Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Outsiders (Part 4) - Domaine de Calet and Domaine de Cébène

This is the final instalment of my write-up from last week's Outsiders tasting in London, featuring two more growers whose wines impressed me greatly. 

Anna-Lena and Yvon Gentes - Domaine de Calet, Beauvoisin

Anna-Lena and Yvon Gentes spent 30 years in Anna's native Sweden - Anna-Lena was a nursery teacher, whilst Yvon was a major player in the Swedish seafood industry. In 1999, they bought a run-down 30 hectare wine estate on the fringes of the Camargue, in the Costières de Nîmes. I almost didn't get around to sampling their wines, as time was fast running out, but I am mighty glad that I did so, as they are producing some really excellent wines, made with the minimum intervention and careful (i.e. minimal) use of sulphites. They received organic certification 2 years ago and are currently in conversion to full biodynamic status.

Domaine de Calet Long Terme 2008 Costières de Nîmes
75% Syrah and 25% Grenache. 20% of the blend spends time in 2 year-old oak barrels. The nose is lovely - very perfumed and clearly dominated by Syrah. In fact, there's even a hint of the Northern Rhône about it, with flowers, spice and savoury making for a wine of surprising complextity (given the relatively low price). And the palate certainly lives up to its promise, with a hint of oak influence, but dominated by rich, expressive, spicy fruit, whilst remaining very elegant. If only most Côtes du Rhône was half as good. A really lovely wine!

Domaine de Calet Grand Mas 2007 Costières de Nîmes
85% Syrah and 15% Grenache. Quite a similar wine to the Long Terme, again with an amazing Northern Rhône-like Syrah nose. The palate is again rich, but soft, velvety, ripe, and chock full of wild strawberry, bramble and plum flavours, whilst managing to remain beautifully elegant. Another lovely wine.

Domaine de Calet La Tournerie 2007 Costières de Nîmes
85% Grenache, 15% Syrah, aged for between 12 and 15 months in oak barrels. This has only just been bottled and is currently a little dominated by the oak, but it is very skilfully done, and there is so much fruit lurking in there, with abundent bramble and cassis flavours, complemented by garrigue herbs and soft spices. Quite a big wine, but very long in the mouth and showing huge potential for medium to long-term ageing.

Domaine de Calet Travers du Rey 2005 Costières de Nîmes
100% Syrah, from yields of just 20 hl/ha, aged for 18 months in new oak barrels. I must admit I found this quite hard to taste, since the oak is still very dominant. There is undoubtedly an enormous amount of fruit underneath the oak, but I feel it needs a good few years to really start to express itself. Given my experience of the other wines, I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be a really fabulous wine in 5 to 10 years, but it is currently a bit "international" in style, for my palate.

Brigitte Chevalier - Domaine de Cébène, Caussiniojouls

The delightful Brigitte Chevalier needs no introduction to regular readers of my blog, nor to those of my customers who have been lucky (or canny) enough to have tasted her wines. I have written about Brigitte a couple of times already this year, once as part of my Vinisud report and again in June, when I visted her cave in Caussiniojouls, deep in the heart of the Faugères region. I tasted the following 3 wines in June, whilst they were still resting in cuves, prior to being bottled, but I lost my notes. I didn't actually taste them on the day of the Outsiders tasting (knowing that I would soon be taking delivery of a range of wines from Brigitte very soon anyway) but took the bottles of Ex Arena, Bancels and Felgaria back home with me to taste. Even then, I didn’t actually taste them and write my notes until a few days ago – and they still tasted wonderful, even after being open for up to 5 days!

Domaine de Cébène Ex Arena 2009 Vin de Pays d'Oc
Grenache and Mourvedre, from sand-based terroir in Corneilhan, just north of Béziers. Tasting this after being open for 2 days, it really is only just beginning to get into its stride. Lovely aromas of poached raspberry, cherry and redcurrant, with background notes of leather, sandalwood and eau de vie. There are also enticing notes of fresh bread, spices and garrigue - so complex! The palate has layer upon layer of red and black fruit flavours, with hints of soft citrus and peel, with a touch of nicely integrated oak. It has power, but without too much weight or extraction, grippy but fine tannins and a decent backbone of acidity. It is a really lovely wine, which probably needs 3 to 5 years to show its best - or just a couple of days' air, to help it open-out(!) Very complex, and worthy of contemplation.

Domaine de Cébène Les Bancels 2009 Faugères
50% Syrah, 35% Grenache and 15% Mourvedre, grown on schiste. This had been open for 5 days(!) and was still very fresh. Indeed, the aromas fairly leap out of the glass, which is sitting a foot away from me as I write, and I can still smell the glorious aromas of bramble, raspbery and redcurrant steeped in eau de vie, with notes of oregano and cinnamon, leather and polished wood. It is indeed a rare wine that can do that.The palate is truly expressivewith warming spice and savoury/herby flavours mingling with red and black fruits, fine tannins and excellent acidity. The result is a wine of enormous complexity, combining fruit, savoury, sweet and sour in a rich, even powerful, yet deceptively elegant, feminine wine. A fabulous wine, with great potential for development. No wonder Tim Atkin scored it 94/100!

Domaine de Cébène Felgaria 2009 Faugères
50% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache. This is Brigitte's top cuvée - deep, dark (almost opaque), brooding and even more serious than Les Bancels. Bramble and blackcurrant aromas mingled withblack cherry and seville orange. Once again, laden with herbs and exotic spices, meat and and an enticing hint of volatile acidity. There's a strong schiste/mineral streak, together with classy cedar/cigar box and an amazing freshness and vitality (again, even after several days) - another astonishingly complex wine. The palate is rich, deeply flavoured and beautifully extracted, without sacrificing its inherent freshness. The flavours are complex and full of fruit, with supple tannins and fresh, almost lemony acidity. The finish is spicy, zesty and very long. A glorious bottle of wine. It won't be cheap, at over £20, but Faugères does not get any better than this.

That's it for this year's Outsiders tasting. Well done to Louise Hurren for such a brilliantly organised event and thanks to all the growers for coming over. I do hope it will become an annual fixture, and that the Outsiders group go from strength to strength!

1 comment:

AlanM said...

I was lucky enough to taste the Cébenes in the summer from bottle Leon and they were great then and will just get better. As you say not necessarily the cheapest Faugeres but an example that you get what you pay for.