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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.


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