"Real Wines" was the title of this trade event, held on 19 and 20 April in London, designed to showcase several hundred wines from what seems like merely a fraction of the growers now listed by Les Caves de Pyrène. This particular importer specialises in biodynamic and organic growers, with a good many falling in the "natural" category (although I - and presumably the growers - use that term fairly loosely). Many of the wines were wacky and weird. Some were really good, even excellent, whilst some were merely OK - and others were just plain bad. I'll try not to spout on about the bad ones too much, since I have more than a little admiration for the philosophy of the buyers at Les Caves de Pyrène - namely, to seek out new and interesting growers who are pushing the boundaries of winemaking (or "pushing the envelope", as some like to put it) and trying to make their wines in a non-interventionist (or "natural") way.
It was a long day, and there were an awful lot of wines on offer, so I didn't get the chance to taste through all of them. I guess I must have tasted around 100 altogether. Mostly, they were the wines I had heard good things about or wines I had already tasted and enjoyed on previous occasions, plus a few stabs in the dark. I'll post the notes not in the order I tasted, but in the order they appeared in the tasting booklet. There are too many to fit into a single post, so I'll spread them out over 3 entries. We'll begin with southern France. Prices shown are the advertised trade prices (so add on a few quid - plus VAT - for possible retail prices);
Domaine du Pech, Buzet
Vin de Table Le Pech Abusé 2004 (£10.35) - Cherries and meat stock nose. Rich black fruit palate - bramble and blackcurrant. Spicy, with decent acidity. Very tannic, but with loads of fruit. Needs food.
Domaine Elian de Ros, Cotes du Marmandais
Clos Baquey 2006 (£20.15) - Deep colour. Lifted aromas of summer fruits and a touch of cedar. Rich, dark fruits on the palate ,with stout tannins, but great balancing acidity. Needs food, but a really good wine. At that price, though, it should be.
Clos Lapeyre, Jurançon
Jurançon Sec 2008 (£8.55) - Displays bitterness, rather than the trademark Jurançon acidity. Not for me.
Vitatge Vielh de Lapeyre 2006 (£11.40) - Nicer, but still lacks freshness. Rich, but ultimately harsh.
Jurançon Vent Balaguer 2005 (£41.85 for 50cl) - Barley sugar and botrytis(?) Uber-rich, with lovely acidity and fabulous sweetness. Orange marmalade, lemon, toffee, tea, ginger and spice. Massive structure and very long and spicy. A wonderful wine. Then again, it needs be, since it is bound to retail at well over 50 quid for the 50cl bottle.
Clos du Gravillas, St Jean de Minervois
Minervois Blanc l'Inattendu 2008 (£14.95) - Toasty, coconutty oak and stone fruits. Rich and long, with notes of liquorice and sweet candied fruits. Very good stuff.
Soux Les Cailloux des Grillons 2008 (£8.75) - Rich and very ripe, but nicely balanced and winey. Pastille fruit, herbs and spices. It's lovely already, but give it 3 more years.
Domaine Matassa, Cotes du Roussillon
Vin de Pays Cotes Catalanes Blanc 2007 (£24.20) - Smells of sulphur, like a struck match. It is trying to smell fruity, but failing. Rich, even fiery, and a bit volatile. Not my cup of tea.
Vin de Pays Cotes Catalanes Blanc 2008 ("POA") - Oak and more oak. But not much in the way of fruit. Bitter lemon pith flavour. Oh dear.
Vin de Pays Cotes Catalanes Rouge Romanissa 2006 (£15.70) - A hint of soft red fruit, but there is also a touch of bitterness. Tannic and extracted, although I feel it may be interesting in a few years.
Vin de Pays Cotes Catalanes Rouge Romanissa 2007 ("POA") - Sulphur. Soft, pastilley fruit again, but still a bit astringent. The jury is out on this one, too.
Domaine d'Auphilac, Montpeyroux
Coteaux de Languedoc Montpeyroux 2006 (£10.95) - A curious hint of gloss paint on the nose. The palate is lovely, though, with soft red and black fruits, spice and garrigue herbs. Plenty of tannin, but nicely balanced. One to keep.
Les Servieres Vin de Pays de l'Hérault 2009 (£8.35) - Pastille fruits and lifted aromas. Super-ripe, super-rich and super-modern. Seems like there's some added acidity here, but it is not enough to redeem what is essentially a sweet and over-extracted wine.
Domaine Hauvette, Les Baux de Provence
Mas Hauvette, Coteaux des Baux (£19.40) - Raisiny and baked, almost like a 2003. Perhaps this bottle was on its second day but, nevertheless, this seems like a very tired wine. Why are they still selling the 2004 vintage?
Who is this man that keeps appearing in my photos?!
The tasting room, with Bernard looking eager to get on with some serious tasting
Tomorrow, I'll post further notes on some wines from Alsace and Burgundy. Following that, I'll do Italy. Meanwhile, it's Saturday morning, so I'm off to play golf!