Tag Archives: southern french

A good egg.

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This weekend we tried two reds, one with a famous name, the other with no memorable name. My blind taste was the less well known of the two – a wine from the Languedoc, near Lagamas. Languedoc-Roussillon (to give it its full name) produces nearly as much wine as Argentina which would put it about fifth in the world – if it was a country, that is. And this is despite the production being half what it was forty years ago. Wine lake? More like a wine ocean.

Quality is now the by-word and the prolific Carignan grape is losing ground to more Syrahs and Mourvedres, the blend which made up our wine. The 2007 Saut de Cote (ABV 13%) is made by Chabanon who farms biodynamically, uses wild yeasts to ferment and matures the wine for three years in concrete eggs before bottling without fining or filtering. Quite a list of plus points for the purists, then.

The colour, ruby red and intense, showed maturity but not age, and it had a rich cooked plum nose (Richard ‘medicinal’). Not particularly heavyweight, it was very savoury with tart cherry notes and a dry, long finish. I ventured ‘rustic’ but it was better then that, more ‘characterful’ and would be great with strong flavoured foods. Think cassoulet – mmm.

[Richard: from TWS, around £20 which I think is a fair price given the age and method of production. In fact, better than I had hoped and I can’t improve on Geoff’s description. A very enjoyable, savoury (that word again) wine.]

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2003 Domaine de Trevallon.

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The world loves a maverick – especially one who has stuck up the proverbial two fingers to bureaucracy and succeeded. Eloi Durrbach of Chateau Trevallon responded with a Gallic shrug (I’m making that up, I don’t know if he did) when, in 1993, the AC authorities downgraded his wines because of his use of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in the blend. The site is small (20 hectares) and the vines are cultivated naturally (sans insecticides, chemical fertilisers and herbicides). The results we tried on Sunday evening.

The age was showing in the rim colour of brick-red but the intensity was still there as were the thickish legs. There was a gentle fragrance and slightly underripe, green smells which I found attractive. There were distinct cooked red cherry tastes and a wonderful tannic structure; this was lean, dry and long. You might say this was in a classic European-style i.e. more austere than the fruit forward style that has become popular. The ABV is relatively low 13%,  another bonus.

We have blogged Trevallon before and I think R. has one left from a mixed case. These are not cheap wines now so it was a rare chance of trying an oddity.

[Richard: this is the fourth Trevallon blogged – they all came from a half case of mixed vintages. We thought the 2000 and the 2001 were terrific, the 2005 less so. 2003 was a very hot summer in France with Trevallon having their smallest ever harvest. This vintage was in the middle being savoury, lean and dry but rather ungenerous.]

 

 

 

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Desserted

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The third wine tasted on a vinous Saturday evening was a sweet wine from the southernmost AOP in France, Banyuls. Hard against the Spanish border, below Perpignan, this is in the hottest and driest French department of Roussillon. Along with Maury and Rivesaltes, Banyuls is famous for its sweet wines, made by stopping the fermentation process with the addition of spirit (as in port) two thirds into the process (mutage).

The wine we enjoyed, Domaine du Duy, was  born of the Grenache Noir grape and was from the 1982 vintage. It accompanied ice cream, a sweet oat bar and chocolate shavings; an eclectic mix, hurriedly put together.

The result? A wonderful dessert wine smelling of raisins, sultanas and caramel. The colours of a brown rim with red centre had shown its near forty year age but what I found intriguing – and inviting – was its dry finish after all the initial sultana sweetness. This was a classy dessert wine and, unlike some port, had no hint of alcohol spirits.

I think Richard has got some more – he’ll confirm, no doubt. I look forward to the next one.

[Richard: this came from a mixed case of 6, one of which was blogged five years ago. The wines were kept in barrel for years and bottled in 2012. Another intriguing wine, nominally for desserts but with a dry finish making it a possible substitute for an oloroso, say.]

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Tanners’ teaser

Geoff and I made our annual visit to Tanners Wine Merchants last week and picked up a few bottles each. Geoff actually showed me this bottle as we were wandering round but I didn’t make the connection when we tried it (blind) at Steve’s. ‘You’ll never get this’, he said – and we didn’t.

Very pale yellow, almost watery appearance, sweet melon nose. Not enough acidity, length or complexity for me so more a curiosity than anything else. Jancis Robinson reviewed the 2015 very favourably but I didn’t get the ‘massive grip and flavour explosion’ she experienced.

I can’t recall trying the Mauzac grape before although apparently it’s a compulsory component of Blanquette de Limoux which we used to drink in France years ago an alternative to champagne, always preferring the latter.

[Geoff: “This is fragrant, with light, tantalising flavours of apricots and peaches” ” A nose with  herbal notes, and a salty fruit on the palate, with a typical bitter finish of Mauzac …. subtle touch of oak to give complexity.” “This is a brilliant, rewarding wine full of preserved lemon, flint and ripe pear.” We added ripe melon.

The above are the tasting notes of the wine from three different critics. Fruits’ list: apricot, peaches, preserved lemon, ripe pear. Other specific flavours listed: herbs, salt, bitterness, oak, flint. General descriptors’ list: light, tantalising, typical, subtle, complex, brilliant, rewarding.

Any flavours missed? Welcome to the wonderful world of wine tasting. For me, okay but not complex, a touch sweet with a tendency to be claggy after a couple of mouthfuls. Lacking complexity, it probably needs the bubbles to make it memorable.]

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No added sulphur

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Richard is much more prepared to try different wines than I am. Recent Sunday tastings have involved organic and biodynamic wines from France in particular and this was another of those. Tout Nature Sans Soufre Ajoute (transl. Totally Natural No Added Sulphur) by Xavier and Mathieu Ledogar is a wine from the Languedoc, classed as a Vin de France – the lowest classification. Vintage 2014, it’s a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Mourvedre and has 14.5% abv.

That’s the intellectual part dealt with – how did it fare sensually?

Opaque (fine sediment) with a slightly purple/red rim, it had a high viscosity and was an intense colour. The nose was pure, with no varietal qualities and very slightly oxidised. Considering it had been opened only the day before – as well as having 14.5% abv. – perhaps the lack of stabilising sulphur means it ages prematurely. Highly tannic and fresh fruit notes of unripe plums and damsons, it had that fresh quality which shone through the oxidised notes. This freshness is the hallmark, to me, of organic wines.

Whether it’s worth the price paid, I’m not so sure.

[Richard: we often talk about wine tasting better on day 2 – this one tasted worse, despite vacuum sealing and storing in the fridge, although there was no change three days on from that. So Geoff didn’t taste it at it’s best. On opening it was fruity, vibrant and quite complex. An enticing wine which Angie really liked. Value is a always problem with natural wines – they are invariably more expensive – this was £20 (Buon Vino) – and, as Geoff suggests, you could do better for the money, although I’m glad I tried it.]

 

 

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Warm climate – chilled wine.

 

 

Pinot Noir is a grape more suited to a cooler environment; it was a surprise, therefore,  to see one from the village of Magrie in Limoux near the French Pyrenees. This was the 2015 Solaire, Domaine de la Metairie d’Alon from a 25 hectare site of steep, limestone (loved by PN) slopes. It was also organic and hand-harvested and weighed in at 14% ABV. All this was gleaned from the very informative back-label, which included a small map. Provenance is all, so it seems.

It had the expected light colour, medium viscosity and a distinct purple rim. The nose had fruit-forward cherry and raspberry aromas which carried through into the palate. Of medium weight, it had a long, dry finish which at first seemed slightly bitter, but this faded. The lack of tannins – PN is a thin-skinned grape – made my tasting sample seem unstructured, which, when added to a spicy, jammy- fruit quality was not particularly attractive. However, I do acknowledge a personal preference for more leanness is reds. My response changed when I chilled it slightly and drank it with a steak and bistro salad; I enjoyed it much more and it was an excellent accompaniment.

This was a pleasant wine and needed chilling. It was also interesting to try a warmer climate Pinot Noir which, on reflection, was more in the New Zealand style.

 

 

 

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Another Sunday, another old wine

 

Following on from the 2003 claret tasting last weekend I’ve regressed another ten years to 1993. I’ve also moved south to the Languedoc region and the St Chinian AC in particular. St Chinian wines, widely available in the UK, can be a notch up in quality from the standard blends from the Languedoc and show more specific terroir-based character. They tend to be blends of Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache in varying proportions but not exclusively so.

I tasted this wine on Sunday evening whilst away in Yorkshire; it had been sitting my host’s wine-rack for some time. Sir de Roc Brun 1993 seems to be a well-known wine from the area if the web-site is anything to go by. We opened and tasted in quick succession on account of the possible fragility of the wine.

Brown-rimmed (unsurprisingly) but with a clear, light red core, the wine was obviously in good condition. The nose was distinctly red fruits but had a remarkable freshness for a wine a quarter of a century old. The palate had lost a lot of overt fruit but there was still the hint of sweet cherry. Definitely dry with some gentle tannins holding everything together, the wine was still fresh tasting and stood up rather well to roast lamb.

St Chinian would come to mind as a wine to be drunk younger rather than aged. It was wonderful to experience the freshness of a wine speaking to us from a generation ago. Thank you to my hosts Chris and Julie.

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