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Posts Tagged ‘Languedoc-Roussillon

La Laïsité n’a nul besoin de charte

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Côtes du Roussillon 2012, Cuvée Laïs, Domaine Olivier Pithon ($26.20, 11925720)
The Laïs line is named after Pithon’s pet cow. Organically farmed Grenache Noir (40%), Carignan (40%) and Mourvèdre (20%). Manually harvested at the beginning of maturity, often a week or two before the neighbours start, the idea being to make wines that are fresher and less heavy than the norm. Vinification is traditional (native yeasts, non-interventionist). The wine is matured in concrete tanks and foudres. Reducing sugar: 3.2 g/l. 13.6% ABV. Quebec agent: Planvin.
Unlike several bottles of last year’s 2011, free of reductive and barnyard aromas. Clean as a whistle, in fact. Fragrant nose, redolent of plum and blackberry, graphite and sun-baked earth with sawdust, spice chest, dried herbs and animale notes. Medium-bodied and fundamentally supple. The upfront, ripe-sweet fruit gives way to a taut, drying mid-palate lightly soured by smooth acidity and structured by pervasive fine tannins that lend an astringent haze to the long, minerally, juicy finish. Fresh, balanced and so, so drinkable. Well nigh perfect with bœuf à la Robespierre. (Buy again? Yes.)

When is the SAQ going to start carrying the white?

Written by carswell

May 19, 2015 at 13:16

MWG February 18th tasting: Clos du Rouge Gorge rouge

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A transplant from the Loire Valley, Cyril Fahl owns and farms a number of parcels around the village of Latour-de-France in the Côtes Catalanes region of the Roussillon, inland from the Mediterranean coast and just north of the Spanish border. The area forms the historic boundary between France and Catalonia and lies on the geologic frontier between Corbières and the foothills of the Pyrenees. Fahl’s hillside vineyards, which face north and east, are biodynamically farmed, worked by hand or horse and planted to local varieties (his reds don’t qualify for the AOC because they don’t contain Syrah or Mourvèdre, neither of which is native to the region). The winemaking is non-interventionist, even minimalist. As a result, the terroir is there for the tasting.

IGP Côtes Catalanes 2013, Cuvée du Patron, Clos du Rouge Gorge ($30.25, private import, NLA)
A blend of Grenache and Cinsault. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and matured in 500-litre wooden barrels. Bottled unfiltered and unfined. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Reduced, sulphurous nose that eventually gives up some red fruit and earth notes (so carafe it a couple of hours before serving, all right?). No funk in the mouth, though, just pure, rich yet ethereal fruit on a frame of silky smooth acidity and supple tannins that turn a little raspy on the clean finish. Straightforward and eminently drinkable, this would be the perfect everyday red if only it were a few dollars cheaper. (Buy again? Sure.)

IGP Côtes Catalanes 2013, Jeunes vignes, Clos du Rouge Gorge ($38.00, private import, NLA)
100% Grenache from 30-year-old vines in a single parcel with gneiss subsoil. Manually harvested, trod by foot, vinified with indigenous yeasts in wooden vats for three months, matured eight months in stainless steel. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Cherry cough drop, slate, hints of violet and dill. Medium- to full-bodied, smooth, supple, dry. A delicious mouthful of ripe-sweet spicy fruit, silky tannins and bright acidity. Longer and deeper than the Cuvée du Patron, cooler and more satiny that your typical Rhône Grenache. Lip-smackingly good. (Buy again? Yes.)

IGP Côtes Catalanes 2012, Vieilles vignes, Clos du Rouge Gorge ($55.75, private import, NLA)
A blend of Carignan (80%) and Grenache (20%) from 50- to 100-year-old vines rooted in gneiss. After light foot-treading, the whole bunches are transferred to wooden vats for low-temperature fermentation with no punch-downs or pump-overs. Matured 12 months in 500-litre barrels and old casks. Unfiltered and bottled by gravity. Total sulphur dioxide is less than 20 mg/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Fragrant, terroir-redolent nose of raspberry, turned earth and wood with earthy and floral overtones and the promise of much more. Dense but not weighty. The fruit is profound – “soulless dark” to quote one taster, like the eidos of black currant juice – and perfectly balanced by the round/soft tannins and sleek acidity. Smoky minerals inhabit the long, savoury finish. The wonder is how it manages to be both immediate and remote, both upfront and enigmatic. The sweet spot of the flight. (Buy again? Imperatively.)

IGP Côtes Catalanes 2012, Ubac, Clos du Rouge Gorge ($93.75, private import, NLA)
100% Cinsault from a single parcel of 40-year-old vines. The gneiss slope is steep and faces due north. Extremely low yields (c. 15 hl/ha). The whole berries are macerated for 10 days, then foot-trod and transferred with the stems to wooden vats for fermentation. Matured 20 months in Austrian demi-muids. Bottled by gravity. Total sulphur dioxide around 20 mg/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Brooding, profound, turning more fragrant as it breathed: raspberry cordial, turned earth, garrigue.
Fluid yet dry and velvety tannined. Young, so primary and closed, but hinting at great depth. The dark fruit is both savoury and sweet-tart, while the mineral substrate is most apparent on the minutes-long finish. Absolutely gorgeous: du grand vin as they say around here. Probably won’t peak for another 10 to 15 years. (Buy again? If the price isn’t prohibitive, go for it!)

Demand for the Jeunes vignes is high (so much so that oenopole requires that purchasers also buy a case of the Vieilles vignes). One of the reasons is that restaurateurs find it hard to convince customers to lay down a C-note and change – what the VV will run you in a resto – for a vin de pays, however amazing. And while the MWG has been buying the white, JV and VV since they first became available in Quebec, the JV – largely because of its price – has always elicited the most interest. Yet this flight, our first time tasting the reds side by side, showed the VV to be the real QPR winner, combining some of the JV’s fruity appeal with much of the Ubac’s complexity and depth.

(Flight: 4/5)

MWG February 19th tasting: Mostly Macabeu

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IGP Côtes Catalanes 2013, Blanc, Clos du Rouge Gorge ($45.00, private import, NLA)
All or mostly Macabeu (some claim it also contains a dollop of Carignan Blanc) from vines around 80 years old that had been abandoned and were about to be torn out when winemaker Cyril Fahl acquired the vineyard and revivied it using biodynamic methods. Manually harvested. Non-interventionist winemaking with spontaneous fermentation. Matured nine months in neutral 500-litre barrels. Minimally sulphured at bottling, with some carbon dioxide added by way of compensation. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
When young, the wine needs to be carafed hours before serving (one MWG member reports carafing it 24 hours before paring it “memorably” with oysters). After nearly two hours in the carafe, ours had an initially odd nose of “canned tuna” (quoting one of the tasters) that soon evolved into acacia blossom, pear and pineapple water, “pine nuts,” crushed stone and so much more. Complex and layered in the mouth. The ethereal fruit tends to pear, apple, faint citrus. Minerals abound. Acidity shimmers. Saline and bitter notes colour the long finish. A unique, spellbindingly protean wine, more elegant and profound than the Cours Toujours and slower to give up its many secrets. While the paradigm is different from, say, a Meursault’s, this is one of France’s great whites and, as such, it’s a QPR winner at under $50. (Buy again? In future vintages, as many as I can afford and lay my hands on.)

Côtes du Roussillon 2012, Cours Toujours, Domaine du Possible ($32.00, private import, NLA)
The estate farms organically. This is mostly Macabeu with a little Grenache Gris. Manually harvested. Non-interventionist wine-making with spontaneous fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Matured 12 months in used barrels. Bottled unfiltered, unfined and with very little or no added sulphur. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Initially reticent but evolving nose: dried pineapple, yellow apple, quartz dust, background straw and honeycomb. More fruit-forward than the Clos du Rouge Gorge. A little wilder and more rustic too. Ripe-sweet on the attack; full of crunchy minerals on the mid-palate; turning drier, sourish and saline on the long finish. A here-now joy to drink. (Buy again? For sure.)

(Flight: 2/5)

MWG January 8th tasting: A pair of organic red blends from the Languedoc

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Faugères 2012, L’Impertinent, Château des Estanilles ($18.05, 10272755)
Organically farmed Syrah (30%), Grenache (20%), Mourvèdre (20%), Carignan (15%) and Cinsault (15%). Manually harvested. Destemmed and crushed. The varieties are vinified separately, with fermentation and maceratation adapted to each variety. Matured in stainless steel tanks (90%) and oak barrels (10%) for around one year. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: AOC & cie.
Red fruit (especially elderberry), spice (especially black pepper), cedar, a hint of burnt rubber. In the mouth, it’s a rich, round and smooth middleweight. The crunchy fruit tends to cassis and is nicely textured by tannins and acidity while light oak and a streak of minerality add nuance. Finishes on a savoury, herb and leather note. Good, clean fun. (Buy again? Yep.)

Languedoc 2012, Montpeyroux, Domaine d’Aupilhac ($22.95, 856070)
A blend of Mourvèdre (30%), Syrah (25%), Carignan (30%), Grenache (10%) and Cinsault (5%) from organically and biodynamically farmed vines averaging 35 years old. Destemmed and crushed. The varieties are vinified separately. Fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) and maceration with daily punch-downs last about three weeks and take place in open, temperature-controlled stainless steel vats. Matured in small foudres and used barrels until the summer following the harvest, then blended and returned to the foudres and barrels for further maturation. In all, the wine is barrel-aged for about 20 months. Unfiltered. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Bergeron-les-vins.
Initial whiff of reduction dissipates, leaving plum, dried cherry, slate dust, paprika and some charred notes. As round and smooth as the Estanilles but also, for now at least, a little less deep. In compensation, the fruit is remarkably pure, underpinned by sleek acidity and solid if cushy tannins and faintly overtoned with garrigue that lingers through the long, dark-minerally finish. I suspect this is passing through a closed phase and will deepen with a year or two in the bottle. If drinking now, carafe a couple of hours before serving. (Buy again? Yep.)

While the Impertinent is light and bright enough to drink on its own, the Montpeyroux is more of a food wine.

(Flight: 6/8)

Written by carswell

February 3, 2015 at 09:40

Salon VIP 2014: Domaine du Possible

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A friend and I spent yesterday afternoon at the Salon des vins d’importation privée, the private import expo run by RASPIPAV. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting sketchy notes on some of the highlights. Our first stop was at the oenopole booth, specifically to taste the four newly arrived wines from the wryly named Domaine du Possible, which can be rendered in English several ways, including the realm of possibility.

Forty-something Loïc Roure, the owner-winemaker, set up shop in the Côtes du Roussillon in 2003 and has since assembled 10.5 hectares of parcels in Latour-de-France, Lansac and Caudiès-de-Fenouillèdes. The wines are made in Lansac’s old winegrowers’ cooperative, which facilities Roure shares with Édouard Laffitte of Domaine Le Bout du Monde.

Roure farms organically and is a non-interventionist in the cellar. The grapes are picked by hand, brought to the winery and cooled, usually overnight. The reds are typically made using semi or full carbonic maceration. All fermentations are spontaneous, using only indigenous yeasts. Punch-downs are rare and pump-overs non-existent while racking is occasional. That plus reasonable extraction and low alcohol levels, little or no sulphur, no filtering or fining, a prizing of acidity and an avoidance of strong tannins equal fresh and juicy wines that are remarkably drinkable.

Roure was supposed to visit the city for the salon but went AWOL. Fortunately, four of his seven wines didn’t.

Côtes du Roussillon 2012, Cours Toujours, Domaine du Possible ($32.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Mostly Macabeu with a little Grenache Gris. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Wafting nose of star fruit, quince, quartz, straw and ash. More appley in the mouth. Ripe-sweet on the attack but drying with a long, sourish, saline finish. A lovely mix of crystalline minerality and fruit. (Buy again? Def.)

Côtes du Roussillon 2013, Charivari, Domaine du Possible ($30.50/750 ml, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Côtes du Roussillon 2013, Charivari, Domaine du Possible ($63.75/1500 ml, private import, 3 bottles/case)
100% Carignan from vines between 35 and 110 years old. Undergoes carbonic maceration. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
The nose is a basket of red fruit along with some reductive aromas (the bottle had just been opened). A smooth and juicy mouthful of sweet and sour fruit, supple tannins and tangy acidity. So easy to drink. (Buy again? Yes.)

Côtes du Roussillon 2013, Tout bu or not tout bu, Domaine du Possible ($28.70, private import, 6 bottles/case)
About three-quarters Grenache and one-quarter Mourvèdre. Made from purchased organically farmed grapes. Some of the grapes are placed in vats and trod by foot. Whole bunches are then added and the vats are closed, resulting in a kind of semi-carbonic maceration. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Deeper, darker nose of plum and slate. Less exuberantly fruity in the mouth. Mild tannins, glowing acidity, underpinning dark minerals. (Buy again? Yes.)

Côtes du Roussillon 2013, C’est pas la mer à boire, Domaine du Possible ($37.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Grenache (c. 75%), Carignan (c. 20%) and Syrah (c. 5%). Some of the grapes are placed in vats and trod by foot. Whole bunches are then added and the vats are closed, resulting in a kind of semi-carbonic maceration. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Faintly bretty nose that segued into roasted cherries and plum and graphite. A fluent, smile-inducing blend of pure, bright fruit and crunchy minerals. Irresistible. (Buy again? The price is steep for a vin plaisir – damn you, high euro – but yes.)

Written by carswell

November 2, 2014 at 12:44

A civilized red from the Languedoc

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While this made a fine pairing for hanger steak with anchovy, garlic and parsley (recipe after the jump), I couldn’t stop thinking of Patricia Wells’ roasted guinea hen stuffed with finely chopped black olives, shallots, thyme, chicken liver and bacon (see Bistro Cooking for the script).

Languedoc 2012, Campredon, Domaine Alain Chabanon ($27.15, 11909586)
Chabanon is reportedly a disciple of Alain Brumont, not that you’d ever guess it from this wine. A blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache (50-30-20 according to some, 60-25-15 according to from biodynamically and organically farmed vines averaging 23 years old. Manually harvested. Gravity-transferred to stainless steel tanks. Fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) and maceration last five weeks and entail alternating punch-downs and pump-overs. The wine is then pressed in a pneumatic press and matured ten months in stainless steel tanks. Bottled unfiltered and unfined. 12% ABV (!) per the label, 13% per Quebec agent: A.O.C. & Cie Châteaux et Domaines.
Fresh and fragrant nose of dusty plum and blackberry with hints of dried herbs, licorice, game and old wood. Medium-bodied. The impressively pure, ripe-sweet fruit is soon wrapped in a gossamer astringency and bitterness. Supple tannins frame, soft acidity buoys, mineral and black olive flavours haunt. A dry, long and graceful wine that is savoury to its core. (Buy again? Yes.)

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Written by carswell

October 14, 2014 at 18:01

MWG September 11th tasting: Brave Roussanne

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After working for several years with the Cave coopérative d’Estézargues, Édouard Laffitte, who had no background in farming, decided to set out on his own. Invited by Loïc Roure, newly settled in the Roussillon, to share the winemaking facilities he had just acquired for his Domaine du Possible, Laffitte began searching for vines, specifically ones growing in north-facing, high-altitude vineyards, the better to make wines that were fresh and not excessively alcoholic. He eventually pieced together 6.7 hectares of parcels in three communes near Lansac to make the Domaine Le Bout du Monde, so named because visitors told him that getting there was like travelling to the end of the earth.

The vineyards are farmed organically and worked manually. The wines are vinified by soil type (shale, gneiss and granite). The estate currently makes five reds (Grenache, Carignan and Syrah alone and in blends) and one white. We tasted the latter.

Vin de France 2012, Brave Margot, Domaine Le Bout du Monde ($32.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Roussanne from organically farmed old vines grown in granitic soils. Manually harvested. Macerated one week (1/3 destemmed, 2/3 whole clusters) then pressed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured in old barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
Another cloudy white: pale bronze-gold. Lovely nose of honey, spice, “floral pear” and a hint of ash. The grape’s verging-on-oily texture is cut by laser-like acidity while complex fruit and dazzling minerals dance across the palate. The long sweet-sour-bitter finish brings Meyer lemon peel to mind. Far and away the liveliest and mineralliest Roussanne it’s been my pleasure to encounter. (Buy again? For sure.)

(Flight: 3/9)

Written by carswell

September 20, 2014 at 12:07

MWG July 17th tasting: Lip-stingers?

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A word of Occitan/French origin, piquepoul is usually translated as “lip-stinger.” The grape variety is reportedly so named due to its high acidity.

Languedoc 2013, Picpoul de Pinet, Château Saint-Martin de la Garrigue ($19.15, 11460045)
100% Piquepoul Blanc from vines averaging 25 years old. The grapes are picked late in the season, pressed, macerated ten hours on the skins, then cold settled and racked into the fermentation vessels. The slow, temperature-controlled fermentation is followed by four-months’ maturation on the fine lees in stainless steel tanks. 14.5% ABV according to, 15% (!) according to the label. Quebec agent: Bergeron-les-vins.
Lemon, quartz and chalk, hints of honey and paraffin. Very dry but fruity, with lots of extract. Electric acidity keeps things fresh. An herbal/floral note – think lemon verbena – perfumes the mid-palate while minerals come to the fore on the bitter-tinged, lightly saline finish. Surprisingly cool, with no alcohol apparent on the nose or palate. Puts the lie to the old saw that Picpoul is the Muscadet of the Midi. Would make a fine pairing for grilled fish and shellfish but is also substantial enough to accompany a local specialty, encornets à la sétoise (aïoli not optional). (Buy again? For sure.)

Languedoc 2013, Picpoul de Pinet, Ormarine, Maison JeanJean ($13.50, 266064)
100% Piquepoul Blanc. The grapes are pressed and macerated on the skins, then allowed to cold-settle. Enzymes are added for enhanced aromatics. Low-temperature fermentation involves selected yeasts. Screwcapped. 12.5% ABV. Maison JeanJean’s website is broken so I can’t verify, but this appears to be made by the Cave de l’Ormarine and to be very similar if not identical to their “Carte noire” bottling. Quebec agent: Sélect Vins.
Lime zest, pear and passion fruit. In the mouth, a light spritzy prickle, straightforward fruit and some creaminess. Crisp if not as vibrantly acidic or minerally as the St-Martin. Short finish and a faint buttery aftertaste. A perfectly correct, simple wine that wowed no one around the table, though a few did say they’d buy it as a cooking wine they could also drink in a pinch. (Buy again? Unlikely, especially as my go-to cooking wine runs about $3 cheaper.)

Written by carswell

July 22, 2014 at 11:16

MWG June 12th tasting: Craziness? Not.

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VDP de L’Hérault 2012, L’In, Mas Conscience ($29.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The cuvée’s name, L’In, is a play on the estate’s name; it stands for l’inconscience (craziness, madness), a reference to the folly of making dry white wines in the hot Languedoc. This, the estate’s only white, is a blend of organically and biodynamically farmed Grenache Blanc (50%), Rolle (24%), Roussanne (24%) and Viognier (2%). The grapes are harvested by hand, typically in late August to ensure a degree of freshness. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Allowed to undergo malolatic fermentation. Filtered before bottling. Use of sulphur is minimized. Around 500 cases are produced. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Honeyed white fruit and white flowers, chalk and fresh hay. Weighty and dry, even a bit alkaline, but still quite fresh. As much about minerals as fruit. Long finish. Less complete and transporting than some top Languedoc-Roussillon whites (Clos du Rouge Gorge and Mas de Daumas Gassac, for example) though, in its defence, they cost considerably more. Probably best thought of as a food wine. Would go well with dishes like scallops with asparagus, orange and thyme, sea bass baked in a salt crust, and rabbit and preserved lemon tagine. (Buy again? Sure.)

Written by carswell

June 27, 2014 at 14:42

MWG May 15th tasting (5/6): Three vintages of Lo Vièlh

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Clos du Gravillas’s flagship red is Lo Vièlh (“the old one” in Occitan), a 100% old-vine Carignan that’s a vin de pays because Minervois AOC wines are not permitted to contain more than 40% of the variety. Planted in 1911, the vineyard was slated to be uprooted when the Bojanowskis convinced the owner to sell it to them in 1999.

The three wines in our vertical were essentially made the same way. The organically farmed grapes were manually harvested, fermented with indigenous yeasts and matured 12 months in French oak demi-muids. As the winemaker explained in a recent comment, the 2009 Lo Vièlh was showing some brettiness (the 2010 was made into the Côté Obscur), so all the barrels were replaced with new ones for the 2011.

Around 2,800 bottles are produced each vintage.

VDP des Côtes du Brian 2011, Lo Vièlh, Clos du Gravillas ($35.38, private import, 6 bottles/case)
14% ABV. Quebec agent: Plan Vin.
Bordeaux-ish nose, the red and black fruit intermixed with graphite, wood, ash and vanilla scents and eventually joined by spice and undergrowth. Dry, smooth and round but also coming across as somewhat primary and unintegrated, with the oak in particular standing out. The finish is long. At least a few of us found the new style disconcerting and not fully convincing – the wine’s high quality was not in doubt but we didn’t understand why the oak was thought necessary. Now we do. I’ll give my remaining bottle at least a couple of years to digest the oak and knit together. (Buy again? Maybe, though I might be tempted to wait for the 2012, in which, in the winemaker’s words, “the oak is down a notch and the pure carignan fruit can completely shine through.”)

VDP des Côtes du Brian 2008, Lo Vièlh, Clos du Gravillas ($34.07, private import, NLA)
14% ABV. Quebec agent: Plan Vin.
Dark fruit, old wood, hints of elderberry, spice, forest floor, distant barnyard. Medium-bodied, silky and balanced, with fine acidity and a soft but persistent tannic undertow. A faint sourness adds dimension to the fruit, which is covered in thin veils of minerals, old leaves, wood. Long. A lovely wine that’s in a good place now and probably for some years to come. Would make a believer out of all but the most confirmed Carignan skeptics. (Buy again? Done!)

VDP des Côtes du Brian 2004, Lo Vièlh, Clos du Gravillas ($36.60, private import, 6 bottles/case)
14% ABV. Quebec agent: Plan Vin.
Leather, slate, black raspberry, smoke and faint meat. Satiny texture. Not much structure or backbone, though with enough acidity to keep the fire burning. Some wondered whether the bottle was off, others thought it was simply a little past peak but still delicious. (Buy again? A bottle for research purposes.)

Written by carswell

June 12, 2014 at 10:23