Tag Archives: southern french

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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Poivre d’ane 2015

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This wine is classified as a Vin de France, the lowest tier of the French classification system. It sits below IGP and AOP, both of which give some indication of the geographical origin of the wine. This tier is applied to simple wines used for everyday drinking.

Poivre d’ane (“donkey pepper”) comes from Herault, the Mediterranean coastal region around Montpellier and Beziers; a hot plain which rises to the Cevennes hills in the north where most of the vineyards are located. The grapes used are Syrah and Grenache which are the permitted grapes. This poses the question as to why it only has the lowest classification – and I can only guess it has something to do with yields, lack of sulphites (less then 50 mg. per litre), defiance or inertia on the part of the makers? Who knows?

Anyway the wine looked good – clear, clean, of medium intensity – and smelt of sour cherries (Italian in style, I thought). There was a purity and cleanliness in the mouth as well as a softness, which also exhibited some gentle tannins and, eventually, some peppery Syrah.

It was exactly as the VdeF classification describes – a simple wine for everyday drinking – but did not have much character or sense of terrroir. Maybe that is the reason for where it sits in the hierarchy.

[Richard: another low/no sulphur from Buon Vino (about £13). Biodynamic with no chemicals used. Clean pure taste. A simple wine I enjoyed.]

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Not an orange wine

It’s not often you can identify the actual bottle, when tasting blind. But I managed it with this one (L’Orangeraie 2016), firstly because I knew Geoff had ordered some from TWS and secondly because the smell and taste of Cabernet Franc was unmistakable. The wine has attracted some comment – mostly favourable – on TWS Community Forums but I wasn’t much of a fan. Quite a simple, rather short wine which prompted the reflection that grapes grown outside of their traditional area often make disappointing wines.

[Geoff: I sense we’re returning to our old topic of the over-hyping wines that are perfectly okay but not greatly interesting. There is nothing wrong with this uncomplicated, really bright purple little number but it did not have the subtleties of a Loire CF and certainly not the depth. A ‘Bistro Wine’ for serving with a light lunch. Enough said.]

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Abbotts et Delaunay

Despite a liking for wines from Southern France, and spending many holidays there, I’d never previously been aware of this company, formed by a French/Australian merger. Quite a polished website – they have a philosophy – which tells us they buy in grapes, rather than own vineyards, and they make a lot of different single variety wine.

100% mourvèdre wines are not common, (although we have blogged a few) so I didn’t know what to expect from this – it was not tasted blind. In fact – pretty good. Light and bright cherry colours, cherry nose, lots of red fruit, medium length, pure and balanced. Very easy to drink and a bargain at £8, so much so that we are back to MWW wine for some more.

[Geoff: A pleasant surprise and good value. Most books – as well as the website – describe this grape’s flavours as black fruit and herby. We got none of that. To us, red fruits dominated; Richard noted cranberries, I thought ripe red cherries. One book does mention red plums which I could agree with. Whatever the flavour profile this was a fruity red of some style. AKA Mataro and Monastrell, the European grapes are grown never more than 50 miles from the Med. and are particularly difficult to get right.]

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