Another Natural Wine Fair
I may have missed two natural wine fairs in London last month, but instead I got to go to a second one in the Languedoc. There is a wine bar in Bédarieux that specialises in natural wines – Chai Christine Cannac. In previous years Christine has held the tasting in the square in front of her bar in the centre of town, but this year it was in a large exhibition hall on the outskirts of Bédarieux, La Tuilerie, which proved to be a rather better venue for tasting.
The first person I saw was Thierry Navarre, a genial wine grower in Roquebrun. He is very excited as he has recently bought new vineyards near the village of Plaussenous, up in the hills above Roquebrun. The vineyards are at 500 metres and were already planted, with Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. These are not necessarily the grape varieties that Thierry would have chosen, but it is a magical spot and a great vineyard site. I hope I shall get to see it in the summer. Thierry thinks that the microclimate of Roquebrun may be getting too hot for fine wine, but theoretically for administrative purposes these new vines are also within the commune of Roquebrun. And there is a cellar up there too.
La Conque, Vin de France 2009 – 11.00€
40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 20% Syrah. The Merlot and Cabernet spend 12 months in stainless steel and the Syrah in 500 litre wood.
Quite a deep colour. Quite solid leathery nose. Some dark cassis, balanced with fresh acidity and fruit. Elegant with a leathery note, and a fresh finish. Needs time. Quite un-Midi like
Thierry explained that the vines were planted in 1990 and that there is a two week difference in ripening, compared with Roquebrun.
2011 Oeillade Rosé, Vin de France– 7.50€
Oeillade is an old Midi variety that is related to Cinsaut. Very fresh, pale pink orange. Fresh ripe strawberry nose. Rounded and ripe.
2011 Vin d’Oeillade Rouge – 7.50€
Medium colour; very spicy nose and palate. Ripe spicy fruit. Supple tannin. Medium weight. Deliciously drinkable.
2011 Terret Gris – 10.00€
Slightly almond nose; quite rounded nutty. Acidity; honeyed; quite rich and mouth-filling. Fermented in oak, but very simple wine-making, allowing a little oxygenation.
Vin de Grenache
Made from very ripe Grenache, picked at the end of the harvest at a potential 18.5º alcohol. Fermentation stopped at 14.5º. leaving 15 gm/l sugar. No added alcohol. Kept for 12 months in 1200 litre barrels. Chocolate and nutty notes on the nose. Long and elegantly rich. Thierry explained that his grandfather used to make wine like this; it was a local tradition that died out, and when the appellation of St. Chinian was created, nobody thought to include it, so it became hors legalité. What a shame. I have tasted something similar in Alain Jougla’s cellar about ten years ago.
Domaine Léon Barral
2010 Blanc, Terret with a little Roussanne and Clairette. A vin orange, fermented on the skins. Quite fragrant on the nose, with some bitter orange notes. A bit funky. I’m not sure I understood it. And I got on much better with the red wines.
2009 Faugères - 14.00€
A blend of Cinsaut, Syrah and Grenache. Medium colour. A certain freshness. Quite perfumed with some furry tannins and a certain stoniness and minerality. Some élevage in wood.
2009 Jadis – 22.00€
Syrah, Grenache and Carignan; two years in fut. Quite firm; quite solid; quite dense tannins. Rounded youthful and dense. A serious mouthful of wine.
2009 Valinière -36.00€
Mourvèdre and Carignan, two years in wood. Quite rounded and ripe on nose and palate. Ripe and dense, and mouth filling with very good fruit. A lot of depth and potential.
Mas d’Agalis, in Nébian with Lionel Maurel. He has 8 hectares, mainly Carignan and Syrah, some Grenache and a little Mourvèdre, and a very little Cinsaut. And for white wine, Terret, Clairette and a little Vermentino and Chenin. Lionel is the 4th generation; the previous three generations took their grapes to the coop. His first vintage was 2004.
Le Grand Carré – 8.40€
This was his grandfather’s name for the plot. 50% Terret with the other white grapes. Quite a delicate nose; on the palate quite dry and nutty, and lightly almondy. He uses no so2, no filtering; the wine is kept in vat, and three old barriques. It tasted quite firm and tight knit. How will it age?
2010 Yo no puedo mas – 9.00€
60% Carignan, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre. 12 months élevage. 70% in vat, and the rest in old barriques. Spicy dry fruit on the nose. Very ripe spicy fruit, with supple tannins on the palate. Good fruit, with hints of tapenade. Very Mediterranean and gourmand.
Mas Lumen with Pascal Perret, a small five hectare estate in Gabian .
2008 Orphée, vin de table. Bottled in 2009 but not yet on sale
Terret, fermented and élevé in wood, à la bourguignonne, said Pascal, but with no bâtonnage. Quite rounded nutty, and nicely leesy, with some firm fruit. Quite intriguing.
2007 Rouge – 15.00€
It was such a small vintage that Pascal blended all his vats together, to make just one wine, comprising 40% Syrah, vinified in barrel, and 30% Carignan, 20% Grenache and 10% Cinsaut fermented in vat. Élevage altogether for two years in 500 litre tonneaux. Good colour. Quite rounded ripe fruit. Supple tannins; subtle black fruit, cherries and damsons. Quite rounded with a certain weight.
I had the feeling that Pascal loves making wine, but he finds the business of selling it rather more tricky – he is not alone- it’s a common problem in the Midi.
Le Casot des Mailloles in Banyuls. They were also at the fair in Colombières sur Orb, but I thought I would taste the wines again, as tasting conditions were rather better in Bédarieux.
2011 Blanc de Casot – 35.00€
A blend of Grenache Gris and Blanc, and Vermentino - Quite perfumed orange fruit. Quite a firm nutty nose. Funky – my currently favourite word for describing orange wines- and intriguing.
2011 El Nino – 24.60€
Carignan, Grenache Gris and Syrah. Quite a rounded nose. Very fresh perfumed palate. Very appealing, Supple tannins. Medium weight. Élevage in vat
Soula – 35.00€ (sorry, omitted to note the vintage)
Pure Grenache in a vat, and into wood as the fermentation finishes. Confit cherry notes. Quite rounded and ripe. A slight cherry liqueur edge, which I quite often find with Grenache. Medium weight.
Domaine Hautes Terres in the Limoux village of Roquetaillade, Gilles Azam explained that he comes from Roquetaillade, but left the village and then returned after a 20 years absence. 2002 was his first vintage.
2008 Crémant de Limoux, Cuvée Joséphine. – 12.00€ Brut nature, so no dosage. Chardonnay dominates, with Chenin and Mauzac. 9 months in fût, including fermentation, up to June, and then 24 months on lattes. Quite a delicate nose. Not obvious oak, but a nicely rounded palate. Quite ripe and beautifully balanced with a dry finish. Josephine is Gilles’ daughter.
2010 Limoux, Cuvée Louis, after his grandfather. – 11.80€
80% Chardonnay with some Chenin. 12 months in wood. Quite rounded and buttery. Good acidity. Quite mouth filling and rounded.
Domaine le Petit Gimios, Pierre Lavaysse at St Jean de Minervois.
2009 Muscat Sec des Roumanis – 22.00€
Lightly muscaty nose. Quite pithy. An initial prickle. Quite rounded with supple fruit. Has lost the vibrant Muscat impact. Mme Lavaysse explained that the wine is débourbé, fermented in vat, bottled in the spring and left to age in bottle. Quite a different interpretation of Muscat, and none the worse for that.
2008 le Petit Gimios. Moelleux de Muscat – 24.00€
Quite rounded and honeyed. Again not obviously Muscat. Quite ripe with a dry finish. Nicely rounded.
2002 Vin de Liqueur - 26.00€ for a 50 cl bottle
Quite dry and nutty; rounded and honey, very intriguing, with a dry finish and a nice note of maturity. Apparently the wine was refused its labelle for being pas typique. It was muted with only 4% alcohol, as opposed to the 10% the appellation requires.
Mme Lavayyse explained that they have 4.5 hectares of vines, with a first vintage in 1999. Her yields are minute. She is obviously a purist, and she was very sniffy about people adding enzymes to enhance the character of Muscat. They also makes a red wine, from 16 different varieties and a vineyard that is 110 years old.
Domaine Jean-Louis Tribouley, at Latour de France. He has 13 hectares, and his first vintage was 2002
2011 Marceau Côtes Catalanes white – 12.00€.
Half Grenache gris and half Macabeo A hint of celery on the nose. Quite a firm palate, with a hint of fennel, which grows wild in abundance in the area of Roussillon where the vin de pays used to be Côtes des Fenouillèdes – sadly it is now engulfed by the more anonymous Côtes Catalanes. Quite a firm fresh finish.
2010 les Copines – 12.00€
70% Carignan, Grenache and Syrah.in vat. A volatile hint of the nose, but quite fresh fruit on the palate, predominantly dry cherries.
2009 Les 3 Lunes – 18.00€
Half Syrah, with 15 months élevage in demi muids; 25% each Carignan and Grenache, vinified together in vat. Bottled April 2011. Quite a meaty nose. Quite solid rounded leathery palate. Quite dense ripe fruit. Nice balance. But maybe a touch of brett.
Domaine Leonine, owned by Stéphane Morin in Roussillon. He was taking a break so I just tasted the wines without any chat. but seem to have written rather cursory tasting notes - sorry.
Fond de tiroir – 10.60€
Quite fresh, cherry fruit. Medium weight. Nice fresh finish. Appealing.
Carbonne 14º - 15.00€
Medium colour. Quite rounded perfumed and fresh.
Nice wines – would repay further exploration.
La Petite Baigneuse with Philippe Wies in Maury.
2010 Juste Ciel! Vin de table Grenache Gris.
Delicate nose; lemony agrume notes. Lightly nutty palate with a fresh finish.
2010 les Loustics, Côtes Catalanes. – 13.00€
Grenache with 5% Syrah, carbonic maceration
Light colour. Quite fresh, with light cherry fruit. Medium weight. An elegant finish.
2011 Trinquette, Maury Sec – 10.00€.
2011 is the first vintage of the table wine appellation for Maury. Grenache – destalked and 40% Carignan, whole bunches. Kept in 30 hectolitres foudres for 6 months. Vineyards at 350 metres altitude on schist. 13 hectares altogether, including 3 of white, Macabeo as well as Grenache Gris, with a first vintage in 2008.
Medium weight. Quite elegant cherry fruit. Dry spice with good mineral notes.
And finally Mas Coutelou with Jean-Francois Coutelou – I blogged about him last summer, and it was nice to taste a couple of new vintages.
2011 7 rue de la Pompe – 5.60€
85% Syrah with Carignan and Grenache. Quite a deep colour. Very perfumed fruit, and nice rounded. Medium weight. Gouleyant with a fresh finish.
2011 Le Vin des Amis – 8.00€
60% Grenache, 40% Syrah. More depth and weight. Quite ripe and rounded with a lovely balance and again a fresh finish. Very appealing. And a delicious note on which to finish.
Jeff Coutelou has had a good run with recommendations in Le Nouvel Observateur, Jancis Robinson's purple pages and then The Sunday Times. His wines are, of course, superb.
I know he also rates Thierry Navarre and I have bought a few of his wines on his recommendation. Interesting his comments on Roquebrun.
I shall look up Mas Lumen when in the area next month, you keep unearthing places for me to go Rosemary. Hopefully my car boot will cope :)
If you want to taste more wines from Languedoc, we'll be in london tomorrow at the French embassy for a trade day about Languedoc.
Looking forward to see you there !
Warren - how right you are.... one of my favourite villages.
My problem was not so much the boot, but the back roller bar - which gave up in my little Ford Fiesta after 144 bottles from Provence..... But that was a while ago, when I researching French Country Wines.
Nicolas - Tres sympa to see you on Thursday.