amarchinthevines

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

Wine Tastings

Domaine Aonghusa – Le Wine Shop, Nov 12th

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                                 Catherine and Pat

Domaine Aonghusa website

Aonghusa is a Gaelic name and the Domaine in the Corbières village of Fontjoncouse is owned by Irish couple Pat Neville and Catherine McGuinness (the latter being the same as Aonghusa). They established their domaine in 2001 and have gradually expanded it and built their reputation. Since moving to the Languedoc I have regularly bought their wines from Le Wine Shop in Pézenas and, so, was delighted when Dominic George told me that he was inviting the couple to lead a tasting of their wines. 

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What I appreciate in their wines is character. These are bold, expressive wines reflecting the character of Pat and Catherine and also the wild nature of the Corbières. They are wines which need time to come together and to reach peak drinking, time which is well rewarded with the big flavours, expressing secondary tastes of fermentation and wine rather than obvious primary fruit. Food wines rather than aperitifs I always decant the wines to give them a little air and allow the wine to fully express itself, a couple of hours in decanter is good.

I have heard the wines described as natural and they try to minimise SO2, some cuvées in certain years are SO2 free. However, after experimenting with indigenous yeasts Pat prefers to use selected yeasts to handle the big sugars of the grapes and he will use SO2 if he feels the need to do so. The domaine is not organic as they are not fans of certification, they actually go further than organic in practice eschewing any use of copper for example.

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So we started the tasting with three vintages of Laval, the Carignan-led cuvée, one of my regular purchases. 2009 was 50% Carignan 50% Grenache, long, deep and just a little hot from the 15.5% alcohol but this is still a wine needing time. Ironically after all I have said the 2014 was in some ways the most forward of the three vintages, with some fruit and freshness. Pat said that he bottled after one year rather than the usual two, maybe that explains the freshness. The 2010 was big, brooding, still quite tannic and bold. Opening the bottles just before the tasting maybe didn’t allow Laval to fully express itself but the 2014 is definitely one to look forward to whilst the 09 is good.

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Bentouly is my personal favourite of Aonghusa. Bentouly is a very steep vineyard with 60 – 70 year old vines and is Grenache dominated. 2011 was pure Grenache, 12 months fermentation with no sulfites added. Deep and long, not obviously fruity but so much going on. 2012 included 10% of other grapes to the Grenache, it was a darker wine, more alcoholic in taste. The 2014, also with a small % of other grapes, was a little angular, some green pepper hints but had a long spicy finish, It needs time but seemed to me to be very promising, along with the Laval 2014 seems to be a top vintage.

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Then to a new wine, The Wild Bunch 2014. Perhaps the best name for a wine I have come across this year. It is wild, made from a range of different grapes. The name reflects the countryside and the flavours. This 2014 was wild, there were flavours leaping all over the place. To my mind it needs a long time in bottle, the grapes were competing a little with each other, they need time to come together and blend. Acidity and a lighter structure with lots of spice this is a wine I would like to come back to in 4 or 5 years time. But it’s the reason why I like this domaine, it is bold, it is experimental, uncompromising and fascinating, a Sam Peckinpah wine.

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                                      The Wild Bunch

Finally, Noah 2010, a 100% Syrah, another new wine to me. Classic Syrah red fruits on the nose it was a huge wine, massive structure, quite difficult to taste. I imagine (as a vegetarian) that it really needs meat, it is certainly no aperitif.

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                                           Noah

What a great tasting. I didn’t love the last wine, I didn’t love one or two of the others but there are many very good wines here and at €7,80 for each one they are very well priced. If you don’t want the bland and the easy drinking wines of so many producers but prefer real character and bold flavour then seek out Aonghusa. I admire the take it or leave it attitude and I will definitely continue to take it.

Faugères – Grandes Cuvées and Fines, Distillerie d’Autignac, Nov 9th

A tasting to celebrate the Faugères Fines, the brandy made from the must of grapes. L’Atelier du Bouilleur is a privately run distillery about which I wrote last year. Run by Quentin Le Cleac’h it is fast gathering a reputation for high quality work and is entrusted by many vignerons such as those of Faugères, Jeff Coutelou etc. Alongside the Fines and eaux de vies you will also find other spirits such as gin. I do not drink spirits so cannot report on the tasting of the Fines on offer (each vigneron had their Fine on their stand) but I was told by others in attendance whose judgement I trust that they are top quality and I can recommend them in confidence. Quentin organised a tour of the distillery and the whole event was very professional with top quality food provided too. Thank you for the invitation, it was a very good event.

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                  Quentin explains the alembic

Faugères has been the part of the Languedoc which has been my star region of 2015. There are so many good producers in the area and it is full of established producers but also a new wave of younger vignerons taking over family domaines as well as new arrivals into the area.  Clos Fantine is a particular favourite of mine about which I wrote earlier in the year but was not represented at this event. Ten other producers were present including some I had not tasted before as well as favourites such as Domaine de Cébène, indeed it was Brigitte Chevalier who invited me along.

I started with 3 familiar domaines whose wines I like. Haut Lignières produces many good wines which I have described before and Jérome Rateau was showing the top of the range, Empreinte Carbone. The 2012 was described as young but is already balanced with lovely fruit as well as structure, one of my top wines of the day. The 2013 was definitely young and the fruit was evident again but there is a lot of power behind it which will balance with time.

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Jérome Rateau (centre) with Guillaume Deschamps on the left

Ollier Taillefer is the domaine which first attracted me to the region many years ago.  As well as the usual wines there was a new cuvée Le Rêve De Noé 2013. This is a special barrel of Syrah and Mourvèdre and will be made only in top years. Very big and structured but plenty of fruit too.  The wine is apparently based on the story of Noah. the first man to become intoxicated after eating fermented grapes. La Liquière is a very good producer, I have tasted the range a couple of times this year and was more than happy to do so again. Cistus is the basic cuvée both red and white and actually my favourite in the range as they offer immediate pleasure but with real quality. The Blanc 14 is lovely, fresh and round from grapes grown at high altitude, very good. The Rouge was 2010 so a little age added roundness and complexity. I think Faugères wines really benefit from a little maturing and here was further proof.

New domaines such as Grange d’Aïn, Prés Lasses were interesting, I liked Boria 2012 from the latter in particular. Domaine Gabinèle produces very big wines with a lot of structure, not my personal taste but well received by others.

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Didier Barral (left) talking to Dominic George of Le Wine Shop in Pézenas

Didier Barral of Léon Barral was present and Jadis 2012, Carignan based, was big, silky and long with pleasant deep fruit. Barral is now the top rated producer in the Languedoc by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, further proof of the rise of this appellation. Mas D’Alezon is another domaine whose star is rising, Catherine Roque (of Domaine Clovallon fame) showed a very good Blanc 2013, one of the best wines in the tasting. Very round but a clean, fresh finish with peachy and almost orangey, citrus fruit. Long lasting and delicious.

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        Mas D’Alezon Blanc with the Fine too

The wines of Binet Jacquet have been getting a lot of praise and quite rightly so based on this tasting. A biodynamic producer the wines showed freshness and fruit, the 2012 Réserve, and especially the Grande Réserve, were very aromatic and full.

Finally I visited Brigitte Chevalier. The Cébène Felgaria 2014 is one of my wines of the year and I always enjoy Brigitte’s wines. The Felagria 2011 was round and full with classic freshness, lovely. Bancels was described by Brigitte as her standard bearer, the characteristic cuvée of the domaine and the 2011 and 13 were shown here. 2013 was a nicely balanced fresh wine whilst the 2011 was fuller and the age added complexity, my favourite of the two.

On returning to the UK I opened a 2008 Bancels and it was still youthful and fresh, certainly more secondary, but showing how well Faugères ages. Cébène is becoming a very high class wine producer.

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Lovely tasting, some very good wines. There’s a lot of development in the appellation and it was interesting to see the amount of Mourvèdre increasing. Exciting times ahead.

Languedoc white wines – Le Wine Shop, October 29th

Yet another excellent tasting organised at Le Wine Shop by Dominic George and Colin Trickett, they provide an enviable service and if you haven’t been to one of their tastings then I wholeheartedly recommend them. This time they were looking at white wines of the region, dry and sweet and also looking at grape varieties which have some history in the Languedoc Roussillon rather than the Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs.

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Dry wines

  • Domaine la Toupie (Côtes de Roussillon) 2014 from Grenache Blanc and Macabeu. Made by a former oenologue who now makes his own wines this was a good start to the tasting with a zingy, appley and fresh wine. Plenty of aroma and white fruit flavours with good length. Good, 8,50€
  • St. Martin De La Garrigue (AOP Languedoc) 2014 from Terret, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne. At 6,70€ this is a good value everyday wine, well made with peach and spice aromas and similar flavours. Full if a little short but plenty to make this a wine to buy at the price. Interesting.
  • St. Martin De La Garrigue Picpoul De Pinet 2013. Well here was an interesting wine. I like Picpoul, it offers plenty of fresh, zesty flavours for a reasonable price. This was a very different Picpoul however, and I mean that in a good way. The makers clearly want to get something extra from the cépage, they leave it until the grapes are actually starting to dry on the vine, passarillé, so the wine is 15% alc. and although very dry it has a quince aroma and is round and full. 9€ and good.

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  • Chateau Bas D’Aumelas (Grès De Montpellier) 2014. Grenache Blanc and Roussanne again. This is a wine made for keeping for 2-3 years to allow the flavours to develop fully. It has a waxy, round though neutral nose at first but it began to open in the glass, a sign of its potential to age. It would have been interesting to taste this after another couple of hours in open bottle. Appley fresh but very round and discreet, this will be very good, you can just feel it. It intrigued me, a serious wine and 10€ is more than fair.
  • Laurent Miquel (IGP d’Oc) Viognier 2014. Now here was a wine which I had tasted before (at a tasting for Sudvinbio) and when I saw it in the tasting sheet I expected to dislike it. One of the bigger companies in the region (therefore my hackles rise) and made from Viognier, a relatively recent import and not my favourite grape especially on its own. And yet when I drank it, the preconceptions were defeated, so all credit. Aromatic yes, with classic apricot notes, but this was dry and a nice fresh finish. Well made and good, 9€.

Sweet wines

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  • Mas Amiel AOP Maury 2011. Grenache Gris this time, for me the best grape in the Roussillon. Made in traditional Maury manner, adding spirit to stop the fermentation leaving the sweetness of the grapes. A light perfume, I expected stronger. Started dry but then a little sweetness kicks in, not overly sweet however. I tasted some spirity flavours and wasn’t so keen on this.
  • Chateau Stony, AOP Muscat De Frontignan, 2013. Another sweet wine made by the addition of spirit but this was much sweeter, with Muscat grapey aromas and light floral notes. Classic Frontignan, a little sweet for me but well made. 8,50€, from Muscat À Petits Grains.
  • Clos Mathélisse, L’Autre Vendange, Vin De France, 2013. Made from Roussanne grapes which are allowed to dry thoroughly and then picked and pressed. Not an easy wine to make and indeed none was made in 2014 or 2015 sadly. This is a natural sweet wine with a really complex nose, some sweetness but also spicy and aromatic. The flavours were long and complex with burned cinder toffee and yet a floral side too and a clean finish, never cloying which is the sign of a good sweet wine for me. Very good and I bought some at 10,50€ for a 50cl bottle, a very reasonable price for this difficult to produce wine. Hats off to David Caer, the vigneron.
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              Talking with David Caer in May

A very enjoyable wine tasting, a good variety of well chosen wines. A nice group of people to taste with too and it was good to hear their opinions, which of course don’t always match mine but that’s what makes a good tasting where you listen to people and their thoughts about the wines. Have a look at Le Wine Shop and if you are in the area call in or book one of the events or tours there. You won’t regret it.

Wine of the tasting: Clos Mathélisse for me, I loved its complexity and length, though the Bas D’Aumelas is a close second.

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                                 Clos Mathélisse

Decanter Wine Awards – Languedoc medallists, Le Wine Shop, Pézenas, July 31st

Dominic and Colin arranged a tasting around Languedoc wines which won medals at the Decanter Wine Awards 2015. Decanter is one of the world’s most celebrated wine magazines and the awards are judges by experts including a large number of Masters Of Wine. Judge of the Languedoc Roussillon panel was none other than Rosemary George, who has featured many times on this blog and is, assuredly, a worthy choice of chief judge.

At the awards the wines are tasted blind and those awarded highest marks are retasted to decide on trophies. It is fair to say that those of us who gathered in Pézenas were not wholly in agreement with the results though all the wines tasted were of good quality.

We started with a rosé, awarded Silver. Domaine Montrose, La Balade 2014 comes from nearby Tourbes. Grenache, Rolle and Syrah it was very pale in colour, dry and citrussy. I thought it more a coloured white wine rather than a rosé but it was OK. 9-10€ is quite high for a rosé from the area.

Chateau Rives Blanques Chardonnay 2014, comes from a familiar Limoux estate. I really liked this, the oak, always used in the area. was well used adding to rather than dominating the aromas and flavours. Refreshing, citrussy, long. Good, worth the 11€ as it is better than many Burgundies of higher price. A silver medal was awarded, well deserved if not better.

Chateau Bas d’Aumelas won the Regional Trophy award for white wines under £15 with its Languedoc 2013 made from Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier. Golden, a little dilute at the edge it had little aroma for me, perhaps some melon. Some citrus, a little honey on the edge but nothing dramatic. I was disappointed with this and rather stunned when I found out what it had been awarded. Perhaps it was the bottle but we mostly agreed the Limoux was better. 9,50€.

To reds and a very good value 4€ wine, Domaine Castelnau, Cayenne 2014. Pure Syrah, it had classic aromas and flavours of the grape. Garnet colour, perfumed, fruity and fairly full. Certainly a good buy at the price, it is simple and good, well worth its silver medal.

My favourite wine of the tasting came next. I have to admit to some bias as this was not a blind tasting and I have previously praised the wines of Plan De L’Homme in the Terrasses De Larzac. Habilis 2011 is made from Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. Still youthful in colour, nose and taste it was deep red, perfumed, black cherry flavoured and carried a smoky edge. Lovely wine and a gold medal winner, for me a very good decision as this is high quality wine at a reasonable 11€.

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Plan De L’Homme wines tasted in April

Ollier Taillefer Grande Réserve 2012 I wrote about in the previous post on this page. I really like the domaine as you will have read but this wine I found a little disappointing. Reductive aromas with plummy fruits and slightly green. The bottle I tasted in Fos was more round and a little jammy. Strange. Yet this won the Regional Trophy award for Languedoc reds which, like the white award was a surprise to me and everyone else present. 11€, same as Plan De L’Homme!

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Ollier Taillefer wines

Sainte Cécile Du Parc is in the Pézenas area and won silver for its Mouton Bartoli 2011, named after the owners’ surnames. A highly unusual blend of Cabernet Franc and Syrah, one of the owners was present and explained that t was her husband’s ambition to make wine with Cabernet Franc like Bordeaux estates. Certainly it was rounder and fuller than Loire Cabernet Francs (thank goodness!). A little shy at first, it opened up and was nice but a price of 30€ would put me off.

Chateau de Gourgazaud Réserve 2012 from the Minervois hotspot of La Lavinière was awarded silver at the awards. Syrah and Mourvèdre and the latter added wild, animal notes on the nose for me (not everyone). It tasted almost like a Cabernet Sauvignon, big round. OK. 11€

Chateau Caraguilhès in the Corbières divided opinion a little. I liked this 2013 bottle made from Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre. It had classic Corbières aromas and flavours, big, round, plummy but also an appealing raspberry finish. 10,95€ for this bronze winner.

Finally from La Clape came the 2012 Réserve of Chateau Camplazens. Syrah, Grenache and Carignan provided a dark colour with spicy aromas and good red fruit flavours. A nice bottle which won silver, for me a little tainted by some fairly obvious sulphur aromas, but then as a natural wine fan that is something which puts me off more than most. 12€.

Conclusions? Well there were no bad bottles, nothing to argue too much about regarding medals. I thought the Rives Blanques Chardonnay was worthy of Gold if the Bas D’Aumelas was. Otherwise fair enough. However, the regional awards did seem strange to all of us. Bas D’ Aumelas, apparently a natural producer, was OK but nothing special and the Ollier Taillefer Réserve wasn’t even their best bottle let alone the region. I don’t know how the trophies were awarded but on today’s showing they were misplaced.

Stars to Rives Blanques for their Chardonnay and Plan De L’Homme for Habilis 2011. I’d happily buy both and the Castelnau Syrah is a steal at 4€ if you want a house red.

Thanks to Le Wine Shop once again, a very good idea for the tasting and it caused much discussion and thought.

Fos, July 26th

Fos is a small village off the D13 from Roujan to Faugères, one of the villages of that appellation. It is home to two of my favourite Languedoc domaines despite its small population of just over 100. As it happened I was able to combine a trip to both last Sunday.

Ollier Taillefer was perhaps the first domaine in the Languedoc to really attract my attention with its wines. I have long enjoyed them and a few years ago, when snowed in one New Year’s Eve it was the Grande Réserve 2007 which accompanied us into 2011.

Sunday was the annual Portes Ouvertes and so it was a pleasure to attend once again. A trip around the new, well designed, highly technical cellars, a display of old Austin Minis (I’d almost forgotten about the choke in a car!), trips around the vines, delicious food stalls and live music, there was plenty to appeal and to enjoy.

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The recent wines tasted well, I have reviewed them before in April (see below). However, the real treat was an opportunity to taste older vintages from the domaine with Luc Ollier who runs the estate with his sister Françoise.

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The Grande Réserves 2012 and 2011 were nice, the former a little bit jammy perhaps, best was Grande Réserve 2009 which had nice leathery, wider notes from its age but still fresh and very good. That freshness (from the schist soils?) is a trademark of the domaine. It was the Castel Fossibus, the domaine’s top wine, which starred however. Selected from the best Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes, it is aged gently in oak (maximum 15% new barrels).

2012 – Some obvious oak but it is well used. Nice fruit, a little fresh acidity as would be expected with such a young bottle of this wine. Promises very well, very good.

2011 – Richer nose, oak is very well integrated. Red fruits, some tannins but round and will help to age the wine. Full. Good.

2010 – More fruity than 11, again hallmark freshness. Oak does come to fore a little and has drying effect.

2007 – Round, fruity nose, almost jammy but the freshness means that never becomes an issue. Tastes clean with red fruit and nicely balanced. Ageing well. Good.

2002 – The star. A tawny edge concerned me but this very much alive and well (more so than the 2005 I tasted in April which, itself, was good). Fresh flavours of red fruit (again) and lingered long in the mouth. Excellent, a classic Faugères of top rank.

Then to white wine, cuvée Allegro. Ollier Taillefer has long offered whites after the reds, a practice I rather like but not many others offer. The 2014 Allegro was clean and fruity but still young, the 2011 nice and spicy. My favourite was 2013, perhaps atypical because of its exotic fruit nose, almost pineapple aromas. Fresh, clean and dry and very harmonious, very good.

Another special treat lay in store with Baies De Novembre, a sweet wine picked in…. Sweet but always refreshingly balanced with natural acidity and a lovely wine.

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The new cellars with shiny stainless steel cuves, the photos on the side were very good

And so to Mas Sibert, the small 2ha domaine of Sara Frémine and Simon Bertschinger. I have written a blog about the domaine before and it remains a firm favourite. In July and August they fire up their wood oven and you can pop along, eat pizza and enjoy a bottle or a glass of the wine. Perfect.

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The pizzas are made by Sara, carried to the oven by their daughter and cooked by Simon. He had started the oven at 10am and on a hot day the heat from the oven must have caused him to lose kilos of weight. Together with our friend Lesley we shared a vegetarian pizza and one with lardons. Both substantial, we took the rest home for the following day. Delicious.

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Now, where could Simon be from?

The wines of course are definitely delicious! Fosénot (Syrah 70% with 10% each of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Sangiovese) is one of my favourite Languedoc wines, the Sangiovese seems to really add zing and the 2013 showed well despite the heat. The rosé Saramon (70% Sangiovese and 30% Syrah) adds citrus and texture to that fresh zinginess with a round finish. Very good, the first time I had the chance to drink it as it is sells out quickly, which is not a surprise. If you can find Mas Sibert wines, buy them and if you’re in the area pop along one Sunday for pizza, just contact them beforehand to reserve. And pop along to Ollier Taillefer to buy some more excellent wines.

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Fos, small village, great wines and lovely people.

Ollier Taillefer

Mas Sibert

Fête Des Vieux Cepages, Trilla (66), July 18th

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I met André Dominé when judging at a Sudvinbio competition and he mentioned the Fête Des Vieux Cépages that he organises in his home village. As a fan of old grape varieties and of Roussillon I was keen to attend. The village is up in the hills above Perpignan beyond Latour De France which I visited last November. It is remote and the whole village was en fête, the wine tasting being part of that celebration. Naturally André had organised a top class event with some excellent producers on hand to share their wines and especially wines from unusual or old varietes. There were also some conferences on topics such as Grenache Gris in the Roussillon and old Alsace varieties, of which more later.

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Michel makes a brief appearance top right into Carignan Corner

The other big attraction was Carignan Corner, a collection of Carignan wines, sometimes blended with other grapes, run by the inimitable and admirable Michel Smith. I am a long time admirer of Michel’s writing and passion for this variety and it was great to finally catch up with him. So let’s start there. Some interesting wines, my top three were:

*Le Blaireau 2014 from Mas des Quernes was first, a domaine near Montpeyroux I had not previously come across. I really liked this, it was amongst my favourite wines of the day, – light structure, refreshing with nice cherry flavours, a good summer red.

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*Puch 2010 is actually from Michel’s domaine which he shares with friends. Again a light, open style which was fun to drink.

*Coume Majou 2011, see below

Les Clos Perdus (Peyriac De Mer)

I had wanted to taste more from this domaine after many recommendations and one wine tasted in the village of Peyriac itself. The Australian Paul Old, one of the domaine’s owners, was on hand to show the wines and they did not disappoint.

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*L’Extrême Blanc 2014 from very old Grenache Gris, Blanc and Noir vines with very low yields was round, with a dry, mineral edge and very fresh. Good.

*L’Année 2011 form Maccabeu and Grenache Gris was deep, with a nice appley flavour which added acidity to the full flavours. Good but 25.

*Prioundo 2013 a red from Grenache and 20& Cinsault, the latter adding a light perfume to the aromas. Still restrained but very promising.

*L’Extrême Rouge 2011, Lladoner Pelut dominates with 25% Syrah and there was a real tension in this wine, it was light and elegant yet there was power and depth of flavour held in reserve, very good but again 25.

Les Arabèsques (Montner)

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I met Saskia van der Horst at Latour De France last year and again in Montpellir at an offline at Millésime Bio. I recommended her wines then and, having tasted them again plus some new vintages, I would strongly recommend them! Saskia only started in 2013 and she is already producing very good wines, which will improve as she develops her vineyards. I especially liked:

*the white Elanion 2014, Maccabeu with Grenaches Blanc et Gris. Balanced, fruity, dry lovely.

*the rosé Ocarina 14 is Syrah dominated and very refreshing, a light apricot colour with fresh fruit and dryness.

*Le Roi Pêcheur 14 is mainly from Carignan with lots of other varieties mixed in. Restrained and light at first it opens and evolves in the mouth to deliver fresh red fruits. My favourite in the range.

*L’Estocade 13 is richer and fuller than LRP and this has really opened up since I tasted it in January. Lovely fruit and power with a refreshing finish. Good.

*Black Album 13 was new to me, 100% Grenache. A huge wine with lots of fruit and tannin which needs time but it’s easy to see how well this will develop.

Rémi Jaillet (Villesèque des Corbières)

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Yet another Corbières producer making very good wine, I have said before that this a region on the move and here is more proof. Rémi was unknown to me before today and I apologise to him, I meant to buy some wine before leaving and forgot to. I shall have to visit at some point.

*Camp De Soulat 100% Carignan, Deep, lovely red colour. Nice fruit, light and clear with some power at finish. 8

*Espanouse Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, fruity and pleasing, refreshing 8,50

*Mitounes (?) 2014 Grenache, Carignan, Syrah. Red fruits then power kicks in but always balanced and refreshing. Very Good. 11

Thierry Navarre (Roquebrun)

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I had drunk many of Thierry’s wines before as he is one of my favourite producers in St Chinian. It was good to meet him and he is every bit as affable and charming as his wines.

*Lagnières (?) Ribeyrenc Gris and Grenache Gris, perfumed, racy fresh taste with bright fruit flavours which lasted a long time. Very Good.

*L’Oeillade Fresh, lovely and perfumed. Really good peppery notes but such a good example of this grape. Very Good.

*Laouzil St Chinian Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, structured fruit but balnaces with power and elegance. Top St Chinian

*Cuvée Olivier 13, Carignan, Grenache and Syrah old vines, more restrained and powerful, Good.

*Ribeyrenc 13, Thierry called it singular, I love it. Round, herby, direct, clean and long. Very Good.

Coume Majou

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The domaine of Luc Charlier whose wines I had wanted to taste for some time. It was the series of vintages of La Loute, his Carignan which were the highlights.

I especially liked the 2010 which was fresh, lighter in structure with some welcome acidity to add freshness. The 2012 followed in similar vein and was equally good. Luc recommended the 2011 which was in Carignan Corner and was more full, powerful but always with good fresh acidity.

Other wines I enjoyed included:

Gauby’s Blanc Vieilles Vignes 2013 which had lovely apricot and yellow fruit flavours but with a direct clean structure, very good wine.

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Le Soula Blanc 2009 had fennel and herby notes but good structure and texture too, always refreshing. Their Terre d’Altitude Fenouillade 2011 was elegant with rich cherry and acidity to refresh.

Padié Gibraltar 2014 Grenache and Mourvèdre, deep dark colour with perfumed fruit and dark cherry acidity. Very drinkable.

The two conferences I attended were on Grenache Gris in the Roussillon a talk given by Pierre Torres who talked about its history as a grape used for making the sweet wines of the region and its decline after World War 2 to less than one sixth of its plantings beforehand. It has become the central grape for making the top quality white wines of the region as demonstrated during the salon and by wines such as Treloar’s Terre Promise amongst others. Pierre suggested that it could also be used for making Gris De Gris wins and top quality rancios too. The second conference on Alsace coincided with my final dégustation in the salon, the wines of Marcel Deiss presented by his son Matthieu whom I had the good fortune to meet in Montpellier in January. Matthieu talked about the domaine’s philosophy of wanting to present the terroir as the lead for their wines rather than single grape varieties which is the norm in Alsace. Their vines are complanted on the site, and the result is wines which reflect each site.

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*Alsace, a mix of 13 cépages is dry but aromatic with long refreshing fruit and minerality. Good.

There followed three wines from the same varieties but different soils to show the expression of terroir.

*Langenberg 2012 from granite which drains well, dry, racy but with complex fruit and aromatics which fill the mouth, very good

*Engelgarten 2012 from clay and gravel, more aromatic but full and a clean finish with a last kick of acidity, very good

*Rotenberg 2012, limestone, chalky soils, the Riesling freshness was evident but other grapes added complexity and roundness, drinking very well now but would last many years, very good.

*Grand Cru Altenberg 2010, extraordinary wine. Intense, concentrated, with sweet notes and a honey edge kept in check by a very dry and clean steely edge, such great balance and exciting wine. 66is expensive but understandable for a great wine.

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So, a really good tasting, lots of very good wines and people. Thanks to André and his team and to all the winemakers present.

Just a quick mention too for our accommodation. If you are in the area look out for La Napajo, chambres d’ hôtes of the highest quality in nearby Ansignan, highly recommended.

http://www.gites-de-france.com/location-vacances-Ansignan-Chambre-d-hotes-La-Napajo-66G200601.html

Faugères – Fête du Grand St Jean, July 12th

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Procession of the Faugeres confrerie

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Visitors from Alsace

As Mentioned by me elsewhere Faugères is an area of the Languedoc whose wines are seriously on the up. My post about Clos Fantine recently explained some of the background of the village with its schist soils bringing freshness and complexity to the wines of good winemakers.

The second Sunday of July is the Fête du Grand St. Jean with the narrow village streets filled with winemakers, food stalls and other treats. Being a hot day in the mid 30s we went early to avoid the worst of the heat and crowds. It was already busy with many friends there and the wine writer Rosemary George in attendance too.

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The heat meant that whites and rosés were often easiest to taste. Vignerons sought to keep their wines cool in ice buckets including the reds. For my taste there was a little too much injudicious oak / barrel ageing from some producers and the heat probably made them taste even more dried out. As always there were good, average and some I didn’t really like but these were my highlights.

Ancienne Mercerie – an organic producer, the first I tasted with on the day which is never easy but I did like the Couture 2013, a nice play on words incidentally. A blend of Carignan, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre with low yields and 12 months in used barrels. Here was a good example of using barrels well, to add complexity not a flavour of wood or vanilla.

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St. Martin d’Agel – two very good reds wines, Pélerin (2013?) and La Chapelle 2011. Both full, round and well balanced with fruit and elegance. I liked these, they were much more harmonious than the last time i tasted them. Definitely worth seeking out.

Chenaie – I liked the unoaked wines such as the white Conviction 2014 which had lots of white and yellow fruit flavours a well as a freshness. The red Face A La Mer 2014 was from young Grenache vines and this added a little sappy cherry flavour which lifted the wine.

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My three favourite producers on the day were undoubtedly:

Mas Des Capitelles (website) – an organic and biodynamic producer just off the main road into Faugères from Pézenas. I had not tasted the wines before but will definitely seek them out again. Very well priced too. Catiède 2013 had lovely spice aromas and flavours, a blend of Carignan, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Some round tannins suggesting it will age a while despite a very reasonable price tag of €6,30. The cuvée Vieilles Vignes was shown from 2012 and 2013 and the vintage difference was apparent, 2012 much more austere and needing time but the 13 was round red fruits and very long lasting. At €8,50 this is seriously good value. Loris 2011 (?) mostly Carignan with some Mourvèdre, so you’d expect big flavours and it did not disappoint. 14 months in barrel and yet there was no real flavour of this even more my oak averse palate. This is how to use barrels. Powerful, yet balanced with dark fruits. Definitely a domaine I need to look into again.

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Loris, Vieilles Vignes 13 and 12, Catiede (left to right)

Haut Lignières (website) – I had the pleasure of meeting Jérome Rateau at the Faugères presentation back in April and was struck by his wines at the time. He is a young vigneron going places in my opinion. There are the traditional Faugères wines and I particularly enjoyed the Rosé 2014 all fresh fruits and dry, almost citrussy, leaving a long cool finish. Just how rosé should be and at €6,50 a great buy. Carmina Butis 2013 (?) was a classic Faugères red, a blend of mostly Syrah with Grenache and a little Mourvèdre. Big flavours yet round and balanced with classic Faugères minerality.

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However, Jérome also produces a range of wines under his own name and I like these a lot. My favourite of the three on the day was the entry level Petites Plumes 2013, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan with deep red fruit flavours and a lovely balance of fresh acidity to leave you wanting more. Lovely and well priced at €9,50. Sur Le Fil 2013 was bigger and bolder, maybe not showing at its best in the heat but still very good with dark fruits and complexity and another example of using barrels well to deepen the flavours rather than dominate them, €12.

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Domaine de Cébène (website) – Brigitte Chevalier has long been one of my favourite wine producers and her wines get better and better as she reaps the rewards from her soils and vines for all the hard work she has put into them. I remember Brigitte showing me around some vineyards a few years ago as she explained how she sought north facing slopes to avoid the heat and how she planned to improve the soils and her cellar. Brigitte has garnered praise from critics and experts far more experienced and knowledgeable than me and, for once, I go along with them all.

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Belle Lurette 2013 is a great expression of very old (100+) Carignan vines with tiny yields and a little addition of Mourvèdre and Grenache. At the risk of sounding all pompous this is a wine which has mystery in it, dark, deep fruit flavours of great persistence and yet so refreshing. Bancèls 2013 is Syrah, Grenache and a little Mourvèdre with dark fruits again but a cassis hint which lifts the wine and adds elegance and freshness. This has usually been my favourite wine of Cébène. But… Brigitte said to try the Felgaria 2013, newly bottled. Wow, one of my best wines of the year so far. The structure is almost light yet the power breaks through, this is a concentrated wine but beautifully elegant. It reminded me of a top Burgundy in its elegance and structure. The addition of Syrah and Grenache to the dominant Mourvèdre gives it classic Faugères flavours however, spice, dark fruits with round, gentle tannins. Just gorgeous. Its power means that it will age well and get even more complex but how to resist it? This is what Brigitte was searching for in settling in Faugères I am sure, that balance of power, elegance, fruit and complexity. And what an advert for the 2013 vintage. Chapeau Brigitte.

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Cheese and wine – Le Wine Shop, Pezenas, June 11th

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The latest in the excellent series of tastings at Le Wine Shop this one looked at marrying local Languedoc wines with cheese. This is a standard pairing, in the UK cheese and wine parties are a long staple of middle class life and it happens elsewhere too. There are traditional pairings, many people serve red wine with cheeses, port with blue cheese etc. The aim of this tasting was to look at how various wines might match to different cheeses from around France. The cheeses were provided by La Fromagèrie in Béziers, an excellent source of great cheese from past experience.

The matches were as follows:

1. Brie De Meaux (cow) – Blanc De Blancs Sparkling Chardonnay from Daurion in Caux

2. Brillat Savarin (cow) – Pinot Noir from Seigneurie de Peyrat, Pézenas

3. Catal Croix (goat) – Sauvignon Blanc, Domaine Fadez, Marseillan

4. St. Nectaire (cow) – Piquepoul Noir, Domaine de la Grangette, Castelnau de Guers

5. Ossau Iraty (sheep) – Chardonnay, Chateau Grezan, Faugères

6. Comté (cow) – Syrah, Domaine Abournières, Roujan

7. Maroilles (cow) – Etancilles (Viognier, Chardonnay), Domaine La Clapière, Montagnac

8. Roquefort (sheep) – L’Autre Vendange (Roussanne), Clos Mathélisse, Aspiran

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Every cheese was delicious, without exception. Particular favourites were the Ossau Iraty which was nutty and parmesan like, the Comté aged for 2 years with fruity and nutty flavours and the melting Roquefort.

Of the wines I liked the Fadez Sauvignon which had classic characteristics of the variety, fresh and grassy. The Piquepoul Noir was interesting, soft with stewed plum and liquorice flavours. The Syrah was also good, a very fruity nose of blackcurrants and myrtilles and long fruity flavours, it seemed oaky but apparently there is no oak ageing. My favourite was the natural wine (shock!) from Clos Mathélisse about whom I have written before. A sweet no sulphite wine L’Autre Vendange had a clean finish, honey flavours brought out by the Roquefort but never cloying.

As for the matches. Most worked. Not the Brie with sparkling Chardonnay and the Roquefort probably needed something sweeter though I did like the wine. The Comté and Syrah, Brillat Savarin with Pinot Noir and St Nectaire Piquepoul Noir were particular successes.

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It was a very enjoyable event, a good group of people who were frank and friendly. As ever Dominic and Colin provided huge knowledge of the wines and cheeses, with lots of facts and opinions. They are a great team. I look forward eagerly to the wine and chocolate event, the diet starts then!

Salon L’Epicuvin – Abbaye De Valmagne May 31st

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A salon held in a magnificent setting, it really added a sense of something special to proceedings. Surprisingly quiet for an event with so many good domaines represented, I do hope that it got busier as the day proceeded. Nevertheless for those of us who did attend this meant more space and less hassle at the tasting tables which is always good. The former church also kept temperatures cool despite the heat outside which made for a better tasting experience. Good food stalls also meant that lunch was easily sorted out and I ended up being at the tasting for 4 -5 hours, unhurried and I thoroughly enjoyed the day.

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Bouzigues oysters for lunch

So to the wines. There were a number of familiar domaines from the region and I enjoyed meeting up again with winemakers such as Jérôme Py of Causse Noir (Faugères), Deborah Core of Mas Gabriel (Caux) and domaines such as Villa Dondona (Montpeyroux) and Mortiès (Pic St Loup) which I have written about before.

The Villa Dondona wines again impressed with their depth of flavour and balancing freshness. Oppidum and Dondona the two most prestigious cuvées were not over big like too many of these “cuvées spéciales” and the 2010s were very good. As I described on the Coteaux Du Languedoc tasting the Dondona 10 took a long time to come around and was held in the domaine until it did, so they are happy to sell it now. It was the lighter cuvées which really took my attention though, Que Du Grenache 12 with lovely strawberry fruits and the Chemin des Cayrades 12 soft and round Carignan with lively, fresh aromas.

Mas Gabriel continues to blossom. Trois Terrasses, of which I bought a top up, Clos Des Lièvres and Clos Des Papillons all continue to reward the lucky drinker. The new white Champ des Bleuets 14 was one of only 700 or so bottles made, mostly Vermentino and coriander and spice notes. Yes I bought some of that too.

As I did from Jérôme Py. His Causse Noir wines are truly a reflection of him, big, bright and full of cheer. He cares passionately about his wines and I like them all, 3.14, Caius and Mathias. Caius, a blend of 4 grapes, is deep and dark, almost chocolate and coffee notes. Lovely wines, lovely bloke.

Mas Du Daumas Gassac (Aniane) is possibly the most well known name on the Languedoc and it was a good opportunity to try wines from a domaine which was one of the first Languedocs I tasted many years ago. The Rouge 2012 was very Bordeaux like, unsurprisingly given the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes which make up 65% of the wine. It needs a long time to age and was still quite thick with tannin. The 2006 was also tasted and was very minty. It reminded me of some Australian Cabernets with its mint and eucalyptus type flavours, very unusual for France. Still very tannic, not to my taste. The Blanc however was good. A blend of many varieties notably Viognier, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng and Chenin amongst others. Very fresh, very round woth almost creamy texture. Then sharp agrume notes (from the Petit Manseng?) left a cleansing and pleasant finish. Which was very long. Very good but the 60€ price tag is a deterrent.

Terre Inconnue (St Seriès) is a domaine which I have bought wine from via Leon Stolarski Wines in the UK. Guilhem 11 was an unusual blend of Carignan, Grenache with Merlot and Tempranillo, but it worked very well. Deep, dark with a touch of volatility, and I enjoyed it despite a green note at the end. The pure Carignan Léonie 05 was edgy and fascinating. Coffee, hints of torrefaction in the aromas. In flavour it was round, elegant and refreshing, spicy almost leathery notes. Complex, very good. The pure grenache Los Albuelos 2010 was a little too wild for me though it was certainly intriguing. Sylvie 2011 is a blend of Syrah and Sérine, the latter being a forerunner of Syrah and now a rare cépage. Round, spicy and very fruity with lots of strawberry and other red fruit flavours, it still needs some time but lovely wine. Then two Grenache wines where the grapes are aged for a long time to create a wine heading towards a sherry / rancio style. Long, creamy and dry with still enough juice to make it a wine rather than sherry. I liked it a lot. Then finally more Grenache this time some of it had been aged in oak barriques for 10 years the rest for 5 years. Definite sherry notes and Robert confirmed it was made under a voile, a layer of yeasts and musts. Myriad aromas, complex flavours ranging from dried fruits to fresh coffee. These are very personal and individual wines, Robert Creus’ free spirit shows through in them and from reading Leon’s comments you either love them or hate them, I’m in the former camp.

Mas Lou (Faugères) wines were good, I liked their Viognier, INTT, which was well balanced and their rosé. The reds pleased me more though with spiciness showing and the freshness from the schist soils. In particular Angaco 13 made from Carignan and Lledonner Pellut wwas excellent value at 8€.

Domaine Fons Sanatis (St Jean De Fos) is unusual in making all single variety wines. Benoît Braujou is an interesting man and I heartily recommend his website, the best I have seen for a wine domaine explaining his philosophy, work and wines in a variety of ways, have a look at http://www.fons-sanatis.fr/index.html. The vermentino B…d’Agniane had natural notes and was round with pleasing herbal notes. Même Jeanne was Petit Manseng (again) with long maceration and an orange colour giving herbal, coriander and spice and a long finish. Unusual but it worked. I enjoyed the Grenache called GrenH with its clear savoury and fruity style. Witizia was pure Carignan aged for 2 years in oak and spicy, peppery and refreshing, very good. There was a lovely port like wine whose name I missed unfortunately but it’s a great match with chocolate. However, the star was a major surprise to me. I am not a Merlot fan but Coudereu is just that, picked late and oak aged. How does that make for a lovely wine? Well it does, with red fruits, spice and silky texture. At 10,50€ great avkue, and somehow I forgot to buy some. I must seek this out.

There were also wines from outside the region. Three champagne houses were present. I must admit that Monial didn’t excite me unfortunately. Gosset were there but every time I went the representative said his wines were not cold enough or had gone to taste elsewhere. Not helpful. However this was more than compensated for by Champagne Barbichon, a biodynamic producer. A nice Blanc De Blancs was followed by a real star in 4 Cépages, mostly Pinot Noir which shone through to give interesting depth of flavour. Very good at 17,30€.

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Champagne Barbichon

Finally another intriguing producer in Domaine Rousset Peyraguey from Sauternes. Biodynamic vinification and limited use of sulphur is certainly rare in sweet wine production. The sulphur that is used is volcanic and in low quantities. There were numerous bottles on offer and the highlights were the Barsac Aléthia 2010 with bees wax, citrus and very well balanced. The Réserve Soufre De Volcan 2005 was again very nicely balanced with lots of sweet flavours growing in the mouth abd a refreshing finish. Vin De Voile 2007 had extraordinary salinity which sliced through the sweetness, the result of VA but it certainly worked. Crème De Tête 2003 was lovely, 8 years in barrel had brought huge depth of flavour and a clean, sweet finish.

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Rousset Peyraguey’s large range

So a really enjoyable tasting, thanks to the organisers Epicuvin and Daniel Roche for organising it.

Older vintages of classic regions – Le Wine Shop, May 28th

Apologies for the lack of photos as I simply forgot to take any. The regular tastings at Le Wine Shop took a route around Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhone with some older vintages of wines. It was interesting to listen to some peoples’ thoughts on the wines and mine probably don’t match most peoples’. I do like older wines, I have some 1990 Bordeauxs and older Burgundies myself and enjoy some older wines but these days I tend to drink wine younger, partly due to living in the Languedoc and partly that my tastes have changed in recent years.

The red Burgundies and Bordeaux wines did little for me I must confess, they simply seemed tired and one dimensional, for example I found the Moillard Nuits St Georges 2000 a little vegetal as well as over the top. Not something I’d want to drink. However, three wines did stand out.

Moreau Chablis Grand Cru 1989 (apologies for not having the vineyard) was great. Everything you’d want in a Chablis, it still carried mineral aromas, tasted dry and slightly citrussy but then a honey hint as the wine rounded out. Clean and dry in the finish and very long lasting. I have struggled with some Chablis in the past and this was a revelation, 26 years old and a lovely wine. A revelation.

Vieux Télégraphe Chateauneuf du Pape 1996 managed to steal top wine away from the Chablis but only just. Browning slightly around the edge but still a deep and bright dark red colour. It smelled of ripe, summer fruits with concentrated grenache influences. Deep, dark fruits with an almost herbal note, garrigue like. Fascinating as it grew in the glass, notes of mint developed but always the clear fruit. I kept a small amount in my glass and it was still developing after 25 minutes or so. A great wine, probably at its peak but still life in it.

Finally, a Sauternes. Sweet wines often get high marks at tastings, perhaps their different flavours make a change and they are more openly pleasing and enjoyable. Yet it is hard to resist a very good sweet wine and Le Pape 2005 was very much that. Golden colour, complex aromatics citrus and bees wax. It started clean and fresh in the mouth but then a waxy, oily wave of barley sugar, honey and clean acidity afterwards. Again, the wine grew in the glass, persisted in the mouth and has years ahead of it if required. Lovely.

So thanks to Colin and Dominic for an unusual and rewarding tasting.

Fêtes Des Vins Natures – Adissan, May 3rd

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The first of two May natural wine salons and a number of vignerons attended both. I shall try to avoid repetition.

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The Adissan event was held at the Chapelle De La Roque above the village sheltered by trees and surrounded by vines and fields. A jazz group played throughout the afternoon, food was served by Romain Henry Neiss of Pas Comme Les Autres who would host the second of the salons later in May.

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It was a lovely, welcoming atmosphere , very relaxed and with some top producers present. The only issue was the heavy weather and perhaps it was these atmospheric conditions which suppressed the red wines a little, whites were much easier to taste.

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Some regular favourites present included Yannick Pelletier, Julien Peyras and Alain Castex of Casot Mailloles and François Aubry of La Fontude. I have described their wines before on this page at tastings in Arles and Bédarieux. They are always good, heartily recommended. It is interesting to see how the wines develop as these are mainly the 13s and 14s recently bottled and beginning to develop in bottle. Yannick‘s I de R white wine was very good, much deeper and more textured perhaps. L’Oiselet‘s Cinsault fruit showed well and despite what I have written above it was Coccigrues his biggest red wine which was the star of his wines, all dark fruits and complexity yet more open than previous tastings. Julien PeyrasGourmandise 14 had lovely cherry aromas which tasted light and refreshing. The La Fontude Carnaval 14 was particularly showing well, a rosé or rather clairet in style. Almost cherry marzipan flavours with a refreshing acidity. Fontitude and Entremonde were both good and the natural style brings their fruits out well. Perhaps my favourite though was an, as yet unbottled, Grenache from the same parcel as Carnaval. Lovely.

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Enjoying the event with Yannick Pelletier

Otherwise the stars were white wines. Domaine Ribiera is run by Régis and Christine Pichon in Aspiran. The Clairette Les Canilles 13 was excellent, lovely peach and apricot flavours with round and nicely judges acidity to cleanse the palate. There was also an intriguing white wine, Y’a un terret 13. Made from Terret with pronounced pear notes Régis said this had been sulking in tank but had finally come around and, my word, it was very good. Equally intriguing was a sweet wine made from Roussanne developed under flor as in a sherry or in Jura. It had that dry sherry, vin jaune taste but also some clean fruit to give it a lift. Delicious.

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With Christine and Régis (Domaine Ribiera), their wines below

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I also enjoyed the wines of another Aspiran producer Grégory White. The Terret 13 was very clean and mineral with tropical fruit notes and a very long finish. The Grenache Blanc was also very good with peachy notes to balance the minerality. The Rouge, Jamais de soif, was also fruity and light so did well in the conditions, very nice. First meeting with Grégory and I hope not the last as I enjoyed his wines a lot.

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Talking to Grégory

As I also did Exorde 12 from yet another Aspiran producer Clos Mathélisse made from Cinsault with round, sweet fruit and some complexity.

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With David Caer of Clos Mathélisse

Joe Jefferies is someone I have come to know through the Pézenas pub quiz as well as his wines made under the Domaine Bories Jefferies name. In Arles these were freshly bottled and although promising they were a little volatile and reductive. How they have come around. Pierre De Sisyphe 12 was good, clear Terret with mineral , even saline, notes and fruit fighting to the fore as you savour the wine, very good. La Jeanne 13 from Marsanne and Grenache Blanc was mineral, clear and direct with added complexity from the oak ageing of some of the wine. Pierre De Sisyphe 13 was also very good with Carignan Blanc and Grenache Blanc giving long flavours. I really enjoyed these and they tasted even better two weeks later at the Béziers event. I was gutted to hear that they are sold out, but hardly surprised as they are good wines. Happy for Joe that he has been able to sell them so quickly, he did mention that personally he would age them a little longer before opening.

Joe proudly wearing his quiz team Tshirt. They beat us regularly.

Joe proudly wearing his quiz team Tshirt. They beat us regularly.

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Bories Jefferies wines, excellent

Finally another favourite Clos Fantine. Corine Andrieu was one of the main organisers of this successful event and her brother Olivier showed the wines. They were all reds and perhaps a little subdued but the Tradition 13 was still very good with rich, supple fruits and the promise of better to come if aged. Lanterne Rouge and Courtiol were both good too. I have never drunk anything less than good from Clos Fantine.

Maintenant On Boit Autrement (MOBA) – Béziers, May 17th

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Romain Henry Neiss of Pas Comme Les Autres organised this event in Place Madeleine where his very good restaurant and wine bar can be found. A live group and hot sunshine made for a fun atmosphere in which to show the mix of organic, biodynamic and natural wines which can be found in chez Romain.

More good wines from Peyras, Pelletier and Casot des Mailloles. They can do little wrong for me. Joe Jefferies wines’ showed even better than 2 weeks earlier and the news of the ‘sold out’ signs was a blow.

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With Julien Peyras and Joe Jefferies

I enjoyed the red Bombadium of Thomas Rouanet which needs a little time but was full of fruity aromas and complex flavours. Les Eminades is not natural but organic . The 2013s were a little subdued and hidden still and the advantage of another year helped the Syrah led Sortilège and pure Carignan of Vieilles Canilles. Both deep, complex and well balanced.

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The major discovery for me though was Ludovic Engelvin‘s wines. I rather rudely interrupted his lunch but he served me a succession of excellent wines. Radiant Rosé was a sparkling rosé and very good, Cruelles brought raspberry fruit flavours to Grenache, lively and fresh. Même – Si was again Grenache, its light structure disguising strength and depth with lasting deep fruit. Vieux Ronsard is single parcel Grenache and very complex fruit with power again packed in its light structure. Best of all was Vilains, Grenache Vieilles Vignes with raspberry and strawberry aromas and complex depth of flavour in it s light appearance. This reminded me of a Burgundy, but a very good Burgundy. Truly exceptional wine, sadly at a very Burgundy price of 69.50€. These were some of the best wines I have tasted this year.

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Talking to Joe about Mas Coutelou

Normally in these tasting notes I don’t mention Mas Coutelou when Jeff is present as I sing their praises regularly. However, it would be remiss of me not to sing their praises here. It is easy for me to overlook just how good they are and I tasted a couple of wines during the course of MOBA including a pure Syrah which was just singing, ripe, deep fruit with great length. Joe Jefferies had a long chat with Jeff and afterwards was telling me how good he found them with their fruit profile yet clearly complex and I was able to assure him that they do age well too, they are not just fruit wines for one year. So, forgive my bias, Mas Coutelou was definitely one of the stars on show.

Printemps de Vin – Saint Saturnin, May 8th

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As a neighbour to the more renowned wine village of Montpeyroux St Saturnin has had to work to raise itself from out of the shadow. The profile of Virgile Joly has helped, focus of the book ‘Virgile’s Vineyard’ by Patrick Moon which, it seems, is compulsory reading for Anglophone Languedociens. Joly has also served as President of Millésime Bio and is prominent in official Languedoc wine organisations. I first visited his domaine 5 years ago after reading the book and Rosemary George’s blog. I did enjoy the Virgile Joly white wines but, as before, the reds seem a little tired to me. Sorry M. Joly.

Since then other vignerons have left the powerful village co-op to offer more individuality and competition. The other familiar domaine to me is Archimbaud whose wines I have bought in the UK from Leon Stolarski and I tasted recently at the Coteaux Du Languedoc event (see below). Unfortunately, though advertised to be present at this event, Archimbaud were not represented which was disappointing as I was looking forward to tasting Robe Pourpre again. Also not present though advertised to be so was Mas Jullien, a domaine which is on the top level of Languedoc wines. I have enjoyed the wines many times and was sorely disappointed that they were not present.

Mas D’Amile was recommended to me by Graham Tigg and we tasted them together. I enjoyed the lighter wines such as the Terret Blanc 14 with its creamy and mineral fruit flavours and the Vieux Carignan 13 from low yielding (20hl/ha) 80 year old vines which was a classic Carignan wine, deep dark fruits but a refreshing fruit profile.

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Domaine de l’Argenteille served a very nice Garric 11 from Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and a little Grenache. Very spicy with dark, plummy fruits. Less oak than the 2012 version and I preferred it.

Mas Conscience was one of the stars of the Coteaux Du Languedoc tasting for me and I was more than happy to retaste some wines. IN is the white from a number of grape varieties and it was just as good. Complex nose, mineral and white fruit flavours and the viognier just gives it a fruit lift, Very nice. Yet another pure Carignan was starring Le Cas 13. Different to the Mas D’Amile wine with a lighter fruitier profile but some weight on the finish suggesting more development to come.

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Domaine de Dausso showed four wines and two were worthy of note for me. Alissaie 2012 is Syrah and Grenache with simple clear fruits, strawberry like. I do like these simpler wines which have not been too ‘worked’. This was fruity but carried refreshing and balanced acidity, it is certainly not a simple wine. Evidence 13 from Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre again showed lots of red fruit with a little flavour from some light oak ageing.

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The two stars of the day for me though were Réserve d’O and Domaine de Malavieille.

I enjoyed and wrote about Réserve d’O in my notes on Millésime Bio as they were amongst the best wines I tasted there. They were every bit as good today. The Réserve d’O 2012 (Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault) was good. Classic Languedoc in many ways with fruit, refreshing acidity and some complexity and depth. Certainly lifted by the Cinsault’s presence. The 2010 version was more concentrated, reflecting the sunny profile of the vintage. Personally I’d choose the 12 but I would happily drink either. Hissez O 2008 has more Syrah in the blend and spent 2 years in oak. Now as you may have gathered I am not an oak fan but this was well judged for such a long period in wood. Very long, very fresh with just a little vanilla from the oak. Lovely wines.

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Domaine de Malavieille was a new domaine to me and I liked the wines so much I bought some. AOP wines are made under the Chateau name, IGP carry Domaine de Malavieille. There are also wines under the Mas De Bertrand name from another side of the family. A little confusing but worth sorting through.

Les Petits Dragons 2010 (Domaine) is made from Chenin Blanc (some raised in oak) and also one of my favourite grapes Petit Manseng. This is quite rare in the Languedoc, usually found in Jurancon and South West areas. I love it and so maybe that’s why this wine really appealed to me. Very full with Chenin apple flavours and the refreshing acidity of Petit Manseng lifting the wine. Excellent. Mas De Bertrand 5 Saint Saturnin (Carignan, Syrah, Grenache) was nice, fresh with lots of classic fruit flavours and refreshing acidity to balance. The 8 months oak ageing was well judged and unobtrusive. Very good. Finally Roc Et Lune, again a Domaine IGP wine, of Syrah, Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Round, lots of fruit but also coffee and chocolate tones. The tannins were ripe and well integrated and this will age well. These are biodynamic wines and whether you are believe in it or you’re sceptical thee wines were very good indeed.

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It was good to taste alongside my brother in law Iain and our friends Graham and Sue Tigg. It is interesting to compare notes and preferences in wines tasted. Finally, a nice touch was the alcotester provided in the goody bag. Iain tried his out and after tasting more wines than me was just on the limit. I hasten to add he was not driving. An enjoyable tasting, just a shame that Mas Jullien didn’t appear.

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Coteaux Du Languedoc – Mas Saporta, April 26th

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A tasting organised to celebrate 30 years of Coteaux Du Languedoc with 150 domaines represented. I was never going to be able to get round so many and I regret not getting to know some domaines and areas a little better. However, there were some leading and favourite domaines present and I enjoyed the morning. Thanks to the team for the organisation and invitation.

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First some favourites.

I’ve written about Mas Coris a few times before and Véronique Attard was present to show a very good, fresh rosé, which seemed better than ever to me, a lovely Atout Pic 2013 with round refreshing cherry flavours but especially the new Clairette. Jean and Véro have worked hard to achieve this wine and have produced a very round, mouth filling wine with a nice mineral edge to balance. A real success.

Mas Gabriel have also been a regular feature of my blog and Languedoc favourites. Like Véronique Deborah Core had been selected for a special presentation of 6 white Coteaux Du Languedoc wines and Clos Des Papillons is probably my favourite white wine from the area. Nearly all Carignan Blanc it offers white fruits, a clean mineral edge to give refreshing flavours and it fills the mouth with great length. Trois Terrasses 13 was fruity with strawberry and ripe plum notes and an interesting spicy edge. Not many better entry level wines than this. Clos Des Lièvres has garnered a gold medal at Millésime Bio and recently a 90+ score in Wine Advocate. A big, powerful wine with deep, complexity yet elegant and drinking well. It will age well and I have a few bottles tucked away for future drinking as it will develop oh so well, as previous bottles have proved to me. Interestingly some friends who were with us found these the best wines of their visit. Mas Gabriel goes from strength to strength.

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With my friends tasting the wines of Mas Gabriel presented by Deborah Core

Domaine Archimbaud from St. Saturnin is one I have known for many years as a result of buying their wines in the UK from Leon Stolarski. These are wines of real depth, complexity and built for a long run. I liked all the wines tasted, the 2012 Tradition, 2013 L’Enfant Terrible but especially La Robe Pourpre 2011 with deep liquorice and beetroot notes and very long. Very good.

La Grange in Gabian is very close to me. They have scored highly in Parker recently though I found their lighter wines more appealing. Similar comments would apply to Domaine Escattes from Sommières, nice white and entry red but not so keen on the red which did well for Wine Advocate. All about personal taste.

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Like Archimbaud I have bought Combe Blanche wines from Leon in the past. A Minervois domaine Guy makes a range of interesting wines. The Tradition 13 and La Lavinière 2010 were both very good but the wine which really excited me was Chandelière, a mostly Syrah wine with 25% Grenache. The 09 was rich, ripe and refreshing with real power and complexity. The 09 was more obviously oaked but good strawberry flavours carried it well. Lovely wines.

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Domaine Sylva Plana based in Laurens, in the Faugères, showed a lovely Vermentino 14, really clean and fresh. Novices 14 is a Cinsault dominated blend, so often my favourites. This was clear, fruity and good. Songe de l’ Abbé 11 was deep Mourvèdre but very drinkable and the naturally made Part Du Diable 08, all Carignan, provided lovely, fresh complex wine. I have tasted some of these again at the domaine restaurant which is well worth a visit if you’re in the area. Nice thematic names for the wines too.

I have enjoyed a few bottles in restaurants of Mas Conscience. It was good to meet the winemakers here and later in another event at St Saturnin. I really liked IN, the white Grenache Blanc and Roussanne blend. The beautifully named Petite Prise de Conscience 13, Syrah and Grenache, was described as a vin de soif but it actually carried more depth and complexity than that suggests. Really good and yes I would drink it to quench my thirst too.

Discovery of the day though was Domaine Plan De L’Homme, based in Terrasses de Larzac. A lovely range of wines which deserve a wider appreciation. Florès 14 was a white based on Roussanne and Grenache Blanc with apricot flavours and surprising texture and length for an entry wine. Alpha 11 was Roussanne raised in acacia barrels and spicy, ripe yet fresh. Very good. The reds started with Florès too, the 2013 round and fresh Cinsault based. Habilis 11, Grenache and Carignan on schiste, was very fruity and long. Sapiens 12, Syrah led, had long spicy fruit and very long. Finally Alpha 11 was pure Syrah made with carbonic maceration and nicely judges new oak. Blackcurrants leaped from the glass and then spice and dark fruits kicked in. Excellent. I must get to know this domaine more.

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Montpeyroux – Toutes Caves Ouvertes, April 19th

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Since I first fell for the wines of the Languedoc this was an event I had always wanted to attend, knowing it would have to be after I had finished teaching. Typically, the day dawned with heavy rain falling and I hesitated before heading to Montpeyroux. Happily, the rain relented for most of the time I was there though the car and my shoes may never be the same after the muddy car park.

I like events such as this where a whole village is open and there is space to wander around to visit the caves, it avoids some of the crowds around tables that are often evident in many salons. Labande de Latour last November and now Montpeyroux. No doubt the weather did deter some people too.

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The band played on

Unfortunately the wines matched the weather, somewhat of a damp squib. There were some pleasing wines but I found many to be heavy, over oaked and dry in the finish. There were some domaines to provide relief.

Alan Chabanon has been a celebrated producer for many years, I first tasted a very good white in a London restaurant some time ago. As so often it was the lighter, less oaked wines which were most to my taste. Petit Trelans Blanc 2013 a Vermentino and Chenin Blanc blend carried opal fruit flavours with some mouthfeel and was very long. Campredon 2013 was a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache and was very round and smooth, clear red fruits which were joined by dark plummier flavours as the wine grew in the mouth. Lovely. Trelans 11 and Esprit de Font Caude were good but I honestly preferred the junior wines.

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I quite liked some wines from Domaine Joncas particularly the whites wines Alba 14 and Canta 14 and the red wines from Domaine des Grecaux Terra Solis 11 and Hemera 11 which were well balanced with some welcome acidity to balance the very cassis flavours.

Special mention for Domaine d’Aupilhac, the domaine which first drew me to the wines of Montpeyroux. It is clearly the big daddy of the village and the domaine put on a great show for the event. A range of the wines were shown as you wandered through the cellars and this culminated in a tasting of older vintages which was fascinating. I was a little underwhelmed by the whites but then came one of my favourite wines, mentioned in a previous post, Le Carignan. Huge power with liquorice and dark fruits as so often but this 2012 needs a good few years yet to reach its best. I have some older vintages and love it as it matures. Les Cocalières 2013 was also a big wine the classic GSM blend of the region but showed great promise with fruits lurking behind the power. Le Clos 2011 was a variation of the same varieties and similar in showing lovely fruit as well as power. Other wines I found just too big such as Le Montpeyroux 2012. Then came the older vintages. Cocalières Blanc 2008 was peach coloured, a little oxidative but lovely refreshing yellow fruits just starting to fade. Cocalières 2004 was very cassis on the nose, restrained still but still powerful with red fruits and a refreshing finish. To finish a very unusual wine L’Estivait 2010 a vendanges tardives style Chardonnay quite sherry like fashion with some sugar present but balanced by the oxidative dryness. Very long and very good.

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Le Petit Domaine makes natural wines and I had enjoyed them at La Remise in Arles (see above). A refreshing and classic natural Blanc opened the tasting followed by one of my favourites Ne touche pas le gris a concentrated, full fruit and refreshing Cinsault. Myrmidon a Syrah based wine showed more refreshing red berry fruits and a clean finish. Rhapsody was made by carbonic maceration and this really added some zingy fruit, plums and raspberries. Good wines, certainly a contrast to some of the heavy and tired wines I tasted elsewhere.

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Finally a cheat. I missed Villa Dondona at this event but was able to catch up with the wines at a tasting of Coteaux Du Languedoc (see below), and the wait was worth it. I liked all 4 of the wines I tasted. The Vermentino / Grenache Gris Esperel 13 was agrumes with minerality and structured to make it linger in the mouth. A bargain at 8,50. Dondona was SGM and the 2012 showed red fruits, roundness and length. The 2008 was still youthful with ripe red fruits and very long flavours. The Mourvèdre dominated Oppidum 12 showed deep leathery characteristics with dark fruits but also some lighter notes from the Syrah and Grenache. Good.

Faugères presentation – Lattes April 20th

A presentation of the new 2014 wines by almost all the domaines in the Faugères AOP though in fact very few showed 2014 but older vintages instead. That was a little disappointing though there were many excellent wines and a very nice workshop on some 2005 wines. I got there relatively early and for once I was right as the crowds thickened in the afternoon with a bus load of journalists. It was a nice event, some delicious snacks provided but especially the workshop making this that little bit special.

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It is always a pleasure to meet up with Brigitte Chevalier of Domaine de Cébène. I first visited her vineyard a few years ago and have regularly purchased her wines. Brigitte did follow the guidelines and showed some 2014s in the knowledge that people would accept these were babies with years of growing up to do. Yes there was some reduction, eg Bancels, but that blew off quickly and I appreciated the early glimpse of future favourites. I’ll be honest I don’t think Brigitte makes any bad wines so I liked them all. Belle Lurette 13 and 14, Bancels 12, 13 and 14, and Felgaria 12, 13 and 14. There were plenty of tannins, these are big, powerful wines not usually my style but there are plenty of refreshing fruit influences which will come to the fore and balance the wines. If forced to choose I have to say that on this occasion Felgaria won the day, for example the 2012 was elegant, complex, round and refreshing.

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From Brigitte my next stop was my other favourite Faugères domaine, Clos Fantine. In many ways very different wines being natural though both domaines put the emphasis on healthy organic grapes and get the maximum flavour and elegance from them. Corine Andrieu was present so it was a pleasure to meet two of the Languedoc’s most skilful women winemakers. Corine too showed a wine straight from tank, a 2014 blend of Carignan, Syrah and Grenache with some malolactic fermentation still to come. Despite that it was lovely, vibrant and already adding structure to the primary fruit flavours. A similar sample of Mourvèdre 14 was slightly reduced but the impressive dark fruits showed quality.

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Then the excellent Clos Fantine 13 crimson, smooth and a delightful fresh finish, I’d drink this every day. Cuvée Courtiol 13 was a new cuvée for me, 90% Grenache and very concentrated red fruits and structure for the future. Lovely too.

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With such a good start I went looking for domaines that I didn’t really know and three stood out for me.

La Liquière showed a really good range of wines. In white wines Les Amandières 14 a multi grape blend seemed light at first but gained flavour and complexity in the mouth. Cistus 14 was one of my favourite wines of the day, with texture and fresh white and yellow fruits, it had great length. The red Les Amandières was a very classy entry level wine and the Vieilles Vignes 13 added extra complexity and smooth tannins. My favourite red though was Tucade 13 with 85% Mourvèdre, round, leathery, deep red fruits ending with plummy notes. Very good.

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Haut Lignières was a fascinating tasting. Jérôme Rateau produces wines of two styles. The traditional domaine wines are very good, classic Faugères. I really liked the white Les Petites Plumes 14 with spicy coriander aromas and a clean finish, one I shall definitely look out for. I also liked the red Les Petites Plumes from 13 and 14 made from Grenache and Syrah they were both fruity, aromatic and refreshing. Sur Le Fil 13 was Syrah based and fresh acidity balanced the dark plum fruits. Then came a natural wine which Julien makes separately to Haut Lignières. Clear red fruits added to ripe tannin and fresh acidity made Empreinte Carbone 13 a very good wine.

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Just on my way out of the tasting I stopped at the stand of Domaine du Causse Noir a small domaine making natural wines. Jérôme Py proved to be a really engaging man whose enthusiasm and friendliness were a match for his wines. I really enjoyed these. Π 3,14 was a good start and Mathias 11 was powerful oaked Carignan and Grenache clean and well judges in its use of wood. However, Caius 12 with its spicy black fruits and chocolatey finish was long and deep and one of my favourite wines of the month let alone the tasting. I’d love to find out more about this domaine.

I enjoyed wines from other domaines too. Ollier Taillefer has always been a standby for me and the white Allegro 14 was a star here. Domaine Trinitésrosé 14 was my sort of rosé; dry, clean and subtle fruits. L’Intemporelle 12 from Fusionels was powerful but the red fruits were standing well to balance a nice wine.

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The 2005 tasting

I must mention the special workshop. Four wines from 2005 showing that Faugères can age well. Two really stood out, Castel Fossibus from the aforementioned Ollier Taillefer and Cistus from La Liquière which was especially good; raspberry fruit, smooth tannin and creamy texture. Many congratulations for this addition to the event, it was enjoyable and informative to taste these wines and Cistus has still a few years of great drinking ahead.

En coup de vin

April 4th, Bédarieux, Chai Christine Cannac

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An event organised by caviste Christine Cannac outside her very good wine bar in the area next to the Mairie in Bédarieux. She brought together Languedoc Roussillon natural wine producers plus some from elsewhere, 21 winemakers in total, and of course the wines were available for sale from the cave. Despite a cold wind it was a well attended event and some lovely wines were on offer. Some of the producers were the same as I had been lucky enough to meet in Arles the previous weekend. Amongst these some of my favourites including Fontude, Julien Peyras, Yannick Pelletier and Jeff Coutelou. The wines they shared here were the same as at La Remise (see below) and again I wholeheartedly recommend them. However, I shall concentrate this time on other winemakers.

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The Roussillon producers came to the fore today. I had tasted some of their wines before, for example at the very good Labande de Latour event in November. However, today I really ‘got’ the wines much more. Star wines included:

Tribouley – some big reds and a very good young vines Mani 2012 which married 20% Maccabeu in with Grenache and Syrah. My favourites were the whites though. Léonae was a Maccabeu showing lovely spice and refreshing acidity. Gg was an unbottled 2014 with Grenache Gris and Maccabeu giving texture and white fruit flavours.

Rivaton – all 3 wines were good but I really liked the Blanc Bec 2013 which showed full, fresh fruits with power and complexity. Frédéric suggested storing it for some time, he is currently drinking the 05 and 06, more proof of how natural wines can age well. The red Gribouille of Carignan Gris and Syrah was also excellent. The vines are a century old and they offered the best of great Carignan with deep, dark fruit. Complex and yet round and very drinkable.

Casot des Mailloles – yes I had tasted wines from the domaine at La Remise but these were different ones. The rosé Canta Manana 14 comes from a blend of many complanted grape varieties and its pale colour belied the complex aromas and flavours. Fruity, refreshing, an excellent rosé wine.

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Léonine – the Barrick White showed Grenache Gris complexity with texture, fruit and lovely liquorice notes. Very good.

Foulards Rouges – the whole range appealed to me, all offered complexity and long flavours. Particular favourites though were Soif du mal blanc 14 and Glanneur 13. The former with a Muscat character but one carefully controlled by blending with Maccabeu and Grenache Gris whilst Glanneur gave rich, round and fresh red fruit reminding me of a good Burgundy. In fact it comes from Grenache vines based on granite. Lovely.

From the northern Ardèche came wines from la Ferme du Bout du Chemin. David Auclair usually makes 2 cuvées a year, and they could be classified as St. Joseph but he chooses not to do so. In 2014 nature was unkind and he didn’t have enough grapes for the 2 cuvées so made just one and Janine was a very good light Syrah. Star for me though was the 2010 Rouge whose age had rounded off the rich, ripe and complex Syrah. Very good.

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Producers from the Languedoc also offered good wines.

Régis and Christine Pichon run Domaine Ribiera in Aspiran. I am a regular buyer of some of their wines and they were on good form here. Causse Toujours 14 is a favourite red of mine with a touch of wildness adding complexity to the Grenache and Cinsault fruit. Long red fruit flavours linger. Delicious. I was very much taken by the white Les Canilles 14 made from Clairette which is the traditional white grape in that part of the region. Unsulphured, it gives apricot and peach flavours which have great length and are very refreshing. Lovely. A wordtoo for a neighbouring domaine, Clos Mathélisse whose Cinsault cuvée Exorde I liked and a very good vendange tardive Roussanne was also well made with sweetness balanced by acidity. One to follow up.

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Not too far from Aspiran is Nébian where Mas D’Agalis produce a very good red wine called Yo No Puedo Mas. Lively, refreshing red fruits on the nose and in the mouth. Very nice wine.

A word too for Temps des Cerises, I missed Axel Prufer in Arles as he was ill unfortunately and so it was good to taste Avanti Popolo 13. The extra year had rounded the wine from the 14 bottles I did taste last week, refreshing and one I’d happily buy.

Finally I should mention the great wines of Didier Barral, white and reds, mostly 2012 but just bottled. Huge potential, massive power and complexity. Difficult to taste at present, but they will undoubtedly be up to his very high standards.

A good tasting, a relaxed atmosphere and plenty of banter between winemakers who clearly supported and respected each other. Good to meet some friends there too, Graham and Sue Tigg. Well worth reading Graham’s blog anytime but especially now as he is writing a review of this tasting too.  www.languedoc-wine.blogspot.com

La Remise, Arles 

El Patio de Camargues, March 29th – 30th

wpid-20150329151120.jpg The above photo shows the unusual and alternative approach to a wine tasting which is La Remise. Over 60 natural wine producers gathered in Arles at a property owned by Gypsy Kings founder Chico. Those producers came from the south of France, Spain and Italy and were also joined by invited new producers, some with the first wines they have put in bottle. It was a lovely atmosphere, friendly and enthusiastic. Refreshments were generous with some lovely salads, cheeses and meats for those who enjoy it. The organisers deserve much credit for creating a memorable and enjoyable event. It will certainly be the first event in my diary for 2016.

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One of the gypsy cabins available for accommodation

And so to the wines. With over 70 producers in total I was happy to be around for 2 days. Even then I still didn’t get round everyone, including I’m ashamed to say the organisers Le Mazel (Oustric). Apologies.

Still, I tasted around 230 wines in total. Some were not to my taste, some were OK. Some were amongst the most memorable wines I have ever tasted. Many producers offered wines from 2014 which were newly bottled or samples from tank and so more difficult to assess. Interestingly I was able to taste some wines again a few days later and they were very different, the wines are developing and in a period of transition. So my judgements are certainly not the final word. However, the following were the highlights for me arranged in regional groups in line with the event.

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Massif Central

A region which is often ignored but was interesting to discover with wines from unusual cépages such as Fer Servadou / Braucol along with others more famous elsewhere such as Gamay and Cabernet Franc.

  • Bois Masset – a Gaillac based domaine whose Rencontre 2013 was a lovely blend of  Braucol, Syrah and Duras. They also had a 2012 Braucol which was an amazing match with chocolate.
  • Francois Dhumes – some lovely wines especially the new Gamay cuvée, Jus De Vilain.

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  • Domaine Rols – particularly enjoyed the whites especially the Chenin based La Coccinelle, 2013 and 2009 showing its ability to age well.
  • Nicolas Carmarans – a great range, well worth seeking out. My favourite was the 2014 Fer Servadou (Braucol) cuvée Maximus.

Roussillon 

  •  Casot de Maillolles – some intriguing wines often based on a range of grape varieties which are complanted. I liked the white a lot but preference was for the elegant El Nino 2014 which was Carignan and Syrah with an interesting addition of Grenache Gris which added a refreshing lightness.
  • Pech Peyrou offered a delicious Banyuls, rich, satisfying and long
  • Le Bout Du Monde – Tam Tan 2013, direct, clear Syrah with liquorice notes. The photo at the top of this post is of their sign as all domaines were asked to use some clothing to identify themselves.
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T shirts, underwear and various other items signal the domaines

 Ardèche

Again a relatively new region to me and there were many good reasons to make me want to find out more. An August fair sounds tempting. Some wines were very young eg those of Calek and I am not good enough to judge them fairly, I know his wines are very highly rated by trusted judges. Viognier was a star cépage which surprised me as it’s not my usual preference.

  • Deux Terres – A delicious mineral Viognier which is not yet bottled but my star here was Reboule 2013 cherry fruits, aromatic and a spicy, peppery finish ( Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Grenache). One of my favourite wines of the event.
  •  Bock – brilliant wines all round. Lovely Gamay but two gorgeous wines. Raffut 2014 was Syrah to die for, clear fruit, refreshing, spicy and so long. Then a great Chardonnay Barrique 2012 with a long fermentation giving hazelnut aromas and fruit flavours, complex and star wine.

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  • Ferme des 7 Lunes – nice sparkling Glou Bulles but the St. Joseph Blanc 2011 was top for me, mineral yet fruity and long, developing complex flavours. (Marsanne / Roussanne).

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Languedoc

Home territory and some familiar faces. Mas Coutelou of course belongs in the first rank. As I am so familiar with the wines and write about them so often that it is easy to take their quality for granted which would be a mistake. Classe is showing well and 2014 5SO is a very good wine. Other domaines also impressed.

  • Julien Peyras – I had tasted one or two of Julien’s wines before and was delighted to get the opportunity to taste more. As it happened I’d get the chance to taste his range twice in a week, luckily for me. I liked all of the wines, these were some of my favourites of the event. Forced to choose I’d go for the white Copains d’Abord 14 a beautifully balance of fruit and minerality. Or possibly Gourmandise 14 with lovely Cinsault fruit showing nice complexity. Or.. well I could select them all.

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  • Pibarot – some older grape varieties making lovely wines. Cante Renard is the name given wines of all colours, I especially liked the rosé and red (made from Morastel) both fruity and yet dry and refreshing.
  • Pelletier – I was really looking forward to meeting Yannick as I have enjoyed his wines previously. I was not disappointed as he is a lovely man and very modest about his excellent wines. I liked them all and it’s impossible to choose between the Blanc Terret and Bourret (another new grape to me) with texture and flavours of white fruits, the lovely rich L’Oiselet a spicy, elegant wine and the dark fruits and complexity of L’Engoulevent. Personal favourites.

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  • La Fontude – Francois Aubry presented some lovely wines from the area around Lac Salagou. Lots of wines I rated highly but particularly the blend of Carignan, Aramon and Grenache named Ampletude. This 2012 was rich, spicy but always fresh, a hallmark of Fontude wines. Lovely wines across the range.

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Newcomers

One of the excellent features of La Remise was the fact that alongside the domaines which are well established, a number of relatively new domaines are invited to attend. Sometimes this means the producer has their first wines, or even only wine as they make small quantities. Some addresses to keep for the future. Favourites included:

  • L’Ostal – based in the Cahors region. Malbec can be a tough uncompromising grape but there were some good variations here especially he carbonic maceration styled Hellarius which was fresh and fruity
  • Lamartine – based in Banyuls presented La Martue from 13 and 14 and whilst both were good the 14 was promising
  • Bories Jefferies – local to me as Joseph Jefferies is based in Caux, moreover it turned out that I had met him before. However, my partiality for his wines is not based on connection! A fascinating range, some straight from tank and a little reduced but a little time in glass alowed promising fruit and finesse to show. I really liked Le Jeaume 14 whose white / yellow fruits stood out.

Italy

  • Always a blind spot until a trip to Sicily last year, Italian wines have captured me recently including the excellent showing at Millésime Bio of Le Carline. The Italian domaines in Arles more than held their own.
  • Cornelissen (Sicily) – I must admit that I just did not get this renowned natural producer when I tasted his wines at the Contrade Etna in April 2014. However, here I did. Not everything but most and especially the amazing Magma. Caramel nose, eternally long with massive power worthy of the name magma. Yet the fruit shone and this will be magnificent, mind the several hundred euros you need to buy it is a deterrent.
  • Colombaia (Tuscany) – a lovely Ancestrale sparkling wine but my favourite was the Rosso Toscano Vieilles Vignes 13, ripe, full, fresh and round.

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  • Cascina degli Ulivi (Liguria) – Filagatti 13 was my choice here, one of a range of Cortese based wines with long refreshing fruit and a clean finish. There were other good wines red and white too, and again proof that natural wines can age with a very nice 2008 Dolcetto.

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  • Cantina Giardino (Campania) – once again a superb range based this time around grapes such as Fiano, Gavi and Aglianico. Dry whites with almost exotic fruits, the Fianos were my highlights eg a Fiano 2012. Again some older wines showed the ability to age natural wines.

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Spain

I have also struggled a bit with Spanish wines in the past but there was a real surprise for me here. I shall leave that until last.

  • Celler Escoda – Sanahiya – some interesting blends and a very nice Cabernet Sauvignon but my preference here would be Cassots white, slightly reductive still but long zesty flavours with structure and very refreshing.
  • Casa Pardet – My star of the salon. The whites were lovely including amphora matured Chardonnay. However, 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.

wpid-20150330110839.jpg La Remise 2015 was hugely enjoyable, with some great wines and equally great people. Plus Icare..

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Sparkling wines

Le Wine Shop March 26th

Another excellent tasting organised by Dominic and Colin. Sparkling wines from around France (and Italy) made in a variety of styles to give a broad picture. Cleverly thought out and with some interesting and informative commentary.

A Vin Mousseux André Gallois €2,80 was actually quite drinkable despite its cheap price. Pale and clean, slightly floral, a llittle sweetish. Made by injecting CO2.

Prosecco Frizzante Torresi. Tank method. Pale, few bubbles, pear and white fruits. Dry finish though not long. €6

Crémant de Loire, Laurent. Liked this, Chenin influence clear giving green apple slightly tart notes with some length. €7

Crémant de Bourgogne, Vignot. Chardonnay gave somey nice toasty round notes. However, finished quite short and bubbles disappeared quickly. €8

Blanquette de Limoux, Guinot. Mauzac grape.Darker colour. Hay aromas with some apple. The flavours were striking, apparently bruised apple is a classic tasting note for Blanquette and this reeked of it. I really didn’t like it, others were more taken. I am still looking for a good sparkling Limoux! €8,25.

Clairette de Die, D’Artois. Just 7.5% alcohol. The Muscat in the blend (with Clairette) gave lovely fruity, grapey aromas. The flavours were sweet but clean with gorgeous grapey notes again. Lovely wine, well worth the €8 price. After tasting the Archaud Clairette de Dies at Millésime Bio I am becoming a real fan.

Champagne NV, Waris Filles. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Pale golden colour, fine bead of bubbles. Toasty aromas, lovely refreshing wine with roundness. Long, dry and classic champagne flavours. At €17 this grower champagne knocks spots off most marque bottles.

2014 Languedoc Rosés 

Le Wine Shop March 15th 2015

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Eight local rosé wines were tasted from the 2014 vintage. These are young, fresh and ready to drink in the next year or two. Prices for the still wines ranged from a remarkable €3,50 to €10,95. Colours ranged from an onion skin orange-brown (St. Hilaire) to a deep cherry (Turner Pageot). There was a refreshing sparkling rosé to start (Domaine Daurion) and a delicious tapas plate to accompany the wines, as ever a very well organised event.

Believe it or not one rosé actually had rose petal aromas in my opinion (Mas Belles Eaux) whilst others ranged from apricot to bubblegum. All were dry, refreshing and would be welcome in the Languedoc sunshine. Personal favourites were the Mas Belles Eaux, La Grangette and Turner Pageot. La Grangette (€6,45) is mainly a Picpoul producer and this rosé, from Piquepoul Noir, was fruity and more dense than most. Mas Belles Eaux (€5,25) was a good traditional rosé and I bought some. My favourite was the most expensive! Turner Pageot’s 48h, a wine as much clairet in style as rosé as it rests on skins for longer, yes for 48 hours. Cherry aromas and cherry flavours which were persistent, refreshing and complex.

For excellent information about the making of rosé wine have a look at Dominic’s blog on his website.

White wines of France

Le Wine Shop (Pézenas) Feb 27th 2015

The second of a series of tastings organised by Dominic George, owner of Le Wine Shop which I have already praised on the main page of this blog many times. Linked to the shop is a Wine Club and Wine Tours run by Dominic and his colleague Colin Trickett. If you are in the area call in, Dominic has a really good range of wines at very reasonable prices and offers very sound advice.

Colin and Dominic ran this session about white French wines, so popular that they had to run it on four occasions! Eight wines were offered aiming to include different grapes, different regions and different styles of white wine. Both gentlemen gave excellent information and background to the wines whilst making everyone feel comfortable about offering opinions. They were a lovely bunch of people and I thoroughly enjoyed the tasting. Apologies for the lack of photos. My notes:

  • Muscadet sur lie (Cave des Guiloires) 2013 – almost colourless (normalfor Muscadet), some grapefruit aromas though not long lasting. Dry, citrusy, pleasant. Crying out for seafood, a cliché yes but true.
  • Coteaux Giennois (Balland Chapuis) 2013 – Lovely, attractive aromas of tropical fruit and strawberry, aromas which lingered in the glass after it was drained. Citrus freshness again though became quite acidic on the finish.
  • Entre Deux Mers (Chateau Milord) 2013 – a Sauvignon Blanc like the Giennoisthough with 35% Semillon. Yellow with green tinges, fairly neutral aromas though I picked up some lanolin type notes. Pear drop acidic flavours but not much fruit.
  • Picpoul de Pinet (La Grangette) 2013 – Lovely, fruity, clean aromas almost melon like. Balanced, peachy flavours but a lovely refreshing clean finish which many 2013 Picpouls lacked in my opinion. Very good.

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  • Alsace Riesling (A Zirnhelt) 2013 – A Mittelheim producer. I thought it had very typical Alsace aromas, pears and a little sweet spice. Despite that it was very dry, became acidic and sulphites really hit my sinuses. I love Riesling,Alsace Riesling but I’m afraid this left me cold.
  • St Véran (Terres Secretes, Cave de Prissé) 2012 – Green tinged, quite neutral nose but very pleasing flavours. Buttery at first (despite no oak) but balanced and clean and dry. This is how cooperatives should make very drinkable wine. Good.
  • Chablis (no producer noted) 2013 – Light in colour, very transparent rim. Neutral nose, Dry not very evident fruit or flavour to be honest but a rounded finish.
  • Pays d’Oc (St Hilaire) Viognier 2013 – Green tinged yellow colour. Fruit and spice aromas with Nivea tinge. Dry with peachy flavours, for me it ended a little metallic which let it down though most people really liked this.

So a varied, enjoyable tasting. Opinions differed about the wines as they should, so these are my personal thoughts.

Star of the show was the Picpoul (I bought half a case of the 2014!). Lots of other interesting wines too.

I look forward to the next time.

6 thoughts on “Wine Tastings

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  2. Brilliant reading here. First I agree re natural wines, some are poor, some okay, and some blow your mind. I remember Burgundy being like that in the 1980s!

    Some producers I’m familiar with but many more I don’t know. What an amazing event and I never heard about it. You are very lucky to have been there. Thanks for such an excellent report, Alan. I shall re-read tomorrow and take some notes in case I see any of these producers in Paris.

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    • Thanks David. I am hunting for sources of the Spanish and Italian producers and will pass on information. I know Isabelle Legeron is a fan of some of these so that may be the best route. Peyras and Pelletier are widely available in Paris, eg Verre Volé. I’d think Bock too, a real star for me.

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