Showing posts with label france. Show all posts
Showing posts with label france. Show all posts

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  • Monday, July 13, 2020

La Cadiérenne Cuvée Grande Tradition Bandol Rosé 2019 (Provence) - Wine Review



wine review is this excellent Bandol Rosé that arrived in LCBO VINTAGES on . This rose has improved in quality every time I've tasted it, including the excellent 2018 La Cadiérenne Cuvée Grande Tradition Bandol Rosé that I enjoyed last summer, so I would fully expect the 2019 to be just as outstanding. Provence experienced some extreme weather conditions again, leading to slightly lower yields in 2019, but vintage quality was excellent.

We don't see too many Bandol wines here in Ontario, but wine has been made in Bandol ever since the Greeks colonized the area more than 2,600 years ago. Bandol is located in Provence, along the French Riviera between Marseille and Toulon. Bandol was one of the first French appellations granted AOC status in 1941, and today, 60% of the entire production is devoted to rosé wine. It is also noteworthy to mention that Mourvèdre - a late-maturing black varietal that is ideal for the terrain and climate of Bandol - is the principle grape of the region, and makes up the majority of this rosé.

This particular rosé is produced by Les Vignerons de La Cadiérenne, a group of producers that formed the co-operative in 1929 and celebrated 90 years of winemaking in 2019. La Cadiérenne is the largest producer of PDO Bandol wines, working with 294 winegrowers that have approximately 600 hectares of land - of which 400 hectares are classified as AOP. The vines are mostly planted on hillsides within the municipalities of La Cadière d'Azur, Le Castellet, and Saint-Cyr sur Mer. Other wines from the La Cadiérenne portfolio can be ordered through their Agent - Connexion Oenophilia.

La Cadiérenne Cuvée Grande Tradition Bandol Rosé 2019 (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

LA CADIÉRENNE CUVÉE GRANDE TRADITION BANDOL ROSÉ 2019 - AC, Provence, France (#119453) (XD) - $24.95
This Bandol Rosé is a blend of 40% Mourvèdre, 30% Grenache, and 30% Cinsault from vines averaging 20 years and grown on clay-limestone and marl soils. All of the grapes were hand-harvested, partly de-stemmed, crushed, and vinified separately. Lovely, fresh, balanced, and complex aromas of nectarine, melon, citrus, grapefruit, red berry, and blackberry with touches of minerality. The dry, medium-full bodied palate has a lovely texture with fresh, vibrant acidity and spicy berry, orchard fruit, currant, anise, and saline mineral flavours. Some wild herbs on the mid-palate, while mineral notes linger on the long, juicy finish. Complex, elegant, and refreshing. Recommended buy. Score: 91 pts


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  • Friday, July 10, 2020

Jean-Max Roger Cuvée La Grange Dîmière Sancerre Rouge 2015 (Loire) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely Pinot Noir from one of my favourite producers of Sancerre that arrived in LCBO VINTAGES on - with plenty still available for purchase throughout the province.

It is made by Jean-Max Roger, a family-owned winery that comes from a long line of winegrowers from the village of Bué dating back to the early 17th century. Jean-Max Roger took over from his parents in the early 1970's, and in 2004, two of his three sons, Etienne and Thibault, returned to the estate after working abroad. His third son, Xavier, has a passion for wine and works in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Today, the estate covers 26 hectares in the Sancerre AOC, all located along the Loire River.

The name "La Grange Dîmière" refers to one of Bué's ancient tithe barns. The ancestors of Jean-Max Roger used this barn for making their wine and today it remains the oldest part of the winery. This Sancerre Rouge is made with Pinot Noir grapes grown in the villages of Bué, Sancerre, and Amigny, on flint and limestone soils called Caillottes & Terres Blanches (Kimmeridgian marls) with south western and south eastern exposures. The vines are 25 to 40 years old and tended to using organic principles, handpicked and sorted, then fermented using natural yeast. Approximately 20-30% of the wine was aged in 300 L oak barrels, while the remainder was aged in stainless steel tanks where it underwent malolactic fermentation, with a total ageing time of 10 to 15 months. I recall enjoying the 2013 Jean-Max Roger Cuvée La Grange Dîmière Sancerre Rouge a couple of years ago and am expecting this vintage to be even better due to the legendary quality of the 2015 Loire vintage.

Jean-Max Roger Cuvée La Grange Dîmière Sancerre Rouge 2015 (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

JEAN-MAX ROGER CUVÉE LA GRANGE DÎMIÈRE SANCERRE ROUGE 2015 - AC, Loire, France (#539858) (XD) - $29.95
From the great 2015 vintage, this Pinot Noir has a pretty, pale ruby colour and the medium-high intensity nose leads with stony-smoky minerality, followed by red berry, cherry, and currant aromas, with subtle florals. It is light-to-medium bodied on the spicy, red fruited, cherry, and currant palate with elegantly structured tannins. Acids are nice and fresh, while the stony-smoky mineral notes come to the fore on the long, juicy finish. Enjoy over the next 4-5 years. Score: 91 pts

Other wines from the fabulous Jean-Max Roger collection can be ordered through their Agent - Connexion Oenophilia.


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  • Thursday, June 11, 2020

Domaine La Décelle Réserve Valréas 2017 (Rhône) - Wine Review

lovely red wine from Rhône is featured as the "$17 Solution" in the LCBO VINTAGES Release. It is a new arrival at the LCBO and will be on shelves across Ontario by this .

It is produced by Maison LAVAU, a negociant winemaker whose wines I've enjoyed many times over the years. The story of the Lavau family begins with its passion for wine and love of terroir in 19th Saint-Émilion and continued into Tunisia where René Lavau and his son transformed a small estate of vines and orange trees into the country's largest wine producer. In the 1960s, Jean-Guy Lavau (René’s grandson) and his wife Anne-Marie returned to France and took charge of a small winemaking cellar in Sablet, in the heart of the Rhône Valley, eventually becoming Maison LAVAU in 1965. Frédéric and Benoît Lavau joined the team 30+ years later at their family winery and LAVAU has since become one of the most renowned and respected names in Rhône Valley winemaking.

This particular red wine comes from Domaine de la Decelle, an 82 hectare site that Frédéric and Benoît Lavau acquired in 2010 after they were convinced of its great potential. The Domaine is located in the heart of the Enclave des Papes, in the village of Valréas. The Enclave des Papes is a small part of the Vaucluse situated in Drôme provençale. The history of the Enclave is closely linked to that of the Popes of Avignon and began over 700 years ago when the lone estate in the area was purchased by Pope John XXII in the year 1317. Legend has it that Pope John XXII, returning from Lyon after his election and feeling very weary, took a glass of Valréas wine and was restored to full health. He then annexed the land that had produced this miraculous wine, so he would have permanent access. This became the Papal Enclave, and Valréas remained the capital until the French Revolution of the late 18th century. The vineyards were awarded Côtes du Rhône-Villages Valréas status in 1967.

The site where the Grenache and Syrah grapes for this wine are grown sit at a latitude and altitude that give it unique climatic conditions which are perfect for creating structured, complex, and fresh wines. The grapes are grown on south- and west-facing slopes as high as 320 metres above sea level, thus benefiting from a cooler climate. This also allows for wide diurnal temperature variation between day and night, which in turn helps the grapes ripen slowly and develop tannins.

Domaine La Décelle Réserve Valréas 2017 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

DOMAINE LA DÉCELLE RÉSERVE VALRÉAS 2017 - AC Côtes du Rhône-Villages, France (#14391) (XD) - $17.00
This 50/50 blend of Grenache and Syrah was grown on clay-limestone soils and aged for 6 months in used French oak barrels. Lovely, complex, southern Rhône nose of blackberry, plum, and peppery spice mingling with garrigue, lavender, purple fruit, and some meaty notes. Smoky mineral notes develop with time in the glass. It's medium-full bodied on the palate with ripe, elegant tannins that have a touch of grip. Acids are fresh and juicy, while the flavours are more red fruited and a touch candied on the flavour profile with raspberry, spice, and meaty flavours which linger through to the long, meaty and smoky mineral finish. Recommended buy to enjoy over the next 5-6 years. Score: 90 pts


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  • Friday, June 5, 2020

Château Le Grand Moulin Collection Grande Réserve 2016 (Bordeaux) - Wine Review

red wine review is a delicious red wine from Bordeaux. It is a new arrival at the LCBO as part of the VINTAGES Release and is also featured in the LCBO's Food & Drink magazine.

This red wine is produced by the co-operative winery Vignobles Gabriel & Co., a company founded in 1904 when Gabriel Bruneteau founded Domaine du Grand Moulin at Saint Aubin de Blaye, about 50 km north of Bordeaux in the heart of the Blaye vineyards. In 1921, with a passionate interest in wine and people, Gabriel created the forerunner to the Vignobles Gabriel & Co. enterprise.

After Gabriel's passing, the vineyard dwindled and changed over the years, but finally recovered four generations later when Jean-François Reaud, the great grandson of Gabriel Bruneteau, inherited the estate in 1985. There were only 7 hectares of vines at the time, but he reorganized, modernized, and expanded the winery to cover 25 hectares by the end of the 1990's, eventually becoming Château Le Grand Moulin. Further development increased the size of the estate to the 81 hectares it is today, and to further meet consumer demand, Jean-François formed partnerships with several neighbouring producers and winegrowers on the Right Bank to collectively promote their wines. Being sensitive to the environment, Jean-François also owns Château Les Aubiers which has 25 hectares of organically-farmed vines.

With lots of bottles available throughout Ontario, it will be very easy for you to get your hands on this wallet-friendly Bordeaux.

Château Le Grand Moulin Collection Grande Réserve 2016 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

CHÂTEAU LE GRAND MOULIN COLLECTION GRANDE RÉSERVE 2016 - AC Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, France (#11326) (XD) - $17.00
An estate grown blend of mostly Merlot, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec in support, and aged in cement vats. Generous, nicely ripe, and fruit forward aromas of dark currant, blackberry, cassis, mint, and spice with touches of earthiness lift out of the glass. The medium+ bodied palate has nice balanced aroma replays supported by refined, textured, and gritty tannins, and balanced acidity. The finish is a touch drying, with savoury and earthy flavours, and very good length. Enjoy now or cellar for a couple of years and drink into the later part of this decade. This is very good Bordeaux! Score: 89 pts


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  • Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Michel Gassier Château de Nages JT White 2015 (Rhône) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely organic white wine from Rhône that most recently came to LCBO VINTAGES on and is still readily available across Ontario.

It is produced by Château de Nages, a winery in Costières de Nîmes, within the southern Rhône Valley that I had the pleasure of visiting in May 2018. In fact, I recall tasting this delicious wine when I visited the winery.

For the Gassier family, the story of Château de Nages begins when Joseph Torrès, Michel Gassier's great grandfather, purchased the southern Rhone estate during World War II. Upon Joseph's passing, his son-in-law, Alfred Gassier inherits the property while remaining in Algeria with his wife. However, his four children reconstruct their lives in France with his eldest son, Jean Gassier, arriving first and restoring the badly neglected farm. Alfred's second son, Roger Gassier, arrives soon thereafter and revives Château de Nages, eventually passing along the magnificent vineyard and exceptional winery to his son, the highly-acclaimed winemaker Michel Gassier.

The JT White is dedicated to visionary founder Joseph Torrès and uses Roussanne and Viognier grapes that come from their very best parcels in the extreme north of the appellation where the terroir consists of grès (rolled pebbles) from the Rhône River over red clay soils rich in iron. There is also some Grenache Blanc in the blend, and all of the grapes were grown according to certified organic farming techniques, with a particular attention to soil health. The fruit was manually harvested and underwent natural yeast fermentation in French oak barrels, followed by some lees ageing prior to blending and bottling.

Having tasted this particular vintage on at least three separate occasions over the last few years, I am curious to see where this barrel-fermented white wine is in its evolution. Let's see how it is tasting tonight...

Michel Gassier Château de Nages JT White 2015 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

MICHEL GASSIER CHÂTEAU DE NAGES JT WHITE 2015 - AC Costières de Nîmes, Rhône, France (#485854) (XD) - $26.95
This barrel-fermented blend of 64% Roussanne, 20% Viognier, and 16% Grenache Blanc pours a medium yellow gold and has medium+ intensity aromatics featuring rich and complex notes of lemony, waxy, paraffin, butter, and pear with touches of saline. It's full-bodied on the rich palate with buttery, pear, lemon, herb, slightly smoky wood, and leesy flavours followed by touches of saline. It's nicely textured with very good acidity, but also shows some heat on the mid-palate. Long, smoky finish with touches of saline, lemon, and pear. Enjoy now, nicely chilled. Score: 90 pts


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  • Saturday, May 30, 2020

Cave de Tain L'Hermitage Cornas Arènes Sauvages 2005 (Rhône) - Wine Review

For wine review, I was going through my cellar and found this nugget that I acquired back in . Looking back on my tasting note from 2013, I mentioned that it would hold for another 5 years, so I am now 2 years beyond and hoping that this beautiful Cornas Syrah is still drinkable.

Founded in 1933, Cave de Tain is a pioneer and leader in the northern Rhône with its prestigious cru wines, sustainable viticulture, and conservation of their unique varieties. Knowledge has been passed down over four generations of winegrowers and today they are led by a team of young winemakers who have a desire to craft wines that express the diverse terroirs. Cave de Tain is recognized today as a jewel in the crown of the northern Rhône Valley.

Cave de Tain is located between Valence and Lyon, laying at the foot of the Hermitage hillside. Cornas - meaning "burnt earth" in Celtic - is a cru located little south of the winery, on the right bank of the Rhône River on the border of the northern Rhône Valley, and is one of 5 cru wines that Cave de Tain produces.

There is evidence that winemaking existed in Cornas dating back to the 10th century. The first terraces and "chaillées" (or walls) go back even further to the times of the Romans. In 1938, Cornas was awarded AOC status. Today, the vineyards in Cornas are abrupt, south-facing slopes that form a natural amphitheatre, protecting the vines from cold winds. This unique location also means that the Syrah grapes ripen early and are the first to be harvested in the northern part of Côtes du Rhône. The soil in Cornas is mainly made up of decomposed granite, resulting in clayey and sandy surfaces, while the foothills of the steep slopes are rich in clay. Cornas is one of the smallest appellations of the Rhône Valley, and all wines from this cru must be made with 100% Syrah.

This wine has showed up in LCBO VINTAGES previously, but newer vintages are more frequently found at the SAQ in Quebec. The agents representing this wine are Noble Estates Wines & Spirits in Ontario and Divin Paradis in Quebec. Let's see how this 15 year old red wine is tasting tonight...

Cave de Tain L'Hermitage Cornas Arènes Sauvages 2005 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

CAVE DE TAIN L'HERMITAGE CORNAS ARÈNES SAUVAGES 2005 - AC, Rhône, France (#11099552) (XD) - $51.50
This northern Rhône Syrah was grown on steep terraces with granitic sand and aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. Pours deep garnet colour. Fragrant, perfumed nose is full of savoury, leathery, and sweet spice aromas along with touches of dried berry, plum, and violet notes. It's savoury on the medium+ bodied palate with more leathery, spice, and dried berry flavours. Mature, supple tannins have nicely integrated while acids still have some zip. Some warmth on the mid-palate continues through to the long, savoury, spiced, and a touch gamey finish, with excellent length. A joy to sip. Drink now. Score: 90 pts

Tasting note from 2013:

Lovely meaty, dark fruit aromas waft from the glass. On the palate it has purple fruited, oak, and dark fruit flavours with touches of raisiny characters. Long and smooth on the finish with hints of violet throughout. It has chalky tannins and could still be aged another 5 years. Score: 91 pts


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  • Sunday, January 19, 2020

Hecht & Bannier Côtes du Roussillon-Villages 2010 (France) - Wine Review

wine review is this lovely 2010 Roussillon-Villages red wine that I purchased back in 2013 when it came through LCBO VINTAGES on . I had the pleasure of tasting this wine with co-founder Gregory Hecht at the Halpern Enterprises portfolio tasting later that same year, and was pleasantly surprised to see it return to LCBO VINTAGES on .

Although this wine is no longer available at the LCBO, you should be able to get your hands on the latest vintage through Halpern Enterprises.

Hecht & Bannier Côtes du Roussillon-Villages 2010 (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

HECHT & BANNIER CÔTES DU ROUSSILLON-VILLAGES 2010 - AC, Midi, France (#142802) (XD) - $23.95
A blend of Grenache from the Catalan Hills, Mourvèdre, high-altitude Syrah, and small amounts of Carignan and Lledoner Pelut that was raised in a combination of tanks, demi muids, and large oak casks. Mature deep garnet colour. Aromas of dried herb and dark berries mingle with wet schisty mineral, smoke, and hints of wet forest floor. It is medium+ bodied with more dried herbal, dark berry, schisty mineral, and smoke flavours. Acids are still quite juicy and mouth-watering. There's some warmth on the mid-palate, but it doesn't intrude on enjoyment. Fine, velvety tannins have fully integrated, offering a smooth mouthfeel, developing a nice, slightly chalky grip with each passing sip. Savoury mineral with dried dark berry and earthy notes linger on the very long finish. Drinking beautifully at 10 years from vintage. I wouldn't hold on to this much longer. Score: 91 pts


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  • Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Château Bel Orme Winemaker's Dinner (2019)

Château Bel Orme Tronquoy de Lalande Wine Tasting
On a fine , I had the pleasure of attending a winemaker's dinner at The National Club in downtown Toronto. We enjoyed the wines from Bordeaux's Château Bel Orme with Winemaker/Vigneron Anne Françoise Quié in attendance.

After enjoying a glass of Louis Pommery Brut from California during the reception, which is made by French producer Champagne Pommery, we headed to the dining area to begin the evening's program that included a five-wine vertical of Château Bel Orme Tronquoy de Lalande and ended with a Sauternes.

The story of Château Bel Orme begins in 1936 when Anne's parents, Paul and Lucienne Quié, purchased the Château which overlooked the Gironde Estuary. Château Bel Orme covers an area of 30 hectares on Bordeaux's left bank, 6 miles north of Pauillac, with vineyards extending over the hills of the village. The name of the winery dates back to the 18th century, referring to the wooded park named "Bel Orme" that surrounds the Château. In 1946, Paul and Lucienne Quié acquired Château Rauzan-Gassies, a Margaux super second growth. Today, all of the Quié family's wine brands fall under the Domaines Quié umbrella.

Anne Françoise Quié, Château Bel Orme

Tom Noitsis with 2005 Château Bel Orme imperial size bottle

We tasted five red wines from Château Bel Orme on this night, a vertical ranging from 2016 going back to 2000, including one wine that was poured out of an Imperial bottle. And if you didn't know, an Imperial bottle contains 6 L of wine - the equivalent of 8 standard 750 mL bottles of wine.

Wines from the left bank are traditionally Cabernet Sauvignon dominant. However, at Château Bel Orme they have planted more Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon due to the Château's terroirs which consist of deep, sandy gravels. Moreover, because of their knowledge of the terroirs in the village of Saint Seurin de Cadourne and the results they've achieved over the years, they continue to plant more Merlot. This is reflected in the wines themselves as each of the five wines we tasted were Merlot dominant by varying degrees. It's also interesting to note that fermentation at the winery takes place in concrete vats - a growing trend in Bordeaux - and is followed by 12 months of ageing in French oak barrels.

The evening closed with Château d'Armajan des Ormes Sauternes (89 pts) dessert wine that paired beautifully with a cheese plate.

Château d'Armajan des Ormes Sauternes with Cheese Plate, The National Club

Thank you to Eurovintage for the invitation and the opportunity to try these fine wines from Bordeaux, as well as the California bubbly from Louis Pommery. All of these wines can be purchased by contacting Eurovintage Fine Wines & Spirits.

Tasting Notes:

CHÂTEAU BEL ORME TRONQUOY DE LALANDE 2016 - AC Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (XD) - $38
A blend of 58% Merlot and 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, this has a ripe, medium-high intensity nose that offers elegant dark berry/cherry, currant, wet forest floor, complex wood spice, and touches of savoury notes. It's full-bodied with astringent, grippy tannins, fresh acids and ripe fruited aroma replays joined by herbally flavours. Very good finish length. Still very young, needs 3-4 years of cellar time. Score: 88 pts

Château Bel Orme Tronquoy de Lalande 2016 (88 pts)Château Bel Orme Tronquoy de Lalande 2011 (90 pts)

CHÂTEAU BEL ORME TRONQUOY DE LALANDE 2011 - AC Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (XD) - $37
Assembled with 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, this has a medium-high intensity nose that is clean, elegant, and refined with currant, cassis, and sweet oak spice with savoury notes laying underneath. It is full-bodied with refined tannins that are nicely maturing and lovely aroma replays with some herbally, forest floor, and mature fruit characters adding complexity. Acids are nicely balanced, while the long, balanced finish is earthy and savoury. In a fine place right now, and should continue to develop over the next 7-8 years. Score: 90 pts

CHÂTEAU BEL ORME TRONQUOY DE LALANDE 2006 - AC Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (XD) - Sold Out
This blend of 63% Merlot and 37% Cabernet Sauvignon has a lovely, fragrant nose that is savoury with wet forest floor, earth, dried cherry/berry, and floral aromas. The medium-full bodied palate is mature with refined tannins that are soft, rounded and elegant. Flavours are nicely mature, showing finesses with balanced acidity. Savoury and dried berry notes on the linger on the long, finish. Could age another 6-7 years. Score: 92 pts

Château Bel Orme Tronquoy de Lalande 2006 (92 pts)Château Bel Orme Tronquoy de Lalande 2000 (90 pts)

CHÂTEAU BEL ORME TRONQUOY DE LALANDE 2000 - AC Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (XD) - $68
A blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon that has a fragrant and mature nose with savoury, earthy, forest floor, olive, and barnyard aromas, all of which comes through nicely on the medium+ bodied palate with savoury and barnyard flavours more prominent. It has good acidity while the fine tannins are mature, smooth and well-integrated. There is just a touch of heat on the mid-palate, while the long finish continues with more savoury and barnyard notes. Drink soon. Score: 90 pts


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  • Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Rhône Wine Tour 2018 - Lirac & Tavel (Day 4)

Tavel Round Pebbles
The of our wine tour through the southern Rhône Valley took us through Lirac and Tavel AOCs. This day followed visits to Luberon and Ventoux, Cairanne, and Costières de Nîmes earlier in the week.

Tavel is located on the right bank of Rhône River. It achieved AOC status since 1937 and was actually the second to establish Cru status, right after the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This southern Rhône Valley Cru is also unique in that it is the only Cru where all appellation wines must be rosé wine.

Vines have been cultivated in Tavel since the 5th century BC, first planted by the Greeks and then expanded by the Romans. The name "Villa Tavellis" first appeared in 13th century writings, eventually becoming Tavel. From 1737, a royal edict made it illegal to add foreign wines to those from Tavel and winemakers were also required to mark their barrels with "C.d.R." (Côte du Rhône), thus setting the precedent for what would become the AOC. In 1902, Tavel vineyard owners and winemakers formed a union to build the reputation of their rose wines. This eventually led to winemakers from Tavel petitioning the Gard to officially define the production area and become an AOC in 1937.

The soils in Tavel are mainly composed of alluvial, sandy, marly limestone, and crystalline & gravelly limestone, while the climate is Mediterranean where the sun and mistral winds are dominant. Nine grapes are permitted in Tavel, and no more than 60% of one varietal can be included in the final blend. Thus, all Tavel wines are blends, with Grenache often being the base. Traditionally, Tavel wines typically have a darker red colour due to the longer maceration times, where the grape skins have more contact with the must and creating wines that are more powerful and even somewhat tannic. However, there is a trend currently towards lighter rosés from Tavel due to the success of the lighter styles from Provence.

The introduction to Tavel actually began , during a lovely dinner at the Michelin-starred Entre Vigne & Garrigue with Thomas Giubbi of Vignobles & Compagnie, and Guillaume Demoulin of Château Trinquevedel. We tasted some of their latest Tavel wines, as well as got to try a 2014 Tavel that showed how well Tavel wines can age.

Entre Vigne & Garrigue Dinner
Vignobles & Compagnie was formed in 1963 when the growers of the department of the Gard came together with the aim of promoting Rhône Valley wines. The cellar, which was strategically located near the Pont du Gard, was also created at this time, is still in use today, and recently gained Heritage Status. The company has changed hands over the years, with Jean-Marie Berteau taking over the reins in 1972 and remaining in charge for 34 years. It was during this period that site underwent modernization and experienced major economic growth. In 1990, the Taillan Group took over activities and formed partnerships with local winegrowers. In 2011, Thomas Giubbi became the Managing Director at Vignobles & Compagnie and worked on grape supply to improve the quality of the wines, a task he continues to work on as he forges partnerships with many vineyards across the southern Rhône Valley. Vignobles & Compagnie is committed to working alongside its partner winegrowers to support, develop, and secure the future of these family estates by providing assistance in the vineyard, vinification, and the ageing process. The also help these estates market their wines. Thomas and his team are working towards exporting their wines to Ontario.

New Tavel Coat of Arms
Guillaume Demoulin is the 4th generation of his family to farm the vineyards at Château Trinquevedel. His great-grandfather, Eugène, founded the 13th century estate in 1936 and began to the revive the site that was overrun with wild weeds. By 1960, the grapes were finally producing wine worthy of bottling. Today, there are 32 hectares of estate vineyards located in the hills Montagne Noire and planted to varietals such as Grenache, Cinsault, and Clairette. Soils consist primarily of sand and quartzite rounded stones. Wines are crafted to show typicity and quality of the Cru while using traditional and innovative wine growing techniques, while also respecting the environment.

In addition to the roles at their respective company's, Thomas and Guillaume are also co-presidents of the Syndicat Viticole de l’Appellation Tavel winemakers association. Among their more recent activities is the introduction of a new, modernized coat of arms that will be embossed on the neck of Tavel wines. This was a 2-year project that will finally be realized beginning with the 2018 vintage.

Entre Vigne & Garrigue is a small, family-owned bed & breakfast and restaurant created in a charming 17th century stone farmhouse located in the Rhône Valley countryside. The surroundings were quite serene and peaceful. The gourmet dinner was lovely and included a cheese cart like I've never seen before!

Entre Vigne & Garrigue - Cheese Plate with Tavel

Entre Vigne & Garrigue - Cheese CartEntre Vigne & Garrigue - Dessert

Vincent de Bez, Château d’Aqueria
After a restful night, it was another early start, with more wet weather as we toured Tavel and Lirac. The first stop of the day was at the historic Tavel producer Château d’Aqueria. The fascinating history of Château d’Aqueria begins in 1595, when Louis Joseph d’Aqueria purchased the area of Tavel known as "Puy Sablonneux" from the monks at the Abbey in Villeneuve les Avignon. His son, Robert d'Aqueria, built a home that was transformed in the 18th century into the Château as it stands today. The estate has changed hands many times since the 18th century, all the while maintaining winegrowing activities because the terroir is very suitable for winegrowing. The estate has been in the same family for three generations now, when Jean Olivier purchased the estate 1919, and his son-in-law Paul de Bez began managing the estate in 1943, followed by his grandsons Bruno and Vincent de Bez, who today continue to run the estate.

Château d’Aqueria Tanks

Today, there are 60+ ha of vineyards surrounding the Château with light, sandy-clayey soils that are ideal for the production of rose's, while the limestone scree soils on their property just east of the Château in Lirac help produce white wines with outstanding fruit and depth. Château d’Aqueria practices organic fertilization and is High Environmental Value (HVE) certified, a system that promotes biodiversity and an environmentally-friendly agricultural approach involving pesticides, fertilization and water resource management. We met up with Vincent who gave us a tour of the facility, followed by a tasting of some of their latest wines. More wet weather lingered in the area, so we did not get a tour of the vineyards. However, Vincent told us we could drive to one of their nearby vineyards and it was amazingly littered with thousands (!) of rounded pebbles that allow the vines to grow in the best possible conditions thanks to the natural soil filter.

Domaine Coudoulis
The next stop was at Domaine Coudoulis, a winery in Lirac located on a terrace overlooking the village of Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres. The family-owned and -operated estate winery was purchased by Bernard Callet in 1996 because he knew the site had fabulous soil. After 10 years of observing and learning about the site, Bernard called upon Patrick Hilaire, a man who had worked on some of the most famous vineyards, to create terroir-driven wines worthy of the Domaine. As Bernard explained, the vineyards have existed on this site since the 1960's on old terroir with its alluvial terraces that are rich in round pebbles - similar to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Since that time, the building was rebuilt in 2011 into a modern facility with large concrete vats for fermentation and ageing, all the while transitioning their 25 hectares of vineyards to organic winemaking. Unfortunately, they do not make any rosés - as the rosé wines from this site are too dark compared to the current trend of light coloured rosés. They also currently do not make any white wines. However, there are plans to make some white wines as they planted some Grenache Blanc in 2017. Thus, after tasting their fine selection of red wines we took a tour of their modern winemaking facility and barrel cellar. We'll have to check back in a few years to see how Domaine Coudoulis fared with their Grenache Blanc.

Domaine Coudoulis Tanks

Domaine Coudoulis Production Area

Lunch was in the heart of Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres at Restaurant Le Papet and we were joined by Edouard Guerin, Director of Wines and Vineyards at Ogier, and Stéphane Soulier, Sales Manager at Les Vignerons de Tavel.

Edouard Guerin, Ogier
The story of Ogier begins with Ogier the Dane, an eccentric man who went off to fight in Basque country around 800 A.D. and on his way back home stopped in Massif Central. His stop became permanent and the Ogier name spread throughout the Rhône Valley. Antoine Ogier is a distant descendant of Ogier the Dane and he acquired an old cooperage in 1859. The main winery is in Chateauneu-du-Pape, where an old cooperage was converted into maturation cellars and is the largest in the Rhône Valley with its walls bearing witness to a history dating back to the Middle Ages. In 1995 with the arrival of Didier Couturier, the winery undergoes renewal, establishing relationships with winegrowers, and giving rise to the Ogier style - purity of fruit, freshness, and depth. During this time, a precision approach from vine to winemaking with a minimal interventionalist approach becomes the Ogier hallmark. Edouard was personable, friendly and showed plenty of passion for wine during lunch. I hope our paths cross again someday as the wines from Ogier were lovely. The Lirac Blanc and Tavel wines, one of each, we tasted from Ogier during lunch were fresh and delicious, especially the unreleased-at-the-time Lirac Blanc that ended up being one of my favourite wines of the day.

Lunch at Restaurant Le Papet, Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres

The cooperative cellar Les Vignerons de Tavel was founded in 1937, one year after the birth of AOP Tavel, when a few winemakers from decided to unite. France's first cooperative was inaugurated by the President of France, Albert Lebrun, in 1938 and was declared to be part of France's national heritage in 2013. Just weeks after my visit to Rhône, the cooperatives Les Vignerons de Tavel merged with the Cave des Vins de Cru in Lirac to become Cave des Vignerons de Tavel and Lirac that now represents 90 vine growers, 880 hectares of vines, and 35,000 hectolitres of production within AOC Tavel and Lirac, and other southern Rhône Valley appellations.

Rodolphe de Pins, Château de Montfaucon
After lunch, we navigated the narrow streets of the village of Montfaucon, on the right bank of the Rhône River in Lirac, to visit the historic Château de Montfaucon. The first inhabitants of the exceptional Montfaucon rocky hill located across Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be traced back to the pre-historic era. In the 11th century, the castle's first watchtower was built as the Rhône River was a border between the French Kingdom and the Holy Roman German Empire. After the castle was extended in the Middle Ages, the King of France gave title to the first Baron of Montfaucon to the powerful Laudun family in 1420. 100 years later, a winery is built at the bottom of the Château and wine was made here until 1936, when it was converted to a barrel cellar for ageing. Between 1936 and 1995, even though the family cultivated the vines, the grapes were sold to a cooperative.

Current owner, Rodolphe de Pins, took over the family estate in 1995, rebuilt the winery, and began producing wine. His ancestors, the de Pertuis family, acquired the castle in 1766 and Joseph Gabriel de Pertuis became the Baron de Montfaucon. Joseph's son, Eugene, had a son named Louis who would become Baron Louis de Montfaucon. As they discovered with old wine labels with the name "1829 Vin de Monsieur le Baron de Montfaucon", they found that both Eugene and Louis were amateurs in wine. Baron Louis restored the Château and left the estate upon his death in 1910 to his young niece, Madeleine, since he never married or had children. When Madeleine married, she became Comtesse de Pins. She is also Rodolphe's grandmother.

Château de Montfaucon
Today, Château de Montfaucon has more than 60 ha of vines, including a recent purchase of a 7 ha Cru Lirac vineyard that has a plot containing 140-year-old Clairette vines. The vineyards of Château de Montfaucon have a diversity of soils - calcareous pebbelstone on silty sandy soil, soil with clay, and sandy soil - and exposures. Rodolphe has a natural approach to winemaking with minimal intervention, allowing the fruit to express its flavours. He also likes to make wines that have elegance, finesse, and complexity, while also being enjoyable and easy to drink.

White wines make up 10% of the production at Château de Montfaucon and all of the wines we tasted in the 500 year old cellar with Rodolphe were delicious, including a lovely back-vintage 2012 Clairette and 2011 Lirac white cuvée. Unfortunately, once again due to the rain, we were not able to see any of the vineyards. Rodolphe also invited us for a quick visit to his home - the Château (i.e. the real castle) located some minutes walking distance from the Domaine that was perched atop the village of Montfaucon, but the rains and lack of time would not allow it. All in all, this was a very fine visit that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Lirac.

Lirac is located just north of Tavel and sits across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, sharing many of the same characteristics as its famous neighbour. The area is very Mediterranean with plenty of sunshine and Mistral winds. Moreover, many of the vineyards in Lirac are laid out in terraces on hillsides among garrigue scrubland. There are three main soil types - limestone plateaus that covered with red clay and pebbles, ancient alluvial terraces made up of quartz pebbles and red clay atop a bed of sand, and sand laced with small pebbles. Due to soil diversity, many different grapes thrive here. Lirac achieved Cru status in 1947, making it the third oldest Rhône Valley Cru. At the time, it was known for producing easy drinking rose. Today, however, only 3% of the appellation's production is devoted to rosé (and 10% to white wines.)

The history of winemaking in Lirac goes back more than two thousand years. The small, nearby town of Roquemaure and its port became quite prosperous and powerful as it exported the wines of Cote du Rhône to Paris, England, and Holland. In the 16th century, the wines from Lirac gained a reputation for high quality wines that were served in the royal courts of France and abroad. In 1727, Lirac wines were the first from Rhône to be branded as C.d.R. to certify their origin, thus making Lirac Cru the original appellation. As mentioned earlier, the C.d.R. branding was applied to Tavel in 1737, and was later given to all wines from Côtes du Rhône.

Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine
The final winery visit of the day was in the heart of Tavel at Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine. The Lafond family has a rather long history of wine growing that began in 1780 with Pascal Odoyer, the governor of Tavel, was one of the first wine growers in his village and also the great-uncle of Jean-Pierre Lafond. In 1948, Valéry Taulier, the grandfather of current owner Pascal Lafond built the first private cellar of Tavel and contributed greatly to the growth of the Tavel appellation. In 1970, Jean-Pierre Lafond, Valéry Taulier’s son-in-law and a lover of race horses names his wine estate "Roc-Epine" in memory of the famous race horse, and Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine was born. In 1978, Pascal and his father Jean-Pierre Lafond begin bottling their own wines. Fast forward to 2009, they begin organic certification and eliminate the use of pesticides, herbicides and other chemical products, while only using copper and sulphite to protect the vineyards from the disease. In 2012, they received their organic certification and an emphasis to produce wine in the vineyard was strengthened. In 2015, the next generation of the Lafond family begins work at the winery with the arrival of Jean-Baptiste Lafond, Pascal's son, after he completed his BTS Viticulture-Oenology studies in Beaune. In addition to Tavel wines, they also produce Lirac appellation wines. In total, 3 hectares of vines are devoted white grape varieties, while 23 hectares are planted with red varietals, with soils consisting of mainly white rocks, sandy soil, and pebbles (alluvial soil). In terms of whites and rosé wines, they had a Lirac Blanc and two Tavel Rosés, and all three were delicious.

Frédéric Grasset, Château de Ségriès
A fine day of wine tasting in Lirac and Tavel concluded at Entre Vigne & Garrigue, where Frédéric Grasset of Château de Ségriès joined us for dinner and to present his wines. Frédéric is the son-in-law of owner Henri de Lanzac. In 1994, Henri purchased the domain that included a partly ruined mansion from the 17th century that belonged to the noble Regis de Gatimel family since 1804. This makes Château de Ségriès one of the oldest estates in Lirac. Three generations of the family work at the Château, including the 75-year-old Henri. His son, Laurent, is the viticulturist and winemaker, while his daughter Anna, wife of Frédéric, also works at the winery. Together, they manage 58 ha of old vines averaging 80 years of age on mainly clay-limestone soils. Only a small portion of this acreage is devoted to AOP Lirac white wines, while 11 ha in a single vineyard in Tavel. Château de Ségriès only makes one Lirac Blanc and one Tavel wine, so it was nice to try the two most recent vintages of each wine during dinner.

Château de Ségriès

Entre Vigne & Garrigue - Appetizer

Looking back on this day, Tavel was everything I expected it to be - traditionally deeply coloured, fruity and dry, high quality rose wines, with some having slightly tannic and structured characters that some might even call light red wines, while others were made in the more trendier Provençal style that is pale coloured and fresh. Tavel can be enjoyed on its own or paired with salad, poultry, or hearty fish.

Lirac, on the other hand, was an eye-opener for me. It is one of the least known Crus, and even I didn't know much about it before arriving. Lirac appellation white wines are made primarily with varietals such as Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne, and Bourboulenc, and sometimes includes Marsanne, Viognier, or Picpoul. The white wines were fresh and clean, with some minerality and structure, and could be aged for a number of years. All-in-all, I was very impressed with the white wines from Lirac.

Overall, I was very happy with my visit to the Southern Rhône Valley. I learned many new things over the four days while also meeting some fine individuals who are shaping the future of the wines from Luberon, Ventoux, Cairanne, Costières de Nîmes, Tavel, and Lirac.

Tasting Notes:

VIGNOBLES & COMPAGNIE DOMAINE MÉJAN LES MUSES TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD)
Blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, 5% Mourvedre, 3% Syrah, and 2% Clairette from sandy soil, clay, and rolled pebbles, alluvial deposits. Medium+ intensity nose offers red fruit, red cherry, strawberry, and herbal aromas. The medium+ bodied palate is spicy with fresh acids and pleasing red berried aroma replays. Lightly tannic, dry, with some structure, and very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Vignobles & Compagnie Domaine Méjan Les Muses Tavel 2017 (88 pts)Vignobles & Compagnie Réserve des Chastelles Tavel 2017 (89 pts)

VIGNOBLES & COMPAGNIE RÉSERVE DES CHASTELLES TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 12 €
Grenache and Syrah blend from gravel, clay and quartz pebbles soils. Medium-high intensity nose with plenty of red fruits - currant, strawberry, cherry and some red pepper nuances. It is full-bodied, dry and structured on the palate with candied red berry flavours. There's some tannic structure and the finish length is very good. Score: 89 pts

Agent: N/A

CHÂTEAU TRINQUEVEDEL TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (#729947) (XD) - 12.5 €
Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Clairette, Bourboulenc, and Mourvèdre, this has fruity medium+ intensity aromas of rhubarb and strawberry. It is medium-full bodied, dry and spicy on the palate with fresh acids and nice aroma replays joined by hints of orange. Structured with some tannins. Very good finish length. Score: 89 pts

Château Trinquevedel Tavel 2017 (89 pts)Château Trinquevedel Les Vignes d'Eugène Tavel 2014 (89+ pts)

CHÂTEAU TRINQUEVEDEL LES VIGNES D'EUGÈNE TAVEL 2014 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 15 €
Blend of Grenache, Clairette and Syrah from 80-85 year old vines and one-third oak aged, this has a subtle orange, red berry and spice nose with touches of floral. It is medium-full bodied and nicely integrated on the palate with balanced acids, and pretty rose floral and cherry characters. Somewhat structured and the finish length is very good. Holding up quite well at this age. Score: 89+ pts

Agent: Barrel Select (ON)

CHÂTEAU D'AQUERIA LIRAC BLANC 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 12 €
40% Grenache Blanc, 25% Bourboulenc, 16% Clairette, 12% Roussanne, and 7% Viognier from limestone scree soils. Open, fragrant and fresh with herbally, lemony, and anise aromas. Medium-bodied with a slightly oily texture. Nice aroma replays on the palate plus notable anise, fennel, and pear notes. There's some structure a nice chalky mineral mid-palate. Shows finesse on the finish, with excellent length. Score: 89 pts

Château d'Aqueria Lirac Blanc 2017 (89 pts)Château d'Aqueria Tavel 2017 (89 pts)

CHÂTEAU D'AQUERIA TAVEL 2017 - AP, Rhône, France (#319368) (XD) - $23.95
45% Grenache, 20% Clairette, 15% Cinsault, 8% Mourvèdre, 6% Syrah, 4% Bourboulenc, and 2% Picpoul from sandy clayey hillsides. The subtle nose is fruity and a touch candied, offering red berry, cherry, currant, and citrus aromas. It's medium-full bodied with nicely balanced citrusy aroma replays. Acids are very good. The long finish is crisp and spicy with a fine mineral note. Score: 89 pts

Agent: Noble Estates Wine & Spirits (ON), LBV International (QC)

Domaine Coudoulis Evidence Lirac 2016 (89 pts)

DOMAINE COUDOULIS EVIDENCE LIRAC 2016 - AP, Rhône, France (XD) - 9 €
Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre (15%), Carignan, and Cinsault. Medium-high intensity nose is meaty with floral, dark cherry, blackberry, licorice, and black spice aromas. The spicy medium+ bodied palate has nice dark cherry/berry and oak spice notes. Well-structured with refined tannins. Nicely balanced overall with good acidity. Finish length is very good. Score: 89 pts

Agent: Azureau Wines & Spirits (ON)

OGIER LOU CAMINÉ LIRAC BLANC 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD)
First vintage of this wine. Blend of Clairette and Grenache Blanc from 5 to 80 year-old vines that was barrel-fermented and barrel-aged. It has medium-high intensity aromas that are clean and elegant with mineral, lemon/lime, herbs and anise notes, all of which come through on the medium+ bodied palate with hints of saline minerality. Acids are fresh and the finish length is excellent. Score: 90 pts

Ogier Lou Caminé Lirac Blanc 2017 (90 pts)Ogier Etamines Tavel 2017 (88 pts)

OGIER ETAMINES TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD)
Pretty, medium-high intensity nose of strawberry, spice, currant, and cherry aromas. It is medium-full bodied with spicy aroma replays on the palate, fresh acids, and very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Agent: Select Wines (ON), Sélect Vins AdVini (QC)

Domaine du Vieil Aven Tavel 2017 (88 pts)

DOMAINE DU VIEIL AVEN TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - $18.70
Medium+ intensity nose is spicy with red currant, cherry, and strawberry aromas. The palate is full-ish with gentle tannins and juicy acids that support the nicely dry aroma replays. Very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Agent: Louis Roche (QC)

Domaine des Carteresses Tavel Rosé 2017 (88 pts)

DOMAINE DES CARTERESSES TAVEL ROSÉ 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (#739474) (XD) - $18.95
The medium-high intensity nose is fresh has ripe aromas of strawberry, cherry, and rhubarb. It's medium-full bodied on the palate with a rounded mouthfeel. Touch candied cherry flavour, plus aroma replays on the flavour profile. Juicy acids, smooth tannins, and very good length on the finish. Score: 88 pts

Agent: Dionysus Wines & Spirits (ON), Vin Conseil (QC)

CHÂTEAU DE MONTFAUCON COMTESSE MADELEINE LIRAC BLANC 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 13.5 €
Just bottled. Blend of Marsanne (40%), Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, and Viognier. Medium-high intensity aromas are fresh and ripe with white and yellow florals, and key lime pie. On the medium-bodied palate, it has nice, ripe aroma replays supported by bright and lively acids. Anise, herbs, and lime notes linger on the long finish. Barrel-fermented and aged, yet oak is very subtle. Should drink well for at least half a dozen years. Score: 89 pts

Château de Montfaucon Comtesse Madeleine Lirac Blanc 2016 (89 pts)Château de Montfaucon Vin de Madame La Comtesse Lirac Blanc 2012 (91 pts)

CHÂTEAU DE MONTFAUCON VIN DE MADAME LA COMTESSE LIRAC BLANC 2012 - AP, Rhône, France (XD)
Limited production. 100% Clairette barrel-fermented from a small 1.3 acre vineyard first planted in 1870 - one of the oldest in Rhône Valley. Complex, medium-high intensity nose is exotic and a touch oxidative with nutty, pear and fennel aromas. Spicy palate is still showing freshness with very nice aroma replays and some mineral notes adding complexity. Shows finesse on the long, intense finish. 2012 was the first vintage of this wine. Score: 91 pts

Agent: Nicholas Pearce Wines (ON)

DOMAINE LAFOND ROC-ÉPINE LIRAC BLANC 2017 - AP, Rhône, France (XD) - 10 €
This blend of 50% Grenache Blanc, 30% Roussanne, and 20% Viognier that has medium+ intensity aromas of fennel, anise, lemony citrus, and herbs. Acids are fresh and bright on the medium-bodied palate with nice aroma replays on the flavour profile. Clean and crisp with hints of mineral on the long finish. Score: 88+ pts

Domaine Lafond Roc-Épine Lirac Blanc 2017 (88+ pts)Domaine Lafond Roc-Épine Tavel 2017 (88 pts)

DOMAINE LAFOND ROC-ÉPINE TAVEL 2017 - AP, Rhône, France (#950709) (XD) - 10 €
60% Grenache with equal parts Syrah and Cinsault. Medium-high intensity nose is pretty with freshly picked, ripe strawberry, rhubarb, and cherry aromas. The medium+ bodied palate is fleshy, a touch candied, but dry, with nice aroma replays. It has juicy acids, a spicy mid-palate, and very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Agent: Hobbs & Co. (ON)

CHÂTEAU SÉGRIÈS LIRAC BLANC 2015 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 12 €
A blend of 50% Clairette, 30% Ugni Blanc, 10% Roussanne, 5% Bourboulenc, and 5% Picpoul that is 30% barrel-fermented. Subtle herbs, fennel, and lemon aromas. It is medium-full bodied and creamy with nice pear and herbals flavours. Crunchy fruit with fresh acidity. Finish length is very good. Score: 89 pts

Château Ségriès Lirac Blanc 2015 (89 pts)Château Ségriès Tavel 2016 (89 pts)

CHÂTEAU SÉGRIÈS TAVEL 2016 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 12 €
Blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 10% Syrah, and 10% Clairette. Medium+ intensity nose offers cherry, strawberry, and currant aromas, with much of the same on the spicy, full-bodied palate. It has some tannic structure, while acids and finish length are both very good. Score: 89 pts

Agent: N/A


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