Sunday, 15 July 2012

A quintessential Languedoc red wine

I wasn't planning to blog tonight, though I probably really should, given my pathetically low "blog count" in recent months. And here is a good reason to do so - namely, a wine which exemplifies everything I love about the wines (and, in particular, the red wines) of the Languedoc. 

As has become almost a tradition for TLD and I, our long journey north at the end of our annual holiday in the region almost invariably includes a brief detour from the A75 autoroute to the village of Saint-Saturnin de Lucian, in the foothills of the Larzac plateau, to taste the latest vintages of the Cabanes family at Domaine d'Archimbaud. Having taken the precaution of telephoning ahead, to make sure that Jean-Pierre and his wife Marie-Claude would be able to receieve us, we turned up (as is usually the case), around half an hour later than planned. Which was cutting it fine, because they had almost given up on us and were about to set off for another appointment (a tasting and lunch, I think) in one of the nearby villages. Thankfully, we just had time for a quick tasting of their current reds, plus a rather delicious white wine that we haven't imported before. I'll tell you more about the white in a subsequent post (I now have a few cases available, which I will soon add to the website) but for now I want to tell you about the wine we had with dinner this evening........

Domaine d'Archimbaud Tradition 2009 Coteaux du Languedoc Saint-Saturnin
The nose is just glorious - a positively ambrosial mix of rich, ripe, bramble, plum and raspberry fruits, forest floor, old wood, garrigue herbs, clotted cream and cool eau de vie - there's no oak to speak of in this wine. But its sheer vibrancy and the waft of citrus and cherry-infused acidity make for a mouth-watering prospect. And it doesn't let me down, caressing the palate with a wonderful combination of sweet, ripe red and black fruits, spices, herbs and crushed pepper, allied to fine, ever-so-slightly dusty tannins and vibrant, tangy acidity. The merest hint of leather and cool mint, together with a slight earthiness and even a touch of cider apple merely add to the allure of what is (for the money - about £11 will be the limit) a considerably complex and lovely wine. There are those rare occasions when a wine is unthinkingly - even haphazardly - chosen to accompany a meal, yet turns out to be the perfect match. And this was one of those occasions, for I grabbed it from a pile of bottles which have been sitting behind me in the dining room since returning from our holiday. But it turned out to be the ideal foil for pan-fried duck breast with a sauce made from the meat juices, some chicken stock, a little red wine and dry Oloroso Sherry, some home-made blackberry jam, lemon juice and creme fraiche. For despite its sweet, succulent fruit flavours, it has just the right combination of ripe tannins and juicy acidity to cut through the fatty richness of the duck - a nigh-on perfect food and wine combination. That said, my suspicion that this is simply a delicious wine in its own right was confirmed later, when polishing-off the remaining half a glass.

To be honest, I've read enough hype and (mainly, though not exclusively) paid-for publicity about "another" grower in Saint-Saturnin to last me a lifetime, but if that grower's wines are anywhere near as good as the ones made by Domaine d'Archimbaud, then they must be pretty special, for this is as close to being the quintessential Languedoc red wine as I can think of. It may be a few months before I have some in stock (I still have a few cases of the delicious 2008 left to sell) but you can be sure I will be shouting from the rooftops when I do have some. Meanwhile, if you fancy trying some of my current wines from Domaine d'Archimbaud, you can find them here - and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

A few images to remind us what summer looks like

This time last week, TLD and I were on the way back from our holiday in France, somewhere between Chartres and Evreaux. The sun was setting and we were hungry. Having passed through Chartres, and having missed what TLD told me a few minutes later was not just a McDonalds (I do like the odd one, but I needed a "proper"meal) but a couple of other "decent" eateries, I had almost given up on the idea of eating something wholesome until we got home. But as we passed through Evreaux (taking the Orleans-Rouen route is a touch slower - with no autoroute - but more direct and more scenic) we spotted a Buffalo Grill. As it was by now 10.40 pm, we didn't hold out much hope, but the sign said "serving 11.00 to 11.00", so we went inside. It was heaving with diners, and 15 minutes later, we were tucking into entrecote steak and frites, with a lovely mixed salad and a demi-pichet of Cotes du Rhone Rouge. Heaven!

By then, we had enjoyed two full weeks (give or take a day or two) of almost unbroken warmth and sunshine. By the same token, we knew that the weather in the UK had been pretty much the same as when we left - i.e. cool and wet - for those same two weeks, but we were hoping that things might change when we got back. Unfortunately it hasn't, and this is turning out to be possibly the worst summer I can remember in my 51 years. It really is quite depressing - May, June and now July have been almost unremittingly wet. Even when the sun comes out for a short while, there are menacing clouds filling the sky. Perhaps the weather gods are saving all of the sunshine for the Olympics in August, but I somehow doubt that things are going to turn around by then. Who to blame? Nobody, I guess - even I can't blame the Government for the weather! But at least I can remind you what sunny weather looks like, by way of a few shots from our couple of weeks away........... 

On the A20, somewhere between Chateauroux and Limoges

The Saturday market in Cahors

The pool and garden at our gite in the Ariege

The view from our villa in Autignac, Faugeres - dusk over the hills of Haut Languedoc

Blue sky over our villa - artistic, or what?!

Another view from the road next to our villa

Caussiniojouls in Faugeres - Brigitte Chevalier's cellar is at the top of the village

Sunset over the Haut Languedoc

Sunset at Domaine de La Garance, near Caux (more on this in my next post)

The same sky, with a wider angle

On the A75 autoroute, just south of Clermont Ferrand

Sunset, somewhere between Chartres and Evreaux, northern France

The same view, zoomed-in

Oh well - back to reality! More soon........................