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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.

26.6.14

Languedoc & Roussillon: Domaines Auriol

Les Domaines Auriol, brainchild of Claude Vialade (pic.) who set up the company in 1995, is a producer and property owner with organically run vineyards in Corbières, operates as a broker buying and selling other estate wines and varietals and also offers a winemaking service sourcing tailor-made wines for clients from a whole host of partner wineries across the big south. Apparently they export 90% of production, so it shouldn't be too difficult to find some of their wines in a country near you. I was told Myliko is the UK importer but couldn't find any obvious Auriol wines on their site.


More info @ www.saint-auriol.com, where I found Claude's imaginative and amusing catchphrase: "Redécouvrir l'artisanat industriel," roughly translating as "Rediscover mass-produced craftsmanship," obviously a contradiction in terms but I think she's poking fun at snooty wine people who believe all big is bad. I remember seeing signs for "pain industriel" in French supermarkets, used in a patronising if not deadpan accurate sense like that. Anyway, here's a small selection of her wines sampled over the last few months.

2012 Les Flamants Picpoul de Pinet – enticing yeasty edges, oily vs crisp mouth-feel, concentrated and stylish dry white.
2012 Belles du Sud Cabernet Franc – nice Cab Franc styling showing red pepper notes vs a smokier and richer side.
2012 Domaine Mirabau Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache, Syrah) – a tad 'volatile' and soupy perhaps but has nice soft rich palate.
2011 Intense de Claude Vialade Languedoc (Syrah, Grenache) – attractive ripe dark fruit style with a hint of spice and grip vs lusher mouth-feel.
2011 Croix d'Aline Saint-Chinian (Syrah, Grenache) – lots of lovely sweet cherry and liquorice fruit, ripe and soft palate with complex smoky maturing notes.
2013 Château Cicéron rosé - attractive style dry rosé with creamy red fruits vs lees-y and crisp mouth-feel.

31.5.14

Rhône: Domaine Brusset, Cairanne

Laurent Brusset's hillside vineyards are found around the old ring-walled village of Cairanne (about 20 km northwest of Orange, not far from Rasteau) and in the nearby 'Plan de Dieu' area (yes, it does mean something like "God's land"). Laurent has just stormed the 22nd 'Cuvée Alliance des Vignerons' competition with his red 2012 and white 2013 (the first time one winemaker has won both I'm told) picked from wines submitted by the 16 member wineries of the local Winegrowers' Association. Appropriately enough perhaps, without venturing too far into fact-geek territory, since Cairanne is one of the 16 'named' Côtes du Rhône Villages appellations. Laurent says his philosophy is "always trying to keep the wine's fruit." More info: www.domainebrusset.fr

2012 Les Chabriles vieilles vignes red Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne (old vines: 60% Grenache, 40% Syrah; 40% of it aged in demi-muids; 14% abv) - aromatic and earthy blackberry, kirsch and cassis with peppery liquorice notes; full-bodied and quite punchy, concentrated and fruity with light touch of 'chalky' tannins and subtle dark chocolate bitter twist; warm and powerful with lovely vibrant dark fruit, spice and grip. Yum. £15 for the 2011, Big Red Wine Co (UK).
2013 Les Travers white (Grenache blanc, Viognier, Roussanne; 30% of it barrel-fermented with lees stirring; 13% abv) - yeast-lees and nutty edges with fresh vs baked pear fruit, subtle power, honeyed and white peach too vs aniseed tones and light coconut grain texture; almond flavours and rounded mouth-feel vs a more 'mineral' touch, lees and coconut tones too on the finish. Perhaps needs a few months in bottle to integrate more, good wine though. £12 for the 2012, Big Red Wine Co.

28.5.14

Languedoc: Domaine du Lys, Uzès

facebook.com/lesvignesdulys
One of those eternal "Languedoc or Rhone valley?" winery quizzes that can perhaps be answered simply as "both." Olivier Privat and Eileen and Ray Monahan's 30 hectares of vineyards (75 acres) lie in the Gard region, at the very eastern end of the Languedoc before you fall into the River Rhone, around a big-old-stone village called Blauzac not far from probably better-known Uzès (north of Nimes in any case). They have a medium-length list of varieties planted in blocks selected in 2008 (the vines are much older though), as you can see from the taster below, which are fashioned into single varietals and blends monikered as IGP (the new 'vin de pays') Cévennes (the nearby hills have eyes) and IGP Duché d'Uzès. Undergoing conversion to total organics since 2010. More @ www.les-lys.fr.

2011 Aillargues (75% Chardonnay, 25% Sauvignon blanc) - quite full-bodied and peachy fruited with attractive aromatic and crisper edge.
2010 La Grande Blanc (Chardy, barrel-fermented) - fairly concentrated with light toasted butter notes (or buttered toast if you prefer), rich and oat-y vs steely edges, maturing savoury finish too. Good stuff.
2012 La Petite Syrah (Syrah with some Sauvignon blanc actually) - nice cherry fruity style, easy-going quaffer.
2011 La Grande Rouge ("old-vine" Syrah, fermented/aged in large wooden vats) - minty herby peppery nose with lush dark cherry fruit, nice savoury side too, concentrated yet elegant; good stuff again.
2012 Caillasses (Grenache barrel-aged for a year, 16% abv!) - fair amount of vanilla oak on top vs lots of sweet fruit though, big and chunky finish. Their site offers a classic French food match: "hardly cooked meat."

19.5.14

Bordeaux: 2010

There's been more than enough verbal and written hot air generated about how great a vintage 2010 was/is in Bordeaux and how the top wines were blatantly priced for millionaire investors only. So I'm not going to add a single word more on the subject... Except to say here's a resurrected mini-retrospective of two dozen very tasty 2010 Grands Crus reds sampled in London last year, rather at random across a few well- and not-so-well-known appellations and properties.
Updated 28 May - new wine added at end.

From www.facebook.com/Chateau-de-France-Pessac-Leognan
Pessac-Léognan

Domaine de Chevalier – cedar, red pepper and 'inky' notes vs vibrant plum, cassis and cherry; quite soft tannins on a warming palate (13.5% abv), tasty now actually with nice fruit and light bitter twist on the finish.
Château de Fieuzal – richer and smokier with more coconut/cedar oak, quite concentrated and firm yet rounded too, nice sweet cassis vs light oak texture, a bit of weight too with good balance and style.
Château de France – quite opulent plummy and black cherry fruit vs cedar/coco edges, more extracted and firmer vs that vibrant fruit, structured vs rounded finish; quite seductive.
Château Malartic-Lagravière – smoky dark fruit with cassis and cherry and a vanilla coating, dry bitter chocolate bite but it's quite elegant and balanced with subtle concentration.

Saint-Émilion

Château Beau-Séjour Bécot – quite oaky vs attractive lively damson fruit, dry yet silky tannins, nice underlying depth and elegance although again a touch chocolatey at first.
Château Figeac – herby plummy cassis notes, light bitter twist of dry tannin vs again attractive sweeter berry fruit underneath.
Château Franc Mayne – cedary coconut tones vs fairly lush black cherry and plum, nicer tannins with dry vs silky texture, good depth of fruit vs chocolatey finish with bite.
Château La Couspaude – quite smoky and ripe, fairly concentrated and chunky, firm vs sweet oak and fruit; nice style, should blossom.
Château La Tour Figeac – quite complex, ripe berry with herby edges; fairly lush and silky vs dry grip, nice texture with chocolatey touches vs lovely fruit. Yum.

Listrac-Médoc

Château Clarke – leafy berry touches, more 'claret' like, subtle depth of berry and cassis fruit, firm yet attractive tannins; not so in-your-face, elegant Médoc style.
Château Fourcas Hosten – plummier and richer, more chocolate/coconut too but has tasty ripe dark fruit with cedary undertones, firm and structured vs rounded tannins; quite concentrated, balanced in the end, good wine.

Margaux

Château Angludet – rich cassis and black cherry, quite concentrated and firm vs an elegant touch, sweet fruit vs subtle oak texture. Good stuff.
Château Cantenac Brown – perfumed with cedar/vanilla notes and berry fruits, firm palate in a leaner style, quite good in that way.
Château Labégorce – nice dry vs ripe texture, structured vs sweet berry with tight long finish, bitter twist vs rounded; closes up, should be good.
Château Lascombes – chocolate and coconut oak vs fairly lush fruit, extracted and concentrated vs ripe berry and cassis, pretty solid mouth-feel with herby/cedary tones vs lovely fruit, quite big too yet well-balanced; very nice wine.
Château Marquis de Terme – enticing sweet berry, cassis and cherry vs cedary edges; soft tannins and quite elegant vs nice intense berry fruit and dusting of cedary oak; good.

Saint-Julien

Château Léoville Barton – leafy cedary tones vs coconut/vanilla vs quite rich cherry and cassis, dry vs sweet texture, freshness vs power, very nice balance and style. Yum.
Château Léoville Poyferré – 'inkier' and smokier vs attractive sweet cherry and blackcurrant, firm vs silky texture; again stylish and balanced, very nice wine.

Pauillac

Château Grand-Puy Ducasse – leafy cedary tones vs cherry and berry, structured in a leaner firmer style, freshness vs power; perhaps not as 'generous' as some of the others.
Château Pichon-Longueville – quite tight and firm vs ripe almost dried cassis, structured and powerful with tight cedary grain, nice fruit vs grip vs weight too.
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande – ripe cherry fruit with floral and cedar/coco notes, grippy tight mouth-feel vs nice sweet cassis fruit and fine dry tannins. Yum.

Pomerol

Château Petit-Village – quite lush and seductive vs firm and cedary, nice texture with grip and oomph; fairly big style yet still tight and structured.

Saint-Estèphe

Château de Pez – fair amount of chocolate oak, rich extracted and firm but it works, attractive tannins in the end, powerful but balanced with nice depth of ripe fruit.
Château Lafon-Rochet – again quite a bit of oak vs lush and extracted, ripe almost dark fruit vs cedary texture, grip and punch vs concentrated and ripe. Chunky and tasty, like the yellow wedding cake chateau...

Lots more Bordeaux stuff HERE.

UPDATED 28 May. Not a 'Grand Cru' Bordeaux but an equally good 2010 and considerably more affordable too:
Chateau Le Bonnat Jeansotte Graves (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5% abv) - a new one I think from Marks & Spencer at £12.99: pretty "classic" Merlot dominated style although riper and fleshier vs quite firm / structured still with underlying cedar oak hints, fairly concentrated and classy for the price (still not exactly inexpensive though for sure).

8.5.14

Roussillon: Mas Amiel update

There are already several words about Mas Amiel on this blog (searches for everything) and their wide range of wines, so I won't add too many more... But MA has launched a series of single block reds called 'Terres Rares' including 'Towards the North' tasting-noted below, which, apart from this vineyard's "does what it says on the label" exposure, comes from a two hectare "parcel" called La Devèze. In particular, plots of "old-vine black Grenache and Syrah (about 8% of the latter) on schist soil with sandstone, blueish limestone and clay," apparently. Anyway, what I liked especially about this red is, unlike some of Amiel's other non-Vin Doux Naturel wines (fortified sweet reds) made a little too Bordeaux-y, it isn't smothered in flashy new oak and really lets the pure Grenache fruit and some kind of intense wild French Mediterranean thing shine through.

Vers le Nord Maury sec 2012 (Grenache, Syrah; 14% abv) - delicious ripe yet floral Grenache nose with dark berries, kirsch, liquorice, pepper and almost wild thyme/pine too; lush concentrated and structured with lovely supple vs 'chalky' tannins, powerful and spicy with nice bite; closes up on its youthful fruit finish, needs some time to open up. Quite classy red. Amiel's wines are listed in the UK and Ireland by e.g. The Perfect Cellar, Lea & Sandeman and Bubble Brothers, although none of them sell this one yet as it's new, as I said. €19.50 cellar door.

And these were (re)tasted recently in London as a reminder of how tasty their 'traditional' Maurys are, made in two very different styles (the link at the top takes you to more info about VDN winemaking). Although they do also remind us, along with the "dry" Maury above, that Amiel's wines are expensive; there's no other way of saying it!

Maury Vintage 2008 (Grenache, 16% abv) - smoky tobacco and developing savoury tones vs sweet blackberry and spice, still young vs maturing meaty side, quite elegant actually for a fortified red. £29.99
Maury 15 Ans d'Age (blend of ages averaging at least 15 years, or something like that; Grenache, Macabeu, Carignan, 16% abv) - "red Madeira" style, complex with cooked red fruits and tangy nutty flavours, long and intricate finish; lovely VDN. £49.99

7.5.14

Rhone: Rasteau and Loire: Quarts de Chaume

Or a couple of gratuitous red versus white "sweeties of the moment," which have nothing in common whatsoever but are both worth sipping and talking about. Let's start in the southern Rhone Valley with a 'port-style' speciality made by the co-op winery Cave de Rasteau, who are celebrating 70 years of the Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel (VDN, fortified sweet wine) appellation. To mark this, they've repackaged the bottles with a retro label (makes you think of those cute old French booze posters you still see around, occasionally, very much from the "drink this and live to 100" era of advertising, which is now considered on a par with terrorism in France), and you can get it as a gift pack in a nice tin cannister too (€19.50 cellar door). As for how it's made - the red at least, there's also a "golden" presumably 'tawny' style - crushed whole berries of old-vine Grenache are fermented on the skins with hand-plunging, then it's fortified and left to steep for longer before pressing and ageing in vats and large tuns. It has 16.5% abv and 90 g/l of natural residual sugar.
Rasteau rouge VDN - alluring nose/flavours of dried black fruits, kirsch, prune, stewed plum and liquorice with smoky tobacco edges; more savoury and meaty on the finish vs sweet baked fruits vs dark chocolate twist, some firm tannin and nice spicy oomph. Try with mature or blue cheeses, dark chocolate and choc nut desserts; or what about a fairly spicy lamb curry too?! Hercules Wines (UK) £10.95; O'Briens Ireland do the posher 'Signature' vintage red VDN for €19.49.

More Cave de Rasteau wines here: Rhône "reds of the moment" featuring their 2011 Ortas Tradition 'regular' red (posted July 13).
And another estate in Rasteau featured on this blog: Domaine Coteaux des Travers (posted June 12).

Also sweet - much sweeter probably - but 'lighter' too with only 11% abv, this classic luscious Chenin blanc from the Loire Valley is made from botrytis affected and/or shrivelled grapes ("depending on the vintage," as it says on their site) picked by hand passing through the vineyard three or four times. Try with fruit tarts (especially peach or apricot), a variety of cheeses (goats, blue, mature, soft, ewes...) or just pour a little over vanilla ice cream. It kept surprisingly well for two or three weeks in the fridge actually.
Domaine des Forges Quarts de Chaume 2007 - complex and everlasting nose of spiced honey, quince jam, dried apricot, sultanas etc. Lusciously sweet palate yet has nice fresh acidity underneath still and a certain lightness of touch, despite the intense honeyed fruit and long flavours/finish. James Nicholson sale price of about £14.50, usually twice that I think.