Sunday, 28 March 2010

Vinisud report - part 8 - the final chapter

It is a month now since I returned from my Vinisud trip, so time for me to wrap the topic up with a few more highlights. But I’ll begin with a definite lowlight…..

I mentioned in an earlier post how disappointed I was with the latest offerings from Domaine Alain Chabanon. Nevertheless, those wines were a pleasurable experience in comparison to what came next. Because pretty much the next stand we visited (and I’m still not sure why, though Bernard might care to elaborate) was "Vin de Merde". This particular brand was created, we were told, because there is so much rubbish (i.e. shit or merde) wine coming out of southern France. Therefore, their supposedly brilliant trio of white, rosé and red wines have been proudly labelled as "Shit Wine". Now, I'm all for a touch of irony, but it went straight over my head with these wines - quite simply, they do exactly what they say on the label. They really were truly awful – in fact, classic DNPIM (do not put in mouth) wines. Sorry, but I neglected to take a photo, and I certainly couldn’t bring myself to write tasting notes. Frankly, these wines and this sort of marketing do nothing but harm to the reputation of the southern French wine industry. I sincerely hope we won't see them cropping up on UK supermarket shelves any time soon.

Later, we wandered over to the hall where the Corsican growers were situated, as I was interested in tasting the wines of Domaine de Toraccia and Domaine Yves Leccia. I have tasted only a handful of Corsican wines in my time, although I did once source a small parcel of Clos Poggiale 2000, a really rather good red wine produced in Corsica by the large Robert Skalli organisation. Although the Toraccia and Leccia wines were of a consistent standard, with one or two being particularly good - the whites more so than the reds - I wasn’t bowled over. They weren’t overly expensive (though not particularly cheap either) but the logistical problems of shipping relatively small quantities of wine from a Mediterranean island mean that they would need to be rather special for me to consider importing them.

We also paid a visit to the stand of Domaine Anne Gros and Jean-Paul Tollot, two names that will be familiar to Burgundy fans. I don’t have much experience of the wines of Anne Gros, although I am aware that her wines are of very high quality. And I can personally vouch for the quality of the wines of Tollot-Beaut, since I actually have a few in my cellar. So I was interested to see how they had adapted to making wines in the completely different environment of Minervois. La Ciaude Minervois 2008, which is a blend of Carignan, Syrah and Grenache, is full of spicy, elegant fruit with a good deal of minerality. Les Carrétals Minervois 2008, a 100% Carignan, is rich and tannic, but nicely balanced. Another wine with excellent Minervois typicity, although it probably needs 5 years more to really show its best. The wines are very good, without yet being spectacular, but these are early days and this could be an estate to watch in the future.

It was getting quite late in the afternoon by this time, so we only had time left for a few whistle-stop visits to a handful of my existing growers, notably Michel and Renza-Louise Rosier of Domaine Rosier, Laeticia Peitri of Domaine Pietri-Geraud, Jean-Pierre Cabanes and his daughter Marie-Pierre of Domaine d’Archimbaud (whose latest vintages of Saint-Saturnin have just arrived in stock) and finally Anne Sutra de Germa and her husband Christian Gil of Domaine Monplezy. It is always nice to meet Anne and Christian, who make some lovely organic wines at their idyllic estate situated just to the north of Pézenas. We tasted through the current vintages and, although I didn’t make any tasting notes, I was (surprise, surprise!) impressed with the quality of the range. I especially liked Delice 2006, which is a vendange tardive (late harvest) wine made from 100% old vine Grenache. I wasn’t a fan of the 2005, as I felt it lacked the necessary acidity, but the 2006 did what it says on the bottle – it was delicious – with perfumed fruit aromas and flavours, with notes of dark chocolate. It was soft and unctuous, with a hint of sweet and sour and ample acidity. Although it wouldn’t be cheap, I may have to get some with my next order.

Yours truly with Anne Sutra de Germa of Domaine Monplezy

And with that, it was time to beat the rush and return to Marseillan for a quick shower, before repairing to the Taverne du Port for a relaxing meal, accompanied by a nicely maturing bottle of Domaine de l’Aiguiliere Cote Rousse 2001 Montpeyroux. At around 45 Euros for the bottle, it wasn’t cheap, but it provided an excellent accompaniment to Bernard’s lamb and my cote de boeuf. We then went for a browse around the well-stocked cave and a chat and a drink with my friend Bruno Henri, the owner of the Taverne du Port. Bruno is a big friendly bear of a man, and always good company. If you are ever in Marseillan, you really can’t leave without at least once having a browse through the wonderful wine selection, which runs to 500-plus different wines. Obviously, the list is dominated by Languedoc and Roussillon, but there is also a great selection of wines from all of the other major regions of France. What’s more you can choose any bottle you like to accompany your meal in the restaurant.

Chatting with Bruno Henri (right) in his treasure trove of a shop in Marseillan

After spending an hour or more chatting with Bruno, it was time to get some much needed sleep, before our 6am departure from the hotel. Thankfully, the journey back to the UK was much less traumatic than our outward journey, although our flight was delayed by around an hour, which I think was a knock-on effect of (yet another) French air traffic controllers’ strike. Actually, it was a great flight – very smooth, and with some wonderful views of the snow-covered Peak District as we approached Manchester Airport.

Flying over the Pennines on our approach to Manchester Airport -
- Kinder Reservoir is bottom left

So, another Vinisud has come and gone, but I have some great memories to look back on – and some great new wines to look forward to. If you are in any way connected to the wine trade and you ever get the chance to go to Vinisud (the next one will be in February 2012) then I can recommend it without reservation.

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