Over the past few days, apart from enjoying the sudden arrival of summer, I have also been busy tasting and writing-up lots of new additions to my list - yet more interesting stuff that I have picked up on the secondary market for the "special purchases" section of my website, but also some brand new wines just arrived from two of my very favourite Languedoc growers........
Chardonnay, Riesling and Chenin Blanc. A really quite complex array of fruity, floral, honey and mineral aromas, together with distinct notes of wet wool and lanolin. Indeed, the profile is much more in the style of a carefully aged Crémant de Loire, with the Chenin (and to an extent, the Riesling) asserting its presence far more than the Chardonnay. And the palate really does live up to the promise of the nose - essentially almost bone dry, but with a delicious combination of zesty/oily citrus and tree fruit, honey, wet stone and lanolin, the flavours of which linger for a long time on the rich, tangy finish. And with what appears to be a year or two of bottle age (as suggested by the nose and the hue) the result is a rather wonderful sparkling wine that is at the same time unusual, complex and utterly refreshing - and will offer plenty of drinking pleasure over the coming summer months. An absolute cracker of a wine. 12.0% abv. £8.75.
A blend of Moscatel Galego (a.k.a. Muscat a Petit Grains), Viosinho, Arinto, Fernão Pires. Pale, watery straw/gold colour. Highly aromatic, with lemon oil, peach and apple and subtle notes of flowers and herbs. Quite full-bodied, with a touch of richness, offering flavours of peach, melon and citrus peel and fennel seed. Although quite rounded and warming, it is full of freshness and vitality, with mouth-watering acidity and a tangy/zesty finish. Stylistically, this is not a million miles away from a rather good Languedoc or southern Rhone white. 13.5% abv. Brilliant summer drinking and great value at £8.50.
Delicate aromas of spiced pear, orange, apple, apricot and peach, with background notes of oregano, fennel and honeysuckle. And although it is aged in oak barrels for 6 months, the effect is minimal - winemaker Guy Vanlancker hasn't bought any new barrels since 2001! The palate is packed with stone fruit flavours and even a hint of fresh grapes, the texture has a slight oiliness, but is zesty and mouth-wateringly dry, with tremendous depth of fruit and delicious orangey acidity. Year after year, Guy Vanlancker makes lovely wine from these 2 grape varieties, and this is one of the best yet. 14.0% abv. £9.70.
Syrah, Cinsault and Grenache. A gorgeous pale salmon pink colour, with aromas of raspberry, redcurrant and delicate floral notes. A hint of pear drops - which I find rather fetching in a young rosé - will recede with time in bottle. Soft and gently creamy in the mouth, with lashings of strawberry, raspberry and freshly-squeezed orange flavours, subtle herby nuances and refreshing acidity. The schiste soil on which the grapes are grown adds a typical streak of Saint-Chinian minerality, whilst the finish is long and gently spicy. This is proper wine, bordering on serious, and would give many an expensive Provençale rosé a run for its money. It is brilliant as an aperitif, but equally good with food. 13.5% abv. £9.40.
Medium-deep red in colour with aromas of raspberry and loganberry, polished wood and damp earth - lovely and fresh, with a hint of citrus and meaty/savoury notes. The palate shows some real elegance - some tannic grip, but plenty of fruit and acidity to match, with lashings of strawberry/raspberry compote flavours and a nice layer of creamy vanilla. There is no discernible oak influence, but it doesn't need dressing up, for this is packed with juicy fruit. As with the same grower's Pinot, this isn't trying to be anything else (and certainly not Rioja) - it shows lots of Tempranillo character, but is proudly Languedocien. Rich, rounded and lovely - and ready to drink now. 13.5% abv. £9.80.
A medium-deep red colour with aromas of summer pudding, apple pie and soft citrus. Hints of new leather, eau de vie, herbs and spices, too, but essentially fruit-driven and remarkably fresh and high-toned. This isn't trying to be Burgundy (Languedoc is too hot!), but it is a wine that deserves to be loved for what it is - namely, identifiably Pinot-esque, but fruity, spicy, gently tannic and full of southern charm and warmth. Despite the 14.5% alcohol, it is nicely balanced, with decent acidity which contributes to a deliciously sweet and sour finish. 14.5% abv. £10.50.
Deep purple core with a dark ruby rim. This really is a gloriously perfumed wine, with multi-layered black cherry, bramble and raspberry aromas, accompanied by damp earth, polished wood, leather, fine eau de vie and subtle notes of violet and peony. And whilst slow to come out of its shell, it gets more and more complex after a few hours in the decanter (and positively sings on day 2). The intense summer heat in the vineyards high above La Liviniere means that optimum ripeness is accompanied by relativelly high alcohol, but this is no Parkerised monster. For whilst evidently full-bodied and ripe, it possesses more than a little complexity and real elegance, with a multitude of fresh - rather than baked - red and black fruit flavours, infused with garrigue herbs and again a touch of earthiness. A combination of remarkably fine, supple tannins and juicy, orange-tinged acidity completes the package. The finish is long, spicy, warming, life-affirming - and truly worthy of contemplation. And it really does pass the harshest of tests, because it still tastes wonderful at 3 o'clock in the morning (which is when I wrote this tasting note) - and it is a rare wine that can do that for me! As a winemaker who forever struggles to make ends meet, Guy Vanlancker has not bought any new barrels for over 10 years. But this wine really doesn't need to be dressed up in a cloak of new oak - it is winemaking without a safety net, and with his skills laid bare, Guy has once again fashioned something remarkable. And at this price, it really is a steal. You can drink it now, with pleasure, but it should also age nicely for a good few years yet. 14.5% abv. £10.99.