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21.3.15

Alsace: Grand Cru tasting by Olivier Humbrecht & Christophe Ehrhart

This latest slightly esoteric feature on Alsace is neatly stored HERE on a sizzling new page dedicated to the Alsace region:
"These are my notes and thoughts on a Circle of Wine Writers' tutored tasting (so forgive the sometimes nerdy detail weaved into the words) earnestly called "Beyond terroir - exploring the influences on Alsace wines." The audience was informed and entertained by two great speakers, who guided us through nearly a dozen ("this one goes up to 11" in fact) mostly delicious top wines: Olivier Humbrecht MW from Domaine Zind-Humbrecht and President of the Alsace Grand Cru association, and Christophe Ehrhart from Josmeyer and Vice-President of Alsace Grand Cru..."
My five favourite wines at a glance:
Domaine du Clos Saint Landelin Grand Cru Vorbourg Riesling 2012
Domaine Paul Blanck Grand Cru Schlossberg Riesling 2010
Gustave Lorentz Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim Riesling 2008
Josmeyer Grand Cru Brand Pinot Gris 2010
Hugel & Fils Vendange Tardive Gewurztraminer 2007
You can also buy this in-depth feature as a handy PDF supplement including other recent material on Alsace for just £2.50 (about €3.50 or $3.75). READ ON...

Olivier Humbrecht MW, left (from zindhumbrecht.fr)

12.3.15

WES Belfast update: wine tastings...

Details just posted on my other blog: WineWriting.com (follow this link), including a new evening event: Organic & 'natural' wines tutored tasting on Thursday April 30th...

23.2.15

Languedoc: Terrasses du Larzac

I've talked about the now officially stand-alone subzone of the Terrasses du Larzac a few times before and reviewed/profiled certain producers here and their hearty, sometimes wild-side wines. I've also gone on about its slight misnomer and implied mountain-vineyards-ness, as some of them do indeed lie on the lower southern edges of Massif Central range, while others are, well, pretty flat really. Inevitably, perhaps, it's the same old problem when trying to create new smaller zones based on initially quite focused criteria; then everybody in the area wants in on it... Anyway, here's a bit of background reading for you then, in handy "click on this link" form:
Terrasses du Larzac and Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert (May 2012) with its neat summary of and opinions on this fledgling appellation, a touch of sightseeing info and tasty wines from these estates: Brunet, la Seranne, Les Conquetes, Familongue/Quinquarlet, La Traversée, Brousses, Alexandrin, Chemins de Carabote, Plan de l'Homme, Chimeres, Cres Ricards, Quernes, Clos du Serre, La Sauvageonne... As well as even more handy links to these producers in the area, and a little beyond its boundaries (this does seem to stretch the imagination a little too far): domaine la croix chaptal - domaine alain chabanon - domaine d'aupilhac - mas conscience - domaine coston - mas de daumas gassac - mas de l'ecriture - domaine virgile joly - domaine de malavieille - domaine saint andrieu - languedoc tasting reports 2009-2008 vintages.

The region must have become even more fashionable, since some of the Languedoc 'big boys' have moved in over the past few years and bought vineyard plots or already high-profile estates. The Gérard Bertrand group is one of them, which acquired Domaine La Sauvageonne three or four years ago (now cunningly repacked as "Château", although I don't remember much of a manor house type building in situ when I went there six years ago) up in the wilds of St-Jean-de-la-Blaquière (with real terraced vineyards) - click HERE, HERE and HERE to find out what I thought of the wines, before and after so to speak.

Jean-Claude Mas obviously got excited about these terraces too, as his expansionist Domaines Paul Mas (links to lots of other stuff about them) family operation snapped up Domaine des Crès Ricards in 2010. Even if "the vineyard is planted at an altitude of 60 metres," (watch out vertigo sufferers) it does lie at the foot of Mount Baudille and is covered in hardy pebbles apparently. This now-extended and varied 42-hectare estate - there's some Cab, Merlot, Chardy, Viognier etc. here in addition to the 'usual Med suspects' - is found near Saint André de Sangonis around the village of Ceyras. They've recently launched a new white called Esprit de Crès Ricards into the range too. More info: www.cresricards.com, London office: www.cotemaslondon.com, US site: www.paulmas.com

Château des Crès Ricards
Alexaume 2012 IGP Mont Baudille (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Carignan; 14.5% abv) - nice ripe liquorice and wild herb nose with spicy cassis, dark berry and roasted red pepper edges; fairly smooth and easy palate with a touch of weight, rounded finish with a hint of richness and grip too. Attractive drink-now red. €8 cellar door, UK £8.50.
Stécia 2013 (“selected” Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, 14.5% abv) – sweet black cherry and liquorice with minty herbal edges, aromatic and powerful nose; lush mouth-feel with earthier tones underneath, enticing sweet/sour cassis/berry fruit vs developing liquorice, a touch of grip yet it's nicely rounded, powerful and fairly concentrated, bitter twist of tannin vs lush and spicy texture. Well balanced in the end, approachable yet has a bit of structure; good with steak pie and roast duck. €12.50 cellar door, UK: Cheers Wine Merchants £9.99.
Oenothera 2012 (“selected old-vine” Syrah and Grenache, 14.5% abv) – had a funny unripe? (doubt it with 14.5) red pepper/herby brambly smell that was still there after two days open – or is it reduced? (also seems unlikely with a barrel aged red). Certainly had an odd 'dirty' character, which was a shame as underneath there was rich black cherry, liquorice, mint and black olive; more concentrated and structured than the Stécia, although that distracting pungent brambly thing lingered... A second bottle was the same: is it reductive for an oak-aged wine and still there after being open for a few days? Or a not very nice unripe note? Would like to try another bottling or the next vintage... €17 cellar door, £13.20.


Sticking with the theme, another fairly hefty bottle came my way recently bearing a similarly hefty and familiar name: the Orliac family, who are well-known pioneers in the Pic Saint-Loup appellation lying a little to the (south)east of the Terrasses du Larzac. Marie Orliac and, paraphrasing her note, her brothers are making a wine in the stunningly set Buèges valley on their elevated (600+ metres, so now we're talking terrasses) property called Clos du Prieur. The family actually bought the vineyards back in 1999 but had to spend considerable time and effort restoring and replanting the hotchpotch of old-vine blocks and a wee cellar in the village. More @ www.closduprieur.fr including some scenic photos - I downloaded the one of Marie above.

Clos du Prieur 2012 Vignobles Orliac (Syrah 75%, Grenache 25%, Cinsault 5%; 13% abv) – attractive soft and elegant with ripe black fruits and pepper, tasty now actually with its sweet currant palate vs a touch of grip; well balanced and quite straightforward, a nice Languedoc red although not sure I'd pay €16 for it (cellar door). These UK importers list wines from Domaine de l'Hortus, the Orliac's PSL winery, but it doesn't look like anyone ships this one yet: Caves de Pyrène, Bancroft Wines, Berry Bros & Rudd; ditto Wines Direct in Ireland. $38.50 Réserve & Sélection Quebec.

By the way, if you happen to be in the area, or Montpeyroux just down the road to be precise, on Sunday 19 April, the village’s twenty-one wineries will be open to all for tasting, chat and sales presumably for their annual "Journée de Toutes Caves Ouvertes." More: montpeyroux-en-languedoc.com or www.montpeyroux-tco.fr

10.2.15

Rhone "reds of the moment": Rasteau & Lirac

The large-flavoured 2010 is the latest vintage release of Cave de Rasteau's 'premium' red called 'Les Hauts du Village', which, even if you only do a soupçon of French, is indeed "what it says on the label," a selected 'GSM' blend sourced from old vines on certain high-ground sites around Rasteau. It also differs from their other reds being about one third each of these varieties, with a higher proportion of Mourvèdre as opposed to the usual majority Grenache set-up. You'll find more words about this exciting co-op winery (90 this year by the way) and their other wines HERE, HERE and HERE.
Rasteau Les Hauts du Village 2010 - Mourvèdre 35%, Grenache 35%, Syrah 30% (just the Syrah aged in cask for a year), 14.5% abv. Earthy punchy nose layered with blackberry, black cherry and black olive too, peppery with savoury edges; fairly serious tannins vs lush dark fruit and spicy punchy finish, dry bitter twist balanced by lovely fruit and nice maturing 'tobacco' notes. Wow. After two days open (my old favourite test for big reds): more savoury and black olive on the nose and palate with lingering sweet vs spicy liquorice fruit, the tannins were a little rounder too. Predictably it's one of their dearer wines: €14.40 cellar door, £15.95 Hercules Wine Warehouse (UK), €20.49 O'Brien's (Ireland), $29.99 The Wine Merchant Cincinnati, $20-22 (plus tax) Total Wine & More.

From vignobles-alain-jaume.com
Alain Jaume & Fils doesn't do the southern Rhone Valley lightly, since the family owns vineyards in Vacqueyras, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Lirac with their winery base in Orange. It's the latter appellation I'm focusing on here, which sits waving at its grander neighbour over the other side of the Rhone and is decked out with the same old big stones and all that jazz. Clos de Sixte is an organically farmed vineyard located in this area and home to the rock n' roll 'GSM' blend I've reviewed below. Click on the web address under the photo for more info.
Lirac 2012 Domaine du Clos de Sixte (15% abv) - Grenache 50%, Syrah 35%, Mourvèdre 15%, and 30% of the wine is aged in cask for 14 months. Delicious bold red with bags of rich peppery black fruits and liquorice, a powerful mouthful yet concentrated and surprisingly balanced actually, fairly soft tannins and complex lingering sweet vs savoury flavours on its big finish. It's actually dearer than some CndPs, although stacks up well flavour-wise against serious examples from there: €13.20 cellar door, £17.50 Ellis Wharton, Wimbledon Wine (UK); €21.50 Mitchell & Sons (Dublin); $22-$28 B-21 Florida, MacArthur Beverages DC, Wine House CA, Total Wine & More and other stores around the US.

9.2.15

France: "whites of the moment" (Chablis, Gewurz, Champers and sweeties)...

Shrivelled grapes from www.jurancon-cauhape.com
Chablis 2014 L’Eglantière Jean Durup (Chardonnay, 12.5% abv): surprisingly soft and not too acidic for a Chablis that was probably only bottled recently; it was a bit awkward and closed up to start with, although has attractive citrus fruit on top of its 'mineral' structure, subtle concentration too then tight and crisp on the finish. Needs a few months in bottle to express itself but should be good. €11.75 cellar door, Thorman Hunt & Co. London, $15.99 K&L Wines California. Also available in Germany and the Netherlands.
Chablis 2012 Louis Moreau (Chardy, 12.5% abv) - pretty classic and classy style Chabbers, not very forthcoming at first (was a bit too chilled out) but slowly revealing subtle ripe citrus and peachy fruit, lightly creamy touches and fairly crisp finish. UK: Marks & Spencer £14 (was on promotion for £10.50). Easy to find the Moreau name just about anywhere in the world.
Champagne Louvel Fontaine Brut NV (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier; 12% abv) - sounds like a madey-uppy name and the print was totally tiny, but probably made by one of Champagne's reliable co-op wineries. Attractive Pinot-dominant style with a little more structure and bite than most own-labels, yet nicely balanced by subtle yeasty biscuit flavours. UK: good buy from Asda for £10 on offer, but I wouldn't pay the supposed £24.50 full-price though.
Alsace Gewurztraminer 2013 Cave de Turckheim (13% abv) - another spot-on style typical of well-made Gewurztraminer from Alsace: full of perfumed lychee and rose water aromas/flavours, rounded and quite rich with off-dry finish and a bit of oomph too. Try with Thai food or blue cheese. UK: £8 Sainsbury's "Taste the Difference". Turckheim's wines are widely exported.
Sauternes 2010 L'Ilot de Château Haut-Bergeron (Semillon, Sauvignon blanc; 13.5% abv) - lovely sweet classic, drinking well now although still has a bit of fresh structure to age for a few more years. Lush honey and spice with dried apricot cut by lively orange peel acidity and bitter twist, rich and concentrated but not too heavy in the end. Probably about £12 for a half-bottle - I bought it a while ago now, and that's the price of a different label and vintage of Sauternes currently listed by M&S.
Jurançon 2012 Symphonie de Novembre Domaine Cauhapé (Petit Manseng, 14% abv): selected berries hand-harvested in mid November (see photo at top) then barrel fermented. Delicious and complex opulent nose, honey and botrytis-type? aromas, oily and toasted nutty too with floral citrus edges; lush and sweet vs very fresh cut and oomph, oxidative and honeyed flavours with very light coconut tones, sweet textured vs crisp bite, long and tasty finish. Yum. Try with foie gras, venison or duck paté, strong or blue cheeses, apple or peach tart. Cellar door €19.20, £13.99 half-bottle The Wine Library London, £11.99/€16.50 half-bottle James Nicholson Northern Ireland, £24.90 Hedonism Wines London; $18.84 half-bottle Saratoga Wine Exchange NY, $23.99 half-bottle Toast Wines CT. Also available in Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland. Made by one of the region's leading estates.
You might also like to have a look at, you've guessed it, some French "reds of the mo" HERE.

3.1.15

Bordeaux mini-focus: Château La Tulipe de la Garde & Château Guiraud

These two châteaux don't actually have anything in common, as far as I know, apart from being loosely "in Bordeaux" albeit about 70 km from each other; one to the northeast of the city near the Dordogne river and the other a good trek southeast along the Garonne...

Château de la Garde was bought by Ilja Gort in 1994, a rather ramshackle wine estate dating from the 13th century apparently; and it took him 10 years to restore and re-equip the property, which is located on 20 hectares of vineyards in a little place called Saint Romain La Virvée (on the way to Libourne). In 2010, Ilja decided to change its name to Château la Tulipe de la Garde, presumably to give it a Dutch twist. I'm told "the vineyards are divided into 30 blocks, which are vinified separately... and made up of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc." Well-known consultant winemaker and Pomerol estate-owner Michel Rolland has been working with them since 2009, to refine the wine's style using less oak and bringing out the fruit, paraphrasing Ilja, who's obviously not publicity shy: in 2008, he had his nose insured by Lloyds of London for five million Euros!

Château La Tulipe de la Garde 2011 Bordeaux Supérieur (13.5%) - a touch more Cab Sauv and touch less Merlot than the 2012 below. Light cedar and herby red pepper notes vs darker cherry / damson fruit, quite powerful with a hint of grip and bitter chocolate tannins, black cherry, plum and blackcurrant flavours; nice freshness vs weight with a lush touch and some developing fruit vs dry structured bite on the finish. It was a little softer after being open for 24 hours with subtle ripe vs crunchy fruit finishing with dark chocolate bitter twist. Attractive modest modern claret, if you like, and fairly good value too.

Château La Tulipe de la Garde 2012 (13.5% abv) - 86% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc; aged for 12 months in new French oak. Much softer wine and 'lighter' (although still similar 13.5% weight) with nice plummy fruit and light cedar edges, crunchy fruit too vs soft and sweet mouth-feel vs a hint of dry grip and subtle cedar/coconut texture, rounded and full finish with more immediate fruit and drinking-now style.
UK: Sainsbury's £10. More info: www.tulipe.co.uk


Château Guiraud probably needs less of an introduction, which is one of the oldest and largest wine estates in sublime sweet wine country, found in Sauternes itself, and is ranked as a Premier Grand Cru Classé in the (in)famous 1855 classification. And apparently the only one belonging to this royal elite that's certified organic. Winemaker and estate manager Xavier Planty embarked on a subtle style change from the 2000 vintage, to give "grip and structure but... cleaner, lighter and more elegant..." In any case, here are a few words on three very different vintages, plus one of Petit Guiraud, the "second wine", and 'Le G' which is their new-ish dry white.

2013 Le G de Château Guiraud - produced from certain 15 ha plots with 70% Sauvignon blanc and 30% Semillon (no noble rot), half of it fermented in barrels used to make Sauternes. Lively citrus and gooseberry aromas vs a more exotic, rounder and creamier side; nice intense lively palate with yeast lees notes then richer finish, lovely dry white.
2011 Petit Guiraud - described as "a modern Sauternes... refined sweetness given extra freshness by a high proportion of Sauvignon." Gorgeous exotic nose with dried apricot and spiced honey, lighter and fresher on the palate with attractive concentrated vs crisp finish.
2008 Château Guiraud - beginning to get enticing marmalade aromas tinged with orange peel, lush yet very crisp mouth-feel with a touch of coconut oak, good balance of sweet exotic botrytis fruit vs that fresher side too.
2001 Château Guiraud - almost restrained for its age with subtle butterscotch notes, rich lush and exotic with lovely 'bite' underneath, beautiful balance of concentrated and long finish with spicy and still lively tones. Classic.
1996 Château Guiraud - orangey brown colour with caramel and marmalade on the nose, lush and concentrated with attractive honey flavours; probably already peaked but a lovely wine anyway.

15.12.14

France: ban on naughty wine names?

According to a recent post on punchy French wine business website Vitisphere.com (goes there, in French), more draconian proposals might be on the cards regarding wine labelling in France. A verging-on fascist state health body has suggested, in the name of "public health," that wine names using words like "pleasure" should be banned. While not condoning abusive alcohol consumption, FMW.com was wondering how stupid do politicians think we are? Wine is wine, and it's got booze in it, whatever poetic and/or marketing twist you adorn the bottle with. No doubt health ministers beyond France are watching this 'progress' with great interest too... Ho hum.

11.12.14

Burgundy: Henri de Villamont, Discover the Origin, Chablis etc.

This triad of Burgundy snippets was picked from three different tastings held in Belfast and Dublin this year, to celebrate the impending migration of all things Burgundy from WineWriting.com over to this site, which will eventually become an all-French wine mecca (if I can be bothered).

Henri de Villamont
This estate winery and broker owns 10 hectares (25 acres) in the Savigny les Beaune area (plots in a few sites from 'village' appellation to Premier and Grand Cru); and they also produce wines from across the entire region from Chablis to Beaujolais, filling out a substantial range covering no less than 45 appellations overall, so the blurb says. Here are three I liked anyway. More @ www.hdv.fr.

2009 Pouilly Fuissé Les Grumes d'Or (Chardonnay) - toasty and buttery nose, attractive nutty savoury development vs still has a hint of fresh acidity underneath, lush finish with lingering nutty flavours.
2011 Meursault Les Clous - hazelnut tones, rich and toasty palate with concentrated buttery mouth-feel vs tight acidity and long finish. Good stuff.
2011 Savigny les Beaune 'Le Village' (monopoly site) - touch of coconut grain with 'volatile' sweet/savoury fruit aromas, relatively rich palate vs still tight and fresh though with structured finish. Nice delicate style, needed a little more time when I tried it.

"Discover the Origin"
This slightly unusual joint-promotional campaign combining a handful of well-known European wine and food regions and produce - Burgundy wines, Port and Douro valley wines, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Parma ham - just goes to show there can be harmony among EU member states! Especially when there's money coming from the big Euro pot to support it, presumably. In any case, it sounds like a good idea, although they don't appear to agree any longer since mysteriously the discovertheorigin.co.uk "site is now closed..." (obviously the budget didn't stretch to a sustained online presence). Here are my favourites and comments on a flight (expensive Air France of course) of Burgundy wines presented at a fancy tasting in Belfast, a few months ago now it has to be said. All the whites here are made from Chardonnay and reds from Pinot Noir, in that beautiful simplicity way that Burgundy does so well... Grape variety wise at least: it's just the myriad vineyard sites which are complicated!

White
Domaine Richard et Stéphane Martin 2012 Saint-Véran, Les Rochats (organic, aged in large vats, 13% abv) – attractive creamy nose with white peach fruit, aromatic and lightly buttery almost; quite soft palate with similar taste profile, fairly delicate with yeast-lees edges, has a touch of freshness although is soft and drinking well now. Like sunny Chablis. Good although not great value at £13 in the UK.
Domaine du Colombier 2012 Chablis Premier Cru, Vaucoupin (no oak, 13% abv) – toasty lees notes, a bit of sulphur dioxide (SO2) too; a touch fatter mouth-feel with nutty and creamy flavours vs a hint of steely bite and light yeasty tones, closes up on its tight and slightly awkward finish (when I tried it). Seemed to lack a bit of excitement at first, although it improved in the glass getting more buttery and that SO2/lees side dissipating. £15
Domaine Roux Père et Fils 2012 Saint-Aubin Premier Cru, Les Cortons (aged 18 months in barrel with 25% new oak, 13.5% abv) – toasted grainy notes vs hazelnut and buttered toast aromas, more full-on style on the palate with sweeter fruit and a lot more oak giving grainy vs buttery texture, weightier yet with crisp backdrop; quite chunky ripe and concentrated though to counter that oak, turning finer on the finish in the end with better balance of weight vs bite. £25
Domaine Maillard Père et Fils 2011 Corton Grand Cru (12-18 months barrel-fermented and aged with batonnage (lees stirring), 13% abv) – pretty toasted oaky start, fair punch in the mouth with toasty flavours then subtle hazelnut and lees, turning crisper and tighter on the finish; a little clunky perhaps with that toasted oak vs bitter twist, nice roasted hazelnut notes though and weight vs fairly steely combo; it's concentrated too but doesn't have great balance for this level, a bit over-made. £30
Red
Another wine from Domaine Maillard tasted elsewhere around the same time:
2011 Chorley-les-Beaune - showing subdued oak vs sweet berry vs meatier savoury notes; has a fair bit of grip vs lively yet savoury berry/cherry, concentrated towards rich even with coconut touches, turning firmer, fresher and more subtle on the finish; the tannins are a tad bitter perhaps but this had fair class. £20 DWS
Domaine Jean-Hugues et Ghislaine Goisot 2011 Bourgogne Côte d'Auxerre, La Ronce (open fermenters, 12 months ageing in 30% new oak) – aromatic cherry and redcurrant with wild strawberry/raspberry notes, has a smokier more rustic side too; fresh acidity and a touch of firmness, sweeter vs savoury side vs that fresh bite and bitter twist. Not bad, better with the Parma ham as a contrast, which was delicious, soft and savoury flavoured. £10-£12
Domaine Tupinier Bautista 2012 Mercurey Premier Cru, Le Clos du Roy (30% new oak) – a hint of sweet oak on the nose plus ripe cherry/berry and a smokier side; the oak is quite subtle, touch of bitterness and grip with some fresh bite too vs a bit of weight, turning slightly savoury vs dried red berry flavours; closes up with tighter finish, has good balance and a touch of class. £20
Domaine Brigitte Berthelemot 2010 Beaune Premier Cru, Les Grèves (“older vineyard,” 12 months in oak, 20% new) – maturing savoury side vs subdued oak vs firmer and bigger mouth-feel, more extracted too yet concentrated with nice sweet/savoury fruit, tightens up on the finish. Maybe it's a bit heavy-handed although has more substance and enticing maturing Pinot fruit, and did open up and soften with airing; good, could do better though for £20-£25.
Domaine Jacques Prieur 2009 Corton Grand Cru, Les Bressandes (21 months in cask) – showing a fair lick of toasted vanilla and coconut oak, quite big and extracted yet fairly rich and savoury vs dried red berry fruit with earthy edges; concentrated vs that toasted oak, a bigger mouthful of wine and again it's a little heavy-handed, but certainly has depth and style. c. £100
Palate-cleanser: 14 month matured Parmesan cheese – lovely and tangy and complex flavours, yum.

La Chablisienne: Chablis 'vertical'
Some more golden-hued notes that got temporarily 'filed away', this time from a Northern Ireland Wine & Spirit Institute tasting earlier in the year, focusing on five vintages of one of this impressive co-op winery's top wines. Their Chablis Les Vénérables vieilles vignes comes from old vine Chardonnay vineyards - averaging over 50 years with the youngest at least 40 - and is typically part-aged in cask (about 20% of the wine in two to three year-old barrels). You can read more about La Chablisienne and several other Chablis producers in my three-part Chablis supplement: click here to buy it.

2008 vintage (12.5% abv) - has taken on a touch of colour but not much for its age, developing lovely savoury and buttery notes with yeasty edges vs greener fruit hints, complex nose; creamy vs still very steely palate, maturing oaty flavours vs fairly green apple crispness underneath and hints of celery too, just opening up really and getting richer. Very nice classic 'tight' vintage style that "needed patience," as Robin Kinahan MW put it, "well-balanced despite high acidity..." £18
2009 (12.5% abv) - a tad deeper colour, softer and creamier nose and palate; more developed, fatter and more oxidised, buttery flavours vs just a touch of acidity but it's quite forward and drinking well. 2009 vintage was "very ripe with lower acid, nice now and won't keep." £15
2010 (12.5% abv) - quite deep hues, fairly ripe and exotic nose vs subtle greener side; very concentrated and lush with tasty oat flavours vs crisp and classy finish, fat vs tight and long. "Upfront yet structured, delicious now but will keep," Robin agreed. £19
2011 (12.5% abv) - more closed up, lighter style with nice light buttery vs peachy fruit hints, coming out of its shell with a bit of bite and 'chalky' mouth-feel; attractive although lacks the depth and class, better than I remember though (there are quite a few 2011s reviewed in my special Chablis report). Robin described this vintage as "lower acid... with a late summer..." £15
2012 (12.5% abv) - not much on the aroma front at first, tight and 'mineral' mouth-feel with fresh acidity supported by gently creamy texture and peach / apricot fruit; tightens up on its long finish, concentrated and well balanced, needs 1 to 2 years to open up. "Another cracking vintage," Robin said, "restrained and classic." Thanks to the "long sunny yet cool late summer and early autumn."
Finally, he filled us in a little on vintage 2013, which was "very difficult before and during flowering. It was wet up to vintage then very hot... Not bad but turning a bit ugly... 30% down (in volume): there won't be a sub £10 Chablis soon," Robin concluded.
Plus a couple of young Beaujolais reds worth mentioning...
Cave de Château des Loges 2013 Beaujolais Villages - very aromatic with delicious summer pudding fruits: banana, blackcurrant, black cherry and berries; juicy fruity palate with fair depth vs a light bitter twist, tasty classic style Beaujolais with crunchy vs sweet fruity finish. £8
Cave de Château Chénas 2013 Fleurie 'Coeur de Granit' - similar nose but with richer cassis and more violet aromas; more concentrated and extracted even with lovely ripe vs crunchy fruit, has a hint of grip and fresh acidity too; more serious wine with good depth of fruit, firmer and longer. Lovely. £12

28.11.14

Côtes du Rhône mini-focus

Here's a Grenache and Syrah infused selection of various and varied southern Rhône Valley producers with some of their worth-mentioning winter-warming reds, which I've stumbled across over the last few months...
 From rasteau.com

Les Vignerons d'Estézargues
A mini-co-op winery formed by 10 growers in and around the village of Estézargues, where their cellar is located, which lies roughly between Avignon and the famous Pont du Gard viaduct (without mentioning the Romans). They favour a 'natural' winemaking approach apparently (who doesn't nowadays). These two cost about £10.95-£13.95 at Roberson's in London (so posh prices then); and the US importer is Jenny & François selections.
Les Galets 2012 Côtes du Rhône (Grenache, Carignan; organic, 13.5% abv) - perfumed nose, quite light texture (although not in alcohol) with tasty berry fruit finish.
Grés Saint-Vincent 2011 Côtes du Rhône Villages (Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault; organic, 14% abv) - similar profile perhaps although more concentrated, powerful and elegant too, paradoxically, with a light bitter twist of tannin.

Domaine Saint Etienne
Michel Coullomb's vineyards lie on rolling pebbley terrain around a little place called Montfrin, sitting pretty much smack in the middle of a crow-flies line between Nimes and Avignon (just in the Languedoc technically). Available from Leon Stolarski Fine Wines in the UK (£ price quoted) and Mitchell & Son in Dublin (€).
Perserose 2012 IGP Pays du Gard (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan; 14% abv) - easy-going red, nice sweet liquorice fruit plus a bit of oomph to finish. £7.75
Les Galets 2010 Côtes du Rhône Villages (2/3 Grenache, 1/3 Syrah; 13.5% abv) - attractive Grenache-dominant style showing white pepper and liquorice flavours, fairly concentrated too with balanced soft vs grippy mouth-feel. €17.99 Ireland
Cocagne 2011 Côtes du Rhône (Syrah, Grenache) - hints of toasted choco oak, lots of minty dark cherry fruit though, rich vs firm palate with concentrated finish; nice style. €18.50 cellar door.

Domaine de Mourchon
There's a short-and-sweet profile (scribbled a couple of years ago) of this quite exciting off-the-beaten track estate winery in wild Séguret country, owned by the McKinlay family, and some of their previously tasted vintages HERE. A trio of more recent releases are reviewed for your pleasure below. UK: the Wine Company (Colchester), Big Red Wine Co. (£ prices quoted). Good distribution in the US it seems: the two 'Villages' reds here are about $20+ and $25-$30.
La Source 2012 Côtes du Rhône white (Grenache blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Clairette, Bourboulenc) - charming honeysuckle notes, yeast-lees and peachy fruit; quite rich and tasty with nice crisp touch too. £9.59
Tradition 2011 Séguret Côtes du Rhône Villages (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) - enticing sweet liquorice and dark berry fruit, hints of spice and dry grip vs fairly soft and tasty finish. £10 (case price) to £13.99 a bottle.
Grande Reserve 2011 Séguret Côtes du Rhône Villages (Grenache, Syrah; older vines) - earthier and chunkier, punchy 15.5% alcohol layered with lots of lush dark fruit vs good bite too. Wow. £18.99

Cave de Rasteau

You'll find previous words on this fairly go-getting co-op HERE (about their sumptuous fortified red Vin Doux Naturel) that basically forms the backbone of the Rasteau village appellation, supplemented by a handful of very good independent estates (some of them are linked below); and HERE as well (note on the 2011 'Tradition'). Here's what I thought of two of their latest vintage releases.
Ortas 'Tradition' 2012 Rasteau (Grenache 70%, Syrah 20%, Mourvèdre 10%, 14.5% abv) - Deceptively fruity and soft at first, turning warmer and more powerful, plenty of tasty blackberry/cherry, damson and liquorice with earthy touches; a hint of dry grip vs sweet ripe fruit, spice and oomph to finish. Drinking nicely now. €7.90 cellar door, £9.95 Hercules Wine Warehouse (Kent, UK), €14.49 O'Brien's (Ireland).
'Prestige' 2010 Rasteau (Grenache 50%, Syrah 35%, Mourvèdre 15% from very stony hillside terraces, small proportion aged in oak; 14.5% abv) - rich ripe and earthy with liquorice and kirsch notes, peppery and minty too; concentrated, powerful, solid and grippy vs lush dark berry fruit with spicy edges; tightens up on the finish, still a bit young although drinking well with the right kind of food, e.g. Chinese roast duck actually. €18.49 O'Brien's, €10 cellar door.



Other Côtes du Rhône stuff elsewhere on this site you might like to glance at:

And there's a bit of 'blurb and bottles' from the northern Rhône as well lying craftily below this post (or click here:) Domaine Belle, Crozes-Hermitage.