Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Pic St. Loup - La Bergerie du Capucin

Next stop was la Bergerie du Capucin, to see Guillaume Viau, who is president of the syndicat of the Pic St. Loup.  However we were there to taste his wines, rather than to discuss local wine politics.  He explained that the vineyards come from this wife’s family.  A great great grandmother had been a sheep farmer,  hence the name of the estate.  His father-in-law had bought the vines in 1970s, and sent his grapes to the coop.   Guillaume began working with him in 1995, and until 2008 they were members of the coop.  But the coop in St. Mathieu is sufficiently imaginative not to insist on a total commitment of vineyards, so Guillaume was able to extract 12 hectares from the coop, while his father-in-law continued to send them his grapes.

It is an attractive spot, a typical Languedocien farm, with a maison de maître dominating the courtyard, and farm buildings and stables around the courtyard.   Guillaume has a  tiny cramped cellar; he does a lot of things outside.  He has resin vats for his red wines and two insulated stainless steel vats for his whites and rosé.  Altogether he produces 5500 bottles.    Guillaume explained how he was studying science at Montpellier and came here to do a vintage, as a holiday job, and met his wife and stayed.

Interestingly he has one hectare of Cabernet Sauvignon that goes to the coop.  There are plots within the appellation area  that are non-appellation land and those are planted for vin de pays.   And the area has a strong tradition of coops that work well for their appellation, notably at St. Mathieu de Treviers – I remember being impressed on a visit there as far back as 1987 – and at Corconne.  Jacques Gravegeal who is president of the syndicat of the Pays d’Oc also has vines in Pic St. Loup. 

Guillaume talked about his work;  he has practiced lutte raisonnée since 2001.   In the cellar he favours macerations of two to three weeks.  And then he began opening bottles.

2013 Les 100 Pas, Pays d’Oc – 7.00€
A pure Chardonnay.   Élevage in vat.  Light colour.  Fresh and delicate with good acidity.   Not all bad for a Languedoc Chardonnay.  Guillaume explained that it comes from a cool vineyard at Valflaunès, with the vines grown on rich soil, and facing north, and protected from the south by a small hill.   There is a lot of Chardonnay planted  within the Pic St. Loup, as well as more traditional Languedoc varieties.  Guillaume talked about the delimitation;  the area is delimited, so that a village is recognised as part of the appellation, and then within that village a délimitation parcellaire is made, with strict criteria, technical, geological and microclimate.  This means that within a Pic St. Loup village, there are plots that are not appellation, but vin de pays and therefore planted with vin de pays varieties, such as Chardonnay.

2013 Dame Jeanne, Val de Montferrand - 9.80€
80% Chardonnay with 20% Viognier.   There is more to this wine than the previous Chardonnay.  For a start there are two different types of Chardonnays; one is picked earlier to retain its acidity and freshness.  The second is picked four to eight days later so that it has more weight.   For this wine the Chardonnay and Viognier are aged separately in vat and then blended.  The Viognier adds richness and seemed to dominate the palate.  Guillaume admitted that Viognier is difficult in a blend  and he thinks that he has added too much.  The method of vinification is very simple: press; débourbage and ferment around  15⁰C for three weeks; élevage in vat and blend in the spring, before bottling.

2013 Dame Jeanne rosé, Pic St. Loup – 9.50€ Quite a pale orange pink.  Light fresh fruit medium weight and rounded palate, with a dry finish and good balance.  Delicate and fresh.  Jeanne was the sheep farmer, so it is fitting that her name lives on, as an inspiration in the estate

Then the conversation moved on to percentages of grape varieties and the rules for Pic St. Loup.  Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre are the principal grape varieties and must make up at least 90% of the blend, while Carignan and Cinsaut are complimentary varieties, for which the maximum percentage of both together is just 10%.  There is no precise percentage for the principal varieties, but no one principal variety must account for more than 80% of the blend.   And you must include at least two principal varieties.  Syrah tends to be the dominant variety as it performs so well in the cooler climate of the Pic St. Loup.  Élevage is a minimum of twelve months, including two months in bottle, so the 2013 vintage can be sold from 1st September 2014.  This means that you have to stock the wine in bottle within the appellation, which creates what Guillaume called a garde feu or a firebreak or security barrier. 

2012 Dame Jeanne Pic St. Loup – 11.50
70% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre and 20% Grenache, a very classic Pic St Loup blend.  Aged in vat.  Good colour.  Ripe red fruit with a touch of tapenade.  Rounded with good depth, silky tannins making for a fine balance.

2011 Larmanela – 19.80€
Named after the lieu dit opposite the original bergerie.  There are still sheep up there, with a shepherd who rents it from Guillaume’s father –in-law.  Monoculture is relatively recent in the Languedoc.  100 years ago vines were planted in poor soil; wheat in richer soil and the garrigues were used for grazing sheep for meat and Roquefort cheese.  The blend here is 90% Syrah with some Grenache, from a selection of plots.including some old vines at Lauret, giving a low yield of 15 hl/ha.  There is an 16-18 months élevage in 400 litre barrels.  Guillaume vinifies each plot separately and puts it in wood until the spring; then blends it and puts into mainly new barrels.   The oak was still very present, but some rich fruit and notes of vanilla and quite sold tannins.  He then produced a second bottle opened a day or two earlier.  It had become more tapenade with black fruit and less obvious vanilla.

Now how about an older vintage or two?  An invitation that I can never refuse.
2011 Dame Jeanne.  Good colour.  Elegant fruit.  Red fruit with a smoky note and the benchmark freshness of the Pic St. Loup.  Some gentle evolution and an elegant finish.  A lovely glass of wine.

2008, which was actually Guillaume's first vintage.  At this stage he had done a winemaking course, but this was his first actual vintage.   He did a lot of pigeage, too much he thinks.  The colour beginning to evolve.  Very black fruit.  Tapenade, solid fruit and solid tannins.  Some prunes; pruneaux sounds better in French.    A fascinating evolution.   In fact it was lovely to observe how Guillaume’s winemaking has evolved, and that now he favours and achieves elegance. 

And then it was time for lunch, at a very cheerful restaurant, le Bistrot du Vinaigrette in Prades-de-Lez just north of Montpellier.    We sat in a shaded courtyard outside and enjoyed a fresh rosé from Château la Roque, and a salade gourmande.    I was a little disappointed by the last cellar visit of the day, so would prefer not to blog about it.  Instead I shall remember  the wonderful drive back along the foot of the Pic St. Loup.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

A day in the Pic St. Loup - Mas Bruguière

My new friend, Sharon Nagel, who has just published a wonderful book on the Pic St. Loup,  suggested coming to explore the area with her, and arranged a great day out.      If you don’t know the Pic St. Loup, the dramatic views of the Pic itself are alone is the worth the detour.  The scenery along the road from St. Martin de Londres to St. Mathieu de Treviers is simply breath-taking and on a July morning, there was a slight heat haze and Pic St. Loup and the Montagne de l’Hortus presented a dramatic silhouette, with the vineyards in between the two hills.

Xavier Bruguière is the seventh generation on the estate.  The family have been making wine here since  the Revolution.  They have 20 hectares altogether with the hub of the estate at the foot of the Pic, where their cellar is.  At the beginning of the 19th century this was an area of polyculture and the wine was sold to a broker, and then when the coop was created in 1920, a grandparent took the easy route.   Xavier’s father, Guilhem,  took over in 1974, and was a member of the coop of St. Mathieu,  but then in 1986 became one of the first independent producers to begin bottling his  wine.   He then bought a further ten hectares in the northern part of the appellation, which he has gradually replanted since 1999.  And that is when Xavier started working on the family estate.

For red wine they have Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, but no Carignan, or Cinsaut, but they are planning to plant some Cinsaut next year.  and for white wine, which is Coteaux du Languedoc, not Pic St. Loup, they have Marsanne, Roussanne and Vermentino.   Xavier observed that if you plant Carignan these days, you are planting for your children.    He studied at Béziers and worked for a couple of years at La Liquière in Faugères under a system whereby you alternate studies with practical cellar and vineyard work.   And from 1999 he worked with his father, until Guilhem retired in 2004.

The relatively new cellar is well conceived.  Everything works by gravity, so that the grapes are filled from above.  Xavier uses natural yeast, and has cement fermentation vats for his red wine and large tronconique oak vats for élevage, as well as some 600 litre barrels.  Generally he favours large containers rather than barriques.  However, like most good winemakers he believes that 80% of the wine is made in the vineyard and he works organically. 

First we tasted some 2013 vat and barrel samples.  They promise deliciously well.
We kicked off with Grenache   Xavier said it came from old vines, but they were only 38 years old, the same age as him,  He explained that his grandfather had replanted his vineyards in 1958, after the big freeze of 1956, but for table grapes, not wine, so his father had started again.  These vines were on limestone just below the cliff of Hortus.  The Grenache was delicious; perfumed liqueur cherries with some acidity and tannin and minerality.  It stays in vat, as Xavier believes that  Grenache tires in wood.  And you certainly couldn’t  taste the 15˚

Next came some Syrah.  The first wine was from 14 year old vines on red clay and hard limestone at Lauret.  They ripen fifteen days later than the vines around the cellar.  The altitude is the same but the soil is cooler.   Élevage in  a tronconique vat.   There was peppery fruit, and the wine was nicely taut, firm, structured and elegant.

Another Syrah, from vines planted in 1982, by the cellar on white clay and soft limestone on cooler north facing slopes    Deep colour.  More closed on the nose and more structured with more tannin.  Fresh and closed and more powerful. Will need longer ageing.

2013 was the year of the late harvest.  Xavier described the spring as impitoyable, but the summer was very  good, with rain just when you needed it.   And the harvest went well.  They started picking fifteen days later than usual, but finished at the same time as 2012.  It took two weeks rather than four.    So far 2014 has been dry, until a few days ago.  But  there is some pressure from oidium, and they have had a touch of hail, but nothing as serious as in the Minervois or la Clape.

A third Syrah had a firm smoky nose and palate.  It came from a tronconique vat.  With good acidity and tannins and a certain freshness, making for an elegant red wine.  I needed to be reminded that 50% is the minimum percentage for Syrah in the Pic St. Loup.  We are talking about the coolest and wettest part of the Languedoc. 

And the finale barrel sample was some Mourvèdre, grown just below l’Hortus.  Xavier described it as a un cépage ingrate – it is black or white.  They are at the northernmost limit for Mourvèdre.   You can’t plant it  just anywhere, and you need to work in the vineyard.  There was some rounded fruit, with firm but silky tannins, with elegance and length and the freshness of the hills.  It promises very well  for the  2013 Cuvée le 7me.  It will probably be bottled in the spring of 2015, depending on its evolution in barrel.

And then we adjourned to his tasting caveau for some bottles:

2013 Coteaux du Languedoc blanc  Les Muriers  – 12.00€
Guilhem Bruguière planted the white varieties in 1992 and the blend comprises 70% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne, and 10% Vermentino, which is a more recent addition to the blend, planted in 2008.  Xavier had wanted to broad the aromatic palate.  He observed that later ripening varieties do better, and 30% of the blend is vinified in small foudres of  12 hls.  He uses just the free run juice and very first pressings.  However you wouldn’t notice any wood impact at all.  The nose was redolent of white blossom and the palate rounded and herbal, with very good acidity and a fresh finish.   There are apparently moves towards a white Pic St. Loup; for the moment any white wines from the area are Val de Montferrand, after the nearby ruined castle, or indeed Pays d’Oc or Hérault, or plain Languedoc or Coteaux du Languedoc. 

2013 Rosé Pic St. Loup, L’Arbouse – 8.50€
50% Syrah and 50% Mourvèdre.  10% saigné and all the rest pressurage direct.  Xavier keeps two hectares, especially for rosé, as it is a cooler vineyard site.  The colour is a delicate orange pink and the palate rounded with some weight.  It is ripe with balancing acidity, and very satisfying. 

As we broached his red wines , the subject of the appellation came up.  How it that the Terrasses du Larzac are already is recognised as an appellation when they are much younger and with less visibility than the Pic St. Loup?   Pic St. Loup has been working on its dossier since 2001.   The answer lies with local politics.    There is a move to include vineyards from three communes that were not part of the original area of Pic St. Loup, namely Assas, Guzargues and Vailhauquès.    And that has provoked much friction.  The geology is similar, but the producers in those villages have not actually worked to create the appellation.  They would simply benefit from the new delimitation of the appellation, which has been carried out by the INAO.  Some long-standing producers of Pic St. Loup have actually had their vineyards reduced with the new delimitation.   As you can appreciate, it is a wonderful histoire de clochers.  

2013 Calcadiz, Coteaux du Languedoc – 8.50€
Syrah and Grenache – 60%  aged in vat.  This is only sold at the cellar door, and makes a great red for summer drinking.  It is fresh and perfumed, with some acidity and tannin.  Fresh cherries was the main fruit flavour.

2012 l’Arbouse, Pic St. Loup.  12.00€
L’Arbouse is the fruit of the strawberry tree, or arbousier.    60% Syrah with some Grenache.  Part aged in cement vat and part in tronconique vats.   Medium colour.   Ripe spice on the nose and palate, and very perfumed red fruit, with the herbs of the garrigues, and a stony mineral nose, as well as a nice streak of tannin.  Elegant but easy drinking.  Asked his typicity, Xavier replied :  Fruit, Fraicheur et Finesse and you certainly found that in this first Pic St. Loup.

2011 La Grenadine – 19.00€
80% Syrah with a little Grenache and Mourvèdre.   Medium colour.  Firmer more structured nose.  Quite rounded and ripe with a touch of oak, which is nicely integrated.  Élevage in tronconique vats and demi-muids for 12 months, followed by six months in concrete vats.  Long and balanced.  Xavier observed that 2011, 2012 and 2013 were all three ‘beaux millésimes.

I observed that Faugères is generally much cheaper.   Apparently it all depends on the bulk price – 100€ per hl for Faugères and up to 180-200 € per hectolitre for Pic St. Loup.   The appellation covers 1500 hectares currently over 13, but soon to be 16 communes, from Corconne to St. Gely du Fesc.

And our tasting concluded with
2007 le 7me – 35€
Named for the seventh generation.  This is a pure Mourvèdre given  24 months  élevage.  Deep colour.  A rich nose and palate, with lots of depth and nuances.  Rich but elegant; both supple and subtle.  A supple tannic streak.  Xavier observed that 2009 was a hot vintage, but the freshness of the Pic St. Loup helped.  2003 was the very first vintage of 7me.  A great tribute to a long line of dedicated vignerons.      

For more information on Sharon’s book :                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Monday, 4 August 2014

Domaine la Grange

Domaine la Grange is yet another example of outside investment in the Languedoc.   The property was bought in 2007 by Rolf Freund, who already had a successful business in Germany as a wine shipper.   The previous owner has stayed on as chef de culture, relieved that he no longer has full responsibility for a family estate.  And in Mr. Freund’s absence the estate is capably managed by Sandrina Hugueux.     You will find it on the road out of Gabian going towards Fouzilhon.  Currently a large crane marks the site, for a new cellar is under construction, but will not be ready until October, just too late for this year’s harvest.   And they have recently changed wine makers.  I tasted wines made by Sebastien Louge, who has moved on to create his own estate in Faugères, where he will make his first wines this coming vintage.  He has been replaced by Thomas Raynaud, who has an impressive CV and has worked largely in Roussillon at Domaine Lafage. 

Altogether Domaine la Grange comprises  32 hectares, half in appellation Languedoc or Pézenas, and half Pays d’Oc, divided into about 25  different plots..  The soil is quite varied, un peu de tout, as Sandrina said.  There are extinct volcanos close by, and plenty of underground water, so their vines do not suffer from any water stress.   This is the area that supplied water to the Roman city Betarra or Baeterrae, as  Beziers was then called.   In the same plot of vines you have red and yellow soil, limestone and clay, basalt and even a little schist for they are on the edge of the appellation of Faugères.  There is some Carignan from 1956; Cabernet Sauvignon was planted in the 1980s, and they have other international grape varieties, especially Sauvignon and Chardonnay for white wines.   In the vineyard they follow the principles of lutte raisonnée with a minimum of products, and are members of Terra Vitis.   The key to lutte raisonnée is observation, rather than action, with minimal chemical intervention, using organic products wherever possible.

There are three levels to their range of wines.  Their entry level is Classique; then there are  five different varietal  Terroirs, based on different soils, and best of all is the Castalides range.  What follows is what I tasted.   They had sold out of the Reserve in the Castalides range – it had just been Parkerised!  

Terroir 2013 Sauvignon - 5.95€
2013 is their first vintage of Sauvignon, from a two hectare plot that they have just bought.   The vineyard needs some work.   Pale colour delicate nose.  A touch of minerality and quite fresh with good acidity, but lacking a little in real flavour.  Next year they are aiming for a lower yield.

Terroir 2013 Chardonnay – 5.95€
Light colour. Quite a delicate nose.  Lightly rounded and buttery, with some acidity. Quite fresh and easy.   These vines were planted in 2007.

Classique 2013 Rosé  - 5.50€
Mainly Cinsaut with some Syrah.  Saigné.  Pale colour.  Quite a rounded nose.  Quite ripe with a touch of spice.  Quite vinous with a touch of sugar on the finish, in fact 7 gms/l, just to soften it.  I found it went slightly cloying.  It is intended for the German market.

2013 Classique Rouge
A blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre.  Young colour.  Medium depth.  Quite soft red fruit, soft and rounded with a streak of tannin, and again a touch of residual sugar, 6 gms/l, to make for easy drinking.

I didn’t  taste the Classique Blanc as that comes from bought in grapes, and is a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon.

Terroir Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Pabiro – 8.95€
Pabrio is the name of the vineyard.  Élevage in vat.  Deep colour.  Quite a rounded nose with a touch of cassis.   Quite a rounded wine, with a ripe finish and soft tannins, and a streak of freshness, characteristic of the vintage.

Terroir 2013 Merlot – 8.95€
From both new and old vines.  Élevage in vat.  Good colour. Quite a firm nose, with firm fruit on the palate and some dry cassis.  Not my favourite grape variety from the Midi, but this successfully avoids the common fault among Merlots from the Midi of jamminess.   

Les Vins Castalides, 2012 Edition, Pézenas – 14.90€
I needed to be told that Castalides were water nymphs, who lived in a well, and inspired a poet who drank the water from that well.  We are of course meant to be inspired by the wine.  It is a selection of the best plots of Syrah and Grenache on slopes at 250 metres.   Each plot is vinified and aged separately.  They favour several different coopers, Seguin Moreau, Boutes and François Frères amongst others.   Deep colour.  Quite ripe dense solid oak on the nose.  A firm oaky streak on the palate, balanced with a very good concentration of fruit.  Good length.  An explosion of flavour in the mouth, rich and tannic with black fruit, tapenade and garrigues and chocolate on the finish.  Lots of character.   I’d love to try it again when it is ten years old.

Sandrina talked about how their work has evolved in the vineyard.  The former owner accepts their ideas and since 2007 they have really focussed on the vineyard, reducing yields.  The palissage has changed; canopy management has improved and they analysed the soil carefully before any replanting.  Mr. Freund may be an absentee owner, but he does visit every six weeks or so.

2012 Icône, Pézenas    – 26.90€
Equal parts of Syrah and Mourvèdre.  The best Mourvèdre they have, and Syrah is grown on a slope – most of their vineyards are on undulating rather than steep slopes.  The wine spends 18 months in oak.  Good deep colour.  A touch of oak on the nose, but fresher spice than for Edition.  More structured.  Rounded and ripe, with notes of tapenade from the Syrah, while the Mourvèdre gives backbone and notes of the garrigues.   Sandrina observed that Mr. Freund likes concentrated wines.  The fruit must dominate the flavour, not the wood, and there must be some freshness too.  And she summed up the style of the wines of La Grange, by describing them as modern wines, with fruit.      They certainly illustrate some of the current trends of the Midi.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Château Haut Blanville

To Château Haut Blanville, which was created by Bernard and Beatrice Nivollet.  Bernard’s  vineyards are scattered around the commune of St. Pargoire; some are Grès de Montpellier;  some are simple Languedoc and some Pays du Vicomte d’Aumelas.    The first vineyards were bought in 1997, and they now have 30 hectares of vines altogether, and made their first wine in 1998.

It was a wonderful autumn day, with brilliant sunshine, a perfect morning to look at vineyards, and Bernard knows his vineyards intimately.  There were carpets of golden Syrah, and russet-coloured Carignan leaves. They have nearly finished building a new cellar in the middle of one plot of vines.  We saw old Grenache with gnarled trunks; there was a view of Sète with the sparkling Mediterranean and in the other direction a view of the Pyrenees, with the Canigou.  The soil varies, some is very stony; some much sandier or with more clay; some red with iron, some more yellow.  Bernard likes to keep each plot of vine separate in the cellar, and in the bottle; he feel that each vineyard is quite distinctive and if you blend it, you dilute it.

We tasted in the barrel cellar attached  to the actucal building that is the Château de Haut Blanville, which they no longer own.

2012 Pays de la Vicomte d’Aumelas
Chardonnay and Viognier 45% each; Sauvignon and Grenache Blanc 5% each.  Fermented in barrique.  Nine months élevage with regular bâtonnage.  Quite a golden colour.  Quite a buttery nose, the Chardonnay seemed to dominate the nose, with some acidity on the palate.  Quite textured, with a firm finish.  Quite rich and full-bodied.  Not very Midi.

2008 Black Pearl, Pays de la Vicomte d’Aumelas.
Cabernet Sauvignon with 10 – 20% Syrah.  Deep colour. Rich cassis nose and on the palate, quite firm tannins.  Some vanilla from the oak.  Rich and concentrated.  Needs time.

2008 Clos des Poètes
From Mourvèdre, grown on very stony soil, making for minerality in the wine.  Élevage in old barriques.  This vineyard is close enough to the sea to get some maritime influence, which Mourvèdre enjoys.    The nose was not very forthcoming initially, but the palate was quite rich and mouth filling, with an elegant finish.  It was quite different from Bandol, with more weight.

2008 Plénitude
Mainly Grenache.  Vines planted in 1970, on very stony soil on the plateau des Pérals.  Deep colour; some liqueur cherry notes on the nose.  Quite leathery plate, with some cherry fruit and a steak of minerality.  Firm tannins.  With a fresh finish.  Lots of nuances as it develops in the glass.  They don’t make this wine every year as Mourvèdre can be tricky, and stop ripening, as it did in 2013.

2009 Grande Cuvée, Grès de Montpellier
85% Syrah, with a little Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre.  A selection of barrels. This is a blend,  rather than from a specific vineyard. Deep colour; firm nose, with a rich peppery palate.  Rich and concentrated, with peppery black fruit on the palate.  A tannic streak.  Youthful and rich.

2009 Clos des Légendes, Grès de Montpellier
About 90% Syrah, with some Mourvèdre and Grenache.  Two years in new wood.  Bernard favours the cooper, Radoux, for his barrels.  I did find the oak on this wine rather intense and overwhelming.  The palate is very solid and young.   And the flavour not very Languedocien.  Though you could not complain that it was not well made.  It was just not what you expect from the Midi.

2006 Clos des Légendes, Grès de Montpellier
Bernard opened this to show how the wine aged.  The colour is deep and young, and the palate dense and confit with solid black fruit.  In fact it was still very youthful, concentrated and dense. Though only a modest 13.5˚

And we finished with a vat sample of Syrah, grown on bauxite.  It was elegant and fresh with some perfumed fruit and a touch of pepper.

So to sum up, some characterful wines.  My reservation is that some of the wines had too much oak for my taste, but nonetheless an estate with potential.  


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Printemps des Vignerons

An email from Graeme Angus of Domaine les Trois Terres alerted me to this wine festival, a gathering of twenty or so organic or biodynamic wine growers at Domaine de la Tour outside Nébian, organised by Céline Beauquel from Clos Romain in Cabrières.     The core of the wine growers came from the Languedoc, but there were also people from Chablis, Gaillac, and other regions.  And the tasting space was in the enormous cellar at Domaine de la Tour.  This is the Languedoc at its most traditional, with a backdrop of huge foudres, and old implements decorating the cellar walls.    I had a great afternoon, tasting a couple of more familiar estates, and making some new discoveries.

The familiar included:
Domaine les Trois Terres:
2011 Le Saut du Diable, a blend of Grenache and Carignan- 10.00€.  A lovely combination of rich ripe fruit, with a fresh mineral finish. 

2010 la Minérale, mainly Syrah, from St. Jean de la Blaquière and Cabrières with some Cinsaut and Grenache, aged in barrel.  Firm, sturdy,  tight knit,  peppery, youthful, with a mineral note on the finish.

And a new wine, 2012 Cuvée Moderne – 9.00€  Syrah and Grenache from Cabrières given a short maceration for early drinking.  Graeme described this as his retro cuvée.  Immediately ripe rounded and spicy with supple tannins and a sappy quality.  And quite simply a jolly nice drink.

There were some lovely wines from Clos Romain
Parenthèse 2012 – 10.00 - Lovely fresh fruit, spicy and elegant

2011 Patience – 12.00€ - Firm fruit on the nose, with a combination of concentration and elegance on the palate

2012 Phidias – 15.00€ - Quite a firm nose, but with fresh ripe black fruit on the palate.  Medium weight.

Catherine le Conte des Floris was pouring three wines:
2012 Arès Blanc – 15.00€ - Dry honey and firm acidity.  Medium weight palate.  Notes of fennel and other herbs.  Very intriguing.

2012 Six Rats Noirs – I completely misheard this and thought she said Syrah Noir – why was she specifying the colour I wondered.  Of course this is Daniel’s way of conveying that the grape variety is Syrah.  Quite solid and dense, with firm fruit and a certain confit note on the finish.  11.00€

2012 Villefranchien – 16.00€  - Mainly Grenache and just bottled.  Medium colour.  A restrained nose.  Very elegant fruit.  Subtle and understated.  Should develop well in bottle. 

At the barrel next to Catherine there was Domaine Jorel from Maury.     I have a vivid memory of visiting Manuel Jorel’s  vineyards on a bright winter’s morning a few years ago. The scenery is breathtaking and dramatic.

2012 Bande de Gypse – 8.00€  - The soil is mainly gypsum, calcaire.   A blend of seven grape varieties – here goes:  Torbato, Malvoisie, Macabeu, Carignan Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Gris and Muscat d’Aléxandrie, with nine months élevage in old wood.    The wine was lightly resinous on the nose, with some intriguing fruit on the palate.  Quite firm with good acidity and a slightly earthy finish.

2012 Rosé Esquisse d’Agly from Grenache Gris had good acidity with a rustic note 
I really like the2011 Cuvée 2nde – 7.00€ a Côtes Catalanes, from Syrah grown on granite.  Firm peppery nose and palate, after a year in wood.  Tight knit with fresh fruit.   Good structure and a fresh note on the finish.

2008 Côtes du Roussillon Villages  - 14.00
A blend of Syrah, with some Grenache and Carignan.  Deep colour.  Solid dense leathery fruit on nose and palate.  Quite a firm sturdy youthful tannic palate.

And now for some unfamiliar.   Le Petit Domaine in Montpeyroux was completely new to me, but as chance would have it, I had a second opportunity to taste Aurélien Petit’s wines at the Montpeyroux fete a week later.  And very good they were too.  See my post about the  Montpeyroux fête

Domaine Mamaruta at Leucate in Fitou.
2013 Constellation, Vin de France – 12.00€  - An intriguing blend of Macabeu, Grenache Gris, and Carignan Blanc.  Fermented and aged in oak for seven months.   Light colour.   Quite a leesy nose.  Notes of fennel.  Very good acidity and minerality.   And there was fresh youthful Fitou, Cacahuète, with rich structured fruit.

Les Vignes Rouges makes IGP Cévennes near Alès.   The family vines, eight hectares, were taken out of the cooperative in 2008.  There was a range of reds.  Clémence 2012 – 5.80€ - was fresh and perfumed, and aged in vat.  It is a blend of 70 % Carignan, made by maceration carbonique,  with equal parts of Syrah and Grenache.  Next came  Pimprenelle; then Aphyllante with some rich fruit and tannin; Noctumbule which was mainly Syrah with perfumed fruit and supple tannins, and le Temps d’un été, a pure Grenache aged in vat with some ripe balsamic notes.

Les Sabots d‘Hélène are in the Corbières at Feuilla.  There were three red wines, Libertoire, Alternapif and Percepteur,  a pure Carignan given 24 months ageing in oak, which was rich dense and sturdy.  And wonderfully characterful.

Domaine des Amiel, not to be confused with Mas Amiel in Maury.   The Amiel family make wine in Montblanc, a village between Beziers and Pézenas, from 9 hectares.  A Coural after a great grandfather, Coural was his nickname, is a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah, with fresh ripe easy fruit, for 7.00€    A l’Ouest temporarily overturned my prejudices about Merlot in the Midi. It  was ripe and plumy without being confit,  with a refreshing streak of tannin.

And then I allowed myself a little deviation to Chablis, for Olivier de Moor’s   2012 which had fresh minerality and good flinty acidity.    All in all, a good afternoon. 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Le Grand St. Jean or the Faugères fête.

I always enjoy this village fête  It is wonderfully animated with plenty of wine to taste and vignerons to talk to.  I realise that this year I was not that assiduous about tasting.  I think I was having too much fun chatting.  The main street, la Grande Rue, is a bit like Piccadilly Circus.  If I stood in the middle of it for long enough, I felt I would meet everyone I knew in the Languedoc.   It also poses a bit of an obstacle course; there were babies in buggies and dogs on leads and groups of friends stopping for a chat or a taste.  And there was not just wine.  I was tempted by strings of pink garlic, by wholemeal loaves baked in an old fashioned bread oven, by ginger syrup.  The village historian, Claude Caumette, was there selling his books;  a local artist had some lovely water colours and sketches, and the distiller from Autignac was displaying his wares, a fragrant Marc de Muscat and a rich Esprit de Bière as well as the classic Fine de Faugères.    And the various confréries, not just that of Faugères, processed down the street. 

I had a quick taste of Domaine de Sarabande’s fresh dry rosé, which made a refreshing rince-bouche.  And Simon Coulshaw from Domaine des Trinites had just bottled his 2013 le Portail – he said it was infanticide to taste it, but nonetheless you could see the potential with some firm liquorice fruit and minerality.  The blend is slightly different from the previous vintage with 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 10% Mourvèdre, as opposed to 2012 which had 60% Syrah, but with 25% Grenache, 10% Carignan and 5% Mourvèdre.

Brigitte Chevalier from Domaine de Cebene was also pouring St. Martin d’Agel’s 2013 le Pélerin, which had some appealing red fruit, with a touch of liquorice and a fresh finish.   I much preferred it to the 2012 of last year – definite progress has been made there.   And Brigitte has moved into her new cellar outside Faugères, so we made plans for me to come and admire it, even though she still has no electricity ….

Jérôme Py of Domaine du Causse Noir was the newcomer to the occasion, pouring his first vintage, the 2011.  If wines take on the character of their maker, this is a classic example.  Jérôme is solid and stocky, and so are his wines, rich and characterful, with leathery notes.  And his 2013 rosé has an intriguing herbal note.

And then we adjourned to the quiet haven of Mas d’Alezon’s tasting caveau by the church, where Alix Roque was pouring Domaine de Clovallon as well as Faugères.   The 2013 Pinot Noir from Domaine de Clovallon was deliciously refreshing and fragrant with fresh raspberry fruit balanced by some backbone.  And then it was time for lunch!

Friday, 11 July 2014

L’Atelier des Vignerons

Good wine shops or cavistes are few and far between in wine areas.    The assumption is that you go and buy at the cellar door.   But the people who live in the lovely town of Limoux are fortunate for they have the Atelier des Vignerons, which is run by Laurence Turetti.   I was in Limoux last week, so it was a good opportunity to pop in and say hallo.  The shop is tucked into a corner of the main square of Limoux, which is one of my favourite places to watch the world go by.  There are several cafés and restaurants and at this time of year stalls selling melons, peaches and apricots.  

Laurence has a fine selection of wines of the Languedoc, but obviously concentrates on what is closest to home, with a particularly good range of Limoux and Malepère, but with lots else besides to tempt.  It is a lovely shop to browse around, with the wines arranged by appellation, and she is there to offer advice.    She enthused about the region. ‘I am always finding new wines that I want to buy, but I just don’t have enough room to stock everything’.    So what is new? I asked.   

One suggestion was 2012 Oufti, a delicious Fitou from Mas des Caprices in Leucate.  That is a completely unknown name to me.  Apparently Mireille and Pierre Mann come from Belgium and Oufti, an anagram of Fitou, is a Belgium interjection of surprise or relief, maybe translating as Wow! or Phew!   And the wine is delicious, with some lovely fresh peppery fruit, balanced by that firm streak of tannin that is characteristic of Fitou.  It has a slightly rugged note, which you expect with Fitou, and is nicely balanced, and still youthful, with plenty of potential.   So thank you, Laurence.  A great recommendation.   So if anyone happens to be in Limoux, do pop in. 

L’Atelier des Vignerons
2 Place de la République
11300 Limoux
Tel : 04 68 20 12 42

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Terrasses du Larzac – a walk through the vineyards.

For anyone who enjoys the wines of the Languedoc, the annual ballade vigneronne of the Terrasses du Larzac is a must.  This year it was focused on the village of Pégairolles de l’Escalette, which enjoys some of the most dramatic scenery of the whole of the Languedoc.  If you drive south down the A75 motorway from Millau, there is a moment when you come over the pass, the Col de l’Escalette and you have the Languedoc at your feet.  Pégairolles is the first village after that pass, and the vineyards are on steep hillsides to the west of the motorway.  I’ve attempted a few photographs, but they simply do not do justice to the grandeur of the scenery. 

The producers of the Terrasses du Larzac were in festive mood as they have achieved the status of an independent appellation, without any reference to Coteaux du Languedoc or Languedoc.  Depending on when the minister signs the final decree, this should be for the 2014 vintage.    They are fairly optimistic.  The mayor of Pégairolles is a deputy, and his political colours are the same as the appropriate minister …… the out-going president of the syndicat, Vincent Goumard from Cal Demoura is undoubtedly exiting on a high note, and his place will be ably filled by Marie Chauffray from Réserve d’O. 

The walk took the usual format – six stages, with six courses and a total of 44 wines to try.  Don’t worry: I am not going to inflict 44 tasting notes on you, but just a handful of highlights.  However, it is true to say that there is a very high standard of overall quality in the Terrasses du Larzac, defined by the essential freshness of wine that comes from cooler vineyards at higher altitudes. 

The first stage for the mise en bouche included tastes of all three colours, and the more  solid accompaniment was a pink wine jelly with some melon and water melon.  It was quite refreshing, but really a bit sweet for the wines.  And the walk initially was through olives groves and woods.   Evidently a lot of work had been done to create the paths, removing obstacles and even at one point even putting temporary bridges over a small river.  Apparently there are plans to keep the path  open, making it a more permanent oeno-tourist attraction.  That would be a great idea. 

The new owners of Mas Conscience were pouring L’In Blanc, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino and Roussanne, with a touch of Viognier.  Martine and Jean-Luc Quinquarlet of  La Bastide aux Oliviers were offering Pierre et Bastien 2012Bastien was their son who died far too young, and Pierre is a good friend.  It was a wonderful rich glass of wine, with ripe fruit and tapenade and well-integrated oak, after 14 months in barrel.  The price is 25€ -' we’ve never sold a wine for that price before', admitted Jean-Luc.    Olivier Bellet from Clos Rivieral was offering his 2013 Rosé Les Fontanilles, which was mainly Cinsaut with some Syrah and Grenache and was delicate and elegant, with a fresh dry finish.

At the next étape, with a vegetable flan for sustenance, there were a couple of white wines that caught my attention.  La Jasse Castel in Montpeyroux was showing their 2013 L’Egrisée Blanc  made from Grenache blanc, with some Carignan and Roussanne, from vineyards at 400 metres, and aged  on lees, so that it had some appealing minerality balanced with white blossom and good acidity, for 12.50€  And Domaine du Dausso, an estate that I have yet to visit was pouring L’Inattendu blanc, a blend of 95% Vermentino with a touch of Roussanne, with some very appealing herbal fruit on both nose and palate, balanced by fresh acidity, and for just 8.90€ a bottle.

On  through vineyards and past stone walls and capitelles and more great scenery for an effiloché de canard, which  might best be described as a bit of shredded duck with some hints of orange.   Wines to go with it included Graeme Angus’s Les Trois Terres 2011 Saut du Diable, which was ripe and rounded with a fresh finish – classic Terrasses du Larzac.  We then tried Jean-Baptiste Granier's 2012 Les Vignes Oubliees with fresh spice, followed by Rémi Duchemin’s Plan de l’Homme Habilis. That is a blend of Grenache with Syrah and Carignan and is ripe and spicy and refreshingly unoaked.   All three were lovely wines, and there were others.

The meat course, a serious chunk of beef filet, was accompanied by several serious bottles.    2011 Domaine Montcalmès was elegant and fresh; Mas Séranne  Clos des Immortelles 2012 had some lovely peppery fruit – it comes from all five red varieties, but mainly Syrah and Carignan.  2011 les Etats d’Ame from Mas Jullien was elegantly smoky and stylish, as one would expect from Olivier Jullien.  Isabelle and Vincent Goumard of Cal Demoura were pouring 2012 l’Infidèle which was nicely rounded and mineral with a touch of oak.   Délphine Rousseau and Julien Zernott from Domaine du Pas de l’Escalette were there with Grand Pas 2010.  This is of course very much their home patch.  And Olivier Jeantet from Mas Haut Buis was showing Costa Caoude.  The name may imply heat, but the wine had a fresh finish.

A cool track along a small river took us to the road that led into Pégairolles which is a pretty circulade village.  In the place de l’Eglise we found the cheese course, with plenty of red wines to go with it.   Guilhem Dardé of Mas des Chimeres was offering 2011 Nuit Grave, mainly Syrah with some Grenache and Mourvèdre with touch of tapenade and some good fruit.   

Jérémie Depierre from Domaine la Peira was pouring 2011 Les Obrières, a blend of Cinsaut and Carignan with a little Mourvèdre and Grenache and unusually no Syrah, with some lovely fruit, with spice and herbs of the  garrigues, and supple tannins, for 12€.  Hissez O from La Réserve d’O was rounded and ripe, and Gavin Crisfield’s  La Traversée 2011 was perfumed, fresh and elegant.

The route took us round pass the château, allowing us the chance to admire an elegant galleried courtyard.  I wasn’t in the mood for dessert but there were some lovely red wines instead, but first Pascal Dalier from Domaine de Joncas was offering his rosé, 2013 Nebla, which was refreshing with strawberry fruit and acidity.   

There was a new estate, Domaine de l’Argenteille from St. Saturnin.  Roger Jeanjean explained that he has absolutely nothing to do with the much better known Jeanjean family.  His father had vines in St. Saturnin,  as did his uncle who had been the first director of the coop of St. Saturnin until 1985.  And his 2012 Garric was a blend of equal parts of Syrah, Mourvèdre and old Carignan with 10% Grenache, with a touch of oak.  It was nicely made with a good fruit and a hint of tapenade, showing some ageing potential.  

Béatrice Fillon from Clos du Serres was pouring 2012 Blaca which was quite rich and powerful with some tapenade and a fresh finish.  Philippe Gros from Domaine Fabregous was showing the most mature wine of the tasting, 2008 Sentier Botanique which was rounded and harmonious with a touch of spice and a satisfying note of maturity.  It made a great finale to the occasion.     

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Back in the Languedoc

One of the first things we do when we arrive at our house, especially after a 982 mile drive from London, is chose some wine for dinner.  Imagine our panic when the key to what passes as our cellar, an insulated walk-in cupboard in our garage, was not in its usual place, in the lock.   Fortunately a spare was found; we weren’t even sure that we had one.   And then I noticed empty spaces in the wine rack and one or two boxes out of place.  Further investigation revealed a garage door that was not properly locked.   It seems that our thieves have a sweet tooth.  They had gone for the part of the wine rack with dessert wines, and they seemed to have good taste.  Gone were bottles of La Croix Belle’s  Solenque and Rives Blanques' Lagamas d’Aur, not to mention a rare bottle of Marie-Thérèse Chappaz’s dessert wine from the Valais.  And for good measure they had helped themselves to a bottle of Pineau de Charente, given to us by friends from Cognac, leaving the empty box by the cellar door.   And further investigation revealed that they also liked champagne, but not Blanquette, and appreciated port………

Affronted at their audacity, and relieved that our thieves were obviously on foot, and not cleared out the cellar, we needed some liquid consolation.   The first bottle was 2010 la Rupture from Domaine Turner Pageot.  This is one of the best, if not the best Sauvignon from the Languedoc.  It has wonderful minerality and great texture and mouth feel, with a fine balance of acidity and fruit, and is packed with character.  A delicious glass of wine.

And our red choice was a random bottle of 2008 Borie de Maurel, Belle de Nuit from the Minervois, produced by Michel Escande in Félines-Minervois.   It was drinking beautifully, with some ripe fruit and a fresh finish, despite the 14.5˚ alcohol.  There was a touch of tapenade and a touch of spice and some and harmonious tannins.  It was all in balance.

It is amazing how a glass or two of good wine helps soothe ruffled feathers.   We felt much better.    And now to organise a better lock to the cellar door. 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Languedoc at the London Wine Fair

The big Languedoc event at the London Wine Fair was the tasting of the winning Top 100 Wines.   See my previous post.  But there were other delights on smaller stands.  A new event this year was Esoterica, which grouped together a wonderfully eclectic collection of small importers and wine merchants, people who would not normally want to exhibit at the fair, but were able to,  thanks to the simplicity of the presentation - a table and some bottles and glasses.  There was a real buzz of excitement.   I found myself tasting wines from Greece and Long Island, but there were also some Languedoc highlights. Expression du Terroir, which is an arm of Borough Wines, in London N16 has some interesting Languedoc offering, C de Centeilles, Clos du Serres, Virgile Joly and Turner Pageot.  However, I passed these by as I was seeking out the unfamiliar at this point.

However I did stop to taste Domaine la Tour Vieille with Christine Campadieu wines on the Yapp Bros stand.   She and her partner Vincent make lovely Collioure and Banyuls that I had not tasted for a while.

2012 Collioure Blanc les Canadells, a blend of Grenache Blanc, with 10% each of Rolle, Marsanne and Roussanne.   Quite a closed young nose.  Not as expressive as some vintages, but with some lovely potential on the palate.  Rounded fruit and textured palate.   It would benefit from a little more bottle age.

2012 Collioure, la Pinède
Grenache with some Carignan aged in small barrel.  Ripe spice on both nose and palate, with the warmth of Roussillon.  Ripe and young with plenty of potential

2012 Collioure Puig Oriol
70% Syrah with Grenache.   Quite a contrast.  More structured, concentrated and peppery.  Quite dense firm ripe fruit. Again with ageing potential.

Banyuls Reserve
Aged in bonbons , with an average age of five or six years.  Some appealing rich raisiny fruit.  Rich and intense with ripe fruit and quite delicious.  It was in fact my finale to the fair.

And earlier in the morning I had passed by Chateau d’Anglès for a quick update with Eric and Vianney Fabre.  I had missed the la Clape walk this year, so wanted a catch up.   They are very pleased with their 2013s, describing it as a fantastic vintage.  The cool nights and the late harvest have kept the aromas in the grapes.  They began picking in mid-September finishing at the end of October.

2011 La Clape Blanc, Classique.
Sappy fresh acidity and some weight.  Nice texture.   Very harmonious and rounded. 

2011 Grand Vin Blanc
More weight, with the influence of oak.  Rounded, herbal hints and more depth.  Again very satisfying mouth feel.

2013 Rosé Classique.
Pale colour.  Youthful and fresh, but still a touch amylic, but that will disappear in a month or so.   Elegant with sufficient weight to make it a food rosé.

2010 Classique red
Syrah and Grenache with a little Mourvèdre.  Rounded ripe warm fruit, with restraint.

2009 Grand Vin.  
Quite firm and structured on the nose, and on the palate very good depth of flavour, with ripe fruit.  Again warmth, but with restraint.  More weight and body than the Classique, but not heavy.   You can sense the bordelais touch to Eric’s wines.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Faugères Fête

My good friend Michele Solans who works hard to spread the word about the appellation of Faugères, particularly wants the word spread about the Grand St. Jean, which is the annual Faugères fête.  This year will be the 20th fête and it will be held on Sunday 13th July.  If you have never been to the Grand St. Jean, as it is called, do go,  as it is great fun, and provides a great opportunity to taste lots of different wines, with each vigneron pouring their own wines, so a good opportunity for a chat too.  Entry is 3€ for a tasting glass, and it lasts all day from 10 a.m to 7 p.m.   There is also a lunch and some evening entertainment.  For more details check out the website

Friday, 20 June 2014

Highlights from the Top 100 Languedoc-Roussillon

Competitions like this are only as good as the entrants.   The 100 wines that were selected came from 69 producers.  At times the selection seems to be dominated by the big players, the likes of Jean-Claude Mas and Gérard Bertrand, not to mention various cooperatives.  Sometimes I wish the smaller, less well known wine growers would see it for the opportunity that it is.  A trophy here could get your wines very much better known on the difficult export market.   Anyway what follows is a snapshot of some of the highlights.

NV Domaine Rosier, Blanquette de Limoux
I’ve not encountered this estate before, and their website was remarkably uninformative, so I can’t tell you more. The palate was light and lemony with some fresh fruit and acidity.   But a week later I got to taste a whole range of delicious Blanquette and Crémant at a Sud de France tasting at the French Ambassador’s Residence.  There was a particularly delicious Cuvée Heritage 2010 with some rich leesy fruit.  I am promising myself another visit to Limoux to investigate further.  The old family firm of Antech also performed well, with both a Blanquette and a Crémant.  

As the statistics showed, white wines did particularly well, with white wines accounting for 40% of the Top 100, against a regional production of only 13%.   I am skipping notes on a host of Chardonnay as I do find Chardonnay from the Midi singularly uninspiring – there’s nothing wrong with them, but just not much to really enthuse about.  More exciting were wines with more southern characteristics.    Viognier can produce good results in the Midi.  I particularly like 2013 Domaine de Castelnau, L’Ile, Pays d’Oc with some lovely peachy fruit.  It was fresh and rounded and very appealing.  This estate also won a trophy for its L’Epicerie de Castelnau, a blend of Colombard and Muscat à petits grains, which was pithy with dry honey.   And the Best White trophy went to Laurent Miquel, another large producer, but he does seem to have a very special knack with Viognier, as shown in his 2012 Verité Viognier, with some peachy fruit and depth, with a touch of oak.   Domaine de la Rencontre has a lovely Muscat Sec, Pays l’Hérault, with fresh pithy grapey fruit.  They are a great example of a new and up and coming small producer, with great energy and emerging talent.

I have a soft spot for Domaine Félines Jourdan’s Picpoul, although this time it was their Roussanne  95% and Picpoul 5% blend that featured in the line up, while les Costières de Pomerols Picpoul de Pinet from Naked Wine won the Picpoul trophy for fresh salty fruit. 

There were some other lovely examples of white wine, with intriguing blends of grape varieties.    2012 Château Bas d’Aumelas, is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier, which was round and fragrant.  2013 Château Puech Haut, Prestige, a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne and Carignan Gris was rich and leesy with some white blossom on the palate.  Château des Estanilles Inverso, is a blend of  Marsanne and Roussanne, with some fragrant fruit.   There was an intriguing Minervois from Château de Paraza, a blend of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc which was delicate and floral.  And another Minervois from Château Tourril, a more or less pure Roussanne, with some rich leesy fruit and some oak.. This is another estate that is new to me, that I also encountered a week later at the Sud de France tasting.  Limoux also featured, mostly with wines from the Coop, Sieur d’Arques, but also Domaine Cathare, Melhorier, yet another new name, and a pure Chardonnay with rounded characterful leesy fruit.  On the strength of this one wine which won a trophy, this estate is another reason to visit Limoux.  And the final white was a textured and characterful Côtes du Roussillon De Ci De La from Domaine Modat, a blend of Grenache Blanc and Gris with some Macabeu and a mouthful of rich leesy fruit.

Rosés were poorly represented.  For some reason they did not shine at the tasting, but the trophy winner, Château de Lascaux, a blend of Cinsaut, Grenache Blanc and Syrah was delicate and fresh.  This Pic St. Loup estate was supported by a couple of rosés from the coop at St. Mathieu de Tréviers, Les Coteaux du Pic.

And now on to reds:  Highlights came from the Cave de Roquebrun, which came up with four very convincing wines, of which my favourite was Chemin des Olivettes with lovely spicy tapenade fruit.  2012 Domaine de Cébène Felgaria was showing deliciously with elegant spicy fruit.  There were a pair of wines from Mas Gabinèle, in Faugères, Rarissime and Inaccessible, which were finely crafted with stylish flavours,  Faugères was on a winning run, with yet another wine Château des Estanilles, Raison d’Etre.  

Corbières showed well.  I also liked 2011 Château du Vieux Parc, Sélection Rouge, a blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah with some rugged fruit and rich flavours.  Château Ollieux Romanis Atal Sia was another serious Corbières, with rich gutsy flavours.  And the winner of the  Best Red of was Mas Amiel, Vers le Nord.  The decision is a democratic vote; I was actually a dissenter here and I do not know which wine was the runner up.  This Maury Sec, a blend of Grenache with a dollop of Syrah, was rich and redolent of ripe liqueur cherries.

As for dessert wines, I also enjoyed two further offerings from Mas Amiel, their Muscat de Rivesaltes, which was fresh and honeyed with a grapey finish, and their 2011 Maury which was redolent of ripe black fruit and spice.  The trophy for the best fortified wine went to Le Manoir des Schistes, 2009 Maury with intense fruit from 80 year old Grenache vines.    So all in all, lots of delicious wines in the Top 100.