Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Towards the end of the year I'll be giving out the winepost awards - everyone else seems to give our awards so why shouldn't I? Categories will include - most minging wine of the year, wine personality of the year, winemaker of the year, wine of the year and good value wine of the year - noone needs to enter - to win all you need to do it have met me or had me drink your wines - winners of all awards (except minging awards) will also have a link to their site placed in the links section - if you make or distribute a wine and think you should win this award then do feel free to contact me!
By this stage we were beginning to enjoy ourselves, Laurent learning English phrases and us improving our French, and next up was Plaisir d'Eulalie 2004 - the basic chateau red made from 40% Grenache, 40% Carignan and 20% Syrah - red fruits to the fore, relatively simple but incredibly drinkable - especially in a wine that costs about £3.50 - deeply coloured, chewy and some clove and toasty aromas mixed in with rounded blackberries - the nose was a little closed - however subsequent tastings (we bought a case - and got it home in the little Clio!) have shown that this can really open up delightfully.
Up next was the Cuvee Prestige 2003 - around £5 - again plenty of colour and this time a suggestion that the wine will improve for perhaps a couple more years (Laurent thought perhaps 3-4 years m0re) - the vintage giving it extra fullness but also bringing it's drinking forward a couple of years a wine of great balance and structure, yet also with finesse and style and a little gentleness - not a great blockbuster as some of the Carignan dominated wines have been (this is grenache dominated) however spicy vanilla and black fruit flavours are delicious now - I can't wait to be writing on this in a few years time.
Last of all came La Cantilene 2004 - this is a Syrah dominated wine - so far more depth and power than the previous wine with black pepper and vanilla and a touch of rosemary and thyme - however at this stage my notes dried up - I began to panic - Laurent was taking a phone call and I realised - no cash - and I want some of this - no in fact I want a decent amount - much as I had loved the wines of St. Chinian it wasn't that these were better - but they were better value AND Katherine really liked them too! Fortunately despite apperances - there in the corner was a credit card machine - we were saved - so we duly placed our order - tried to pay - only to discover that Laurents daughter was on the internet so he couldn't get a line out! And eventually paid and to our delight were given a small parting present of a bottle of La Cantilene 2002 - a lesser vintage but nonetheless a delightful addition that I shall look forward to immensely!
Monday, October 30, 2006
Friday, October 27, 2006
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Monday, October 23, 2006
Monday, October 16, 2006
Saturday, October 14, 2006
A really lovely wine that costs just E8,70 this is a blend of Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre which is aged for 3 years, 1/2 in new oak and 1/2 in tanks. The wine itself is complex and smooth - though do be sure as with many other wines of the region to give it plenty of time to breath, I'd be tempted to decant the morning before you want to start drinking. The aromas are of cassis and plums, with some fantatic herbal "garrigue" and vegetative notes. Une et Mille Nuits is dark and seductive, velvety and smooth - my only real complaint about this wine is that it is a style of wine that Katherine is not so fond of, and so when it came down to deciding what to bring home - this was not near the top of the list for that reason alone. I however loved it - so, it may or may not be to your taste - but definately give it a go - Available in the UK from Stone, Vine and Sun of Winchester.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Time came and time went - we were beginning to wonder whether we had fallen foul of a French practical joke when a scruffy looking, young chap turned up asking whether we wanted to taste the wines or not - "Of course!" we cried, so our new best friend opened a garage door and beckoned us in - and sure enough it was a garage, about the size needed for a good sized car - only this was 1/2 full of wine in cases, and on some of the boxes were laid out a few wine glasses and some opened bottles of wine.
We started with "Cousin Oscar 2005" - at 4 Euros a real bargain, simple and fruity - exactly what you would expect from an inexpensive - but nonetheless well made wine. Whilst tasting this it occurred to me that there was no spitoon anywhere to be seen, and as I was driving I was forced to spit right on their doorstep - much to the amusement of our French friend.
"Les Travers de Marceau 2005" (E6,40) was a finer wine - yet still amazingly under £5 UK price - more complex, more fruit, better balanced it was worth the step up in price. However "Le Mas au Schiste 2004" (E10,00) was altogether a finer example, a lovely bouquet of spicey fruit was followed up on the palate with some liquorice and a touch of the "garrigue" - one of the better wines of the holiday and the reason for our trip out to Berlou that day.
M. Rimbert is a real fan of Carignan and not for him the wimpy style produced from Carbonic Maceration, he produces two 100% Carignan cuvee's one, "Le Chant de la Marjolaine 2004" at E7,00 a wonderful surprise and proof that the Carignan grape can mix it with the best to produce wines of character, style and refinement at a very decent price - the same cannot be said for "El Cariginator II", although the Marjolaine was a powerful and full wine, it wasn't a touch on this, this really was powerful, perhaps too powerful, however it is typical of several top cuvee' styles from the region, one could almost mistake it for being fortified such is the depth, the sweetness of fruit (though the wine is dry) - opinions in our party were mixed - several found it too much to bear, whilst I decided that, whilst matching it to food might be almost impossible, it would be lovely in the height of winter by an open fire- however it is also E18,30 and given the difference in price I'd have 2 bottles of the Marjolaine for less money every single day of the week - that is not to say it is a bad wine - rather that the Marjolaine is really rather good and a bit of a personal favourite of mine!
Sunday, October 08, 2006
His “Vin d'oeillades 2004” is a simple table wine, made for everyday drinking (4 E/btl) and is highlighted by simple red fruit character, and a light refreshing wine – perhaps a red wine drinkers alternative to Rose' wines for a hot Summer BBQ. Laouzil 2004 has a delightful vegetative and fruity nose, showing typical Carignan on Schiste characteristics, with decent structure and acidity – well worth a go at around 6 Euro's if you get the chance. Cuvee' Olivier 2004 is Thierry's top wine, and it shows, this was wonderful, sweet forest fruits, spice and liquorice on the nose, a slightly porty flavour – it's full and powerful, jam packed with fruit, but with acidity and tannin that really hold it all together in a velvety texture – wonderfully made, wonderful to drink – if you see this anywhere – buy it and give it a go – for my money (at 10 Euro) you would be hard pushed to find a better wine – Mas au Schiste excepted!
Saturday, October 07, 2006
As opposed to the standard St. Chinian branded tasting glasses, the wines here were served in peculiar little glasses, that one could only describe as tiny wine thimbles - perhaps better for a non aromatic spirit rather than a wine tasting - still it just added to the overall feel of a place where a bloke made wine, was good at making wine, but the rest of it he struggled with!
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Terre de Loup
Terre de Loup was a bit of strange one as far as things go, we headed to Berlou to visit Domaine Rimbert and the Caves Cooperative de Berlou, and the Caves de Rieu Berlou. However on arrival in the village, neither of these was apparent – it was only when asking a local where we could find them that it became obvious that the Coop was operating under 3 different names depending on where you looked or who you spoke to! The shop itself was one of the most boutique coop shops we came across and the wines weren't generally too bad – again it was just a case that they really weren't all that exciting either. We started with the “Collection Blanc Viognier 2005” which was exactly what it said on the bottle – a pretty decent French style, warm climate Viognier which managed to keep enough acidity to remain fresh and tangy. Next up was the Arbousier Rouge 2004, a 4 euro wine, which tasted like a 4 Euro wine. It was vegetal, tannic and very dry and had no refinement whatsoever. We then moved onto the multi-award winning, 7,70 Vignes Royales 2000, an earthy, stoney wine lacking any real fruit development, made by Carbonic Maceration – I think that I would have preferred it if it had traditional vinification, greater fruit expression – it was however very typical of a style of wines made on the Schiste terroir. Finally we moved onto the Chateau des Albie'res Cuvee George Darde' which was a very well made wine indeed, the fruit was clearly top class, and the blend, and aging fabulous – but again as happens so often with coops in the Northern region of the appelation, the extensive use of Carbonic maceration just took the edge off the wine for me, when I compare the wines to those of smaller producers – it's the style rather than the quality of wine that I prefer. It also has to be said that we didn't have time to try every single one of the wines available - the range is vast for one operation and there may have been a hidden gem in there that we missed. Give them a go, particularly if you are a fan of the more widely available Caves de Roquebrun wines which are produced in a similar fashion, from similar Terroir.
Monday, October 02, 2006
St. Chinian is perhaps one of the lesser known appellations of Southern France, however as I discovered on a recent trip, if the producers in this sun drenched region continue to create wines of the quality that they currently are then it won’t be too long before bargain hunting Brits look here rather than to a pricier region. What they’ll find are some really excellent wines, produced by true artisans with a love and passion for their vines and their terroir, but there are some hurdles to overcome yet.
The first thing anyone should know about the region is that it’s producers are absolutely terroir mad, and this is largely because within the one appellation there are 2 major soil types, to the North of the region Schiste and to the South, clay/limestone and to further complicate this these two terroirs are separated by a seam of sandstone running the length of the appellation. Winemakers on both terroirs will insist that their soil type is the superior, and for the consumer this can add to the confusion – what it means is that there isn’t a single St. Chinian style.
Add in that many of the grape varieties will be unknown to the average punter who will never have heard of Carignan, Cinsault or possible Mourvedre and it’s hardly surprising why todays wine buyer gives St. Chinian a miss.
We started out tour looking at a number of the wines produced from Schiste vineyards in both Roquebrun and Berlou where generally speaking it is the cooperatives that rule the roost with one or two small producers making some excellent wines.
We met Pierre in passing at the La Baume winery, who with a wink and a nod ran off to find a bottle of wine he had opened the previous evening which we simply “had to taste”!, he came back shortly after with a bottle he promised would knock our socks off from Berlou a short drive from where we were staying, “Mas au Schiste” produced by Domaine Rimpert
Sunday, October 01, 2006
We arrived on a hot afternoon during the harvest, to be met by locked doors and a sign which told us that we needed to ring in advance to book for a tasting, however not to be deterred we rang the bell anyway. A short while later a man, probably in his late fifties came hurrying out of the vineyard nearby looking hot and extremely sweaty.
"Could we have a tasting?"
"Yes of course, please wait here"
At which point he disappeared through a garage door, and we, being the Englishmen we are followed.
After we had been shooed back out of the garage door, he then opened a door right next to the garage door and beckoned us in to a room full of large barrels (500 litre demi-muids which are favoured by many in the region for not adding quite as much to an already dense and tannic wine) with a professional tasting counter at one end.
We had never really planned to be here, we’d set out for Domaine Canet-Valette nearby, drank a great deal of Marc Valette’s wines, got slightly tipsy (except of course Jon our driver for the day) and headed off in search of Borie La Vitarele but found there to be no one home. So here we were, with a man, who told us he used to be a dentist and that we really ought to spit the wine out to be kind to our teeth, tasting wines. Up to this point we’d often stuck to red wines, really as a way to maintain some level of sobriety and keep our taste buds reasonably intact, however M. Fonsalade insisted we try his white "Lyre 2004" and very pleasant it was too, far fresher and crisper than I had feared many whites may be under the baking Med sun. It was a deep yellow colour with floral and honey aromas, balanced out brilliantly with acidity. Next we moved onto his two "Cuvee Tradition" a Rose and a Red, the former a simple salmon coloured little number with raspberry flavours that flirted outrageously on the tongue and a simple red aged in stainless steel vats with red fruits and a touch of wild thyme. So far so good, but nothing to write home about. But this is all about to change – "Now" we are told "For our serious wines!"
"We start with the 8 Euro "Cuvee Frederic" 2003 a wonderful smooth velvety wine with sweet cassis fruit, toasted almonds and just a hint of decadence. "Can we buy your wines in the UK?" We ask at this point as the Renault Clio seems far too small a car at this very moment in time – "Alas no – I cannot compete with wines from Australia – they are all too cheap!" At which point we hear a ten minute monologue on the problems facing French wines in the UK market and St. Chinian wines in particular. M. Fonsalade is a passionate man, and I wanting to empathise with him go into some discussions further on the subject of Australian wines, and terroir and other such complaints that one hears on the subject. It would appear I have found a friend – for we taste his top Cuvee next, simple called "Vielle Vignes" this is a wine at just 12 Euros made from 50 year vines, harvested at around 18hl/h of great depth and complexity – here it is – the Holy Grail of wine – something wonderful, that costs less that £9 a bottle, that frankly will give anything else I’ve ever tasted in that price range a run for it’s money and it’s not available in the UK – if only I was in the wine business! And afterwards M. Fonsalade insists that despite buying just 4 bottles between us we should leave with a bottle of his two cuvees to drink with our meal this evening. We leave, with a firm handshake and knowledge that somehow, somewhere we will return to the region if only to drink the wonderful wines that M. Fonsalade produces!