Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Outsiders - still rocking the wine world

The Outsiders are a group of "non-native" wine growers based in various corners of Languedoc and Roussillon,  with origins as diverse as the UK, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, the USA and other regions of France. Ten of these "Outsiders" gathered at La Maison de Languedoc-Roussillon in London a few weks ago, to showcase their latest wines to the trade and media, and what follows are my thoughts and tasting notes on some of my favourites.

Chateau Rives-Blanques - Limoux

It is always nice to meet the delightful Caryl Panman, and she was once again on hand to offer the latest releases from Rives-Blanques. And in my opinion, these are amongst some of the best wines I have tasted from the estate. 

Blanquette de Limoux 2010
Mostly Mauzac, with a small amount of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. A fruity, grapey nose, with hints of sweet apples and oranges. The palate is clean and super-fresh, very slightly off-dry, with bags of fruit. Love it.

Vintage Rose 2009 Crémant de Limoux
Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir. A riot of red cherry, raspberry and strawberry aromas. Rich, ripe and opulent, again with just the merest hint of residual sugar. Long, mellow and lovely.

Le Limoux 2010 AOP Limoux
Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Mauzac. A lovely nose, scented with orange and lime oil. The palate shows soft citrus, subtle oak, hay and sweet herbs, with a streak of minerality. Generous and really rather lovely.

Occitania 2011 AOP Limoux
Mauzac. Quite oaky on the nose, but with plenty of orange blossom, fruit and herby notes too. Rich and again oaky on the palate, but nicely integrated.

Odyssée 2011 AOP Limoux
100% Chardonnay. An abundance of peach, orange blossom and lime oil on both the nose and palate. Quite rich and opulent, but beautifully balanced. Long and lovely.

Dédicace 2010 AOP Limoux
100% Chenin Blanc. A subtle nose of spring flowers, peach, orange and herbs. Steely dry, with plenty of Chenin character and minerality, with cracking lemony acidity.

We shall be importing some of these in the near future, although we do of course already offer a selection of Chateau Rives-Blanques wines.

Clos du Gravillas - Minervois

I have met John Bojanowski on several occasions and have always been impressed with his wines, and his current selection is as good as ever. Given that we tend to import most of our wines directly from our growers, we don't carry any of John's wines, but I would never discount stocking some of them in the future, via his UK agent.

L'Inattendu Blanc 2011 AOP Minervois
80% Grenache Gris and Blanc, 20% Maccabeu. A wonderful nose of bread, spice, apple and clove, all of which come through on the palate, which exhibits a lovely spiced orange quality, with beautifully integrated and subtle oak, courtesy of 11 months in Austrian oak barrels. Very long and very lovely.

Emmenez-Moi au Bout du Terret Blanc IGP Cotes du Brian
Delicate, floral and mineral. Winey, though not so much in a fruity way, with subtle flavours of citrus, apple, licorice and herbs.

Lo Vielh Carignan IGP Cotes du Brian
Lovely aromas of cherry and bramble. Fresh, almost floral, with a hint of licorice. Beautifully balanced and fruity, with ripe tannins, refreshing acidity and a streak of minerality.

Chateu d'Anglès - La Clape

I first tasted the wines of Chateau Anglès at the Outsiders tasting in 2010 and was pretty impressed, so it was nice to taste the latest vintages. They also have a UK agent importer, but once again, I am certainly tempted to add some of their wines to our list, sometime in the future.

Classique Blanc 2010 La Clape
A blend of Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne. Strong citrus/orange aromas and flavours, winey more than fruity, with subtle oak. Nice wine.

Grand Vin Blanc 2009 La Clape
40% Bourboulenc, plus Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne, fermented and aged for 6 months in 1 and 2 year-old barrels. Soft citrus, spiced apple, garrigue and tobacco aromas - and a definite hint of the sea (the hill of La Clape borders the Mediterranean to the east of Narbonne, and was actually once a small island). The flavours are rich and ripe, but surprisingly elegant, with notes of apricot and peach. A delightful and age-worthy wine.

Classique Rouge 2009 La Clape
40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Mourvedre. Aromas of cherry, redcurrant and roses, with subtle hints of tobacco, spices, mint and (again) the sea. The palate is soft and ripe, with gentle tannins and just the right amount of acidity. Warming and long.

Grand Vin Blanc 2008 La Clape
55% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah and 15% Grenache, aged for 10 months in oak barrels (25% of which are new). A lovely dark but transluscent colour, with a gorgeous nose of crystallised red and black fruits and classy, well-judged oak. Rich, dense and concentrated flavours of red fruits and fig, with a lovely savoury quality. Very long. Superb stuff.

Domaine Turner Pageot - Gabian

Australian Karen Turner and her French husband Emmanuel Pageot have between them a wealth of winemaking and viticultural experience in places such as Australia, South Africa, Italy and France. Indeed, Karen also makes the wine at the famous Prieuré de Saint Jean de Bébian, near Pézenas. Their new estate is in Gabian (where the now defunct co-operative named Les Vignerons de La Carignano used to make some brilliant wines) where they farm 4 different plots around the village, on a variety of soil types. They employ biodynamic farming principles and are generally as non-interventionist as possible. With 2 estates to oversee, I assume Karen was minding the fort back in Gabian, but Emmanuel was there to serve and talk (very passionately, I might add) about their wines. Having heard good things about the wines of Turner Pageot from several different sources, it was great to finally be able to taste them for myself. And very impressive they were, too.

La Rupture 2011 IGP Pays de l'Hérault
Very fresh and perfumed, with aromas and flavours of peach, citrus and rhubarb, and an intriguing hint of asparagus. There is a "naturalness" to this wine (and indeed there is little or no sulphur added during the winemaking process) but it is beautifully clean and full of life. Long and absolutely gorgeous - a star wine.
Blanc 2011 IGP Languedoc
80% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne. Prickly, fresh and very natural. Lovely sour fruit and saline aromas and flavours. Quite rich, but beautifully balanced.

Le Rouge 2010 IGP Languedoc
80% Grenache (grown on schiste) and 20% Syrah (grown on volcanic soil). Lots of high-toned cherry, bramble and orange aromas, with hints of saline and tar and subtle oak (the majority of the blend is aged in vat). Smoky, slightly meaty, but fruity too.

Carmina Major 2010 IGP Languedoc
70% Syrah (grown on limestone) and 30% Mourvedre (grown on sandstone), aged in oak barrels for 1 year (15% new) and then for a further year in vat. Aromas of crystallised fruits, spices, white pepper and sweet tobacco. Rich, concentrated, warm and spicy, with grippy tannins and good acidity. Like the other wines (both red and white) there is a savoury, even saline quality to this wine, along with plenty of fruit. Long and lovely.

Domaine de Cébène - Faugères

Brigitte Chevalier and her wines need no introduction to most readers of this blog (or of course our customers). Indeed, we were the first merchant to import Brigitte's fabulous wines into the UK and we hope to continue to do so for a long time to come. This latest batch of wines are definitely the best yet, especially with the recent addition of a Carignan-based wine, made from the fruits of an ancient and very beautiful vineyard high in the hills above the small village of Caussiniojouls - deep in the heart of the Faugères region - which Brigitte acquired only last year.

Ex Arena 2011 IGP Pays d'Oc
From a vineyard planted on sandy soil, just north of Béziers. For some reason, I didn't get much of a note on this (I think I was probably too busy chatting with Brigitte) but whilst perhaps a touch more rustic and less complex than the Faugères cuvées, it is a lovely wine.

Belle Lurette 2011 Faugères
Being such a fan of Carignan, and having been mightily impressed with a tank sample of this wine back in June, I was really looking forward to tasting this from bottle. And it did not disappoint. 70% Carignan, with Grenache and Mourvedre making up the remainder, it offers smoky, dense cherry and bramble aromas. The palate too is dense and deliciously sweet-fruited, with ripe, velvety tannins and cracking acidity. All-in-all, it is a complex, yet soft and supremely elegant expression of Carignan, and a wonderful addition to the Cébène stable. Brilliant wine.

Les Bancels 2011 Faugères
Syrah, Grenache, plus a little Mourvedre. Smoky, meaty and savoury, with bags of schiste-grown Syrah fruit and minerality. Rich, but elegant.

Felgaria 2011 Faugères
Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache. This is so dense and rich, but once again so elegant. Yes, I know that the words "rich" and "elegant" don't often go together in wine terms, but there is an element of (for want of a better expression) femininity in Brigitte's wines that puts them firmly in the elegant category, whilst exhibiting richness and restrained power. This one is herby and floral, with a gentle meatiness and is crammed full of black cherry, bramble and soft citrus flavours, with stoney minerality and a warming touch of eau de vie. Long and complex - and absolutely benchmark Faugères.
It won't be too long until until we import the 2010's and 2011's (possibly before Christmas, but if not, then definitely very early in 2013). Meanwhile, of course, you can still buy a selection of Domaine de Cébène wines from our online shop.


Graham said...

Thanks for this Leon - being down there as it were I wasn't in a position to attend.
Interesting to see you like La Rupture - is it your first taste? Took me two goes to get it. Gather it's such a cult that more Sauvignon Blanc is being planted to meet demand.
Re. Gravillas is their an "exclusive" importer? Not sure why you can't offer some competition :)

Leon Stolarski said...

Yes, Graham, my first taste of La Rupture. It was one of the highlights of the tasting for me. I'm not a huge fan of Sauvignon Blanc, but I do seem to love the wacky ones (Dario Princic makes a stunner in Italy, too).

Re; Gravillas, it is Pyrene. Not sure if they have exclusivity or not, but they certainly aren't selling them cheap. Perhaps I should ask John for his export price list (ex-cellars)!

AlanM said...

Great to read Leon. After receiving, in error unfortunately, an invitation to this I almost went until the error was noted. :(
As someone who has advised you about Turner-Pageot I'm delighted you enjoyed their wines especially La Rupture which is exceptional, Dagueaneau style in my opinion. Manu is certainly passionate. The Blanc has changed in style the last couple of years with the new prickly fresh approach meaning it needs a few minutes to settle down, I have seen people in restaurants turn it down!

Leon Stolarski said...

Yours was one of the recommendations I was referring to, Alan. You have good taste! ;-) Regarding your (non)invitation to the event, you should have let me know, and I would have got you in as my "associate"!

AlanM said...

Next time mate :)

Bob Rossi said...

Once again I torture myself by reading about all these fascinating wines that never make it across the ocean; but lo and behold, here's a wine that graces the shelves of my local shop in Portland, Maine (as well as my cellar): Mas de Gravillas Lo Vielh Carignan IGP Cotes du Brian.

Leon Stolarski said...

I trust you have tried a bottle, Bob. If not, then now's your chance!

Vinogirl said...

Sounds like a great tasting...great reviews!