Friday, 11 April 2014

BOGOF is spreading (as far as Florensac)

Buy-one-get-one-free has long been criticised as a UK retail phenomena, or even national disease. There seems to be an established vicious circle with retailers making 2-for-1 offers with consumers seemingly lapping them up. Whether such deals offer value depends on the true price of the "one" of course.

Florensac lies on the flat lands near the southern end of the river Hérault and sports a seemingly successful cave cooperative. Re-branded as Vinipolis a spacious and swish boutique and tasting area has been constructed that also houses an excellent everyday restaurant Le Bistrot d'Alex (€22 three course lunch menu) where their wines are almost given away.

Unmissable en-route to the restaurant was this promotion - essentially the equivalent of 12 bottles of rosé for €25. Having consumed the Rosé d'Eté with lunch my judgement is thumbs up for deal. The wine is a masterpiece of technological wine making and perfect for quaffing without a thought rather than something to analyse/discuss. Just as well as our friend went for both deals so it won't be long before the next glass or two - proving the rosé weather holds.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Can labels go too far?

We purchased a couple of bottles on a trip to Paris recently from an excellent caviste we came across, Crus et Decouvertes at 7 rue Paul Bert in the trendy 11th arrondissement. Not Languedoc bottles though, even I try to get out a bit wine wise.

Having selected a couple of red Loire's we asked about Beaujolais and this was the suggestion. Now I perceive creative labels exist to 1) promote and be eye catching plus 2) subtly inform about a wine made outside the rules 3) let you know a young artisan created the contents.

Most would recognise this label is eye catching and the connotations are probably PC given the winemaker turns out to be female.

On point 2) the label is less than helpful. The wine is actually a bona fide Appellation Beaujolais Villages made from 100% [G for] Gamey. The email address reveals the maker as [Vin de ...] France Gonzalvez [more possibilities for the overworked G]

As for the contents, it drank well - supple, fresh with lovely balance and fruit. Around €14.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Far Ouest at a London Wine Bar (40 Maltby Street)

40 Maltby Street is a warehouse under a deep railway arch in Bermondsey and home to Gergovie Wines. Although closer to the City of London than the West End the area feels like neither. The Maltby Street half of this "cave" is a glass fronted wine bar that offers what seems their entire wine range along with a simple menu of quality food.

The wines come from lesser known areas of France (this is a Bordeaux and Burgundy free zone) along with growers from Italy, Spain and two from Slovenia. They coin them artisan wines. Only a few years ago it would probably have been Natural wines, but wisely that term seems to be being retired north of the Manche.

We were tipped off at the Roquebrun Festival of vins natures back in May by Mylène Bru, maker of Far Ouest and one of seven artisan Languedoc growers Gergovie Wines import. We enjoyed her wine at the time, and again here with lunch.

This time 2011 Far Ouest reminded me of Domaine Ribiera's Causse Toujours, perhaps not surprising given they both have good dollops of Grenache and the vineyards pretty much face each other across the Hérault valley. Both have heaps of Mediterranean flavour without being heavy.

The kitchen may be tiny but the dishes ooze care and confidence.

Shoulder of lamb with turnip cake, purple sprouting broccoli spiked with anchovy and mint is an example. As fresh tasting as it looks.

Monmouth Coffee (who import artisan grown beans) have their roasting and tasting premises next door. Curiously 40 Maltby Street doesn't serve coffee - probably to allow the small team to focus on the wine.

Diners note this is informal eating from a short menu. Order from the bar and all seating is on stools with mostly shared tables and counters.

Must return and try the Slovenian wines.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Vigne Ecole

These rows of vines by the stream opposite the Cabrières co-op are apparently educational.

All of the common Languedoc varieties are represented and clearly labelled, although they would have been more informative a month earlier blessed with richer foliage and bearing grapes.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Pas Comme Les Autres Béziers

Given the wine making heritage of France it always surprised me how hard was to find a "bar" that takes wine seriously. The options were extreme - a full-blown restaurant meal or chancing a glass from an unmarked bottle in the ubiquitous café come bar. In between was a void, even in the largest of towns.

Gradually things are looking up. Recently opened Pas Comme les Autres in Béziers (3 Rue Porte Olivier near Les Halls) is run by 2009 UK Sud de France Sommelier of the year Romain Henry. Wine takes centre stage and you can nip in for a glass or two at the bar.

Food, though, certainly isn't an afterthought although carefully devised to avoid the expense of a full time kitchen out the back. The fayre will include quality charcuterie and cheese. Tartines will be assembled and cooked behind the bar. My cassoulet with pork (picture below) won't win a food beauty contest but was packed with flavour.

A wine list isn't printed. Wander over to the display and choose a bottle (add 7€ for le droit de bouchon) or have a glass of whatever has been opened on a whim. Vin Naturels and Bio feature strongly - the motto here is Vins Vivants.

Facebook readers will find Pas Comme les Autres there, or better still just GO.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

An educational poster

Spotted this educational poster in the impressive new cave at the Domaine du Pas de l'Escalette

Nicely illustrates some of the frequently encountered French terms.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Interesting trio

Of the new wines I've drunk over the past few weeks these three are particularly interesting.

Having tasted La Fontude's wines at the Roquebrun wine festival earlier this year I subsequently picked up a couple of bottles spotted at a Caviste. There is precious little label information, not even some creative encoding. The cork was embossed 2008 and the ABV a potentially refreshing 12.5%. The wine was certainly mature but not past it, despite suspecting the bottle had been at the caviste for some time it seemed none the worse. On opening there was a seriously pleasant surprise - nice ripe mellow and elegant sous bois followed up by a mouth feel and balance that just hit the groove. I wish more wine could be like this. Very little Mediterranean heat and pepper was noticeable, being grown high above the Lac du Salagou does limit the sea's influence. The wine is mainly Cinsault, the 12.5% along with my recollection of the wine festival line up gave that away.

Despite celebrating 20 vintages, Domaine du Poujol is one of those estates I've heard of yet never come across and struggle to place - it's roughly between the Pic St Loup and Terrasses du Larzac. I guess this follows the pattern of many larger estates, with 20 hectares the local market is just too small to warrant effort. Pico 2011 (Vermentino, Carignan Blanc with some Rousanne) was one of many wines bestowing a vintage party and was certainly the most interesting white. It reminded me of serious Italian whites, grown up hints of lime and bitters with a proper mouth grip; aromatic without being overbearing. I actually spent quite a while talking to grower and winemaker Robert Cripps before making the association and fortunately it wasn't one of those 'I wish the ground would open up' moments. I'll plan to visit next year, the one place locally where supplies can be secured.

Domaine de Cantagrel 2008 is a Marcillac, a small area near Rodez I covered back in 2010 here. We visit Belcastel every year and raided the tiny bar/gift shop run by a bubbly character from southern Italy. Amazingly about a third of his wines are Italian with another third plus local Marcillac. All the Marcillacs were under 10€. This one is extraordinary in that it is labelled a co-operative wine, the Cave des Vignerons du Vallon, which makes it by a country mile the finest co-operative wine I recall drinking. The character hasn't been processed out of it and nothing rustic is on show. Delicious fruit; rhubarb is a description I've plagiarised that resonates. In the mouth the fruit is more gentle and lets the wine express itself. Subsequent research indicates this is made from organic grapes grown by the Auréjac family so is far from a typical co-op wine, but credit to the cave for facilitating such individuality. Marcillac is the perfect antithesis to the global fashion of rich extracted ripe fruit reds.