Saturday, 13 November 2010

The Outsiders - a disparate bunch of "aliens" making wine in Languedoc and Roussillon - Part 1 - Chateau Rives-Blanques and Mas Gabriel

It has been a busy week for me, hence the distinct lack of blog posts in the last few days. But I have plenty to write about in the coming days, not least of which will be lots of notes and observations from my day at the Outsiders tasting last Wednesday, at the Maison de Languedoc-Roussillon in London. The Outsiders are a group of growers, based in various corners of Languedoc and Roussillon, with one thing in common – they are all non-native to the region. A dozen growers, with origins as diverse as the UK, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Sweden, the USA and Bordeaux gathered at La Maison, to showcase their wines to the trade and media.

The Maison de Languedoc-Roussillon in Cavendish Square

Two of them I know very well, as their wines already feature very heavily on the Leon Stolarski Fine Wines list – Jonathan Hesford of Domaine Treloar and Brigitte Chevalier of Domaine de Cébène. But the rest were all pretty new to me. In fact, I hadn’t knowingly tasted any of their wines before, so this was a chance for me to discover some really good wines, from some of the region’s best up-and-coming growers in one go. There is far too much for me to publish in one post, so I’ll try and cover the event in a series of posts over the next few days. For now, here are my notes on a couple of growers whose wines impressed me very much. I’ll stick to my impressions of the wines themselves – if you want more details on the growers, I’ve added links to their own websites.

Jan & Caryl Panman – Chateau Rives-Blanques – Cepié, near Limoux

Chateau Rives-Blanques Chardonnay du Domaine 2009(?) Vin de Pays d’Oc
This is actually Chardonnay, with 15% Chenin Blanc, aged in vats (no oak). Lemony, herby, floral nose, with a hint of pear drops. Fairly full and rich on the palate, with a zesty, limey quality. A touch of pithiness on the finish. Not my favourite style of wine, but well made, and quite long, too.

Chateau Rives-Blanques Cuvée de l’Odyssée Chardonnay 2009(?) Limoux
100% Chardonnay, fermented and aged for 6 months in oak barrels (one-third new). The nose has aromas of oak vanillin and lime oil, with herby notes. The palate is oaky, too, but with a lot of other stuff going on – lemon and lime fruit flavours with hints of spices and orange zest. Fairly rich and extracted, warm and spicy. Very promising, but needs a year or two to integrate.

Chateau Rives-Blanques Sauvageon 2009 Vin de Pays d’Oc
Sauvignon Blanc, from vines planted as recently as 2006. Sauvignon is not a variety permitted by the Limoux AOC, so this has to be labelled as a vin de pays, but it benefits from the same oak treatment as the Cuvée de l’Odyssée. And it makes for a really interesting, quirky wine. The nose is oaky and buttery, but with lots of other aromas, such as lime and mandarin, fennel, cloves and herbs. The palate is again quite oaky, but adds structure, rather than dominating, with some quite intense flavours of orange, honey, apple pie and spice. It is very long and very interesting. I want some!

Chateau Rives-Blanques Occitania Mauzac 2009 Limoux
This is 100% Mauzac, once again fermented and aged for 6 months in oak barrels. The aromas suggest very ripe/cooked apples, spices, vanilla and cream. The palate is bone dry and quite neutral (i.e. not overtly fruity) but nevertheless very “winey”, with a refreshing zestiness and minerality. Long, too.

Chateau Rives-Blanques Vintage Rosé 2007 Crémant de Limoux
Made from Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir, this is a really expressive sparkling wine, with aromas and flavours of strawberry and raspberry and a hint of sweet apple. The palate is wonderfully rich and dense, deeply fruity and spicy, soft and very approachable. A lovely wine.

Chateau Rives-Blanques Blanquette de Limoux NV
90% Mauzac, plus Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. For a relatively low dosage (4 or 5 g/l) and recently-disgorged Blanquette, this fooled me into thinking it had some decent bottle age. Then again, it is kept for a minimum of 15 months on its lees, making for a toasty, rich, slightly yeasty wine, but full of rich, apple fruit and real mineral depth. Another really cracking sparkler.

Chateau Rives-Blanques Blanc de Blancs Crémant de Limoux NV
This was an “extra” (i.e. not on the tasting list) but I think it is a blend of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. My scribbled note was very brief….. “Bready, with minerals and citrus. This is really good stuff.” I guess I must have liked it!

Peter & Deborah Core – Mas Gabriel – Caux, near Pézenas

Mas Gabriel Clos des Papillons 2009 Vin de Pays de l’Hérault
100% Carignan Blanc, from just 20 ares (less than half an acre) of old vines. Smells of apples, pears and star anise. The palate has a touch of pear to it as well, with delicate flavours and a touch of minerality. An unusual and classy wine.

Mas Gabriel Les Trois Terrasses 2009 Vin de Pays de l’Hérault
100% old vine Carignan. A very deep colour, and very Carignan on the nose – pungent aromas of bramble and polished leather, garrigue herbs and spices. The palate is enormously fruity, with concentrated (but carefully extracted) flavours of bramble and cassis, with a refreshing note of citrus. Young Carignan can sometimes be a bit tannic and rustic, but not this one. The tannins are beautifully ripe and soft, and the fruit is sweet, but focused, and countered by a delicious backbone of acidity. Long and absolutely delicious. The 2008, which I tasted afterwards, seemed richer and much more evolved – and perhaps even a touch porty, to my palate. Although it opened out a bit in the glass, it was no match for the sheer vivacity and deliciousness of the 2009.

Mas Gabriel Clos des Lièvres 2008 Coteux du Languedoc
Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. The Syrah is aged in oak demi-muids, whilst the Grenache and Carignan are aged in vat. The nose is savoury and meaty, with hints of cedar and polished mahogany. The palate is loaded with crystallised fruit and orange peel flavours, with plenty of herby, spicy notes adding further interest. The tannins are soft, and there is ample acidity. Long and very lovely. I also tasted the 2007, although my note runs to just one word…. “Gorgeous!”

Next up will be my notes on Domaine Jones and Hegarty Chamans.


Louise Hurren said...

Hi Leon, glad you could make it to our tasting, and that you found things that tickled your fancy! All the best, Louise

Leon Stolarski said...

It was a pleasure, Louise. And my compliments to you on such a well-organised and successful event. I hope you will do it all over again, next year!

AlanM said...

Mas Gabriel, noted for next summer. Sounds like a good evening Leon, hard work I'm sure ;-)

Graham said...

Glad you enjoyed the Mas Gabriel. The 2010s should be even better as I helped with the picking :)

Leon Stolarski said...


Of course you did - now I realise why the name Mas Gabriel sounded so familiar to me! I'm sure those 2010's will have that little extra quality. ;-)

Unknown said...

Enjoyed meeting you, and enjoyed your comments on our wines too! We thought The Outsiders was a great gig, and it's good to know those on the other side of the table thought so as well ... Thanks again for taking the time to taste and to talk, Caryl

Jon Hesford said...

Good notes Leon. I found those two producers very interesting. I really like Caryl's Chardonnay and Mauzac wines a lot and was very impressed with all the Mas Gabriel wines. Hopefully they will both be up for some swaps!