Take it to the Maximus

Maximiana – Minervois La Liviniere – 2008 – Avery’s.

Le Château Massamier La Mignarde, is a 70 hectaire vineyard nestled at the foot of the Montagne Noir, close to the historic town of Minerve. During the time of the Roman Empire a Legionnaire named Maximus set up camp in a Villa, he gave this the name Maximiana which is now Massamier.

The Vineyard is run by Frantz Vénes who Inherited the business from his parents, who themselves have made wine here for generations. This region is famous for the production of wines with character and body, it’s a region steeped in history with links to the old Occitan traditions, legends are abound with tales of Cathar strongholds and mysterious clandestine communities hiding secrets and treasure.  The people of this region, in particular Frantz, are passionate about their history and are involved heavily in the resurgence of the Occitan ways associated with the region. He can also make an excellent drop of wine!

Minervois La Liviniere is the Grand Cru of the region and is only recognised with wines produced from the best terroir, the resulting wines have an enormous complexity and length, so much so the Chateau Massamier won the Best red wine in the world in 2005.

This 2008 vintage is certainly a great example of what can be achieved. To the eye this is a beautiful almost opaque ruby colour. This wine has legs, muscular and strong at that – with 15% Alcohol it’s not hard to be slightly afraid. However, on the nose this wine gives a wonderful rich bouquet of blackberry and red cherry, there is sweet spice to match and a beautiful hint of cassis. Just a quick slurp gives way to a taste explosion, there are notes of cedar, blackcurrant, cherry, cassis and coco, hints of leather and coffee are also present with a faint whiff of tobacco and garrigue. The finish is very long and the balance of acidity tannin and alcohol is perfect. This wine is amongst my favourites, it’s a perfect representation of the terroir of Minervois and demonstates impeccable manners. Suited to Strong Cheeses and big game flavours this wine will never disappoint. Very much like the region it has a magical charm that draws you back time and time again. And people ask what did the romans do for us?

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Brouilly Brilliant !

Domaine Les Roches Bleus – Le Crus De Volcan – Brouilly 2016 – Clifton Cellars

Wine, like many other things in life is driven by what’s in fashion, or as the French call it La Mode.  The problem with this, being that if you drive your choice of acquisitions based around this fickle concept, you will likely sacrifice some rather wonderful things.

Take for example Beaujolais, which was the height of fashion in the mid 80’s amongst the filofax gripping yuppies. Sadly, all too often associated with the insipid and often headache inducing Beaujolais Noveau, Gingham table clothes and stale baguettes.  Consumers rarely looking further than mass consumption and bragging rights in the office, in recent years’ fashion has shifted and has resulted in Beaujolais being forgotten and judged as a fashion faux pas rather than on its substantial merits.

Luckily, for those of us willing to trade fashion for flavour Beaujolais is still producing excellent wines, which thankfully subtly find themselves gaining high praise.

Using the Gamay grape which once again has fallen out of fashion, the Vignerons of Beaujolais are largely responsible for Carbonic Maceration, resulting in exciting and often weird flavour elements which cover a spectrum ranging from bubble gum to blueberry right through to Cherries and Marzipan.

There are ten Beaujolais Cru’s representing the finest wines of the region, and Brouilly is one of the most Southerly, centred around the 1585ft of Mount Brouilly. The bluey purple Manganese soils supporting small goblet trained vines resulting in a high concentration of flavour and body.

Domaine Les Roche Bleus has produced an example which displays a ruby red colour,  It has a nose of classic Beaujolais bouquet, liquorice and marzipan blend with notes of red fruit and plums. A quick slurp confirms this with an emphasis on the plum and red fruits and a fresh burst of acidity. The tannins are silky and the finish is medium. The alcohol level is balanced and at 13% is deceptive and cleverly integrated. This wine is medium bodied and is both simple and complex. Pairing wonderfully with Chicken Chasseur or Charcuterie, or even Cotes de Porc Charcuterie… Something for the weekend Sir ?

 

Talli Ho!

Domaine Ollier Taillefer – Les Collines – Faugères- 2013 – POA

If you happened to read my last blog you will no doubt be aware of my quest to raise the profile of Faugères, one of the most interesting wine regions in the Languedoc. I am passionate about the area and about the producers who are responsible for creating some exciting wines with a wide-ranging appeal and complexity.

Domaine Ollier Taillefer, situated in the picturesque village of Fos, at an altitude of 250 meters, south facing with 35 hectares, producing wine in bottles since 1977, this Domaine is one of the longest established of the appellation. Originally producing wine under the VDQS (vin délimité de qualité supérieure) later achieving full AOC status in 1982.

The Domaine is now in the hands of Luc and Francoise Ollier, son and daughter of founders Nicole and Allain. The sibling team have pushed this traditional domaine forward, recently opening a new cellar and tasting building. Like the wines, it’s sympathetic to the environment and ecologically well thought out. Although Allain still takes a supervisory role, the wines are now made by Luc, with the majority hand harvested, whilst Sales are handled by Francoise.

Les Collines is the entry level wine, made with a blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah, Carrignan and a little Mourvédre, aged in concrete vats, it displays a wonderful ruby robe, uncharacteristically for a Faugères it’s almost light and delicate in colour. On the nose, classic Faugères, Garrigue notes all blending gracefully with sunshine and red fruits. A quick slurp reveals a gentle prickle of acidity, dark fruits and spice, interestingly all without the usual weighty finish, it’s almost characteristic of a Beaujolais in terms of freshness and balance. Pairing excellently with grilled lamb or even lightly chilled as an aperitif, certainly one for the coming summer season!

 

Fringe Benefits

Domaine Raymond Roque – Nature Faugères 2012 – 13% – POA- Grape Opportunities

Faugères is something of a passion of mine, responsible in part for this blog, and for my fascination with wine and it’s many styles. J’Adore! – Faugères like many regions has great diversity, some producers have low level vineyards, some have altitude, some carbonically macerate some don’t, one thing is certainly true however, it’s impossible to find one the same. Each has its own terroir, its own character, its own style, and its own story.

Domaine Raymond Roque is situated in the small village of Cabrerolles at the foot of the Pic de la Coquillade. With an altitude of 500 metres and at the appellations northerly fringes, this little village benefits from a near perfect microclimate.

Marc Roque, fifth generation winemaker, continues a tradition that began in 1874. Each generation gaining further recognition for the unique wines which are produced here. There is passion and style in the wines, and something unique, something natural. Marc was amongst the first Vingnerons in Faugères to achieve organic status in 1999, and with 30 hectares, all in Cabrerolles, manages to deliver blends of local grape varieties that retain the character and terroir so beloved of the area.

Nature, is something special a blend of Grenache noir and Carignan and made with no sulphur, it packs heady garrigue scent, black fruits, cherry and a touch of spice on the nose. This wine draws you in with a lure of spring freshness, for sure there is an intensity to the nose, and a deep ruby red to the eye. But what really sets this apart is how delicate the wine is on the pallet. There is a perfect balance between alcohol and acid, giving a fresh burst of Morello cherries, layered with blackberry and thyme. There are hints of spice and a gentle warmth, without being overcooked or jammy. The finish is medium and leaves a wonderful flash of acidity on the pallet. This wine will pair wonderfully with lamb or the local Merguez sausage, and if you can wait will age for another 2-3 years and only get better.

Nature, takes the best elements of Faugères and expresses them in a way which allows all the flavours and unique terroir to blend equally, once again highlighting the talent of winemakers in this area and their ability to move with the times. Gone are the days of over extracted wines lacking finesse and character… Did I mention I love Faugères? Bon Santé!  

 

Domaine La Madura

Nadia and Cyril Bourgne are making waves in the wine world, based in Saint Chinian in Languedoc they are producing wines with exceptional finesse and quality.

Taking full advantage of the unique terroirs of Saint Chinian, which include Shale, Clay and Limestone, as well as the more common Schiste, has allowed the wines to develop a complexity and elegance rarely seen.

The passion for producing such excellent wines is evident as soon as you meet Cyril and Nadia. Cyril has a background in Genetics and Biochemistry and expanded his knowledge to include Oenolgy, which later allowed him to become Estate Manager at Chateau de Fieuzal in Bordeaux. Nadia formerly, with a background in Tourism, nurtured a passion for wine and after further studies was awarded “young farmer” status.

With the acquisition of Domaine La Madura in 1999, the potential for producing great wines was realised, the numerous patchwork plots, and the varying altitude of between 150 and 300 meters was perfect. Saint Chinian has by nature a Mediterranean climate, but is also in close proximity to the Montagne Noire, and the Monts de l’Espinouse, this delivers a cooling wind which accentuates the freshness of the wines.

The estate has achieved HVE certification (High Enviromental Value), Cyril and Nadia believe in maintaining a sympathetic ideology to the environment, limiting the use of damaging sprays and fertilisers and using strict routines of pruning and inspection to eliminate any environmental pests.

Cyril and Nadia produce four Cuvée, two whites and two reds:-

Classic Red – 2013 AOC Saint Chinian

This is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvedre, with the emphasis being on the Grenache and Carrignan. This is very well balanced example, and a perfect re-interpretation of classic wines of the area. There are notes of Cassis and Blackcurrent, as well as the enticing aroma of Garrigue and spice. A true Classic

Grand Vin Red -2012 AOC Saint Chinian

The Grand Vin is Mourvedre and Syrah led with small amounts of Grenache and Carrignan. There is a complexity to this wine with real notes of dark fruits, tobacco, and spice. The real surprise is the freshness that’s still apparent.  This is a brooding beauty of a wine which will continue to deliver in the coming years.

Classic Blanc 2014 Vin de Pays d’oc

This is an unusual blend of Picpoul and Sauvignon Blanc, Vinified in steel tanks for freshness and to enhance the varietal character. Simply put this wine is amazing, there is a high level of white stone fruit and citrus with a real zippy finish !

Grand Vin Blanc 2014  Vin de Pays d’oc

Picpoul and Sauvignon blend, but barrel fermented for increased dimension and body, citrus and peach but with floral notes and a long finish. Excellent

In summary, the wines produced by Domaine LA Madura and the care and passion with which they are crafted is huge, it was my pleasure to taste wines of such calibre – I look forward to championing them further in the future.

Domaine La Madura has recently completed a new building and tasting area, designed by architects Passelac et Roques which further enhances an already amazing site. Why not contact them if you are in the area and experience this wonderful Domaine for yourself.

http://www.lamadura.com/en/

 

Store Cupboard Essentials

Averys Montepulciano Abruzzo 2015 – Montepulciano – 12.5%- £6.99

First – Happy New Year, Felice Anno Nuovo, and Bonne Année!

The month of January is generally considered a frugal affaire; finances are tight thanks to the excesses of the festive season. The cupboard is often depleted of those little treats, essential to stave of the January blues, and the mind longs for the warmth and light of the summer.

Well, I’m happy to be able to at least address the first two of these problems with this wonderful little offering from Averys of Bristol.

Abruzzo – A region beyond the Apennine hills to the south east of Tuscany is famous for the production of this wine, made using the native grape Montepulciano, and bottled exclusively for Avery’s by the Bove Family, who have been producing this wine since 1930. Montepulciano represents excellent value for money.

This wine is a deep ruby colour to the eye, with legs and tears, indicating a moderate level of alcohol. The nose is pronounced with the unmistakable notes of raspberry and sour cherry, with gentle wafts of vanilla coupled with a tertiary note of leather. A quick slurp confirms the bite of high acidity, and high levels of tannin, although coupled with the moderate alcohol this is integrated to a good level giving a supple balance. There are further notes of raspberry and cherry, although the cherry moves to the fore front giving a delicious streak of red fruit refreshment. The spice and leather notes continue the palate and help to give this a medium body and a medium length to the finish.

This wine is a real bargain and offers a satisfying blend of complexity, style and balance.  If you are looking for a store cupboard essential to partner tomato based pasta’s, this is ideal, it won’t break the bank and may even offer a drop of sunshine, to banish those January blues!

Cheers!

 

Where Vultures Dare (La Dolce Vita)

Aglianico del Vulture Armand, Alovini 2012- 14% Vol – The Wine Society £12.95

First of all an apology, over the next couple of months reviews will be on a 3-4 weekly schedule, I hope this won’t deter any of my followers from following this blog ? I am also hopeful that the reasons for this will soon be revealed, rest assured I hope to bring you more interesting wines and opinion on the usual more regular basis in the New Year… Now that’s has been addressed – it’s time to limber up those taste buds with a tidy tipple and the latest installment of just a quick slurp !

Italians have always been rumoured to do it better, and in the case of food and wine that just maybe the case. Italy produces more wine than than it’s neighbour France, and although French wine excels at delivering eyewatering complexitiy and price, Italian wines offer much more of a relaxed approach to things.

In general terms most Italian wines are lonely and underexposed without the pairing of Italian food, and no – although you can pair with other foods, it’s unlikely to produce the sheer harmony and joy offered when you match with Italian cuisine.

Italy has a very large number of grapes indemic to the country, from north to south and including the islands of Sardinia and Sicilly, there are around 350, although many are unlikely to feature in exported wines. The most common red varieties include Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Corvina, Barbera and legendary Aglianico, all tend to share high levels of acid and tannin.

Aglianico comes from the southern part of Italy, usually from the region of Campania or Basilicata. Arguably Italy’s greatest dark skinned grape, producing wines with nobility and brooding character, the most famous wines come from Taurasi, and command a hefty price tag, an alternative is Aglianico del Vulture, grown on the slopes of Mount Vulture, a dormant Volcano, which provides perfectly fertile soils in which to produce this wonderful variety.

Based in the region of Basilicata – often described as the arch in Italy’s foot – Alovini is owned and run by the accomplished winemaker Oronzo Alò.

To the eye this wine is deep ruby, displaying thick tears indicating a high level of tannin and alcohol. On the nose, it’s pronounced, offering raisin, liquorice, ginger, vanilla, and black cherry, with hints of smokey leather.

Just a quick slurp produces a wonderful mix of intensity, dry but with high levels of acid and tannin, these are integrated wonderfully, as is the alcohol which although high, never dominates. There is black fruit like the nose, although this time there are prunes and plum, with black cherries giving a wonderful freshness. Hints of chocolate and coffee and a gentle spice linger on the tongue, the finish as you would expect is both rich and long.

This wine is outstanding, although not at it’s full potential just yet – despite this it’s a treat to be had if you can find a bottle of this, better still a case, a perfect wine for the festive season and is a gift that if you are lucky enough to receive then it simply keeps on giving.

 

 

The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

Chateau Roque Le Mayne- Castillon Côtes De Bordeaux-2014- Lidl- £8.99

Bordeaux Blend – 14%

Bordeaux is a funny thing indeed, the wines from prestigious Chateau or producers can command thousands of pounds for just one bottle. Names such as Pomerol, or Le Pin, or the mystical Cheval Blanc are considered to be almost sacred, yet are they really that good? Well that’s a difficult thing to comment fully on. Certainly Bordeaux commands a substantial reputation for wine making. Historically the area has been at the forefront of wine production and quality since the mid to late 17th Century. However, as a consumer it’s sometimes difficult to navigate the often bewildering Appellation system, or fully justify the price tags for what is essentially just another wine.

For those unfamiliar, the area of Bordeaux is in the South West of France on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, this location offers a moderate maritime climate, which benefits from the warming effect of the Gulf stream, meaning spring frosts are rare and the growing season can be a little longer than elsewhere.  Essentially Bordeaux is a region of two halves, divided by the river Gironde. On the left bank you have Graves, Medoc, and Margaux, on the right you have St Emillion, Pomerol and the recently created Cotes de Bordeaux. Each site has specific Terroir which is utilised by the producer, but in general the soils are gravel and a mix of clay and sand.

Thankfully it’s not difficult to find to find something decent to drink and not have to trade a vital organ in order to bankroll it. There has always been a trend in my humble opinion of creating wines which are overly complex. They may well last for 50 years and go on improving over this time, but can you really wait that long? Of course wines are a subjective thing and because of this I leave it up to you the reader to decide if a Pomerol is better or worse than a St Emillion. However, one thing is for sure, of late the trend has shifted and although there is still a plethora of producers making exorbitantly priced wines with the most overly complex aromas and flavours, there is a demand for fruit driven wines with the subtle nuances of the classics but without the price tag.

Chateau Roque Le Mayne- Castillon Côtes De Bordeaux-2014 – is just one of these. A right bank blend using Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. On the nose this wine is clean and fresh, with a wonderful clear ruby colour. There is a deep intensity, with a swirl revealing the presence of tears on the glass. The nose is pronounced with dark fruits and spice. There are notes of blackcurrant, Vanilla and plum, even a hint of cinnamon and spice, with just a faint hint of cedar. A quick slurp confirms this with a beautiful medium to high level of acidity, and medium to high tannins, although these are beautifully integrated and silky on the palette. There are notes of fresh Blackcurrant and a wonderful streak of Cassis on the finish, which is long. This wine is Excellent and certainly one to look out for. It’s wonderful for the Autumnal season and pairs perfectly with roast meats such as Beef and Lamb.

Why not try it for yourself – Bon Weekend!

Cité de Carcassonne

Domaine St Martin – Cité de Carcassonne – IGP – 2014- Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon – 13.5%

The Languedoc in the the South West of France, is a veritable treasure trove of historic ruins, some have been preserved in order to tell their tales today, others have been left to return to the earth from which they came.  Perhaps the most famous is the Cite of Carcassonne, an enormous walled medieval city. Historically this was the one of the last hiding places of the fabled Cathars.

Situated approximately an hour west from Beziers it’s a magnificent site, the tall turrets giving a hint of the Labyrinth of alleyways and the wealth and power this enormous fortress would have commanded.

Domain St Martin, named after the famous Bishop of Tours of the 4th century, it is rumored he visited this former farm and donated gold pieces to the owners. It’s also noted that the former farm was owned by the Viscounts of Carcassonne, presumably the farm supplied local produce, and wines to the owners.

Today Domaine St Martin produces examples of wines of the region, in this case the Cité de Carcassonne, named due to its proximity to the walled city, and the appellation which it resides in.

This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, lovingly created using sustainable farming methods and showcasing the terroir of the area.

To the eye this is a clear, ruby colour, with moderate legs. On the nose this wine is pronounced with slight vegetal notes, spice and vanilla are present suggesting contact with oak, there are the unmistakable hints of Morello cherry and Dark fruits, bordering on jammy. This has a fresh note hinting that there is still room for development.

In the mouth this wine is off dry with medium acidity and medium/high tannin, there is a medium to high level of alcohol, but it’s integrated well. This is a full bodied wine and the notes of dark fruit and spice are still present, however what was a jammy nose becomes a fresher note on the pallet with a hint at blackberry and Cherry. There are still notes of vegetal manifesting as an almost leafy note. This wine has a medium finish, and can be drunk now, but has potential for further development.

Pairing excellently with pork dishes and big flavours this is a nice wine for the weekend. Perfect with The Côtes de Charcuterie recipe on this site and very good as a representation of the wines found under the pays de Cité de Carcassonne appellation.

 

 

Côtes de Porc Charcuterie

With the Autumn here, and a slight chill in the air, here is a recipe for a comforting French favourite with it’s roots in the Charcuterie shops of the 15th Century.

 

Côtes de Porc Charcuterie

(Roasted Porc Chops in Mustard and Gherkin Sauce)

 

Serves 2

5 Mins Preparation

25 Mins Cooking

 

Ingredients:-

1 Bannana Shallot, thinly sliced

30g Cured Ham Chopped

10g Butter

250ml chicken stock

1 teaspoon good quality roast

chicken gravy mix.

2 pork chops

sea salt and milled Black Pepper

1 Tablespoon Mustard (Dijon)

10 gherkins, finely sliced

 

Method

 

  1. Pan Fry the shallot and ham with the butter for approx 3 mins, until slightly crispy. Add the stock and gravy mix, simmer for 7 minutes.
  2. Taking the Pork Chops, cut small slits along the fat, season well.
  3. Heat a second frying pan on high until it’s smoking. Add the pork chops and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, then transfer to a warm plate. Cover with Foil and leave to rest for five minutes.
  4. Add the mustard and gherkins to the sauce and simmer very gently for 5 minutes.
  5. Serve the chops with sauce on top and mash on the side.

 

Classic French Mash

 

4 good quality potatoes peeled.

150g salted butter

75ml warm milk

salt and pepper

 

 

  1. Peel and boil the potatoes until just soft.
  2. Drain and allow to steam dry
  3. Warm the milk in a pan or microwave until hot but not boiling.
  4. Use a ricer or a fork and mash the potatoes
  5. Add the butter and work it in, then add the milk and mash until a smooth paste.

Season generously + Serve.