Monday, 28 May 2012

3 more new Languedoc wines

Over the last week or so, I have been enjoying tasting and writing notes on a variety of new wines from two of my very favourite Languedoc growers. As always, it is an arduous task, but somebody has to do it! Here are three more................

100% barrel-fermented Roussanne. A very pale, limpid straw colour. Delicately perfumed and fresh, offering aromas of orange, nectarine and honeysuckle, with a sprinkling of oregano and basil, very subtle oak nuances and a distinct whiff of mineral/wet stone. Roussanne normally tends to have a rich, slightly oily texture to the palate, but this one is beautifully fresh, fruity and crisp, like biting into a just-ripe nectarine or dessert apple, with soft, citrussy acidity and a streak of stony minerality, which makes for a rather delicious and refreshing orange peel and sherbert tang on the surprisingly long finish. This is a new cuvée from Chateau La Dournie and whilst I have no idea whether it is built for ageing, I'm not sure there is any point - for it is just too delicious not to drink now! 13.0% abv. £11.75.

Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah. Guy Vanlancker never fails to make delicious wines, even at the "lower" end of the scale, and this is a classic example of his craft. Fairly deep in colour, with a tiny rim, but a surprisingly elegant and enticing nose - bags of plum and bramble fruit, with something richer and darker like toffee or dried figs, but also a hint of balancing orange freshness. A distinct whiff of aromatic garrigue herbs and a touch of black olive tapenade add savoury elements to what - at this price level - is really quite a complex wine. The palate too has plenty of succulent red and black fruit flavours, again with a hint of toffee and fig, balanced by ripe, supple tannins and ample acidity. This really is quite a contemplative wine - the sort that has you sticking your nose in the glass and keeps you coming back for another drop or two. And how many wines at well under a tenner can do that, these days? Textbook Minervois. 14.0% abv. £8.90

40% Syrah, plus Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault, aged for 18 months in old oak barrels. Deep purple core with a dark ruby rim. This really is a gloriously perfumed wine, with multi-layered black cherry, bramble and raspberry aromas, accompanied by damp earth, polished wood, leather, fine eau de vie and subtle notes of violet and peony. And whilst slow to come out of its shell, it gets more and more complex after a few hours in the decanter (and positively sings on day 2). The intense summer heat in the vineyards high above La Liviniere means that optimum ripeness is accompanied by relativelly high alcohol, but this is no Parkerised monster. For whilst evidently full-bodied and ripe, it possesses more than a little complexity and real elegance, with a multitude of fresh - rather than baked - red and black fruit flavours, infused with garrigue herbs and again a touch of earthiness. A combination of remarkably fine, supple tannins and juicy, orange-tinged acidity completes the package. The finish is long, spicy, warming, life-affirming - and truly worthy of contemplation. As a winemaker who forever struggles to make ends meet, Guy Vanlancker has not bought any new barrels for over 10 years. But this wine really doesn't need to be dressed up in a cloak of new oak - it is winemaking without a safety net, and with his skills laid bare, Guy has once again fashioned a remarkable wine. And at this price, it really is a steal. You can drink it now, with pleasure, but it should also age nicely for a good few years yet. 14.5% abv. £11.50.

All of these wines, together with the ones I mentioned in my previous post, are now available in the Leon Stolarski Fine Wines online shop - and I commend them to you very highly!

Incidentally, you can now receive notice of new entries on my blog by email. Just add your email address to the box on the right-hand menu (just underneath my mugshot) and click the 'submit' button. You will then receive a notification immediately I post a new entry on the blog.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

More new wines - Mostly Languedoc, but a couple of interlopers....

Over the past few days, apart from enjoying the sudden arrival of summer, I have also been busy tasting and writing-up lots of new additions to my list - yet more interesting stuff that I have picked up on the secondary market for the "special purchases" section of my website, but also some brand new wines just arrived from two of my very favourite Languedoc growers........

Chardonnay, Riesling and Chenin Blanc. A really quite complex array of fruity, floral, honey and mineral aromas, together with distinct notes of wet wool and lanolin. Indeed, the profile is much more in the style of a carefully aged Crémant de Loire, with the Chenin (and to an extent, the Riesling) asserting its presence far more than the Chardonnay. And the palate really does live up to the promise of the nose - essentially almost bone dry, but with a delicious combination of zesty/oily citrus and tree fruit, honey, wet stone and lanolin, the flavours of which linger for a long time on the rich, tangy finish. And with what appears to be a year or two of bottle age (as suggested by the nose and the hue) the result is a rather wonderful sparkling wine that is at the same time unusual, complex and utterly refreshing - and will offer plenty of drinking pleasure over the coming summer months. An absolute cracker of a wine. 12.0% abv. £8.75.

A blend of Moscatel Galego (a.k.a. Muscat a Petit Grains), Viosinho, Arinto, Fernão Pires. Pale, watery straw/gold colour. Highly aromatic, with lemon oil, peach and apple and subtle notes of flowers and herbs. Quite full-bodied, with a touch of richness, offering flavours of peach, melon and citrus peel and fennel seed. Although quite rounded and warming, it is full of freshness and vitality, with mouth-watering acidity and a tangy/zesty finish. Stylistically, this is not a million miles away from a rather good Languedoc or southern Rhone white. 13.5% abv. Brilliant summer drinking and great value at £8.50.

Delicate aromas of spiced pear, orange, apple, apricot and peach, with background notes of oregano, fennel and honeysuckle. And although it is aged in oak barrels for 6 months, the effect is minimal - winemaker Guy Vanlancker hasn't bought any new barrels since 2001! The palate is packed with stone fruit flavours and even a hint of fresh grapes, the texture has a slight oiliness, but is zesty and mouth-wateringly dry, with tremendous depth of fruit and delicious orangey acidity. Year after year, Guy Vanlancker makes lovely wine from these 2 grape varieties, and this is one of the best yet. 14.0% abv. £9.70.

Syrah, Cinsault and Grenache. A gorgeous pale salmon pink colour, with aromas of raspberry, redcurrant and delicate floral notes. A hint of pear drops - which I find rather fetching in a young rosé - will recede with time in bottle. Soft and gently creamy in the mouth, with lashings of strawberry, raspberry and freshly-squeezed orange flavours, subtle herby nuances and refreshing acidity. The schiste soil on which the grapes are grown adds a typical streak of Saint-Chinian minerality, whilst the finish is long and gently spicy. This is proper wine, bordering on serious, and would give many an expensive Provençale rosé a run for its money. It is brilliant as an aperitif, but equally good with food. 13.5% abv. £9.40.

100% Cinsault. "l'Incompris" means "the misunderstood", which alludes to the fact that Cinsault is usually considered only good for red blends or rosé, rather than as a variety with lots of character, which needs only the hands of a skilled vigneron to make something really rather lovely. The colour of this wine is vivid, dark, but transluscent ruby red. The smell of garrigue herb-infused red cherries, damsons and raspberries simply leap from the glass, accompanied by a touch of polished leather (though I don't believe this sees any oak), exotic spices and eau de vie. Waves of succulent red and black fruit flavours dance across the tongue, in a wine that is rich in flavour, but surprisingly balanced and fleet of foot, in a seamless mix of warm spice, silky tannins and ample acidity. Although no simple quaffer - and although young - this really is a delight to drink now. I have no doubt that it will keep nicely for a good year or three, but why wait, when it is this good? 14.0% abv. £8.50.

Medium-deep red in colour with aromas of raspberry and loganberry, polished wood and damp earth - lovely and fresh, with a hint of citrus and meaty/savoury notes. The palate shows some real elegance - some tannic grip, but plenty of fruit and acidity to match, with lashings of strawberry/raspberry compote flavours and a nice layer of creamy vanilla. There is no discernible oak influence, but it doesn't need dressing up, for this is packed with juicy fruit. As with the same grower's Pinot, this isn't trying to be anything else (and certainly not Rioja) - it shows lots of Tempranillo character, but is proudly Languedocien. Rich, rounded and lovely - and ready to drink now. 13.5% abv. £9.80.

A medium-deep red colour with aromas of summer pudding, apple pie and soft citrus. Hints of new leather, eau de vie, herbs and spices, too, but essentially fruit-driven and remarkably fresh and high-toned. This isn't trying to be Burgundy (Languedoc is too hot!), but it is a wine that deserves to be loved for what it is - namely, identifiably Pinot-esque, but fruity, spicy, gently tannic and full of southern charm and warmth. Despite the 14.5% alcohol, it is nicely balanced, with decent acidity which contributes to a deliciously sweet and sour finish. 14.5% abv. £10.50.

Deep purple core with a dark ruby rim. This really is a gloriously perfumed wine, with multi-layered black cherry, bramble and raspberry aromas, accompanied by damp earth, polished wood, leather, fine eau de vie and subtle notes of violet and peony. And whilst slow to come out of its shell, it gets more and more complex after a few hours in the decanter (and positively sings on day 2). The intense summer heat in the vineyards high above La Liviniere means that optimum ripeness is accompanied by relativelly high alcohol, but this is no Parkerised monster. For whilst evidently full-bodied and ripe, it possesses more than a little complexity and real elegance, with a multitude of fresh - rather than baked - red and black fruit flavours, infused with garrigue herbs and again a touch of earthiness. A combination of remarkably fine, supple tannins and juicy, orange-tinged acidity completes the package. The finish is long, spicy, warming, life-affirming - and truly worthy of contemplation. And it really does pass the harshest of tests, because it still tastes wonderful at 3 o'clock in the morning (which is when I wrote this tasting note) - and it is a rare wine that can do that for me! As a winemaker who forever struggles to make ends meet, Guy Vanlancker has not bought any new barrels for over 10 years. But this wine really doesn't need to be dressed up in a cloak of new oak - it is winemaking without a safety net, and with his skills laid bare, Guy has once again fashioned something remarkable. And at this price, it really is a steal. You can drink it now, with pleasure, but it should also age nicely for a good few years yet. 14.5% abv. £10.99.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

I ain't drinking no F***in' Merlot!

Les Vignes de l'Arque Cuvée des Boissierres 1998 Vin de Pays d'Oc
100% Merlot, aged for 1 year in oak barrels. I bought this whilst on holiday in around 2000, so it had been lying on the rack in my under-stairs cupboard for the last 12 years - and it went down surprisingly well at the Nottingham Wine Circle last night. I say surprisingly, because there are many there who are not particularly fond of Merlot (and these days, I tend to count myself amongst them). But when Merlot is good, it can be very good, and Languedoc certainly makes its fair share. Tasted blind, some people were guessing at Bordeaux, and even some of the more ardent Merlot haters (the famous line from the film "Sideways" - "I ain't drinking no f***in' Merlot" - springs to mind) were rather enamoured by this one. I didn't write a specific tasting note, but recall it had its soft, plummy side (doesn't all Merlot?) but still had some nice grip, a touch of blackcurrant leaf and fruit, some polished old wood and forest floor notes and surprisingly good balance, with plenty of acidity to accompany the rich, ever-so-gently herby/spicy fruit. And tasting the remaining half glass whilst preparing dinner this evening - and despite the fact that it has now begun to oxidise a little - it is still rather lovely, in a Merlot sort of way(!) As with many 1998's from Languedoc, this wine has aged far more gracefully than most of its counterparts from the nearby southern Rhone. As an aside, when I first started selling wine in 2004, I carried a fairly full range from Les Vignes de l'Arque. And I still do - but very few of my customers now buy them, which is a shame, because I believe they provide excellent value for money. I don't currently offer the above cuvée (though on the evidence of this bottle, perhaps that is a mistake!) but if you are on the lookout for some under-the-radar Languedoc bargains, I can highly recommend them.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Some recent wines, including some new additions to my list

TLD and I have been enjoying some pretty nice wines over the last week or so, including some that I have now added to the Leon Stolarski Fine Wines list (if there is a link, you can buy it - if not, then you can't!);

Cono Sur Sparkling Brut NV Bio Bio Valley, Chile
Mostly Chardonnay, with a little Riesling and Pinot Noir, this has an impressively strong mousse, with plenty of fine, long-lasting bubbles. Lovely fresh, floral, lemon and apple aromas, with biscuity notes and a hint of lime oil suggesting a touch of richness. And indeed the palate does deliver some richness, with that lime oil note adding a perception of sweetness to what is essentially a pretty bone-dry wine, though chock full of citrus and tree fruit flavours, loads of mouth-watering acidity and a lingering finish. This is a mightily impressive wine and, having bought 6 bottles from a local supplier (and now drank 2), I was going to go back for more. Unfortunately, they have now sold out......... :-( But I shall enjoy my remaining 4 bottles. 12.0% abv.

Cono Sur Riesling Reserva 2009 Bio Bio Valley, Chile
The freshness and vitality in this wine is evident from the little "sigh" of residual CO2 it gives as you twist the screwcap, releasing a wave of lemon, lime zest and floral aromas and a fair whack of classic Riesling slate and wet stone. The freshness is heightened by a delightful "prickle", evident on both the nose and the palate, with an immediate lime zestiness which fair races across the mouth and almost makes your eyes water. But this wine is anything but simple, for it offers masses of lime/lemon and tart apple flavour and a hint of lime oil richness - and real mineral depth, rather like a really good, almost-dry Alsace Riesling. In fact, I have tasted Alsace Grand Cru's that have given less pleasure than this little beauty. You may be thinking "Cono Sur?! Aren't they a big Chilean producer making (in the main) mass-market wines?" Well think again, for this really is a top-quality example of its kind, produced in one of the coolest and most southerly vineyards in Chile, and clearly ideal for growing this most wonderful of white grapes. The back label says "Enjoy upon purchase", and whilst I do not disagree (for it gives great pleasure now) it gives even greater pleasure on day 2, so I fancy it will evolve nicely over the next 2 or 3 years - perhaps a lot longer, given that it is sealed under screwcap. A brilliant wine - and a complete steal at just £8.50.

Jean-Marie Bouzereau Meursault 2000
This is the second one of three bottles I picked up relatively cheaply a year or two back and the second time it has been bang on the money. Pale gold, watery rim, very bright and limpid. Clean, fresh, slightly lemony aromas, with a touch of apple and loads of mineral/damp earth - high-toned and really very expressive, in a non-Meursault way (by which I mean no overtly oaky, struck-match things going on). It really is very integrated and winey and undoubtedly Burgundy in origin. The palate is super fresh, with not a hint of toffee/oxidation - which is increasingly rare in a 12 year-old white Burgundy, these days - but certainly not lacking in evolution or complexity. Lots of apple pie/cream/cinnamon flavours and again plenty of earthy minerality. It doesn't have any pretensions to anything particularly grand (or even premier!) but it is a mightily enjoyable wine, which partnered some fishcakes and a bit of baked salmon with some home-made mayonnaise very nicely. 13.0% abv.

A mediu-deep cherry red colour. Aromas of cherries, too, of both the black and red varieties, with bramble, damp earth, polished wood and mixed spices - it really is quite heady stuff, when it opens-out. The palate initially seems a little dumb/closed, but emerges after half an hour in the decanter, with flavours of sweet and sour red cherry, soft citrus and bramble. There's a nice layer of rustic tannins, again quite earthy and spicy, with lots of juicy acidity and a touch of agnostura bitters on the finish. A delicious wine, which does everything you want a decent Chianti Classico to do. 13.0% abv. A bargain at £9.95.

Chanson Père et Fils Côte de Beaune-Villages 2007
A light-to-medium ruby red colour, with some darker, more evolved tinges which, along with the nose, suggest this wine has spent at least some time in older oak barrels. Aromas of raspberry and wild strawberry are accompanied by notes of cedar, polished wood, forest floor and a touch of vanilla. The palate too shows a touch of evolution - medium-bodied, with plenty of bright, juicy red fruit flavours, mouth-watering acidity and a gentle tannic grip, giving the wine a nice sweet and sour quality. Offering a nice degree of complexity and evolution, this is lovely to drink right now - what I would call a Burgundy lover's Burgundy. 12.5% abv. How often do you see decent Burgundy at under a tenner, these days? £9.95.

And finally (for now, at least) this real cracker of a wine from my beloved Languedoc.........................

J M & V Alquier Les Bastides d'Alquier 2005 Faugères
Still quite a youthful purple colour, with just a touch of blood/cherry red on the rim. The aromas coming out of the glass are deep, dark and considerably complex, offering a mix of bramble, redcurrant and black cherry fruit, with hints of orange peel, exotic spices, leather, damp earth and eau de vie. 18 months' ageing in oak barrels (30% of which were new) has imparted a subtle oakiness that caresses rather than assaults the senses, making for a totally harmonious and beautifully-scented wine. The palate is awash with the flavours of the south - big, bold red and black fruits, pepper and spice, garrigue herbs, a touch of meatiness and again a hint of damp earthiness. And whilst still quite youthful, the oak and tannins are already nicely integrated and everything is held together by a core of juicy acidity, whilst the finish is long and grippy, with sweet and sour flavours that linger for an age. It is delicious on day one, but spectacularly good on day two. By anyone's standards, this has the hallmark of a very fine wine. And by Faugères standards, it really is the benchmark wine of the appellation. 14.5% abv. £17.95.

News on more (lots more) new wines very soon.................

Friday, 11 May 2012

A delicious South African red wine

For a number of years before his job as a travelling wine buyer and rep began to take him around the world, Richard Kelley MW was a member of the Nottingham Wine Circle. Indeed, Richard is still an occasional visitor, having presented tastings in recent years of wines from the Loire Valley, Jura and - most recently - his beloved South Africa. Richard was in town recently on a flying visit, and although he was unable to join us in the evening, he was keen to drop a bottle off at the venue, to see what his old friends thought. Richard's alter ego is Rick, the Cape Crusader - a.k.a "The Liberator". In Richard's (or Rick's) own words....

"Beyond the periphery of South Africa’s conventional vineyard regions lie great vinous treasures, resigned to anonymity; forgotten, abandoned or just simply undiscovered. It is the mission of Rick, our intrepid Cape Crusader, to seek out and liberate these rare wines, consigning them to the table of the most inquisitive and discerning imbiber. Each episode represents a single discovery; a precious parcel that is both unique and finite."

On arrival at the venue, I collected the bottle from behind the bar, put a sock over it (we are into the "bottle blind" season, and a sock works as well as anything else to conceal a wine's identity) and passed it around, as if it were my own. Various guesses were offered (mostly southern France, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre - they know me too well) before we eventually got there - at least broadly speaking! By way of revealing the wine's true identity, I read them Richard's amusing little introduction to the wine (again, courtesy of The Liberator website).....

"It was five in the afternoon and I find myself rushing up the Helshoogte Pass, late for my 16h30 meeting with Miles. Nothing changes. In the winery all is quiet; the cellar hands have left for the day. There is no sign of the world’s most handsome winemaker (that’s Mrs Rick’s observation incidentally, not mine) and after another aborted call to his cell phone, I set about busying myself amongst the barrels. Pipette in hand, I stumble across a few rogue barriques of Mourvèdre which I am to find out later come from an experimental planting on the farm. The phone rings and it’s our elusive winemaker on the line. Evasive and somewhat apologetic, he admits to forgetting our appointment; something to do with the surf being up on the West Coast… Feeling somewhat gatvol, he agrees to curtail his ‘board meeting’ and return to Stellenbosch to conclude our now seriously delayed blending session. By the time he arrives, the assemblage is all but complete on my new Provence-style red; all it needs now is a name…"

I'm pleased to say that it was received particularly well by the group as a whole, but here is my own note;

The Liberator Episode 3 - The Bandolier 2009 Stellenbosch
50% Mourvèdre, 50% Syrah. A deep blackberry/blood colour, almost opaque, with a tiny rim. Plenty of Mourvedre characteristics on the nose, in particular beef gravy and new leather, with lashings of exotic spice and a hint of sun-dried tomato (the latter no doubt more of a Syrah trait). Further notes of peppermint, mixed herbs, clarified butter, polished wood and eau de vie make for a wine of considerable complexity and allure - especially at the price level (around £13 retail). The palate offers an attractive mix of old world and new world - intense bramble and plum fruit flavours, with background notes of mint, eucalyptus and red capsicum, all held together by ample acidity and gorgeously ripe tannins. And whilst it might not quite have the tight structure of a classic young Bandol, it is a mightily enjoyable wine in its own right - and beautifully balanced, despite its 15% abv. And by the second night (I took the bottle home to enjoy the last glass) it was even better and still fresh as a daisy, which for me is a sure sign that it will age and evolve for a good few years. I like it a lot, and will definitely be asking Richard for a few cases. Drink now (after a long decant) or over the next 5 to 10 years.

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!