Friday, 2 April 2010

Tasting notes for some new wines

I've been off the radar a bit, over the last few days - not being lazy, I might add, but working like mad to get my website up to date. One of the "chores" involved in this is tasting through a good many wines. OK, so tasting them is hardly a chore - it is of course one of the joys of being a wine merchant. But writing the tasting notes requires a good deal of time and effort, not to mention the various tasks involved in adding each and every wine to the website. Anyway, before I get posting in earnest again (I have a few subjects waiting in line for the blog) here are notes on some of those wines. All are now available from my online shop (retail prices are shown at the end of each note).

Domaine Laguerre Le Ciste Blanc 2005 Cotes du Roussillon
This isn't one of the growers I import from myself, but I have always heard very good things about Eric Laguerre's wines (Jancis Robinson loves them) and I am painfully short of white wines from Roussillon. Laguerre's wines are imported by the same agent as the Joseph Swan Vineyards wines, so I thought I'd pick some of this up, whilst topping-up my supplies of the Swan wines. And I'm really glad I did. It is a blend of Marsanne, Roussanne, Rolle and Macabeu, fermented and aged in oak barrels. Despite the oak treatment (which is clearly very skilfully done) it has bucket-loads of fruit on the nose - apricots and apple pie with raisins, with some herby and spicy notes (notably cinnamon, clove, fennel and herbs de provence). The palate is rich, with a sweet fruit feel, immediatlely followed by a hit of lemon/lime acidity, which surprises you with its intensity. From there, it all comes together in a wine which is at the same time rich, fruity, spicy/herby and nervy. The finish is beautifully balanced and fresh - and very long. it is a lovely wine, which is perfect right now. Great value at £12.50.

Domaine de La Marfée Frissons d'Ombelles 2007 Vin de Pays de l'Hérault
A blend of 70% Roussanne and 30% Chardonnay, aged for 1 year in a mix of new and used oak barrels. A very expressive nose, with aromas of lime and apricot and toasty oak, along with some herby, floral and woodsmoke nuances and a touch of flinty reduction. The palate is full of mineral character, with flavours of stone fruits, citrus and spice. The texture has a slightly oily feel to it, though there is a minerally depth, allied to really zingy acidty - both rich and delicate at the same time. If I were to taste this blind, I might think it was a very young northern Rhone or even Burgundy. That said, it is very primary at the moment, and needs another year or two in bottle for all the elements to begin to knit together and for the oak to soften. A potentially great wine, though, and one of the best whites I have tasted from Languedoc. As a footnote, this one split the jury at a tasting evening I went to the other evening, although the noses and palates I trust amongst the group recognised that this is a wine with a good deal of potential for the future. £14.99

Domaine de La Marfée Les Gamines 2007 Languedoc Saint Georges d'Orques
50% Syrah, 40% Mourvedre and 10% Grenache, aged for 2 years in a mix of new and used oak barrels. The nose gives off notes of black and red fruits, notably blackcurrants and cherries steeped in eau de vie and infused with garrigue herbs. There are also some enticing woody aromas, reminiscent of polished mahogany, with background notes of tobacco, cocoa and allspice. The palate is all about those wonderful blackcurrant and cherry flavours, which coat the mouth before the fine-grained tannins kick in, countered by a healthy lick of acidity. The herby and spicy notes, combined with the lush fruit flavours and a hint of dark chocolate give this wine a certain sweet and sour quality. And that whiff of eau de vie on the nose is obviously a sign of complexity, because the finish is elegant, fruity and spicy, rather than warm and alcoholic, with nary a hint of rusticity. In fact, this is a very fine, complex, captivating wine - and it can only get better. I love it! £13.49

Domaine de La Marfée Les Vignes Qu'On Abat 2007 Vin de Pays de l'Hérault
100% Carignan. Raspberries and blackcurrants leap from the glass, with myriad other aromas, including strawberries and cream, garrigue herbs and even a hint of elderflower. Although again aged in oak for 2 years (mostly older oak, with just a small percentage of new barrels used each year) there is just the merest suggestion of pencil shavings, with no obvious oak aromas - the sign of very skilful winemaking. The palate is medium-rich, with flavours of blackcurrant and cranberry, tar and spice, with hints of garrigue and an almost schiste-like minerality and remarkably ripe, velvety tannins. A touch of sweet fruit returns on the finish, which is spicy and long. This is another really fabulous wine, which is already surprisingly elegant and approachable. Indeed, it is a real testament to the potential of old Carignan vines (in the hands of the right winemaker, of course). Is this the Languedoc's top Carignan? I think so. £23.99

Mas Foulaquier Les Calades 2006 Coteaux du Languedoc Pic Saint-Loup
60% Syrah and 40% Grenache. The nose is a heady mix of red and black fruits steeped in eau de vie, with all manner of exotic spice and garrigue herb notes. Despite being aged for 24 months (half in concrete vats, half in barrels and demi-muids of between 3 and 10 years old) the oak hardly gets a look in, with merely a hint of polished wood mingled in with the complex fruit aromas. The palate is awash with bramble and redcurrants and even a hint of seville orange, giving the wine a distinct tanginess. There is plenty of spicy, tannic grip, but the fruit is so lush and the acidity so mouth-watering that you almost don't notice - it really is a wonderfully balanced, complex wine, combining power with considerable elegance. And if ever a wine wore its 14.5% abv so beautifully, this is it. A compelling and utterly brilliant wine. £15.99

Mas Foulaquier l'Orfée 2008 Languedoc Pic Saint-Loup
The nose has floral scents (hints of violet and lily), mingled with crystallised bramble fruits, tar and eau de vie, with plenty of garrigue and savoury/meaty nuances. I would swear that there were also some mahogany/woody notes, but this wine is very definitely not oak-aged. The palate is rich, with the raisined fruit quality of the Grenache complemented by the high-toned bramble and blackcurrant of the Syrah. The tannins are firm but fine and there is tangy acidity to spare, in another beautifully balanced wine. At the same tasting evening referred to above, this was even more of a jury-splitter. Many were not impressed, although a couple of respected palates were much more complimentary. I'd written my note much earlier in the day and loved it - and that was good enough for me. I guess sometimes some people just don't "get" my wines, although I do of course have to take others' opinions into consideration. But, to paraphrase something Brian Clough once famously said, we sit down and we talk about it for twenty minutes and then we decide I was right. Or at least I do, anyway! After all, I wouldn't be selling a wine if I did not have complete confidence in it. £13.75

Mas Foulaquier Les Tonillieres 2008 Languedoc Pic Saint-Loup
50% old vine Carignan, 50% Syrah. I wrtote my tasting note for this over two separate evenings (from the same bottle, of course). On the first night, the nose was glorious, whilst the palate was a little bit unforthcoming. The second night, though, it had blossomed into something much more beautiful. Aromas of cherries and raspberries leap from the glass, with background notes of violets, aromatic herbs and liquorice. After some exposure to the air (in this case 24 hours) it develops subtle notes of peppermint, polished leather and eau de vie. Delve a little further and you might even detect hints of apple and iodine. In fact it really is quite complex stuff. The palate reveals flavours of raspberry and redcurrant, a streak of earthy minerality and firm but fine tannins. There is also a distinct herbiness and tanginess, which makes this wine a great match for dishes seasoned with herbs and maybe even soft spices. And the fruit has hidden depths, becoming denser and more full-bodied after some time. I think the secret is to give it a vigorous double-decant, a good 2 or 3 hours before drinking (or preferably longer) because it really does make all the difference. It is a very pure, elegant wine, and should develop and soften beautifully after another year or two in bottle. £12.50

Joseph Swan Vineyards Trenton Estate Vineyard Syrah 2004 Russian River Valley
This is the latest addition to my selection of Joseph Swan wines. I hadn't tasted it before, but I thought I'd take a chance - and it paid off. The nose is initially unforthcoming, but takes only a few minutes to show off trademark Syrah notes of dark fruits, leather and spice, with the equally trademark Swan high-toned aromas. There is also a touch of pencil-shaving or older wood notes, but otherwise no noticeable oak influence - which is just how it should be. The palate offers rich, but oh-so succulent fruit flavours. The effect is like raspberries, brambles and blackcurrants steeped in eau de vie and very gently pickled and preserved. It sounds whacky (which, indeed, most Swan wines are) but it all adds up to a totally mouth-watering wine, which manages to be both extremely food friendly and lovely to drink on its own. Another winner, which does nothing to alter my opinion that Joseph Swan Vineyards is California's most consistent (and great value) wine grower. £22.50
Lots more posts coming up in the next few days, so keep checking back.


Anonymous said...

I used to stock Eric laguerre's wines some years ago when I was still in the game.
I was a fan.
very good value for money.
4 years ago the wines were still under a tenner.

Leon Stolarski said...

Yes Bernard, I did seem to remember you talking about the Laguerre wines a year or two back (or more). 4 years ago, 75% of my wines were under a tenner - sadly, with poor exchange rates and continued rises in duty, those days are gone. :-( That Le Ciste Blanc really is lovely, though - and still vfm at £12.50.

Anonymous said...

yes £12.50 is a good price for the quality.
glad to see the marfee have made it.
I won't go on about how good they are ,the prices are very fair indeed.

Graham said...

Had (OK shared) a bottle of Mas Foulaquier's Le Rollier 2006 in a Beziers restaurant. It seems similar to the l'Orphée from the fiche - a bit more grenache and slightly longer in the tank. No oak, which I like, especially at lunchtime. Your tasting notes of l'Orphée pretty much reflect it. The last wines I tasted from the domaine were the 2000 vintage and they have come a long way - better structure, freshness and purity.