Eric is Catalan and normally concerns himself solely with promoting wines from the Roussillon region, but he was branching out. The new umbrella identity for the whole Languedoc-Roussillon is now the Sud de France and it includes the Gard and Côtes du Rhône areas as well as the Languedoc-Roussillon itself – although confusingly not Provence, which is what leaps to my mind when I hear the phrase ‘the south of France’.
Eric treated us to a very detailed presentation about all the appellations of the region with all the updated regulations.
He then presented a really interesting selection of wines that I think deserve a much wider audience and more recognition, so I thought I would share some of them with you:
Cuvée Royale Brut N.V.
A.C. Crémant de Limoux
Les Vignerons de Sieurs d’Arques
70% Chardonnay, 20% Chenin and 10% Pinot Noir
This was a pretty good sparkling wine with a fresh aroma of citrus and apples and flakey pastry notes.
The palate was quite nutty, if a little hard and brittle with a slightly bitter almond twist on the finish.
I had been tasting a lot of Cava earlier in the day and the contrast was really interesting, as it was much tighter and less foamy than cheap Cava normally is. It also has more acidity and this makes the wine seem more pure and elegant.
£8.54 a bottle from Waitrose – 84 points.
Domaine Fèlines Jourdan 2008
A.C. Picpoul de Pinet
Domaine Fèlines Jourdan
100% Picpoul Blanc
The colour was very attractive bright, pale gold.
The nose was bright and complex with notes of honey, lemon curd, pine nuts and flowers and herbs as well as a touch of oily saltiness – the Mediterranean in a glass.
The palate had a lovely weight with quite a rich mouth-feel that was fresh, but soft with tastes of honey and almonds, pithy citrus, pesto and herbs and a creamy, nutty, oily texture.
A beautifully balanced, very attractive and eminently drinkable wine with a long finish.
I have always avoided Picpoul after a disappointing experience a few years ago – but I won’t anymore this would be so good with a piece of fish or it would even be crisp enough to go with some shellfish!
£7.99 a bottle from Strictlywine.co.uk – 89 points.
Collioure Blanc Cornet & Cie 2008
A.C. Collioure Blanc
Cave de l’Abbé Rous
70% Grenache Gris, 10% Grenache Blanc together with 20% made up of Roussanne, Marsanne and Vermentino
This was another revelation for me – it had a great colour of medium deep gold.
The nose was complex and enticing, round and fragrant with sweet vanilla and floral notes and a touch of creaminess.
The palate was fabulous, with freshness and richness in good balance together with subtle spicy oak, herbal flavours of aniseed and spice and notes of cardamom. The texture and mouthfeel were terrific with an oily, waxy feel and good acid balance.
The long, dry finish had a firm touch of spicy oak with a tingle of peppery minerality.
I really, really liked this and found it complex and delicious, it would be wonderful with a rich fish dish or even spicy food.
£9.99 a bottle from Marks & Spencer – 92 points.
Domaine Treloar Three Peaks Côtes du Roussillon Rouge 2006
A.C. Côtes du Roussillon
60% Syrah , 30% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre from the Les Aspres area in the south west of Roussillon down towards Mt. Canigou – which at 2784 metres always dominates the horizon if you turn in that direction – although this wine does not use the AC Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres.
This estate is run by Yorkshireman Jonathan Hesford and his New Zealander wife Rachel Treloar who felt a career change coming on after having lived just 500 metres from The World Trade Centre in September 2001.
The colour was a deep and intense plummy blue black, the nose was floral, spicy and full of redcurrant and blackberry aromas and a big whack of alcohol.
The palate was slightly hot, stewed and raisiny with dry resiny wood, flourishes of coffee and cocoa and a touch of forest floor.
The texture was juicy and supple with smooth tannins and a herbal, liquorice character on the finish – really enjoyable in a rustic, traditional red wine kind of way.
£10.75 a bottle from Leon Stolarski Fine Wines – 91 points.
Dom Brial Muscat de Rivesaltes 2007
A.C. Muscat de Rivesaltes
Les Vignerons de Baixas – Domaine Brial
Blend of Muscat à Petits Grains and Muscat d’Alexandrie.
Now we come to a real Catalan speciality – fortified Muscat. The great Arnaud de Villeneuve or Arnaldus de Villa Nova, who worked at the court of the Kings of Catalonia, was credited with introducing the art of distilling and fortifying from the Arab world.
This was very fresh and lively looking with a pale colour. The nose was very attractive and bright with honey and lemon as well as grapefruit and a softer deeper citrus note like lemon curd. There were also little touches of exotic ripe fruit and pears as well as almond pastry, all giving a more complex feel.
The palate was very fresh with a touch of aniseed spice, honey and syrup and dried lemon peel with astonishingly well balanced alcohol.
It is a really splendid example of fortified Muscat.
£5.86 a half-bottle from Affordable Wine – 88 points.
Domaine Mas Amiel 15 Ans d’Age
Domaine Mas Amiel
90% Grenache with 5% Carignan and 5% Maccabeu to give freshness.
This was an astonishing finale – a rich, deep intense and brooding wine of great complexity that had spent a year outside in glass demi-johns before being aged for 14 years in large oak casks.
The colour was reddy brown with a burnt caramel edge.
The aromas are rich coffee and chocolate with a high note of sweaty leather, figs, prunes and brown sugar.
The palate was amazingly fresh with prune and fig notes swirling around with rich caramel and smooth tannins. It was surprisingly dry, I tend to think of these wines as sweet, but it was very well balanced. The finish was slightly bitter like really good dark chocolate – it was a great, great wine – 96 points.
With the commercial importance of Vin du Pays d’Oc it was wonderful to taste a cross section of the appellation contrôlée wines from the region. It gave me a much needed insight into some of the less frequently encountered wines and showed that there are some terrific wines at great prices out there – if only we can persuade more consumers to vary their drinking habits and to try more things that are that little bit different.