Saturday, 31 October 2009

Domaine d’Aupilhac tasting and dinner

Sylvain Fadat started Domaine d’Aupilhac back in 1989 and along with Olivier Jullien (see Mas Jullien posts) was a pioneer for the area. In addition to his vineyards around Montpeyroux, Syvain’s big investment has been in forging new vineyards out of the garrigue at altitude above the village. This means a broad range of wine styles are produced, ideal for what was the last tasting and repas vigneron evening of the season at La Terrasse du Mimosa in Montpeyroux.

13 wines were tasted over the evening, 5 with the delightful dinner.

Les Cocalières blanc 2005, 2007
Roussanne, Marsanne, Vermantino, Grenache Blanc. From vines 350m above sea level on dolomitic limestone overlooking Montpeyroux. Aromatic floral with gentian and fennel leading to a palate of lemon peel and apple. The 2007 was fresher – lemon balm with lime and a fine partner for risotto with mussels.

Mont-Baudile blanc 2008, 1996 Ugni blanc, Grenache blanc and Chardonnay. Creaminess of youth with fresh, citrus, fennel and churned butter in the 2008. Worked well with marinated salmon. The 1996 was the first vintage. Nuts and figs with vanilla but done dry and in perfect balance, extraordinary. There were two bottles, one of which did not have a malolactic fermentation. With only one tasting glass I couldn’t detect a difference.

Montpeyroux rouge 2003, 1997 Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan with 10% Grenache and 5% Cinsault. Simplistically clay and chalk (argilo-calcaire) vineyards with lots of oyster fossils apparently. 2003 was the year of the canicule and many fine reds have not aged well but this isn’t one of them. Animal with ripe cassis and a pepper finish. 1997 was a difficult wet and cool year but this wine was a masterpiece – Burgundy sweetness and delicacy with some liquorice, good length and poise. Would be impossible to place if tasted blind.

Le Carignan 2008, 2000 (Magnum), 1998 (Magnum) A landmark wine for the region. Sylvain was generous enough to credit les anglais for buying it in the early days and I was one of them. Most vintages show best when young or older with a closed run of years in between. The 2008 was heady ripe fruit propped up by good acidity and a tannin canvas. The 2000 still had a dense colour, damsons and soft spice. The 1998 was my wine of the night – spices, olive, bay, brambles and damson and just so complete and satisfying.

Les Cocalières rouge 2005 Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre grown at 350m altitude. Quite sweet and heady with elegant brambles. The lighter style went well with the duck.

Le Clos 1999 (Magnum), 1989 (Magnum) Mourvèdre and Carignan with 20% Syrah. Fresh farmyard with mushroom. Herbs and supple oak tannins - will keep. 1989, the first vintage for Le Clos, was earthy, sweet and elegant with garrigue herbs.

"La Boda" Rouge 2006 Mourvèdre and Syrah with 10% each of Carignan and Grenache. An assemblage from Montpeyroux argilo-calcaire vineyards and the altitude Cocalières. Dark and brooding with cassis, liquorice and spice. Clearly needs time and will no doubt please important export markets.

Great winemakers make good and interesting wines in difficult vintages and d’Aupilhac is the best proof of that I've come across for years.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

A good week

It’s always satisfying when wine exceeds expectations and this has been a satisfying week.

Ollier Taillefer (Fos in Faugères) makes consistently good wine at a fair price and seems to know how to market it. Castel Fossibus is their oaked Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre blend designed for ageing and the 2002 is still at its peak. A browning rim and a soft, ripe herbal nose leads to a mouth filling rounded and gentle spicy palate. It’s mature enough to perhaps come from anywhere, but was delicious. The 2002’s have proved to be a most elegant year, at least to the west of the Gard that suffered a severe harvest deluge.

My experience with tasting reds from Saint-Saturnin (Terrasses de Larzac) has yet to particularly excite me. I find the characteristics to be rich dark fruits and chocolate and this was exactly what I found drinking Virgil Joly 2001 - notes of black olives, chocolate and even hints of coffee were not for me. That said, it was beautifully mature and balanced with a soft mouth feel and good length; the last bottle and more enjoyable than expected.

Viognier has been trying to become fashionable for decades despite being tricky viticulturally. In the Languedoc it has made some successful everyday wines - the Cotes de Thongue between Beziers and Pezenas produces good bottles (as it does Chardonnay as well). Domaine La Condamine L' Evêque’s Viognier for example has always been a reliable restaurant wine list spot. A touch also works well in white blends adding fat and exotic perfume. Of the pure Viogniers from the region Domaine de Clovallon Les Aires has consistently come closest to good specimens from Condrieu Rhone territory. Vintage differences are more pronounced up in Bedarieux and the 2006 is exceptional – apricot, hints of peach stone with (unsweetened) Chantilly cream and linseeds in the mouth. Normally a one glass then move on wine, but not this bottle. My thanks to David Pugh of restaurant Le Mimosa for the tip off and being prepared to part with a couple of bottles. Alas, this was the second bottle.