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Sunday, 29 April 2012

How to serve red wine - a local carignan, and also a new local rosé

For my birthday Mary gave me a subscription to La Revue du Vin de France which has turned out to be  a Very Good Thing.  This month, there was a comparative tasting of some top reds (Bordeaux, Bourgogne, northern and southern Rhône and Languedoc vdp carignan) comparing 3 bottles in each case - one opened immediately before drinking, the second decanted 2 hours in advance, and the third opened 2 days beforehand but left in the bottle, not decanted until it arrived in the glass.  In all 5 cases the one opened but left in bottle for 2 days came out top!

Yesterday we welcomed our friends Jacqui and Luc (author of wine guides) and decided to try the 3-bottle comparison.  A few days earlier I had visited the Domaine de Bellevue for the first time - a real pleasure situated just next to the Lunel junction on the A9 and with splendid views over Lunel - you can see right to the coast and the ziggurats of La Grande Motte in fact.  I was with my friend Nigel, and we tried several wines, rosé, muscat (de Lunel)and red, including a 7 year old carignan which Nigel - generally a fan of carignan - found difficult.  So I decided to use this for our lunch with Luc and Jacqui.
Luc was already clear before we began that, since oxygen is the enemy of wine, the bottle opened in advance but not disturbed by decanting ought to be the best.  In fact, all three turned out to be good but the decanted one was the least successful and, at the outset, the bottle opened 2 days beforehand was by far the richest and best balanced.  So I'll certainly tell Nigel that  it's worth persisting with that particular Carignan, but I'll also remember to open good bottle of red a day or two before we drink them.  I devised a protector with a rubber band and a small piece of kitchen paper to avoid adding stray flies to the wine!

We also sampled the new rosé released the previous evening by the Domaine Guinand at St Christol. A couple of eyars ago there was a flurry of controversy when the European Union seemed ready to permit mixing red and white grape varieties to make rosé wine.  This already happens in Champagne but this is the first time I've found it in the south of France (although some white viognieer is famously added to syrah in the northern Rhône to make the red Côte Rôtie).  But this Plaisir du Sud rosé is a fragrant pleasure, scented on the nose with strawberry and exotic fruits following, and we all 4 found it  a really pleasant apéritif.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Montpeyroux - toutes caves ouvertes 15/4/2012

On Sunday we went with friends David and Bigi to the village of Montpeyroux north-west of Montpellier.  This is one of the best-known wine villages in the Languedoc, and has acquired a reputation for exceptional wines.  It was our first visit and there were 20 producers offering tastings - needless to say we did not visit all of them.  The village is quite high up in the hilly area known as the Terrasses de Larzac, and Mary had said as we drove over that she thought the wines might be quite austere - she was more or less right, but our small sample of tastings found some elegant wines - at a price.  The reputation of the village has led to quite high prices compared with, for example, our local Saint Christol, and the quality did not always seem to match the premium; but part of the enjoyment of tasting is to meet interesting makers, and so where we received a warm welcome we were more inclined to enjoy the wines!

Our first visit, and last, was to the Domaine La Jasse Castel.  Early in the day we met the friendly vigneronne Pascale Rivière and tasted the white "l'Egrisée" (100% grenache blanc - 12€).  The name means 'diamond dust' and the wine is fresh, quite acidic but beautifully balanced - this was its first vintage.  When we returned at the end of our circuit on the way to the car I tried some reds, Les Combariolles and La Jasse, both syrah grenache blends, the first mostly grenache (26€) and the second mainly syrah (17.40€) - deep dark wines which will keep.  Though none of these wines were cheap, we enjoyed the meeting and brought some bottles away.

One of the best-known producers is the Domaine d'Aupilhac at the top of the village.  The prices here are equally high, and the quality did not always seem to justify the cost, but the premises alone were worth the visit, and as often they had invited a local artist to display work throughout the cellars and tasting rooms.  The premises occupy several interconnected houses along the street front.  Most of the wines scarcely seemed to justify their high prices, but I looked especially for the Carignan de Mont Baudile and was not disappointed by a dense wine which is typical of the vins de pays of this area, anything but ordinary.  A tasting of a 2004 vintage at the end of the tour confirmed its development potential with age.  We also loved Le Boda, an AOP wine made mainly of mourvèdre and syrah and barrel aged for 24 months before bottling.
Working through a number of other producers nearby we tried some interesting single-variety wines from Villa Dondona whose new Dame Mourvèdre has only just been bottled for the first time and whose Chemin de Cayrades (Carignan) seemed very interesting.  We were disappointed that the Domaine Alain Chabanon (several nice wines - they say they have a website but it keeps crashing) had not brought its late-picked chenin blanc 'Le Villard' to the tastings; and we found most of the wines at the Cave Co-opérative disappointing though the prices were very good!  We bought a few bottles of the pleasant red Cuvée Or - very affordable at 3.40€, but were very disappointed by the carignan which seemed watery and lacking in body.  We could have stayed longer but the weather deteriorated which was sad for the organisers who had put a lot of work into an entertaining day, so we went home after lunch.

Thanks to Bigi for some of the photos!