Thursday, 16 December 2010

Dans Le Midi

Just had a great trip down to the Midi – and it’s a great time of year as the reds are all showing their true selves, just as I planned back at harvest time.

I met up with Jean-Marc and Becca (Midi buyer) in Narbonne early afternoon and our first stop was to see Hervé and Laurent in Prat de Cest just south of Narbonne city to taste a range of wines from the Cotes Catalans and Roussillon such as the Chante Clair and Domaine Ginestiere. All the wines were showing lovely ripe complex aromas proving the 2010 is another all rounder vintage.

Extremely mild temperatures the following day at 19ºC whilst the north of the country was at 0ºC! We had an appointment at Chateau d'Aussières in the Corbières, owned by Baron Eric de Rothschild of the famous Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Pauillac. They have a magnificent project here in the Languedoc and are making some stunning wines, mixing an interesting mix of Midi terroir with Bordeaux winemaking techniques.

The property sits in the Fontfroide valley of the Pays d’Oc near Narbonne, totaling 167ha of vines. The Chateau has a long history of winemaking going way back to the Roman era. In 1999, when the estate was acquired, the vineyards were severely neglected and were all ripped up followed by an extremely precise soil analysis of the entire domaine. Once the complex information was gathered a large detailed map was drawn up and grape varieties were chose to suit each soil type.

The results are amazing, and at only 10 years old the hard work is paying off already by producing extraordinary wines from such young vineyards. We were shown around by Eric Kohler who is responsible for all the Baron's wineries and winemaking projects across the world outside of Bordeaux. We tasted the Corbières Chateau d’Auissières made using traditional Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Carignan and Cinsault followed by the Vin de Pay wines (now called IPG if it wasn't confusing enough already!) made from an interesting blend of Midi and classic Bordeaux varietals.

A few nice eats in Narbonne and Carcassonne with some really good wines along the way. I had scallops with a good Midi Chardonnay, hare with fresh black truffles and tripe which went very well with a big ripe Fitou. I stole a bit of JMS's ris de veau (veal sweetbreads) and a slurp of Pic St Loup red which was heaven (even better as he didn't notice!), and all the homemade deserts including the chocolate mousse, apple cake, fudge tart went well with the stunning 1945 Rivesaltes!

Next day. First I was in Sallèles d’Aude to prepare the 2010 XV President for tomorrow’s bottling. The wine is incredibly fresh bursting with black cherries and a wine makers dream to get this in bottle so early!

Afterwards I continued on to meet winemaker Jeff Carel in Peyriac de Mer – a beautiful village situated on the edge of the old salt lakes, now a nature reserve and full of pink flamingos! Tasted through some 2009 and 2010’s with Jeff at his house and left for Carcassonne to meet my Aussie mate and winemaker Richard Osborne at Domaine Lalande. A quick lunch and tease about the cricket and we were straight back to the tasting room making the final blends of the Madame F white – a beautiful and unusual blend of Marsanne and Sauvignon Blanc.

Being so close to Castelnaudary (official home of cassoulet) it was impossible to resist a REAL Castelnaudary cassoulet as there are so many fakes out there. This one though was the real thing and piping hot: good leg of confit duck, authentic Toulouse sausage in a wonderful organic white haricot bean tomato sauce – glass of ripe wild garrigue, 2008 Boutenac-Corbieres was spot on!

The mild temperature didn’t stay around long and the temperature plummeted for the trip back to Bordeaux – and early this morning the Chai was a Christmas card scene!


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