Thursday, 30 June 2011

Some new wines from Provence

Well, it's been a few days since we returned from our holiday in Languedoc and I've been so busy catching-up on things that time for blogging has been short. I did sort of indicate an ntention to make plenty of posts whilst we were in France, but the best intentions sometimes fall by the wayside, especially when relaxation takes hold - after all, it was our annual holiday. I guess I could have adopted a "little and often" approach, but I am not one of these people who feel it is necessary to make daily blog posts, even if one has little to say of substance. That's what Facebook and Twitter are for.

That's not to say that I haven't been busy meeting some great people and tasting some great wines (and in some great places)! But it takes a lot of time to transform hastily scribbled notes into cohesive reading material - and rest assured, I have plenty of that to go at, and shall publish several posts over the next week or two, covering those visits. Meanwhile, whilst I was away, my Provence wines were delivered to the bond, with new vintages from 3 of the region's finest growers, and I have been busy tasting and compiling notes on some of them, over the past couple of days. They should be loaded onto the website in a few days, but here are a few notes to be going on with;

Chateau Pradeaux Rosé 2010 Bandol
55% Mourvedre and 45% Cinsault. As always with Pradeaux Rosé, this has the most exquisite, ultra-pale onion skin/blood orange colour – really beautiful to look at. It is a vin de pressurage, meaning that it is made from a direct pressing of the grapes, rather than the usual saignée (free-run juice) method. The nose has aromas of wild strawberry, redcurrant and pale peach, along with some delightful notes of rose petals, forest floor, hedgerow and garrigue - it really is an elegant, subtle, yet considerably complex wine. There's just a hint of creaminess, which also manifests itself on the palate, with a combination of delicate red fruits and citrus and a light herbiness. There's ample acidity and a mineral streak which, combined with just the right amount of grape tannin, makes for a pretty serious, yet beautifully rounded wine, which develops beautifully over a period of several hours in the decanter. This is a vintage that tends towards elegance, rather than power, yet it has a very impressive finish, with tangy, zesty, herby, lightly spicy flavours lingering long on the finish. One of the world's great rosés. 12.5% abv. Will be £17.50.

Domaine d'Estoublon 2008 Vin de Pays des Alpilles
A blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, aged for 11 months in barrel. The nose on this wine exhibits notes of quince, apricot, peach and pink grapefruit, along with something almost evocative of red fruits, which is most unusual in a white wine. Further notes of citrus blossom and honeysuckle, soft spices, nuts and clarified butter make for a wine of quite stunning complexity. As with previous vintages, the oak-ageing is beautifully done and really quite subtle, allowing all of those wonderful "winey" aromas to sing. The palate is crammed full of flavour, with a high level of concentration and a rich, mouth-coating oiliness and nuttiness, which is balanced by wonderful orangey acidity and perhaps even a little grape/wood tannin. Once again, restrained power is the order of the day, in a wine which combines richness of flavour with supreme elegance and a gentle, spicy warmth. It is perhaps a tad richer than the 2007, but no less complex or elegant for it. The finish is as long and complex as the start and the middle, with all of those glorious, hedonistic flavours lingering for an age. Another utterly glorious white wine from this rising star of Provence. 13.4% abv. Will be £22.99.

Le Lys de Chateau Pradeaux 2006
90% Mourvedre and 10% Grenache. Although this wine is made from vines aged between 20 and 30 years old and is effectively the "second wine" of Pradeaux (the vines used for Chateau Pradeaux are 35-plus years old) it is very similar to the grand vin in both aromatic profile and structure. Iodine, polished old leather, meat and garrigue herbs are prevalent on the nose, whilst the palate is very definitely old-school Bandol - plenty of black fruit flavours, laden with herbs and spices, but with a firm tannic backbone and a tight, earthy, minerally structure. Of course, it also possesses typical southern warmth and generosity, making it really rather nice to drink already, especially with food - we paired it with some Toulouse sausages and a herby, garlicy tomato sauce, and it was a wonderful match. It is a lovely wine, and an excellent introduction to top-notch estate Bandol, at a price that won't break the bank. Will be £16.50.

Chateau d'Estoublon 2006 Les Baux de Provence
A blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Mourvedre, aged for 18 months in oak barrels. A delicious combination of smoke, meat, garrigue herbs, soft spices, polished leather, red capsicum and rotting, high-toned red and black fruits fairly leap out of the glass. It really is a tremendously complex and alluring nose, which strikes a perfect balance between fruit and savoury, with a touch of florality thrown in for good measure. The palate is full of fresh red and black fruit flavours, combining all of those qualities of fruit, herbs, spices, peppery and savoury/meaty notes with tremendous concentration, fine, grippy tannins and admirable acidity - and a tremendous length of flavour. That said, this is no Parkerised monster - despite the concentration, it has plenty of subtlety, with that heightened acidity giving real lift and vitality. This is another multi-dimensional wine, from one of the great Provence vintages in recent memory, which again possesses all of the ingredients necessary for it to age gracefully for at least 5 to 10 years. 13.4% abv. Will be £19.99 - and worth every penny.

Domaine de Trévallon 2007 Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhone
A 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, grown on the north-facing slopes of the Alpilles in deepest Provence. Aged for 20 months in large oak foudres. A deepish purple, semi-transluscent core with a tiny ruby rim, this has an intensely fruity, pastilley, perfumed nose, with classic Trévallon mulberry, bramble and blackcurrant fruits comined with notes of flowers, meat, leather and citrus. As with most Trévallons from great vintages, it has immense concentration and depth of fruit, but the balance is nigh-on perfect, with juicy, citrussy acidity combining with super-ripe tannins in a wine which I find almost impossible to fault. Tasting the last dregs a few days later (this is a 3 July edit) I am struck by the sheer weight and concentration of fruit in this wine, but also the fact that it manages to remain elegant and balanced, with some lovely smoky, cedary notes lingering. But - more importantly - the fact that it smells and tastes like a classic Trévallon, even at this stage. Trévallon is never velvety or soft - it is wild, herby, ever-so-slightly spicy and full of the flavours of Provence. But this particular vintage is generous, whilst remaining tremendously focused, complex and possessed of real finesse. It is a wine with the generosity, depth of flavour and structure that marks it out as one the great Trévallons - if not the greatest - produced in the last 20 years. And whilst I have rarely - if ever - encountered a Trévallon which is so deliciously drinkable at such a young age, I have no doubt that it will also be very long-lived. Quite simply, it is a masterpiece. 14.0% abv. I only have very a small quantity of this wine, so it will be limited to 2 bottles per customer, at £43.99 - and for one of the world's great red wines, that is still a bargain.

Next up will be a feature on my recent visit to one of my very favourite Languedoc growers, Thierry Hasard of Domaine de La Marfée.

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