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

Monday, February 15, 2021

A Strongly Recommended French Double

A Strongly Recommended French Double 

Château Petit Roubié Picpoul de Pinet, AC Coteaux du Languedoc 2019, 13%, €14.50 Mary Pawle

Fairly widely available including Organico, Bantry; Mannings, Ballylickey; Field’s Supervalu, Skibbereen; Taste, Castletownbere; Quay Co-Op, Cork City; The Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny; The Connemara Hamper, Clifden; Ardkeen Food Store, Waterford; The Good Food Store (Toon’s Bridge Dairy) Dublin.

Light gold, with faint green reflections, is the colour of this Picpoul. Aromas of the wine are somewhat shy but mainly floral. Crisp on the palate, no shortage of acidity either yet, with white and citrus fruit on the palate and its excellent mouthfeel, it is more harmonious than you’d expect for the grape. Dry for sure, especially towards the finish, and obviously an excellent match for oysters and shellfish (which are abundant in the area).  Serve at about 8 degrees for best results. I think this is even better than the previous vintage, so Very Highly Recommended.

Importer Mary Pawle says it is often referred to as the Muscadet of the South. Indeed, you’ll almost certainly come across Picpoul more than Muscadet on Irish restaurant lists these days.

The Picpoul is grown on a clay-limestone terroir not far from the large Thau lake, on the edge of the Med. While regarded as a lake, it has very high salinity.

Château Petit Roubié has been practising organic farming since 1985. Floriane and Olivier Azan have owned the estate since 1981 and have developed, thanks to a judicious choice of winemaking, a very attractive range indeed. Their lands are in a historic area; if you visit, you can still see vestiges of the Via Domitia (the Roman road) in their scrubland. And those Roman engineers were building on top of an even older “road”. The wine is presented in a distinctive Neptune bottle though that, as far as I know, has nothing to do with the Roman god of the sea.

Emmanuel Giboulot “En Grégoire” Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes De Nuits (AOC) 2017, 12%, 

€41.00 New to the range but available online at Mary Pawle

This light and perfumed biodynamic 2017 Burgundy, mid to dark ruby in colour, has plenty of berries in the aromas. The attack is fresh with lots of fruit coming on strong, more gentle as the smooth finish is reached and fine tannins dry the lips. Very Highly Recommended.

The producers confidently assure us that "En Grégoire" "can accompany a beautiful plate of cold meats, grilled meats, a dish

exotic. Its complexity will do wonders."

An excellent Pinot Noir then. Par for the course in these parts, you might well say. Except that, as recently as 2014, this winemaker Emmanuel Giboulot was fined and threatened with a jail term for sticking to his principles.  He was convicted for refusing a government order to spray crops with pesticides, following fear over an outbreak of golden rot, only to have the decision reversed on appeal.

Emmanuel met the problem of agricultural practices and its impact on wine and human health head on - Prison rather than poison - and is now a prominent advocate for organic and biodynamic viticulture. His wines reflect his principles and the widely acknowledged exceptional Burgundy terroir.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

A French Red and White. Each Very Highly Recommended.

A French Red and White. Each Very Highly Recommended. 

De Brau Pure Pinot Noir Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2018, 13.5%, €16.60 Mary Pawle

A very approachable Pinot Noir with good body and length. 

That’s how importer May Pawle sums up this Pay D’Oc Pinot Noir and indeed you soon realise why it’s “A real favourite with our customers.”

Colour is a shiny mid to dark ruby. And the aromas, cherry and berry, are just as attractive. The good news continues on the palate with a pleasing mouthfeel and a host of black cherry notes. Very soft tannins too and a long finish. 

The Languedoc may not be the usual place for Pinot Noir but this is a winner all the way and Very Highly Recommended. Which is what I also said about the 2015. Serve at 15 -16°C with grilled vegetables and meat (duck, lamb), poultry, even medium spiced Indian food.

De Brau make full use of the Languedoc's predictable sunshine and the cooling sea breezes. A desirable scenario for growing grapes! 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!

Fessardière “La Gloire De Nos Pères”  Sur Lie Muscadet Sevre et Maine (AOC) 2016, 12%, €18.25 Mary Pawle

The outward signs are good with this wine from the vineyards of Nantes, a city where many an Irish driver got lost in the early days of Brittany Ferries.

It was around here too that many of us made our first acquaintance with Muscadet, usually from the bottom shelf or, perhaps more daringly, from the one just above it. And then we had so much of it (and Gros Plant, which also needs lees to improve its character), we went off it. Bit by bit though, we began to realise there was really good Muscadet and many of them had the magic words “Sur Lie” on the label.

This one has those two words and a beautiful golden colour. Gorgeous aromas too, melon, muted aniseed, floral notes. An amazing concentration on the palate, sharp pineapple, more rounded apricot, and a salty acidity too. And that enlivening fresh and fruity combination tango all the way to a persistent finish. Second glass appeal? You bet. Second shelf for this one? I think you could safely go a little higher. Very Highly Recommended.

This is relatively new to the Mary Pawle portfolio (though she has some other excellent Muscadet from the same producers). “There is more than a hint of the briny Atlantic Ocean in this full bodied wine. Ideally open a short while before serving and you will be well rewarded.”

The label advises much the same: Open one hour in advance, serve 10-12 degrees. It pairs well with fish, spicy white meats, and apéritifs gourmands. Domaine de la Fessardière is located in the west of Loire Valley in the heart of the vineyard of Nantes City. The 25 hectares domain is essentially planted with Melon de Bourgogne grape variety, the grape used to produce Muscadet. Since 1997 vine growing has been following organic methods.  

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Two Lovely Whites from the southern half of France

Two Lovely Whites from
 the southern half of France

Terroir Feely “Luminosité” 2016, 13.5%, €19.00 Mary Pawle

The fruit for Luminosité is grown and the wine’s bottled by Sean and Caro Feely in Saussignac in Bergerac (next door to Bordeaux). They pack a fair bit of info onto the label: Vin de France sec, Sauvignon blanc 50%, Semillon 50%, zesty fruit, luminosity of nature, organic and biodynamic, hand-harvested, indigenous yeast, unfined, vegan friendly.

Light straw colour. Aromas of quince and gooseberry. Zesty flavours on the palate, quite intense, with a pleasant astringency, lovely mouthfeel too (has this been on its lees for a spell?), and a persistent finish. What’s not to like?

This Irish-South African couple “are passionate about the environment” and I think you can taste the difference here, without any funky stuff in either aroma or flavour. Highly Recommended. Find out more about the Feelys here - they have quite a lot to offer if you are visiting the area. 

Jacques Frelin “La Marouette” Chardonnay Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2018, 13%, €13.30 Mary Pawle

Colour of this organic Chardonnay from the South of France is a light straw. Pleasant floral aromas of modest intensity. This is a fresh one, peach and citrus flavours with a lively acidity to help at the table. Ideal as an aperitif or with a few grilled sardines. The label also indicates a match with shellfish and sole meuniere. Serve at 8-10 degrees for best results. 

For over thirty years now, Jacques Frelin has been at the forefront of the organic wine movement in France. While organic is often associated with small, this is not the case with Frelin who has vineyards all over the country including the Languedoc where this wine comes from, “very popular with our customers” says importer Mary Pawle and I can see why. Highly Recommended. Well priced too.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Two French Pinot Noirs to Enjoy!

Two French Pinot Noirs to Enjoy!
Very Highly Recommended

Pinot Noir, the great red grape of Burgundy, has put down roots in many parts of the world. The World Atlas of Wine says “its perfect place on earth is Burgundy’s Côte D’Or”. Good examples too from New Zealand and Oregon and, closer to home in Germany (3rd largest grower of the grape in the world) and Alsace (now helped a bit by global warming). Our first example here is, surprisingly enough, from the Languedoc but from a high cool vineyard there.

While you mostly see Pinot Noir on its own in the bottle, it is a key part of Champagne where it blends so well with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. And even here, it goes solo with Blancs de Noir, such as Krug's Clos d'Ambonnay and Bollinger's Vieilles Vignes Francaises.

No bubbles below through, just a couple of excellent still wines, much less expensive than the champagnes mentioned above. Enjoy!

La Boussole Pinot Noir Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2018, 12.5%, €14.45 64 Wine DublinBradley’s of CorkGreenman DublinLe Caveau Kilkenny

La Boussole (compass)

Mid ruby is the colour of this Pinot from the south of France. Fresh aromas (wild strawberries). Light and lively, with a superb backbone of pure red fruit flavours, smooth and gentle, just the merest grip from the sleek tannins on the way to a fine finish. Highly Recommended and excellent value also.

Matches suggested by importers Le Caveau are mushroom risotto, lamb shank or even scallops in a mushroom and cream sauce. 

They also say the grapes for La Boussole Pinot Noir are grown on chalky marl soils in the Aude region near Limoux and are manually harvested. These cool vineyards in the Languedoc hills mean that you don’t get the highly ripened grapes and the subsequent high abv and big flavours you might expect. Enjoy. Not quite Burgundy but not a bad sub either, especially when you consider the price.

Like many of the light reds, it may be served slightly chilled, especially during the summer.

J-C Regnaudot Pinot Noir Bourgogne (AOC) '17 13%, 

Colour is a bright mid ruby. Pleasing red fruit aromas don’t really prepare you for the vibrant presence in the mouth, intense flavours of black cherries and red berries, juicy acidity also, deep, silky and elegant, well-balanced and a terrific example of why Didier Regnaudot was elected Hachette Guide Winemaker of the Year for 2018. This classic, made from old vines in the traditional way and using organic principles, is Very Highly Recommended.
Le Caveau: Ideal with white meats, chicken and charcuterie. I think it has enough character for steak and light game dishes.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Impressive Whites from the Languedoc and Bergerac. Fruity, French and Fabulous.

Well-known in Bergerac!
Impressive Whites from
 the Languedoc and Bergerac

Château Petit Roubié Picpoul de Pinet, AC Coteaux du Languedoc 2018, 12.5%, €14.10 Mary Pawle

Picpoul de Pinet is becoming a star wine, according to Grapes and Wines (2015). 

Picpoul is the grape name and it is found in the Languedoc and the best of it seems to be from the village of Pinet, on the edge of the Med and about 90 minutes east of Carcassonne. It is a very old grape variety and the name means lip—stinger (after its high acidity).

It has a pale gold colour. Aromatic for sure - citrus, melon and floral. Rounded and abundant fruit flavour (apple, lime, grapefruit), generous mouthfeel (close to creamy), a perky acidity and a decent finish. Highly Recommended and Very Highly Recommended with seafood. Serve at 8 degrees seems to be the official line but mine is one or two below that!

Importer Mary Pawle introduces this 2018 as a dry white, with a green-gold hue. Crisp and apple-y. “Often referred to as the Muscadet of the South, it is excellent with oysters and most shellfish.”

Château Petit Roubié has been practising organic farming since 1985. Floriane and Olivier Azan have owned the estate since 1981 and have developed, thanks to a judicious choice of winemaking, a very attractive range indeed. 

Their lands are in a historic area; if you visit, you can still see vestiges of the Via Domitia (the Roman road) in their scrubland. And those Roman engineers were building on top of an even older “road”. The wine, I’ve read, is presented in a Neptune bottle though that, as far as I know, has nothing to do with the Roman god of the sea.

Terroir Feely “Sincérité” Vin de France 2018, 13.5%, €22.20 Mary Pawle

You find out much about this 100% Sauvignon Blanc, in shorthand, on the label: Zesty fruit. Memories of the sea. Sincerity of nature. Hand-harvested. Indigenous yeast. Unfined. Vegan friendly. Organic. Biodynamic. Demeter.

In the glass, it has quite a light straw yellow. Gooseberry and citrus feature in the aromas. Lively and zesty attack, amazing flavours (more or less tracking the aromas) from then right through to the long finish, flavours are not at all extreme though, and with matching acidity, all’s in harmony here. A delicious refreshing wine, with minerality, perhaps from the limestone soil, and Highly Recommended!

Chateau Feely is in Saussignac (well-known for its sweet wines) in the Bergerac region but its wines are labelled ‘Terroir Feely’ because most Feely organic, biodynamic and natural wines are bottled under the ‘Vin de France’ label and in France, Feely tell us the word ‘Chateau’ is reserved for AOC wines.  “Since vintage 2014 our wines fit the natural wine standard defined by SAINS a French natural wine association”.

Why is it called Sincérité? “A pure Sauvignon Blanc originally named ‘sincere’ as a play on words with Sancerre due to the minerality and the pure Sauvignon Blanc character. It is a wine that is direct and acidic with a purity and freshness that is like sincerity.”

Serve at 7°-8°C with Fish and seafood, Fresh goat cheese and Salads.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Excellent Languedoc Blend and Portugal's "Best White Grape"

Esprit de Crès Ricards Marsanne-Roussanne Pays d’OC (IGP) 2017, 13%, €14.50 Karwig Wine

This Esprit is part of a series made by Crès Ricards from local grapes. I’ve always liked these two, either solo or in a blend (as is the case here) and that’s why I bought this in Karwig’s. It is 70% Marsanne.

Colour is a mid-straw, bright and clear. White fruit and floral notes on the nose. Intense and lasting flavours, passionfruit and honeysuckle, make this a pleasant experience from rich and fresh attack to the apricot affected finalé. Highly Recommended.

Interestingly, one of the suggested pairings is blue cheese. Maybe not that surprising anymore. In Matt Kramer’s book, True Taste (2015), he wrote: “…. increasingly, the most serious lovers of cheese choose white wines over red. This would have astounded our wine- and cheese-loving forebears.” 

The winery suggests seafood, fish, poultry dishes and, yes, blue cheese, and also as an aperitif.

As you probably know, Karwig's are closing their business in Carrigaline and a closing-down sale is in progress. You may well get this one at a better price than above.

Casa de Mouraz Encruzado Dáo (DOC) 2016, 13%, €21.00 Mary Pawle

In 1997, Casa de Mouraz became the first biodynamic winery in the Dao. Portuguese grapes aren't that well known individually in this country. Encruzado, the grape here, is “potentially the best white grape of the DAO” according to Grapes and Wine. Barrel fermentation and lees stirring help bring out the character. It is indigenous and regarded as the most important white grape in the region and this particular wine has had eight months on fine lees with batonage.

The first thing you’ll note is that the cork is covered with a wax. Just remove that with the blade on your corkscrew. It is fairly soft but be careful!

Colour is a mid-straw. Aromas of medium intensity recall white fruits and citrus, floral notes too. Fresh fruit flavours (apricot, peach), excellent mouthfeel, acidity enough to nudge it towards crisp and a decent citrus-y finish too. Highly Recommended.

Food pairing: Oven baked fish (such as codfish, salmon or tuna). Also very good with white meat and some vegetarian dishes like pasta with pesto or cheese sauces. Aside from handling full flavoured fish dishes (also the Portuguese favourite bacalao), it is excellent on its own. very versatile indeed.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wines from New Zealand and France via Le Caveau and Mary Pawle

Wines from New Zealand and France
 via Le Caveau and Mary Pawle

Pebble Dew Pinot Noir Marlborough 2017, 13.5%, €24.95  Le Caveau

“A real drinking pleasure” is how Le Caveau describe this Pinot Noir from New Zealand. They have been trying to source a Kiwi supplier for Pinot and Sauvignon Blanc for a while and reckon Pebble Dew is the answer.

It has one of the lightest red colours you’ll see, very close to rosé. The red fruit aromas are packed with promise. And the fruit delivers well on the palate, supple and juicy, right to the refreshing finalé, with a touch of tannin, evident on the top of the lips. It is a light and lively wine for summer, has a bit more going for it than the Sauvignon Blanc.  Highly Recommended.

Pebble Dew Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2018, 13.5%, €20.95  Le Caveau

Colour of the Pebble Dew Sauvignon is a very light straw. Aromatic too with white stone fruit and lime in the mix. Gets more citrus-y on the palate, the lively fruit matched with acidity. Pleasant and easy drinking. Nice aperitif and should go well with seafood and salads. Recommended.

Château de Bastet “Aeris” Côtes du Rhone 2015, 13%, €15.20 Mary Pawle

Generally, white Côtes du Rhone have a clear and crisp appearance, with a floral and fruit bouquet and a well balanced palate. This “Aeris”, organic and biodynamic, certainly fits that description. Serve at 8 to 10 degrees and it is the perfect match to grilled fish, shellfish, fish stew and goat cheeses. Salad Nicoise too.

Château de Bastet decided to go biodynamic in 1997. This 2015 is a blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. Other white grapes permissible in the region are Clairette, Bourboulenc, Ugni Blanc too and Picpoul.

It is light straw in colour. And there is a nice mix of aromas, floral along with pear and peach. Smooth with good depth of flavour and a pleasant finish. Highly Recommended and, by the way, well priced.

Chateau Petit Roubié Picpoul de Pinet (AOP) 2018, 13%, €13.80 Mary Pawle

A dry white from the Languedoc region near the Med in the south of France. Mary Pawle tells me this grape, Picpoul de Pinet, is often referred to as the Muscadet of the South and is excellent with oysters and most shellfish. And that’s confirmed by the label recommending fruits de mer, coquillages et crustacés, with a serving temperature of 8 degrees.

It has a mid-yellow colour with green tints. Aromatic for sure - citrus, melon and floral. Rounded and abundant fruit flavour (lime, grapefruit), generous mouthfeel (close to creamy), a perky acidity and a decent finish. Highly Recommended.

Picpoul is the grape and Wine-Searcher says this Picpoul de Pinet is its most famous incarnation. “The variety's ability to keep its acidity even in a hot, Mediterranean climate makes it the perfect choice for the region, making taut, full-bodied white wines with herbal and citrus aromas.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Different Worlds but Two Superb Red Wines

Different Worlds but Two Super Red Wines

Domaine Sainte Croix Celèstra Corbieres (AOC) 2013, 14.5%, €29.50 Mary Pawle Wines

Sainte Croix in the Languedoc is owned and run by the English husband and wife team of Jon and Elizabeth Bowen, who have extensive experience of working both in classic French stone ‘caves’ and giant, steel wineries in many parts of the world. From first sight of the unique geology and ‘climat’ here, professional intuition made it clear that it is an area of immense potential, a potential they consistently realise in their wines and illustrated well in this Celèstra, a blend of 50% Grenache (from 1968 vines) and 50% Syrah (from 1984 vines).

It is a dark red, verging on purple; legs are slow to clear, confirming the big alcohol count. Intense dark fruits (plums, blackberries) on the nose, Intense too on the palate, concentrated red and black fruits, spice prominent too. Tannins also in the mix as this attractive wine finishes long and well. Very Highly Recommended.

The name Celèstra is taken from an Occitan word for blue (origin latin caelum, meaning sky. . .). “As a wine with a highly Languedocian profile, it could be said to be from ‘le grand bleu’.” It is an organic wine, unfined, unfiltered. It has been 100% matured sur lie in 300 litre barrels (3-5 fill) for 18 months. Blended and returned to tank for 6 months before bottling. Enjoy!

El Abasto Malbec Mendoza (Argentina) 2017, 13.5%, €16.95 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

This vibrant fruity full-bodied wine is named after an 1983 established market that became also a centre for tango, poetry, and culture.

Colour is a mid to dark ruby. Lots of rich red and darker fruit, plus a touch of violet, in the aromas. Juicy and lively, full-bodied, a touch of spice, exceptionally smooth all the way to the excellent finish. Now where’s that steak? Also just the job with selection of charcuterie, cold cuts, firm cheeses, burgers, pasta with red sauce. Versatile is the word! This young very approachable wine is Very Highly Recommended. And it can be served chilled, though you probably won’t need to do that at this time of year!

There are, according to Wines of South America, two main factors that help Malbec thrive in Mendoza. The low rainfall (12” as against 30” Bordeaux) and its timing, falling mostly in the summer, promotes ripening and minimises desease. Second, Mendoza’s wide thermal amplitude (put simply, the difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures) promotes aromatic development and softened tannins.

Monday, September 24, 2018

SuperValu Freshen Up Wine Offering. Two Whites and a Super Red

SuperValu Freshen Up Wine Offering
Two Whites and a Superb Red

Regular wine shoppers at SuperValu will have noticed many new “faces” on the wine shelves. Quite a few have eye-catching labels and Kevin O’Callaghan, Head of SuperValu Wine, while well aware that you cannot always judge a book by its cover, likes “the label to sing or depict an essence or style in the very wine they are producing. …” He reckons" the art of storytelling will be the next consumer motivator.”

So let us start with a look at three wines, including two whites, from Carcassonne wine exporters LGI Wines.

Duo de Mers Sauvignon Blanc Viognier (Vin de France) 2017, 12%, €11.99

The label here sees two fish, one heading in a directly opposite direction to the other, one darker. So what’s the story? The wine goes with fish. True. But look at the wine’s name, referring to two seas. The Sauvignon comes from Atlantic influenced Gascony while the Viognier is sourced in Mediterranean Languedoc. Similarities to Australia here with the fruit coming from different regions.

Sauvignon accounts for 70% of the blend in this pleasant easy drinking light coloured wine; the Viognier adds to the white fruit elements in the aromas. On the palate, the blend is fresh, fruity and smooth. Good value and great for a party. Try it on its own as an aperitif or with shellfish, fish, and salads.

Combeval SCG Grand Cuvée Côtes de Gascogne (IGP) 2017, 11.5%, €11.99 

A relatively plain label on this one, just a selection of curved lines indicating little hills and a few words confirming that it is from the sunny slopes of the south of France. All the fruit - Sauvignon Blanc 60%, Columbard 20% and Gros Manseng 20% - comes from Gascony. Gascony may not often pop up in the wine conversation but it is a producer of lovely fresh white wines and there are many vineyards here and much of the fruit (including Columbard) is used to produce the well-known Armagnac spirit, Gascony’s worthy answer to the Charente’s Cognac.

Colour is light straw and the aromas here are mainly those you’d expect of Sauvignon, herbaceous with fruits (e.g. gooseberry, apple). On the palate, it is well endowed, thanks in part to time on both big and fine lees, a tingly touch too and a good finish, somewhat longer than the Duo above. Again pair with fish and salads and treat yourself to a glass beforehand!

The SCG is a play on the well known GSM of the Rhone and neighbouring areas. Indeed, Supervalu have the Combeval GSM and the red grapes in the blend are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Should be worth a try also.

Dark Apparition Alicante Bouschet Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2017, 12.5%, €12.99

The label shows an ectoplasmic figure trying to break out of its containment unit. The monochrome ghost is, according to the online blurb, apparently trying to express the full body and power of the wine. Really?

Let us move on to the grape itself. Unlike many grapes, this one has a precise birthday. In 1855, Henri Bouschet crossed Grenache Noir with Cabernet Sauvignon and this baby was born and has gone on to prove quite popular, especially in the south of France. Unusually, its pulp is red which enhances the colour. It also provides fatness to the wine. Put it all together and you have a Dark Red Apparition! Really?

Let us move on to the wine itself, let the Alicante materialise! At harvest, the fruit is divided into two sections. Some fruit goes through the modern process of thermal maceration, most is traditionally fermented on skins for three weeks and is then aged for six months with French oak which “adds complexity” providing a full-bodied cuvée when both parts regroup.

Colour is indeed a dark red. Quite a concentrated melange of scents, ripe fruit, floral and vanilla. Smooth and juicy on the palate, concentrated too with initially a slight sweetness, always the merest trace of vanilla, smooth tannins (on the lips), a good dry finish. The Alicante is well and truly out of the bottle and it is an excellent drink. Really!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Trio of Excellent Reds from Mary Pawle Wines

A Trio of Excellent Reds 
from Mary Pawle Wines

According to Ana Fabiano in her 2012 book, The Wine Region of Rioja, you can expect good things from the winemakers of Rioja Baja. Their spirit is “based on enormous reverence for their land, respect for the heritage of their ancestors, and a commitment to carry it forward”. By the way, she mentions Luis Jiménez as one of the producers worth seeking out in the area and we have two of his below.

Ruiz Jiménez Paisajes Rioja (DOC) 2015, 14%, €17.70 Mary Pawle Wines

This organic Rioja is an “edition especial Garnacha 2015”, special because it is 100% Garnacha, not a drop of the customary Tempranillo. It is also rather special as “100% of the creative process is in our own hands.”

It is mid to deep ruby, bright and clear, legs reluctant to clear. Aromas of sweet red fruit, hints too of its season in the oak. Fruity and dry, elegant on the palate, this well balanced wine maintains its smooth power right through to the persistent finish, tannins still a factor. Beautifully reined-in power and Very Highly Recommended.

Pago de Valcaliente Rioja 2015, 14.5%, €26.30 Mary Pawle Wines

This organic wine has a cherry red colour. Fairly intense aromas of dark and red fruit fruits, and a hint of spice. Juicy, fruity and spicy, this young wine with its smooth tannins and balancing acidity is a tasty drop indeed and Highly Recommended.

The Valcaliente vineyard is in the Rioja Baja, one of the three areas of Rioja, and the producer is Luis Jiménez. This wine, a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha, is aged in a concrete egg.

Domaine Bassac Syrah Côtes de Thongue (IGP) 2015, 13.5% €13.25 Mary Pawle Wines.

Produced by a young duo that started working here in the Languedoc in 2014, this Syrah is organic. It has a nice mid ruby colour and a moderately intense nose of blackcurrant. There is a fair concentration of fruit and spice in the palate. 

You’ll come across some much brasher Shiraz but this is a restrained and well-made Syrah, a rounded and a good warm wine and Highly Recommended. Importer Mary Pawle suggests trying it with Lamb Tagine. 

A young enough wine but do not hesitate to open an hour or two in advance and do also decant. Well worth the effort.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Sarabande's GSM. Where Syrah dances on a windy hill. And partners well with Grenache and Mourvedre.

Sarabande's GSM. Where Syrah dances on a windy hill
And partners well with Grenache and Mourvedre.
Isla and Paul, when I
met them in Cork

The Syrah for the wines below is trellised across the top of a windy hill in the Languedoc that was planted with the aid of dynamite. The earth is completely made up of classic blue/grey schist with practically no topsoil. Therefore the rock had to be blown up so that the vines could find some dirt where they could anchor.

Despite these kind of local obstacles, there are more vines growing in the Languedoc than in Australia. Paul Gordon should know. He is Australian and he and his Carlow wife Isla work (and I mean work) the Sarabande vineyard, about twenty minutes drive from Beziers. The rugby-loving couple’s vineyard is called Domaine la Sarabande. 

They met in New Zealand in 2003 and then spent five or six years in wine in Marlborough. In 2009, they settled in France and raised some €40,000 from relations and friends in return for wine in the future. Isla: “There is just the two of us. We are very small; everything is gently worked and done by hand..” 

With so many vineyards in the area, there is much competition locally and so the pair export most of their wine, mainly to English speaking countries. And indeed, those same countries (Ireland, US, Australia and New Zealand) are all happy with the Sarabande screw caps but not so the French. 

Today, working with some unique terroirs and old vineyards treated organically and by hand, the Gordons, according to their importers O’Brien’s, “produce some stunningly good old world wines but with a modern Oz twang”.

Sarabande “Les Rabasses” Faugeres (AP) 2014, 14.5%, €21.45 (got it for 17.16 in sale) O’Brien’s

The aromas of the Faugeres are dominated by black cherries and plums as is this blend. The Syrah, on its exploded base, is trellised across the top of the windy hill. Unlike the Syrah (the dominant grape - about 50% - in this GSM blend), the Grenache and Mourvedre are grown as bush vines. They sit on a south facing slope which is well drained. This is particularly important for the notoriously late ripening Mourvedre variety.

And so it is from this hilltop vineyard that this Les Rabasses comes with its hard-won flavours. Keep it, they say, or drink it now with “equally flavoursome food”. Suggested are: Cold meats/pâtés, Duck, Hard mature cheese, Roast lamb/beef, Slow cooked shoulder of lamb.

Colour is a mid to dark ruby. There are strong aromas of dark fruit, spicy. Fruit forward and deep, power and finesse in equal measure, that spice too, excellent acidity as well; the finish is pure, long and also balanced. Very Highly Recommended.

Sarabande “Misterioso” Faugeres (AP) 2014, 14.5%, 16.95 (13.56 in sale) O’Brien’s 

Sarabande tell us that “bright cherry flavours are the backbone of this cheeky little number…that will invite itself.” Indeed, it is mainly cherry all the way from the colour to the aromas to the dry finalé. A slash of spice too, fine tannins and well balanced acidity add to the easy-drinking enjoyment. Highly Recommended.

The blend this time is mostly Grenache and Syrah with “a small amount of Mourvedre.” Only the best quality fruit survives the sorting stage.