Showing posts with label Languedoc-Roussillon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Languedoc-Roussillon. Show all posts

Monday, September 6, 2021

Fine Wine Gets More Portable Than Ever

A new packaging format is being introduced into the single-serving wine category.  It's new to me, at least.  The containers come from Le Grand Verre and are billed as award-winning, ethically-made single-serve bottles.  

The 6.3-ounce plastic cylinders stand about eight inches tall,  have a diameter of only a little more than an inch and are topped with a screw cap.  You could stuff a lot of those into a picnic basket or backpack.  But it's not just the convenience and quantity that impresses - so does the quality.

Le Grand Verre's entire line consists of French wine from various wine regions, like Bordeaux, Languedoc, and Provence.  The company says they curate the wines every step of the way to your glass, partnering with mostly female-led boutique estates which are organic and sustainable.

The tasting samples provided to me were made up of two reds, two rosés and a white wine.

Le Grand Verre Domaine Caylus Rosé 2020

This pink wine hails from the Pays d'Herault region of southern France, a part of the larger Languedoc-Roussillon region.  LGV partnered with Inès Andrieu of Domaine de Caylus for this organic blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache.  Andrieu took over the property from her grandfather, Henri Andrieu who was in charge since buying the property in 1963.  The Domaine Caylus rosé carries alcohol at 12.5% abv and a price tag of $25 for a 4-pack.

The nose of this pale pink wine is loaded with strawberry and tropical notes.  The mouthfeel is full and the palate is earthy.  Flavors of apple, pineapple and ripe red cherry are a delight.  The acidity is somewhat tame, but the sip is juicy and the finish is very long.

Le Grand Verre Château Val D’Arenc Rosé 2020 

Bandol is generally considered to be the top Provence region for rosé, where the pinks are spicier, more structured and more flavorful than typical rosés thanks to the use of the Mourvédre grape.  This one is a critic's darling, an organic-certified Provencal blend of 80% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache and 10% Cinsault.

The wine was produced by young, innovative winemaker Gérald Damidot, and under his leadership the estate converted to organic farming practices in 2015, bringing about an enhanced quality of the wine.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the retail is $30 for a 4-pack.

This wine is a little richer in color than a Provençal rosé, approaching the red side of pink.  The nose brings some watermelon into play with the berries and the citrus notes.  The palate shows a healthy streak of grapefruit through the melon.  Acidity is nice, and the finish is long.  This is a great rosé to pair with seafood or salads, or both.

Le Grand Verre Domaine Nadal Hainaut Red 2019 

Here is a gorgeous wine for the coming cooler weather this fall, but it takes a chill well, too - for those of us still stuck in summer.  This somewhat rustic Cabernet Sauvignon is made with organic grapes from the Domaine Nadal Hainaut estate in the Côtes Catalanes region of the Pays d'Oc IGP, which covers most of the Languedoc-Roussillon area.  The Château was built in 1826 and has belonged to the Nadal family since 1900.  Martine and Jean-Marie are currently turning over the winemaking duties to their three daughters.  This red wine's alcohol level is 13.5% abv and a 4-pack will set you back $25.

The nose and palate are both dominated by black and blue berries.  Anise aromas make an appearance as well.  The tannins are medium firm, while the acidity is quite refreshing.

Le Grand Verre Château Peyredon Red 2019 

This LGV selection comes from the Haut-Médoc Crus Bourgeois.  Laurence Dupuch of Château Peyredon Lagravette works with her husband Stephane Dupuch to produce this wine.  The fruit was picked from vines over 100 years old.  The blend was envisioned by world-famous oenologist Hubert de Bouard - winemaker and owner of Château Angelus, one of the four most prestigious Saint-Émilion estates. 

This classic Bordeaux is 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 37% Merlot, with grapes that are sustainably farmed.  Alcohol is a restrained 13% abv and an LGV 4-pack of the canisters costs $30.

On the nose are rich blackberry, cedar, vanilla and bacon grease aromas.  The palate shows elegant dark fruit, very firm tannins and a playful acidity.  This is a wine that wants a steak next to it. 

Domaine Prataviera Sauvignon Blanc 2020

The Côtes de Gascogne region occupies France's far southwestern corner and is known primarily for the white wines produced there.  The grapes which are allowed in the region read like a list of grapes you never heard of:  Abouriou, Duras and Portugias bleu among the reds, Len de l'El, Ugni Blanc and both Mansengs - Petit and Gros - among the whites.  Of course, there are also some grapes you have heard of - Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

The grapes at Domaine Prataviera have been grown under the female hand since 1960 - that's when Elisabeth Prataviera's mom took over from her father.  The Prataviera is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, has alcohol sitting low at 11% abv and sells for $20 in the 4-pack.

This SauvBlanc is lightly tinted and offers up a lovely nose of grapefruit and grass.  The citrus/mineral element outweighs the herbal, so it does not come off like a fully New World wine.  On the palate, the grapefruit really shines, with a full mouthfeel, an apricot note and a pretty good level of acidity.  I don’t drink a lot of Sauvignon Blanc, but when I do, it's usually French, and this wine is a perfect example of why. 

In a Zoom meeting to kick off the product, a couple of LGV bigwigs talked with a collection of wine writers.  Nicolas Deffrennes (LGV Founder) spoke about how he started LGV, with an eye towards presenting fine French wines in a format that made it easy for people to sample.  He also said that part of his innovation was to focus on female-owned and organic, sustainable wines.  He estimated that within the next couple of years, the plastic containers will be made from organic, plant-based plastic.

Deffrennes then threw it to Régis Fanget (Brand and Artistic Director) who talked about the inspiration for the pretty little bottles - cosmetics.  He said they wanted to present the wine in a physical manner that resembled the way perfume is sold.

Pauline Nadal (one of the daughters behind Le Grand Verre Domaine Nadal Hainaut Red 2019, a beautiful wine from Languedoc-Roussillon) spoke about all the animals they have on the property - sheep, swans, bees - and the importance of the animals being happy in the absence of chemicals, and the happiness of the vines themselves.  They don't irrigate the vines - she says her grandfather maintained that watering the vines made them "lazy."  

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Monday, April 29, 2019

This Rosé Is Not Fragile

From the IGP Côtes Catalanes region in Languedoc-Roussillon, in southern France, Fragile Rosé is a blend of Grenache, Carignane, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes.  The Department 66 wine is made by Dave Phinney, who says he fell in love with the land around Maury on his first visit there.  He says the black soil is full of schist, granite and limestone.  Phinney fell in love not only with the dirt, but also the people, so much so that he has a home there. 

The 2017 Fragile is made largely from Grenache grapes with small percentages of Syrah and Carignan in the blend.  It was vinified in stainless steel tanks.  Alcohol hits a high-for-rosé 15.3% abv and the wine retails for $18.

Fragile - I don't believe it’s pronounced frah-ghee-lay - has a big, bright nose full of big, bright red fruit.  A bit of heat pokes its head through, too, owing to the 15% alcohol content.  That cherry-red fruit comes through on the palate as well, with a boatload of acidity to boot.  The winery notes say Fragile pairs well with lighter fare and warm, sunny days.  I'd have it with pork chops in a heartbeat. 

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Hello? Grenache Department, Please

From the Cotes Catalanes region in southwest France's Languedoc-Roussillon, Others is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre.  It's made by Dave Phinney, who says he fell in love with the land around Maury on his first visit there.  He says the red soil is peppered with black schist, granite and limestone.  He not only fell in love with the dirt, but also the people.  So much so that he has a home there.  His Department 66 winery is also located there.

The 2015 wine is imported by Bloodlines of Sausalito, California, rings the bell in strength at 15.2% abv and sells for $25.

This deep, dark Grenache shows a bit of savory funk on the nose, with black olives, meat and tobacco coming through.  The palate has cherry and dark berry flavors, along with chalky, earthy notes.  The mouthfeel is full and refreshing, with enough tannic structure to handle a steak, or any other meat dish.  The finish lingers awhile, which is a pleasure.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wine At L.A.'s Original Farmers Market

The Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles is a great place to meet friends for a bite or a sip, when the weather's nice.  And when is it not, in Southern California?  It's an institution at 3rd and Fairfax, a sprawling, casual, outdoor shopping area that was built in 1934.  Although it has gone through some upgrades through the years, it's still here.  You can stroll up to any one of the many food booths for a slice of cuisine from every part of the world.  The one my wife and I keep returning to is Monsieur Marcel Bistro.

Elaine was with us, while Brian and his entire family, in-laws included, were at a nearby table.  It was festive enough even before the drinks came, and it got better afterward.  Brian insisted on buying us an ale from the nearby bar - Marcel carries only wine - and it was a hit, although no one thought to make a note of it.  I did keep track of the wines I tried, although I failed to note which Rhône blend Elaine chose to go with her tuna tartar.

The 2016 La Croix Gratiot Picpoul de Pinet is from France's Languedoc-Roussillon region in the southwest.  The white wine is made from 100% Piquepoul Blanc grapes, and is loaded with minerality and freshness.  It's reportedly known as the "Chablis of the South."  There aren't many places in Los Angeles where one can find a Picpoul on the list.

The wine's importer says that the name of the appellation - Picpoul de Pinet - is spelled differently from the grape - Piquepoul - because French wine law does not allow a grape name to be included in the appellation.

Next up was the 2017 Terra Nostra Rosé from Corsica, a French island in the Mediterranean that is more closely identified with Italy.  There's little info I could find on the winery, but Marcel's list shows that the pinkie is made fully from Sciacarello (Sciacarellu in Corsica) grapes.  The grape is usually blended, not varietal, but they say it makes a smooth and spicy rosé.  They’re right.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

43-Year-Old Rivesaltes Dessert Wine

The Terrasous aged sweet wine series features a range of their natural sweet wines that have been aged for at least six years. This one hails from 1974. The wine is fortified to 16% abv and sells for about $75. That’s for a nice, full-sized wine bottle, too, not a little "sweet wine" size.

The 1974 Vin Doux Naturel is made of  Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc grapes grown in southern France's Rivesaltes region of Roussillon, just north of Spain and west of the Balearic Sea.  It's surely sweet, but with the beautiful tart edge that makes dessert wine so approachable and food friendly. The more age these wines have, the more character they show. Pair with pastries or enjoy on its own as an aperitif or a finale.

This 43-year-old white dessert wine is whiskey dark, even darker, maybe. The nose brings buckets of raisins and brown sugar, with baking spices - it smells like the bottom of an upside-down cake. It's fairly viscous and tastes of sweet spices and raisiny fruit, with an awesome acidity still working.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Roussillon Wine: Grenache Blanc, Gris

Le Clos de Paulilles Collioure is in the south of the southernmost region in France. It's so far south, it's almost Spain. In fact, it once was Spain. Besides being a valuable military point in the old "stormin' the castle" days, it also has some mighty nice vineyards in the hills. Some of them produce wine for the Banyuls dessert wines you may have enjoyed.

Collioure is also famous for its anchovies. Mark Kurlansky says they are the best in the word in his book, "Salt."

This white wine is made using 70% Grenache Blanc grapes and 30% Grey Grenache. Roussillon's Eric Aracil notes that the grey variety is the "used to produce white, dry rosé wine or Vin Doux Naturel (fortified sweet wine)." He says it "produces powerful, rounded, elegant, voluptuous wines with hints of aniseed and minerals."

The vineyard terraces of the clos go right down to the Mediterranean, picking up notes of the sea and salt spray. The 14% abv content is quite manageable, although a little higher than usually found in France.

This wine looks golden in a carafe, but pours up yellow-gold in the glass, very close to a faint, faint rosé. Take a sniff and it’s mineral time. Wet rocks and lemon peel, lime and even some tangerine appear on the nose. The sip brings all that into focus with a hint of grapefruit and pineapple thrown in. Acidity is top-notch, but not abrasive. The finish leaves me wishing for a beautiful spring day.

Have it with trout almondine, or just the almonds. I think I would like it with a Caesar salad, extra anchovies.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Sweet Roussillon Wine

Rivesaltes is the AOC designation for naturally sweet, fortified wines in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the south of France.

The Roussillon region allows nearly two dozen grape varieties to be used in winemaking. The Cazes vineyards produce such grape varieties as Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Petit Grain, Macabeu, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Syrah, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Tannat, Viognier and Carignan.

The Cazes vineyards are biodynamically free of pesticides and insecticides, and they claim to act upon "the true expression of the soil and the plant in their natural environment." They make Vins de pays, Côtes du Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Rivesaltes and Muscat de Rivesaltes wines at the Cazes facility.

The 1997 Ambré is described as a natural sweet wine, of vintage 1997.  100% Grenache Blanc juice is aged in oaken vats for 15 years, and is fortified to 16% abv.

This wine is beautifully brown - Cazes calls it amber, of course - and it looks even darker in color than a Newcastle. The nose is a dessert unto itself. Baked raisins, brown sugar and molasses are right up front, and the top of the glass throws a little smoke our way. The palate is as rich as we might expect after getting a whiff of the aromas. It is fairly viscous and has medium-high acidity, with a sherry-esque flavor that highlights the raisins. A salty note sails right into the finish, which is just as much a delight as the nose and the palate.

Pair it with a thick slice of cinnamon-raisin bread for either a lush dessert or a holiday breakfast.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Reveling In Roussillon

Eric Aracil is the representative for the Roussillon Wine Council, the promotion arm for the French wine region at the southern tip of the country, at the border with Spain.

Roussillon Wines promotes themselves as "The Other French Vintage Wine," although I think  the region needn’t concede so much to the better known areas like Bordeaux and Burgundy. For years I have sought out wines from the south of France as being more in my own personal wheelhouse, and for better value.

I spoke with Aracil recently, and he gave me some insight into the region as a whole, and into several samples that had been provided to me for the purpose.

Roussillon is usually tossed into the collective region of  Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées, but it occupies the southernmost point in that conglomeration.

Aracil told me that terroir diversity is Roussillon’s calling card. The wide variety of terroirs allow for many different grapes to be used, 23 in all, including four kinds of Grenache. The region produces about 95% still wine.

As you might expect, Roussillon winemakers are working from a heritage that stretches back centuries - 28 centuries, in fact. This, added with the relative "grape freedom" of the area, means that Roussillon’s winemakers have one of the most wide-open fields for exploration and experimentation in France.

Aracil likes to point to the growing of the grapes in Roussillon as the jumping-off point for great bottles of wine. The vines, he says, send their roots down ten meters or more to gather in the nutrients offered by the subsoil and gain protection from the dry climate. He says the vines tend to have a low yield, which is always a good news/bad news joke for winegrowers. The good news is the aromas and flavors are more concentrated in a low yield. The bad news is you have fewer of those remarkable grapes to sell.

Each vineyard, Aracil says, has its own set of microclimates. The contour of the land gives different exposures to the sun, and altitudes range from the valley floor to the mountains, from the seaside to inland. This offers a wide array of acidity levels and ripeness.  Generally, he says, Roussillon winemakers like to avoid overripeness, over extraction and overoaking.

In coming articles, we will explore some specific wines from the region.

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