Thursday, 11 May 2017

Rosés for summer drinking

As the weather begins slowly to warm up, my thoughts turn to summer drinking and that often means rosé.  There is something psychological about rosé; however hard you try to be objective it simply does not taste as good under a grey sky.  So in anticipation of blue skies, Yapp Bros, the friendly family-run wine merchants in Mere, Wiltshire, hosted a tasting of rosés the other day.  We began with some English bubbles and there were a few examples from the Loire Valley, but the majority came from the south, from Corsica, the Rhône Valley, Provence and just a couple from the Languedoc.

In some ways rosé is more difficult to make than red or white wine, as the colour is so important and can vary enormously from the palest gris de gris which is almost white, to a deep vivid pink, that is almost red.  The appellation of Côtes de Provence may make more red than rosé but it has set the trend for pale delicate rosés, which are indisputably pretty and enticing.  However, the Languedoc produces twice as much rosé as Provence.

NV Crémant de Limoux Brut, Cuvée Prestige, Domaine Philippe Collin - £13.95
A lovely elegant glass of bubbles.  Pale orange pink in colour, with a good mousse. Some dry raspberry fruit and balancing acidity.  Fresh and elegant.  A blend of 60% Chardonnay, 25% Chenin Blanc and 15% Pinot Noir.   Philippe Collin is the son of a champenois vigneron who moved to Limoux in 1980 and established his own estate.

2016 Coteaux de Cap Corse, Domaine Pieretti - £17.25
A pretty pale colour.  Lightly fruity nose, with some weight and body in the mouth.  Good fruit and nicely rounded.  This is a food rosé; you could happily drink it with a barbecue or with quite a substantial fish dish, rather than as an aperitif.  A blend of Nielluccio, that typical Corsican variety that is related to Sangiovese, with Alicante and Grenache Noir.  

2016 Vin de Corse, Sartène, Domaine Saparale - £16.25
Pale orange pink.  A delicate nose and on the palate some firm dry fresh fruit.  Rounded flavours with good weight and mouthfeel.   Again, another food rosé, From Nielluccio, Sciacarello, another typical Corsican variety, that is particularly grown around the town of Sartène, with some Vermentino.

2016 Vin de Corse Porto-Vecchio, Domaine de Torraccia - £14.95
A pretty pale pink.  Quite a rounded palate, with good weight and mouthfeel. A rounded dry finish.  Very satisfying.   Nielluccio is the main grape variety, with Sciacarello, Cinsaut and Grenache Noir.  I like the observation on Yapp Bros website about the founder of Domaine de Torraccia, Christian Imbert - ‘At the time (in the mid-1960s when he established Domaine de Torraccia) he was regarded as an ill-advised eccentric - today he is seen as a pioneering visionary’.  Today the estate is run by his son Marc Imbert.

2016 Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, Domaine des Oullières - £11.75
Pretty pale pink with a dry fresh raspberry nose, and on the palate more raspberry fruit with a dry finish.   A blend of Grenache Noir, Cinsaut and Vermentino.

2016 Cassis, Clos Ste Magdeleine - £21.25
Pretty pale pink.  A delicate nose with a firm structured palate.  Good fruit on the palate with body and a dry finish.  A blend of Grenache Noir, Cinsaut and some Mourvèdre.   Cassis tends to be expensive as much of the land is more valuable as building land than for vineyards. The vineyards of Clos Ste Magdeleine are amongst the most dramatic in the appellation, with stunning views of the Mediterranean.

 Pale pink colour.   Light delicate fruit on the nose, and a fresh rounded palate, with some weight and a ripe finish.   This would make an ideal aperitif or partner that most classic of summer dishes, a salade niçoise.   And I have always been amused by the name of the estate - the explanation is simple.  The two owners, Hugues and Roland Géraud, each have a daughter, who was born in September.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Montpeyroux - a Cocalières moment

Easter Sunday was the day of the annual Montpeyroux caveaux ouverts.  It is always a fun occasion, but certainly not one for any serious tasting, so instead I said hallo to a few friends and arranged to come back later in the week for a couple of cellar visits. 

In the case of Sylvain Fadat of Domaine d'Aupilhac serious tasting entailed a comparison of older vintages of his two key wines, Les Cocalières and Cuvée Aupilhac, which used to be labelled Cuvée Montpeyroux. Both vineyards  are in the commune of Montpeyroux, but Aupilhac is on lower and richer land, while les Cocalières is a vineyard that Sylvain planted in 2000, clearing garrigue on poor limestone soil, at an altitude of  350 metres as opposed to 150 metres for Aupilhac.  And the differences in the glass were palpable.  The Aupilhac was richer and leathery while les Cocalières which includes some north-facing Syrah as well as Grenache and Mourvèdre,  was fresher and more perfumed, even from the hot year of 2003.   It is ripe at 13.5° as opposed to 14.5° for Aupilhac.  Then we tried a pair of 2006s, which was a more normal vintage, but with the wines still displaying a similar contrast of style.   Again, Aupilhac was richer and more leathery with lots of black fruit while les Cocalières was fresher and more elegant with the perfume of the surrounding garrigues.  And we finished with a blend of the two vineyards, la Boda, again 2006, which had also aged beautifully with some mature notes of cassis and leather.  But I still have a petit faible for les Cocalières.   So that afternoon we followed the way-marked walk of le Castellas de Montpeyroux which takes you towards the village of Arboras and then round past the hill of les Cocalières, so that we could admire the amphitheatre of Sylvain's vines. They are above the canyon of Joncas which gives its name to another fine estate.  The path then led back into MOntpeyroux past the ruins of the castle outside the hamlet of le Barry.

Two days later we were in a restaurant in Montpelier, chez Boris on the boulevard Sarrail near the Musée Fabre, which has an excellent Languedoc list, with well over 100 wines. And what did we choose, but 2014 les Cocalières which was simply delicious and went beautifully with an andouillette, that was no ordinary andouillette but a AAAAA, produced by a member of the Association Amicale des Amateurs de lAndouillette Authentique.    

Saturday, 29 April 2017

More white wine from the Languedoc

A PS to my blog of last week about white wine with some more delicious examples.

Notes Pures, Pays de Caux 12.00

Firstly, a visit to my friend Christine at the relatively new estate of Domaine Ste Cécile du Parc outside the village of Caux.  She and her husband Stéphane bought the property in 2005 and found that their vineyards already included a planting of Sauvignon Blanc, but they really needed to plant some more white vines, so they decided to follow the advice of their Chilean oenologist and augment the Sauvignon Blanc with some Sauvignon Gris, which is very much rarer in the Languedoc.  Indeed, I do not know of anyone else with that variety.   Does anyone?  And the resulting blend, half of each variety, is delicious.  A small proportion of the wine is aged in barrel, but the oak is very nicely integrated and both nose and palate have the fresh pithy minerality that is the benchmark of Sauvignon blanc, without the blowsiness that you sometimes find in Languedoc Sauvignon, with an extra je ne sais quoi, that comes from the Sauvignon Gris.

2016  Domaine de Joncas, Alba, Pays de Mont Baudile 22.00

Domaine de Joncas is a relatively new estate in Montpeyroux, beginning with Joia a red wine in 2011 and now there are two white wines in the range.  With great imagination and taking advantage of the liberty of the Languedoc, Pascal Dalier planted Rhine Riesling and produced Canta. Pascal had a hunch  that Riesling might work on his terroir and indeed it does, with some dry honey and firm acidity, but I prefer his more traditionally languedocien Alba which is pure Grenache Gris that is aged in concrete eggs.  There is structure and minerality and firm acidity and some floral notes, and the vineyards are up in the limestone hills above Montpeyroux, near the canyon of Joncas after which the estate is named.

2015 Mas Bruguière, les Mûriers, Languedoc Blanc

We tend to treat the Bistro d'Ariane at Lattes as our departure lounge as it is only ten minutes from Montpellier airport.  And that is where we were at end of last week, softening the return to
London with a delicious lunch, a very original tabbouleh, made not with couscous but with finely chopped cauliflower, and then a dish of cod with generous quantities of garlic and white beans.  And to wash all that down we opted for a bottle of 2015 Mas Bruguière, les Mûriers blanc, a satisfying blend of Roussanne and Marsanne from a leading Pic St. Loup producer.  Pic St. Loup is only ever red, so this is appellation Languedoc.  The flavours of white blossom were wonderfully satisfying with texture and mouthfeel on the palate and just a hint of oak.  It was drinking deliciously and would continue to develop for several years.