Sunday, 26 December 2010

Vins Méditerranée tasting

The Cercle Francais de Chiswick meets most months with an evening centred around a presentation in French on a subject with a strong French connection. Even if the topic or speaker fails to grip me, I at least get some practice at listing to spoken French. Most years they devote a session to food or drink matters and this month they invited Anthony Auguin of very local and highly reputed wine merchant Lea & Sanderman to introduce French Mediterranean wines.

Five wines were shown, one each of sparkling, white, rosé, red and Vins Doux Naturel.

2006 Crémant de Limoux Brut Jean-Louis Denois (Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir) attractive apple blossom, yeasty, butter and toasted breadcrumbs with a clean finish. One of the best examples I recall tasting. Apparently Pinot Noir has been recently allowed under the appellation rules and Anthony feels this has improved Crémant de Limoux considerably. UK retail £13.50.

2008 Le Sarda Blanc Côtes du Roussillon Domaine Sarda-Malet (Grenache Gris, Marsanne, Malvoisi) very aromatic and quite fat with sage, thyme, green olives and grapefruit. For me a one glass wine but a good example of an up-front aromatic white, although personally I would prefer a Picpoul that should also come in a bit less than the £10 for La Sarda.

2009 L'Hydropathe Élite Rosé Côtes de Provence Sainte Victoire Domaine Sainte Lucie (Grenache and Syrah) with 5 other varieties) boiled sweets with pomegranate. Well made and pleasant enough but little more and poor value at £14. Apparently this is popular in Chiswick at Christmas which sort of figures.

2005 Côtes du Rhône Villages Saint Maurice Cuvée Maréotis Domaine Viret (Grenache and Syrah). My first impression, actually more a hit both visual and nasal, was of some sort of dense fruit bomb. Deep dark colour, cassis, prunes, fruit cake, spices, very ripe tannins, farmyard (Brett) with nice freshness and delicious flowing silky mouth textures. Amazingly 15% but doesn't seem like it. The vineyard is "cosmoculture" biodynamic with no additives, including sulphur, in the wine making - something many would coin a "natural wine". Extraordinary and I loved it.
Anthony pointed out and defended the brett in the wine - a bit advanced for such as audience but hopefully they weren't put off. £18.

2006 Mas Amiel Vintage Maury Vin Doux Naturel (Grenache) was served with chocolates to illustrate its compatibility. This is the (relatively) modern young fresh, sweet, spicy, supple concentrated cherry style of Maury. Delicious, but perhaps finishing a bit short making it too easy to drink. £17.

Interesting to see the approach to representing the French med in just five wines. While I'm disappointed the Languedoc missed out, tasting the Domaine Viret Maréotis more than made up for it.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Les Obriers de La Pèira 2008

La Pèira En Damaisela is in the heart of the Terrasses du Larzac and interesting to me because it seems to have a strong reputation outside France and yet locally is well below the radar. I've never noticed any of their wines at a cavist or restaurant wine list, although La Terrasse du Mimosa in Montpeyroux lists Les Obriers. I've also never come across any at the many excellent festive events in the area.

Back in London I came across the 2008 Les Obriers when investigating the new branch of The Sampler in South Kensington. This is essentially a wine store with some intriguing technology offering self-service tasting samples for 80 different wines. While there were several bottles from two well known regions beginning with B plus a Rhone, no other French reds were on tasting. Still, the Languedoc selection on the shelves was fine and I was keen to savour a whole bottle anyway.

Les Obriers is a blend of two thirds Cinsault and one third Carignan. While most growers would make Rosé with the Cinsault or use just a dollop in a blend, a big chapeau for making a red. With the Carignan giving the Languedoc x-factor this is very much a local style rather than, say, a Syrah Grenache Rhone look alike or worse.

I found fresh mulberry with a hint of rose water and a raspberry palate with some plum and a black olive finish. A couple of days later and the wine had changed surprisingly little. Nevertheless, for me it was holding something back. It's bit like looking at a coral reef through glass at an aquarium. While this is the experience most prefer and enjoy, I fancy the snorkel and flippers approach for a different more edgy perspective. Either way, it has the balance to last for many years and will be well worth revisiting when it has more bottle age. I'll also keep an eye out for older vintages.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Domaine Treloar Dinner

Jonathan Hesford of Domaine Treloar in the Roussillon hosted a dinner at Le Café Anglais in Bayswater after the outstanding Outsiders tasting (see my November posts).

One Block Muscat 2009 (Muscat Petite Grains) was dry and  refreshing with a clean muscat scent, a rare aromatic Languedoc white when the second glass was as enjoyable as the first. One comment on what differentiated this dry muscat from the pack was how well the finish held up. It has some lees age and I think this toned down the fruitiness a notch and helped the transition to the wine's finish.
The pickled squash salad with prawns was unfortunately not a particularly wine friendly dish.

La Terre Promise 2009 (50% Grenache Gris, 30% Macabeu, 20% Carignan Blanc) was fresh and minerally and yet had assertive layers of cooked fruits and garrigue. Apparently has less Macabeu than previous vintages which has calmed the tropical fruit notes to let the dry flavours of the other grapes come through. A wine to savour.
Duck paté en croute, actually a delicious posh meat loaf served warm, went well.

The reds were all served together with a deep flavoured Beef en Daube with mash.

Three Peaks 2007 (60% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache) is the red I'm most familiar with. Has a deceptive dry style and one needs to look for its brambly fruits with tobacco and some spice. Le Secret 2007 (80% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache) struggled a bit against the heady Daube and may have benefited from decanting. Nevertheless, there was some classy blackcurrent in there and a nice structure. Tahi 2006 (50% Syrah 30% Mourvedre and 20% Grenache) has more oak, richness and perfume and did the best job at marching the Daube. While delicious now it needs a few years to integrate nicely.

Jonathan made the interesting comment that he makes three wines from similar blends to cover a broader spectrum of tastes. A fair point given I found the Tahi the least typical Roussillon red of the three.

Muscat de Rivesaltes 2009 served with roasted pineapple seasoned with ginger and chilli and panacotta  was the food match of the evening. The sweetness of the muscat didn't dominate and the wine had a nice purity and balance.

Le Café Anglais gave us excellent food and service. They don't appear to have a professional Sommelier and were obviously not familiar with the wines, which may explain some of the questionable food matches. That said, for me this really didn't matter and it was a fine way to end a great day.