jamie goode's wine blog

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Striking Provencal red: Domaine Hauvette

This is an interesting wine. It's one that will divide people, depending on their tolerance for and acceptance of Brettanomyces (the 'spoilage' yeast that's relatively common in red wines, and which contibutes an earthy, spicy, medicinal, animally quality). Now I'm not a Brett policeman. If I was a winemaker, I'd do all in my power to avoid it. But I recognize that sometimes it acts as a complexing factor in wine; there are some wines where its presence just seems to work. If you approach red wine from the perspective of looking for faults, then often you can't see past the Brett in wines like this through to the actual qualities of the wine itself. That's your loss.

Domaine Hauvette 2004 Les Baux de Provence, France
13.5% alcohol. Firm, savoury and spicy with olive, mineral and animal notes. Very savoury and spicy with hints of clove and pepper. There's real complexity and depth here. Fresh, deep and intense with lovely focus and personality. Not an easy wine, but one that I like quite a bit. 92/100 (UK agent Les Caves de Pyrene, available from Oddbins for £29.99 here)

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

England hammer France...with some French wine

So I went to the Rugby today. I was a guest of Mont Tauch (http://www.mont-tauch.com/), who shared their hospitality (from the back of an old Citroen van in the Rosebine car park) with ex-Rugby player and wine producer Gerard Bertrand (pictured).

We drank wines from both. Mont Tauch are one of the new breed of super-coops, and were showing a really nice Ancien Carignan among other wines. And I liked the Bertrand Tautavel and La Forge reds a great deal: modern, sweetly fruited, but fresh and well defined. It was very civilized standing in the sunshine, drinking wine with good company.

The game? Incredibly, England were brilliant. France played like England usually do. And by half time, England were 29-0 up. We were sitting in a largely French section, next to the French band, who were silenced by their side's performance. The second half was closer, but by then it was all over.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A serious Languedoc white!

Continuing yesterday's Languedoc theme, I wanted to share this wine with you, my loyal readers. It falls into the (slightly) weird but wonderful category. To be honest, I'd resisted cracking it open for a while because I thought that there wasn't much hope for a 2000 vintage Languedoc white. I was pleasantly surprised.

Domaine La Combe Blanche 'Le Blanc' 2000 Vin de Pays des Cotes de Brian, France
A blend of Roussanne and Viognier aged in barrel for 12 months. Yellow/gold in colour this is very smooth, with a fruity sweet pear nose that also has complex notes of mandarin, fennel and apricot. The palate shows warm, sweet fruit with a crystalline fruits richness and some hints of nuts and peach. Broad, smooth and quite complex, with freshness as well as richness. Just lovely. 92/100 (£9.75 Leon Stolarski)

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Monday, October 13, 2008

A serious wine from the Languedoc

I've neglected the Languedoc a bit of late. Back in the days of La Vigneronne (a London merchant who specialized in this region) I followed what was going on pretty closely. That's something I'd like to return to. Grand Lauze is a producer based in the Boutenac (officially a 'cru' since 2005) region of Corbieres. They farm organically, employing some biodynamic practices. They have 22 hectares in all, including some very old Carignan (youngest = 60 yo, much is over 100 yo) and Grenache vines. (See http://www.grand-lauze.net/.)

Grand Lauze Ledogar Vin de Table Francais
The Roman 'IV' on the label indicates this is from the 2004 vintage. This is one of those wines that ended up being rejected by the local Appellation authorization committee (in this case for Corbieres) for being 'atypical', hence the Vin de Table status. It's actually pretty serious: a blend of 12 barrels, 8 of which are 100-year old Carignan, 2 Mourvedre, 1 Grenache and 1 Syrah. All organically grown, with some biodynamic practices. Deep coloured, this has a tight, dense, slightly reductive nose showing spicy dark fruits. The palate is intense and concentrated with fresh, savoury, spicy dark fruits with firm tannins and attractive, minerally complexity. It's a pure, focused, youthful wine of real impact that needs time to show its best. Old vine Carignan at its best - not the easiest wine to 'get', but pretty serious. 91/100 (£15 http://www.therealwineco.co.uk/)

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Serious Languedoc Sauvignon?

France's appellation system is mucked up. The problem is, it's hierarchical, but the hierarchy doesn't really work all that well. Many Vin de Pays are much better quality wines than AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controllee) wines. This is completely confusing for consumers. Look, I'm not denying the fact that AOCs have helped preserve the wondeful diversity of French wines - it's just that in practice the whole system needs some sort of overhaul.

Anyway, the Vin de Pays category goes from strength to strength, but it's a shame that these wines have to be stigmatized by being a lower rung on the hierarchical appellation system.

Here's a fantastic Sauvignon that's the best yet Vin de Pays Sauvignon I've encountered.

La Baume 'La Grande Olivette' Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
Beautifully packaged in a deeply punted bottle, this is a serious Sauvignon Blanc. The nose shows lots of rich, almost pungent gooseberry and passion fruit (technically, this is a thiol-rich style, and it's almost sweaty), together with some green pepper notes. The palate is concentrated and intense with richness combining nicely with grassy freshness. Stylish stuff. 90/100 (£6.99 Waitrose)

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Three pre-Christmas wines I like

We're gearing up for Christmas in the Goode household. It's approached fast - indeed, this year has just zoomed by. And it feels a bit of an odd sort of Christmas, this year. Not in a bad way; just different. It could be that I'm facing a really important year in 2008, and this is playing on my mind. It could be that our family, which has seen its share of dysfunction (our boys are adopted, and had a very poor start to their lives, which has unfortunately set their emotional 'templates' a little askew), is actually beginning to work reasonably well. Whatever the reason, I'm looking forward more to the festive season this year than I have for some time.

On Friday afternoon we went to see a Christmas film at the wonderful IMAX cinema near Waterloo station. It was Polar Express in 3D, and if you have kids, I recommend it. The screen is fabulously large, and the sound system state of the art.

Then on Saturday it was time for a family winter picnic on Box Hill. We took RTL, of course, and half way round the walk set out our picnic rug, sat down, and had soup, bread, cheese and pate. The few passers by must have thought we were crazy, because it was mightly cold. But it was beautiful: there was a bit of mist in the air, along with some milky sunshine. Later in the afternoon I took elder son to the golf range, where there was a beautiful winter sunset. And I was really hitting the ball well.

Today we had friends round for what turned out to be a delightful Sunday lunch. We had some friends round last Sunday as well. It's good to be sociable, and friends are so much more rewarding than things, aren't they?

So, to some wines.

Cantina di Monteforte Soave Superiore Classico 2005 Italy
Made from 100% Garganega grapes by Kiwi Matt Thomson (he featured on this blog recently for a seminar he did on Brettanomyces). This is a really interesting wine, and it's relatively rare to be able to find an interesting wine for £7 these days. It's a richly flavoured white wine with a lovely minerally, herbal character, as well as richer melon/tropical fruits. There's depth, presence and richness here, but it's all in savoury balance. Fairly serious. 89/100 (£6.99 Waitrose)

Gemtree Vineyards Bloodstone Shiraz 2006 McLaren Vale, Australia
This screwcapped-sealed red is initially a bit dumb and simple on opening, but with several hours of air it begins to come to life. It's a rich Aussie Shiraz, but there's a bit more to it than just sweet fruit and oak. The nose shows attractive pepper spice, a hint of vanilla and bright, fresh raspberry and dark cherry fruit. The palate is fresh with nice tannic structure and vivid sweet red and black fruits. It's certainly a big wine that's sweetly fruited, but it doesn't descend into a sweet fruit mush - there's enough spicy, peppery freshness to act as a counter. The result is very appealing, but do give it time. 90/100 (£9.99 Oddbins)

Domaine Leon Barral Faugeres 'Jadis' 2002 Languedoc, France
Now for something a little different. This is a deliciously complex, funky Languedoc red that tastes a bit like a French version of Chateau Musar, the gloriously funky Lebanese red. If you approached this wine with a 'new world' mindset, you'd probably spit it out. But I think it's fantastic, because it really works, and it's tremendously food friendly. It has a warm, aromatic, spicy, meaty, earthy nose that's incredibly rich and inviting. The palate is rich and ripe, with meaty, earthy, savoury notes as well as sweet fruit. There's a slightly dry, subtly metallic finish, which is perhaps the only downside. I'd heartily recommend this wine, but be warned: it's on the funky side, and if you don't like your wines with a bit of funk, steer clear. 91/100 (£12.50 Les Caves de Pyrene)

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Monday, October 29, 2007

An affordable southern French red that delivers

I used to be quite economical with money. Tight, even. But then I married this wonderful girl who once took £100 out of a cash machine, got it blown out of her hand by a gust of wind, and laughed - even though the money was gone. This cavalier approach to dosh has rubbed off on me, curing me of much of my frugality - and now I don't even like to read my bank statements. I don't spend money unnessecarily, and I rarely treat myself (although it is really important to treat yourself once in a while), but I try to be generous. As long as we aren't in debt, then that's OK.

But this scringing past catches up with me occasionally, and one area is in looking at wine prices. Now £6 still seems to me to be a reasonable sort of sum to spend on a bottle of wine. You should be getting something that delivers some flavour, and a little personality at this price. Yet most £6 wines taste like the tricked-up commercial pap that they are. So how nice to find one that isn't just confected muck, but actually tastes pretty good.

Chateau Guiot 2006 Costieres de Nimes, France
From the south of France, and more specifically a 75 hectare property south of Nimes planted mainly to Grenache and Syrah. This is really good. It's a boisterous young red with lovely fresh peppery, slightly meaty dark fruits on the nose. In the mouth the peppery, spicy fruit dominates, and is complemented by firm, grippy tannins and good acidity, making this a vibrant, savoury sort of red that's really versatile at the table. Lovely purity and focus, and the concentration and vibrancy to put many £10 wines to shame. 88/100 (£5.99 Majestic)

-this is currently on offer at £4.79, which makes it a bit of a no-brainer

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Interesting whites from the south of France

I love interesting wines. For me, the thrill of wine lies in its diversity, which is at least in part rooted in sense of place. But it's more than this: human choices, such as which grape varieties to grow, how to manage the vineyard, when to pick, and what to do in the winery all play a role in shaping the flavour of wine.

Two interesting wines tonight that rely heavily on human factors for their interesting personalities. Interestingly, the notes I wrote (a day apart) both finished with the same phrase; 'not for everyone'. I'm really glad people are making distinctive wines that will have enemies as well as friends.

Jeff C... Morillon Blanc 2005 Vin de Pays de l'Aude, France
This unusual wine made by Jeff Carrel has a striking personality. From what I gather, the Chardonnay grapes used to make this wine (Morillon is another name for Chardonnay) have been fermented either with some botrytised grapes, or on the skins of botrytised grapes used to make a sweet wine. [Perhaps someone can help me out here?] The result is a deep yellow gold coloured wine with a powerful nose of nuts, honey, vanilla, lemons and apricots. The palate is richly textured with some marmalade tang adding bite to smooth, sweet-edged tropical fruit. There's a rich texture here, and some subtle oxidative notes. Not for everyone - it has almost too much flavour - but I really like it. 91/100 (£8.45 Averys)

Christophe Barbier Les Terres Salées 2005 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Perpignan, France
An old vine Bourboulenc, this is a real treat. There’s apple crumble and honey character, coupled with a touch of vanilla oak, but also some waxy savouriness and a lovely minerally, burnt match reductive note. Indeed, it’s the distinctive reductive character that really frames this wine, and suggests to me that it could age very nicely for five years to a decade. With its savoury complexity, it is not for everyone, but I really like it. 91/100 (£10.99 Averys – the 2004 is £15 in Waitrose)

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