This Week’s Wine Tasting
France and Spain
Imported by Weygandt Selections and European Cellars
Clement et Florian Berthier– “In 1983, Jean-Marie Berthier moved to his wife’s village, Sainte-Gemme-en-Sancerre, where they built up their own domaine from scratch. In 1998, he took over the Montbenoit vineyards in the Coteaux du Giennois, plots that his father-in-law had worked for many years. Today they work 20 hectares with great care and dedication to producing outstanding quality wines. Clément now handles the marketing of the wines, having spent 2 years in Canada and the USA as assistant winemaker in the Willamette Valley, OR (Soléna Estate). The younger son, Florian, honed his talents as a winemaker in French vineyards and abroad, having spent 1 year working with Burgundy Grands Crus (Domaine Anne Françoise Gros), and several months in New Zealand (Neudorf Vineyard) and the USA (NW Wine Company – Oregon). He manages the vineyard.”
Imported by Weygandt Selections.
Berthier Coteaux du Giennois Rose 2014– Coteaux du Giennois, Loire Valley, France. “This appellation on the eastern edge of the Loire Valley northeast of Sancerre produces almost equal amounts of light-bodied red and white wines, with a small portion of dry rosé as well. Farming Type: Sustainable. Alcohol %: 13.50. Cepage: 100% Pinot Noir. Our pale pink Coteaux du Giennois Rosé offers up aromas of red fruits, fruit drops and a touch of spice. Broad texture up front, crisp acidic finish. Notes of strawberry and cinnamon on the nose. Strawberry, cinnamon and herbs on the palate. Great balance and texture.” “Color: clear, medium intensity pink core to clear rim. Nose: clean, medium intensity, floral, bright, crisp apples and strawberries. Palate: dry, medium-high acidity, medium body, short length.”
Chateau Saint-Roch– “At worst the Roussillon is seen as an appendage of the Languedoc. Slightly better, but still not great, is the temptation to see it as monolithic when in reality there are a range of terroirs from the coastal plain, to the three valleys which succeed each other from the north to the south to the unique spot where the Pyrenees meet the sea. While Jean-Marc is best known for his vineyards south of Perpignan he grew up near Maury where, as a teenager, he tended his first vineyard and made his first wine. So when the opportunity presented to purchase an estate here, how could he refuse?
Maury is probably best known for its aged, fortified wines, which means that it’s really not that well known at all. When was the last time you had a Maury? Located in the Agly Valley, this region of the Roussillon is rugged, sheltered, and warm with distinctive black schist soils. These are the characteristics that make the terroir unique and in recognition of this fact as well as the prevailing trend in favor of dry wines, the AOC of Maury Sec was created. Maury Sec is darker, more mineral and more brooding in general than wines from the rest of the Roussillon. Grenache, not surprisingly, is the main grape along with smaller plantings of Syrah, Carignan and Mourvedre. Saint Roch even makes a small quantity of white wine from Grenache Blanc and Marsanne.”
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate says of Saint-Roch: “These are brilliant new releases from Chateau Saint Roch, which was recently purchased by Jean-Marc Lafage (and is a joint venture with importer Eric Solomon). Located in the Cabirou region of Maury, in the Roussillon, which was famous for making fortified wines in the past, it consists of mostly schist and granite soils, and has a slew of old-vine Carignan and Grenache. The wines are jaw-dropping good. In addition, they’re ridiculously under-priced given their quality.”
Imported by European Cellars.
Chateau Saint-Roch Blanc Vieilles Vignes 2013– Côtes du Roussillon, Languedoc Roussillon, France. A blend of Grenache Blanc and Marsanne from 50 year old vines grown in vineyards that are practicing organic. Aged 5 months in concrete. Winemaker Jean Marc Lafage. 92 Wine Advocate– “The 2013 Cotes du Roussillon Vieilles Vignes Blanc is comprised of 80% Grenache Blanc and 20% Marsanne brought up all in concrete tank. Rich and honeyed, with gorgeous minerality, it offers up hints of pineapple and tangerine to go with a medium to full-bodied, textured and full-flavored style. Not for a summer day, it’s a knockout white to pair with food. Enjoy it over the coming couple of years (although it could certainly evolve past that).
A new venture between Jean-Marc Lafage and importer Eric Solomon, Chateau St. Roch is located in the Agly Valley, in the appellation of Maury. The majority of the vines were planted in the 1930s and lie at elevations ranging from 360 to 1,110 feet. Both the red and white tasted here are superb.”
Chateau Saint-Roch Rouge 2012– Maury Sec, Cotes du Roussillon, Languedoc Roussillon, France. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan from 50+ year old vines. The vineyards are practicing organic. The wine aged for 9 months in 500L French oak barrels. 93 Wine Advocate- “Made from 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Carignan, the 2012 Cotes du Roussillon Villages Chimeres is mind-blowing stuff that comes from 100- to 105-year-old vines and spent 8-12 months in a combination of 500-liter barrels and concrete vats. From primarily schist soils, it boast knockout aromas of black currants, smoked earth, licorice and wild herbs that give way to a full-bodied, voluptuously textured effort that has a loaded mid-palate, no hard edges and serious length on the finish. Possessing a solid 4-5 years of prime drinking (if not more), it’s a brilliant value that readers need to snatch up.”
Domaine Lafage Bastide Miraflors– “For well over a decade we have worked with Jean-Marc Lafage at his estate in the Roussillon, and across the border in Spain where he consults on several projects. As good as his wines were, when we first met him, they only get better with each vintage. When we first made his acquaintance in Calatayud, he suggested we visit his estate in the Roussillon and the rest, as they say, is history.
Jean-Marc and Eliane Lafage farm 160 hectares of vines located just south of the capital of French Catalonia, Perpignan. Some of their vineyards are situated a few kilometers from the Mediterranean, while others can be found in the foothills of the Pyrenees. This range of sites allows them to make both refreshing whites as well as concentrated reds and, this being the Roussillon, some fortified wines as well. Benefiting from a warm, dry climate, the estate is farmed organically. They grow primarily Grenache (Blanc, Gris & Noir), Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan, Marsanne, Roussanne and Chardonnay with a significant proportion of the vines well over 50 years old. The soil, as you near the coast is weathered, alluvial gravel while in the higher elevation sites it is predominantly schist. They harvest by hand and the winemaking is surprisingly uncomplicated with stainlesss steel for the fresher whites but mostly concrete tanks for the rest with a small amount of French oak demi-muids.”
Imported by European Cellars.
Domaine Lafage Bastide Miraflors Vieilles Vignes 2012– Côtes Catalanes, Languedoc Roussillon, France. A blend of Syrah and Grenache from 55 year old vines. Vineyards are practicing organic. Grapes were and harvested, co-fermented in tank, 42 day maceration, then the wine aged for 12 months in concrete tanks. 91 Wine Advocate- “As for the two red wines, the 2012 Bastide Miraflors is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache aged in a combination of concrete tanks (for the Grenache) and demi-muids (for the Syrah). It went through a six week maceration, which no doubt explains the wine’s seriously intense fruit. Notes of violets, forest floor, black cherry jam and blackberries make an appearance in this medium-bodied, high-toned, dense, rich, complex, well-delineated red wine. Drink it over the next several years.
An excellent joint venture between importer Eric Solomon and Jean-Marc Lafage, these three cuvees represent fabulous bargains.”
Hazana Rioja– “Hazaña is a recently introduced custom cuvée made in partnership between Eric Solomon and Rafael de Haan. British born and educated, Rafael joined the UK wine trade in 2000 and early on realized that he rather have a career closer to the vine. In 2001 he moved to Barcelona, brokered some wine and opened a tapas bar before setting up his first property, Bodegas Abanico, in Rioja with his partner Nuria Altes.
Named for the ancient, poetic tales of heroism, Hazaña is made at Viñicola Real in the classical style of Rioja. The fruit comes from the vicinity of Logroño at 500 meters above sea level and on red clay and chalky limestone soils. A blend of Tempranillo with up to 15% Graciano, it is aged in French and American oak before release.”
Imported by European Cellars.
Hazana Rioja Vinas Viejas 2012– Rioja, Spain. A blend of Tempranillo and Graciano from 30-50 year old vines. Farming: Sustainable with organic practices. The grapes were hand harvested, fermented in tank, then aged for 10 months in French and American oak. 92 Wine Advocate- “A spectacular wine assembled by Eric Solomon, Rafael De Haan and Miguel Angel Rodriguez, the 2012 Hazana Vinas Viejas is made from 45- to 70-year-old bush vines (85% Tempranillo and 15% Graciano). Aged 12 months in French and American oak, it is difficult to believe a wine such as this could be available for under $35-40 a bottle, but here it is. A dense ruby/purple color is followed by aromas of lead pencil shavings, black currants, spice box, cedar and a touch of vanilla. Deep, medium to full-bodied and elegant yet suave, savory and expansive, this beautiful red is a perfect synthesis of the traditional and more progressive style of Rioja. Drink it now or cellar it for another 4-5 years.”
Bodegas Casa Castillo– “Jumilla is about roughing it, about getting to know farmers and their families and if you’re lucky being invited into their homes to share a meal. It’s a place worth getting lost in. If you’ve played your cards right, the person inviting you to Jumilla is José Maria Vicente. José Maria is a third generation owner and operator of Casa Castillo a farm that began as a rosemary plantation but one that has evolved into the preeminent estate in the DO of Jumilla. While the smell of rosemary still lingers in the air, the pale, rocky soils surrounding his house and cellar are now planted with vines and almond orchards. When José Maria’s grandfather purchased Casa Castillo in 1941 there was already a winery, cellar and some scattered vineyards on the property dating to the 1870s, established by French refugees fleeing the plight of phylloxera in their native land. In 1985 José and his father began to replant the vineyards and expand them with the goal of making wine on the property. In 1991 they bottled their first commercial vintage.
In selecting the grapes to grow on their land, they chose the indigenous Monastrell to be the primary variety. Native to the region, it was perfectly adapted to the hot, dry climate. Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha were selected for the more gravelly soils while Syrah is grown on more sheltered sites rich in chalk. The largest vineyard, Valle, is a hot, rocky terroir planted exclusively with head-pruned Monastrell. Val Tosca is a sloped vineyard, its white chalky soils gleaming in the sun and planted with ungrafted Syrah that José received from Jean-Louis Chave. On the slope facing Val Tosca is Las Gravas, named for its deep, gravelly soils. Soil is loosely applied here since it resembles nothing more than a pile of rocks. Due to the climate José Maria is able to farm his vineyards without needing chemical treatments. Everything is harvested by hand and brought promptly to the cellar for sorting and fermentation.”
Eric Solomon says of Casa Castillo- “I good way to get a feel for the quality of a producer in Burgundy is to taste their Bourgogne Rouge and one gets the feeling that Jose Maria feels the same way. The Monastrell from Casa Castillo is made from younger vines sourced mainly from La Valle. Aged for 6 months in a combination of neutral 500 liter French oak barrels, foudres and concrete, the wine is fresh, vibrant and shows a much more northern European temperament than one usually finds this far south. To capture this quality, be certain to serve this wine a cellar temperature.”
Imported by European Cellars.
Bodegas Casa Castillo Monastrell 2013– Jumilla, Spain. 100% Monastrell from 20-30 year old vines. Vineyards are practicing organic. The wine fermented in stainless steel tanks then aged for 6 months in neutral 500L French oak barrels, foudres and concrete. 91 Wine Advocate- “Yields for the 2013 Monastrell (100% Monastrell aged six months in neutral French oak barrels, concrete and foudres) were 16 to 25 hectoliters per hectare, which is about half of that permitted in Burgundy. An amazing value, this wine boasts a dense blue/purple color as well as a sumptuous nose of blueberries, blackberries, scorched earth, licorice and forest floor. Stunningly pure and medium to full-bodied with oodles of fruit, this is a remarkable value to drink until the cows come home. Consume it over the next 2-3 years.
Considered by many observers to be the finest estate in Jumilla, Casa Castillo is a treasure-trove for fabulous values, particularly from the Monastrell (Mourvedre) grape that loves the chalky terroirs and cool slopes of the Sierra del Molar.”