Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Outsiders Tasting Part 2

For an introduction to the Outsiders tasting do read Part 1.

I’d heard and read good things about Domaine Cébène so this was a first taste. All three (Ex Arena 2008, Les Bancèls 2009 and Felgara 2009) managed to combine garrigue flavours of the south with fresh, ripe concentrated – but not baked or too spicy – fruit. The Ex Arena, from vineyards just north of Béziers, showed the most pepper and savoury garrigue herb character. Les Bancèls and Felgaria is grown on schist in the heart of Faugeres. Les Bancèls had intense but structured black fruits with wild flowers. The Mouvèdre dominated Felgaria was much headier and meaty, even iron, and needs time to integrate. The big clue was savouring the flavours that lingered in the empty glass of all three wines – while dangerously attractive now they will keep. Brigitte Chevalier has been making wine for others for some time and the wines show a much more advanced state of work in progress than most new domains.

O’Vineyards must be as well known for Ryan O’Connell and his extrovert Languedoc wine videos as it is for wine. Being near Carcassonne the Mediterranean influence is relatively feeble which is why Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are more suited. One word that summarises the three 2005s, their first full vintage, is oomph – but these wines are certainly not out of control and are not trying to be Bordeaux. O’Syrah 2005 is nice and chewy and I got pine, mint and dried plums. Trah Lah Lah 2005 (Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) had spice and plenty of classic Merlot fruit cake and plum. Proprietor’s Reserve 2005 (Syrah with Merlot and Cabernet) combines the elements of the first two but racks up the fruit concentration while keeping everything in balance – it will go on for years.

The smallest domaine on show is Katie’s 2.7 ha (but soon to expand) Domaine Jones. Having worked with wine in the area (Corbières) for 16 years Katie is perhaps less of an outsider than most. Jones Blanc 2009 (Grenache Gris) lovely clean white flowers with citrus and a nuttiness from the lees. Jones Rouge 2009 (Grenache) rowanberry, sweet heathers, fennel juices, delicious mouth coating tannins. Great to have a pure Grenache for the area that doesn’t taste like a Maury.

Chateau d’Anglès is sited in La Clape among hills right by the Mediterranean. The Classique Rouge 2007 (Syrah, Mouvèdre and Grenache) was what the French coin gourmandise, moreish with quite sweet lush ripe fruit and some liquorice. The Grand Vin Rouge 2007 (Syrah, Mouvèdre, Grenache and Carignan) had some cool supple fine tannins but seemed more international than Languedoc in style. I found the two whites were not for me – a bit flat and lacking zip.

Domaine Hegarty Chamans lies in the Minervois and has been established since 2002. Les Chamans Blanc 2008 (Marsanne and Roussanne) was both creamy and crisp. Cuvee No.2 2008 (mainly Grenache with Mouvèdre and Cinsault) was my pick of the reds – sweet, earthy, black cherry with some nice dry tannins and worth stashing away for a couple of years.

Mas des Dames is north of Béziers where Lidewij van Wilgen has been making wines since 2002. Unusually for November in London she was showing a Rosé which leaned more towards a firm food style nose with an attractive strawberry palate and long finish - really nice. The Blanc 2009 seemed closed and quite hard to taste, perhaps it had been recently bottled, unfortunate as the anticipation of a pure Grenache Blanc excited me. La Dame (Grenache, Syrah and Carignan – I didn’t note the vintage) was smooth with soft quite sweet fruits and black cherry, although too heady and four square for my taste.

A wonderful tasting and full of variety. Fingers crossed it becomes and annual event.


  1. An annual event? Now there's an idea! Thanks, Graham!

  2. Graham - I may have told you when we dined last Wednesday that, when the event had finished, I took with me the two-thirds-full bottles of that trio of 2009 Domaine Cébene wines. My palate was fatigued for a couple of days afterwards, and it wasn't until the last couple of evenings that I finally got around to tasting them - a full 4 or 5 days after they had been opened. Having tasted the 08's last year in a similar fashion (i.e. over the course of several days after opening) I shouldn't really have been surprised to find that the 09's were still singing - in fact even better than on the day of the tasting. I know of a few other wines that can do this, but not many.

    I noted at the tasting last week that I could actually smell the wines as Brigitte was pouring them for someone else, and I was standing several feet away - the aromas positively leap out of the glass!

    I do of course have a certain bias, where Brigitte's wines are concerned, but I think she has a real talent (and some pretty special terroir, of course) and is going to be a star. The 2008's were brilliant, but those 2009's are nothing short of spectacular, in my opinion. As it happens, I will be posting some in-depth notes on my blog in a couple of days (after parts 3 and 4 of my own Outsiders write-up).

    Nice notes on all the wines, by the way!

  3. Glad we finally got to meet in person! As cool as the Internet gets, we still can't taste wine in chat rooms. :D