Friday, 31 October 2008

Sud de France 'Festive Wines' Tasting in London

Two days in London this week at the Maison Languedoc Roussillon in Cavendish Square. This is a relatively new venue (opened in June). And it is the 'window' in Central London for food and wine from the South of France. It is a great place and hopefully we can host some interesting wine tastings during 2009.
I was involved in organising a 'Festive Wines' event. We had some fascinating sparkling wines from Limoux...the first place to make sparkling wine in France. It was a good opportunity to try a selection of these wines from large and small growers. The Domaine Antech Cuvee 'Doux et Fruite' 2007 (Blanquette de Limoux) was amazing. It is a sparkling wine made in the 'Methode Ancestrale', which means that the first fermentation is stopped by chilling the juice and left on lees during the cold winter months. The secondary fermentation is then started in the Spring with the addition of yeast. It seems a very natural way to produce a wine..working with the seasons. However as Francoise Antech-Gazeau said, it is a very difficult process to manage and also to maintain the stability of the juice without letting rogue yeasts start an uncontrolled fermentation!
The wine was made from Mauzac grapes, which is virtually unique to Limoux and small areas of Gaillac. It is a tricky grape to grow and vinify as it is prone to oxidise easily and loose the flavours. This wine was an amazing medium sweet sparkling wine with a clear 'green apple' fresh style, but also with a depth and slight biscuit richness. The pleasant shock for me was the alcohol level at 6%. This was a very good wine and certainly one that I will be buying for Christmas. A very good aperitif wine.

The other sparkling wine that really stood out was the Chateau Rives-Blanques, Blanquette de Limoux 2006. This was a totally different style. A really classy wine made from 90% Mauzac and 5% each Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. The wine had an excellent mousse and medium biscuity rich nose. However the palate was defined by its elegance and the perfect balance between tight structured acidity and beautiful rich harmonious fruit. A wine that is very good value from this well run wine estate that adheres to sustained agriculture principals.

There were some interesting dessert wines from mainly muscat grapes (but also Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier and Ugni Blanc) and then there was a great selection of older and amazing Vin Doux Naturels. These are fortified wines mainly from the Roussillon area near Perpignan. The key grape varieties being Grenache Noir, Carignan and Maccabeu.
I adore the 1969 Mas Amiel, Maury, which is a great example of a perfectly balanced aged Maury wine. I always think of this wine being a cross of old Madeira and aged tawny port....but it is unique. This is ideal for an unusual gift for someone who is 40 years old next year!!!
But surely the most interesting wine at the tasting were the two older wines from Domaine de la Coume du Roy. It is not often that you get the chance to taste some wines from 1925 and 1932! Agnes Bachelet travelled over to London with her young son to show him the sights and for everyone to taste these incredible wines. The wines had lost their red/brown colour and were nearer to dark cognac colour. The nose on the 1932 Maury initially had evident alcohol and I thought that it might be a tricky wine to taste. However on the palate the wines really danced! The 1932 had a smooth rich caramel smooth texture and still lively acidity. Whilst the 1925 seemed perfect. The wine had a smoother nose and an excellent balance of rounded creamy textured caramel palate. This wine lasted for a long time on the palate and exudes class.
These wines are still ageing in large oak barrels. Agnes draws off a small amount for bottling whenever she needs some stock!


Alex said...

Hamish - does the Maison Languedoc Roussillon have a website? I can't spot a link and googling's not helping much either ... but then I might just be being a bit blind ...

HamishWM said...

Hi Alex

I think this must be one of the longest website addresses that I have come across!!
The site is just general info.
We are setting up a series of tastings for 2009, which should be relevant and interesting to show off the amazing diversity of wines from 'Sud de France'.