Category: Fortified Wine

Domaine Cazes, Rivesaltes

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Languedoc-Roussillon series

Domaine Cazes is a bridge between history and modernity in many respects.

The family owned wine company can trace its history back to 1895 when they were winemakers rather than grape growers. These days Domaine Cazes manages the whole production process, employing modern theories of organic and biodynamic viti- and viniculture under the 4th generation winemaker Emmanuelle Cazes. In fact, it’s one of the largest biodynamic and organic producers of wine in France.

The core portfolio consists of red, white, rosé and dessert wines.

The white wines were noticeably higher in acidity than wines found in Languedoc. Le Canon du Maréchal Blanc 2012 was also noticeably perfumed.

The red wines were on the austere side but only because they were requiring a lot of age. Côtes du Roussillon Villages Alter de Cazes Rouge 2009 was showing development but still too herbaceous to be easy drinking.

They also make a small quantity of rosé wines. The Côtes du Roussillon Villages Ego de Cazes Rosé 2012 was a very fruity rosé with high acidity and a hint of sulphur.

Barrels, Cazes, Rivesaltes

Its most famous offering is still its sweet wines, some of which you can see concentrating in the age-old barrels sitting in the headquarters at Rivesaltes or on the wine lists of the likes of Maison Troisgros and Hotel George V’s Le Cinq.

The Rivesaltes Ambré 1999 was a lusciously bronzed caramel liquid that’s rich with raisin on the nose with a long finish of dried apricots and great balance of sugar and acidity. The Muscat de Rivesaltes 2009 was comparatively lighter in colour with hints of elderflower on the nose. The alcohol was a little off balance leading to the sensation of tasting grappa on the palate but the overall mouthfeel is good. The Cuvée Aimé Cazes Rivesaltes 1978 was a really stunning wine. Rich with caramel and Christmas fruit and rather high in alcohol at this stage, it was rather reminiscent of a whisky.

Pork, beetroot and potatoes, Cazes, Rivesaltes

The Rivesaltes headquarters is also home to their charming restaurant La Table d’Aimé, where the day’s offerings are chalked on to a blackboard and brought to the table for guests to order from. Aimé, incidentally, was the name of Cazes’ first winemaker. The food is rustic, French but with plenty of Catalan influences.

Like its counterparts in the Languedoc-Roussillon, Cazes has also expanded its portfolio to include properties elsewhere in the region, notably Clos de Paulilles. This expansion has added contrasting wines to the portfolio.

The Les Clos de Paulilles Collioure Blanc 2012 is a much more creamy and nutty white, with medium acidity with hints of citrus fruit and green apples. The Les Clos de Paulilles Collioure Rouge 2011 was much more fruity, which helped to balance the herbaceousness. The Les Clos de Paulilles Banyuls Traditionnel 2008, aged outside in glass bottles, had a velvety texture with deep amber colours and notes of caramel and toffee.

Spotlight on: Languedoc-Roussillon

Earlier this year I went to the Languedoc-Roussillon for a tour around an eclectic mix of vineyards and wineries.

Vineyard, Abbaye de Valmagne, Villeveyrac

Although I had written about wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon before on here and elsewhere, being at the winery and actually seeing the different philosophies on wine making has really helped me get into the heart of it.

What was most interesting, for me, was the fact that while there were plenty of wineries that had been making wines as far back as the 12th Century, it feels very much like an emerging wine region. Much of it has come down to the fact that many of the younger generation of wine makers aren’t so set in their ways about how they made wines and were happy to experiment. What’s more, the region’s mix of AOC and IGP statuses allowed them to without prejudice. They’re not trading on century old brands but rather, cult statuses.

With that in mind, I thought it was rather apt to gather some small postings about the wineries in the region I visited and written about (more to be posted in coming weeks):

 Abbaye de Fontfroide

Abbaye de Valmagne


Château d’Anglès

Château de Flaugergues

Château de Lastours

Château de l’Hospitalet

Château Les Carrasses

Château Mourgues du Grès

Château Pennautier

Domaine Gayda

Domaine Haut Gleon

Paul Mas


Desserts and wines with Nancy Gilchrist MW

dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

Leiths School of Food and Wine, famed for training professional and amateur chefs alike, has recently launched a new series of evening tasting classes. I went to its West London kitchen classroom to try some food and wine matches.

The class was fairly informal and led by Nancy Gilchrist MW – author, journalist and Master of Wine. For any worshipper of desserts, the evening promises to be enjoyable, entertaining and educational. Unfortunately the class took place when London was in the grips of icy wintry weather.

Having braved the snow and ice with a questionable choice of footwear, which got me cursing every two steps, I was very well rewarded. We were welcomed into the class with a glass of Zonin Brut Prosecco, which given the warm embrace of the classroom, was like an injection of summer. As guests slowly trailed in, the hubbub in the class grew.

Nancy Gilchrist at dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

Nancy introduced the format of the evening – there were six dessert wines to try with six matched desserts. There was brioche to cleanse the palate, water for rinsing and we could request a personal spittoon, if we wanted to. We also had a course booklet with notes on all the wines and recipes for all the desserts. It was a case of “you can take it as seriously as you like”, or just enjoy.

First up was a delightfully summery Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d’Asti 2009. At only 5% alcohol, it was the least alcoholic of the wines and also my favourite. It was matched with pomegranate meringues, pomegranate and strawberry compote and sweetened whipped double cream. Nancy suggested tasting the wine in four stages – on its own, with just the meringue, with the meringue and the compote and finally with everything. It was interesting to find that the perceived flavour profile of the wine was changing according to what it was paired with.

Nivole Moscato d'Asti with brioche, dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

The wine was very pleasant to drink to begin with and pairing with just the meringue seemed to make little difference. With the compote the contrast was a lot sharper and the wine, although not unpleasant, didn’t taste nearly as nice. When the cream was added though, the natural taste of the wine returned but with a new-found richness.

The second wine was Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes 2006 from Waitrose paired with crème brûlée and raspberry coulis. There was a hint of marzipan in the wine which worked particularly well with the caramelised sugar of the crème brûlée. This sweet wine is produced via a very labour intensive process as it’s made from grapes affected by noble rot. The grapes are infected by a special strain of Botrytis which causes them to dry out like raisins. They must be harvested at a particular stage of the infestation to produce the required characteristics in the wine, which means that each vine must be harvested several times by hand. Nancy tells us that this soft and mellow wine would also work well with foie gras or blue cheese.

Tarte tatin, dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

Wine number three was the Royal Tokaji 5 puttonyos 2005, which was paired with tarte tatin and Calvados crème anglais. Made with hand picked Aszu berries, the production of this wine is also highly labour intensive. The 5 puttonyos indicates the amount of berries added to the wine and therefore the level of sweetness. As the scale is between 3 and 6, this wine is very sweet.

Next up was an intensely sweet Henriques & Henriques Single Harvest Malmsey Madeira 1998 matched with stollen. Sweetness is definitely a defining characteristic of dessert wines but this one was particularly so. It was very interesting to learn about how Madeira’s distinctive flavour was first discovered as a result of some wines being carried aboard merchant vessels making long journeys across the world. These days, instead of making that long journey, the wine is heated to around 50°C and maintained for some three months. Madeira is a fortified wine which continues to improve with age, is relatively insusceptible to oxidation and will therefore last for a long time.

Fig frangipane tart, dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

After that large dose of sugar, it was on to a slightly less sweet wine – the Les Vignerons de Maury, NV Solera 1928 Maury. This is another fortified wine but produced using a Solera process, where new wines are blended with older wines in rotating barrels, which began in 1928. It is a non-vintage wine as, in order for a wine to be deemed a vintage, at least 85% of the bottle must be wine produced from that vintage year. (Port and champagne must be 100%.) The dessert paired to this non-vintage was fig and frangipane tart to match the hint of fig and tobacco in the wine.

Last but not least we had the Bacalhoa Moscatel de Setubal 1999 paired with a chocolate and mocha layered cheesecake to pick up on the hints of coffee.

The evening wound down in the same relaxed manner as it began – guests were able to explore the different combinations of desserts and wines with Nancy on hand to answer any additional questions. For me though, it was a matter of stomping through the snow in an attempt to get home. After all, I now had renewed energy from all the sugar consumed to make the best of my impaired balance.

(First seen on Foodepedia)

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