a bottle I have had for many years tucked away. Riesling would be my favourite white grape, Alsace one of my favourite regions and the Brand vineyard is one of my favourite parcels. I was due to go to Alsace to collect this from the vineyard all those years ago when I damaged my knee and could not travel so it is far too long since I was in the region.
Golden coloured with a lovely fresh citrus aroma but also a note of sweetness. It was zingy, classic limey flavours with that sweet honey lick reflected too. It finished round and left you wanting more. Very tasty. I will admit the sulfites did register with me by the end but I still enjoyed it very much.
A contrast with last week’s Schueller Riesling because of its classic, traditional winemaking, safer. Would I choose this over the Schueller? That is the question. If you can have both enjoy them!
Week 50 – Nov 29th to December 4th
Gérard Schueller, Riesling, 2014
I have chosen one of Schueller’s wines before, the Pinot Blanc but no apologies for selcting another. This Riesling was fascinating, a treat for the intellect as well the taste buds. On first opening I was worried, it was very wild but it settled down after five minutes to reveal a wine which continued to evolve through a 12 hour period.
The initial aromas were classic Riesling (so much for the natural doubters who claim the wines have no sense of grape variety), all lime, petrol even. They developed further citrus notes through the day. Flavours were citrus, apple and a hint of sweetness too, more Riesling typicality. This would undoubtedly age well, there was good acidity and the flavours rounded through the day to give continued pleasure. I really like this domaine.
Week 49 – November 21st to 28th
Gonzalez Byass, Palo Cortado
I’m a big fan of sherry and it’s fair to say that it is one wine type which is easier to find and enjoy in the UK than in France. This Palo Cortado from Gonzalez Byass was very enjoyable.
Palo Cortado is the rarest type of sherry, starting life as Fino growing under a flor of yeast. However it then has the flor taken away either naturally or by adding fortified wine to kill the yeast. The wine therefore becomes oxidative and changes in structure and style from a fino towards an oloroso.
This bottle certainly had a lightness akin to a fino with nuttiness and that characteristic aged, nutty flavour of oloroso or amontillado. A second glass two days after opening was as fresh as the first glass. I should drink more of this style of wine.
Week 48 – November 14th to 20th
Bernard Fouquet, Vouvray Moelleux, 1989
When I started visiting France, including for wine, Vouvray was a frequent port of call. The Fouquet brothers (André and Bernard) were ones I bought from frequently. So, Vouvray has been a long time favourite and featured here previously some months ago.
This wine had been tucked away in my brother in law Iain’s cellar and it was good of him to open it. Still youthful and golden in colour, fresh yet honeyed on the nose. It was sweet but was well-balanced with a sherbet like acidity. No sign of its 27 years tiring the wine. A welcome reminder of things past.
sWeek 47 – November 7th to 13th
Gérard Schueller, Pinot Blanc 2014
OK, I chose this earlier in the year when Jeff Coutelou opened a bottle at lunch one day. I could not get over how deep and flavoursome this was for a Pinot Blanc. Well, another bottle opened and the same result many months later and in a different country. This is a different vintage but just as good.
Schueller isn’t one for publicising himself, there is no website and even the page about him on vinsnaturels.fr lacks detail. When I met him in Bédarieux this spring I snapped up some wines. There is a freshness and zestiness but also some lovely ripe fruit. It is a lovely wine.
Week 46 – October 31st to November 6th
Prieuré St. Jean De Bébian, Rouge, 2009
A walk on the conventional side this week with two wines I had tucked away in my wine store a few years ago. First of all a Crozes Hermitage which was ok but nothing better in truth. By contrast was the Languedoc wine.
The Prieuré is to be found between Caux and Pézenas, so an area I know well. It has a long history of winemaking and I first went there a number of years ago. I bought a half case of the 2009 red in the UK and opened a bottle two years ago. That was very tough and tannic, not much charm on show. However, this bottle was very different. The tannins are still there but softened and much more integrated, the wine will certainly keep for many more years to come, good news for my remaining bottles.
Classic Languedoc red from Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre it offered lovely aromas of red fruits and spice. Very rich flavours of red fruits (again) with darker plummy flavours too and lots of spicy notes. Very good.
The wine was made by someone I know (interest declared) Karen Turner who is also part of Turner Pageot in Gabian, a firm favourite of mine. She has revamped the winery of Bébian and brought back prestige to a domaine which had rather fallen under the radar. Little wonder that Karen won the award of Best Woman Winemaker earlier this year.
I look forward to my other bottles.
Week 45 – October 24th to 30th
La Ferme Des Sept Lunes, Glou, 2015
La Ferme Des Sept Lunes is one of my favourite wine domaines. I have met the winemakers a number of times now at various salons and always come away enthused by their wines and their own passion for their vineyards and winemaking. The domaine is to be found in the Saint Joseph region of the northern Rhone, one of the most dynamic wine regions of France. Their Syrah wines are excellent, a benchmark of quality Rhone wine.
This wine, however, is not Syrah but Gamay. Known more commonly as the grape of Beaujolais to the north, Gamay is often light, fruity and easy to drink. There are, of course, more serious examples from great producers such as Foillard, Métras and Lapalu. This too has elements of more serious wine, there is a delicious, steely core to it but the wine is juicy and dangerously drinkable. Indeed, its name is a French term for drinkable, very apt.
Week 44 – October 17th to 23rd
Domaine Grégory White, White Is Blanc 2015
A fun evening at Cave St Martin in Roquebrun to celebrate the harvest of Raymond’s kiwis was an opportunity for local winemakers to bring bottles to share. There were many good wines, not least Jeff’s, but my star of the night was this wine.
Grégory White is based in Aspiran, centre of many good winemakers. A Grenache Blanc of real character, plenty of white fruits but a lovely dry lick of acidity to finish and balance the wine. Really very good. I have had the good fortune to meet Grégory many times and taste his wines from the last few vintages and I have no doubt that his wines are getting better each year and this is the best bottle I have tasted. Definitely a domaine to follow.
Week 43 – October 10th to 16th
Domaine Treloar, Le Secret, 2012
Jonathan Hesford and Rachel Treloar make great wines in the Roussillon, I have written about them several times on here. Le Secret is Syrah based (85%) with Grenache making up the balance. It is oak aged (20% new barrel) which certainly adds to the heft of the wine but is never obvious. Very low yields certainly give it concentration too.
It is utterly delicious. The aromas are all dark fruits, blackberry and black cherry, the aromas are matched in the flavours too. There is a smoky character from the oak and the wine fills the mouth with those delicious scents and flavours. It is so full yet never heavy, never cloying or tiring. It is a wine which you want to drink more of, dangerous with 14.4% abv.
As with all Treloar wines there are impeccable tasting notes and technical details available on their class leading website. Great wine now but will keep for a few years yet adding more complexity still.
Week 42 – October 3rd to 9th
Mas Gabriel, Trois Terrasses, 2013
Long time favourite producers of mine, Peter and Deborah Core make consistent high class biodynamic wines in Caux. Trois Terrasses is mainly Carignan (around 70% in 2013) with the rest made from Syrah and Grenache. This is how I described this wine a year ago on the occasion of a vertical tasting of their Carignan wines.
“Slightly reductive at first but that blew away within a few seconds to leave a torrefacted nose with plummy, dark fruits which carried over into the flavours along with those coffee notes. There was an almost citrus freshness on the finish refreshing the palate. Spicy, peppery notes developed too and though this needs a little time yet, it is already good and will grow into something very good in a couple of years.”
So, how has it changed? No reduction for one thing but still that torrefacted nose. The fruits are more open with black cherry and plum flavours and still the lovely spice from the Carignan. It still needs a couple of years but after decanting and standing for an hour or so it was open enough now to thoroughly enjoy.
Happily I have more bottles and look forward to following its development.
Week 41 – Sept 26th to Oct 2nd
Mas Coutelou, Roberta, 2003
I know I said there would not be lots of Coutelou wines on this page but this is timely, matching my recent blog post. This is the perfect riposte to those who argue that natural wines don’t last because this was in cracking condition, 13 years after it was first made sans sulfites.
In fact it was amongst the first 3 cuvées which Jeff made sans sulfites, all in 2003. This is a blend of Grenaches, Noir, Gris and Blanc. It was oak aged and when it was first bottled caused a few problems by continuing to ferment and pop the corks! Is name came from the barrique, Jeff originally called it Robert but was told that cuvées and barriques needed a feminine name.
Nutty notes from the barrel, pear aromas and flavours but a long complex, dry finish with real secondary and tertiary notes. Lingering too. It really was showing no sign of tiring and I’d imagine Jeff will be trying this well into the future, if he has more bottles left.
The start of great things, and a worthy first step in the road to the Mas Coutelou range I love so well.
Week 40 – Sept 19th to 25th
Domaine Le Roc (Fronton), Le Roc’Ambulle
Fronton is one of the unsung regions of France though one I know through wines I have bought in the UK. I like the use of Négrette, an interesting red grape planted in the region. This bottle was drunk on the occasion of my friend Julien Banville’s birthday during the vendanges.
It is a sparkling wine made by a traditional method of chilling down the wine just before the end of fermentation to 3ºC with a very light filtering. This stops the action of the yeasts and leaves around 20-30g of residual sugar which will then referment in bottle causing the pétillance.
This wine is made by the Ribes family without SO2 other than a slight addition before bottling.. Refreshing, light rosé in colour with floral notes on the nose and a light red fruit flavour. Dangerously drinkable at 9% alcohol, very enjoyable wine from Mauzac and Négrette grapes.
Week 39 – Sept 12th to 18th
Thierry Navarre, Le Laouzil, 2014
A visit to one of the region’s best restaurants, Le Faitout in Berlou, was a highlight of recent weeks. It really is worth a detour to go there. With an excellent meal I ordered one of Thierry Navarre’s wines. The wine list champions the local Saint Chinian area and Thierry is one of its best producers.
It’s a classic St Chinian, and Languedoc, wine with Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah in the blend. An attractive berry fruit nose with a touch of spice and that is followed up in the mouth. Nice, gentle tannins and the wine opened up through the meal and the rest of the day as we took the rest of the bottle home. Lingering flavours and freshness, a great wine with food. If you want to taste the Languedoc this would be high on my list of recommendations.
The name is from the Occitan word for lauzes, the slate which forms the rock of the vineyard.
Week 38 – Sept 5th to 11th
L’Ostal, Zamble, 2014
I have written about Louis and Charlotte Pérot many times and am very proud that I was one of the first to point out their talent as winemakers after La Remise 2015. It was, therefore, a real treat when Louis informed me that he was coming to spend a couple of days at Jeff Coutelou’s at the beginning of the vendanges and before his own began. Louis threw himself into work with his habitual gusto but it was good to spend time chatting with him and learning more about his life, ideas and winemaking. He also brought along this bottle for the harvest lunch and I think it is fair to say that everyone around the table became as convinced by the Pérots wines as I (and Jeff) have been for some time.
Malbec, of course, and identifiably so, classic plummy fruits with a nice acidity. Cahors, of course, and identifiably so, lovely tannins and dark fruits. BUT so much more drinkable than other Cahors wines. You can drink this now or keep it for some time. Louis told me a great story of sharing a bottle with his neighbour, a traditional Cahors winemaker. When asked for his opinion the neighbour looked puzzled. “Is there a problem?”, asked Louis. “No faults, don’t worry. But it tastes of fruit”. There is a backhanded compliment if ever there was one.
The lovely label is a product of Louis and Charlotte’s background in books with the old typography and almost woodcut book cover. Zamble is part of that interest, though it is a long story.
Lovely wine from a lovely couple making their way towards ever more success. Bravo.
Week 37 – August 30th to September 4th
Chateau Des Gueux, 2015
This is the first wine made by my friend Julien Banville and his girlfriend. He works with Jeff Coutelou but, like most who arrive in Puimisson he would like to make his own wines. Well, this is a good start. Terret and Clairette grapes, nothing added.
First impression – some lovely, spice aromas. With a freshness behind. Flavours of pear and apples but with a lovely soft fresh zestiness. And lingering flavours too, the palate remains cossetted by the very appealing wine.
Only a hundred or so bottles made and so it was very good of him to share this with us. Chapeau Julien, a great start
Week 36 – August 22nd to 29th
Dolcetto d’Alba 2014, Sandrone
I use this simply to say that anyone who says that conventional wines are more reliable and in better condition than natural wines are talking nonsense. This Dolcetto from one of Italy’s most famous producers was full of reduction. It smelled like a box of matches just struck, not just a matchstick. It smelled of barn and animal.
Now many wines have reduction (resulting from a lack of oxygen contact) but often it blows away after a few minutes with oxygen getting onto the glass. This did not. It tasted vaguely fruity but dumb and the aromas certainly deterred enjoyment. Not something I would rush to repeat.
Week 35 – August 15th to 21st
Cascina degli Ulivi, Vino Bellotti Bianco 2015, Novi Ligure, Italy
A week in Italy on holiday gave me the opportunity to try new wines. Largely I was disappointed I’m afraid. Barolo, hugely expensive. Barbaresco, nice from the Produttori but generally just OK. Bardolino, when in Lake Garda, easy enough drinking but fairly dull. I did taste a very nice sparkling wine, the 2011 Brut Rocche dei Manzoni from Valentino Rei Elena and a decent Barbera d’Alba no solfiti from Castello di Neive.
However, the stand out was a wine from a domaine I knew from La Remise in Arles, Cascina degli Ulivi. The domaine of Stefano Bellotti, he makes natural wines in a lovely region. This Bellotti Bianco is the basic white wine and I have tasted some of his higher range but this was the one I found in a very nice wine bar in Acqui Terme.
Made from Cortese grapes and bottled with a cap like a beer bottle because of the slight sparkle in the wine. It is full of apples and pears and has lots of length, very refreshing and a perfect summer white wine. a great introduction to the domaine, if only I could have found more!! I shall write more about my trip soon. Meanwhile seek out Cascina degli Ulivi, truly a standout domaine.
Week 34 – August 8th to 14th
Domaine Du Causse Noir, Caïus 2011, Faugères
One of my favourite vignerons is Jérome Py of Domaine Du Causse Noir. His domaine is high in the Faugères hills and his growing season tends to be late. He is such a lovely man, always happy to see you and talk. He is a big, ex-rugby man and if ever wines reflected their maker then it is those of Causse Noir. I like the forthright classic Faugères wines he makes. They need time but repay that patience several times over.
Caïus was named after the family dog whose picture graces the label and it is a blend of classic Languedoc varoeties such as Grenache, Syrah (25% barrel aged), Mourvèdre (barrel aged) and Carignan. Big dark fruits aromas, plums and prunes. Spice too. First taste reveals lighter red fruits and then the bigger flavours move in. There is a tannic streak but controlled and underpinning the lovely coffee, spice and brambly flavours. This needs food in many ways but it is also simply delicious.
Week 33 – August 1st to 7th
Roig Boig, Celler La Salada, 2015
Well this was a surprise. A visit to the ever excellent Cave St. Martin at Roquebrun last Sunday and I asked Raymond to suggest a wine suitable for a hot afternoon. He offered this wine and, as always, it was excellent advice.
Apparently Roig Boig is Catalan for Crazy Red and it was certainly a pleasant surprise. Very pale red and only 10% alcohol this is a grown up rosé. Clean, fresh and lightly textured it was perfect for a casual bottle in the sunshine. Apparently made from a variety of grapes including Xarel.lo, Turbat, Monica, Sumoll and Cannonao – none of which I had ever heard of. Presumably a quick time on skins to give the colour, no sulphites, definitely recommended.
James Dunston, wine buyer and currently running a pop-up wine bar in Ibiza tells me there is also a sparkling version.
Week 32 – July 25th to July 31st
L’Ostal, Anselme, 2014
I have mentioned L’Ostal many times on these pages in the last couple of years. They were the pick of the new talents at La Remise 2015 and I met Louise and Charlotte Pérot again in Latour De France in November before La Remise 2016 in Arles. Each time their wines impress me increasingly and I remember buying their Cahors wines in Latour surrounded by the local Roussillon producers. Having banged their drum it was pleasing to hear Jeff Coutelou say that he was excited by their work and, hopefully, Louis is coming to Puimisson for the start of the vendanges.
What I like about the wines is their reflection of Malbec and Cahors, they are true to their origin. However, mix in drinkability. These are wines which will certainly age well, as most Cahors wines will do, but they can be drunk young for pleasure because of their fruit. The wines are completely natural, no SO2 added and very careful vineyard work to ensure the healthiness of the grapes.
Anselme was a lively purple colour, rich red fruit aromas were obvious and carried into the flavours. There was a clear streak of tannin but gentle and promising a long life without interfering with the pleasure of the wine. A great accompaniment to food now with the acidity to cleanse and cut through any strong flavours. I will keep other bottles a little longer to track their development, but this is an exciting domaine which will surely improve as the years pass.
Week 31 – July 18th to July 24th
Cédric Bernard, La Cabane À Marcel, 2015
In Week 21 of this page I wrote about the brilliant La Roche 2009 of Christian Venier and mentioned that, thanks to his generosity, the vineyard now belonged to his young protegé, Cédric Bernard. Well, this is the successor wine and it is fantastic. Light structured Gamay but packed with raspberry and other red fruits with an almost sweet edge, beautifully ripe.
It is very different to La Roche with its lighter structure but still a remarkable wine. For a first vintage it is even more remarkable. I mentioned Cédric’s Chenin Blanc, Brin De Chèvre, in Week 26 and how much I enjoyed that with its lean style. That variety of style shows Cédric is responding to his grapes in terms of how best to express their health and style. He is a real talent and definitely a winemaker to follow.
Even better, this bottle was in a litre size so more to enjoy. Less good news, the frosts of spring damaged the La Roche vineyard so it is unlikely that there will be any 2016 version. A huge shame and a reminder of the fragility of the vigneron’s livelihood, more reason to cherish this excellent wine whilst I can.
Week 30 – July 11th to July 17th
Olivier Leflaive, Oncle Vincent, Bourgogne, 2014
A sunny Sunday lunchtime in my home town of Crook is rare enough but when it is warm enough to sit in the garden for lunch then it is a special occasion. I was visiting the home of my sister, Linda, and her husband Iain. It was he who served this bottle and it proved to be a wine worthy of a lovely day.
I have a long history with the domaine as we used to regularly visit for the tasting lunches back in the 1990s. This was at a time when wine tourism was quite rare and Olivier Leflaive was well ahead of the rest. There is now a hotel and restaurant in the village of Puligny Montrachet, I have visited once for the lunch.
This wine is made from grapes in Puligny itself, barrel aged for 10 months after pressing. It commemorates Leflaive’s uncle, Vincent.
A light Chardonnay, beautifully handled with lemony, fresh flavours and yet a lovely roundness on the finish. Some nutty influences (from the oak?) and good length. I remember some wines from this domaine becoming very oak influenced but this is much defter and it is a wine which reflects Burgundy’s great wine even though a basic regional wine by definition. I really enjoyed it.
Week 29 – July 4th to July 10th
Domaine Montesquiou, Terre De France, Vin De France 2014
I included a Montesquiou wine a few weeks ago and make no apology for adding another as, I believe, they are amongst the great white wine producers in France. This wine is a declassified Jurancon, drunk appropriately ont he day when the Tour De France started a stage in Pau.
When I visited Montesquiou last autumn Sébastien offered me a taste of this wine, a new one. It was actually the result of an unexpected event. Four barrels of wine intended for Cuvade Préciouse (the wine I previously chose on this page) became stuck in their fermentation, meaning that there was marginally more residual sugar left in the wine than Jurancon wines are allowed by regulation. Rather than restart the fermentation Sébastien and his brother Fabrice decided to take what nature delivered. The resulting wine is beautiful. Take Cuvade Préciouse and add extra zing, extra citrus depth, a very faint sweet edge but a clean, direct, tangy finish of liquorice and, yes, minerality. It is a stunner. As they say on the back label sometimes the journey is more important than the destination and nature gave the brothers an interesting journey here, a “happy surprise”.
For much more detail and his usual brilliant tasting notes read Leon Stolarski’s description. Leon introduced the domaine to me when he started to import their wines to the UK. A top discovery amongst his many stellar producers.
A word too for the brilliant Classe 2014 of Mas Coutelou which I opened earlier this week. I promised not to make this page a Coutelou fan club but, my word, this was a stunner.
Week 28 – June 27 to July 3rd
Vouvray, Domaine Perrault – Jadaud, Grives Soûles 2012
In the garden of 7 Rue De La Pompe on a sunny evening after bottling we were treated to some delicious, very fresh oysters and mussels by Jeff and he selected this bottle to accompany the seafood. Another Vouvray after my recent selection (see below) from Domaine D’Orfeuilles.
Round, notes of liquorice and white fruits it did cut through the saline shellfish and was very quaffable. That is not to denigrate the wine as it is well made. There is a little SO2 and it didn’t speak to me of Vouvray especially but an enjoyable wine.
For much more on the domaine please have a look at this article by Loire expert Jim Budd.
Week 27 – June 20 to June 26
Drappier Champagne, Millésime Exception 2008
On a night which was to see Brexit become a (nightmare) reality it was very good of my friend Graham Tigg (and Sue) to open this lovely champagne. On an evening of very good wines, for example a 20 year old Madiran, this was my personal star choice.
I have enjoyed Drappier champagnes before, including their natural champagne, and enjoyed their fresh, zesty and complex flavours. This was exceptional though. Very clean, very fresh and with classic yeasty and zesty notes. Champagne at its best, therefore sparkling wine at its best.
Week 26 – June 13 to June 19
Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese 2007
Another white, another Riesling. It’s the time of year perhaps but also my love of Riesling, which is just about my favourite grape of all. I brought this bottle with me to France and the wine is just beautiful and only 8% abv.
There is a lemon and lime aroma in the glass with freshness jumping out too. On first sip there is sweetness, ripeness – that rare wine flavour of grapes. Then the zesty profile kicks in, with mouth watering freshness. There are flavours of citrus, of melons, apples and pears. Combined with just a little sweetness and roundness, which coats the mouth. The combination is just stunning. Only very good Riesling can deliver this completeness in a wine. And Riesling with a few years of age, even more so. I love this, from a great producer and a classic vineyard.
Special mention too for yet another white wine, Brin De Chèvre 2015 Chenin Blanc from Cédric Bernard in the Loire. I bought this at the Portes Ouvertes of Christian Venier, with whom Cédric used to work. Bone dry, citrussy, appley and a wine to drink now or to keep. Like the Riesling it has a low alcohol level too, weighing in at 11%.
Happily I have a few bottles of both still tucked away.
Week 25 – June 6 – June 12
Marc Kreydenweiss – Andlau Riesling 2013
I met Marc Kreydenweiss and his son Antoine at Millésime Bio in January and wrote about them as highlights of the main salon. Antoine now runs the Alsace domaine of the family whilst his father works in the Rhone valley. I was delighted to come across their wines in Pézenas and this Riesling was one of those I bought.
I often think you can tell a lot about the quality of a winemaker from their entry level wines. If these wines are good and show quality and care then usually their other wines will be good too. Well, this is the basic Riesling from the village of Andlau where the family domaine is based.
It was still youthful but showed a nice zesty streak of acidity and a dry, minerally texture. In other words classic Riesling. It doesn’t have the length or the depth and complexity of the Grand Crus of the domaine but it is not meant to have. Yet it punches above its weight and was a lovely wine.
Week 24 – May 30 – June 5
Domaine D’Orfeuilles – Vouvray Silex D’Orfeuilles 2014
Whilst visiting the Portes Ouvertes of Christian Venier a couple of weeks ago I noticed that Vouvray was hosting one if its wine fairs. As this was the scene of my very first wine tasting in France many years ago, it seemed a good idea to revisit. I must admit that I was rather disappointed by many of the wines which were on tasting, there was a lot of formulaic wine, often lacking flavour, sometimes faulty, eg heavy sulphur. Admittedly some of the better known names from Vouvray were not present but I came away dispirited.
The exception to the rule was Domaine D’Orfeuilles, run by Arnaud Herivault, based in Reugny though most of the vineyards are between Reugny and Chancay. I liked all the wines on tasting, there was a freshness, fruitiness and length to them which was lacking in most of the other wines. There was also, dare I use the word, minerality. Whether you believe in it or not, to my palate there was a distinct stoniness and texture to the wines from the older Sec (2008) to the 2014 Demi Sec. A cahracter of wine which appeals to me it must be said. These were the only wines I bought at the Fair.
This week I opened a bottle of, perhaps, the Doamine’s headline act, Silex D’Orfeuilles 2014. Light golden in colour, influenced by some of the wine being aged in oak. Now oak is something of which I am very wary but here it is used to add roundness and a nuttiness to the wine. There is no overly oaky aroma or heaviness, no woody aftertaste, the winemaking is well carried out.
There is a clear Chenin Blanc flavour, apples and pears with a fresh acidity, this is a dry wine. The Silex is named after the flint stones which cover the parcel where the grapes are grown on clay and limestone soil. And there is a stoniness in the texture as I said above. I drank this with prawns with tomato sauce spiced with chilli and it was a lovely match with the power to stand up to the mild heat. So, a good food wine but it was also very good on its own. Happily I have more bottles and I will allow one or two to age and follow its development with interest, I’d expect it will become more complex.
So, hats off to Arnaud and Domaine D’Orfeuilles for maintaining my faith in Vouvray, my first favourite wine village. Is it a coincidence that D’Orfeuilles is organic and, indeed, biodynamic?
Week 23 – May 23 – May 29
Jérôme Rateau – Les Petites Plumes 2013
Friday was #LanguedocDay, a day for celebrating the wines of the Languedoc. Well I do that most days but I decided to open a bottle from my favourite Languedoc appelation, Faugères. The bottle chosen was classic from the area, a blend of Grenache (50%), Mourvèdre (35%) and Carignan (15%). So, a good way to celebrate the region.
Jérôme Rateau is a young man with a lot of talent and produces two ranges of wines from the cellars based in the village of Faugères itself. His Chateau Haut Lignières is the classic range of wines which he took over in 2007 and then there is his personal range of wines which he has made since 2011. His website is here.
I have enjoyed Jérôme’s wines whenever I have had the opportunity to taste them and, in particular, the range bearing his name. Wines such as Sur Le Fil and Empreinte Carbone have been regular choices to buy.
Les Petities Plumes showed classic flavours from the three grapes, deep, dark fruits, plummy, liquorice notes too. There is a good level of acidity, classic from the area’s schist soils, which refreshes and good length of flavours. I opened a bottle about 6 months ago and it was good but the extra time has really allowed it to open up and show its quality. I would think it will benefit from even a little more time but no reason not to enjoy it now.
Very good wine, modern Faugères with classic flavours of the Languedoc. A good selection if I say so myself.
Week 22 – May 16 to May 22
Domaine Montesquiou – Cuvade Préciouse 2014
This is right up amongst my favourite wines, certainly white wines. Yet, it was several months since I had opened a bottle. No mistaking that thrilling fresh acidity and lime and lemon streak. This is genuinely a wine which makes me salivate in anticipation. It lifts the palate, it refreshes it gives such pleasure. As you drink it the wine seems to grow in flavour and power in the mouth and the citrus, yet round, finish lingers long.
This was excellent with sea bass and a tomato sauce and, as you can see in the photograph, a lovely match for some fresh green asparagus. It is a great aperitif wine, a food wine and just very, very good.
I wrote about Domaine Montesquiou last year after a visit to the Jurancon region. If you want great white wines, dry and sweet, look no further.
Week 21 – May 9 to May 15
A week of much travelling and few wines. Until Friday when we headed north to the Portes Ouvertes at Christian Venier’s home in Madon, in the Loire. Jeff, Michel and Vincent were also there and I shall be writing more about the weekend in a future blog. However, during the tasting there was one wine which would make wine of the week most weeks of the year.
Christian Venier makes a series of wines but the one which stood out was La Roche 2011 in magnum. Pure Gamay this was a joyful wine, rich in fruit but with some complexity and structure to balance the fruits. It evolved in the glass and the second glass was even better, so often the case from magnums. But that is not to take away from the star quality of the wine. This was as good a Gamay as I know, Beaujolais included. A wine to make you stop, look at your glass and appreciate what is in there. A Gamay which shows the quality of that grape and its capacity to age and to add subtle notes of forest fruits and better than most Pinot Noirs.
Christian has actually given this parcel to a young vigneron and I shall tell that story elsewhere. That act is a sign of the generosity of Christian, a lovely man. This wine is a tribute to his skills in the vineyard and the cellar.
Week 20 – May 2 to May 8
There are some weeks when the choice stands out, there are others when I have tasted a lot of good wines. This was one such week.
Clovallon’s Pinot Noir I wrote about previously on this page and so too Fred Rivaton’s excellent Blanc Bec. Both were on good form this week. Jeff Coutelou’s Mourvèdre 15 was lovely, classic varietal flavours and smooth as silk. The Wild Bunch from Domaine Aonghusa in the Corbières was very good, a wild mix of grapes producing a deep, hugely enjoyable wine.
At an excellent lunch at L’Auberge Du Presbytère in Vailhan we enjoyed Ludovic Engelvin’s Espontaneo 2015 which is an interesting wine. It is a white made from Grenache Noir grapes, a blanc de noir. The colour is golden from the (presumably) short period of skin contact and there is a lovely nutty, fresh flavour. I’d have chosen this though perhaps it was a little short on the finish.
So it’s back to Fred Rivaton, a winemaker who can do little wrong in my eyes (and to my palate). Gribouille 2012 is made from Carignan (70%), with 15% each of Syrah and Grenache. The vines are a remarkable 85-100 years old and the depth of flavour in this wine is remarkable. Brambly, red fruits, garrigue all present. But balanced beautifully, never too concentrated – there is a delicious fresh finish. It is a truly excellent wine.
Week 19 – April 25 to May 1
Domaine Treloar – La Terre Promise 2013
I was confident that a bottle of the very good Mille Et Une Nuits 2012 from Canet-Valette would be my subject of the week but on Friday I opened this terrific wine from Rachel and Jonathan Hesford of Domaine Treloar.
65% Grenache Gris (so often the basis of this region’s best white wines), 25% Maccabeu and 10% Carignan Blanc, La Terre Promise is fermented and aged in barrels. The oak is very light in its flavour influence however, adding a nuttiness and golden colour. Lots of freshness and almost zesty fruit but the smooth finish lingers long with pear / peach notes. The first glass was good but by the final glass this was really hitting its stride, suggesting the wine will age further with ease. I was reminded of a good Burgundy, it is very impressive wine.
For more technical information on this and all Treloar wines have a look at the website where every wine is explained in detail. I find that very useful and very helpful, an example to all. Equally the back label gives a good explanation and technical detail. Impressive all round.
Week 18 – April 18 to 24
Clos Rocailleux – Gaillac Réserve Blanc 2012, Mauzac Vieilles Vignes
Mauzac is a white grape to be found normally in Limoux wines and those of Gaillac. The latter is a favourite wine region of mine because of its unusual cépages, Loin D’Oeil, Ondenc, Prunelart and Braucol to name but a few. Mauzac gives a dry, fresh wine with distinctive white fruits. This is a good example with another characteristic of Mauzac on the finish. It can give a bruised apple flavour and after a few seconds of swallowing a mouthful of this wine, that bruised apple taste lingered. It is a pleasing flavour with a good fresh flavour too.
I bought this wine at the Gaillac Wine Fair last summer and was pleased to meet the English owners of the domaine, Jack and Margaret Reckitt. The four years of aging certainly helped its complexity and the wines of Clos Rocailleux are worth following.
Week 16 – April 11 to 17
Clos Fantine – Faugères Tradition 2013
Absolutely superb, this is wine at its best. Dark colour, it looks deep and plummy and that is a sign of the depths of flavour which await in the glass. Firstly though the spicy aromas captivate you, again there is complexity which draws you into the wine. It is silky, spicy with dark flavours and a refreshing lick of acidity at the end. The flavours linger long in the mouth and invite you to drink more. It is not though an easy drinking quaffing wine, it is far too rich and well made for that. You certainly want to drink it but slowly, taking in the array of aromas and flavours. I served it to some friends and they were all wowed.
Faugères is as good as it gets in the Languedoc and, in my opinion, as good as it gets anywhere in the world. This is classic Faugères certainly but made without SO2, by the excellent Andrieu family. They are dedicated to their vineyards and wines and the proof is in this bottle, certainly one of the very best wines not just of this week but of any week.
More on Clos Fantine from my visit a year ago.
Week 15 – April 4 to 10
Domaine De Cadablès – Terret Blanc 14
Christine and Bernard Isarn bought Domaine De Cadablès in 2004, an old domaine near Gabian in the Languedoc. They have an idyllic position high on a hill with spectacular views. Their vineyards are run organically and Bernard worked for some time with Emmanuel Pageot.
Terret Blanc is an old Languedoc cépage related to Terret Bourret. According to Pierre Galet’s Dictionary of Cépages nearly all of its 1300ha are in the Hérault. The wine is a pale colour with fresh white fruit aromas. There is plenty of zesty acidity and flavours of crisp apples with good length.
All of Bernard’s wines are worth investigating and he is part of a local scheme, De Ferme En Ferme, opening agricultural domaines to the public on April 23rd and 24th.
Week 14 – March 28 to April 3
Domaine De La Bregeonnette, Muscadet sur lie 2001
Now if anyone ever told me that I would select a Muscadet as wine of the week I’d have laughed, and for it to be 15 years old? Ridiculous. And a bottle opened 3 days earlier than i tasted it. Surely one step too far for you to believe me. And yet it’s true.
I know next to nothing about it. Jeff had it open as we sat down to lunch with Vincent after a morning of bottling. It was lemony, zesty and had a touch of oxidation in its old age. Yet the oxidation added to the range of flavours rather than spoiling the wine. It was fresh, light and really excellent. A curiosity certainly but I really liked it. The winemaker and the domaine are still going strong, their website is here.
Week 13 – March 21 to March 27
Rivaton – Blanc Bec 2014
Head and shoulders above anything else I drank this week and amongst the best white wines I have drunk all year. Frédéric Rivaton is based in Latour De France (66), home of so many great natural wine producers such as Cyril Fhal. I have long admired Fred’s wines and bought this at Labande De Latour last November, the village’s open day.
The vines used to make this are 80 years old with a yield of just 15 hl/ha. Maccabeu makes up 50% of the wine with 30% Carignan Blanc, 15% Grenache Gris with the remainder made up from a variety of other cépages. The wine is fermented and aged in oak though I imagine these are old fûts as there is no real oak influence on the taste.
It is clearly a natural wine, there is a round softness yet a clear freshness and acidity. Apples and pears on the nose and in taste, a slight golden tint (the oak?). It develops in the mouth and was even better on the second day of opening, a promising sign of its future development. Certainly I shall keep my other bottle for a good while.
When I said this was clearly a natural wine, what I meant was that it reveals the flavours without any interference. It is a perfect ambassador for the best of natural wines.
Week 12 – March 14 to March 20th
Philippe Tessier – Cour Cheverny, ‘Les Sables’ 2014
After a morning in the vines on Thursday we returned to Jeff’s for lunch. Appropriately he opened a magnum of Flower Power 14 as we had been working in Font D’Oulette the complanted vineyard which makes Flower Power. Lovely it was too, no wonder La Revue Du Vin De France chose it as one of their 50 Languedoc wines even in ots first year of production.
However, in my bid to stay Coutelou free on this page it was the other wine that was opened that I have selected as wine of the week. Philippe Tessier makes natural wines in Cour Cheverny in the Loire. My first holiday in France was actually in a gite owned by one of Philippe’s family in Cour Cheverny. I tasted some wines from the village based on the Romorantin grape and they were very harsh and acidic. How things have changed. The 2014 Les Sables had a lovely acidity which made it a good match with the soupe de poissons but also a lot of apple and pear fruit and a very pleasing roundness in the mouth. I think this is where natural wines can really prove their worth, softening out some harshness in conventional wine and providing a more drinkable wine.
The Loire is a centre of natural winemaking and Tessier is one of its best producers. This wine more than proves the case.
Week 11 – March 7th to March 13th
Mas Sibert Armélot 2013
A week dominated by wines from Mas Coutleou including some extraordinary ones both old and new, you can read more on those here. However, the rest of the week was largely disappointing with one mousy wine and one characterless wine, both from domaines in my local area.
Happily, just as I was thinking that I’d have nothing to write about this week I enjoyed two wines on Saturday. First a Gaillac Blanc Sec 2014 from Domaine De Lamothe, very nice with some spaghetti vongole, zesty and Sauvignon Blanc character (there is some Mauzac too). I wrote about this wine when I bought it at the Gaillac wine fair last August. Only around 5€ a bottle, much better than many more expensive Gaillac whites.
However I later opened a bottle of Mas Sibert Armélot 2013 and that was definitely a step up in class. I wrote about Simon and Sara when I first visited the domaine in the tiny village of Fos last February, when their wines really captured me. I have returned a few times since, including for their Sunday lunch pizza in summer and I can honestly say that I am never disappointed. Indeed, tasting the new vintages in January at The Outsiders event in Montpellier I know that their wines are getting even better and that my faith in Sara and Simon is justified with every glass.
Made from 50% Merlot, 35% Syrah and 15% Petit Verdot Armélot is an assemblage of varieties unusual for the region. Their other wines also have some unusual cépages for the Languedoc, Sangiovese anyone else? On opening the wine was still very youthful, bright purple in colour and a little lively on the nose. After 5 minutes the aromas settled to give off lovely plummy fruit. Black cherry flavours with plums again, a hint of coffee and spice. Very smooth and easy to drink, very long and delicious. I left half the bottle open overnight and today it remains fresh and clean. The flavours are slightly darker in nature but still fresh and so good to drink. The wine will age well if I can resist open the bottles I have left.
I’ve said it before and I repeat it, these two are very good winemakers and, being so young, they will get better. Happily their wines are now available in the UK and I urge you to try them wherever you are. There is a list of their outlets on the website.
PS I have just noticed that I included a Mas Sibert Soléno as WOTW a few weeks ago (see below). No apologies, they are just very good!
Week 10 – Feb 29th to March 6th
Domaine Clovallon Les Pomarèdes 2013
I tasted a good number of Jeff’s wines this week but not too many from elsewhere. There was an excellent Mas Gabriel Clos Des Lièvres 2011 with very spicy Grenache fruit and some Carignan but for wine of the week I am heading up the valley from Caux to Faugères and beyond into the high Orb valley.
Domaine De Clovallon has a very good reputation and I have had some nice wine from there, usually the whites. Catherine Roque and her daughter Alix are based in Bédarieux with vines at an altitude up to 400m, higher than most in the Languedoc. Varieties such as Riesling and Pinot Noir are grown which benefit from the cooler temperatures. Despite that the domaine’s basic Pinot has often left me disappointed. Indeed I have preferred the very good wines of the Faugères situated Mas D’Alezon which Catherine runs.
This week, however, I attended a wine dinner organised by Dominic George at Le Wine Shop in Pézenas. The dinner was held in Tourbes at the restaurant La Maison and the food was very good. However star of the night was the Clovallon Les Pomarèdes 2013.
This is 100% Pinot Noir, I think from a particular vineyard. Classic aromas of red fruit, wild strawberries for example. There is a touch of spice and earthy aroma too but the fruit dominates, smooth in the mouth and instantly rewarding. It lingers and grows in flavour, promising well for its future if you can be patient. Classy wine, classic Pinot Noir.
People often compare any Pinot to Burgundy and that is so unfair but it was hard not to think this would stand comparison with some good Burgundies at a much lower price (around 13-15€ I believe Dominic said). However, Pomarèdes is very good in its own right and certainly the best Pinot from the Languedoc that I have tasted.
2013 was a very good year in the Languedoc, not true of many other regions, and the Pomarèdes will have gained from that. It would be good to compare to other vintages. It has certainly revived my interest in Clovallon. The wine is available at Dominic’s shop, heartily recommended.
Week 9 – Feb 22nd to 28th
Gérard Schueller – Pinot Blanc 2010
Some nice wines this week especially at the dinner to celebrate Céline’s birthday on Tuesday night. I could select many of those wines as wine of the week, the Barral Jadis 2001 or Jeff’s rare 2003s Robert A and BL002. However, it was the Pinot Blanc 2010 of Gérard Schueller which surprised me most as well as being an excellent bottle.
I am a great fan of Alsace wines and have visited the region many times. In recent times I have been excited by the wines of producers such as Zind-Humbrecht, Deiss and Kreydenweiss. Yet, Pinot Blanc has always seemed to be the forgettable starting point in tasting Alsace wines. Certainly more than ten years ago I always found it neutral, though in recent weeks I tasted a nice example from Aimé Stentz. However, this was something else. There was a rich fruity aroma, peach and apricot on first taste with a honey sweetness present too. Yet it was a dry wine, clean and refreshing with long lasting flavours. That this should be achieved in the entry level wine in a vintage of good, not great, reputation – that was the surprise. It tasted like a Grand Cru wine, a Mosel spätlese perhaps.
When I wrote about this on a wine forum I received a reply from Finnish wine connoisseur Otto Nieminen saying he had tried his first Scheller wine this week, ” I tried their Pinot Noir last week and loved it. Now I want to find anything else from them.” That reflects my feelings too, I must seek out more about it, I can’t find much on the web sadly. A visit to Alsace seems to be calling.
Week 8 – Feb 15th to 21st
Clos Mathélisse – L’Autre Vendange 2013
This week was Vinisud, a huge wine fair in Montpellier which I attended for two days and where I tasted many very good wines. However, wine of the week was chosen very easily and it was opened last Sunday evening just after I wrote about Week 7.
L’Autre Vendange is a sweet wine made by David Caer of Clos Mathélisse in Aspiran (34). David is a natural winemaker whom I first met at La Remise in Arles last year and again at a wine fair in Adissan. He has 9ha or so of vines and sells much of his production to others but makes three wines himself, a pure Clairette (traditional speciality of Aspiran), a very good pure Cinsault called Exorde and L’Autre Vendange.
I have yet to taste the Clairette but have enjoyed three vintages of Exorde which is built with structure and power and has a slight sulfitage at bottling. The 12 I enjoyed last year and I was fortunate enough to bump into David at Vinisud where he offered the 13 and 14. The 13 was much softer than when tasted last year, this is a wine which needs a little age and David reckons will keep several years. All were wines which I liked a lot.
L’Autre Vendange 2013 is a real treat. 100% Roussanne, which is allowed to dry a little on the vine and is then aged in barrels for 10 months before a slight sulfitage just at bottling. On opening the bottle I was struck by a beautiful aroma of cinder toffee, a light burned sugar smell which is very, very attractive. The aroma continues as you taste, and that flavour of cinder toffee regales the palate, memories of childhood. There is a delicate sweetness, but freshness behind it leaving the mouth clean, no sense of cloying. Truly delicious.
I often think sweet or dessert wines get an easy ride in tastings, high marks tend to be awarded very easily. L’Autre Vendange deserves every plaudit, every high mark.
Aspiran is becoming a hotbed of excellent wine producers, David, Régis and Christine Pichon at Domaine Ribiera, Grégory White, Mas Troqué. I need to pay a visit there for a more comprehensive picture.
Week 7 – Feb 8th to 14th
Domaine Treloar – Le Secret 2012
A quiet week drinking wise but two very good wines opened. (Well three including the fabulous Flambadou 2013 from Jeff but I promised not to select any more Coutelou wines here for a while). In fact both wines originate in the Roussillon though from different styles of winemaking.
First up a lovely rosé Poil dans la main 2014 from Fred Rivaton in the Roussillon. He is a talented winemaker and his rosé is built to last not just to quaff early. Lovely acidity with red fruits and a nice zestiness too. Lovely wine, made in a natural method.
My selection though is Domaine Treloar’s Le Secret 2012. As soon as you sniff this wine you know it is Syrah dominated, classic red fruits and cassis. It tastes of them too with a slightly darker edge, almost leathery. It is hearty but has a smoothness in the mouth that make sit lovely to drink and a clean, fresh finish leaving you ready for the next sip. Excellent from Jonathan and Rachel.
Week 6 – Feb 1st to 7th
Mas Sibert – Soléno 2013
Wine of the week comes from Fos, a village in the Faugères region though the wines made by Mas Sibert are bottled as Vin De France as Simon and Sara use grape varieties beyond the approved list for Faugères. I have written many times before about Sibert and its wines, I love them. It was good to meet up with the couple at The Outsiders event in Montpellier recently and the new vintage continues the improvement in quality.
I opened Soléno 2013 this week and it was lovely. Made from Syrah but with Petit Verdot and Merlot making up 60% of the wine, 10 months oak ageing to support the wine. The result is plummy, round fruit and long fresh flavours. Complex, drinkable and top quality.
Week 5 – Jan 25th to Feb 1st
Domaine Ribiera’s Y’a un terret 2013
In a week where I have tasted almost 400 wines, to select one as wine of the week is a difficult choice. In the end I decided to go with wines which I tasted outside Millésime Bio.
It came down to three wines, all worthy of anyone’s table, cellar or money. Firstly, a wine from one of my favourite producers in the Languedoc, Domaine Fontude, run by François Aubry and his partner. François is a lovely, friendly man whom I always enjoy meeting. Fontude is in the higher altitude region around Lac Salagou and this altitude, together with François’ skills, delivers a lovely freshness to his wines and a purity of fruit. Pierre De Lune is 100% old vine Grenache and is a classic example of Grenache red fruits and spice, round and clean. This is a domaine which merits greater attention, I can’t find any UK importer for example, depriving the country of some lovely wines at reasonable prices.
Next, a sweet wine from Domaine Nigri, a lovely Jurancon. The 2006 Réserve had the classic balance of sweetness and acidity which makes a quality ‘dessert’ wine. There is a lovely barley sugar twist and the flavour lingers long but a clean, fresh finish cuts in and cuts through the sweetness to make this a wine you want to drink more of rather than feeling sated and heavy. Truly delicious.
This was a wine we opened to celebrate Pat’s birthday and another wine we had at lunch that day was Domaine Ribiera’s Y’a un terret 2013. Made from a small parcel of Terret vines (just 40 ares I was told by Christine Pichon who makes the wine together with her husband Régis), the wine has a fresh acidity with a zesty, lemon and lime tang but balanced by white fruits. It is natural wine and the expression living wine kept occurring to me as I drank it. Vibrant, enjoyable and, that word again, fresh. Excellent wine from an excellent domaine. Yet another example of how wine reflects its producers. And my choice as wine of the week!
Week 4 – Jan 18th to 24th
Mas Coutelou – Syrah 1993
Easy choice this week and I promise it won’t happen every week but the wine of the week has to be a Mas Coutelou wine. Saturday evening saw a gathering of friends from all over France who were coming to the Languedoc for Millésime Bio and its ‘offs’. Céline, who helped pick the grenache grapes for my special 100th blog cuvée, Camille and Fleur who import Jeff’s wines to New York and Paris, Olivier Lemasson, very good winemaker from the Loire etc etc.
We tasted the wines of 2015 (already more open from when I tasted them on Thursday) and some older vintages too in the cellar and then to Jeff’s house.
We ate a fedua which is like a paella but with pasta instead of rice and very tasty too. Lots of bottles shared including from Olivier and a new domaine in Faugères called La Graine Sauvage of which more soon.
The Pinoir De Soif of Olivier was almost my pick for this week, lovely fruity Pinot, aromatic and so pleasing.
However the highlight came when Jeff decided to open some old vintages including his first vintage of 1993. Syrah, organic but in those days using SO2. The fruit was diminished of course but the age in bottle brought cigar box aromas like a venerable Bordeaux. The flavours too were leather and blackcurrant, a little spice. Apparently this was unreleased for four years to give it bottle age before sale. So different from the modern Coutelou wines but a key point in their development as Jeff took over from Jean Claude, his father. A privilege to drink this alongside three other bottles from the 90s.
Week 3 – Jan 11th to 17th
Michel Issaly (Domaine La Ramaye – Le Grand Tertre 2012
A quiet week on the tasting and drinking front for two reasons; the lingering cold which still dulls my tasting ability and, secondly, the drive to the Languedoc over the last few days.
Three decent wines to mention as well as the chosen wine of the week. My brother in law (and friend) Iain opened a bottle of Garnacha, Salvaje del Moncayo, 2014 from Aragon. This could easily have been wotw as it represents excellent value for money, £6.95 from Majestic and The Wine Society in the UK. Light structure but packed with fruit and some complexity. Is Spain producing the best value for money in the wine world?
On Friday I tasted a Frappato Syrah from Mandarossa in Sicily. I love Frappato, it offers such lovely cherry and red fruit flavour. This was easy drinking, nothing more, but good.
Saturday night was spent near Macon and the hotel wine list included some average wines but a Chiroubles 2014 from Domaine Cheysson. This was the first domaine I visited in Chiroubles many, many years ago during a holiday where I visited every single Beaujolais cru. Slightly tannic, this bottle was a little short on pleasure but there was just enough Beaujolais character to make it worth the 13€ list price.
However, on returning to Margon I opened a Gaillac red. Michel Issaly (Domaine La Ramaye) makes natural wines in Gaillac and I bought a few bottles from him when I visited the Gaillac wine fair on a soggy weekend at the start of August. Very rich with evident tannins but plenty of red fruit and even strawberry notes despite its dark flavours. This will develop further with time but was a worthy first wine back in the Languedoc. I do like Gaillac wines and the unusual varieties here include 90% Prunelard with 10% Braucol.
Week 2 – January 4th to 10th
Clos Du Rouge Gorge – Sisyphe 2014
With poor timing after starting this page, I have been suffering from a heavy cold all week, making wine tasting difficult. Even a Sauternes tasted of nothing. Fortunately the first two or three days I could still taste and although a decent port and Pic St. Loup were good one wine stood out.
Cyril Fhal (Clos Du Rouge Gorge) is based in Latour De France (66) in Roussillon. I have praised his wines before and I bought a new white cuvée Sisyphe at the village wine fair, La Bande De Latour in November. I actually chose it to go into my case of the year for 2015 so much did it impress me.
100% Grenache Gris (the Roussillon’s great white hope?) grown on high ground this is a great wine. This bottle was even more complex than the first I drank, lovely balance with spicy notes and a direct, citrus finish which cleansed the palate. Long flavours, delicious on its own, a great food wine too. This was Cyril’s first vintage of Sisyphe and as the vines age further I am confident it will get even better. If that is possible!
Week 1 –
Domaine Breton – Trinch 2014
Each week I shall select a wine which has captured my attention for good or bad.
I could have chosen the wine with which we saw in 2016, La Vigne Haute 2011 of Mas Coutelou, but instead I have chosen a wine which I would never normally choose.
I have never been a fan of Cabernet Franc after my early visits to France 30 years ago when I tasted so many unripe, green and bitter Loire red wines. It has become a blind spot for me and people have tried to convert me without success. Greg Bureau of Bouchon Bistrot in Hexham, a native of Tours, has consistently tried to convince me of Cabernet Franc’s merits. So, when we dined at Bouchon on New Year’s Eve I promised him I would order the Bourgeuil on his wine list. And I liked it.
In fact this wine comes from one of the natural wine world’s more famous producers, Catherine and Pierre Breton. The bottle was called ‘Trinch’, of which more later. The freshness on the nose was characteristic sign of a biodynamic or natural wine. Red fruits and a streak of acidity were the first taste impressions both reflecting the bright, crimson colour of the wine. An hour later the wine had softened a little though still fresh. There were clear pepper notes, typical of the grape and Bourgeuil with just a hint of greenness. Really nice, soft enough to drink on it sown but very good with food including my excellent halibut dish. This 2014 should be drunk young.
Trinch is part of a quote from Rabelais which you can find on the domaine website. Basically it is an old term for ‘drink’ and I would be happy to drink this wine again. Was it great wine? No, but it was quite good and showed that I can enjoy Cabernet Franc. It is by no means the Bretons’ most serious wine but shows off their skills and philosophy.
Incidentally Bouchon recently won European Restaurant Of The Year in the Journal Secret Diner Awards, the latest in a long line of awards for this consistently excellent restaurant. If you are in the North East of England, try it.