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.
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.
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.]
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.]
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.]
I can’t remember having ever tried a white Minervois before last Sunday. That’s not surprising because only 3% of the production is white (85% is red, before you ask). The Hegarty Chamans vineyard is in the north-west of the Languedoc, high in the foothills of the Montagne Noire. Generally speaking, the higher the vineyard the better quality the wine; the lower, flatter Minervois vineyards produce that lower shelf, flatter red wine that can be found in French supermarkets. This generality was certainly proven with this 14% beauty from Vin Cognito (15.95).
Grenache Blanc, Rousanne and Clairette (40/40/20%) is the blend, the colour beings solely yellow rather than green-tinged, possibly indicating a hot climate and lack of acidity. This was followed through on the complicated nose which told of stone fruits particularly apricot, burnt honey and some honeysuckle. Gradual exposure produced more aromas – fascinating. The palate was big mouthful of flavour, dry, long and rich rescued by some acidity. Again, there was a slight caramel note which Richard picked up.
I’ve tried whites with these same full-on characteristics, notably Costers de Segre from Spain; they are wonderful kaleidoscopes of flavours with some power behind them. Great.
[Richard: a classy wine, well worth the asking price, which went well with some prosciutto wrapped haddock and romesco sauce. Lots going on, in a harmonious way. A pleasure to drink.]
This month’s Decanter magazine features an article headed “The Rise of Carignan” and labels the grape as “A once scorned Mediterranean grape”, claiming it is “being reborn as a fine wine” from France and Spain. Well, Richard and I are, as usual, ahead of the curve. We tasted Vin Cognito’s Le Maudit 2012 from Dmne Treloar (£25) on Friday. It is very much a niche production (1,200 botts p.a.) from the Cote de Roussillon.
We did wade through the dissertation by Vin Cognito – it’s always a pleasure to see English used so creatively — but that did not detract from what was a surprisingly good wine. It made up for the Pol Roger 2000 tasted just before (see previous blog).
The expected purple and intense colouring was in evidence but the nose was quite delightfully dominated by red fruits, raspberry and red-currants, with an intriguing delicacy that was very attractive. The palate was stylish, quite belying its 14% ABV, repeating the red fruits theme but adding some structured tannins. The delicacy was still present in addition to its dryness and a medium length.
Most of the wines featured in the Decanter article have dark cherry as the dominant fruit experience (we think its more refined than that) but many mention the acidity and delicacy that we experienced. It’s reassuring to think there’s some agreement in our experiences.
[Richard: a very interesting and drinkable wine I much enjoyed and would buy again].