Sunday, 7 October 2012

A bevy of brilliant 2009's from Domaine de La Marfée

I am always excited by the prospect of adding new wines to the LSFineWines list and last week was a rather good one, since I took delivery of a range of new wines made by the supremely talented Marc Benin of Domaine de Ravanès. I posted about our visit to Ravanès back in June, and we now have all of the wines I wrote about in stock.

And on the same pallet, we took delivery of the latest releases (all from the 2009 vintage) from the equally talented Thierry Hasard at Domaine de La Marfée. Regular followers of this blog will know how highly I regard Thierry and his wines, although when we tasted the 2009's at Vinisud in February, I wondered if they were going to quite live up to the quality of previous vintages. But because they had only just been bottled, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt (and I do recall it was at the end of a long day's tasting, when my palate was probably jaded). And I'm so glad I did, because a further 8 months in bottle have seen them blossom into truly wonderful wines. Here are my notes on 4 of the 5 wines we now have in stock;

70% Roussanne, 30% Chardonnay, barrel-fermented and aged for 1 year. The nose is really expressive, with aromas of lime, apricot, spring flowers and all manner of herbs, with subtle notes of curry spices and woodsmoke. Only part of the blend is aged in oak barrels, the remainder being aged in inert concrete "eggs", so the oak influence is very subtle, allowing all of those fruit, floral and savoury notes to shine through, not to mention a pronounced mineral/stone/flint quality that gives this wine such wonderful lift. It actually smells zingy, and this shows on the palate, which really is full of mineral and fruit-laden character, with flavours of stone fruits, soft citrus, herbs and spices. The texture possesses a gently oily feel, which is perfectly countered by immense mineral depth and fabulously zingy acidty - a wine with real grip, yet delicate at the same time. This has all of the attributes of a fine white Burgundy or Northern Rhone - with lashings of Languedoc terroir thrown in for good measure. 13.0% abv. This is in my opinion one of Languedoc's finest white wines - and consequently an absolute bargain at £15.50.

50% Syrah, 40% Mourvedre and 10% Grenache, aged 2 years in barrel. A mélange of black and red fruit aromas, notably blackcurrants and cherries steeped in eau de vie, infused with garrigue herbs, with enticing (old) woody aromas, with background notes of tobacco, cocoa and allspice. Not to mention, of course, the hallmark of pretty much every Marfée wine - aromatic blackcurrant leaf and elderflower. For a wine at this (by no means expensive) price point, it really does show remarkable complexity and allure. And the promise of all those glorious aromas shows through in the mouth, with intense blackcurrant and cherry flavours, grippy but fine-grained tannins and a healthy lick of acidity. The herby and spicy notes, combined with the lush fruit flavours and just a hint of bitter dark chocolate give this wine a sweet and sour quality - savoury, fruity and spicy all at the same time. It certainly gains weight with a few hours of air, but never loses focus, with fruit, acidity and tannin in equal measure. Lovely wine, which is approachable now, but thas the stuffing to age for 5 or even 10 years. 13.6% abv. At £13.50, this is another cracking bargain.

85% Mourvedre and 15% Syrah, aged 2 years in barrel. Yet again, we have that wonderful trademark Marfée nose of blackcurrant leaf and fruit pastille, with hints of elderflower, polished wood, tobacco, spice, mint and a definite savoury/meaty element - not too much, mind, for the emphasis is definitely on the fruit. The palate again shows typical freshness, with citrussy acidity, grippy but fine tannins and tangy, sweet-and-sour flavours, courtesy of some intense plummy and brambly red and black fruit, again with a savoury/spicy/meaty/herby quality. The finish is very long, with those mouth-watering red/black fruits lingering for an age. This is mightily good to drink already, but will cellar well for a decade or more. 13.8% abv. £17.99.

100% Carignan, aged 2 years in barrel. This is dense, intense, smoky and ethereal - and at just 3 years of age, yet to really show its true colours. The nose is simply crammed full of raspberry, bramble and blackcurrant aromas, with all sorts of other things going on, such as red meat, polished wood, incense, aromatic herbs, curry spices, new leather, damp earth, truffles, orange peel and cream. And despite ageing in oak for 2 years (mostly older oak, with just a small percentage of new barrels used each year) there really are no obvious oak aromas - everything just melds together beautifully into a whole of immensely heady complexity - every sniff reveals something new. The palate is medium-rich, but delightfully tangy and refreshing, with flavours of bramble, blackcurrant, cranberry, tar and spice, hints of garrigue and stoney minerality. Ample tannins are matched by ample acidity, and carry the fruit all the way to a persistent finish. Another fantastic Carignan, from one of Languedoc's very finest exponents of the variety, and a surefire winner over the next 10 to 15 years. 14.0% abv. £24.95.

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