A Touch of Class!

Côte-Rôtie, Côte Brune, Gilles Barge 2010 – 100% Syrah – Averys £40.00

Côte-Rôtie is part of French wine legend, situated in the northern Rhone and practically unknown outside of France until the 1980’s. Côte-Rôtie commands an impressive and expensive reputation. First made famous by Marcel Guigal, who single handedly crafted arguable the best examples and was instrumental in the development and discovery of the area.

The vines of Côte-Rôtie cling perilously to the steep southeastern slopes of the two main peaks above the town of Ampuis. Côte Blonde, part of the Massif Central and Côte Brune. Both share similar soil makeup, consisting of predominantly Schiste and a combination of sand or clay and limestone. Wines from Côte Blonde, (sand and schist) display slightly more elegance whilst wines from The Côte Brune, (clay and limestone) are often deeper and more intense. With gradients of 60% harvesting and vineyard maintenance are seriously labour intensive, with some producers favouring pulleys and monorails in order to gain access and transport grapes down the steep terraces.

The Barge family have been growing grapes since the 1860, with Giles now head of the family. He farms 8 hectares split over Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu and Saint-Joseph, and produces wines which are held in high esteem. This is thanks in part to the use of old oak over new oak which really allows the character of the wines to shine through.

To the eye this wine is clear, with a deep appearance and a Garnet hue, there are thick tears on the swirl. The nose is pronounced and nearing full development, with a smokey, meaty and at times leather note, which almost overwhelms the delicate background of red fruit vanilla and cedar.  A quick slurp displays a dry wine with high acid, and medium to high levels of tannin, it’s pronounced and certainly full bodied, with a medium level of alcohol. Notes of leather and spice coupled with the gamey meatiness are present, but there is a delicate red fruit note also. The finish is exceptionally long and the tannins are beautifully soft and integrated. This wine is outstanding and is drinking excellently now.

Pairing with hard cheeses, meaty rich casserole style dishes, this is something very special indeed. The wines of Côte-Rôtie are truly something to savour it’s not hard to see why they were kept secret for so many years. Parfait!

Life is like a box of Chocolates !

Paul Mas – Vinus – 2015 – Clairette Du Languedoc – Morrisons £8

Life is like a box of chocolates, often you never know quite what you are going to get.

Take for example the oldest grape in the Languedoc, The Clairette Du Languedoc, often seen as the bland, slightly unfashionable leftover of the chocolate box, passed over in favour of something more attractive and never really appreciated. However, if times are hard and you’re looking for something to scratch that itch then the rejected leftover is just the ticket. Oh how shallow we are…

Thank goodness then that winemakers are returning to this overlooked of grapes. Thought to have been grown in Languedoc 2,500 years ago, and something of a hidden treasure, the Clairette demands a second slurp.

Clairette du Languedoc and I have a chocolate box kind of relationship, often the wines made from this grape are lacking in character, almost to the point of blandness. It seems that this grape needs an experienced hand in order to harness the beauty within – Enter Paul Mas – who is one of the largest commercial growers in Hérault and is known for producing large quantities of very drinkable good quality wine using the harder to handle grapes of the region.

The Vinus, or Heron – named in homage of the logo of the company, displays remarkable finesse. To the eye it’s an attractive pale gold, on the nose there is apple and citrus, with intriguing floral notes. A quick slurp gives rise to a refreshing note of grapefruit and cantaloupe, with the merest hint of flint. There is a perfect harmony between acidity and flavour, resulting in a full bodied, rounded and lengthy finish.

This wine is excellent, certainly a benchmark for many, it pairs perfectly with fish, white meats, cheese or in this case as an aperitif wine… But Don’t take my word for it – unusually for a supermarket wine this scored 96 points in the recent Decanter review achieving a gold medal, and it also scooped a Medal d’Or at the recent Concourse General 2016 awards in Paris, proving that life really is like a box of chocolates.  Santè a la Tienne !

 

Lemony Snickets!

Domaine Gaujal – Picpoul De Pinet – 2015 – AOP – Languedoc

Regulars of this blog will recall my passion for Picpoul De Pinet, such a special wine reflecting perfectly the terroir on which it is grown. If you are unfamiliar with this wine then let me tell you, you are missing out. The Picpoul grape is unusually lemon scented, it’s also a varietal grape – unusually for France, this means a single grape is used in the production.

The Picpoul grape is grown between Pezenas and the inland saltwater lakes, known as etangs – Domaine Gaujal founded in 1978 is situated on banks of the Etang de Thau, in the village of Pinet.  The benefits of this are the wonderful climate of the Languedoc, coupled with Southern Facing Vineyards which are gently cooled by the sea breeze. This imparts a unique salty note to the refreshing lemon found in the Picpoul grape.

Domaine Gaujal is famous in Picpoul circles, not only has there been a Gaujal in Pinet since the mid 18th Century, but the wines produced by founder Ludovic and now his son Laurentare decorated with médailles d’Or (1983, 84, 85, 86, 89, 90) from Concours Général agricole de Paris.

To the eye this wine is reminiscent of pale gold, glistening in the Mediterranean sun. On the nose this wine is bursting with citrus fruit and apple, a quick slurp is rewarded with a crisp burst of citrus acidity, tempered gently with a mouthwatering zip of salinity, the finish is fresh and rounded with a clean finish.

This example of Picpoul de Pinet is superb, pairing perfectly with the local delicacy Huitres or Oysters. Conveniently these are farmed a mere cork throw away on the Etang de Thau. If you find yourself in the area, I would recommend nothing more pleasant than a plate of fresh Oysters washed down with a bottle of this wine. La Vie Parfait !

A Round Of Applause!

L’Espirit Terroir “La Clape” Château Rouquette-sur-Mer 2014- AOP  Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Carignan – The Wine Society £9.95

Le Clape is an area in Languedoc South West France – its name coming from the Occitan “Clapas” meaning pile of stones.

Le Clape is gaining recognition, as it not only produces many of the local Languedoc staples, such as Mourvèdre, and Syrah but benefits from a climate which allows the grapes to ripen at a slower and steady rate.

Château Rouquette Sur Mer is a fourth generation family-owned Vineyard, practically overlooking the sea. Perched on the Massif De La Clape and facing South, the vineyards are fanned gently by the maritime breezes of the med.

Jacques Boscary is the head of the family and it’s he and his wife and sons that are tasked with crafting this wonderful Cuvée – L’Espirit Terroir.

Producing wines using minimal interference from pesticides and nasty’s, Jacques Boscary and his family are sympathetic to the natural ways of production and wherever possible continue to produce wines using these methods.

To the eye this Cuvée is a rich ruby colour, the nose is fresh with hints of wild garrigue and dark fruits. On the pallet there are hints of Cherry and spice, a delicate waft of salinity and the most gentle note of nutmeg. The tannins are integrated and the acidity is balanced. There is also the trademark freshness present on the finish.

This wine is a great match for Pork and grilled meats, pairing particularly well with mushroom or cream sauces, and singing when paired with Comtè or Gruyerre this is a wine to savour and enjoy!

 

 

 

On Corse for Greatness!

Corse Calvi Clos Culombu Cuvée Prestige 2014 –Sangiovese – The Wine Society – £11.95

I have long had a fascination with the rugged and mountainous Mediterranean island of Corsica. Situated south east of the French mainland and north of the Italian Island of Sardinia, this small island has a big reputation. Birthplace of Napoleon, part of France with strong Italian influences, Corsica retains the status of collectivité territorial, giving its assembly limited self-governing powers.

The Island is split into two departments, Haute Corsica, and Corse-du-Sud, the capital of the island being Ajaccio, famous as the birth place of a certain Napoleon Bonaparte in 1769. Corsica has large areas of mountainous terrain. A very large National Park, which is recognized as a UNESCO Heritage site, and numerous beaches stretching the coastline.

Since I don’t wish to bore you with a complete History of Corsica, suffice to say that it has been occupied by the Greeks, the Romans, The British and the French, and whilst each has left its mark, Corsica retains an individuality which makes it neither French nor Italian.

 The Wines of Corsica are gaining popularity, there are a number of producers who are starting to break away from the use of the Co-operative and produce wines which echo the terroir of the area.  

Etienne Suzzoni of Clos Columbo is one such man. Producing wine in the islands oldest and driest of appellations, the Vin de Corse-Calvi, on the Balagne, situated on the North west coast. This area has been growing vines since the 13th century.

Etienne makes wine from the 55 hectares he farms, and whilst producing rosé and white wine, his reputation for the excellence of his reds is growing. Using the Nieluccio or Sangiovese as it’s better known he has created a wonderful balance between flavour and elegance.

This wine has a beautiful cherry red and purple hue, the bouquet is rich with dark fruits, and gentle spice. There are hints of wild thyme and tobacco present with a delicate hint of vanilla. A quick slurp reveals a beautiful streak of blackberry and cherry, the spice is gentle and tempers the acidity to perfection. There is a long finish which reveals subtle notes of coffee and plum. The tannins are rounded and integrated, and although drinking very well it may well benefit from further patience

This wine is exceptional, it’s a real pleasure to be able to discover hidden gems that reflect not only the beauty of the surroundings but also the individuality of the producer. This wine will pair wonderfully with grilled meats, especially lamb. However, it will also pair well with casseroles and hearty winter fair.

If you fancy something a little different to the norm, then look no further than the wines of Etienne Suzzoni – Bon Santé!

 

Going Greek !

ALPHA XINOMAVRO SINGLE VINEYARD HEDGEHOG P.D.O. AMYNDEON 2011

This blog is usually French wine orientated, however today I am leaning towards the Joie de Vivre, specifically the enjoyment of wine. Europe, specifically the Med is awash with historical evidence of winemaking dating back to before Roman times. In fact, some argue, successfully at that, that many of the original Vines which are a staple of European wine making in fact originated in Greece.

Certainly there is a large amount of evidence for this, however, currently the main problem faced with Greek wines is simply, an Alphabet which is a mystery to much of the world, grape varieties which are unknown, and a slightly fragile government and economy. Happily, things are changing, thanks to the varied climate and terroir of Greece it’s possible to produce some excellent wines.

Mainland Greece has a mountainous climate, specifically the area I am looking at today is in the North West, where the Greek wine revolution began. Long gone are the days of Ronseal like Retsina, this area Macedonia, and the Balkan and Aegean landmass are known for Red Wine. In fact, that’s predominantly all you will find here. The main grape variety is Xinomavro, nick named “Acid Black” due to the unusual sourness which can be present. Thankfully these wines, also known for their slow maturation are amongst the best to be had in Greece.

The North West facing side of Mount Vermio, which forms part of the appellation of Amindeon, is home to Alpha Estate, although not far from the border with Macedonia, and situated on the windy lake influenced region they are producing wines which are perhaps the beginning of a New Wine Revolution in Greece. Alpha Estate is the brainchild of two visionaries, the second generation Vinegrower Makis Mavridis and the Bordeaux trained Winemaker Angelos Iatridis. Their aim is to pinpoint and promote contemporary Greek vinegrowing and winemaking to the world. With a philosophy allowing the people and the vines to work together with nature in order to create wines which offer character, and are representative of the area and the country, whilst retaining as little artificial influence as possible.

This wine is deep in colour, the Purple hues almost hypnotic to the eye.  The bouquet is complex with dark fruits and minerality, there is a spice to, with a slight hint of clove and Vanilla.  Just a quick slurp reveals a depth of flavour, reminiscent of wines from Barolo and Cahors. The almost berry like zing is perfectly tempered with notes of spice, yet there is still a delicate freshness. The tannins are well balanced and this wine has a long lingering finish. Ideally I would serve this with grilled meats, perhaps a Souvlaki or Kleftico in winter. But equally I think it would pair well with roasted peppers and olives, perhaps even a nice Tzatziki.

If this is the way Greek winemaking is going – then I want to be part of it, the country and the people have always influenced Europe in terms of Philosophy and Politics. It’s reassuring to know that Alpha Estate is leading the North Western Charge in producing wines of such a complexity and character, which may well encourage a new wave of Greek winemakers. I for one look forward to trying more from this beautiful country. Hopefully this is the start of something new and exciting for Greece. Yamas !

Reassuringly Expensive – The Bee’s Knees

There are many things one can spend ones hard earned money on in the wine world, but none quite reflects passion and craftsmanship like a Laguiole, possibly the ultimate accoutrement.

Pronounced “Lawiole” and dating back to Napoleon, these knives and corkscrews are legendary throughout France and the world. In fact, it’s unusual to see a Frenchman at the dinner table, in the local Café or in the Countryside without his personal Laguiole. Usually they are brandished in preparation of slicing some saucisson or to skilfully remove the cork from the local tipple.

The Village of Laguiole historically produced the first knife and so impressed was Napoleon that he awarded them the emblem of the Bee – still used today on all genuine Laguiole products. Laguiole the village is located in the department of Aveyron in Aubrac. This region is famous for the production of high quality artisan products, and is made up of three departments:- Aveyron, Cantal and Lozère. The junction of these three departments is named the Three Bishops Cross and can be found represented on the handle of some knives. It is said that the mark of the cross allowed workers to stick the blade in the ground and pray to God.

Interestingly it’s now very easy to purchase an inferior Laguiole, since there is no specific place in which production must happen, therefore as long as it’s produced in the Aubrac region it can be a Laguiole, so best to employ the old saying “caveat emptor” or buyer beware.

There are principally three main and genuine commercial producers in the area, with a fourth recognized as high end Artisan, producing smaller numbers but handmade.

They are as follows –

 

Usually the best way to determine the genuine nature is in fact the price, also where you are purchasing from. All products from the afore mentioned producers come with a lifetime guarantee.

Neither of these producers is necessarily any better than the other, it’s a matter of personal taste, however some have differing features, for example a curved foil cutter or handle.

Opinion suggests the best seem to be produced by Chateau Laguiole, which is considered amongst sommeliers as the weapon of choice. The fittings and final design are of excellent quality.

If you are in the market for a Laguiole then there are a number of choices to be made in order to ensure personalization. The material of the handle, some prefer bone or horn, others Juniper, Oak, or even the traditional Olive wood. Then there is the steel used in the blade and Corkscrew, 440 Stainless seems to be the chosen norm. In my opinion the most important element is the corkscrew itself, do you choose the four or five ring corkscrew? Again a personal choice but one well worth consideration.

The most important thing to consider, very much like the product you are aiming to open is: – do you like it? is it personal to you? Laguiole is a luxury, but like many luxury brands, is also synonymous with quality and craftsmanship, this is what commands the reputation and the price, certainly these products are not for everyone, yet to me they are something to be treasured and something that reminds me of the special relationship that has developed over the years between wine and life. After all these products are both made from the land, both display unique characteristics and both represent the link between life and nature.

If you are interested in purchasing a Laguiole, in the UK you can visit, www.wineware.co.uk who offer excellent service and advice. If you are based outside of Europe a google search will return many options.

Please be advised the views in this review are mine alone, I was not offered a product to test or to form an opinion on, however please be aware, if you would like me to do so – I would be happy to test drive any Laguiole products, I’ll even supply the wine J J

 

Bon Santé

Co-Operation is the Key !

Parfum De Shistes – Appellation D’Origine Protégée – Faugeres 2015 – Crus Faugeres, Roussane 60%, Marsanne 30%, Grenache Blanc 10%

One thing still amazes me about France, in particular my adopted home the Languedoc. There is still so much wine produced yet so many people are unaware of bargains to be had outside the usual avenues of purchase.

Each village or town has a Co-operative, this is a place where anyone not producing their own wine can take their grapes and receive a reward of monetary value or alcoholic produce, dependent on your preference.

The co-operative uses all the grapes from the appellation to then make its own wine, the upside of this being a large production of wine from the area and a low price.  The downside is that it’s generally not going to be produced by a sole grower. This can raise eyebrows- “It’s not exclusive enough”,” It’s of poor quality”, “It’s cheap and mass produced” These are all things I hear muttered in circles of for want of a better word – Wine Ponces.

The simple truth is that the quality is often far better than supermarket plonk, the price is very reasonable and the end product although not from a specific terroir or grower is usually an excellent representation of the appellation.

So with this in mind I recently purchased a bottle of Parfum Des Schistes from our local Co-op. To the eye it was a beautiful vivid gold. The nose was packed full of fresh pear, wild flowers and hints of the garrigue, a floral note was also present. A quick slurp indicates a great wine, full bodied well balanced and a little pinch of acid, medium finish with a hint of pineapple, and citrus fruit on the follow through, there is a slight mellowness in the flavours suggesting a small contact with oak, luckily not enough to temper the freshness.

This is a wine to slurp, it’s excellent as an aperitif or with scallops and seafood, very representative of the area and a real bargain. So next time you are near a co-operative – throwaway any pre-conceived snobbery and pop in – not only will you find a wide selection of wines but also a glut of knowledge. You may also come away pleasantly surprised. Or with 5 litres of Rose en Vrac like I did! Bon Santé!

Pizza Perfect

If you are a reader of this blog you will be aware of my passion for the wines of Mas Sibert. Simon and Sara produce approx. 7000 bottles and farm 2 hectares in the region surrounding Herault In Languedoc.

What makes this small domaine so special is the passion and love with which wines are made. The wines are all biodynamic and are produced using grape varieties which are not endemic to the region and also are not recognised in the make-up of local appellations – in this case Faugeres or Coteaux Du Languedoc.

On this typically Azure blue Languedoc day I was invited to experience the first of the years Pizza Sundays. Not only is Simon an avid winemaker, he also believes in a life of natural and homemade produce, therefore after building his own Pizza oven he decided to invite groups to sample wines and enjoy wood fired homemade pizzas, all cooked and prepared by him and partner Sara.

Mas Sibert as mentioned produce a number of wines, however for this review I will concentrate on what I consider to be the best Representation of Rose currently available in the Languedoc…yes it’s a big statement, but please bear with.

This rose is a blend of Sangiovese, and Syrah, it’s got a raspberry colour and sparkles with an almost luminescent quality, inviting you to sample its beauty. There is an abundance of raspberry and strawberry on the nose, and a quick slurp reveals a punchy well balanced and fruity experience. There is strawberry and raspberry on the pallet also, with a sharp bite of fruitiness on the follow through, with delicate hint of sweet ripe cherry on the finish. There is a balanced acidity and a mouth-watering finish.

Simply put – this is a triumph, there are winemakers in Languedoc producing wines outside the appellation at present and all are making interesting wines, however Mas Sibert continues to amaze me with his sheer passion and belief. Please do not hesitate to contact them and sample not only the best Rose but also the best Pizza I have ever had….

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Virgil’s Vineyard

Virgil Joly has established quite a name for himself in the Languedoc, from humble beginnings to head of the St Saturnin appellation, he also featured in a book written on the region by resident Peter Moon. Virgil now spends his time producing wines which are all 100% bio. They range from excellent to exceptional, he prides himself on producing wines with a high concentration of flavour. Wines that are made from Vines with a low yield, in some cases 50 years old.The highlights of the tasting included the Saturne Rose – the Saturne White and the Saturne Red – all of which displayed exceptionally refined flavours, the Rose and the White displayed a freshness that is often not found in this area of the region.

First Year of production – Grenache and Cinsault.

Beautiful bouquets of red fruits in the Rose and robes of crimson give this a unique colour which can only be described as blood. There is a med/long finish, a punch of red fruit and red berry give this a great bite of acidity, once again this is a well-balanced wine with an excellent finish.

Saturne – White 2012 A.O.C.  COTEAUX du LANGUEDOC

100% Grenache – aged 8 months in steel tanks

The white displays a pale straw like appearance, the freshness of the garrigue with notes of citron and apple are present, a med finish and a mouth-watering bite of citrus give a refreshing balance to the finish. There is a crisp acidity but it’s equally well balanced with an almost creaminess at the end.

Saturne – Red 2010 A.O.C.  COTEAUX du LANGUEDOC – Saint Saturnin

Old Vine Grenache, Syrah and Carignan

The red is a complex number indeed, there are notes of red fruit, a small hint of thyme and notes of leather. The robes display a beautiful cherry red with a rare clarity to the eye. There is a long finish with notes of spice and cherry, this wine has a long finish and the tannins and the acidity are harmonious. There is a gentle finish with an almost velvet like length. This wine is excellent and is an excellent example of what can be achieved in this appelation.

Virgil believes in producing wines which are representative of the terroir of the area, St Saturnin is in fact on the Terasses De Larzac but benefits from its own appellation. Virgil Joly is not only a passionate wine maker but in some sense a visionary, he began with very little – renting packets of vines and begging and borrowing to bring his dream to life. I am very happy to report that these wines are exceptional, the passion and the love Virgil has for his wines is present in the final product. If you are in any doubt, then if you can pop into the Cave for a tasting or read the story – Virgil’s Vineyard is available from Amazon written by Peter Moon.

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