Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Vinisud Part 2 - Domaine La Combe Blanche and Chateau La Dournie

No trip to Vinisud would be complete without a visit to the stand of our good friends Guy and Isabelle Vanlancker, from Domaine La Combe Blanche. Those of you who have followed the progress of Leon Stolarski Fine Wines will know that Guy's wonderful wines are the very reason for our existence in the wine business.

A treasured picture from a few years ago - Guy Vanlancker and his lovely wife Isabelle in the foreground, with TLD and our two rascally young boys

Calamiac Terroir Roussanne Viognier 2011 VdP des Cotes du Brian
This really is fresh as a daisy and completely delicious. No point taking a note, really, as for me it is simply a must-buy - and on first impressions, as good as always, if not better. Will retail at £9.75.

Cinsault l'Incompris 2011 VdP des Cotes du Brian
I don't recall noticing the bottle, but I assume this will be a new label (as distinct from the Calamiac Terroir series). Incompris translates as "misunderstood", and Cinsault has (along with the oft-maligned, but now in-vogue Carignan) traditionally been seen as a blending grape. Indeed, wines based purely (or even predominantly) on Cinsault are pretty rare, although Patricia Domergue makes one at Clos Centeilles, just a couple of kilometres up the road from La Combe Blanche in the tiny hamlet of Siran. And Guy definitely has the knack with Cinsault - his 2007 is a lovely little wine and is still drinking well (I have a couple of cases left, at £9.20 per bottle. l'Incompris 2011 is also a delicious drop - gloriously fruity and aromatic, with soft tannins and juicy acidity. It will be a bit of a steal at £7.99.

Calamiac Terroir Tempranillo 2009 and 2011 VdP des Cotes du Brian
If Cinsault-rich wines are rare in Languedoc, then with Tempranillo, we are very definitely into "hens teeth" territory. Guy planted his in the early 1990's and, although a few others have followed suit, it remains extremely uncommon in Languedoc. The 2011 was a tank sample, and has yet to be bottled, so not available for my current order. It possesses plenty of fruit, accompanied by pepper and spice, though it needs a year or two for the tannins to soften. For now, I will be taking a few cases of the 2009, which is coming nicely into its drinking window. I currently have just a few bottles of 2007 left at £9.20, whilst the 2009 will retail at £9.25.

Le Dessous de l'Enfer 2010 VdP des Cotes du Brian
This is Guy's premium Tempranillo, made only in certain years, in which the best fruit is aged for 18 months in older oak barrels. It is laden with aromas of brambly fruit and spices, with notes of cough medicine, balsam and polished wood. The palate is rich and dense, with firm tannins and a sweet/sour cherry kernel finish. Again, this is not yet available in bottle, but needs time in any case. Good stuff, though!

La Galine 2008 and 2010 Minervois La Liviniere
In effect, La Galine is Guy's "entry level" La Liviniere, but those of you with experience of previous vintages I have sold (notably 2000, 2001 and 2004) will know that it is a serious (and seriously good) wine. I didn't make much of a note on the 2010, but it has a delightful perfume and a silky mouth-feel, and is surprisingly open and luscious now. However, I will be taking the 2008, which is equally delicious and has a couple more years' maturity to it (though it will undoubtedly age nicely for a few more years yet). Will retail at £11.50.

La Chandeliere 2009 Minervois La Liviniere
Despite the undoubted quality of La Galine, this is another notch up the scale, with rich, gently baked red and black fruits, countered by a good deal of minerality and ever-so-silky tannins. A complex wine, which is good to drink already, but has serious ageing potential. Will be £14.50 - and worth every penny!

I will also be importing Calamiac Terroir Minervois 2010 (£8.85) and Calamiac Terroir Pinot Noir 2009 (£9.25), although I didn't make any tasting notes as such - so you will have to wait a couple of weeks for my full tasting notes on the LS Fine Wines website. All good things, etc..... ;-)

The new range of Domaine La Combe Blanche wines should arrive in stock within the next 2 to 3 weeks. Make sure you are on the LS Fine Wines mailing list to be amongst the first to know.


Chateau La Dournie has been a firm favourite of mine (not to mention my more enlightened customers) for a few years now, although I actually sold out of their wines a few months ago. So I was glad to be able to visit their stand at Vinisud and taste the current vintages before placing an order. Winemaker Véronique Etienne greeted me with a playfully beady eye, no doubt a mock reprimand for having compared Elise 2006 to a very good Cote Rotie (Languedoc winemakers are very proud of their own terroir!) but both my compliment and the comparison were sincere - and of course, she knew it. :-)

The charismatic Véronique Etienne (left) and her very capable assistant, Monique Blok

Chateau La Dournie Rosé 2011 Saint-Chinian
As always, a gorgeous soft rese petal pink colour. Fresh, balanced, wonderfully fruity and elegant, with plenty of Saint-Chinian minerality and a subtle herbiness. This really is proper rosé! I have ordered a few cases of this (projected price £9.50).

Chateau La Dournie 2009 (and 2010) Saint-Chinian
I imported several vintages of this wine, before Majestic discovered it a couple of years back and offered it at a price I couldn't even get close to matching (oh to be able to have such buying power and economies of scale). It is still a cracking wine, though, and these were both delicious - the 2009 has the typical black olive, herb, red fruit and schiste/mineral profile, whilst the 2010 (not yet bottled) is softer and less mineral, but still with plenty of structure.

Etienne 2008 Saint-Chinian
The wine formerly known as Chateau Etienne La Dournie, the name has now been truncated, but the wine is still just as good. Mainly Syrah, plus some Grenache and Carignan, aged in barrel for 1 year. Elegant and highly-perfumed, with aromas and flavours of crystallised fruits and red berries. Grippy, but beautifully balanced, with strong minerality, ample acidity and a good deal of complexity. A really lovely wine, which will be in stock by mid-to-late May (projected price £12.50).

Etienne 2009 Saint-Chinian (tank sample - not yet bottled)
As with the younger Chateau La Dournie, this is currently a little primal and fruit-driven, with the terroir yet to really emerge. Plenty of complexity though, with a rich texture. Needs time.

Elise 2008 Saint-Chinian
The estate's top red wine, made from 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache, aged for 1 year in barrel. Supremely elegant on the nose, with soft red and black fruits, violets, tapenade and a lick of oak. The palate is at the same time velvety and high-toned, with gorgeous fruit flavours countered by orangey acidity, grippy but fine tannins and real mineral depth. Young, and with the structure to age for 10 years or more, but already showing its class. A completely brilliant wine (which I won't dare to compare to anything else - at least not in print!) which will retail at £14.95.

Elise 2009 Saint-Chinian
Another wine which is still to be bottled. As with the other tank samples, it majors on fruit, with a palate of pure velvet. Difficult to assess at this point, but it clearly has the makings of another serious, complex wine.

Marie 2011 IGP Pays d'Oc
An "experimental" dry white which should, by rights, have preceded the reds, although it was almost served to me as an afterthought. Experimental because this is the first vintage of this barrel-fermented 100% Roussanne. Following fermentation, it is left for a further 2 months on its lees. The result is a wine with a very fruity nose, with the (still rather subtle) oak being more evident on the palate, along with some peachy, creamy fruit and good acidity. As this was another wine which had yet to be bottled, I guessed it may have the ability to develop into something really quite interesting, so I have ordered a few cases, which will retail at around £11.95 a bottle.

Again, our new range of Chateau La Dournie wines should arrive in stock within the next 2 to 3 weeks. I can't wait!


AlanM said...

As you say two estates of sustained excellence. Good to read Part 2 ;)

Leon Stolarski said...

"Sustained excellence" - I like that phrase, Alan. Why didn't I think of it?! ;-)