Showing posts with label Languedoc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Languedoc. Show all posts

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Chanson du Vin at Jacques. Languedoc Wine-Makers on Song

Chanson du Vin at Jacques
Languedoc Wine-Makers on Song
Francoise and Luc
 Minervois wine-maker Luc Lapeyre may have needed a little help with his spoken English but none at all when it came to singing. Francoise Taillefer, another Languedoc wine-maker, and Luc put on one of the liveliest wine-tastings ever at Jacques last Thursday. 

It was Luc’s singing that ended a very entertaining evening, his Fields of Athenry rising over the packed tables and giving stiff competition to the music from the pub across the way. Chanson du Vin.

Fionnuala Harkin of Wines Direct had accompanied the two organic winemakers on their week's trip around Ireland and Thursday was the final day. Their visit to Cork began with an afternoon masterclass in L’Atitude 51. 

Francoise, of Domaine Ollier Taillefer, started with her Les Collines. The vineyard, that she runs with her brother (also named Luc), is set in the hills around the picturesque village of Fos. The Taillefer vines are planted in the sloping schist soils of the Faugeres appellation, the smallest appellation in the Languedoc.


The soil is mainly schist, a very poor soil but “easier “for organic”. It gives this wine, a blend of Grenache (50%), Carignan and Syrah “freshness and finesse”. “It is very easy drinking, very fruity… not for long keeping..serve at 16 degrees. All the work is manual and we are the 5th generation.”

Francoise
Just twenty per cent of the wine is exported and Fionnuala said: “This is kinda special for us. It is not widely available outside of France.” She pointed out too that the same three grapes, planted in a another area of the Languedoc would have a different result. “That’s how we get individual styles from our small producers”.

The Lapeyre family's wine-growing goes back even further; Luc is 8th generation. His first big job there, in 1980, was to “change the cepage”. His first wine in “L’Atitude was his San Bres 2015, “a simple wine”, expressive of the fruit (Syrah 60%, Grenache 40%). “Drink it young”, he advised. “But it will keep a few years”.

 “I never learned agronomy or science but think I have a feeling for it. The summers are more and more hot and I prefer sometimes to pick a little early. Wine is made in the vineyard, not the cellar. If you have the best grapes, it is simple to make good wine.”

His pride and joy is the L’Amourier. The name comes from the Occitan and means a lover, not a fighter. “Make love, not war,” he said.

Both he and Fionnuala made the point that these wines are not made to win prizes. The big wines may well stand out at a tasting and are often then abandoned. Luc makes wines to “stay with for the night”.

 “L’Amourier,” Francoise told us as she helped Luc out, “takes in all the soil types and grapes that he has, including the oldest vines and the poorest soils. They then spend one year in big barrels to develop complexity, originality, personality, the aim being to keep the aromas and youthfulness of the wine.”

He admitted that his “recipe is flexible", never quite the same from vintage to vintage. This is to allow for the weather, the harvest itself, and other variables. This is where the”feeling” comes in!

By the way, Mourvedre, a small part of this blend (Grenache and Syrah are also included), is raised that bit differently, in smaller barrels “to soften the tannins”.

Every now and then, maybe once in three years, Luc finds the grapes in just one particular parcel “too powerful for L’Amourier”, so he makes “a wine to keep”. “How old is that parcel?” someone queried. “Older than me,” was the jovial reply. 

This wine, L’Amourier Les Clots (2010), spends two years in barrel. With its deep dark fruits, this smooth full-bodied beauty is “very versatile… try it with viande rouge”. 

We would meet the wines and the winemakers again later in Jacques, as part of their well-loved series of Tapas and Wines. And Eithne Barry and her team kept the Cork end up with some lovely matching dishes.



Francoise: Irish lamb is the best

Their gorgeous chicken paté was paired, and paired well, with Les Collines. “Bon appetite” all round as we enjoyed the matching of Coq au Vin with the San Bres. And then came another magic match: Lamb cassoulet and the L’Amourier before we finished on an exquisite Brie de Meaux. 

Except that we weren't exactly finished. The chansons were only beginning.
Luc


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Three Lesser-known Grapes. Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Cinsault

Three Lesser-known Grapes
Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Cinsault

You won't find any of this trio in the comfort zone of “international” grapes. And, aside from Pinotage, you’ll not often find them in a bottle on their own. But I have and I’m very glad I did.

Petit Verdot is highly valued in Bordeaux but generally only as a small contributor to the red blend there. It ripens late and is therefore well suited to the Languedoc where our delicious example comes from.

Pinotage, according to Grapes and Vines, “is potentially South Africa’s greatest treasure…. and yet South Africans are some of its fiercest critics”. The varietal was created in Stellenbosch (it is a university town) in 1925 by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Our bottle is one of the more modern lighter types, bright and juicy.

And that same Cinsault (Samsó in Spain, Cinsaut in most other countries) is found in our other bottle, all sourced by the way by Le Caveau in Kilkenny. The producer in Chile, a Frenchman, has made a natural aromatic wine and spells it Cinsault.

At a tasting last year in L’Atitude, Francesca Jara said of it: “Five years ago, natural wine was almost an underground movement in Chile. This is 100% Cinsault, from really old vines (80 years plus), no added sulphites, no oak.”

Les Hauts de Median Petit Verdot, Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2015, 13%, €13.95  Le Caveau

These Petit Verdot grapes are grown on the slopes of a volcano in the Languedoc (between Béziers and the sea). Winemaker Aurélie Trebuchon-Vic advises there may be a slight deposit - “a sign of traditional wine-making that respects the natural qualities of the fruit". No chemicals and no pesticides are used.

Colour is a deep enough red, a glossy one. Aromas are pretty intense, dark fruits and herby notes too. And there is a super balance of fruit (mainly cherry), spice and acidity in the medium body. It is harmonious, fresh and delicious, with good length, a lovely surprise and Very Highly Recommended. Aurélie recommends enjoying it “with some friends and grilled meat”. More at www.preignes.com


Inkawu Pinotage 2013, Laibach Vineyards, Stellenbosch (South Africa), 14.5%, €22.90 Le Caveau


Laibach Vineyards, who specialise in natural and organic wine,  is situated in one of the prime red wine growing areas of South Africa. Early morning picking means no warm fruit reaches the cellar. This particular wine was aged in French oak (75% new) for 15 months. An entirely natural sediment may form, so decant. By the way, no deposit at all in my bottle.

It has a ruby red colour and you’ll find dark fruit and vanilla in the aromas. It is rich and spicy, complex, lots of flavours (including red cherry, toast). The balance is spot-on and there is a long dry finish. 

Inkawu is the Xhosa name for fun monkeys, a hint that the wine is “a playful, high-spirited expression” of the new South Africa. Maybe so. In any event, the care and hard work, the respect for the land and the fruit, has been rewarded and you may share by enjoying this Very Highly Recommended wine.



Louis-Antoine Luyt Cinsault 2013, Maule Valley (Chile), 14%, €23.50 Le Caveau


Louis-Antoine Luyt, trained by the renowned Marcel Lapierre in Beaujolais, is renowned for the character of his Chilean wines which are organic and natural, some made from very old vines indeed. Quite a character himself - some more detail here.  

This full-bodied ruby red, with no added sulphites and no oak, has inviting aromas of cherry fruit. Lots of fruit flavour, some spice, notes of aniseed follow along with a refreshing acidity and then comes the long dry finalé. Tannins are a little rustic but less so than when I tasted it a year ago. Easy drinking and, as importer Pascal Rossignol might say, easy to digest, this Cinsault is Highly Recommended. Be sure to decant this one!

At last year’s tasting, Francisca said Chile has more than cheap wines, more than the major varieties. “Irish supermarkets don't have what we drink in Chile.” You won’t find this in supermarkets either so major thanks to Le Caveau for giving us the chance to get out of the comfort zone.


* The striking label is based on old Chilean bus signage.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Three Delightful Whites. Chapeau Chaps!

Three Delightful Whites
Chapeaux Chaps!

We have been traveling all over to assemble this top notch trio of white wines for you. Maybe just a trio but they amount to quite an orchestra, maybe even capable of a symphony. The traveling has not been done by me personally but by the folks from Wine Mason, Mary Pawle and Le Caveau. They have bought well. So, let us doff the hats and say Chapeaux to the chaps and chapesses!


Turner Pageot Le Blanc 2015, Languedoc (AOP), 14%, €19.95 Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork.

Colour is a shiny pale gold. The nose, slightly honeyed, is of ripe apricot and exotic fruit. Ripe fruit abounds on the medium-dry palate. This is fruity, rich and round and quite a powerful wine with a long and mineral  finish. Very Highly Recommended.

It is an organic blend of Roussane (80%) and Marsanne (20). Turner Pageot, imported by the Wine Mason, produce a range of “gastronomic wines” and say the striking colourful collage on the label suggests exciting food and wine matches.

And the food and wine pairings they suggest are Fish and crustaceans in sauce; Saint Jacques with black truffle; Pike dumplings Nantua sauce; Noble poultry; White sausage. Old-fashioned veal blanquette. Mushrooms with cream. 

Noble poultry, how are ye! Well, come to think of it, there was some right royal Irish chicken in the Thai Green Curry from Cinnamon Cottage. I tried the wine with that delicious dish and they got on very well together!

Diwald Goldberg Grüner Veltliner, Wagram (Austria) 2013, 12.5%, €20.75 Mary Pawle Wines

The low-yielding vineyard overlooks the Danube and this organic trocken (dry) white wine has spent 8 months on lees. Importer Mary Pawle recommends matching it with scallops. It is often recommended with Asian also. Indeed, Grüner Veltliner is a very good food wine, very versatile, so much so that sommeliers regularly mention it, especially if a small group is hesitating over which wine to order.

This Diwald bottle boasts an attractive light gold colour. You’ll first meet its light fruit (apples, citrus) and white pepper on the nose. A tingly feel introduces it to the palate, that clean fruit fresh is there too, balanced by a lively and lovely acidity. Very Highly Recommended.

Framingham Classic Riesling, Marlborough 2009, 12%, €22.65 Le Caveau
Colour is an inviting rich yellow. Floral and citrus elements in the aromas and a hint of diesel too followed by a mouthful of delicious complex flavours. It is just off-dry with a little sweetness in the mix - think Mosel rather than Rhine.

Texture has been reinforced by some six months spent on lees. Balance comes from the juicy acidity and the finish is long and drying. Overall quite a rich Riesling and a Highly Recommended one.


The diesel is almost always an unwanted distraction for me in New Zealand (and Australian) Rieslings but here it is just about noticeable and hardly at all with food, especially with that delicious Skeaghanore Smoked Duck Breast.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Quality Hat Trick from Karwig Wines

Carl Ehrhard Spätburgunder Blanc de Noirs trocken, Rüdesheimer, Rheingau (DQ) 2011, 12%, €17.80 Karwig Wines

A rosé by any other name. 

Blanc de Noirs: a white wine made from red grapes! The Pinot Noir grapes are pressed and left on the skins for only a small amount of time, giving this red wine a clear colour with a hint of rose. The wine is  fermented 50% in stainless steel and 50% in mature oak barrels giving both a freshness and maturity.

Rose/gold is the attractive colour and you’ll see lots of micro bubbles hanging around.  The inviting floral aromas are the next sign that this is going to be good. And your feelings are soon confirmed by the beautiful concentrated fruit flavours, with a pleasant tingle. It is smooth, with a gorgeous balance. Crisp and refreshing from start to long finish, this is a treat and Very Highly Recommended.

Pair with fresh cheese, salads, poultry, seafood or enjoy on its own.


Chateau Paul Mas Clos du Mures, Coteaux du Languedoc (AOP) 2013, 14.5%, €21.15 Karwig Wines

You’ll see Vinus the heron on the front label of these wines. The story goes he preferred eating grapes grown on the clay and limestone hills of the hillsides of the Hérault Valley to the fish from the river. And so the heron was adopted by Paul Mas as the symbol of the quality of the fruit.

The fruit in this case is a blend of Syrah (majority) and Grenache, “a marriage made in heaven” with the promise “of some delicious pleasures”.

Colour is a deep purple and there is an intense nose, mainly of dark fruits. On the palate it is rich fruit, some spice, toasted notes and fine tannins; it is well balanced and the finish is strong and long. This smooth customer certainly delivers on pleasure and is Very Highly Recommended.

Food pairing suggestions: 17 to 18°C with preferably pasta dishes, beef stews, red meat, game, pate and soft full flavour cheeses.

Jerome Quiot Gigondas (AC) 2010, 14%, €25.15 Karwig Wines.

First things first: decant this dark red, a delicious blend of Grenache and Syrah, vinified “according to traditional methods”. Serving temperature should be about 16 degrees and do serve it “in large glasses”. Matches recommended are cooked pork, lamb, red meat, duck and olives, cheeses.

Rich fruit and warm notes of the local scrub (garrigue) abound in the aromas. All that is found too on the palate, some spice too; quite a Rhone classic really with a long finalé. Very Highly Recommended.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Superb Red and White Double from de Brau

Superb Red and White Double
 from de Brau

The Taris, Gabriel and Wenny, of Chateau de Brau, are too close to the Languedoc ground to get carried way with the romantic cliches that winemakers (and their sellers) use willy nilly. 

They farm in the area of Carcassonne, a town known to Irish holiday makers and rugby followers. It is not sunshine all the way: "Not all vintages are exceptional. There are the weather conditions. And the weeds that we will never overcome. And the little beasts and larger animals who demand their share."

That they share with the little and larger of the local animal world gives you the clue that the work here is more in cooperation with nature than against it. The effort made in the vineyard to obtain healthy and well balanced grapes is thus optimised in the cellar for the vinification and maturing of genuine wines. And it is that effort, and no little skill, that has produced these two beauties. And more.


Domaine de Brau PURE Pinot Noir, Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2015, 14%, €16.60 Mary Pawle Wines

This organic wine is part of the winery’s PURE range, started in 2006. Other single varietals include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah along with Viognier, Egiodola, Petit Verdot, and Fer Servadou. Some unusual grapes there!

It has a lovely ruby colour, a degree darker than usual. Aromas are more raspberry than strawberry, herbal hints too. More like cherry on the palate, a full and generous mouthfeel, tannins still in play as this approachable wine, more supple than some Pinot Noirs, moves to a long finalé.  The Languedoc may not be the usual place for Pinot Noir but this is a winner all the way and Very Highly Recommended.

By the way, love the brevity of the winery's summation: griottes, ample, et généreux. 

Domaine de Brau Chardonnay, Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2011, 13.5%, €16.50 Mary Pawle Wines


This lightly oaked 100% Chardonnay organic wine has a lovely bright gold colour. The aromas are of white fruit, honey and spice notes too. It is rich and round, with an almost creamy mouthfeel; there are fresh tropical fruit flavours in a beautiful elegant wine with a long dry finish. Surprisingly very good indeed and Very Highly Recommended. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Saturday is Cabernet Day. Two to enjoy!


Saturday is Cabernet Day
Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for nearly 65% of the vines planted in the Margaux appellation. “It gives wine structure, bouquet, and a potential to age.”

The related Cabernets, Franc and Sauvignon, celebrate their day this coming Saturday (September 3rd).

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most famous red wine grape. It is highly adaptable, will grow in different climates and soils. So expect good quality examples from many countries, especially from France (mainly Bordeaux), USA (California), Australia (below) and Chile (Cono Sur’s Silencio is a prime example, if an expensive one). Good Cabernet Sauvignon can pop in from anywhere, including from Craggy Range in New Zealand and Ernie Els in South Africa.

It is also a very well-known variety so its name on a bottle means that the customer has a familiarity with it and that gives the marketing people an immediate edge. No wonder it  sells well in so many countries.

But you still have to be careful. It is a high-yielding vine and that means producers can go for quantity over quality! So the words Cabernet Sauvignon on the label are not a guarantee of a good bottle. The two below though are good!

Cabernet Sauvignon originated in Bordeaux and is grown all around the region, invariably blended (though there is no universal formula for the mix). Regular blend partners are Merlot and Cabernet Franc and sometimes a little Petit Verdot is added.

DNA profiling (should we all get it done? Maybe not!) has confirmed Cabernet Franc is the daddy of Cabernet Sauvignon and that Sauvignon Blanc is the mammy.


Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Victoria (AUS), 13.5%, €18.25 Wines Direct

For decades now, Australian has been associated with top class Cabernet Sauvignon. Margaret River in the west has outstanding examples. Our excellent example comes from the east, from the Nagambie Lakes region of central Victoria, one of the nation’s premier viticultural areas. Since 2012, Tahbilk Winery has been certified Carbon Neutral.

Nothing neutral about this violet beauty though. Blackcurrants, and some spice, feature in the pleasant aromas. Some serious flavours on a well rounded palate, tannins are fine and the finish is good. A excellent example indeed and Very Highly Recommended.

Lalaurie T’Wines Cabernet Sauvignon - Syrah, Pays d’Oc (IGT), 2015, 13.5%, €11.75 Wines Direct

Once upon a time, according to Grapes and Wine (2015), the classic Bordeaux blend included Syrah. This blend is very popular nowadays in Australia but the one we’ve got comes from much nearer home, from the Languedoc.

Bit wary of these funny wine names, this one coming because the two leading women in the winery are twins (and one is a marketing expert!). But I needn’t have worried. This is a very engaging wine and good value to boot.

It has a bright ruby colour and the aromas are mainly of blackcurrant. It is very approachable, medium bodied, well balanced between fruit and acidity, minimum tannin presence. Not the longest but a decent finish nonetheless. Easy drinking and easy to Recommend!


Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Superb French Chardonnay. And Meet Karwig’s Italians

A Superb French Chardonnay.
And Meet Karwig’s Italians


Château Martinolles Chardonnay Limoux (AOC) 2014, 13.5%, €19.65 Karwig Wines

A superb wine from an intriguing historical Languedoc area. The Saint-Hilaire monastery actually used to adjoin the property, and it was there in 1531, that the method for making sparkling wines was discovered.

The fruit, one hundred per cent Chardonnay, is hand-harvested from old vines and is aged for 9 months in oak barrels (one-third new and two-thirds aged), a mixture of French and American oak. It is light gold in colour and you should find white fruits (quince and particularly lime) in the aromas. It is very impressive on the palate, intense in flavour and with a balancing acidity, elegant with a long finalé. A very pleasant surprise indeed and Very Highly Recommended.



Selvapiana Chianti Rufina (DOCG) 2013, 13%, €23.50 Karwig Wines
This a bright ruby from the organic vineyards of Selvapiana. Ripe red fruits in the aromas. On the palate, it is vibrant, ripe and juicy, some spice too, tannins just about in play, a refreshing acidity. It is medium to full bodied, rather elegant, lively and long, rather moreish and Highly Recommended. Try it with pasta, steak and pork chops.


Rufina is one of the sub zones of Chianti. The usual advice is to buy your Chianti from Chianti Classico, the name given to wines from the original historic boundaries. But Wine Folly writes: Both Chianti Classico and Chianti Rufina are likely to be of higher quality, since they are made in smaller quantities from distinct historical areas. This Rufina certainly underlines that point.


Caldora Colle dei Venti Pecorino, Terre di Chieti (IGT) 2015, 13%, €16.70 Karwig Wines


Okay. I haven't lost my marbles! I am talking about a wine, not the famous sheep's cheese of Italy. The Pecorino grape is so called because a bunch resembles a sheep’s head. That’s the winery's story. Another is that the bunches are a favourite treat for the sheep. Wine-Searcher.com says: Pecorino cheese is, coincidentally, a surprisingly good food match for Pecorino wine.


Making wine from native vines is a “point of pride” for Caldora. This hilltop vineyard overlooks a beach (Lido Riccio); on the summer nights, the fresh sea breeze allows a thermal range “fundamental for the complex aromatic structure of the wine”.


Color is quite a light straw yellow. White fruit aromas, herbal hints too, even a slight whiff of liquorice; fresh and crisp, dry and minerally, with excellent acidity and a  persistent finish. Recommended.


Conte Loredan Gasparini Cabernet Sauvignon, Montello E Colli Asolani (DOC) 2014, 13%, €17.25, Karwig Wines.


Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted vine in the area of Montello, a small hill 30 miles north of Venice. Half of this is aged in big oak barrels, half in stainless steel.


The colour is purple, deep and dark and there are blackcurrant aromas with hints of herb. Straight away on the palate you'll notice its freshness, its fruit flavours and then that lovely acidity (food is a welcome accompaniment here!). Tannins are fine and the finish is lengthy. This warm and soft wine is Highly Recommended.




Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Laurent Miquel. Blending Tradition And Innovation

Laurent Miquel
Blending Tradition And Innovation
Lagrasse
Near the ancient village of Lagrasse, 30 kilometres south east of Carcassonne and south of the A61 (Autoroute de Deux Mers), you will find Les Auzines, a vineyard owned by Laurent Miquel and his Irish wife Neasa.   Les Auzines, in the Corbieres appellation and organically farmed since the 1990s, is the place where Laurent’s family “will share its passion of the vines to future generations”.

The hill-top fort at Ensérune, not too far from Miquel's Beziers vineyard,
 was occupied continuously, including by the Romans,
 from the 6th century BC to the beginning of the first century AD.
The Miquels are best known, to date, for their Cazal Viel vineyard, not too far from Beziers and in the Saint Chinian appellation. This superb terroir was first planted by Roman warriors during the construction of Via Domitia, the ancient road that ran along the south through Narbonne.

Laurent and Neasa, a Dubliner, got married in 2007 after a long courtship (11 years!). Before and since, she has been busy on the marketing side and has opened up new avenues for the excellent wines of the two estates.  I certainly enjoyed the three below and there are others available.

Via Domitia, preserved  in Narbonne centre

Laurent Miquel Albarino 2014 (Vin de France, Lagrasse), 13%, €15.00, Dunnes Stores

I didn't mention Spain in the preamble but the limestone soils coupled with a uniquely cool microclimate and access to water makes Les Azines the perfect place for this audacious Albarino project by the innovative Laurent.

According to Laurent, this is a “repatriation”: Albarino was first brought to the Galicia region of Spain by the French monks from Cluny along the fabled route of Santiago de Compostela many centuries ago.

Forget the history for a moment and let us taste this light and bright gold wine with its aromas of citrus fruit and floral notes too. Crisp and dry and lively, terrific minerality, no shortage of refreshing fruit with a good long finish. A great match for seafood. This elegant wine is Very Highly Recommended and one to watch for the future!



Laurent Miquel Père et Fils Chardonnay Viognier 2014 (IGP Pays d’Oc), 13%, €12.00 Dunnes Stores


This blend has the colour of bright honey with very pleasant peach-y aromas, some floral notes too. There are fresh fruit flavours with a lively refreshing mouthfeel and this very agreeable wine has quite a finish as well. This is a gorgeous blend of Chardonnay (65%) and Viognier (35%). 

The Miquels are regarded as leading growers of Viognier and, though it is in the minority in the bottle, it plays quite a role. Impressed and Very Highly Recommended. This wine is ideal for pre-dinner drinks, salads, all types of seafood or poultry dishes.

Laurent Miquel Père et Fils Syrah 2014 (IGP Pays d’Oc), 13%, €9.00, Dunnes Stores

Syrah is another of the grapes that the Miquel family specialises in and this is  a good example. Colour is purple and there are aromas of rich dark red fruits, spices notes too. It is smooth, fruity and spicy on the palate, fine tannins, excellent balance plus a persistent finalé. Well made (cool nights and long sunny days help), well priced and Highly Recommended. A natural for your rack of lamb!

All pics (c) Billy Lyons