This past Saturday marked the fifth tasting of the MPA wine club. David and Eric were kind enough to host at their apartment in the 1st arrondissement on the banks of the Seine. They have cleverly disguised their apartment as a rare Asian art gallery. No but in all seriousness, Eric’s collection of art that he’s accumulated over the years and throughout his travels is simply amazing! The theme this time around was the neglected regions of France — one white, one rose, and three reds — including Provence, Languedoc, Roussillon and Savoie. Before going into the details I’m excited to announce that the 2006 Domaine du Clos des Fées from the Côtes du Roussillon-Villages has been my favorite wine since John and I first launched the MPA Wine Club. And the club agrees! I gave it a 17 and the MPA average rating was a 16.1 (that’s 2 points higher than the previous favorites, the Domaine des Roches Neuves and the Deutz Brut, from the first and second MPA wine tastings). Additionally, we experienced by far the largest range in scores ever with the bottle from Bandol. We had a bottom score of 3 (Laurence) and a top score of 16 (Miki-Sa and yours truly). Five people scored it under 9 points and four people scored it over 13 points, with everything in between. It was a very tannic, bold, and oaky wine, so it was one of those, you either love it or hate it plays.
In alphabetical order …
Bandol is located within the Provence wine region, about 45 kilometers Southeast of Marseille. It has 1,400 hectares of vineyards. It is considered to be the top quality producer in Provence and is known for its Mediterranean-style, mourvèdre dominated red wine. Mourvèdre tends to age well and has characteristic spicy cherry, berry, gamy and licorice flavors and moderate to rich tannins. Limited amounts of grenache, cinsaut, syrah and carignan can also be used. In addition to reds, a small amount of rosés and an even smaller amount of whites are made, from the following grapes — bourboulenc, clairette, ugni blanc and sauvignon blanc. In terms of vinification, mechanical harvesting is banned and all red wines must age for a minimum of 18 months in cask. Domaine Tempier is the most popular producer of Bandol on the international market; however, other top producers include Domaine de la Bégude, Domaine de la Tour du Bon, Château La Rouvière, Château Pibarnon, Château Pradeaux, and Château Vannières.
The Côtes de Provence is the most significant appellation in the Provence wine region. It is situated about 50 kilometers northeast of Bandol and has 20,000 hectares of vineyards. Cooled by the Alps to the North, the region is characteristically cooler than the relatively hot Bandol appellation. About four-fifths of the production is dry rosé wine. Cinsaut and grenache are the top blending grapes and along with mourvèdre, syrah and tibouren, some combination of these five grapes must constitute at least 70 per cent of each wine produced. However, many additional varietals are permitted, such as cabernet sauvignon, calitor (or pécoui touar), carignan, and barbaroux. White grapes include clairette, sémillon, ugni, vermentino (or rolle). The most successful producers include Domaine de la Courtade, Gavoty, Ott, Château Real Martin, Domaine Richeaume, Rimauresq, and Saint André de Figuière. Furthermore, although rosés dominate many new generation producers are focusing on red wine and a lot of experimentation is being done on different forms of elevage and the use of oak.
Côtes du Rousillon-Villages, often considered to produce the finest wine in the region, is located on the Northwest side of Perpignan, close to the border with Spain. The appellation has 2,000 hectares of vineyards and produces solely red wines. Although often hyphenated with the Languedoc as a combined wine region, Roussillon has a unique identity with a heavy Spanish Catalan influence. In fact Roussillon producers are known for being quite outspoken as they seek to develop their own unique Spanish-style of wine, sometimes falling in disaccord with the restricting AOC laws of France. The varietals permitted are carignan, grenache, lledoner pelut, mourvèdre and syrah. All wines must contain a minimum blend of 3 grapes. Cooperatives dominate the region; however, some of the top individual producers include Domaine de Casenove, Domaine Cazes, Domaine des Chênes, Domaine du Mas Crémat, Domaine Forç-Réal, Domaine Gauby, Château de Jau, Domaine Piquemal, Domaine Sarda-Malet, and Domaine Singla.
Fitou was the first wine appellation to be recognized in the Languedoc and is located just 29 kilometers north of the Côtes du Roussillon-Village. It has 2,600 hectares of vineyards. The coastal eastern portion of Fitou has clay-limestone soil. The soil in the western mountainous side has schist and is typically considered to produce better quality wines. Carignan is the dominant grape variety and must not constitute more than 70 percent of the blend. Also permitted are grenache, lledoner pelut, mourvèdre (coastal sub region), and syrah (mountainous sub region). Today’s wine is from the mountainous sub region. Regarding vinification, Fitou produces only red wine, which must be aged for a minimum of 9 months. The cooperative Mont Tauch is responsible for over half of the region’s production; and Cave Pilote is considered to be one of the better quality producers.
The Savoie wine region is located about 100 kilometers east of Lyon and has 1,900 hectares of vineyards. The region is very mountainous and as such the vineyards tend to be widely dispersed. Savoie has a cluster of 17 crus (vineyards) that tend to be better known than the region itself, such as Abymes, Apremont, Arbin, Chignin, Cruet and Montmélian. White wine constitutes two-thirds of the production in Savoie, although red wine and sparkling wine are also produced. Many grape varietals are permitted. White grapes include aligoté, altesse (or roussette), chardonnay, jacquère, mondeuse, chasselas, gringet, molette, roussette d’Ayse, marsanne, and verdesse. Red grapes include gamay, mondeuse, pinot noir, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, persan, and malvoisie. Altesse is considered to be the top white varietal and jacquère is the most widely planted. Additionally, very limited amount of roussanne, also known as Bergeron, is planted within the Chignin Bergeron vineyard. Most wines produced are single varietal, and the whites are characteristically crisp, delicate and lightly scented.
2006 Domaine du Clos des Fées “Vieilles Vignes”
Appellation: Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, Roussillon
Blend: 35% grenache, 35% carignan, 15% lledoner pelut, 15% syrah
Kenny’s Tasting Notes: Elegant, beautiful and a purely hedonistic nose with aromas of violets and red and black berries. Dry, very silky and fruity in the mouth. This wine has a perfect balance with great acidity, medium tannins and a mild bitterness. There are flavors of light oak and blackberries with a supple finish.
Kenny’s Rating: 17/20 (WS 89)
MPA Rating: 16.1
Price: 29€90 @ La Grande Epicerie du Bon Marché
MPA winos speak out…
Antoine, “I love it! I want more!!!”
Roopa, “great, great, great”
David, “I want more!”
2005 Domaine Grand Guilhem
Appellation: Fitou, Languedoc
Blend: carignan, grenache, syrah
Kenny’s Tasting Notes: Fruity nose with aromas of yeast and evidence of oxidation. Dry, tannic, and juicy in the mouth with fruity flavors of strawberry and cherry. 1,500 cases produced. DISCLAIMER: I tasted both bottles of the Fitou side-by-side and they were worlds apart. The one that I fully analyzed was much more oxidized, although certainly still drinkable.
Kenny’s Rating: 13/20
MPA Rating: 12.8
Price: 9€80 @ La Grande Epicerie du Bon Marché
MPA winos speak out…
Miki-Sa, “goat cheese, munster, yeast, licorice”
Kay, “brown paper, malty, South Indian coup”
Paul, “smells like when I’m putting on my wet suit, little chalky”
David, “smells non-manufactured, a Paris apartment on a cold spring day”
2007 Jean Perrier et Fils “Chignin Bergeron Cru, Cuvée Gastronomie”
Appellation: Vin de Savoie, Savoie
Blend: 100% roussanne
Kenny’s Tasting Notes: An elegant, fresh and summer-like nose with aromas of flowers and tropical fruit. In the mouth light, dry and crisp with fruity apple flavors, minerality and a short finish. 12.5% ABV. 31,000 cases produced
Kenny’s Rating: 12/20
MPA Rating: 12/20
Price: 9€05 @ La Grande Epicerie du Bon Marché
MPA winos speak out…
Antoine, “drink with raclette!”
Roopa, “buttery, almond!, nutty”
Dara, “reminiscent of 1980s Tab”
Laurence, “jambon cru”
David, “cleaning products, like our floor, like a young Catholic school girl”
Miki-Sa, “sake aftertaste”
2003 Château Pradeaux
Appellation: Bandol, Provence
Blend: 100% mourvedre
Kenny’s Tasting Notes: A very rich and complex nose with aromas of oak, leather, rose, spice, mint and black fruits. Dry and very astringent in the mouth, reminiscent of walnut skin, however with a very nice juicy acidity and balance. There are flavors of black fruit and oak, with an interesting almost silky texture, yet at the same time a rough form. 13.5% ABV. This wine should be aerated for a few hours and can age easily through 2018.
Kenny’s Rating: 16/20
MPA Rating: 10.3/20
Price: 22€ @ La Grande Epicerie du Bon Marché
MPA winos speak out…
Miki-Sa, “Meaty!, like Argentinean Churrasco, dark chocolate, tar, robust”
Roopa, “jammy, cherry, smokey, meaty, great bouquet, bitter and tart flavors”
Paul, “tanney, gravely”
Nadia, “red licorice”
2007 Rimauresq “Cru Classé”
Appellation: Côtes de Provence, Provence
Blend: grenache, cinsault, tibouren, mourvedre
Kenny’s Tasting Notes: Olive upfront that quickly dissipated, followed by strawberry, flowers and pronounced grassy aromas. This wine is light and bone dry with flavors of citrus fruit, raspberry, spice and bitter apple. It’s very linear and pale in form with a watery texture. 1,000 cases produced
Kenny’s Rating: 11/20 (WS 85)
MPA Rating: 9.5/20
Price: 11€55 @ La Grande Epicerie du Bon Marché
MPA winos speak out…
Miki-Sa, “Freisia, too watery”
Roopa, “clothes drying in the sun, cough syrup”
Maxi, “almond, cider, bread”
Eric, “Candy Floss (cotton candy for the American readers), Kool Aid”
David, “Lavender, dump it in the pool”