Sunday, 23 October 2016

Domaine des Abournières

I am always thrilled to make a new discovery, and in this instance, one in my own village of Roujan. We tracked down Philippe Gallart in a modern house, on a hillside outside Roujan, just opposite the chapel of St.  Nazaire.   The vintage had finished two days earlier and he was busy washing beines, which probably translates best as the large boxes, or buckets, used for carrying grapes.     Philippe has a welcoming smile, but comes over as quite reserved, and yet he is a man of many talents.  It turned out that he has played rugby for France - there is a photo of him at Cardiff in his cellar - and why is there a saxophone on the label?   Simple; the tenor sax is his instrument.   In an earlier career he worked for IBM and then began buying vines in 2000.   Initially his grapes went to the Neffiès coop, but once he had built his cellar, he began making wine.  He was inspired by the wines of nearby. Domaine de Brescou, but has not followed any formal courses.  He also said that he owes a lot to David Astruc of Domaine de la Resclauze in Neffiès. 

Altogether he has four hectares, in eight different plots, by the chapel and in Neffiès.   Grenache has been hitherto been used for rosé, but he will make a red Grenache next year. And then there is a Merlot and a Syrah; both monocépages - and Vin de France - he does not like blends.  Nor does he like wood; everything is fermented and stored in fibre glass vats.  Arbournières is the lieu-dit around the chapel; it means terries faceless, or easy land in Occitan.  Philippe explained how he was advised to plant Syrah; the coop members didn't plant it - it was too complicated, and also susceptible to disease and not very productive.

2014 Merlot,  Vin de France
Some ripe cassis fruit on the nose and ripe fruit on the palate with a youthful streak of tannin.
It was fresh and ripe with good varietal character.   Philippe explained that he favours a long maceration, four to six weeks.

2015 Syrah, Vin de France 
Another long maceration with some firm peppery fruit on the nose. Quite a sturdy firm peppery palate, with a hint of vanilla as though it might have been in oak.  But there was not a barrel in sight.  It was still very young.  All the grapes are destalked, with a classic vinification. No carbonic maceration here.  A very good balance, ripe but not confit and an appealing peppery note.

Philippe enthused; wine music and rugby are three great vectors of communication.  He has no
problem in selling his wines.  You have to go to Le Wine Shop in Pézenas for the Syrah, which is sold for 7.50€.  For the moment they do not have the Merlot.  And we finished with a promising taste of 2016 Syrah, which just finished fermenting with some ripe peppery notes and a harmonious balance of fruit and tannin.

I was left with an impression of a man who is content with his lot - bien dans son peau as the French would say, knowing where he is going, and achieving it.  

Friday, 14 October 2016

Château La Font des Ormes

La Font des Ormes is off the road between Nizas and Caux; I have driven past it many times, but one day last month,  thanks to a good friend’s recommendation, I turned up the drive to meet Guy Cazalis de Fondouce.   Guy is one of the many people in the Languedoc who have come to wine after a successful career in another field, in his case child psychiatry, in both France and La Réunion.  His family comes from the Languedoc, with a family estate near Villeveyrac, but he wanted land of his own, and bought La Font des Ormes in 2002, since when he has gradually bought more vineyards, replanting some and retaining old vines of Carignan and Terret.  He began working with the soil specialist, Claude Bourguignon early on and Claude advised on the purchase of a particularly fine plot of old Carignan on basalt. In fact most of Guy’s appellation vineyards are on basalt for there is an extinct volcano nearby.  As well as Carignan, Guy has Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, and is replanting some Cinsaut, and there is Merlot and Marselan  for vin de pays, grown in sandier soil, as well as Terret, for a first white wine with this vintage.   There was a lot of work to do at the beginning - the grapes were fit for the coop, but not much more - these days Guy makes a range of three red wines, and has a flexible arrangement with the coop in Adissan who will take any grapes, such as those from young vines, that he does not want.   The property now comprises 20 hectares, with 17 hectares of vineyards and 14 currently in production.  The first serious vintage that he put in bottle was 2011.  

The cellar is a splendid old Languedoc barn, dating from 18th century.  Originally there were several 200 hectolitre concrete vats - these days one functions as a small office - and the others have been replaced by stainless steel and smaller tronconique cement vats.  They are a handsome dark grey.  And three enormous stone vats have been knocked into one and now function as a barrel cellar - it is well insulated.    We adjourned to a large room that had once been the grain store under the roof of the barn to taste:

2014 Pays de Caux - 8.00 €
A blend of 45% Marselan  and 55% Grenache.  Quite deep colour. A ripe nose of red fruit, with a touch of spice and a lightly smoky note.  Quite a fresh palate with easy fruit and a streak of supple tannin.   Marselan above all makes for easy drinking; Guy admitted that he was surprised by its quality

2013 Languedoc - 14.00€
45% Grenache, with 25% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah and 15% Carignan.  The wine has spent a year in vat, followed by a year in demi-muids and then some ageing in bottle.  The blending is a gentle process, an initial pre-assemblage six months after the harvest and the the final blending before the wine is put in to barrel.  Good colour.  Quite a firm, tight peppery nose; and on the palate quite elegant fruit balanced with elegant tannins.  Guy asserted that basalt gives elegance to a wine; and elegance is what he is looking for in his wine.  The finish was fresh and lively.  For his wine making, Guy is advised by Jean Natoli and he favours short extractions, with quick remontages and above all does not want what he called ‘violent’ tannins.   He had first bought barriques, but has moved onto demi-muids, for that reason.

2011 Languedoc - 12.00€
The first proper vintage, with a slightly different blend, but still dominant Grenache Noir with 30% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah and 10% Carignan.  Quite a deep colour, with the nose beginning develop some notes of maturity, and a slightly meaty note.  Some rounded fruit on the palate, with more weight and opulence than the 2013, but still with the same fresh finish on the palate.

2014 Pézenas - 20.00€.
This is the first vintage of Pézenas; once again Grenache dominant with 30% each of Syrah and Carignan.  This is given a longer ageing in demi-muids.  Good colour.  Nicely rounded nose with some spicy fruit.   And on the palate more depth than the Languedoc, with more structured and weight.  Good balance and some lovely spicy fruit, but still very young.   The oak is well-integrated.  And it promises well for the future.

We talked about this year’s harvest.  Some Carignan for carbonic maceration was being picked later in the day.  2016 has been particularly difficult for Syrah, with small berries and high alcohol levels.  The average yield is 20 - 30 hl/ ha.  The year is marked by a lack of water - and Guy observed that  Claude Bourguignon has been advising him on rootstock that send out deep roots in search of water, so that his vines have not suffered from water stress.   The vineyards were certified as organic in 2016, but ‘that is not complicated enough’ or challenging enough so now they are working on biodynamics.  A viticulturist  who worked with Anne Leflaive in Burgundy,  advises them.

And then we discussed sales opportunities, with Guy making the pertinent observation that ‘we are méconnu dans un region méconnu - an unknown estate in an unknown region’.  But that is sure to change.  The wines will be shown at the Rising Stars tasting in London at the end of October.  

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

FITOU - Tasting of the 2016 Ambassador Collection

Although Fitou was the very first red table wine (as opposed to fortified vin doux) appellation of the Languedoc, it tends to get rather overlooked alongside its larger neighbours, Corbières and Minervois.  Curiously the appellation of Fitou is split in two with Fitou-Maritime, for vineyards close to the coast and around the village of Fitou itself, and Fitou de Hautes-Corbières, with vineyards up in the hills  around the villages of Tuchan and Paziols.  When the appellation was created back in 1948, the villages between the two zones did not wish to accept the constraints on grape varieties and yields imposed by an appellation, so that today those villages are part of the much larger appellation of Corbières .  A new initiative, implemented this year, has been the selection of a case of twelve different Fitou, which they are calling the Ambassador Collection.  There was a tasting of the wines in London last week, which I missed as I was in the Languedoc, they very generously gave me the twelve bottles to try at home.  What follows is what I found.

2014 Domaine Lerys,  Adrienne  - 12 €
80% Carignan with 10% each of Grenache Noir and Syrah, grown on slate, in the hills  The wine is aged in vat.   Deep young colour.  Ripe spicy red fruit; quite smooth nose, with a much fresher sturdier palate.  Quite tannic with a youthful streak, and even a touch green,  but that was balanced by some appealing fruit.   A ripe fruity finish,  

2014 Château Les Fenals, Cuvée Julie - 12 €
From an estate in the village of Fitou itself.  50% Carignan and 50% Grenache Noir, grown on clay and limestone. Aged in stainless steel vat. Deep young colour  with some ripe black fruit on the nose, and almost a sweet confit note. Rounded ripe fleshy palate; the Grenache dominates the palate.  A touch alcoholic on the finish. 

2014 Domaine Esclarmonde, L'Impulsif  - 8 €
From Paziols,  A blend of 35% Carignan, 35% Grenache Noir and 30% Syrah.  grown on clay and limestone,  and slate. Aged in vat.  Deep young colour.  Quite a sturdy nose, that initially seemed a touch reduced, but that wore off after a while.  Quite a firm palate, balanced with some ripe fruit, with a firm tannic streak.  Quite a youthful palate.  

2014 Domaine de La Rochelierre, Noblesse du Temps - 20 €
From the village of Fitou.  50% Mourvèdre, 30% Carignan and 20% Grenache  grown on clay and limestone.  Aged in oak barrels for 13 months.  Quite a restrained nose, and quite a solid rich palate, with a sturdy streak of youthful tannins, and a slightly green notes on the finish.  Also some oak on the palate, as well as some ripe spice.  The oak did not seem very balanced, but may be that is question of age.   

2013 Les Vignerons du Mont-Tauch, Hommage  - 19€
From the large cooperative in Tuchan and a blend of 40% Carignan and 30% each of Grenache Noir and Syrah. grown on clay and limestone.  aged for 9 - 12 months in new oak barrels, and indeed the nose was dominated by notes of vanilla, as well as some black fruit, but there was also a firm dry streak of tannin on the finish, which jarred.  Essentially more oak than fruit, and not very nice oak at that.  

2013 Domaine de La Grange, Via Fonteius - 10€
From the coastal village of La Palme.  40% each of Carignan and Mourvèdre with 20% Carignan.grown on clay and limestone.  50% aged in barrel.  Deep young colour and quite a firm nose, with a palate that is drying out, as though the oak has leeched any fruit, leaving a green stalky finish,  The least successful wine of the dozen.

2013 Château Wiala, Harmonie - 10 €
A blend of 40% each Carignan and Grenache Noir with 20% Syrah, from the village of Tuchan, grown on clay and limestone hillside.  The Syrah is aged in 400 litres French oak barrels; the Carignan has been in wood too, in barriques, with ageing in vat for the Grenache Noir.  Deep young colour.  Some red fruit on the nose, and quite a round palate,with some red fruit and some pepper and a streak of tannin,  A harmonious finish and quite an accessible style. 

2013 Château Champ des Sœurs, Bel Amant -11 €
From the village of Fitou. A blend of 30% each of Mourvèdre and Carignan, with 40% Grenache Noir, grown on clay and limestone.  Aged in stainless steel vats.  Medium colour.  Some red fruit on the nose; a very refreshing nose. Medium weIght palate,with more fresh red fruit, with a streak of tannin,  quite harmonious with a youthful balance and an appealing energy. I liked this a lot.

2013 Domaine Bertrand-Bergé, La Boulière -18,50 €
From the village of Paziols.  A blend of 50% Mourvèdre, with 25% each of Grenache Noir and Carignan.  Aged in large casks.   Deep young colour;  quite a firm nose with a touch of spice and on the palate quite rich and fleshy with good fruit and a tannic streak, and a rounded finish.
2013 Château Abelanet, Vieilles Vignes -  8,50 €
From the village of Fitou.  60% 45 year old Carignan with 20% each of Grenache and Mourvèdre grown on clay and limestone and some slate.  Ageing first in vat and then in barrel, for four months, one third of which are new.  Deep young colour.  Quite firm structured nose with some vanilla, and an oaky palate with vanilla and tannin.  Not very balanced, and drying on the finish.  I have had better from this estate.

2013 Château des Erles - 17,50 €
From the village of Villeneuve les Corbières, up in the hills.  50% Syrah with 25% each of Carignan and Grenache noir.  Aged for 18 months in 600 litre demi-muids.  Deep young colour.   Quite rounded ripe vanilla and oak on the nose and palate.  A tannic streak but the oak is nicely integrated and the wine more polished than some of the others.  Fitou sometimes has a wild rugged quality that can be quite appealing  

2013 Château de Nouvelles, Gabrielle 16 €
60% Carignan with 30% Grenache and 10% Syrah, grown on clay and limestone and other soils.  Half the blend is aged for 18 months in French oak.  Some of the vines are 70 years old for this is one of the old established estates of the appellation.  Deep young colour.  Some spice on the nose,  and on the palate nicely supple and harmonious  with some rounded tannins.  Lots of nuances, with a fine balance of fruit and flavour and tannin.  Nicely representative of the character of Fitou.  

Monday, 26 September 2016

Domaine de Nizas

It had been a while since my last visit to Domaine de Nizas in a tiny hamlet between the villages of Caux and Nizas, so it was high time for an update.  This estate belongs to two Californians, John Goelet and Bernard Portet, of Clos du Val in the Napa Valley.  Nathalie Arnaud-Bernard has been the winemaker since 2011.  These days they have 40 hectares of vines on various different soils, basalt, clay and limestone, and galets roulées, and their range of wines has been rationalised into three levels, namely Le Mazet, Mosaique and Expression.  

2015 Le Mazet de Sallèles, Pays d’Oc - 6.00 euros
A blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Viognier which are blended in December for bottling in January.  Light golden colour; quite a rounded peachy nose, with some pithy notes from the Sauvignon.  The nose was more Sauvignon and the palate more Viognier, with some peachy fruit and some texture, with some acidity on the finish.  No malolactic fermentation, but some élevage  on lees to fill out the palate. 

Mosaïque Blanc:  2014 Les Terres Noires, Languedoc  - 9.00 euros
46% Roussanne - 36% Vermentino and 18% Viognier.  The black stones refer to the basalt soil and there is also some clay and limestone, and some galets.  The Roussanne component is fermented in oak and aged in barrel for nine months.  Light golden.  White flowers and peachy notes on the nose, and also a touch of fennel, of which there is plenty in and around the vineyard.  Quite rounded with some weight and depth.

Mosaique Rosé : 2014 Les Pierres Blanches, Languedoc   7.00 euros
A blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre.  The grapes may be either saigné or pressed.  A light pink colour.  Fresh dry nose, with dry raspberry fruit. Quite a crisp palate, fresh and firm with a dry finish.  

Le Mazet Rouge, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, features in the range, but there was none available for tasting as it was all sold out.   So we went onto: 

Mosaique Rouge: 2014 Les Galets Dorés, AC Languedoc - 9.00 euros
Grenache Noir 60%, 25% Carignan and 15% Syrah.  They use their younger vines for this, with an average age of 7 years.  Medium young colour; quite spicy on the nose with some ripe, rounded fruit on the palate, with a firm tannic streak.  

Expression:  2013 Le Clos, Languedoc - 13.00 euros
60% Syrah, 35% Mourvèdre and 5% Grenache Noir. The average age of these vines is 20 years.  The Syrah spends 12 - 18 months in wood, of which 25% is new.  Deep young colour.  Young rounded spice on the nose.  Supple rounded fruit on the palate with a streak of tannin.  The oak is nicely integrated.  Youthful with ageing potential.  The cuvaison lasts at least three weeks.

Expression:  2013 La Réserve, Pézenas  - 17.00 euros
50% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache Noir and 25% Carignan.  Their first Pézenas cuvée was made in 2008, as the top of their range, and just 3000 bottles.  The whole cuvée is aged in wood for 18 months, of which half is new.  And the blend is done after élevage.  Medium young colour.  Ripe black fruit on the nose, with black cherries and a ripe palate.  Quite intense, with some smoky fruit and firm tannins. 

And then by way of comparison, and to illustrate ageing potential 2009 Le Clos
50% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache Noir and 25% Carignan again.  A little development of colour.  Quite dry leathery nosed on the palate, showing notes of maturity.  Quite a rounded palate with some spice.  Quite solid and structured.  They see Le Clos as the historic cuvée of the estate, as it has been made since 1998.  

And I was please to hear that they are planning start producing their Carignan cuvée again, from 60 year old vines; the Carignan had been used for their Pézenas cuvée over the last few years.  And then we had time for a quick look at the vineyards, with a view of the church tower of Caux in the distance and a rather handsome mazet in the middle of the vines.   The harvest was in full swing; the rosé had been picked that morning.  And they seemed pretty pleased with how the vintage was going, despite some complicated climatic conditions, heat, drought and then rain. 

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Cave des Oliviers

I came across a new wine shop the other day.  I had been tasting wine in Cabardès and on my last cellar visit, chez Guilhem Barré, he mentioned that Adrian Mould, a cheerful Englishman, who used to run the syndicat for the wines of Cabardès, now has a shop in the little village of Montolieu.  So we went to investigate.  Fortunately Adrian does not keep French hours; his shop was still open at 1 p.m. but when we accepted the offer of a tasting, he turned the sign on the door to ‘Fermé’ and we adjourned to his tiny cellar that is crammed with bottles.  

Let’s stay local, he suggested.  I had visited a few Cabardès producers in the preceding two days, but had omitted a couple of Adrian’s favourites, so that oversight needed to be remedied.  First we tried Château  Jouclary’s 2015 Sauvignon - 5.40 euros.    It was fresh and pithy, a bit stalky, but with some pungent fruit.  A simple glass of Sauvignon.  Next came Château Jouclary’s 2014 Cabardès Cuvée Tradition, a blend of more or less equal parts Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache. I thought this was brilliant value for 6.00 euros with some ripe spicy supple fruit on both nose and palate, with some cedary notes and a nicely harmonious finish.  2014 Château Jouclary, les Amandiers a blend of Merlot, Syrah, Grenache Noir and a little Cabernet Franc, for 8.80 euros, was more serious and structured,with firmer tannins and youthful fruit.  Another good glass of wine.

Château la Bastide Rouge Peyre was a new  name for me.  It belongs to Dominique de Lorgeril, the brother of Nicolas who owns the large estate of Château Pennautier.  The 2014 vintage was firm and oaky on nose and palate, with some cedary notes and youthful structure    In contrast 2011 Château Salitis, a blend of more or less equal parts of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache, was riper and more rounded, but with an almost sweet finish and some Mediterranean warmth.   Adrian observed that 2011 is a much warmer vintage than 2014.  2010 Château Salitis, Cuvée des Dieux had some rather dominant oak on the nose, but less so on the palate, which was ripe and concentrated.

And then we checked out a pair of Malepère, namely 2014 Domaine Girard - 6.90 euros - a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France and Malbec.  Unlike Cabardès, you do not need the Mediterranean component.  Deep young colour, with and rounded cassis fruit and oak on the nose with quite firm fruit and a tannic streak on the palate.  There was a slight vegetal note that is typical of Malepère.   And we finished with 2011 Domaine de la Sapinière, Cuvée Archibald, with quite a firm oaky nose and palate; it was more tannic and also more acidic, and I found that the oak jarred slightly, even though the palate was more solid.   But all in all, a fun encounter.  And Adrian’s shop is well worth a visit, especially if you enjoy talking to somebody who has a perceptive appreciation of the Languedoc and its many foibles.  And he is sure to have a bottle or two available for tasting.  

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Seigneurie de Peyrat

The old estate of Seigneurie de Peyrat, just outside Pézenas, is rather like a sleeping giant that is beginning to wake up.    It has long been in the hands of the Viennet family and these days it is Cécile Viennet who makes the wines.  Her aunt, Beatrice, is a good friend and she invited me for a tasting, which proved a good opportunity for a catch up, both with the new wines, and with Beatrice, as we hadn’t seen each other for a while.   They have already started picking - Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on 30th August.

The property dates back to the 17th century and is built round a large courtyard, with tall plane trees providing welcome shade.   There is a cool tasting caveau and shop,where we went through the current range of wines.  Most of the wines are Côtes de Thongue.   We began with:

2015 Chardonnay - normally 5.50 euros but currently on special offer at 3.50 euros, which is an absolute bargain.   It has quite a delicate nose, with touch of oak.  The palate is lightly buttery and rounded, with a touch of acidity on the finish.  It is nicely understated.  

2015 Viognier, Côtes de Thongue - 5.50 euros
Some peachy notes and a touch of oak on the palate.  Nicely rounded palate,with lightly peachy fruit and a streak of structure and tannin.  Quite a delicate finish.

2014 Tradition - 8.00 euros
A blend of Chardonnay  and Viognier.  A lightly golden colour with a touch of oak on the nose.  Quite a ripe rounded palate,with some peachy notes.  Nicely understated and accessible.  

2015 Rosé d’une Nuit - 4.50 euros
A blend of Grenache and Cinsaut.  A pretty pale pink.  Even the Languedoc favours the palest of pink these days for rosé.  Delicate fruit on the nose and palate.  Hints of raspberry and some fresh acidity.  Very refreshing.  

2015 Rosé Prestige - 8.50 euros
Again a pale pink.  A touch of oak son the nose and quite a firm structured palate with more body and rounded fruit, balanced with good acidity.  A food wine, if the first is more of an apéro.

2015 Pinot Noir - 5.50 euros
Medium colour.  Quite rounded ripe cherry fruit on the nose, and a rounded fruity palate, with a streak of tannin and the basic characteristics of Pinot Noir. The wine is supple with some fresh fruit making a nice drink, but without any complexity.  Pinot Noir at its simplest. and most accessible. 

2015 Grenache, - 5.50 euros 
Medium colour.  Ripe spicy fruit on the nose and palate; rounded supple fruit on the palate, making a delicious summer red, especially if lightly chilled. This is the wine I drank with my picnic later.  

2014 Tradition - 8.00 euros
A blend of Merlot and Syrah.  Medium colour.  Quite rounded dry cassis on the nose and on the palate some tannins and some pepper.  A balance of tannin and fruit, making for some quite sturdy drinking

2015 Les Lucquiers, Pays d’Oc - 11.00 euros
This is the first vintage of a new cuvée.  Deep young colour, with some oak on the nose, that is not yet very well integrated.  I found the palate quite sweet and ripe and oaky, making for quite a powerful mouthful of flavour.  It has only just been bottled, so probably has not settled down yet.  And it was a hot day, so the tannins seemed a touch strident.

And then we adjourned for a picnic under the plane trees.  Most days during the summer, until the end of September, you can come for what they call le Pic-Nique Chic. For 15 euros, you taste wines with three small courses, of local goats’ cheese from Mas Rolland, with various jams, fig, quince and grape, to go with Chardonnay, and then there are some ripe tomatoes and you can make your own bruschetta with olive oil, garlic and basil to accompany a rosé and finally there is some local saucisson to show off the red wine.  Tables are set out under the shade of the plane trees in the courtyard.  It is the perfect setting for a summer’s day and all feels right with the world.  

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Domaine la Cendrillon

This estate came to my notice following its success in this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards, with a gold medal for their Corbières Cuvée No. 1.  Robert Joyeux explained how it has been in his family since 1750.  He is the 7th generation; his father was not particularly interested in the vineyards  and only ever sold his wine en vrac, whereas Robert realised that he really wanted to make wine, indeed great wine. Robert initially worked in management, so he knows how to organise things.  He began working on the estate in 1993 and his father ‘gave him the keys’ soon afterwards. After a lot of work improving the vineyards and modernising the cellar, he bottled his  first vintage, the 2008.   

The estate totals 50 hectares, of which 40 are vineyards, planted mainly with red varieties, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and a little Carignan, Cinsaut, Marselan and Merlot.  There are just two and a half hectares of white, but Robert is planning  more, with Grenache Blanc and Gris, Marsanne, Roussanne, and more unusually Verdejo and Albariño.  His first white vintage was 2014.  Robert enthused about the region, the variety of soils, with an old river bed and several terraces, with quartz and limestone.  The Languedoc is a region of assemblage, of blending with variations in terroir and grape variety.   His winemaker, Julien, is encourage to do  lots of micro-vinifications, identifying the characteristics of the various different plots.   The average of the vines is between 20 and 30 years old; about fifteen hectares were replanted over the last ten years, and white varieties, Albariño, Petit Manseng and Verdejo were added about seven or eight years ago.  Most of their grapes are picked by hand, ands they have an implement that measures the flavour development of the grapes, from fresh fruit, neutral ripe and overripe. Great attention is paid to sorting the grapes, first mechanically to remove bits of rubbish, leaves, stones etc. and then by hand to remove any imperfect grapes.

As you might expect the cellar is modern and streamlined.  There are lots of stainless steel vats of varying sizes, as well as some wooden tronconique vats.   And there are also traditional cement vats, that are lined, and equipped for temperature control.  They favour microbullage to soften the tannins, and facilitate the élevage.  You sense that there is a lot of very detailed work and not least, observation.  And in the barrel cellar they favour the Austrian cooper Stockinger as well as the local one, Boutes.

And then we settled down to taste:

2015 Nuance, Vin de France - 12.00€
An original blend of all their white varieties, namely Petit Manseng, Albariño, Verdejo, Grenache Gris and Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne.  One third of the blend is fermented and aged in demi-muids,  mainly the Petit Manseng and Grenache Blanc component.  The nose is exotic and intriguing, with honey, pineapple and citrus notes.   The palate has fresh acidity, and is still tight knit, with some saline mineral notes.  It should evolve beautifully; I’d give it five years, but it is already a lovely glass of wine.

2015 Minuit, Corbières Rosé - 9.00€
A blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsaut that are pressed straightaway.  The colour is delicate, and so is the nose, and the palate is rounded with a fresh finish balanced with some body or matière.   

2013 Corbières Cuvée Classique  - 13.00€
A blend of 40% Syrah and 30% each of Grenache and Carignan, with quite a long élevage in vat rather than barrel.  They do a first blend after the malo-lactic fermentation and then adjust the blend later in the year.  Medium colour, with some dry leathery spice on the nose and palate.  Integrated tannins, rounded with medium weight.  Julien observed that 2013 was quite a light vintage, and quite supple.  This is their main line, accounting for about 50,000 bottles.  

2012 Corbières Cuvée Classique 
From a riper year.  There are firm tannins, but the wine is fleshier and riper.  An intriguing difference.

2012 Corbières Inédite - 20.00€
The blend is 50% Syrah, with 40% Grenache and just 10% Mourvèdre and some of the wine is fermented in the large tronconique vats.  The grapes comes comes from slightly higher vineyards and 50% of the blend spends 18 months in foudres.  Quite a deep young colour, with some firm peppery fruit.  A tight knit structured palate, with some weight and some firm peppery youthful fruit.  The oak is well integrated.  It promises well.

2011 Corbières Inédite
Another fascinating comparison, with a slightly different blend, predominantly Grenache and Syrah with 5% each of Carignan and Mourvèdre.  Good colour.  A fresh peppery nose, with rounded ripe cherry fruit.  Lots of nuances develop in the glass as you taste.  Some lovely fruit and an elegant palate. This is the first vintage that they used foudres and they are pleased with the results.  Robert talked about their new investments in 2015; with Julien they are considering a development in style, making for fresher wines with less extraction and tannins.  It all hinges on better work in the vineyards.

2012 Corbières, No 1 - 40.00€
This is the wine that won a gold medal from Decanter.  And I could quite see why.  It is a blend of 60% Mourvèdre with some Grenache and Syrah from higher vineyards. and all vinified in tronconique vats and blended after a 24 months élevage.  From 2013 the ageing time has increased to three years, and this particular blend is only made in the best years.  2008 was the first vintage, 2010 and 2011 followed and 2014 and 2015  are in the pipeline.  

Medium colour.  Quite a firm nose, with dry red fruit and spice and on the palate the wine is rounded and elegant.  The oak is integrated and balanced by some lovely fruit.  Again there are lots of nuances of flavour; the tannins are supple with some of the leathery notes of Corbières, and a restrained finish. 

2011 Corbières, No 1
This is from a hotter year, with a more concentrated palate.  The Mourvèdre ripens later than the other grapes.   The palate is riper and fleshier with furrier tannins, making a rounded concentrated mouthful of flavour.  The wine is still very young with a long life ahead of it.

So in conclusion, a lovely discovery with some delicious wines.

And then we adjourned to a local restaurant, La Table du Château in the neighbouring village of Bizanet.  I can warmly recommend it.