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Tasting NOPI @bibendumwine

Yes I know. A week of wine tasting sounds fab. And yes I know you’re now waiting for me to tell you how hard a job this is. Well take my advice and trust me on this one: as hard as they can get, wine tastings are fun and anyone who begs the differ has a serious laziness issue.

So here we are again in day #2 of our massive tasting week (you can check our prelude and day #1 here) and this time I’m meeting old friends at the Bibendum HQ in Primrose Hill. Having spent a year socializing the wine world with the Bibendumites, tasting wine here feels like the reasonable thing to do. But nostalgia and business apart we’re here (we’re here) to get the coolest wine list in town going.

Having consulted Allesandra (my longtime Bib partner), we managed to agree on a shortlist of around 40 wines. This might seems like a lot of wine to taste but it is really the bare minimum. In order to get a cracking 70bins wine list, one has to go through at least triple the amount, which is, as already mentioned, a tough job.

This was the task of the day

the day's line up

The secret of a good wine list is no secret at all. Like any other aspect of our lives balance is the key here. But there’s one main ingredient that cannot be ignored, creativity. Nothing is easier than writing the same wine list again and again. The city’s full of them. The NOPI peeps agreed to take this approach one step further and demolish the usual wine list structure. So not only will we have unusual wines from interesting regions but we will also group the wines into some pretty unusual mini categories. And not just one, but many & all different ones. We are leaving the boring list by country, style or price behind and sorting the wines by their story. Wines can be categorized only by grape, by the special conditions in which they are grown, by the very good year they grew up in, or by the unusual winemaking techniques which were applied…but I guess you’ll have to see it to dig it.

Enough reveiled for one post, instead, here are the wines I liked best and a video where Yotam, Osh & Basha give us their top pics

Friendly Gruner Veltliner, Laurenz V (Niederösterreich, Austria)

Maybe the day’s favourite. From winery devoted to just a single grape variety: Grüner Veltliner.Super friendly indeed.

Vibrant freshness with loads fo herbacious notes. Very clean style with very light hint of residual, loads of aromatics & mouth watering acidity. Very good length as the minerality keeps on giving on and on and…

Wild Yeast Chardonnay, Spingfield Estate (Robertson, South Africa)

An unwooded Chardonnay, tank fermented with native yeast 70 days alcoholic fermentation 100% malolactic was allowed naturally 13 months on the lees. Unlike any Chardonnay you ever had!

Very complex nose with loads of bread & almond notes. Very intense on the palate. Loads of bready, martzipan flavours lifted with a fine mineral acidity.

Pinot Noir, A to Z Wineworks (Oregon, USA)

A interesting pick for our Pinot Noir group. Not often can you taste such a dangerously drinkable wine for such a friendly price. Simplicity at its best.

Lovely soft nose, beautiful primary and fresh fruit coming through. Pronounced strawberry on the palate with some soft aromatics. Light leafy character with a touch ripe fruit.

Morgon, Domaine Marcel Lapierre (Beaujolais, France)

Who’s afraid of natural wine? And who ever said Beaujolais can’t rock? Marcel Lapierre, the godfather of natural wine, passed away last summer. He shall be missed.

Light manure notes on the nose, then a burst of fresh red fruits comes through. Fantastic freshness on the palate, minerality and an intriguing combination of soft spices, black sour cherries and some leafy notes.

And as promised, here’s team NOPI thoughts of the day

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Tasting NOPI #1

Most people tend to hide their firm belief in superstitions, I don’t. I know it’s bad, and it sometime gets to the stupidest of things. If the next car turns right then great day ahead, but if not, I might as well spend the day at home, safe.

None of this was happening on our way to the very first tasting session for the new NOPI, we had more important issues to sort. Me & @oshposh were trying hard to concentrate on how to get to Surrey. Are we still in London or are we in no man’s land already?

But luck (and Mark from Astrum…) proved to be on our side you see, and despite the miserable weather, distance and my sudden allergies, we made it to Astrum Wine Cellar’s warehouse, all set to go. Maybe I’m not totally obsessed with superstitions after all…or am I?

Specializing in Italian wine complimented with some interesting picks from Austria, Germany, France and even Hungary, I felt that Astrum is a pretty safe place to kick off this week of wine.

But with a couple of hundred of wines on offer, how to decide what to taste? Well it’s mainly about knowing how things taste and what can work on the wine list. I always try to taste only relevant wines and not to get carried away with personal preferences or suggestions.  Mark & myself worked on and selected a respectable line up, which as agreed was patiently waiting for us, when we entered the room, Tah da!

I’ve tasted most of these wines before, and they all proved to be solid and interesting. Bellow is the list of our line up and my notes of the most exciting bottles

White best

Furmint, Tornai 07

Notoriously known for producing Tokaji, this dry version of Furmint comes from the region of Somló, Hungary bien sur!

Pronounced nose with loads of ripe stone fruit, melon & passion fruit with the lightest botrytis hint. Very ripe stone fruit, Chamomile, white fruit. Quite complex without loosing focus nor intensity. interesting with good VFM.

Riesling, Verus 08

Super exciting riesling from Ormoz north-eastern Slovenia. Versus = True (Latin). Even JR is excited!

Honeyd nose with stone and lime fruit, almost sweet. Ever so light petillance, touch of sweetnes but really sharp and fresh. oily texture, hint of sugar but then a very precise and sharp citrusy character.

And rest

Salento Bianco, Feudi di San Marzano 09

Lugana, Selva Capuzza 08

Gavi di Gavi, Produttori del Gavi 09

Terlaner Classico, Cantina Terlano 09

Pinot Grigio, Cantina Adriano 09

Riesling, Ignaz Nierdist 09

Fiano D’Avelino, Piertracupa 08

Red best

Wien.2, Pfaffl 09

Made out of Zweikelt and PN grown in the region of Weinviertel right in the outskirts of Vienna

Soft and sweet red fruit. Touch of armomatics, with a nice amount of green notes but balanced. Fresh, mineral, good texture, very good fruit with a good amount of spices and a creamy like texture. This is great and would work well by the glass. And perhaps in the “is it Pinot?” group. Zweikelt and PN.

Barbaresco, Produttori del Barbaresco 05

Possibly the best co-op in the world? Brings affordable + quality to BArbaresco!

Strong and pronounced nose. Loads of fruit with some serious liquorice and minty notes. Spectacular palate, silk,y velvety if even very straight and sharp. coffee, leather & mint, very good stuff indeed. A touch of meaty character and a very good balance. Very drinkable.

Salento Rosso, Feudi di San Marzano 09

Valpolicella Classico, Le Salette 09

Garda Groppello 09

Barbazzzale, Nerello Mascalese 09

Nebbiolo, Coste della Sesia, Travaglini 08

Chianti Colli Senesi, Slacheto 09

Nebbiolo Langhe, Produttori del Barbaresco 08

Fatagione, Cottanera 07

Pinot Nero, Cantina Terlano 09

With the first session of our mission now accomplished we were a happy lot on our train back to London. With a rather clear idea in mind if what could fit the NOPI bill and cars taking the right turns on request, this felt like a good day in the office.

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After all it’s only wine

You might have noticed that I’ve got a vinous issue. I kinda like the stuff and am said that I tend to exaggerate. I must admit things tend to get a bit weird. Not only can I yak about it for hours but can also convince innocent peeps to drive a lot of kms on dodgy roads to find a remote winery, buy a random bottle or simply stare at rocks and then mumble terroir… I always try to disguise it as a cultural need, and always fail.

Lately I try to restrain myself. I try, at least for the weekend to limit my relations with vino to a drinking one only. And god knows it’s not easy. I drink without thinking. I hold it all back and won’t even brag on how the wine always changes, that there’s nothing quite like it and that it’s all simply beautiful. None of the above!

Last weekend damaged my rehabilitation efforts. But it had to happen and it would be rude to refuse a free ticket to the Decanter Bordeaux Fine Wine encounter anyway. But times have changed. With a two hour restriction and no black teeth allowed I was on a mission. If you have to do it, please do it properly, no chat just a fast taste n spit afternoon. Between tasting to spitoon I couldn’t stop noticing the average age. Old, suited and booted you might think, well quite the opposite, a young and trendy crowd that seemed to share the joys of Bordeaux.

My day’s highlight as I remember them…

Chateau tour du Pez 2004 – a lighter style of St Estephe. Nose shows some development with a hint of earthy notes, leather and dry fruit.

Grippy palate with rounded tannins, a hint of saltiness, and a lean cassis lead fruity character. Good intro to the real stuff, from a lesser vintage and at an affordable price.

Chateau Lascombe 2006 – Who doesn’t fancy a bit of Margaux finesse (en Francais, bien sur). Despite being a Rolland boy the wine rocks. Loads of cassis, blackberry, cigar box and leather action on the nose. So far so good but the palate really does it. Super silky texture, loads of crisp freshness and a clean undertone of minerality the really lifts this baby up. Clearly a sin, but could almost be enjoyed now. Smoky and tempting,..

Chateau Sociando Mallet 1996 – Finally someone of legal drinking age and yes, I clearly kept the best for last.A perfumed nose with elegant spice, floral notes and a lush yet focused fruit concentration. Firm and elegant still with plenty of power. Finesse of fruit, a clean and integrated palate, still fresh, still buzzing and still so complex. Bravo Saciado!

Located just a few km outside the St Estephe AC, Sociando shows maybe more than any other why the 1855 stuff is so dated. But hey here I am yakking away again! I promised this will be an emotionless experience. Professional, swift and clean with no strings attached. So be it. Who cares about 1855? After all it’s only wine…

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India, wine and change

Wine is all about change. Like any worthy thing in life it is dynamic and never ceases to surprise. The bottles that lie in our cellars provide the obvious example.Wine ageing is beautiful yet mostly mysterious. We know it happens but we’re not entirely sure why, how long and how the hell its gonna end. I, in any case, stopped trying.

But this is not the only fascinating time aspect that involves wine. My palate constantly changes. Most of the wines I loved two years ago seem to be irrelevant now. I enjoy this change, cherish it and believe that the day it stops I might just retire (or maybe it is a lame excuse to stop working). And this is possibly why wine is such an unpredictable and fascinating adventure. With so much to learn and discover, any other approach will just not work.

It was with this good spirit that I sat down to taste a selection of wine from Grover vineyards. Now Bangalore India is not the first place you think of as a wine region. Turned out that the Nandi Hills region located 40 kilometres towards north of Bangalore is just that. Back in the old days (that might also be referred as the 80s) George Vessele spent five years covering every candidate region in India. His conclusion was that Nandi Hill is where it all should happen. 20 years and 200 hectares later, armed with another mega French consultant (no less than Mr. Rolland lui meme) Grover are ready to take on the world but are we ready for Indian wine?

Sauvignon Blanc “Art Series” 2009 – the nose bursts with white fruits, spices an elegant herbaceous note. Few minutes later and a light yeasty note popped. The palate is rich in style with plenty of fruit. Citrus, stone fruits, a hint of creaminess and a pleasant oily /vaxy character. Lush, deep and concentrated this is a very original style of Sauvignon. And all at only 12% abv.

La Reserve 2006 – Clean and restrained nose. Cassis, plums and a dried herb note. Surprisingly concentrated yet not overdone. Palate is elegant with fresh acidity and a descent fruit concentration. After a few minutes the palates open up. A hint of floral note, dried herbs, cassis and a lean minerality. Difficult to associate it with the Indian heat. A lovely glass of straightforward yet elegant red.

Few years back I wouldn’t admit a new world wine in my glass. I know better now. Today it’s the flavours that thrill me, much less where they come from.

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Strange and unusual morning wine

My absence from this space is simply unacceptable. I know, and I should, as I endlessly preach to every innocent listener, that continuity is the golden rule to successful blogging.  Well as appose to wine, success never made a big impact on me. But enough with apologies and let’s talk about me.

I’m a wine geek. I know it’s pathetic and almost sad but it’s stronger than me. I know this might be boring but discovering new wines really does it for me. That is why I felt that a comeback is needed, I just had so much to share. Last week I had the pleasure and luck to taste alongside Julia Harding (MW!!) a proud bunch of wines made from uncommon varieties. As a long term fan of the indigenous and unusual this seemed like my perfect Sunday afternoon plan. Julia and I slowly made our way through the obscure and unknown.

Contrary to the norm we kicked off from the red side. Interesting technique that I now start to favour. First in the line of fire was the Cos Frappato 2008. For those of you who follow this space (hi mom and dad!) you surely must know that last summer I somehow managed to drag Mrs. Z to harvest in Sicily disguised as our honeymoon. Well COS was the crime scene. Two precious weeks were spent there and although we both promised not to drink it again I now felt that it’s time to face this old friend. Good choice! The wine showed purity and elegance of fruit lifted by a straight mineral acidity backbone. Pinot Noir-ish in style with an exotic ray of spices. Young, live and kicking.

Lucien Aviet & Fils, Réserve du Caveau, Cuvée des Géologues 2006 Arbois 100% Trousseau. This was clearly my Sunday morning Fav. Unusual nose of dried fruits,  spice and a hyper elegant savoury note. Palate was silky and smooth with a fine complexity. Burgundy in quality with a savage character. More than anything tastes different and a provides a chance to meditate upon the varietal character.

Dom du Cros, Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2006 Marcillac 100% Mansois . A simpler and humbler style. Good sharp acidity, loads of red primary fruit with a hint of herbaciousness. Good winemaking that allows the varietal character to show. Not a huge fellow but an easy going funny companion.

Dom Daniel Dugois, Reflet de Rois 2005 another terrific and quirky wine made from 100% Savagnin, aged 3 years under flor. Like a dry sherry but in a wine. Cracking acidity and bowl of nuts action. Super sharp and thight palate with a salty finish. Touch of olive juice (you know the one from the can) and JH even found roast chicken smells from this small little beauty. Happy days!

D & P Belluard, Les Alpes 2008 Vin de Savoie 100% Gringet. Super sharp Alpine wine with no Malo nor oak. Well all we were left with was a palate shocker. Just as if someone squeezed a lemon right into your mouth. Anything else? Well a bit of honey and a touch of smoke but basically a real “look at me i’m different” call from Mr. Le Gringet.

I thoroughly enjoy tasting with Julia. Chatting our way through the wines we spent around 3 hours tasting 12 wines. There’s nothing like a relaxed tasting with no rush in the comfort of your (well Julia’s this time) home.  Being already late I rushed to the pub only to watch my beloved gunner trashed by the old blues again. Next time I will stick to wine!

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Unusual varities part 1

I have a very bad sense of direction. I always loose my way, especially on romantic or special trips abroad. Despite being aware of this fault I will NEVER take a minute, lower the car window and ask for help or advice. Never.

Despite all the above I still dare complain about people drinking boring wines. I seriously think something’s not right with them. Why on earth would you, out of a wine list packed with reasonably priced, interesting, different & exciting wines (“I’ve never heard of X will be the biggest compliment) will one choose a Gavi or PG. Is it the fear of being lost in the world of unknown surrounded by foreign names that are difficult to pronounce or maybe just a lack of imagination? In many cases I get the feeling they’re just the old me in the car feeling too proud or stupid to ask.

That is why I felt both proud and happy to help in an adventurous project. I do like being adventurous, just not in a car. And adventurous it was. I was asked to chase and find the most obscure and unusual grape varieties. Strange how the bizarre demands feel to me like the simplest of tasks. This is my chance to do what I do best. I will use this old flair of mine that manages to source unusual wines and persuade innocent people to drink them.

After a few weeks of nudging, begging and simply endlessly chasing my various contacts in the wine trade I ended up with a box full of goodies. We both sat in the wine cellar of l’anima. It was chilly but the wines benefited from it. I have carefully organised all the usual suspects with extra care as I am tasting today with Julia Harding MW, she is the mind behind my scam. She offers to try the red first and I naturally oblige. It is a bit of a hit and try game as we haven’t tried most of the wines before and so the order is decided according to our assumptions.

We kicked off with Lacryma Moro di Alba 08 from Colonnara – Great wine to start with I thought after nosing a very fragrant and perfumed Aroma. The palate showed fresh almost crisp Red cherries and some fine spices. Summery wine that could work well slightly chilled and with some BBQ roar as a background noise.

Second and third on the grid were wines made from the seriously obscure Longanesi. The wine also stated Burson as the grape variety, so we were left slightly confused. (see more for this here). Fact is that both of the wines were very different, the bad side of different in fact. Burned rubber, meaty and tinned vegetables on the nose. Terrible extraction on the palate with no delicacy or grace. A very pronounced rusticism that made us feel the wines were not quite right.

Then arrived two Campanian blokes who were to be made the stars of the tasting. It all started quite difficultly. The first wine answered to the name of “Cunto” 07 from Alois (I was later informed by Luca Dusi, the importer that it will bear a different name for the UK market, phew…). The wine was made from the unusual grape Pallagrello Nero and caught our attention for good reasons. A very subtle yet complex nose, dry herbs, minty note, light cherry frauit were all harmonious. The palate bursting with (almost sharp) acidity, youthful red fruit and an elegant spicy character. Beauty and elegance with a hint of salty minerality – reminding me that in Campania we are.

His older brother answered to the name of “Trebolanum” 04 from Alois. It was made from the Casavechia grape (more info in the Alois website here ). The nose was richer and showed quite a lot of new oak with vanilla, liquorice and soft sweet spice. The palate proved to be much more in balance. Great black fruit concentration, sweet spice and above all, again, the typical Campanian cutting through minerality. A bigger style, for heavier loving palates yet well made and left us with a strong varietal character impression.

On the white sector I was impressed by the Timorraso 04 from Morgassi Superiore. Timorasso, indigenous variety of red wineland Piedmont (excluding the much discussed Cortese…). bearing in mind that the wine is almost 5 years old I found it to be very exciting and again, on the good side of the different. A spicy and lightly oaked nose, a very delicate mushroomy note and hint of minerality. The palate also proved to be unique. Something that reminded us both of an old flat champagne. There might have been just a hint of oxidation but this was well hidden by a dried stone fruit character and a still vibrant minerality. Enjoyable and a very interesting food matching prospect.

It was a very special tasting. Not being able to mention all the wines we tried, I just did the very best. It was highly interesting to see that good varietal character comes out hand in hand with purity. This only enhanced the fact that tipicity and varietal character are amongst the most important factors determining quality of wine.

It was an exciting afternoon with flavours and smell to cherish and remember where one conclusion was made—–> Pallagrello Nero is the new Nebbiolo!

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A chily Monday morning

I’ve always liked Monday mornings. This is basically my day. Full of energy, optimistic and sure everything will be just fine. I might take full advantage of this dream-like reality of mine, I keep on saying to myself in a low voice. It might seem strange yet it’s very effective.

With this type of mood I arrived to the courtyard (or should I say little estate) of “The Bleeding Heart”. Slightly disturbing was the fact that this very courtyard was oddly named after Lady Elizabeth Hatton (which apparently was the toast of 17th Century London society) and was found dead just here with her heart still pumping blood onto the cobblestones. Hmmm, intriguing yet no enough to irritate my precious mood. I move swiftly over the bespoke cobblestone and enter the wine cellar room.

Smiling faces are welcoming me; Andrea Bricarello from Corrigan’s Mayfair (winner of best sommelier for Imbibe), Joris Beijn from 1901 at Andaz (his runner up),Roberto Della Pietra from all French Roussillon, and beloved Christine Parkinson from Hakassan group were amongst them. All cheerful, the wine chatting was on the move.

Then came the wines. All from cool climate regions of Chile. Two flights, one white- all Chardonnay, and one red – all Syrah. Quite a challenge I thought. Luckily it’s still a marvellous Monday afternoon and the company is charming, lucky me.

Les Blancs – The whites were how to put it, not very elegant and at times even clumsy. The old question swings again; Chard has seen it all so why, why again?

The style varied from full on acidity (almost felt acidified), to over the top oak monsters (thnx @garyvee). Along the way were a couple of more elegant and soft ones and the obvious oak chips were floating with expression.

The flight was divided by region, Colchagua (down south), Limari (600km north of Santiago) and the obvious cool climate Casablanca.

Chardonnay 07 “The Gran Araucano” from Colchagua (sub region of Rapael in the far South) surprised with an oaky nose, a touch of vanilla and a hint of creamy notes. Rich on the palate, almost confected. Loads of spices and nutty flavours. Vanilla and an almost thick character. A bit over the top with the use of oak. Good acidity and a slightly hot finish. A big boy in town!

From Limari, one of Chile’s up and coming regions came The Reserve Chardonnay 08 Terra Andina. Then suddenly, I unleashed all my superlatives. It felt as if I was waiting for this wine to arrive. I admit that I might got carried away and judging by the price (me? never!) I might have done so. In any case I found the nose to be rich with some very mature peaches, a very light nutty note & a hint of spice. Excellent palate I also thought! Concentrated yet elegant. The minerality seemed to combine with the acidity to create an almost nectar like mid palate. Finally I can say, Burgundian minerality and elegance (carried away did I mention?)

Then came along some 7 or 8 Chards from Casablanca. Mostly I found them to be much more commercial (the old anywhere any grape tune). Some had a feel of residual sugar. it seems to me that these kind of wines while trying to hide some faults and become user friendly, are very difficult to drink. The sugar is heavy, makes me heavy and tired. I didn’t really like any of them, so why bother!

Les Rouges – the worst, so it seemed was still to come. But first I was charmed.

The Casa Marin “Miramar” 06 Syrah felt to be very good start. Located in the San Antonio Valley (just west to Santiago), it benefits from pronounced Pacific influence. Its deep nose shows a lot of black fruit and a distinctive vegetal nose followed by a rich peppery note. Fruit almost feels sweet and the palate much more subtle than the nose. Low alcohol and clean flavours with just a hint of spice. Elegant and sophisticated, some real style was emerging without showing off “I’m here!!!”. Yummy that’s nice. Really tastes like cool climate. Did anyone say Rhone?

Another advantage of mine is that I tend to be impressed by inexpensive wines; I’m that kind of person. I managed to do it again. The Maiden flight Syrah from Cono Sur felt good. Coming from Colchagua and gave everything a 5 pound a bottle wine should, and more. Nose with loads of black fruit. A rustic, earthy almost savoury note and hints of leather and cinnamon. Impressive and surprisingly clean nose. Rich plum my notes dominated the palate. Not much tannins just huge amounts of fruit. Pleasant and enjoyable. My notes told the story – Again the cheapest wine on the flight, I’ve got such a cheap taste.

Most of the following wines didn’t share this clean style. Simple or complex many of them felt very technical or not enough. Reduction and off flavours were obvious. It felt like a long journey now. I struggled my way upon wines that felt too similar and didn’t leave almost any impression.

Well, well, I did find almost four wines that I would drink, from Chile I felt very content. This was, after all, another successful Monday!

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New beginings

How important are new beginnings.

I am told that in order for something real and important to happen there should always be a breaking point. This one moment when you realize something has really changed and that nothing will ever be the same again. I honestly think this is just a whole load of crap.

Nevertheless, in order to satisfy my loyal audience I will ignore my previous statement and start the new beginning of this write ups with something big.

I was waiting for this email to come for quite a while. I’ve been quiet yet hopeful. Finally on a dull Friday afternoon, on my way to another busy Friday night, it arrived. I was kindly ask if I could help with some technicalities and participate in a tasting with no less than my (and I’m pretty sure that everyone else’s) wine guru.

I was given the task (small yet vital) to put in order and organize an intriguing tasting consisting of 60 red white rose and sweet wine from the most Spanish region of France – Roussillon.

Setting up the wines will be the part that I will not share as I don’t wish to reveal my professional secrets.

We will go straight to the wines, shall we?

Les Blancs-

These were the most diverse and seemed to represent the mood of this colour in Roussillon. Diversity being a positive and attractive quality but can it also point out a lack of style?

More than anything else it felt there is some lack of self identity here. Don’t get me wrong, some of the wines showed beautifully.

The like of Ch Cap de Fouste, Sant Galdric Muscat Sec 2008 that showed just how a simple Muscat can be so much fun. grapey wit a touch of sweetness and enough acidity to balance.

Some other unpretentious whites included the Vignerons des Côtes d’Agly Sauvignon/Vermentino 2008 an unusual blend where the sauvignon plays second best and only compliments aromatic notes to a ripe stone fruit and mineral backbone.

Still, among all the white varieties (isn’t cepage a much more attractive term?) there was one that stood out from the others; The one that felt most at home. Grenache Blanc effortlessly beat all the others. The wines felt right, different and representing this Mediterranean edge.

Cave de l’Abbé Rous, In Fine 2008, was smoky rich and complex. Despite the hint of oak ageing the wine managed to keep depth of fruit and fantastic complexity of flavours. The most authentic with an almost Catalunian scented feel to it. A big boy with graceful moves that is not ashamed of his size.

Les Rouges –

The reds were quite different; stylish and full, they were expressing some Mediterranean passion. Rich and spicy they were not ashamed to show their origins to the whole wide world. Most of the wines were good descent drinks yet as always a few stood apart.

Dom Rossignol, Bérénice 2005 Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, Les – This showed quite a lot of animal notes here with a very pronounced black fruit component. Not as big on the palate. Somehow, more elegant and restrained. It did benefit from the savoury element yet the fruit was much more present. There was good freshness and even a minty herbal note. Almost Rhone in style.

Another one to impress and maybe to point out the qualities for ageing was the Domaine de Vénus 2004 Côtes du Roussillon- This showed some enjoyable mature red fruit complimented by some savoury spices. The palate was concentrated and fruity. Some of it dried and mature in character yet a hint of freshness was also coming through. Good spices the like ofliquorice, leather & coffee which worked very well with the almost sweet edge that the fruit had. Slightly warm finish. A big Mediterranean chap here, yet polite and open minded.

Some of the wines did take this big and beautiful approach a bit further, which made some of the wines taste like any grape anywhere style. The majority did keep it simple. My experience tells me that less and less drinkers are interested in superstrong giants and much more appreciate charm and elegance.

My general feelings were that red wine making felt much more natural to the producers that we’ve sampled. As I’ve mentioned, the reds showed character and tipicity without the need of proving too much. A slightly more careful tannin and extraction management could result in wines that might shine some elegance behind the familiar thick Mediterranean fruit.

Whitewise again the focus on local varieties and a spicier slightly richer style will draw more attention to the wines. The old formula of cold fermentation crisp and fresh wines just doesn’t give exciting results in this part of France, they have much more to offer.

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