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1.4.14

Roussillon: Le Soula, Fenouillèdes

Le Soula has featured on FMW.com before – see HERE ("Roussillon: three whites" from 2011 featuring their 2006 vintage) and HERE (notes and blurb spanning the period 2006 to 2010 on Domaine Gauby, who sought out, set up and part-owns Le Soula) - so it seemed like a good idea to add a few background words complementing my comments on recent vintage releases of some of their reds and whites...



Mark Walford, Roy Richards and Gérard Gauby bought about 20 ha (49 acres) of vineyards on the lost lofty frontier of the northwestern extremities of the Roussillon, known as the Fenouillèdes or upper Aude valley. Initially the wines were made in a small cellar in St. Martin du Fenouillet (the different plots are found around here and the villages of Feilluns, Saint Arnac, Le Vivier and Lesquerde) from the first vintage in 2001; and in 2008, they acquired the old cooperative winery building in Prugnanes, which was completely refitted, and Gérald Standley (pic.), who has a good deal of experience working in several wineries in different places, took over running the operation in the same year. He was undergoing official 'conversion' with full-blown organic certification due from the 2012 vintage, although they've been organic/biodynamic from the very beginning in any case (as if Gauby would have it any other way...). He also started the process of becoming certified biodynamic last year. The 'Macération' white wine is Gérald's baby, where he did whole bunch maceration before pressing giving wackier results, and more complex if it works (I liked it)...
Le Soula's wines are available in several top restaurants and independent merchants in the London area and across England via Berry Bros. & Rudd, in Scotland via Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh (the £.££ prices quoted below); Chapeau Wine in Dublin, Paul Young Fine wines in Los Angeles and in Canada, Japan etc: see full list on www.le-soula.com. They're pretty expensive, in Gauby-esque style, but good for sure and do age well too, especially the whites actually; so who am I to knock an obviously thorough job of creating a well-distributed premium Roussillon range...

Trigone blanc L11 Côtes Catalanes (mostly Macabeu with Malvoisie du Roussillon and drops of Grenache blanc, Grenache gris, Vermentino, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Marsanne and Roussanne of different ages; a blend of mostly 2011 and 12 vintages with a splash of 10 and 09; nearly half the wine aged in used demi-muids barrels; total sulphites 38 mg/l) – juicy honeyed and nutty, rounded and smooth vs nice crisp bite, attractive balance and style, fairly easy going.
2010 Le Soula blanc Côtes Catalanes (mostly Macabeu with Sauvignon and Grenache blanc plus Chardonnay, Malvoisie and Vermentino; about 30% aged in demi-muids including small portion of new wood; total sulphites 5 mg/l) – richer and creamier with nutty notes, lees-y with buttered toast, concentrated and lush with powerful yet still fresh finish. Yum. £21-£24
La Macération du Soula blanc L10 Côtes Catalanes (mostly Vermentino with Macabeu; blend of 2010 and 2009 vintages; mostly barrel aged; total sulphites 25 mg/l) – aromatic orange peel nut and peach blossom, richer hazelnut and sweet fruit flavours coming in vs intense finish; different.
Trigone rouge L12 Côtes Catalanes (mostly Syrah and Carignan with a touch of Grenache; a blend of mostly 2011 and 12 vintages with a splash of 10 and 09; 25% barrel aged; total sulphites 16 mg/l) – slightly 'reduced' and funky at first, moves on to lively spicy Syrah style with black cherry vs crunchier blueberry fruit; nice depth and subtle grip developing more liquorice fruit on the finish.
2010 Le Soula rouge Côtes Catalanes (mostly Carignan and Syrah with a touch of Grenache; mostly barrel aged including portion of new wood; total sulphites 27 mg/l) – wilder and peppery, intense crunchy fruit vs dark and smoky edges, light chocolate oak undertones on the attractive finish. £21-£25

31.3.14

Roussillon: Domaine Jolly Ferriol, Espira de l'Agly

Isabelle Jolly and Jean-Luc Chossart took over this three-and-a-half-century old property, in that cute old Catalan farmhouse style, in 2005, which is found off the meandering main road between Espira and Cases de Pène, a few kilometres west of Rivesaltes. They've been farming organically from the start (they're now 'certified' anyway) using indigenous yeasts for 'spontaneous' fermentation, and most of their wines have no added sulphites (except the Muscat de Rivesaltes as stated below for instance) and don't get fined or filtered they claim. This riskier 'natural' approach can sometimes lead to mixed results, although it's mostly successful with the wines I tasted here, especially their "blah blah" white based on Grenache gris, varietal Syrah and a couple of very different Muscats. More about Isabelle and Jean-Luc, their way of life, details on the wines etc. on www.jollyferriol.fr where I pinched this photo from.


2012 Blablablanc (mostly Grenache gris with Macabeu) – floral peach blossom vs yeast lees and nutty characters, intense and tasty palate with long finish; very nice white.
2012 Pet'Nat ("naturally sparkling" Muscat from second fermentation in bottle, 12% abv) – attractive and unusual style with biscuity notes vs grapey flavours; fairly light and easy.
2010 Fait d'Hiver (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan) – funky 'volatile' nose vs pure ripe dark fruit cocktail, dried and earthy with chunky vs soft mouth-feel; quite intense, a little on the wild side though.
2009 Syrah – perfumed violet and black cherry, turning more liquorice-y and peppery on the palate, rich fruit and tannins but rounded and quite fine for 'hot dry year' 2009.
2006 Muscat de Rivesaltes (total sulphites 28 mg/l) – “very low yields and much less alcohol added than usual,” I was told. Complex marmalade and quince notes with orange peel zest, nutty and toasty too on the palate. Lovely style.
Passe-temps Rivesaltes ambré (70% Macabeu, 30% Grenache gris; 3 years cask ageing, 16% abv) – nutty and dried fruits, oxidizing 'Madeira' profile although fruitier, intense bitter vs sweet mouth-feel with tasty ageing savoury flavours.

25.3.14

Languedoc: La Réserve d'O, Terrasses du Larzac

Marie and Frédéric Chauffray bought a few plots lying at 400 metres above sea level in the wild and airy Terrasses du Larzac (click to find out more) appellation in 2005 - you can read my note on their first vintage red from that full-bodied year HERE (links to "Top Languedoc & Roussillon reds over €10" tasting feature) - when they created La Réserve d'O, using a bit of word play, presumably, for that catchy name. They also starred in 'Les Terroiristes du Languedoc' documentary film (links to post about this) made by American wine-cineaste Ken Payton. The couple also has vines in the Saint-Saturnin area, which is a sort-of subzone of the wider Terrasses du Larzac so-called cru appellation ("Confused? You will be..."), all farmed under the influence of biodynamics from the very beginning, so the story goes; and had a new cellar built in the village of Arboras the following year... LRO is a name I've bumped into before, as I said, and I'm glad I (re)discovered them a few months ago, as their wines are tasty, full of sunshine and have nice depth of character too. Some of them are available in the UK from Cambridge Wine Merchants, Drop Wines, the Humble Grape, the Wine Society and others; and in the US: Johns Island Imports, IL and Astor Wines, NY. More @ www.lareservedo.fr.




2012 Sanssoo St-Saturnin (Syrah, Cinsault; no added sulphites, filtered) – lovely cherry and berry fruit, peppery with liquorice too; tasty juicy palate, quite concentrated and rich though with a certain freshness on the finish too. Lovely. £14
2010 La Réserve d'O Terrasses du Larzac (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault; total sulphites 45 mg/l, filtered) – enticing spicy floral nose with darker blackberry side, lush and ripe with nice tannins and mouth weight, fruity vs earthy finish. Yum. £11.99 - £13.99, $19.96
2009 Hissez O Terrasses du Larzac (similar blend but with more Syrah and some barrel ageing; total sulphites 40 mg/l, filtered) – again has delicious dark vs herby spicy Syrah styling, rich and full-on vs nice grip/bite, earthy vs dried fruit flavours, powerful yet concentrated finish. Wow.
2011 Bilbo St-Saturnin (mostly Grenache; total sulphites 37 mg/l, filtered) – ripe and juicy with liquorice vs crunchier berry fruit, weighty with a light bitter twist, also concentrated and long; nice Grenache style. £10.95 - £12.99

19.3.14

Roussillon: Vinyer de la Ruca, Banyuls

The man behind Vinyer de la Ruca is the splendidly named Manuel di Vecchi Staraz, which wasn't a name I'd come across before. He only makes one red Banyuls vin doux naturel style, as far as I can tell, which, as it says on his website www.vinyerdelaruca.com: "Tot es fa a la mà," meaning "Everything is done by hand," from my limited grasp of Catalan. This even includes the quirky decorative hand-blown 650ml and 400ml size bottles, more like little demijohns actually, the Banyuls comes in. Rather steep though at €75 and €110 a piece (even if he does only make 1000 bottles and the wine is good), just like the sheer schist terraces the 50 year-old Grenache it's made from tries to grow on. These vines are farmed totally biodynamically using homoeopathic preparations, no machines, no added sulphites to the wine, aged in small tuns and all that jazz. Sounds / looks like a bit of a philosopher too, hence the suitably pensive shot I copied off his site:


2011 Banyuls - baked plum and liquorice notes, fiery punchy palate layered with sweet vs savoury fruit, complex flavours on top of attractive grip and texture actually, rich dark and smoky with tangy twist too. Nice style.

13.3.14

Languedoc: Domaines Paul Mas update

This belated catching-up sees a couple of striking new poking-fun labels, another sizeable vineyard added to the Mas stable, a variety of 2011 and 2012 vintage reds and whites tasted last year and recently, plus a few words on that "road is long" restaurant 'project' mentioned previously which finally opened a year ago...


First off, Jean Claude Mas has been vineyard shopping again: La Ferrandière comes to 70 hectares (170 acres) near the pretty village of Aigues-Vives in the Aude region and is planted with Cabernet, Grenache, Malbec, Marselan, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Viognier. This latest addition to the total 478 ha now owned/managed by Mas (eight different estates), was "to ensure their development on the French market as well as abroad," the blurb explains. The company has been very export focused so far - 97% of sales in 58 countries apparently - and also works with 70 contracted growers across the Languedoc for extra fruit source.
Their new on-site restaurant - wine bar - wine shop Côté Mas is pretty good by all accounts I've heard (review to follow when I've been there), and looks worth a trip if you're touring this area. And following in the self-mocking footsteps of Arrogant and Elegant Frog, Ribet Red and such like, Doms P Mas have just launched a pair of Striking French! varietals. As you can see, the labels sport a cartoon character demo holding banners saying On veut du Viognier / On veut du Merlot, as in "We want Viognier/Merlot" obviously. See what I thought of them by clicking on the link below, along with a selection of other new vintages from across their extensive portfolio (Grés de Montpellier, Limoux, Picpoul, Pays d'Oc, Terrasses du Larzac, Corbières...).
CLICK HERE TO SEE MY NOTES / REVIEWS as well as lots of other DPM wines, comments and info penned from 2004 to 2011.

21.2.14

Languedoc & Roussillon: "wines of the mo"

Picked out from a South of France (goes to 'Sud de France Top 100' site, some of these wines were competition winners) tasting I did a few weeks ago for the www.niwsi.co.uk in Belfast, these wines were probably my favourite half-dozen from an interesting and diverse line-up, just for the pure pleasure of plonking a few tasty words out there in the blogosphere...

Domaine Denois 'Sainte Marie' Limoux blanc 2010 (single site "high-altitude" Chardonnay, barrel-fermented/aged) - the best of the three whites we tasted, I found it pretty much as I remembered it as per this note here (including more info on JL Denois and the wine). Touch of class. €15 cellar door.

Château de Cazeneuve 'Cynarah' Pic Saint-Loup 2011 (Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache) - attractive juicy ripe black cherry and liquorice fruit, soft tannins and rounded mouth-feel with a touch of earthy spice and mint. £12.95 the Wine Society. Previously on Cazeneuve.

Domaine Modat 'Comme Avant' Côtes du Roussillon Villages Caramany 2010 (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan from some of the oldest vines; half of it aged in new oak for 16 months) - a popular choice, I've already reviewed it here where you'll find more about the producer too. Nice mouthful of Med red, a tad expensive though. James Nicholson £14.95 / €21.80.

Pic by Ros Wilson
Château de Lastours 'Grande Réserve' Corbières 2008 (Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre: oldest vine selection 30 to 40 y.o; 75% of the blend aged 1 year in French oak) - attractive maturing smoky savoury and dried fruit side vs concentrated and still fairly firm structure, well balanced too. c. €18. More Lastours here.

Laurent Miquel 'Bardou' Saint Chinian 2008 Grande Cuvée (mostly Syrah from selected sites on the Cazal Viel estate, 14 months in French oak - 55% new) - another pretty serious red I'd tasted previously (goes to my special supplement on St Chinian inc. profile on Miquel and notes on several wines), showing a fair bit of oak but it's concentrated and structured with nice fruit. £16 Excel Wines, €20.99 Dunnes.

Domaine Cazes Rivesaltes ambré 2000 (100% Grenache blanc fortified to 16% abv, aged 7+ years in old tuns, 118 g/l residual sugar) - classic style with enticing oxidized walnut/pecan notes, complex flavours with nice sweet vs tangy and savoury finish and a bit of 'cut'. Liberty Wines approx retail £15 half-bottle. Lots more old Cazes here.

29.1.14

Languedoc special: Saint Chinian wine touring

Alexandre Jougla checking
there's a spider in your wine...
I've just published an 18-page Languedoc special supplement on lesser-known Saint Chinian wine country, following a trip there at the end of last year, which is free to subscribers of French Med Wine and WineWriting.com or costs £2.50 on its own (emailed as a PDF file with a few nice pics), and not viewable on this blog! This mini touring guide features winemaker interviews and profiles with plenty of hot wine recommendations focusing on these estate wineries: Canet Valette, Cambis, Jougla, Cazal Viel and Laurent Miquel, La Madura, La Femme Allongée, Boissezon Guiraud, Milhau-Lacugue, Bousquette, Navarre, la Maurerie, Pech Menel...
There's also a spotlight on this year's 'Grand Cru selection' competition winners and my favourites (e.g. La Grange Léon, La Linquière, Borie La Vitarèle, Moulinier, Cave de Roquebrun, Les Eminades, Viranel, Champart among others...). Plus a few tips on good eating and places to stay in the Saint Chinian area, such as Château les Carrasses and Le Faitout restaurant, as well as some serious 'high-altitude' turnip talk (aka navets du Pardailhan)...
Buy it for £2.50 (about €3 or $4): pay by card or your with own PayPal account (click there for more info about this and general terms & conditions): click on the button below!



Or subscribe to FMW.com and WineWriting.com for just £10 a year (approx $16 or €12) and get this PDF mini-guide for free, as well as other special supplements e.g. my mega Cahors wine touring special or Cava guide. Use this PayPal button to subscribe:



More St Chinian on this blog:
Languedoc: Saint-Chinian 2010 vintage report
Search for everything: frenchmediterraneanwine.com/search?q=Chinian
Or peruse the Languedoc winery A to Z in the right hand column for more estates in St Chinian...

23.1.14

Wine Education Service NI tastings and courses

... Can be viewed on WineWriting.com: Wine Education Service NI tastings and courses: "The wine-tastic WES NI  courses and tastings being poured over the next few months, at the  Ramada Encore in Belfast city centre and tutored by RMJ..." Click there.

23.12.13

Roussillon and Languedoc: "festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate" (part 2)

Further to these recent words of wisdom on my WineWriting.com blog: Spain v Australia: festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate (goes there naturally), which also includes a little insight into fine chocolate making and the different types... Here are some more "festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate," this time sourced from the Languedoc and the Roussillon. When talking about "wine with chocolate," many people - okay, wino people rather than normal people at least - think of rugged Roussillon country and its sometimes sublime red vins doux naturels or fortified sweet reds based on Grenache, especially Banyuls from the southeastern corner bordering Spain or Maury in the region's northern flank nudging up against the Corbières hills.

Those famous demijohns, slightly predictable target for a photo, outside at Mas Amiel: mostly empty as this type of traditional 'oxidative' ageing is now only used for a small proportion of their Vin Doux Naturel (VDN) production. Photo: Vi Erickson.
Mas Amiel is arguably the most famous name in the Maury area (with suitably celeb prices to match, you might be tempted to add) and particularly well known for its old vintages. We were treated to their 1980 (in magnum no less, a special millennium bottling aged for nearly 20 years in demijohns and large casks beforehand; 16.5% abv) at the 'wine with chocolate' tasting event featured in the post mentioned at the top of the page (follow that link for more info). I've tasted this vintage before in situ (goes to profile and notes on MA penned in 2007, 2009, 2010 and updated earlier this year), although not sure if it's exactly the same wine, as that 1980 had one of their regular 'Millésime' labels, implying vintage style i.e. aged for a relatively short time in cask and the rest in bottle. In any case, the 1980 "millennium" was delicious and a fine match for the Co Couture chocs in front of us, especially the chilli flavour actually. Browning in colour with intriguing meat gravy vs liquorice nose, rich and concentrated with lush mouth-feel vs nice bite and developing savoury flavours; still alive with complex long maturing finish. Yum. £85 magnum.
Also from Maury, made by the worth-visiting Vignerons de Maury co-op winery found in the village, comes their Cuvée Centenaire (specially brewed in 2010 to celebrate 100 years, obviously; 16% abv), which was quite orangey brown with 'volatile' red-Madeira notes and sweet dried fruits vs meaty mature cheesy palate; particularly good with the ginger chocolate. About £23. More of their wines are HERE (St-Bacchus Awards) and probably elsewhere on the blog too. Banyuls was well represented by one of its top VDN producers Domaine du Mas Blanc with their 2000 Vieilles Vignes label (old vines; 16.5% abv): oxidised intricate mature-cheesy nose, lush vs savoury palate with complex toffee and dried raspberry flavours, long smooth finish. The plain choc and sea salt flavoured one almost freshened up the wine, not so good with the ginger though funnily enough. £27 approx. More on DMB HERE.
Moving on to a few 'regular' Roussillon and Languedoc reds, not deliberately tasted with chocolate (but might have been unintentionally) in recent weeks. Firstly, a pair from Naked Wines. Benjamin Darnault's 2012 La Cuvée Réservée Cotes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache, Syrah; 14.5% abv, bottled in the Aude though?) is deep purple black in colour, a 'modern' style big fruity and spicy red; peppery blackberry with firm grip vs 'sweet' rounded palate, nice dry texture vs ripe berry fruit, liquorice and spice with punchy alcohol on its lively finish. Attractive good+ co-op level red, okay at £8.49 ('Angel' price) but not worth £11.49 ('normal': more here about Naked's pricing). Same could perhaps be said about their 2012 Le Petit Train Syrah (£8.25 or £10.99) made by Katie Jones, although this wine was apparently specially commissioned by Naked after Katie was sabotaged by some jealous thug, who broke in and poured away an entire vintage of her white wine. So, there's an "investment in people" type story behind it (as is Naked's self-acclaimed style generally). Anyway, it's a very nice red showing touches of sweet coconut oak layered with really ripe black cherry/olive even, soft fruity and rounded mouth-feel with a hint of herby spice vs a light bitter twist of tannins/acidity and blast of warmth. Kept well after opening too, turning softer with the oak less obvious and nice sweet black cherry/olive fruit vs light grip.
Finishing off in Saint-Chinian in the Languedoc back-lands, I've picked out just a few of my favourites from a trip last month, which were winners in a "Grand Cru selection" competition I was on the tasting panel for. CLICK HERE for my full-monty St-Chinian special supplement, which is free to subscribers or £2.50 (about €3/$4) on its own, and not viewable on this blog (emailed as a PDF). Features several leading estates (and places to eat and stay), including Domaines Canet Valette, Cambis, Jougla, Cazal Viel, La Madura, La Femme Allongée, Boissezon Guiraud, Milhau-Lacugue and more! In the meantime then...
Laurent Miquel Bardou 2008 (100% Syrah) – still quite toasty coconut with spicy dark fruit vs nice meaty edges, the oak melts into it adding a touch of chocolatey texture/flavour, nice tannins and concentration for a 2008; still quite young and structured with substance. Good stuff. €19

La Grange Léon D'une main à l'autre 2011 (Syrah, Carignan, Grenache) - herbal red pepper, liquorice and perfumed white pepper; quite lush with ripe berry fruit, soft and approachable with bit of weight, freshness and length. Nice now. €16
Domaine la Linquière 310 La Sentenelle 2011 - lovely wild garrigue notes (= reminds of heathland flora!) plus sweet liquorice vs peppery fruit, soft tasty and quite elegant finish. €18
Borie la Vitarèle Les Crès 2005 (Mourvèdre, Syrah) - savoury touches vs dark cherry, nice 'chalky' tannins with a touch of freshness, tight and elegant, still relatively young really, lovely savoury vs liquorice and spice finish. €18.50

Above prices are cellar door in France, so these are all towards dear wines although among the producers' top cuvées; or would be in the UK, Ireland or US once you slap on eye-watering taxes!