Sunday, 17 February 2013

Some new wines - including the best Cabernet Franc I've ever tasted

Once again, I've been so busy with other stuff over the last couple of weeks that blogging has taken a back seat. Nevertheless, I've been tasting and writing-up my notes on more than 20 new wines, from 4 different growers in Languedoc and Roussillon. These will be followed closely by yet more new wines, from Jurancon and Madiran within the next week or two, so I've still got plenty to go at. I also have to prepare for presentations to 5 different wine groups in as many weeks, plus a few other non-wine things going on at the moment, so it really is all go. That said, I now have all of these new wines to tell you about, especially since I have spent so much time over the last few days transcribing hand-written scribbles into cohesive tasting notes. It goes without saying that I love tasting/drinking the wines, but the rest is a right royal pain in the bum! Anyway, here's the first batch, including an utterly brilliant Cabernet Franc. All are now available to purchase online, should you like the sound of them...........

A blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Chenin Blanc, showing a delightfully pale, watery gold colour. The nose is almost reminiscent of Sauvignon, perhaps even hinting at Riesling, with notes of elderflower, apples, grapes and a rasp of chalky minerality, with tiny hints of basil, orange peel and liquorice. The palate is fresh, tight and zingy, combining zesty lemon, tart apple and soft peach flavours, with herby nuances and bracing, mineral-laden acidity. This is a wonderful example of what Chardonnay (with a touch of Chenin Blanc) is capable of in the higher, cooler reaches of south-west Languedoc. Wonderfully fresh, with genuine elegance. £8.95.

A blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Mauzac. Delightful aromas of honeysuckle, orchard fruits, orange blossom and lime oil, with a strong sense of minerality, along with subtle hints of flowers, herbs and freshly-cut hay. Quite rich and intensely fruity on entry, with a touch of earthiness and gentle orangey acidity, countered by strong minerality and a delightful pithiness at the end. Barrel fermentation (as is the rule for all AOC Limoux wines) has imparted a gentle florality and elegance, rather than any overt oakiness. As a blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Mauzac, this is the perfect expression of what the still white wines of Limoux are all about - and is absolutely delicious. £11.95.

50% Grenache Blanc, 21% Marsanne, 21% Roussanne, 8% Maccabeu. The majority of the grapes are sourced from different vineyards around St. Martin de Fenouillèdes in Roussillon's Agly Valley. Each variety is fermented and aged in 1 and 2 year-old barrels for 9 months, before being blended and aged for a further 3 months in vat. The colour is a limpid pale gold, with orange glints. The nose offers notes of honeysuckle, quince, pink grapefruit and mandarin, whilst the palate is beautifully rounded, with floral and fruity notes on the entry, followed by a gentle hit of white pepper and spice and a mouthwatering rasp of lemony, green apple acidity. There is even a suggestion of grape and wood tannin, which helps to fill out the wine and give a real sense of seriousness. Subtle background notes of spice and ripe peach add to the complexity and carry on to a lingering, tangy, spicy yet cool finish. It is wonderfully balanced and an absolute pleasure to drink now, or to cellar for 3 to 5 years. A really fabulous wine - and brilliant value for money at £12.50.

From limestone in La Liviniere and sandstone on the Gayda estate. 10% is aged in 1, 2 and 3 year-old barrels, the remainder in stainless steel. A nose of bramble, blackcurrant, raspberry, violets and fresh bread, with hints of tobacco, allspice, citrus-infused pot-pourri and iodine adding more complexity. This is a lot of wine for the money. Spicy, tangy redcurrant and cranberry flavours, with supple tannins and citrussy acidity. There are some very subtle savoury notes, but more in the way of lapsang tea, herbs and tar, with a nice hit of sweet damson giving a touch of richness to an otherwise tangy, sprightly wine, very much in the northern Rhône style. A really lovely wine, to drink now or keep for a year or three. £9.25.

62% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 9% Carignan, 6% Cabernet Franc and 3% Cinsault. The grapes are sourced from a variety of vineyards in Roussillon, Minervois/La Livinière and Gayda's own estate in Malepère. Fermented in stainless steel, then aged for 9 months in a variety of oak barrels. Deep but translucent purple with a narrow rim. This is so fragrant and reeks of rich, dark, bramble and raspberry Syrah fruit, with subtle fruitcake aromas, courtesy of the Grenache and some high-toned red fruit and citrus nuances. Further notes of fresh bread, herbs and spices and polished wood make for a complex and compelling nose. The palate is beautifully balanced and gloriously fruity, shot through with flavours of bramble, damson and spiced oranges, with firm but ripe tannins and cracking acidity, all beautifully extracted in a medium-rich wine, with a spicy, sweet-sour finish. Like its white counterpart, this has generosity and charm in equal measure. Really top-notch winemaking, and once again brilliant value for money at £12.50.

From Gayda's own Cabernet Franc vines surrounding the property, planted in 2004 and now with full organic certification. Goodness me - Cabernet Franc never smelled or tasted so good! This has quite the most intoxicating aromas, including (though by no means limited to) blackcurrant, plum, bramble, raspberry, spiced orange and even a hint of strawberry. And those are just the fruity bits, for it also manages to cram in exotic spices, tobacco, iodine, freshly-baked brioche and beautifully integrated (and really quite subtle) oak. For someone like me, who has struggled to love Cabernet Franc, this really is a bit of a revelation. Apart from the complete absence of any sort of vegetal or green/red capsicum notes, it has plenty of genuine Cab Franc character, with fabulous acidity and plenty of tannic grip. It manages to be at the same time generous and rich, yet beautifully balanced, with sweet black and red fruits and savoury/herby elements combining seamlessly with the tannins and acidity, in a wine which is pretty much impossible to fault. At just 18 months of age (at the time of writing) it is already the most delicious Cabernet Franc I have ever drank. And yet, my instincts tell me that it also has the structure to age and evolve gracefully for a good few years to come. It is worth pointing out that the vines were planted on the Gayda estate as recently as 2004, so it may be many years before they really get into their stride. Heresy, I know, but just as I believe that Cabernet Sauvignon does better things in warmer climes than Bordeaux, so the best Cabernet Franc wines will eventually come from the cooler slopes in warm areas such as Languedoc (in this case, the Côtes de Malepère, near Limoux). Vincent Chansault, you are a winemaking genius! A stunning wine. £14.95.

There's plenty more where these came from. More tomorrow.........

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