Thursday, 13 January 2011

Quenching my thirst for white wines - a trio from Languedoc, plus a Portugese that goes up to eleven!

Sometime over the next couple of days - once I've had time to organise my notes into something resembling cohesive - I'll tell you about a truly fascinating tasting of Carignan-based (and in most cases, 100% Carignan) wines from France, Sardinia and California. Meanwhile, I'll give you the low-down on some more delicious whites that have passed my lips in the last few days, beginning with a trio from Domaine Sainte Rose.

Domaine Sainte Rose Le Coquille d'Oc White 2009 IGP Cotes de Thongue
This is an estate that many of my customers will know very well, since I used to stock a few of their wines - and would certainly consider doing so in the future. Whilst I didn't care for the estate's entry-level red, its white partner was a different matter altogether. The nose is a riot of citrus and stone fruits, along with a distinct grapiness, courtesy of a proportion of Muscat in the blend, and some nice floral and herbaceous aromas. Although a somewhat unusual mix of grape varieties (Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Viognier and Muscat) it works really well - and does in fact display many of the characteristics of its constituent parts. And although not complex, neither is it a simple quaffer, with juicy summer fruit and zesty citrus flavours accompanied by some intriguing savoury, spicy and herby nuances, and even a touch of salinity. A really well-made wine, which puts most other generic Languedoc blends in the shade.

Domaine Sainte Rose Le Sirocco Chardonnay 2009 IGP Cotes de Thongue
Aromas of peach, citrus and ripe Granny Smith apple, with a touch of leesy richness. The palate too is quite rich and ripe, but stops short of being tropical or new world in style. Indeed, it also possesses a florality and herbaceousness redolent of Sauvignon, with citrus and apple flavours complemented by grassy, herby, minerally and leesy nuances. Actually, as I type, I am noticing some of the same phrases and descriptors as the above wine, which is perhaps an indicator of both the terroir and the house style (i.e. good winemaking). And as a matter of fact, the inherent richness in this wine is nicely offset by some mouth-watering acidity, in a wine which remains focused, all the way to a long, dry finish.

Domaine Sainte Rose Barrel Selection Roussanne 2009 IGP Cotes de Thongue
This has some quite complex fruit and floral aromas, suggesting orange, apricot, peach and honeysuckle, with subtle notes of garrigue herbs, minerals and nicely-judged oak. The palate is quite rich and mouth-filling, with those lovely soft citrus and stone fruit and floral elements combining nicely with some quite distinct herby, spicy notes. Again, there's a nice background of toasty oak vanillin, but it works in harmony with, rather than against the fruit. And the result is a rich, warming, spicy, yet really rather elegant and complex wine, with impressive length. And although lovely to drink now, it should evolve nicely for a year or two at least - and maybe up to 5 (or more).

Esporão Branco Reserva 2009 Alentejo, Portugal
This is a wine sent to me as part of a generous (and particularly interesting) mixed dozen, by Stewart Travers at Cambridge Wine Merchants. Although my experience of Portugese white wines has until recently been fairly limited, I've tasted enough to know that there are some great vinous treasures (including countless obscure, indiginous grape varieties) to be had from this country - and this is a particularly fine example. A little research tells me that it is made from a blend of Antão Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro. No - I've never heard of any of them either! Although it has clearly seen some oak barrel ageing, the effect is entirely beneficial and harmonious. The nose is a glorious combination of flowers and fruit - honeysuckle and orange blossom, peach, apricot and soft citrus - whilst the palate is a lesson in how to combine richness, restrained power and elegance. At 14.5%, this is no shrinking violet, and there is undoubtedly a warmth to it, in a sort of southern Rhone way. But if only more southern Rhone whites had this level of freshness and vitality to go with that warmth. There's a touch of grape tannin in there (and of course some wood tannin) but there is nary a hint of pithiness or bitterness, whilst the rich, almost sweet fruit is balanced by a healthy level of acidity. It is a heady wine, and the volume definitely "goes up to eleven", but it really is deliciously drinkable. Lovely stuff!

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