Thursday, 1 September 2011

The King of Spain, Languedoc-Roussillon, Cahors and other stuff

It's been so long since my last post that I'd almost forgotten how to do it!   Where to start?  Earlier in the year I was invited by Imbibe Magasine to join a team tasting Spanish wines.  The full article can be found here.  At the tasting I met Sam Walton the Art Editor of Square Meal Publications.  He very kindly gave me this photograph of me at work at the tasting.  Sam is a great photographer as you will see in Imbibe, he manages to capture the atmosphere of the events perfectly.

More recently I was invited down to Malypere, a small village outside of Cahor to the wedding of my dear friends Jacques and Annie.  Signing copies of The Market Restaurant Cookbook on a terrace over breakfast on the day of the wedding was quite an experience.  The following day they had arranged a tasting of eau de vie at the Distillerie artisanale Jean Delpont  Jean Delpont has been in the business for more than 60 years and carefully selectsonly the best local fruits for his products.  I managed to bring back a few bottles to the delight of some of our regular customers but I'm afraid they are almost empty now!

Restaurant Supervisor Dan Melling got through to the Regional Final of the Sommellier of the Year Competition.  He had to complete a gruelling question paper and then compete in a tasting.  We were proud that he entered and got so far.  I am keen to support all staff in their aspirations, particularly when it has value to the business.  Most of the entrants were more than twice his age with lots more experience.  The breadth and depth of the knowledge required to be a Sommellier

Our August tasting featured Languedoc-Roussillon is a large and diverse wine region in the south of France, covering an area from Nimes and Montpellier in the east, arcing around the Golf of Lyon to reach as far as the Spanish border in the south.  The wines were sourced by and can be obtained from Origin Wines.

As suggested by the double-barreled name, Languedoc-Roussillon is in fact two independent wine regions, Languedoc and Roussillon, each with its own distinguishable style and character. Geography and culture separate them from one another, while commerce and wine politics have enduringly served to group them together. While Languedoc is quintessentially French in character, the strong influences of Spanish and Catalan culture are clear across Roussillon. Where Languedoc's vineyards are mostly located on coastal plains, those of Roussillon are either perched on cliff tops or nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The two regions have been treated as a single unit so often, and for such a significant period of wine history that it is now difficult to separate them from one another.
Soil types and terroir vary across the region as much as the topography, making it hard to collectively describe them. A large proportion of the land here is garrigue (the quintessential southern French landscape of dry, low-lying scrubland on limestone soils) but there are also areas of slightly higher- altitude terrain in the far south and around the Montagne Noire in the north. Overall it is a hot, dry region, with a definitively Mediterranean climate.

The region is showing significant progress in the quality of the wines that it produces. The rustic style of wines traditionally produced here was not sufficient to ensure continued commercial success. Emerging styles, innovative producers, and revived viticultural areas are now bringing fresh life to the region. 

Disastrous Brussels subsidies meant that the best hillside vines were being dug out. It had to be stopped. For as the old vines disappeared, the typically Languedocien vineyards were being submerged in a wave of standardised mediocrity which was swamping the world wine markets at the end of the last century.

The Moulin de Gassac range sprang from this battle and the partnership of two Languedoc villages, Puilacher near the river Herault, and Villeveyrac, to be found in a splendid amphitheatre overlooking the Mediterranean and the port of Sète. Both terroirs incarnate the character of the area, producing traditional wines drenched in the Languedoc sun.

Moulin de Gassac wines produce a symphony of aromas which reflect the individuality of the 7000 small parcels of land in which they grow. Seven thousand patches of vines loved, cultivated and fussed over by 800 vignerons ! Truly, each sip of Moulin de Gassac wine wafts the soul of an ancient civilisation to your lips !

The Revue du Vin de France - February 1997 : "Never has there been anything to match this quality at such a reasonable price. The Vins Terrasses are a world apart from soulless international wines, they truly mirror the region."


Soils:  Clay and limestone
Grape varieties: Blend of 40% Grenache Blanc, 30% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Clairette.
Vinification:  100% De-stemmed - Skin maceration of all grape varieties together for 2 to 3 hours in refrigerated tank then vinification under controlled temperatures between 16°C and 21°C.
Maturing:  5 to 6 months in stainless steel tank.
Harvest:  Manual or mechanical.
Alcohol:  12.5 % Vol. Drink within a year after bottling.
Production:  80 000 Bottles.
Appearance:  Attractive clear, bright, pale gold.
Nose:  Powerful and seductive fruity expression.
Mouth:  Good acidity, lively.
Finish:  Full and fresh.


Soils:  Jurassic limestone slopes, clay and flint.
Grape varieties:  Blend of 40% Grenache, 40% Carignan, 20% Syrah.
Vinification:  100% De-stemmed. Bled after 10 to 12 hours maceration of all grape varieties.
Maturing:  5 to 6 months in stainless steel tank.
Harvest:  Manual or mechanical.
Alcohol:  12 % Vol. Drink within 12 months after bottling.
Production:  60 000 bottles.
Appearance:  Lively, vivid rose pink. Some salmon glints.
Nose:  Pleasant, intense with hints of strawberry.
Mouth:  Full and round with aromas of crushed red fruit.
Finish: Splendidly fresh and long: thoroughly “more-ish”.

Soils:  Jurassic limestone slopes; arid and dry.
Grape varieties:  A typical Méditerranéen blend : 40% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 20% de Mourvèdre et 15% Carignan.
Vinification:  100% De-stemmed. All grape varieties mixed together. Maceration 10-12 days between 26°C and 32°C. No filtration.
Maturing:  6 to 7 months in stainless steel tank.
Harvest:  Manual or mechanical.
Alcohol:  13 % Vol. Drink within 3 years after bottling.
Production:  350 000 bottles.
Appearance:  Deep, brilliant red
Nose:  Vinous, complex aromas, with hints of red berries (cherry, blackberry, and strawberry) and spice.
Mouth:  Opens soft and fruity with gentle tannins. Delicate and sophisticated.
Finish:  Long and smooth; a touch rustic reflecting its terroir.

 Corbieres is an important appelation of the Languedoc Roussillion region, Also one of the most productive, large quantities of red and rose wines, and an increasing amount of white wine from its vineyards in the south of the Languedoc.

Red wines are Corbieres' forte, and are famously rich, herb-scented wines, made from Grenache Syrah Mourvedre and Carignan. The rose wines are also well-respected, and are made from the same red varieties combined with Grenache Gris and Picpoul. White wines are also made in the area, although they make up only a few percent of the total output. They are made from a wide selection of varieties, most notably Bourboulenc Grenache Blanc Maccabeu marsanne and Roussanne.

The appellation covers a large, roughly square area 37 miles across, south and west of Narbonne. The terrain and climate, and thus the terroirs here vary considerably, from the Pyrenean foothills in the south and west, to the flatter, lower-lying areas of the coastal plain near Narbonne. Because of this the zone has been divided into various sub-appellations, known as terroirs. These sub-appellations may add their name to that of the Corbieres appellation on labels, the intention being to provide consumers with more precise information about a wine's origins.

Chateau les Ollieux Romanis Corbieres Cuvee Alice 2009

The various estates that make up Chateaux Ollieux Romanis are situated around the village of Monseret in the heart on the Boutenac region of Corbieres (also famed for its local honey) and have been owned and run by the Bories family since the mid-19th Century. The elegant chateau is so called after the local olive trees planted by Romans while the cellars date back to 1896 and are hewn from the estate's quarry. Jacqueline Bories has recently handed the reins to son Pierre who oversees the winemaking and is gradually converting the 130 hectare estate to organics. The approachable 'Alice' is a blend of 70% old-vine Carignan and 30% Grenache Noir.

A youthful dark ruby with a concentrated and powerful nose of plums, blackberries and coffee.  Round and open on the palate with fresh red fruit flavours and a pronounced minerality. The finish is short yet ripe.

Chateau de Jau, Banyuls Rimage, 'Les Clos de Paulilles' 2008 (50cl Bottle)

The vineyards of 'Les Clos de Paulilles' are part of the Chateau de Jau holdings situated at Collioure, a picturesque fishing village on the Mediterranean coast and part of France's southern most AOC. The region produces rare fortified wines packed with ripe, red fruit flavours. Mainly Grenache Noir with a touch of Carignan, Banyuls is sometimes referred to as 'the Frenchman's tawny port' being, as it is, spicy and rich with hints of moccha and green herbs. Great with chocolate or blue cheeses

A very dark ruby-red in colour. Heady aromas of cherries, raisins and stewed red fruits with a touch of spice. On the palate sweet, strong and tart with a long finish redolent with further red fruit flavours of raspberries and plums. Makes for an excellent dessert wine.

Until the next time!