Sunday, 27 September 2009

La Terrasse d’Elise tasting and dinner

Xavier Braujou started La Terrasse d’Elise in 1998 but it was 2001 before his range started to expand. I was introduced to his wines through a mixed tasting case bought in the UK back in 2004 from Mike and Liz Berry who now run Vins Fins de la Crau in Provence. This was another terrific repas vignerons at La Terrasse du Mimosa in Montpeyroux with Xavier there to introduce his wines.

Saint Jean de Fos is where the Herault gorge exits to the plain having swathed through the high Larzac plateau and this results in a microclimate of cooler nights. Nature dominates Xavier’s total approach from minimal vineyard treatments through to several of his cuvees even avoiding the use of sulphur.

Le Puech n°8 (Chardonnay) 2008 A cask sample hence the slightly foggy grape juice colour. Grapey and honeyed with a lemon sherbet palate and gentle bitters finish. Not at all varietal, just as I recall a much earlier vintage was.

Rose 2008 Luminous garnet. Rose hips and raspberry. Sorbet like freshness. Delicious but feels alcoholic. Cinsault and Carignan.

Le Pradel 2005 (Cinsault) Light colour. Vegetable, beetroot and boiled sweets make it intriguing and attractive to smell. This was the wine I mistook for Pinot Noir at a blind tasting in the spring. Palate seems new world in style – fine tannins, clean and relatively simple fruit. Doesn’t seem Languedoc, probably because so little quality Cinsault red is made in the region.

Le Pradel 2006 (Cinsault) Red fruits, quite spirity. Plumy fruit body with good structure – serious yet remarkably fresh. Developed well over a few minutes.

Le Pigeonnier 2004 (Carignan) Fuller colour. Liquorice and soft leather. Berries and chunky but evolves all the time and is extraordinarily fresh.

Le Pigeonnier 2005 (Carignan) Rhubarb, cherry and lychees (Nico’s observation). Lemon balm palate with great acidity and finish. Yes it is red wine. The finest Carignan I recall tasting and my wine of the evening.

Elise 2002 (Syrah and Mouvedre, aged 2 years in barrels) Blackcurrant with lemon. Elegant, racy, great length. Felt like there should be more, but that’s probably from tasting too many Languedoc blockbusters – this is more Northern Rhone. Worth keeping to see if the flavours start to layer.

Elise 2003 (Syrah and Mouvedre, aged 2 years in barrels) Sweaty, animal with mouth coating tannin. Quite baked. If the 2002 is cool Rhone this is Spain. 2003 was of course the difficult year of the canicule. Went very well with the sublime roast lamb later in the evening.

Mas de Blanc 2003 (Merlot) Prunes and chocolate. Baked and hot. Not good evidence that Merlot is at home here – would have been nice to try a cooler year.

The reds all show an underlying personal style – freshness, elegance and a racy acidity. These were also drunk after the tasting with the delightful meal and were not phased by red mullet, chocolate roulade or even the strong herbed fromage Boulette d’Avesnes. My only gripe would be that after four hours of tasting and drinking the style began to tire – as would any style. I much preferred the Le Pradel and Le Pigeonnier - the latter a very reasonable €13, nearly half the retail price of the Elise.

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