Tag Archives: southern french

What a shame.

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There are some wines which hint at how good they could be, but …. and this was one of them. Mourvedre is a difficult grape to grow successfully, needing high temperatures, supplies of magnesium and potassium as well as limited but regular water supplies. It also seems attract a variety of pests. So, not a lot going for it, then. The Mourvedre was supported by Grenache, Cinsault and a smidgeon of Syrah.

The wine we tried was Domaine Tempier’s 2007 Bandol from Provence and we could sense this was a quality wine. It had a lovely deep colour and slight strawberry aromas that, on the palate, showed some tertiary notes (ageing) of cooked black fruits. This wine had been well-made and showed great development over it’s 12 years.

So, what spoilt it? A smell and taste of woodiness that persisted in addition to hazy sediment. What a shame because had been quality there. I think Richard has got some more – here’s hoping.

[Richard:, yes, got a few left. From a mixed half case of Domaine Tempier. A bottle blogged in 2015 was fine, without the wood taint, nor did it have, as I recall, the sediment. Perhaps the two are linked? Anyway, a classy wine, allowing for the fault. TWS refunded the cost (£28) saying they were sorry the wine was ‘corked’, which it wasn’t.]

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Glass of the ’35 please

 

Not often, especially if you are an ‘homme d’un certain âge’, that you get to drink a wine older than yourself. This was another bottle (Chateau Mossé, Rivesaltes) – the oldest, from a mixed half case of vin doux naturel, blogged a couple of times previously.

Also the best with a wonderfully complex aroma and taste. Plenty of acidity too so not cloying. Madeira – esque, caramel, roasted nuts, beeswax, raisin, orange. Very layered. Actually made in 1935, kept in barrel and bottled in 2013. A fitting drink to finish the evening referenced below.

[Geoff: A great sweet wine with an intriguing history. Rivesaltes was originally a brand name for wines assembled and sold by middlemen (negociants) who purchased grapes from vineyard owners. Popularity of this style peaked in 1964 then declined, the negociants got out, leaving the growers left with old Grenache vines and no customers. This is a main reason why Roussillon standard dry Grenache wine is heralded – the quantity of old vines, producing refined fruit. (Info. courtesy of Jefford’s New France book). I guess Richard’s 1935 wine would have been made when demand was higher, so it’s rested in a barrel until bottling 78 years later.

Personally, I’d rather drink this than a heavier sweet wine, such as ruby port. A lovely drink with plenty of subtle flavours and a fascinating end to the meal.]

 

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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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