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19.11.14

Rhône: Domaine Belle, Crozes-Hermitage

With their new-ish winery built in the village of Larnage, this very northern Rhone Valley producer (mostly Syrah and Syrah...) has slowly expanded over the years to 25 hectares (62 acres) of different vineyard parcels spread around several villages in the Crozes, Hermitage and St. Joseph appellations. Philippe Belle has been running the show for over 10 years now, and helped his father Albert shape the piecemeal whole into a fully fledged estate winery in the 90s.
www.domainebelle.com or via specialist exporter A Wine to Try.

Les Pierrelles 2011 Crozes-Hermitage (100% Syrah from specific vineyards in the village areas of Pont d’Isère and Mercurol, aged for 14 months in barrels) - hints of spicy vanilla oak on a structured backdrop, the fruit was a little overrun by the wood at that time perhaps, but the wine's got nice depth and mouth weight; probably just needed more time to round out fully.
Hermitage 2011 red (100% Syrah from Tain l’Hermitage from the 'lieu-dit' les Murets, aged 2+ years in barrels - 70% new oak) - pretty oaky too with big extracted yet concentrated mouth-feel, alluring dark and spicy Syrah fruit underneath (black cherry, damson and white pepper...); still rather youthful I think, should turn out pretty good in a few years...

18.11.14

Roussillon: Domaine Vial Magnères, Banyuls

It's that time of year perhaps when sometimes something a little stronger (fortified in the case of these aged "reds") and sweeter does the trick, and you can rely on the Roussillon region to come up with a Grenache-built blockbuster layered with complex flavours. Domaine Vial Magnères specialises in these, a small and very well-known family estate based in Banyuls-sur-mer, whose steep terraced old-vine plots rise up behind the town and neighbouring Port-Vendres, mostly making a good variety of these Banyuls styles including a white which, rumour has it, they were one of the first to produce. Bernard Sapéras has been in charge since the mid 1980s at this winery dating back to the 60s. More @ www.vialmagneres.fr where I copied the photo from.


Gaby Vial 8 year-old Banyuls (Grenache, organic; fortified to 15% abv) - enticing toffee and caramelised raspberry notes, lots of spiced liquorice too with complex baked red fruit and pecan nut combo on its yummy finish. Delicious. Dynamic Vines, London.
Another of their wines mentioned previously on this site:
Cuvée André Magnères 1996 Banyuls 'Grand Cru' - matched with "chocolate gianduja parfait with roasted pear and pecan, Banyuls syrup with pear and cardamom foam," (what?!) by 2007 Roussillon Dessert Trophy (click there for more info) winner Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

Roussillon: Château Corneilla / Jonquères d'Oriola

Château de Corneilla aka Domaine Jonquères d'Oriola is another of those very old family wine estates you occasionally come across in the Roussillon (we're talking 15th century apparently). Now run by 30-something William who's continued shifting the focus a touch more towards making Côtes du Roussillon reds, although they still have a very good reputation for their traditional Vins Doux Naturels (VDN = fortified wines), such as the gracefully ageing Tuilé red (sort-of 'tawny' style) featured here. The Jonquères family owns two substantial vineyards around the historic village of Corneilla del Vercol, found a few kilometres south of Perpignan on the way to Saint Cyprien and Elne. Their site www.jonqueresdoriola.fr is "under construction."

Rivesaltes Tuilé 2000 (Grenache, fortified to 16% abv) - caramelised pecan nut and red fruit cocktail, quite tangy and "fresh" almost with a bit of a kick then lingering maturing meaty flavours. Alluring VDN style, try with chocolate, nutty desserts or mature hard cheeses. £13 Roberson Wine, London.
Côtes du Roussillon 2011 red (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah) - nice sweet berry and floral notes with tobacco edges, fresh bite still and light tannins on its attractive finish. £9.95 Roberson Wine.

13.11.14

Wine Education Service NI: tasting and workshop update

See post on my other site: WineWriting.com: WES NI tastings and workshop in Belfast: "Christmas wines tutored tasting December 4 (Thursday) 7:30 - 9:00 PM £35 including nibbles. Special 'Christmas themed'..."

30.10.14

Languedoc: Special Supplement 2014

Now available as a 30-page glossy PDF for only £2.99 (or free if you subscribe - see Paypal buttons below): "a huge rollercoaster of a Languedoc special with 30 sizzling pages" crammed with (occasionally rather critical) commentary, my top wine and value-for-money tips from across the region, winery profiles and latest insights on the Languedoc wine landscape and some of the people behind it (has that sold it for you?)...

Touring Languedoc vineyards in a 2CV: “it's so French.”
Featuring reports, opinions and hundreds of wine reviews from these regions:
Corbières and Boutenac (mostly 2011 to 2013 vintage reds, whites and rosés) - some of my particular favourites include 2 Anes, Lastours, Grand Caumont, Pech Latt, Maylandie, Villemajou, les Palais, Caraguilhes, Vieux Moulin, Montfin, Caves Rocbère, Clos Canos.
Minervois and La Livinière reds & whites (the whites more exciting actually) including Le Cazal, Calmel & Joseph, Sainte Leocadie, Vordy, la Siranière, Gérard Bertrand, Sainte-Eulalie, Pépusque, Villerambert-Julien, La Grave, d'Agel and profile on Château Cabezac.
La Clape whites: Mire l'Etang, Abbaye Monges, d'Anglès, Sarrat de Goundy, Ricardelle with a focus on Capitoul and Mas Soleilla.
Saint Chinian: winery profile Château Viranel plus Borie Vitarèle, Cazal Viel and Saint Cels.
Faugères: plenty to recommend here including Fenouillet, Près Lasses, Onésime, La Liquière, les Fusionels, Lorgeril, Cébène, Capitelles, Saint Antonin.
Crémant de Limoux: Taudou, Antech, Sieur d'Arques, Rosier, J.Laurens all offering class and value. And white & red: Anne Joyeuse, Mouscaillo, Rives Blanques.
Pézenas: one of the most promising new subzones including hot wines from Les Aurelles, Conte des Floris, Pech Rome, Villa Tempora, Belles Eaux, La Grange and profile on Château Condamine Bertrand.
Montpeyroux: d'Aupilhac, Chabanon, Divem.
Grès de Montpellier: Skalli, l'Engarran, Roquemale, Jeanjean, Tissot.
Picpoul de Pinet: Petit Roubié, Félines Jourdan, Lauriers, Vignerons Florensac, Château Pinet, Costières Pomerols.
Pays d'Oc and IGP: Mas Dames, Engelvin, Enfants Sauvages and winery profiles on Domaines Lys, Montrose and la Provenquière.
Plus: La Cité de Carcassonne, classic touristy cliché yet guaranteed to wow. A few words and recommendations for staying, eating and an alternative way of touring the area - yes, it's those much-talked-about convertible 2 CVs again (Vin4 Heures Wine Tours)...
Buy my Languedoc special 2014 for just £2.99 (less than €4 or $5) or subscribe for £10 a year and get it free along with any other special reports published in PDF format.






2.10.14

Languedoc: Château Cabezac, Minervois


This charming swanky 75 hectare estate hidden away outside the wee village of Bize-Minervois (between Capestang and Homps on the region's northern edge with the bottom tip of the Saint-Chinian appellation, if you get what I mean: or look at a map...) was bought by Gontran Dondain in 1997, who must have invested a good deal of time and wonga into restoring the property and vineyards. The newest developments are on-site apartments and spa complex to complement their hotel and seasonal restaurant (open May to end Sept). What self-respecting poshly renovated château in the Languedoc doesn't have this nowadays!
Some good wines being made here but their “top” reds are quite pricey, although 2009 wasn't perhaps the best vintage to judge them on (hot and dry, many of them are now looking a bit clunky and out of balance with austere tannins), so I look forward to tasting some more recent vintages in the future. More info @ www.chateaucabezac.com where I pinched the handsome photo from.

2013 Cuvée Alice white (Maccabeu, Vermentino, Roussanne, Grenache blanc; 14% abv) – touches of honey/banana and yeast-lees vs a crisp 'mineral' side, juicy and refreshing with some roundness too. €7.30 cellar door / £8.77 UK.
2012 Rosé (Syrah, Grenache; 13.5%) - nice red fruity vs creamy style, a hint of rounded mouth-feel vs crisper finish. €7.30 / £8.77
2011 La Tradition red (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah; 14.5%) - attractive sweet fruit with perfumed floral tones, crunchy berries vs riper liquorice etc. with powerful weighty finish. Nice style. £8.77
2009 Carinu (Carignan; 15%) - maturing savoury and smoky vs a tarter herbier side, power vs bite on the palate, still quite tannic with lingering meaty development; those tannins are a bit too “09” but it's an interesting red I suppose. €12.80 / £11.48
2009 Cuvée Arthur (Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache; 14.5%) - fairly oaky smoky and extracted with structured powerful mouth-feel, that oak lingers a little combined with oomph, savoury fruit and a bitter twist of tannin. One for sipping gently around the round table no doubt. €17.10 / £15.11
2009 Grande Cuvée Belvèze (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache; 14.5%) - again showing plenty of dark chocolate oak with grippy punchy palate, better sweet fruit coming through vs similar bitter twist of tannins. €27.80 / £21.51

This is a preview snippet from my forthcoming 2014 Languedoc report - coming soon, honest!

29.8.14

Languedoc: new "special supplement" coming soon

No, I haven't done a French-style August close-down but have been adding material to my WineWriting.com blog (click to read all about my latest Portuguese wine special for instance) among other (more constructive) things to do. Anyway, I'm now working on a hopefully substantial "special supplement" (for want of a better description) drawing on all things and people Languedoc tasted, seen and encountered over the course of the first half of this year: a trip to the region in April to the "Millésimes en Languedoc" showcase based in and around the City of Carcassonne (including some nice pics like the one I took below plus tips on eating, staying and alternative things to do, such as hiring or being driven around in a brightly coloured Citroen 2CV...), a tasting in Dublin and a couple of wine events in London.

"Mediaeval Disneyland France" aka la Cité de Carcassonne

2.8.14

Wine tastings and courses in Belfast Oct to Dec 2014

Follow this link to WineWriting.com for details: "Wine Education Service NI (that's me) evening wine tastings, five-week courses and one-day workshops scheduled from early October to early December in Belfast city centre are as follows..."

18.7.14

Bordeaux retrospective

As well as everything else Bordeaux surgically removed from WineWriting.com and grafted onto this blog (see post below), I've resurrected some more archive features and created a second new Bordeaux page (follow the links):
Pomerol "invasion of MW students" in two parts: featuring Vieux Château Certan, Le Pin, Gazin (2003).
Château Falfas: "biodynamic in Côtes de Bourg" (2002).
"Bordeaux travel, in brief..." (scroll down to bottom of page) - Beychevelle, Ferrière, Margaux, Lafon-Rochet, Cos d’Estournel, Lynch-Bages, Lagrange, Rauzan-Ségla, Saint-Émilion, Bistro du Sommelier... (2001).
I might add all the accompanying tasting notes at some point too, if I can be bothered and can find them in my 'digital archives'...

9.7.14

Bordeaux

I've moved everything on Bordeaux (links to that page with lots of posts and features) to this blog from WineWriting.com, as it seemed like a good idea (at the time). I'll probably transfer all of my other French wine stuff onto this blog too, eventually...
Latest Bordeaux post was this by the way: 2010 vintage Grands Crus.