Archive for July, 2008

Wine Tasting

South of France Tasting

Just ran my first tutored tasting under the appropriate theme of South of France. A tasting of 8 wines from around the Languedoc-Roussillon backed up with plenty of visuals of the vineyards, locations and profiles of the people behind the wines.

I am often asked how I choose wines for the tastings and my response is always the same. Firstly they have to be good wines, not necessarily super expensive, just made with care and with a desire to express and encapsulate the spirit of their location. Secondly, all the wines are from producers I have visited. Essential to understand the location, method of working and general philosophy. Finally, all the wines are from people I like and respect. Every good wine has a great story behind it and the tastings are much more meaningful when you can communicate the personal and historical context.

For the record the wines tasted were as follows :

Blanquette de Limoux 2006 Rives-Blanques. Always good to start a tasting with some fizz and this wine from Jan and Caryl Panman sets the perfect tone.

Picpoul de Pinet Beauvignac 2007. A 4€ wine from the Cave Cooperative in Pomerols. Crisp, clean, refreshing from the vineyards bordering the Etang de Thau. Cried out for a plate of oysters !

Le Ciste Blanc 2006 Cotes du Roussillon, Domaine Laguerre. Rolle 30%, Marsanne 20%, Roussanne 20%, Grenache Blanc 20%, Maccabeo 10%. One of the most expensive wines of the tasting and the one which divided people the most. Half the assembled tasters loved the layers of flavour, depth and clear, balanced structure of the wine. The other half found the oak too obtrusive.

L’Archet Rose 2007 Vdp , Domaine Gayda. A well balanced, vibrant rose from the host domaine. Not too heavy on the colour or the extraction, very few bothered to reach for the spittoons on this one.

“Paysage” Coteaux du Languedoc 2006, Mas Plan de l’Om. 85% Carignan from the schist based soils of the Terrasses de Larzac. Made by former pharmacist and round the world yachtsman, Joel Foucou. Perfumed with immaculate balance, it demonstrates how you can make wines with real class without reaching for the sledgehammer.

Minervois GSM 2006 Chateau la Bouscade. A mathematically symmetrical blend of 1/3 each of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre from my favourite Languedoc “garagiste” David Cowderoy. A dense, silky style with emphasis on ripeness, accessibility and a real desire to please.

“Les Bartelles” La Clape 2006, Mas du Soleilla. The biggest red of the tasting both in concentration and alcohol (14.5%). More Newfoundland than Rottweiler, a wine of undoubted power and pedigree but with masterful restraint and subtlety.

Banyuls Parcé Frères 2006, La Rectorie. Many people’s favourite wine of the tasting and one that didn’t disappoint. Mostly Grenache Noir with a liberal inclusion of Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc. So difficult to harvest the 3 different varieties separately that they just throw them all in together ! These VDN (Vins Doux Naturels) wines are always popular when tasted – just need to work out how to translate this to commercial success.

A lively session throughout with plenty of comments, observations and discussion. At the end of the tasting everyone agreed that they had discovered something new and most importantly left with a good impression of the region’s wines. Un bon départ.


Up and Running

Four weeks since setting up the company and after countless meetings with Accountants, the Chamber of Commerce and other bureaucratic organisations, we’re off !

It feels great to actually to get started and finally bring a long held dream to fruition. My first event at Vinécole was a tasting at a dinner for over 60 delegates staying at the domaine for a conference on the ‘Heart in Business”. A rather appropriate title as this is what my new venture is all about.

I presented 4 wines which encapsulate for me the richness and diversity of the Languedoc/Roussillon and show, particularly to those who had never visited this wonderful place, what the region can offer. All were from the 2006 vintage :

Blanquette de Limoux – Rives-Blanques. 90% Mauzac. Lively, fruity, elegant, with real finesse. You can see why Dom Perignon took the secret back to Champagne.

Mas Champart Blanc St Chinian. Less than 1% of this region’s wines is made as AOC blanc, but it’s really worth seeking them out. It’s the constant ability to surprise that really excites me about the Languedoc/Roussillon and this wine certainly does that. A blend of Grenache blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Bourboulenc. Who could fail to be intrigued with a line-up like that ?

Domaine de la Rectorie – Coté Montagne AOC Collioure. The red wine of the evening, sumptuous but with a vibrant streak of stone-filled minerality . A blend of 5 different varieties, trumping even the white. For those interested – 30% Grenache, 30% Counoise (surely one of the few outposts of this rare cépage outside Chateauneuf), 27% Carignan, 12% Syrah, 11% Mourvèdre. A triumph of man over topography from some of the steepest and most breathtaking vineyards to be found anywhere.

Late Harvest Chateau La Bouscade Vin de Pays d’Oc. 60% Maccabeo and 40% Vermentino from almost 100% Botrytis berries, harvested one month later than normal. Made by owner and winemaker David Cowderoy – a garagiste in the literal sense (his garage is his winery !) Unctuous, concentrated with 198g/l residual sugar supported by a backbone of rapier-like acidity, this wine was considered the best value of the whole evening. When asked the price, many considered it to be 30€+. To find out it’s staggeringly good value at 10€ will find many beating a path to the door of this emerging Minervois domaine.

A really fun evening and a great way to start the new business. With wines like this to work with, it should be a ball !