Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Mas Becha


Charles Perez was en plein vendanges but he was very happy to take an hour away from his fermenting grapes to give us a tasting.   I always like going to cellars where there is something actually happening, in this instance a délèstage, with wine pouring out of one pipe to be transferred back into the vat.  Charles prefers délèstages to remontages as they are gentler.   He finds that both pigeages and remontages tend to give bitter flavours.  He wants very ripe grapes, which provide good colour, body and balance. and gives them a pre-fermentation maceration à froid for four or five days, at about 7 - 10C, with one or two délèstages a day, which helps break up the cells and then the fermentation is left to reach 30C.   He is very pleased with 2015; the état sanitaire is impeccable. 


Charles has a large estate, a total of 110 hectares, of which 25 hectares are vineyards.  He initially pulled up about 75 hectares of vines, just keeping the best - half his vineyard is planted with Syrah - and there are also almond and olive trees and some cork oaks.  The area was originally one of polyculture with self-sufficient farms.  Charles has worked organically since 2009. His average yield is between 25 – 35 hl/ha, without any green harvesting.   He explained how his father bought the property in 1987, and produced wine en vrac, mainly vin doux at the time.  In 2002 Charles started working on the estate and began bottling their wine.  The name Becha is in fact a combination of Charles and his sister Béatrice, but she is not involved with the vineyard, but is an architect paysagiste.  Initially it was difficult to sell their wine. Charles worked in wine shows and salons, and then he went to China for the first time in 2005 and as a result was one of the first in Roussillon to work in Asia.  These days he sells all his wine in bottle. 
The village of Nyls lies at the beginning of the hills of the Aspres, with a mosaic of vineyard soils, limestone and quartz, all very stony, with a variety of aspects, and an altitude as high as 500 metres.   The village has links with the Templers who were in the area in the 9th century. There is also a strong maritime influence as Nyls is quite close to the sea.
Essentially Charles’ cellar is a large modern shed with small fibre glass vats and larger stainless steel ones, and some barriques.  He makes red and rosé but no white at the moment and a little Vin Doux and Muscat.  However he has some white varieties, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc and Macabeo, coming into production, and on reflection he thinks it was possibly a mistake to choose Grenache Blanc; Grenache Gris would have been better.  As for reds Syrah is the dominant variety, with Mourvèdre and Grenache, but no Carignan or Cinsaut.  Nearly all his vines were planted in the 1990s, apart from some Grenache dating from the 1970s.  And by the cellar door there is a white mulberry tree which may be a cutting from a tree planted in Versailles at the time of the Revolution. 
His labels, which are a challenge to photograph  - I failed miserably, as you will see - depict cartoons of each member of his family, with a different artist each year.  



We settled down in his nicely appointed tasting room:  
2013 Cotes du Roussillon, las Aspres Classique – 9.50€
60% Syrah, with 20% each of Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre.  Pre-fermentation maceration for all three varieties, but less for Mourvèdre.  Syrah is picked first; Mourvèdre last.  He blends as early as possible, before the malo, and then the wine goes into barrel.  Good colour; quite firm ripe black fruit on nose and palate.  A tannic streak balancing some rounded fruit.  Youthful tannins.  Ripe but fresh, even at 14.5.



2013 Cotes du Roussillon, les Aspres, Barrique, named Serge after his father  – 12.90€
A higher percentage of Syrah as Charles uses Syrah to top up his barrels.  Deep young colour, with quite firm tannins balanced by some elegant fruit.  Black fruit and very stylish.  Charles tastes each barrel, and ages the wine according to his nose, probably twelve months for an older barrel and eight for a newer one.   He has changed coopers to Nadalié


And then we turned our attention to a vertical tasting of  his cuvee Excellence, depicted by his grandfather Charles. 

First off was 2007.  Quite a cool year, like 2011.  Nonetheless a heady 16 but it simply didn’t taste like it.  A selection parcellaire – 80% Syrah, with 10% Grenache and 10% Mourvèdre, blended after élevage, which is six months in vat, and bottled in the June following the harvest.  Elegant fruit, with appealing spicy Syrah.  On the palate ripe black fruit.  Silky tannins.  Elegant and still youthful.  Charles talked about the importance of a selection parcellaire and commented that he tried to make as few mistakes as possible in the cellar.

2009 – a hot vintage.   
Medium colour.  More solid and concentrated nose and palate, though slightly lighter in alcohol at 15.  However, the tannins are less refined, riper and furrier, but with some freshness on the finish.   Charles explained that the pre-fermentation maceration lasts four to eight days, depending on the vintage.  He doesn’t work the tannins too much and wants to avoid any bitterness.   The fermentation itself takes 6 – 20 days, controlled at quite a low temperature, with a gentle start.

2010 – A fresher easier year, and a little more quantity.  Deep youthful colour.  Rich black fruit on nose and palate.  Very smooth rounded palate.  Intense ripe fruit, with the tannins nicely englobé, with a ripe finish and a note of freshness on the finish   Charles talk about microclimate.  Nyls is quite a sheltered village so the effect of the Tramontane wind is less than in some places.   The vines are planted in galets roulées with deep root systems.

2012 – We skipped 2011 as hail had affected that vintage.  This vintage is still very closed with very good potential.  A firmer tighter knit nose and palate, with notes of mint and pepper.  Very youthful with very good fruit.   And of course these wines beg the question: why no wood?   ‘It is simply not necessary’ retorted Charles, and I have to agree.   He racks during the winter when the sediment has drop and there is no fining and no cold treatment and just a light filter.

2013 – 19.90€
A finer year, more like 2007 or 2011 in style. Rich youthful nose, with some ripe cassis and on the rounded ripe fruit, both red and black fruit, with supple ,but youthful tannins..  this wine undoubtedly has a sense of place, combining modernity with fruit.

2014 – Quite elegant similar to 2012, even though 16.  Charles took care not to overdo the extraction, and blended just after the vinification in November and December.  The wine went into vat until bottling in May. Quite intense black fruit.  Ripe and rounded, rich and already extraordinarily ready for drinking, but with a long life ahead.  It shows Charles’ talent as a light-handed wine maker.  And as we talked, the 2014 opened up, with more ripe fruit balanced by firm tannins, making a very harmonious glass of wine.   

You sense that Charles is a very focused very motivated winemaker.  He tastes a lot and travels a lot.  He does not consider himself to be new school; and he is not ‘avec la lune et compagnie’.  He likes ripe grapes and spends a lot of time checking his vineyards and he talked about the importance of buvabilité, of drinkability and the need for finesse and ripe fruit.  And his next project is a white wine.   I shall look forward to tasting it in due course. 




Monday, 8 February 2016

Chateau Nadal Hainaut

For the next few posts this blog is going to become Taste Roussillon, rather than Languedoc, following an intensive five days in Roussillon last autumn.   

My week got off to a good start with a first visit on the Sunday evening at Chateau Nadal Hainaut.   This was new name to me.  The estate is at Le Soler, fairly close to Perpignan, in the area of les Aspres.  You approach it down a magnificent alleyway of plane trees, planted during the time of Napoleon III, like so many of the avenues of plane trees in France.   And at the end is a house build in the 1850s, a spacious cellar which includes a Cistercian chapel, now deconsecrated and filled with vats, and a rather comfortable gîte, where I made myself very much at home for the week. 


                                                Jean-Marie with his daughter Julie 
Jean-Marie Nadal explained that his is the 6th generation on the property – his grandfather  Francois Nadal married Therèse Hainaut, hence the double barrelled name.   Altogether they have 43 hectares of vines, 38 of which are farmed organically, since 2010 and certified in 2013.  Before that they practiced lutte raisonée, with Terra Vitis.   The remaining 5 hectares constitute some old Carignan that was planted in 1900.  It is very difficult to weed mechanically as the vines are an unruly sprawl with many so low that many of the branches are resting on the ground.  A tractor would be completely impossible, but there is no way that they would consider replanting the vineyard.  So the solution is a separate company that runs that particular vineyard – you should not have organic and non organic grapes vinified in the same cellar. The soil is very varied, and very stony with quartz, schist and gneiss and they have the usual Roussillon varieties, Carignan, Grenache, Macabeu, some old Syrah, both Muscat d’Aléxandrie and Muscat à petits grains, and also some Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon on flatter  sandier land.  In the distance there was a wonderful view of the Canigou, the highest mountain of the Pyrenees. 


Jean-Marie was still in the middle of harvest.  He had begun with Chardonnay on 26th August, and then Muscat.   It was now the end of September.  The yields were good, an average of 35 hl/ha, with very healthy grapes.    There were hunters in the vineyards, not after wild boar, but smaller game. Jean-Marie’s grandfather installed electricity on the estate as early as 1903 and consequently they were one of the first to have a hydraulic press.   Jean-Marie was still using it in the 1970s, until he bought a Vaslin press in 1980, and now he has a pneumatic press.   There is an attractive old cellar built in the traditional narrow red bricks, called cayroux;   they are 44 cms by 22 cms and just 8 cms thick.  It is very much a traditional cellar with concrete vats and some steel tanks, not to mention barrels of various sizes.


And then we settled down to taste: 
2014 Muscat à petits grains, Côtes Catalanes – 5.50€
Gently pressed with a classic vinification.  The Muscat aromas leap out of the glass and the wine is very pungent, with fresh grapey fruit and good acidity, balancing some weight and structure that comes from a slightly bitter finish. 
2014 Chardonnay, Côtes Catalanes  – 6.00€
Vinified in vat.  Light rounded nose and palate.  Quite delicate with a little acidity.  Pleasant drinking but no great depth.
2014 Chardonnay Prestige, Côtes Catalanes – 8.50€
Fermented in wood with a five month élevage.  Bottled in February.  Quite firm nutty buttery nose and palate, with a certain sapidity on the finish.   Jean-Marie selects the juice at pressing; essentially it is the same base as the unoaked wine.  And he makes just twelve barriques.   Quite long and quite well-integrated oak.
2014 Le Rosé, Côtes de Roussillon – 6.50€
Half and half Grenache Noir and Syrah. Pressed grapes. Quite a light orange pink.   Light raspberry nose.  Quite rounded and structured with some firm acidity.   A food rosé.
2014 Rosé Prestige, Côtes de Roussillon– 8.50€
Sealed with a glass stopper rather than a cork, making a price difference of 50 cts as opposed to 15 cts for the cork.  Mainly Syrah with a little Grenache.  A selection of grapes. The wine spends a month in new oak.  Orange pink colour.  A touch of oak on the nose and quite a solid palate with a tannic streak. Some acidity and some dry fruit.  Again very much a food rosé
2014 la Petite Syrah, Côtes Catalanes – 5.00€
8 – 10 days on the skins.  Keep in vat.  Young vines.  Drink slightly chilled, to emphasise the fresh red fruit with a touch of pepper and a light tannic streak.
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Côtes Catalanes – 6.00€
3 week maceration and fermented at 22-24C to retain the fruit, and bottled in the summer.  Quite a solid cassis nose.  Quite firm solid tannins; still a bit raw on the finish.  Needs a little bottle age. 
2013 1900 Le Centenaire, Côtes Catalanes – 10.00€
Pure Carignan.  Classic vinification with destalked grapes.  This had no carbonic maceration, but the 2015 will, as the grapes are riper.   Two to three week maceration, with délèstages aiming for a gentle extraction.  I liked this a lot, especially as I have a soft spot for Carignan.  Ripe rounded and rich on the palate, with that attractive rustic note of Carignan.  Quite a firm nose.   A characterful palate.  Quite tannic and youthful, balanced by rich red fruit.  Ageing potential. 
Jean-Marie observed that in the 1970s, the estate consisted of 80% Carignan that was vinified by carbonic maceration.  Then came the move toward Syrah, and also Cabernet Sauvignon, prompted by the demands of a more international market and so he pulled up most of his Carignan.   Fortunately he kept the now centenarian vines.
2012 Les Terres du Pilou, Côtes du Roussillon – 8.00€
70% Grenache Noir with Syrah classic vinification with élevage in cement vats.and blended after malo.   Quite a deep young colour.  Quite rounded ripe warm cherry fruit, almost sweet but balanced, with a streak of tannin. .  14
2012 Terre de Quarante, Côtes du Roussillon – 10.00€
Syrah with a little Grenache.  12 months in wood and blend after élevage.  Deep colour.  Quite a sturdy nose and quite a tannic palate, chocolatey, rich and rugged.  Very dense and solid, and youthful.
2013 Terre de Quarante, Côtes du Roussillon
Same vinification for as for the 2012 vintage, but 2013 is generally considered to be a better year, more rounder, riper but also fresher, so the oak is more integrated on the nose, and likewise the tannins more fondu.  There is a streak of tannin and some acidity and plenty of ripe black fruit.
2013 Signum – 20.00€
Syrah with just a drop of Grenache.  Vinified in 400 litre barrels – taking 4 – 5 weeks -and then aged in vat for three months and bottled the following February.  2013 was the first vintage of this wine.  Very deep colour.  Chocolate oak on the nose, and palate too, with some touches of liquorice.    Ripe and intense and quite heavy at 14.5⁰, and almost sweet on the finish, with slightly intrusive alcohol.   Still very young and needs to settle down a bit more.
2014 Muscat de Rivesaltes – 9.00€
Muscat d’Aléxandrie.  Very intense orange peel fruit on nose and palate, Good acidity on the palate and slightly bitter finish.   You can almost crunch on the grapes!  An observation about Muscat, that in les Aspres, where we are, Muscat d’Aléxandrie performs well, whereas in the Agly valley, Muscat à petits grains works better.
2013 Rivesaltes Grenat – 7.00€
Pure Grenache Noir kept in vat.  Very deep colour with a ripe cherry nose, and also on the palate.  Some fresh cherry fruit, plus some figs  and a touch of spice, and also liquorice.  A streak of tannin.  Medium weight palate.
Maury and Rivesaltes use the term Grenat for young ruby wine, where Banyuls prefers Rimage, a term that no one else uses.  There is a lot of variation in Grenat, stemming from the soil variations of the region.
2001 Rivesaltes Ambré – 12.00€ for 50cls.
Muscat d’Aléxandrie kept in barrel outside for three years, and then bottled. Amber colour and a lovely nose redolent of nutty, honeyed brioche notes. Very smooth with very good acidity, long with lots of nuances and absolutely delicious.
2001 Rivesaltes Tuilé – 12.00€
Pure Grenache, given five years in barrel.  Brick colour and lightly nutty on the nose, with fruit and tannin on the palate.  The coté rancio, leathery notes, and some marzipan.  Intriguing with lots of nuances, and long.   A delicious note on which to finish. 










Monday, 1 February 2016

The Wines and Winemakers of Languedoc-Roussillon by Peter Gorley




My good friend Peter Gorley has been a close follower of wine in the Languedoc several years and he has just published new eBook edition of The Wines and Winemakers of Languedoc-Roussillon.   Essentially he has produced fifteen wine routes covering the whole of the Languedoc as well as Roussillon.  These are preceded by a brief introduction to the region, including the significant changes since his 2002 guide, such as the Millau Viaduct and the Newcomers.  The routes go as far east as Uzès and the Pont du Gard, and manage to cover all the main areas of the Languedoc, as well as more off the beaten tracks places,  taking in the Pic St. Loup,  St Chinian, La Clape, Corbières both north and south and Roussillon, again both north and south.

Not surprisingly, as it is my home patch, I paid particular attention to the chapter on Pézenas, Caux, Agde and Mèze.  Peter provides thumbnail sketches of virtually all the principal producers of the area, some in more detail than others, along with website address and telephone numbers. In some instances there are tasting notes, or just a simple pointer of what to look for.  And there are some friendly personal touches – Biscuit, Anne Germa de Sutra’s donkey at Monplézy gets a mention; sometimes there is a bit of history.  I did not know that la Croix Belle has been in the Boyer family for three centuries. 

It is nicely opinionated, so that you know when Peter likes the wine. Writing about the wonderfully historical Château de Perdiguier, he finish by saying:  Visit the castle, buy the wines!  And of Domaine Verena Wyss:   Verena makes two of the best Viogniers I’ve tasted.  What more can you say?  And I was pleased to see that he had covered most of my favourite Faugères producers, some in more detail than others.   And the text is illustrated with photographs that show the Languedoc scenery at its finest, as well as some dramatic interpretations from Peter’s wife, the artist Elizabeth Hannaford. 

My one quibble is that some of the entries are now out of date – and Peter readily admits this in an introductory caveat, for that is the problem of taking eight years to write a book, during which he has covered an enormous area in some considerable detail.  The trouble is of course is that you do not know what is out of date.   And I can’t see any way around that.   Suffice it to say, I have greatly enjoyed dipping in, and finding wine estates that I did not know and entries about them that inspire me to visit.  So I would suggest that this is an essential addition to the library of anyone with any enthusiasm for the wines of the Languedoc.    And it can be bought from two websites:


or




Friday, 29 January 2016

Domaine Picaro's



One of the excitements of ten days in the Languedoc  over New Year was the discovery of a new wine estate in my own adopted village.     Wine quality in Roujan is definitely beginning to look up.   As mentioned in a previous post, a wine from Domaine Picaro’s was amongst the Pays d’Oc Collection for 2015.  So I had to go and visit and see for myself. 

Pierre and Caroline have their cellar in the chemin de Pézenas.  Pierre Rouillé comes from a long-established Roujan family; his grandfather had the traditional Languedoc cellar with large foudres, while his father preferred to put his vines into the Roujan coop.  Pierre studied oenology at Dijon and then together he and Caroline went to work in Chile, in the Maule valley for three years.  When they returned to France, they wanted to create something from the family vines, and their first cuvée was born, Amano, a blend of Syrah and Grenache, handmade, as the name implies, with meticulous attention to detail.  They had a tiny basket press, which has now been upgraded to the smallest of pneumatic presses, and they destalk all the bunches by hand and then put the wine into feuillettes, which are even smaller than barriques and more commonly found in Chablis than in the Languedoc.  They do have a larger demi-muid as well.  



So of their ten hectares, seven are in the village coop, and three produce two wines, in tiny quantities.   They are gradually replanting and renovating their vineyards, and apart from Grenache Noir, Syrah and Carignan they also have some more international varieties, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, as well as Muscat à petits grains and an old vineyard of Grenache Blanc.   They also have some land they could clear and replant, and their next project is a white wine.

2014 Plurielles,  (11.00€)  which featured in the Pays d’Oc Collection, tasted just as good in their cellar. This was their first vintage.  It is a blend of 50% Syrah, with 25% each of Grenache Noir and Carignan, with some traditional vinification and some carbonic maceration.   They wanted some accessible fruit, and that is just what they have achieved, a wine with very appealing red fruit, with acidity as well as tannin and an elegant balance.  The Carignan vines are now 40 years old, and beginning to become interesting, as Caroline observed.



2012 Amano (25.00€) is a more serious proposition, with 50 % Grenache Noir and 50% Syrah, aged in wood, some new and some older, for ten months.  Both nose and palate are quite solid and rounded, but there is ripe fruit, with a touch of vanilla and some well integrated oak balancing the fruit, and again and elegant freshness on the finish.  Caroline explained how they work on a very long gentle extraction, with a four weeks maceration, as opposed to two for the Plurielles.  Destemming by hand also makes for very gentle handling, and gives more richness and concentration of flavour.     Undoubtedly this will benefit from some bottle age.    The quantities are tiny, just 1500 bottles of Amano and 3500 of les Plurielles.



And we finished with some 2015 vat samples:  a sturdy Grenache wit h ripe red fruit and tannins; a ripe perfumed Carignan  with some cherry fruit, and a firm spicy Syrah.  It all promises well for the future.





Monday, 25 January 2016

Winners from Decanter Magazine’s World Wine Awards at Le Wine Shop

What follows should have been published in bbbMidi during the autumn, but as that has not happened, for reasons I know not why, I thought I might as well post the article before Dom George has sold out of all the wines in question.
After ten years or so, Decanter Magazine’s annual World Wine Awards is now a well established competition, attracting over 10,000 entries from all round the world.  But why hold a competition? Sarah Kemp, the publisher of the magazine is emphatic.  She has her readers at heart, insisting that there is huge demand for recommendations, from a trusted source.  And it provides a magnificent snapshot of the wine market at that moment in time, recording each participating country’s successes.  Sarah also observed how democratic wine competitions are.  Everyone has a chance, provided you can afford the entrance fee in the first place, and it is not always the big names that win.  For some of the newer wine producing countries, or simply new producers, a wine competition can provide a useful marker. 
And that of course leads to the thorny question: how reliable and consistent is a judging panel?   There are many elements that come into play.   There is some discussion as to whether wines are affected by the bio-rhythms of the biodynamic calendar, with the suggestion that you should only taste wine on fruit days when it is showing at its best.  On a root day it will be much less expressive.   This may be a little far-fetched, or maybe not.   And certainly taste is affected by what has gone before, so that a blockbuster of a wine that is stuffed with alcohol and oak, will completely overwhelm a more delicate and subtle wine.   People do refer to ‘competition wines’, the wines that perform well, with a punch of flavour at the first taste. 
And judges are only human; we all have good days and off days, irrespective of personal preferences, so that consistency can be tricky to obtain.  A panel of three or more judges, as for Decanter, will help avoid any wildly varying assessments and should achieve an element of consistency.   As we all know, tasting is a very inexact science.   And objectivity is something to which we can aspire, but may not necessarily obtain.   Personal taste and preferences inevitably come into play, but despite that, I firmly believe that in a well-organised competition, outstanding quality will shine out and the right wines will win the gold medals. 
So here are some of the best of the Languedoc from this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards, all stocked at Le Wine Shop in Pézenas, or you could buy them directly from the producer. 
2014 Château Rives-Blanques, Odyssée, Limoux  (Silver medal)   - 12.50€
A little colour, from the barrel ageing.  A lightly buttery note on the nose and quite a rich palate, with some firm balancing acidity.  Nice texture and mouth feel and still quite youthful.  Limoux, with its slightly cooler climate, is one of the best places for Chardonnay in the Languedoc, with an appellation that demands ageing in barrel for the still white wines.  And this example comes from one of my favourite Limoux producers, an estate owned by an Irish-Dutch couple, Caryl and Jan Panman, who turned to wine for a second career.
2012 La Clape, Château Camplazens, Reserve, (Silver medal) – 12.00€ 
Quite a deep colour. Ripe spice and black fruit on the nose, and on the palate lots of rich fruit, with a balancing streak of tannin.  Full and textured with a dry leathery finish.  La Clape, just outside Narbonne, now has its own appellation.  And Château Camplazens is well worth a visit for the new tasting area, decorated with Simon Fletcher’s dramatic murals.  
2012 Minervois, Château de Gourgazaud, Réserve  (Silver Medal).   10.95€
Medium colour.  Quite firm dry leather spice on the nose and on the palate more leathery notes, with dry spice.  Youthful with good depth of flavour.  This wine has a strong sense of place, recalling the wild scenery of the Minervois hills. 
2011 Ste Cécile du Parc, Pézenas  (Silver Medal) – 25.00€
From a relatively new producer outside Pézenas.  The vineyards around Pézenas now form one of the crus of the Languedoc.  Good deep colour. A rich sturdy oaky nose and an intense palate, with firm tannins and youthful fruit.  Considerable depth and a long finish.  How will it age, I wonder?  
2012 Plan de l’Homme, Habilis, Terrasses du Larzac (Gold medal)  – 12.50€ 
Deep colour.  Firm spice on the nose and quite a rich palate. with stylish dry leather notes.  Rounded, ripe and rich with lots of depth and nuances of flavour, and a lovely long ripe finish.   Plan de l’Homme belongs to Rémi Duchemin, who first made his reputation in the Pic St. Loup at Domaine Mortiès, and at Plan de l’Homme  he has gone on to even better things. 
2012 Faugères, Domaine Ollier Taillefer, Grande Réserve   (Trophy)- 10.50€
This won the Languedoc red wine trophy, chosen from the gold medals, and quite rightly so.  It is an absolute classic example of the appeal of the Languedoc and the character of Faugères, and comes from one of the first estates to put Faugères in bottle.  There is some lovely rich spice balanced by a stony note of minerality, with a fresh finish.  Beautifully elegant and great value at 10.50€


Saturday, 23 January 2016

Pays d’Oc Collection 2015


Every year since 2007 the Pays d’Oc syndicat has organised a tasting to select the best of the Pays d’Oc which will represent the ‘appellation’ at various wine fairs and shows during the forthcoming year.  The idea is to showcase the best that the Pays d’Oc can offer, with wines chosen by a jury of not just French but also tasters from China, England, North America and Holland.  This year 320 wines were submitted, which were reduced to 56 in a first tasting, and then to 24 to make up the Collection 2015.  And those are the wines that I tasted a couple of weeks ago.  There were some surprises in the line-up – no pure Syrah, or pure Vermentino; only one rosé.  Most of the usual big names were present, but there were also some small unknown names, which was very satisfying.

So here goes with my tasting notes:
Domaine de l’Engarran, Cuvée la Lionne, 2014 Sauvignon – 9.40€
Light golden colour; quite a delicate nose, with a firm stony palate and a good acidity balance with the fruit.  Not especially Sauvignon on the nose, but the palate is a restrained example of a southern Sauvignon, with a nicely refreshing finish.

Serre de Guery, Cuvée l’Intelligence, 2014 Viognier  -6.50€
From Château Guery in Azille, in the Minervois.  Lightly peachy and more so on the palate, but a fresh style with good acidity and a nicely rounded finish.   Good varietal character, but not overwhelming for a Viognier.

Domaine de Puilacher, 2014 Chardonnay – 12.00€
Some French oak for the élevage.  Light golden, and lightly oaky nose and palate.  The oak dries the palate a bit too much for my taste, especially on the finish. 

Vignobles Lorgeril, Cuvée Marquis de Pennautier, Terroirs d’Altitude 2013 Chardonnay  - 10.30€
A proportion of this wine was fermented in wood, with some bâtonnage.  I found it fresher and more buttery on the nose than the previous wine.  Good acidity on the palate, with some rounded fruit and satisfying texture.  A dry but not a drying finish.

Domaine de Valensac, Entre Nous 2014 – 6.50€
From an estate in Florensac.  An intriguing blend of Sauvignon and Petit Manseng, with a small proportion of the Petit Manseng aged in wood.   The blend works very well, with the Petit Manseng providing hints of honey on the nose and palate, balanced with some pithy fruit from the Sauvignon.  Good acidity and a fresh finish. 

Domaine Condamine Bertrand, Cuvée Elixir 2014   - 12.00€
A blend of Roussanne and Viognier, with élevage in wood.  Light golden colour.  White blossom on the nose and palate.  They couldn’t tell me the precise proportions but it tastes as though there is very little Viognier, just enough to add some weight, but very little peachy fruit.  But a nicely rounded wine with some texture and well integrated oak.

Domaine de Tholomiès, Cuvée la Chapelle 2014 – 7.00€
A blend of Chardonnay and Viognier.  From Minervois la Livinière.  This estate has been bought by Grands Chais de France.  A peachy note, on nose and palate but quite a dry flat finish. Not very inspiring.

Les Vignerons de la Méditerranée, Cuvée Mythique 2014 – 8.00€
This is the flagship wine of the Vignerons Val d’Orbieu which is a large group of producers, and now part of an even larger organisation called Vinadeis.  A blend of Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc kept in stainless steel.  Some herbal notes on both nose and palate.  Quite rounded with good balancing acidity.  Fresh with a sympa southern note of white blossom. 

Domaine l’Ostal Cazes 2013 – 12.00€
Blend of 75% Viognier, 10% Marsanne and 10% Roussanne.  Élevage in wood, with a little of the Viognier fermented in wood.   An estate in Minervois la Livinière owned by Jean-Michel Cazes of Bordeaux fame.  Some dry peachy fruit on the nose, with more on the palate, with some white blossom.  Quite a structured palate.  The wood dominates the palate at the moment, but there is good acidity too, and a youthful finish.  This might develop in bottle. 

Domaine du Grand Chemin, Cuvée Anthus  – 9,80€
From an estate in the Gard.  A blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon and Vermentino with six months ageing in 400 litre barrels.  Light golden colour.  A lot of nuances.  Quite fresh acidity and quite mouth filling on the palate.  Youthful.  Some oak on the finish, but generally rather intriguing and original.  I would have like to have spent more time with it.

Les Costières de Pomérols, Cuvée Beauvignac, Muscat à petits grains 2014 – 5.00€
From one of the leading Picpoul de Pinet coops.  Fresh pithy Muscat fruit, and even more so on the palate, with a hint of sweetness on the finish, avoiding the bitterness you sometimes get with Muscat.  Fresh and understated, and quite elegant for a Muscat.

Domaine du Grand Chemin, Cuvée l’Incroyable  rosé 2014 – 9.40€
A blend of Cinsaut and Pinot Noir.  Pressed grapes.  Orange pink colour and quite a delicate nose, with a rounded palate that finishes a touch flat.  Not very expressive, and tiring a little.  The new vintage will be available in a couple of months.

Chapoutier, Marius Grenache 2014 – 6.35€
Medium colour. Ripe cherry nose and palate.  Quite fresh with a youthful tannic streak, with refreshing fruit.  Easy drinking,

2013 Fortant de France, Pinot Noir.  Terroir de Collines – 6.00€
Medium colour. Quite delicate raspberry fruit on nose.  Light fruit on the palate. Fresh and elegant with a dry finish, and a touch of wood.  I am not generally that keen on Pinot Noir in the Languedoc, but this is an exception. 

Les Vignes de l ‘Arque, Cuvée les Boissières, 2013 Merlot – 7.95€
From near Alès in the Gard,.  Quite a deep young colour.  Quite rounded plummy fruit on nose and palate.  Some tannin balanced by ripe black fruit.   Quite full-bodied and quite youthful with tannin on the finish. 

Domaine Gayda, Figure Libre, Cabernet Franc 2013 – 15.00€
Deep colour.  Some ripe red fruit.  Very Cabernet Franc.  Fresh, with youthful tannins.  Medium weight.  Fresh red fruit.  Very good balance.  The oak is very well integrated.  A lovely glass of wine.  I liked this a lot.   For more info about Gayda, see my post from last autumn. 

Domaine de Brau, 2013 ‘ PURE Cabernet Franc’– 8.50€
From Villemoustaussou in Cabardès, near Carcassonne.   No oak.  Medium colour.  Quite tight red fruit and quite firm and structured on the palate.  Youthful and fresh, but also less ripe than the wine from Gayda.  A sympathique comparison.  Both have their place. 

Domaines Paul Mas,  Cuvée Astelia, Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – 29.90€
Aged 70% in American oak and 30% in French oak, for six months.    Deep colour. Quite solid rounded ripe oak and cassis fruit.  Quite a sturdy wine and characterful, but quite firm tannins that need to soften and a touch alcoholic on the finish.  Needs time. 

Domaine de la Jasse, Tête de cuvée de la Jasse 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.   – 15.00€
12 months in wood.  Quite a deep young colour.  Quite concentrated nose with cassis and some firm tannins. Is there enough acidity too? A bit flat on the finish with some drying oak.   Lacks elegance.

Picaro’s Cuvée Plurielle, 2014 – 11.00€
A blend of Syrah Grenache and Carignan, aged in vat.   All the Carignan and half the Syrah is vinified by maceration carbonic and the rest, the Grenache Noir and half the Syrah with a classic vinification.   Lovely fresh ripe fruit and spice.  Medium weight.   A very appealing glass of wine, and it comes from my adopted village of Roujan, so I’ve planned a cellar visit to find out more- watch this space.

Domaine les Yeuses, Cuvée Ȏ d’Yeuses 2013 - 9.20€
Marselan and Cabernet Franc from an estate near Mèze.  Quite a deep colour.  Quite rounded with some fresh fruit and spice.  The balance of the two grape varieties works very well , with some nicely integrated oak giving some structure,  Medium weight with good fruit.

Clos Sorian, Cuvée MG 2010 – 9.00€
80% Merlot with 20% Grenache.  Quite solid and rounded with good tannins.  The Merlot gives some structure with the Grenache providing some flesh and body.  A fresh finish with no wood.  Firm and youthful. 

Domaine de Bachellery, Ballade en Straminer – 9.90€
The name is another way of telling you that the grape variety is Gewurztraminer, which used not to be allowed in the Languedoc.   These days it features on the official list of authorised grape varieties. Rounded spice and quite rich, and although the fiche technique says blanc doux, the wine is not that sweet and does not say so on the label.  It is simply rounded and rich with some ripe spice.  And a rare example of Gewürztraminer in the Languedoc, with good varietal character.

Les Vignes de l’Arque, Cuvée Saveur d’Automne – 12.00€
This does say doux on the label.  It comes from Viognier that was picked late and then fermented and aged in oak for nine months.  Golden colour.  Quite rich, rounded and intense on the nose, and palate, balanced with some acidity.  Ripe and peachy, with good mouth feel, rich with good weight.  And a very satisfying finale to the tasting.   And another good discovery. 






Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Domaine Jones in London



Katie Jones was in London last month and showing her most recent vintages at the Maison du Languedoc one evening, so I popped in for a quick update.  In fact Katie gave quite a comprehensive and entertaining presentation of her wines, relating anecdotes about life in a small French village off the beaten track.  Three things occupy the villagers of Tuchan, namely rugby, wine and la chasse.   Wild boar are particularly partial to ripe Muscat grapes.   And Katie talked about buying her first vineyards – blame her parents, who happened to mention that they rather fancied having a vineyard in the south of France.   And since that first purchase, she has gradually acquired several plots of old vines.

2014 Jones Blanc,  Grenache Gris Côtes Catalanes
Rounded leafy herbal fruit on both nose and palate.   Quite a firm youthful finish, but with lovely acidity and nicely mouth filling.  I am becoming ever more enthusiastic about Grenache Gris; it really is an exciting grape variety.  13.5

2014 Carignan Gris, Vieilles Vignes.
Quite a delicate nose, with quite firm fruit on the palate.  Again very good acidity; that is what Carignan is known for, giving good structure and freshness.   A lovely example of a forgotten grape variety, that is even rarer than Carignan Blanc.  Fully deserving of a revival.  13

2014 Maccabeu Vieilles Vignes
Light dry herbal nose; quite delicate.  A rounded palate, with some body and soft fruit, with a firm finish.    It is unusual to have Maccabeu as a single varietal, but this works very well.  14

2013 Jones Rouge, Grenache Noir, Côtes Catalanes
Medium red colour.  Fresh cherry fruit on the nose.  Medium weight palate, with more fresh cherry fruit, and a touch of pepper.  Young and fresh and lightly spicy.  

2013 Fitou
A blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah.  Medium colour.  Quite rich peppery fruit on the nose and quite a firm sturdy palate.  Gusty and concentrated, with firm stony minerality.  Youthful and characterful with plenty of potential.  14.5

2013 Carignan Noir, Côtes Catalanes.
Quite a deep young colour.  Quite a firm sturdy nose and palate.  Sturdy ripe red fruit.  Firm tannins, youthful spice.  Good weight and nicely balanced. 

In short, six splendidly characterful wines.   Do check out Katie’s website www.domainejones.com and consider joining her wine club La Gare du Vin Club




Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Mas d’Albo




After tasting one of Fabien Azema’s wines at the Maison des Vins in St. Chinian, I was keen to visit the estate, which is just outside the village of Roquebrun.  The name comes from his great grandfather, who was called Albo, and the estate now totals 11 hectares, in 22 different plots, at an altitude of 350 metres, all in the hamlet of Ceps outside Roquebrun.

As for grape varieties, they have the usual reds of  the Languedoc, but no Cinsaut, and for white wine Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne, but those vineyards are not classified St Chinian.    An error when the appellation was created in 1982 and the comment was made that if all such errors were rectified, the appellation would increase by 300 hectares.

The vines have been in the family for several generations.  Fabien’s grandfather was a member of the cooperative, and  his father bottled his first wine in 2004 and removed the vines from the coop.  Fabien officially took over the estate when his father retired in 2014, but judging from a brief appearance, retirement is the last thing on his father’s mind.  Fabien had initially worked in education, with children with special needs, and then returned to wine.    Part of their production is sold to the négoce, as they gradually attempt to increase the percentage sold in bottle.    We settled down  in their welcoming tasting room, to taste through the range.  There is an interesting display of sundry items that they have found in their vineyards, fossils and other artefacts.



2014 Languedoc Blanc, Louis – 7.00€
Roussanne, with a drop of Grenache Blanc.  You do need two grape varieties to make appellation Languedoc.   The vines are on schist, but are not not St. Chinian,  and the grapes are handpicked.  Some lees stirring in vat gives some weight and body to the wine.  Mineral nose, with firm tight knit fruit on the palate.  Some white flowers and a hint of honey on the finish.  Louis is Fabien’s nephew, born on the last day of the harvest  in 2014.  

2014 Viognier, Pays d’Oc – 8.00
Similar vinification to the Roussanne, with some lees stirring, but a lower yield of 20-25 hls/ha, as opposed to 30 hl/ha.    A little peach and apricot on the nose.  Good acidity, delicate peachy fruit with some weight, from the bâtonnage, on the palate and a fresh  finish.   Fabien wants wines with length. 
Asked about viticulture, he replied 'lutte raisonnée plus'.  Their vineyards are very stony, and it is impossible to use an intercep, the machine used to weed between the vines.  Also they have lots of small plots, and if the neighbours are not organic too, it can be problematic   But they till the vines as much as possible.  

2014 Or Blanc, Languedoc – 12.00€
A blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Grenache blanc.  The Roussanne is given three months élevage in wood.  A little colour. Quite a rounded nose, with a touch of oak and on the palate quite rich and mouth filling,with some weight and satisfying texture.  And a long finish.  It is bottled soon after blending.

2014 St. Chinian rosé -5.50€
A blend of 40% each of Syrah and Grenache Noir, with 20% Mourvèdre.  All pressed.  A delicate pretty pink, with a delicate nose.  Quite a rounded palate, quite full with raspberry and strawberry fruit.  A little weight on the finish.  The wine develops nicely in the glass.

2012 St. Chinian, Cuvée Augustin – 7.50€
Named after another nephew.  One third each of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, blended at the beginning of December after the malo.    A little carbonic maceration on the Syrah and 18 months élevage in vat.  Good colour.  Fabien wants spice and freshness and that is what he has achieved with some ripe spice on the nose, with firm fruit on the palate.  Medium weight. He observed that the  Mourvèdre gives some peppery notes.  Quite a long finish.

2012 St. Chinian Le Pérarol – 7.50€
A traditional  blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan.  The name of the plot, and an attractive label with the silhouette of the Caroux that dominates the vineyards of St. Chinian.  18 months élevage, including a little oak for the Carignan, for 12 months, to patiner un petit peu.  It is well integrated.  Medium colour.  Quite a firm nose, with some mineral fruit on the palate, with good balance.  ‘Very schist’ observed Nelly from la Maison des Vins.   Nicely rounded and elegant with a long finish.  I really liked this and it is great value.  A relatively short maceration of 15 – 20 days.

2010 St Chinian Or Brun – 14.00€ 
A play on words.  It could be Roquebrun, but is not. The Orb is the river that flows through Roquebrun, so Or Brun.   Mainly Syrah with a drop of Carignan and Mourvèdre.  12 months in older barriques. Good deep colour.  Quite a firm sturdy nose and palate, quite a solid, dense palate, but with good fruit and the oak is well integrated.  Quite a firm sturdy youthful finish.  Needs time.  13.5˚ The Syrah is given three weeks carbonic maceration and the Carignan and Mourvèdre enjoy a classic fermentation.  The carbonic maceration makes the wine more volouté.  The soil is quite acid, so they add lime to balance the pH.

2012 St. Chinian Or Brun
A longer maceration and the oak is more present,.  Quite solid and rounded, with firmer oak and more weight on the palate.   On the day the 2010 was showing better,   Obviously there is also a question of age. 

And then we tasted a couple of 2013s, a fresher and later vintage than 2012.  The whites were picked on 15th September, and the reds on 21st

2013 Augustin
Fresh red fruit; very supple and very aromatic.  A touch confit on the finish.   The aim of this wine is an emphasis on the fruit.  And that is exactly what there is.

2013 Le Pérarol
Quite a firm youthful nose, with fresh red fruit and spice.  An elegant backbone of tannin.  A certain mineral finish and very good balance.

And we finished with 2013 Moelleux Vin de France
A blend of Grenache blanc and Muscat, picked when they were very ripe, a potential 15˚, with the finished wine 13˚.  The fermentation is stopped by chilling, leaving 50 gms/l residual sugar.  Very perfumed Muscat fruit on both nose and palate, rounded sweetness, with a slightly bitter hint and also a hit of fennel.  

And projects for the future ?  To improve quality and increase sales in bottle. 





Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Domaine Guiraud




Or to give it its full title, Domaine Boissezon-Guiraud. 

Pomplia Guiraud explained that they had had problems with Château Guiraud in Sauternes, even though Guiraud is her husband’s family name and the family have been in Roquebrun for 200 years.   And as well as vineyards in Roquebrun, they also have vineyards in the nearby village of Causse-et-Veyran, and that is where Boissezon comes in, with a wedding some fifty years ago.  Altogether they have 58 hectares, one third in Roquebrun and two thirds in Causse-et-Veyran.   Pomplia comes from Romania; she met Michel Guiraud when he was there on holiday.  He took over the family estate thirty years ago, and began bottling his wine about twenty years ago.   And they make a diverse range of wines, which we tasted in the old cellar. 



2014 Les Hirondelles, Pays de l’Hérault  - 7.00€
A pure Sauvignon. Classic fermentation.  Fresh pithy fruit on the nose and rounded Sauvignon fruit on the palate, with some varietal character.  A pleasant glass of wine, without any great depth.



2014 Les Petits Cailloux, Pays de l’Hérault – 5.50€
White blossom on the nose.  Rounded ripe palate, with some texture and mouth feel.  Fresh fruit. Medium weight and easy drinking.
And with this 2015 harvest they will make a St. Chinian Blanc for the first time  from Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache blanc. 

2014 Rosé, La Dame Rose, Pays de l’Hérault – 5.50€
A blend of Mourvèdre and Cinsaut that could equally well be a St. Chinian. Light colour.  Light fruit on the nose and quite a rounded palate, with some ripe fruit, dry raspberries.  All saigné.  The Mourvèdre gives it some structure making it a food rosé.   From vineyards in Roquebrun.   

2013 Grenache Noir, Sans Pareil, Pays de l’Hérault – 5.50€
Not made in 2014 as there was not enough Grenache, as the vines suffered from drought in Causse-et-Veyran.  Nor are all the vines in Causse-et-Veyran are classified as St Chinian.  Medium young colour. Soft ripe fruit on both the nose and palate.  Quite ripe and spicy, soft and fleshy and a slightly jammy note on the finish.  Easy drinking.  



2014 Les Cerises, St. Chinian – 7.00€
From Roquebrun, but it doesn’t say so on the label.  55% Syrah with Grenache Noir, Carignan and Cinsaut.   Medium colour.  Quite soft ripe fruit on the nose.  Quite rounded and spicy; easy drinking. 
They practice lutte raisonnée rather than organic viticulture.  They have just three employees and would need several more if they were to be organic.

2014 St Chinian.  Comme à Cayenne – 9.50€
Each wine always comes from the same plot each year, and this plot, called Brusse Noir, is particularly difficult to work, with very stony soil.  Hence the reference to French Guyana where convicts were sent for forced labour.  This is a blend of 85% Grenache Noir and 15% Carignan, picked together and fermented together.  Medium colour; quite ripe spicy nose.  Medium weight palate.  A touch of rustic tannin from the Carignan.  Aged in vat .  Refreshing drinking. 

2011 Château Boissezon-Guiraud, St. Chinian – 7.00€
From the clay and limestone soil of Causse-et-Veyran.  A blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir, Carignan and Cinsaut.  Élevage in vat.  Medium colour.  Lightly smoky and a bit stalky on the nose.  Better palate with some appealing peppery fruit.  A touch confit on the finish.

2012 La Suite dans les Idées, St. Chinian – 11.00€
Mainly Mourvèdre, with some Grenache and Carignan.  Aged in vat.   They seem to have a slightly ambivalent attitude to oak barrels, using them up to 2006 and then trying again in 2012.  Quite solid ripe fruit.  Quite concentrated, with a sweet note, and also a slightly green note.   Like virtually everyone else in Roquebrun, they don’t mention Roquebrun on the label, observing that it is not very well known, so doesn’t really add anything – though Pomplia did now admit that they were beginning to have second thoughts.



2012 Cap Nègre,  Pays de l’Hérault – 10.00€
This is the name of plot.  A pure Alicante Bouschet, from 30 year old vines.   Quite solid and sturdy with black fruit on the nose.  Quite tannic and dense.  Aged in vat.   An amusing back label written in medical terms ,  suggesting a moderate consumption and that it would go well with black chocolate.

2010 Terre Promise, St. Chinian – 15.00€
85% Syrah, 15% Carignan.  Aged in  vat.   For some reason I did not find this very harmonious.   There was sturdy fruit and some peppery spice, but with an awkward edge on the finish.  Maybe it needs a bit more bottle age. 

And projects  for the future?  Maybe another rosé, as well as a white St. Chinian.  And maybe a new red cuvée.  They are full of ideas.   And then we went to see some of the vineyards on the outskirts of the village.  




Monday, 4 January 2016

New Year's Eve in the Languedoc

New Year’s Eve in the Languedoc turned out to be a day with three completely different wine experiences.

First stop, Domaine Ollier-Taillefer in Fos to taste their new cuvée, Le Rêve de Noé, but you can’t pop in to Françoise Ollier’s friendly cellar and taste just one wine.  First we compared 2012 and 2011 Grande Réserve.  2012 is elegant and spicy, while 2011 is richer and more concentrated.  Next came their oaked cuvée Castel Fossibus, with a similar vintage difference, and then we broached Le Rêve de Noé.  

Françoise explained that in 2013 their Mourvèdre was perfectly ripe, and the grapes were so good that they deserved a careful élevage in a new oak barrel.  But she and her brother Luc do not like mono-cépages, so they added a barrel of particularly good Syrah that was also aged in a new barrel, to make just 800 bottles and 60 magnums.  There will be none in 2014, but they have made it again in 2015.   And it is a serious glass of wine, beautifully balanced and harmonious with fruit and oak, and not at all heavy, despite an alcohol level of 15.5˚. It combines concentration and elegance, with a lovely long lingering finish, and will age beautifully.  It is an excellent addition to their range.

Early evening found us visiting a friend with a fractured pelvis in the hospital in Clermont l’Hérault.  Her supper arrived, and her eyes lit up.  It came with a glass of red wine – you don’t get that on the National Health, we commented.  And then she tried the wine and her face said it all.  So purely out of professional curiosity, I had to try it too.   Frankly, and sadly, it was mean and lean; an example of the kind of wine that once gave the Languedoc such a bad reputation.   Today with the improvements in viticulture and wine making, there is no excuse for such wine.  We promised to bring a bottle with us the next time we visited.

And then on to dinner with friends, to enjoy as it turned out, some of the best of the Languedoc.  A welcoming glass of 2013 J Laurens Les Graimenous, Crémant de Limoux, which was fresh and creamy.  A glass of Domaine Barroubio’s Muscat de St. Jjean de Minervois went beautifully with some foie gras; it was fresh, honeyed and lemony.   With an elegant prawn or three, we enjoyed 2007 Pas de l’Escalette Blanc.  Julien Zernott is a particularly talented white wine maker, and this was delicious, evolving nicely, but still very youthful with good acidity and some mineral notes.  Who said that Languedoc whites do not age?   Next was 2002 Chloé from Jean-Louis Denois in Limoux, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet.  Again this was drinking beautifully, nicely mature and rounded with some ripe cassis fruit and a harmonious finish. And the finale was a Rivesaltes Tuilé from Domaine des Chênes.  Alain Razungles is one of the most talented wine makers of Roussillon and he has a way with sweet wines.  This was delicious, lightly chilled, and tasted of red fruit and figs with a touch of spice.   A great way to end the year. 

Happy New Year – Bonne Année!!

Friday, 18 December 2015

Domaine Thierry Navarre




Thierry Navarre is just across the road from Domaine Marquise des Mures.  He is a great enthusiast of  the old forgotten grape varieties of the Languedoc, varieties like Ribeyrenc Noir and  Blanc, and even Gris, which disappeared after phylloxera.  I came away with a bottle of Oeillade, one of Ribeyrenc and one of Terret, all of which are wonderfully original, showing just why the Languedoc should reconsider the potential of these old varieties and  incorporate them  in the appellations.  Instead they are humble Vin de France.    Thierry feels very strongly that the diversity of the Languedoc has been seriously reduced and that this has a serious effect on agriculture and the environment.



2014 Lignières blanc, Vin de France – 8.00€
A blend of Ribeyrenc Blanc, Clairette, and Grenache Gris, which is very much better than Grenache Blanc, which tends to be rather flat.   He obtained  the plants of Ribeyrenc from the INRA; you cannot buy them from a nursery.  Classic vinification; temperature controlled and all fermented together.   Quite a floral nose with white flowers and on the palate some mineral notes and some floral notes and fresh acidity on the finish.  ‘I wouldn’t plant Chardonnay’ observed Thierry; he feels that the vignerons ‘are ashamed on their region’ - that is why they plant international varieties rather than the old indigenous varieties of the region.

2014 Vin d’Oeillade, Vin de France7.00€
Œillade has the advantage of being ripe at 11.5˚     Some ripe fruit, but the bottle had been open a couple of days and was possibly a touch evolved on both nose and palate.   Carbonic maceration for 8 days.

2014 Ribeyrenc Rouge, Vin de France – 10.00€
Again a low alcohol of 11.5˚.  Quite light colour.  Bottled three weeks earlier.  Fresh cherry fruit.  A côté orange.  Fresh easy fruit.   There are only three vignerons with Ribeyrenc  in the whole of the Languedoc, namely Patricia Domergue at Clos Centeilles, François Henri in St. Georges d’Orques and Thierry.  Thierry has just 1.75 ha!  And two hectares of Oeillade.  He referred to Ribeyrenc as his baby.  Once upon a time the vineyards of the Languedoc essentially comprised one third Ribeyrenc, one third Oeillade and one third Picpoul.  Carignan and Grenache Noir arrived from Spain in the 19th century, and were planted after phylloxera.   Ribeyrenc must be grown up in the hills, never on the plain.  The nose has some light perfume, with a medium weight palate, with some fresh cherry fruit.  Very appealing.   He has also planted some Picpoul Noir – apparently there is a lieu-dit in Roquebrun called Picpoul.  



2013 St. Chinian Le Laouzil – 8.00€
Carignan, Grenache Noir and Syrah – Laouzil means schist in Occitan.  Destalked and given a three week maceration.  13.5˚.  Good spicy fruit on both nose and palate.  A medium weight  palate.  Very much an emphasis on fruit.  And then I noticed that all Thierry’s back labels says Tchin tchin, or cheers!  He has a nice sense of humour.

2013 Cuvée Olivier, St Chinian – 12.00€
From his oldest vines, 30 years old Syrah and 80 years old Carignan and Grenache Noir.   Initially ac losed nose that develops in the glass.  Ripe supple fruit.  Two winters in vat – 13.5˚  Quite concentrated, but not heavy.



And then we deviated for a bit of history.  Thierry’s first vintage was 1988.  His family were never members of the coop.  His grandfather bottled wine in the 1960s, and sold Muscat and Grenache noir, vin doux, but with no added alcohol, as did most small vignerons at the time.  That was very much the tradition of the region, and Thierry feels it is a shame that the appellation does not remember this  old tradition for Grenache and Muscat. The grandfather also produced Vin Rouge, Carignan des Coteaux, which was initially sold en vrac and then he began to bottle it.  He also made white wine from Servant, which  can also be a table grape, which ripens very late.  And Thierry is dismissive of the cru of Roquebrun – that is for competitions, and they concentrate on Syrah, which is a stupidity – it comes out like encre de chine, or Indian ink.   The challenge is to produce fresh wine in a hot climate.

2012 La Conque, Vin de France - 10.00€
And then we moved onto Thierry’s other project,  a vineyard of just 1.30 hectares with  Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, planted by friends up in the hills at 600 metres, at just about the highest point of the commune of Roquebrun.  La Conque is the name of the lieu-dit. The vineyard is surrounded by woods, with a three week delay in ripening, compared to the lower vineyards of Roquebrun.  The soil is clay rather than schist.  A complete change of key in the taste spectrum. Elegant dry cassis.  Medium weight.    Some tannins.  Very elegant finish. 

They are building a cellar there now, for élevage, as it is so much cooler.  The wine makes itself slowly up there; the 2014 was just finishing its malolactic in September 2015.  Thierry uses a drop of s02 and that is all.  The pH is higher,  which helps keep the wine.   The Cabernet is aged in 500 litres new wood. 



And then we tried 2013 Terret Gris, which is lightly orange in colour  - 8.00€  It is harvested and pressed;  the colour comes from the pulp.  It is not fermented on the skins, like the orange wines of Georgia.   The wine is very original – with some orange fruit, with a hint of honey and it is solid and rounded, with some citrus notes.  Textured and rich on the finish.

And the finale was Vin de Grenache – 12.00€
17˚.  Égrappé in vat, and then forget about it and let it macerate five or six days, and then press and chill to stop the fermentation.  Spends time in wood.   Red fruit, fig, dried fruits, some floral notes and slightly honeyed on the finish.  

Asked about projects for the  future – Thierry has replanted Oeillade and wants to plant more Ribeyrenc Blanc and Terret gris – and he would love a new cellar……




And then a tractor arrived, full of ripe healthy Syrah grapes, so we watched them being unloaded into the égrappoir and then headed to Les Cave St Martin for a spot of lunch, which for me was some delicious paté, with a really ripe tomato salad and a glass of Yannick Pelletier’s L'Oiselet.  I was amused to see that the menu for the charcuterie proclaimed assiette de jambon,  cochon heureux!