Tag: Languedoc-Roussillon

Spotlight on: Baden and Württemberg

The winelands of Baden and Württemberg reminds me a little of the Languedoc-Roussillon.

View to Bodensee, Baden-Württemberg

Like the Languedoc-Roussillon, Baden and Württemberg lie to the south of the country. And like the Languedoc-Roussillon, they also border a large body of water – Lake Constance, or Bodensee as it’s known locally. Both of these factors make the regions warmer than some of their northern counterparts and the wines in turn are a little higher in alcohol.

But that’s where the similarity stops because although together the regions are part of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, Baden and Württemberg are considered separate wine regions under German legislation. (It’s worth noting here that they have been grouped in this case because I visited both regions in the same journey.) What’s more, with some exceptions, Baden and Württemberg make use of an entirely different set of grapes to Languedoc-Roussillon and to each other.

(Read about Baden and Württemberg’s distinctive food here)

Grape flower buds close up, Baden-Württemberg

Baden is more Pinot focussed with the majority of wines made from Spätburgunder (Pinot noir), Grauburgunder (Pinot gris) and Weißburgunder (Pinot blanc) but Müller-Thurgau and Gutedel (Chasselas) also make an appearance. Württemberg, meanwhile, uses Trollinger, Schwarzriesling (Pinot Meunier), Lemberger and Spätburgunder. Germany’s best known grape variety, Riesling, is also utilised but certainly not as much as in other German wine regions.

What’s been most interesting for me has been the fact that neither of these two areas seemed to produce sweet wines. Again there are exception here but on the whole, many of the producers tended to make a rosé wine for serving with dessert. It’s something that’s worked out well while there are German strawberries in season but it makes me wonder what they do the rest of the time.

Without further ado, here are the places I’ve visited in Baden and Württemberg (You can read my short guide to wine travel in the Bodensee on Yahoo):

Collegium Wirtemberg

Mainau

Weingut Markgraf von Baden

Weingut Wöhrwag

Winzerhof Gierer

Riberach, Belesta

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

The entire idea of Riberach is loveable; a once gargantuan winery in the heart of Roussillon that’s converted into a boutique hotel and winery, split almost equally down the centre by a gastronomic restaurant.

Fermentation tank door, Riberach, Belesta

Keeping true to its historic roots, the bedrooms are converted concrete wine vats. The old doors for extracting wine can still be seen on the wall though you’d never suspect the room’s former use when inside.

On the wine side of the winery, things are much more rustic.

Racking tanks, Riberach, Belesta

The upper level is a well-stocked but small wine shop while downstairs is the actual winery. It’s also there that geothermal energy is used to power both the winery and hotel.

Substantially smaller batches of wine, made to a much more exacting standard, are made in stainless steel vats housed in the old concrete tanks before being oaked. Even the white and rosé wines are put into barrel.

The results are certainly interesting.

Still-fermenting red wine, to be rose, Riberach, Belesta

I tasted some still-fermenting tank samples of rosé and white, both cloudy and full of lees, first. The rosé had been in tank for a week with no added yeast. With a decided fizz, it was the colour of watermelon and absolutely delicious as far as grape juice is concerned. It also had the beginnings of red berry fruits showing. The white was a pale sandy yellow colour, very sweet but not quite so aromatic at that point.

In the real tasting, the Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Rosé No 12 (2012 vintage) was extremely pale with plenty of strawberry and good high acidity.

The Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Synthése Blanc 2012, though ripe with green apples and citrus, had remarkably low acidity.

Much more interesting was the Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Rouge No 11 (2011 vintage). With a heady mix of red and black berry fruits and a sort of herbaceous earthiness, it had excellent structure while remaining extremely drinkable when young.

Red is certainly its colour.

www.riberach.com

Domaines Paul Mas, Montagnac

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

There was a time when, as a thank you, a wine friend gifted me a trio of wines. One of them was from Paul Mas.

At the time, I didn’t know very much about wines. Anything at all, really. But the wine had come very highly recommended and, as it had turned out, was pretty good.

Fast forward a few years and I was visiting Domaines Paul Mas for the first time. It had become a brand that was extremely interesting from a market perspective.

Paul Mas, Montagnac

Despite being incredibly widely available – around eight million bottles are produced a year and some 97% of the production is exported – it also happens to be incredibly well regarded. It has, perhaps, a lot to do with the owner, Jean-Claude Mas’ philosophy that Domaines Paul Mas should be all about every day luxury.

Paul Mas, Montagnac

The story started in 2000 when Jean-Claude Mas inherited 35 hectares of land from his family. Mas, a bit of a marketing whiz, quickly created various labels of good quality wines that are a fun representation of the brand. For Australia for example, where Domaines Paul Mas is the biggest import wine brand, he launched Arrogant Frog to great success.

Though the quality of the wine was good, the prices weren’t astronomical. And though the overall production was huge, each individual label was small enough to garner a boutique cult status. The combination of good wine, good price and good marketing has led to rapid expansion at Domaines Paul Mas.

These days Paul Mas has expanded to more than 400 hectares all over Languedoc-Roussillon comprised of its own vineyards as well as those of its partners.

Has the quality suffered?

Not at the top end but the difference between that and the more basic range is certainly noticeable. But trading on the Domaines Paul Mas brand, they continue to do incredibly well.

The success of the wines have helped Mas indulge in his big love of Japan. Mas has even donated to the rescue efforts at Fukushima. The result can be seen in a thank you letter proudly displayed at his Japanese/French restaurant, Côté Mas.

It was at the restaurant that I tasted a bigger selection of his wines, with food.

Starting with a sparkling, I tasted the Prima Perla Crémant de Limoux Blanc, a simple, citrusy sparkling wine with high acidity.

Moving on to the white wines there was Château Arrogant Frog Limoux Blanc 2012, a well rounded white that’s filled with minerality and a hint of sweetness at the finish. The Château Paul Mas Blanc Belluguette 2012 was heavier on the minerality but perhaps a little less fruit on the nose. There was also an organic wine, the Mas des Tannes Réserve Blanc 2012, which followed a similar style but with much higher acidity and turning out to be a much more refreshing wine.

For the reds, there was the Château Paul Mas Clos de Savignac 2011, a smoky red wine with plenty of red fruit shining through. It was followed by Vignes de Nicole Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah 2012, a very herbaceous red with blackfruits but dominating wood. The Château Paul Mas Clos des Mûres  Magnum 2006 is still needing rest but was already displaying nice complexity of fruit.

Finally finishing on the sweet was a sparkling and a still. The Prima Perla Blanquette de Limoux Méthode Ancestrale was very fresh and still grapey with lots of citrus. The Paul Mas Chenin Vendanges Tardives 2012, in stark contrast, was a weighty bold wine with a lot of sweetness but perhaps not quite enough acidity.

www.paulmas.com

Domaine Haut Gléon, Durban

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

Domaine Haut Gléon showed all the promising signs of a good winery.

Domaine Haut Gléon, Durban

It’s located in the heart of the Corbières, a region well-known for its red wines owing to the abundance of sun to ripen the fruit while the winds kept the temperature down. The vineyard also happens to be in a relatively sheltered valley creating what’s said to be a micro-climate. The valley itself is called Vallée du Paradis, with obvious connotations. Even the name, perhaps wrongly assumed, aspires to Haute Brion.

And yet Haut Gléon is in a pretty terrible shape when it comes to wine.

Young vine, Domaine Haut Gléon, Durban

 

The 260 hectare estate had apparently been left to fend for itself by the previous owner but has since been acquired by a collective of winemakers. And yet even under new ownership, there’s a lot to be done.

While new vines have been planted, old vines seem to have been neglected with patches left unpruned in the mid-June sun, running untamed as its wild cousins. The focus instead seems to be on the tourism side, with wine being an added bonus.

When it comes to wine tourism, the estate suddenly becomes very promising. Well appointed rooms are located at the heart of the working winery, though without any obvious means of transport to go to anywhere else. It would seem to be somewhere quite perfect for those who want to get into the centre of wine making country and had no desire to do anything else.

But back to the wines. (It’s unclear which of the wines were made before the takeover and which ones after.)

Wines, Domaine Haut Gléon, Durban

The IGP wine, Vallée du Paradis Blanc 2012, was a fresh, crisp white but also a little creamy. The more premium AOC Corbières Blanc 2012 had seriously good minerality and notes of green apples and citrus. It was also interesting to find out that the white version of the label was more expensive than the red wine.

For the rosé wines, the basic Vallée du Paradis Rosé 2012 was fresh enough with high acidity but also hinted at some tannin. The AOC Corbières Rosé 2012 was much more fruity with bags of strawberry coming through in its long finish.

For the reds, I tasted only the AOC Corbières Rouge 2009. It was still feeling incredibly young but there was good structure and plenty of black fruits.

Haut Gléon also produced an incredibly nice Vin de Liqueur Carthagène Rouge, which tasted richly of cherries. That’s one for after dinner chocolates.

www.hautgleon.com

Domaine Gayda, Brugairolles

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

Domaine Gayda, Brugairolles

Domaine Gayda is very well known in the UK. At least I’ve tried various vintages on several occasions, written about it and recommended it.

I also say it’s well known because according to the rather eccentric English owner, Tim Jones, majority of the visitors to Domaine Gayda are English speaking.

That is not to say that the wines are any less French. In fact, Jones’ philosophy is all about making terroir driven wines and accommodating the seasonal fluctuations with great blends. That said, like many of the producers in the Languedoc-Roussillon who are looking to make something different, his inspiration comes from the New World.

In the case of Jones, that place is South Africa.

A horticulturalist by trade and one-time safari guide in Kenya for Abercrombie & Kent, Jones has maintained his Africa connections through winemaking. Each year, winemakers from South Africa visit Domaine Gayda for a season to learn about wines in the region and vice versa.

Even after 10 years at Domaine Gayda, the innovations and experimentations haven’t stopped. Having recently acquired the hip and trendy “concrete egg”, Jones is also building a separate winery for white wines. The estate is incredibly developed in terms of tourism too, with holiday accommodation on site, restaurant and a rather serious wine school with courses run by Matthew Stubbs in the summer.

Grey concrete egg, Domaine Gayda, Brugairolles

I was very excited about visiting Domaine Gayda, not only because I already knew and loved the wines, but also because my friend and flying winemaker Nayan Gowda was at Domaine Gayda for a season. Unfortunately I couldn’t taste anything made by him as, at the time of my visit, the grapes had yet to fully ripen, but the selection was interesting to taste nonetheless.

Starting with the Pays d’Oc whites, the Cépage Viognier 2012 didn’t have as much of the floral punch as might be expected but there’s certainly plenty of minerality and body of citrus and stone fruits to get to grips with. The Cépage Chardonnay 2012 had a slight spice on the nose with hints of pear drops.

The Figue Libre Freestyle Blanc 2012, the first vintage that’s certified organic, with its delicate nose and little distinguishing features, was actually the least impressive for me out of the whites.

In contrast, the Figue Libre Freestyle Rouge 2011 had a great nose of blackcurrant with well balanced acidity and tannins. The Figue Libre Cabernet Franc 2011, the vintage I had previously recommended, had an equally fruity nose but underpinned by herbaceousness.

Moving a little up-market, the difference was noticeble. The Chemin de Moscou 2011 had vibrant fruit, velvety tannins and much more complexity.

Finishing off is a golden Sélection Chenin Blanc Vendange Tardive 2010 that sang of delicious apricots with a floral nose and great body. It may not compare in complexity against, say, a great Sauternes, but then few things do.

www.gaydavineyards.com

Château de Pennautier, Pennautier

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

Chateau Pennautier, Pennautier

As with many grand houses that began in the Middle Ages, building of the house of Château de Pennautier happened in several stages. Given the enormous size of the building, it’s easy to see why.

Chateau Pennautier, Pennautier

Although the Château contains only (in the most nonchalant manner, of course) 20 bedrooms, it’s also home to a ballroom, library and themed drawing rooms that are only found in such palatial buildings. It even boasts a set of bedroom furniture that once belonged to Louis XIII, gifted to the family centuries ago.

Now the Château is part-time family residence and part-time hotel/corporate retreat/events space.

About 10 minutes gentle stroll down the well kept lawn and past the outdoor pool you’ll find the first of the vineyards but those are just for private consumption. The real vines lay elsewhere in the region.

Chateau Pennautier, Pennautier

No wine is mentioned until now because the wine making aspect of the property seems wholly separate to the rest of the estate. In fact, the estate belongs to an empire with five other properties making Lorgeril wines.

To taste the wines that are made by the estate, you need to go some way into the centre of Pennautier where a restaurant, tasting room and indeed some of the cellar is housed.

In the IGP category, or its Collection Fruitée, Lorgeril/Château de Pennautier made several varietal specific wines. The Sauvignon de Pennautier 2012 had some light minerality but very little fruit. Chardonnay de Pennautier 2012 fared much better with higher acidity and good notes of green apples.

The Cuvées Classique were only marginally better for me. De Pennautier Cabardès Rouge 2012 was austere and woody on the nose but rescued by some fruit on the palate. With a little age, the de Pennautier Cabardès Rouge 2010 seemed to offer much more fruit. Both, however, were high on the feel of alcohol.

Moving on to the Grands Vins, things got better. L’Esprit de Pennautier Cabardès 2010 had much softer tannins with a more palatable mix of red and black fruits. That is, in comparison to another wine made by Lorgeril – Domaine de Lorgeril Minervois La Livinière La Croix 2008 – which though offered much higher acidity was relatively restrained on the fruit.

The sweet wine, Le Rêve de Pennautier 2011, made to moelleux (semi-sweet), was at least a reasonable finish. With a fair balance of acidity and sweetness, it was an interesting use of 100% Chardonnay.

www.lorgeril.com

Château Mourgues du Grès, Beaucaire

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

Vineyard, Château Mourgues du Grès, Beaucaire

If you’ve ever ridden a train from Nîmes to Beaucaire, the chances are the vineyards that you’ve spotted along the way belonged to Château Mourgues du Grès. The 65 hectare family-owned estate is spread throughout Costières de Nîmes AOP and often finds itself remarkably close to the train line.

Building, Château Mourgues du Grès, Beaucaire

Undistracted by the passing trains, owner and winemaker François Collard makes full use of the varied mix of chalky, sandy and pebbly soils to create some stunning wines. But then again, he started his career at Château Lafite Rothschild.

Wine tanks, Château Mourgues du Grès, Beaucaire

Les Galets Dorés 2012 makes a good entry white wine. While simple in its citrusy notes, it’s very refreshing when served at the right temperature. The Terre d’Argence 2012 uses Viognier as the head note alongside the usual Languedoc varieties of Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache. The result is a white with surprisingly high acidity but a well rounded finish.

On the rosé, the Les Galets Rosés 2012 was showing some nice strawberry notes and while interesting, wasn’t quite for me.

The reds were the really impressive bunch. Terre de Feu 2011 was in a strange way creamy. The tannins had really softened with vanilla notes coming through hand in hand with cherry and chocolate. The Terre d’Argence 2011 was the favourite for me. Made from old vine Syrah and a touch of Grenache, the dark brambly fruits offered a seriously intense experience for the nose while restrained herbaceousness and elegance greeted the palate.

www.mourguesdugres.com

Château Les Carrasses, Quarante

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

Château Les Carrasses was a 19th Century wine domaine. I say was because although the main château has been fairly faithfully restored, the domaine no longer makes wines of its own.

Wine glass on Canal du Midi

Redeveloped by Bonfils in partnership with Domaine & Demeure, the estate has been turned into luxury accommodation that’s nestled in a sea of vineyards.

It’s my understanding that the estate itself is still owned privately and there is wine made on the estate for the private consumption of the owner. For the guests, the wine is supplied by the nearby Bonfils wineries such as Domaine de Cibadiès.

If you do happen to stay at Château Les Carrasses, however, there are plenty of wine related activities.

A Languedoc based company, Vin en Vancances, runs tastings and tours from the Château including a scenic tasting on the Canal du Midi. It might sound a bit fluffy, and it is extremely enjoyable, but it’s also incredibly educational. Wendy, who runs Vin en Vacances, was previously a wine educator in the UK before relocating to Languedoc back in 2009.

www.lescarrasses.com

Château de l’Hospitalet, Narbonne

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

Château de l’Hospitalet is just one of the seven wine estates owned by former French rugby player Gérard Bertrand.

If you’re not a rugby fan then you might be scratching your head on this one but the chances are, you’ll probably have tried a wine from one of his estates before. They tend to be mid to high priced and pretty good quality.

At the moment, Château de l’Hospitalet is perhaps one of the most developed for wine tourism in the region. Investment has been made towards developing accommodation, restaurant, shopping and even art on-site. It also benefits from being close to the sea, though it gets pretty windy on the coast.

Sea view, Château de l'Hospitalet, Narbonne

On the wine side of things, Château de l’Hospitalet is one of the smaller estates and produces around 16k bottles per year. It’s a working number that’s set to expand as the estate grows.

The wine cellar is open for tours and tastings with seasonal staff drafted in from around the world. Case in point, the girl who led my tasting was from Wales.

The tasting started with the Art de Vivre La Clape 2012, a refreshingly acidic white. It’s citrusy but well rounded with an expressive finish.

In the same category was a rosé, also named Art de Vivre La Clape 2012. The pale salmon coloured wine was less acidic and much more fruity with strawberries on the finish.

The red in the same category, the Art de Vivre La Clape 2011, was made with the same blend as the rosé – Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. The slightly older vintage displayed red fruits and smoky overtones. It still feels herbaceous and young though.

On the pricey side was the l’Hospitalitas La Clape 2011. This deep garnet number was elegant and velvety smooth with lots of blackberries coming through. It was already drinking very well but has great potential for ageing too.

www.gerard-bertrand.com

Château de Lastours, Portel-des-Corbières

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

Château de Lastours, Portel-des-Corbières

Château de Lastours is in a state of development. And with some 800 hectares of land, it has a lot of developing to do.

That’s one of the reasons why the estate is in a state of confusion too.

Whilst it already boasts a collection of award winning wines, the grand plan is to develop the estate into a full eno-tourism facility. The catch is, the final product is, for now at least, looking like it’s more focused on the tourism than the wine.

Of course the wine is very much part of the estate but offered alongside is a whole host of outdoor activities. That’s everything from quad-biking to off-road driving. With accommodation (chalet-style with twin room), in-villa breakfast and separate restaurant (semi-gastronomic), it’s all looking a bit corporate.

In actual fact, given the planned activities, it would be ideal for team-building and corporate days out where wine is only a minor aspect of the whole package.

On the wine side, the estate is only producing reds and rosés at present although that too is set to change. In the next couple of years, the estate, which is currently producing under capacity, will also be producing white wines.

It’s no doubt that, with all the investment into the property, the wines will continue to thrive but you won’t find a romantic story of the winemaker and his vines.

www.chateaudelastours.com

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