Provence Cabernet – Château Vignelaure 2006

Next week a small but quite interesteing bunch of wines are to be released here in Sweden. And among them a one from the estate that was the first to plant cabernet sauvignon in Provence – Château Vignelaure.

The original cuttings were taken from Château La Lagune in Bordeaux/Médoc by the former owner Georges Brunet in the 1960s. Today the estate covers around 60 hectars of vine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Grenache) in AC Coteaux d’Aix en Provence and since 2007 it is owned by swedish/danish couple Bengt and Mette Sundström. The winemaker is Philippe Bru.

The Château Vignelaure 2006 is a blend of 70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Syrah and 5 percent Grenache. The wine has been aged in french (95 percent) and american (5 percent) oak for 14 months. And it is a beautiful combination of power and balance.

Dark blueish-red in colour. Young slightly closed and perfumed aromas of dark berries, farm yard and herbs on the nose. Medium bodied and concentrated taste of dark berries (black berries and black currants), garrigues, and spices. Still young with quite pronounced tannins and elements of black peppar and tobacco. Quite firm but long and balanced finish. Great now – but will be even better with some more bottle age!


Wonders of Tuscany – Tenuta di Valgiano

Have you ever heard of Colline Lucchesi? No!? You are not alone! The vineyards on the hills of the small town Lucca in the norh-west of Tuscany may not be one of the most well known wine districts in Italy – but there are some truly amazing wines coming out of the DOC.

I recently tasted my first wine from Tenuta di Valgiano – an estate with 16 ha under vine that are run by Moreno Pietrini and Laura di Collobaino. The production is certified biodynamique and all wines are made in what they describe as a traditional way to reflect the terroir with a minimum of technological intervention.

In the cellar that means among other things a gravity-fed winery where fermentation takes place in small wooden vats with daily plunging. Maceration times can be anything between 6 and 18 days depending on which grapes we are talking about and where they have grown. The malo and maturation is done in french barriques (20 percent new oak) for 12 to 15 months and sulphur dioxide is used sparingly.

The Tenuta di Valgiano 2007 is a stunning wine – one of the best “supertuscans” or blends of indigenous and french varietys that I have tasted in a while. Gambero Rosso’s monumental guide to Italian Wines 2011 is equally impressed and writes:

“it’s breathtakingly authenticity and natural, tumultuous development. It is so rythmic and vibrant with endless flavour that it is simply not possible to describe in mere tasting notes”.

And I agree! The 2007 Tenuta di Valgiano is a blend of 60 percent sangiovese and 20 percent each of syrah and merlot. And it is an awesome power pack of dark berries, game, farm yard, spices, chocolate and oak. Complex and concentrated and yet well balanced with nuanced mineral flavours. It should develop wonderfully over the next 10 years or so.

Spanish new wave – Dominio de Valdepusa’s Caliza

Marqués de Grinñons estate Dominio de Valdepusa in La Mancha has been one of the pioneers of the Spanish winerevolution for almost 30 years. At a time when everything was about Rioja and the area in and around La Mancha was known for more or less underinkable bulk-wines – Valdepusa was a beacon in the dark.

I first encountered the wines in the mid 90s. First up was the magnificent cabernet sauvignon and then a few years later the monumental syrah. And they completely knocked me to the ground. This was something quite different from the bland and tired La Mancha-wines that I had tasted up to that moment. Marqués de Griñons wines had power, structure and balance. They were modern wines for modern consumers – and for me personally they showed that Spain had a potential that lay far beyond Rioja.

At the time the wines were labeled as Marqués de Griñon – but since the early 2000s they are bottled under the estae namn Dominio de Valdepusa. The man behind it all the Marquis Carlos Falcó was educated in agriculture in the U.S. at the University of California, Davis, and then seeked help of Alexis Lichine (wine writer and the owner of Bordeauxchâteaus Château Priuré-Lichine and Château Lascombes) and Professor Émile Peynaud (the forerunner and father of modern wine-making). He was advised by Peynaud to plant French vine varietys and were assisted by Lichine in the marketing and distribution of his wines.

Since the property was outside the more famous wine districts the Marquis could experiment with foreign grape varieties, pruning and irrigation (drip irrigation) – something which otherwise was prohibited by the Spanish wine law at the time. And history proved him and his contemporary collegues in both Spain and Italy right (where winemakers de-classified their best wines into “table wines” – Vino da Tavola – to make the best wines as possible).

Today Dominio Valdepusa is a “pago” – a vineyard with its own designation/denominación – even if the estate could bottle their wines under the DO Méntrida (official website for DO Méntrida found here!) The Pago-denominacion was introduced by the regional government of Castilla-La Mancha in 2000 and fully incorparated in to the Spanish wine law in 2003.

A Vino de Pago has to be a vineyard with the “highest international reputation” but do not necessarily have to belong to any official district (DO – Denominación de Origen). But the estate must use their own grapes in the production. Dominio de Valdepusa was, together with Pago Finca Elez (Manuel Manzaneques estate also makes an awesome syrah!), the first vineyard which was awarded the new designation.

Dominio de Valdepusa currently consists of 3000 hectares, of which 42 ha are under vines. Caliza is one of the property’s simpler/earlier drinking wines and has received its name from the limestone, “caliza”, which forms the the underlayer of Dominio de Valdepusas vineyards. The wine is a blend of 65 percent syrah and 35 percent Petit Verdot – ie. a wild blend of Rhone and Bordeaux if you like! The grapes are hand harvested and then gets a long maceration for up to 4-5 weeks. After fermentation the wine is aged for 10 months on new or semi-new barrels of French Allier-oak.

All this has has resulted in a wine with a dense dark purple color. The wine is quite expressive on the nose with lots of dark berries, herbs (mint, sage), chocolate and toasted oak. I find elements of both blackberries and black currants. The taste is medium-bodied to full bodied with a round, mellow and fruity flavor of blackberry, black currant, plum, toasted oak and herbs. There are quite firm acids and tannins but they are all wrapped in soft fruit and flavors of dark chocolate. And the finish is long and well balanced.

The wine is not available in Sweden. I bought it on the ferry to Helsinki for around €9-10! I wish I had bought more! But it is also available here!


Marquise de la Tourette 2000 – Marvellous Hermitage

Hermitage in northern Rhône truly is one of the worlds great reds. The benchmark for all other syrah/shiraz mono-varietals. And as supply is limited and prices high I do not drink it nearly as often as I would like to.

It is also a wine that really benefits from a few years bottle age. The syrah-grape in Rhône can be painfully harsh and rustic in it’s youth needing a bit of time for the acids and tannins to mellow and the elements to settle down in their right places. The result – a complex and concentrated wine where dark berries meets cured meat, liquorice, leather, violets and spices.

Delas Marquise de la Tourette must be one of the most affordable Hermitage-wines on the market. It is 100 percent Syrah (the AOC allows up to 15 percent of the white grapes Rousanne and Marsanne to be includede – but they seldom are) and made in a traditional way. Yields are around 40 hl/ha and the grapes are off course hand picked. Fermentation takes place in open cement tanks. The malo is done in oak (french barriques 10 percent new).

The 2000 vintage was one of the first I tasted from Marquise de la Tourette. And luckily I bought a few bottles back then. It might not the most concentrated of norhtern Rhône vintages – but produced some really fruity supple wines. Recently I opened one of the last bottles and it was marvellous. At it’s peak – but it can probably take another 5 years in bottle.

The colour was dense ruby going towards brick. The nose slightly closed to begin with. Then after a few minutes in the glass it opened up with notes of dark berries (black berries), black pepper, salmiak, smoke and cured meats. Lots of spices and a bit reminiscent of cough suryp (in a god way – think liquorice and herbs). The taste was medium bodied, quite concentrated with violets, tar, smoked cured meat, leather and dark berries. Again – lots of herbs and black pepper. The finish – long, complex and well balanced.


3 x Montirius – Gotta love Grenache

I probably don’t need to tell you that the vintages 2007 and 2009 in Southern Rhône are hyped as two of the great ones. The jury is still out on which is the better – and I for myself haven’t really made up my mind. And actually, I couldn’t bother, because I enjoy both and the wines are really faboulous!

My first blogpost here in Ericsson Uncorked was about Montirius Vacqueyras Les Clos – and now in june I have had the opportunity to try three more wines from this producer in Southern Rhône.

The vinyards are certified organic and biodynamic – and although I am a real sceptic when it comes to biodynamism (but I love organic farming!) – the wines are just awesome. And they are a great example of the potential of Grenache and Grenache dominated blends.

Montirius Garrigues 2009 France, Vacqueyras (circa €18)
70 percent Grenache and 30 percent Syrah from 24 hectars that consists of 12 parcels of land. Average age of the vines is 55 years old and the yield was 31 hl/ha. Total destemming and no oak is used in this wine. Production: 70 000 bottles.

Dark bluered colour. A bit closed on the nose with elements of red berries, farmyard and game. Medium to full bodied on the palate with spicy concentrated flavours of red berries, herbs, leather, tobacco and medium raw meat! A slight alcoholic burn, good acids/tannins and a great length in the mout. A bit funky – but a great wine with layers upon layers with good fruit. Drinking well now but can be aged another 3-10 years (depending on your preferences). 4->4,5/5 points

Montirius Terre des Aînés 2009 (99149) France, Gigondas (circa €25)
16 hectares from 3 parcels planted with Grenache (80%) and Mourvèdre (20%) of which 12 hectares are very old vines which date from 1925. Yield is also on 31 hl/ha. The grapes were destemmed before vinification – and the wine is “oak-free” as they state it on their homepage. 75 000 bottles produced.

Dark orange colour. Also a bit closed on the nose with hints of fudge, herbs and minerals. Medium to full bodied and loaded with dark and red berries and elements of herbs, meat, leater and minerals. No oak – but it stillgot a smoky-fudge-kinda complex taste. Great acids/tannins – feels young. Drink 2013-2020. 4,5/5 points

Montirius Confidentiel 2007 France, Gigondas (circa €33)
This is MonTirius top Gigondas and comes from a micro-terroir of 1.5 hectares situated in our 10 hectares Gigondas parcel in the ” La Tour” area. It’s a blend of 80 percent Grenache and 20 percent Mourvèdre and the yield is 30 hl/ha. Total destemming and vinification in concrete vats. Output is just 4000 bottles.

Deep dark red colour. Young closed nose with freshly roasted coffee (again – no oak!), dark/red berries and mineral/earthy notes. Full bodied, superconcentrated taste of spices/herbs, red berries, leahter, dried fruits and coffee. Massive tannins and acids (it’s young!) that are carried (and are enveloped) by such lucious fruit. Looong finish! Great now but will keep up to 10 years. 4.5->5/5 points


Saint Jean du Barroux – new and old!

Phlippe Gimel is a new kind of winemaker. The kind that do not hesitate to go to a remote village in the south of Sweden to spread the gospel and talk about his passion and entusiasm for his wines.

This is a far cry from how it used to be in France. In some parts it is still hard to get producers to talk about what they are doing or at least to get a straight answer about their winemaking practices. And it is even harder to get them to spell it out on consumerfriendly back labels. But that attitude is changing and new generations come to the business with a whole new take on how to interact with their consumers (think not only “winemakers dinners” but also the web, social media and tools like facebook and twitter).

What the change comes down to is of course a genuine passion and an interest in what the they – the new breed – are doing and also sharing and communicationg that passion with the consumer. And it was that kind of passion that took Philippe to Klippan and Bjärhus Gårdsbutik – a good forsaken place in the middle of nowhere and with a population of just 7000 people – a couple of weeks ago.

This was the second time around in Klippan for Philippe and I and the other visitors got a chance to sample the latest wines from his estate Saint Jean du Barroux.

Saint Jean du Barroux is situated 300-400 meters up on the slopes of Mount Ventoux in AC Ventoux with Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Beaumes-de-Venice just a stones throw away. Philippe got 14,5 hectars (a total of 16.5 ha) under vine and farm the vineyards organically.

I’ve written quite a lot about SJB in my swedish blog Uppkorkat – and if you understand swedish you can read some of it here:

En kultvinmakare i Klippan

SJB – En hyllning till blandningen

SJBs två nykomlingar

2003 was the first vintage for Philippe. New this year was a rosé and an experimental Micro Climate. We also got to taste new vintages of La Source and L’Argile – and rediscover the awesome La Pierre Noire 2006!

SJB La Montagne 2008
This is the second vintage of SJBs white wine that I taste. It is a blend of grenache blanc, bourboulenc and clairette and is of course hand picked (like all grapes on SJB) with a yield of just 25 hl/ha. Three quarters was vinified in tanks and the remaining part in oak. Last vintage (2007) of this wine was a broad, spicy and fruity wine with tropical fruit flavours. This vintage feels fresher and more acidic.

Yellow colour. Smells of citrusflowers, lime, mint, grape and minerals. Fresh concentrated taste of flowers, lime, bees wax, honey and herbs. Hints of grape, minerals and with a long finish. Drink now or within five years.

SJB La Rosé 2010
Philippe has tried to make a rosé for the past few years – but the maturity of the grapes in combination with the cool autumn and winter climate on the slopes of Mount Ventoux has meant trouble! He just could not get the juice to finish fermentation in time for early enough bottling for the summer season. But this year he did it. 1400 liters of grenache and just 60 liters of cinsault has gone into the cuvée – and that means just 1388 bottles. The wine got an almost incredible ph for a rosé – ph 3.05 – which is more like a german riesling than a southern rosé. And you feel it on the palate. Normally a rosé is done for early and immediate consumption – but this wine could probably be aged for another 3-10 years!

Pale pink colour and a fresh ligthly perfumed nose filled with citrus, lime, red berries (strawberries), dried fruits and fudge. The taste is very fresh and with great acidity and with a concentrated chalky mineral quality on the palate. I find notes of strawberries, citrus and fudge and the aftertaste is long, clean and refreshing.

SJB La Source 2008
This wine used to be called No 4 or “the danish cuvée” – now it takes its name from on a spring well on the premises. La Source is Philippes “entry level” wine – and in this case that means a wine for more early consumption (3-5 years after vintage – but it will probably last longer than that).
La Source is a mix of grenache, carignan, and cinsault. Average yield is around 30 hl/ha. All stems were removed prior to a 7 days maceration period. After fermentation the wine spent 2,5 years on tanks and the wine it was bottled on february 18th 2011.

Red colour. A bit closed on the nose with dark berries, fudge, herbs and farmyard notes. Medium bodied and conentrated taste of dark berries, chocolate, herbs and tobacco. Quite firm tannins that are well integrated in sweet luscious fruit and a long finish. It definetely feels more “ready” and a bit more fruitdriven than the 2006 I tasted a year ago!

SJB l’Argile 2006
If you ask me – this is the quintessential SJB-wine. A great vin de garde with great depth and concentration that is still quite affordable! It used to be called Oligocène but has (as has all SJB cuvées) recently changed it name to l’Argile – a name derived from the water retaining claybased soil in which the vines grow.
The cuvée consists of grenache, syrah, carignan and cinsault that were destemmed to 75 procent and the juice was left on the skins for 12 days. Average yield is down to 20 hl/ha for l’Argile and fermentation and ageing has been done in concrete or enameled tanks. I’ve tasted the 2004 and 2005 vintages earlier – and 2006 is at least as good as those two!

Dark red colour. Spicy and developed nose with dark berries, herbs/garrigues, fudge, minerals, tobacco and chocolate. A bit “hot and dusty” (a tell tale sign of grenache!). Medium to full bodied with a tannic, concentrated taste of dark berries, dried fruits, herbs de provence and chocolate. Rather tough tannins but yet again enveloped by sweet fruit flavours. Superb length and an intriguing aftertaste of spices and black pepper! Age for 3-15 years!

SJB Micro Climat 2009
This wine is made of in principal 100 percent grenache from a parcel of wine that showed exceptional maturity in 2009. The grapes were harvested mid october and even though they had what Philippe calls “crazy maturity” (larger berries with more sugar) – they were not as concentrated as those use for the prestigecuvée La Pierre Noire. The grapes from this parcel were vinified seperately and when some friends of Philippe told him that they thought that he should bottle it as a special cuvée – he thought “why not?”. “I think that this i crazy – but everyone seems to love the wine”, says Phlippe. And it is an extreme wine with 16-17 percent alcohol.

Red colour. Hints of maceration carbonique? but also red berries, raisins, figs and dates. And definitely those “hot and dusty” tell tale signs of grenache. The palate is full bodied and almost sweet with a concentrated taste of red berries, herbs, black pepper, leather and dried fruits. The finish is long and with just a hint of alcoholic burn. Interesting and drinkable! Drink now!

SJB La Pierre Noire 2006
SJB no 5 has become La Pierre Noire – and it is a wine that wine critics all over the world are beginning to hail (the wine has received 94 points from Robert Parker). 85 percent grenache and 15 percent syrah were harvested on the 8th of september and with a yield of 15hl/ha. Only 25 percent of the grapes were destemmed and the wine got 18 days of skinmaceration. This is Philippes prestige cuvée and it is a wine that can easilu be cellared for 10-20 years. “My grenache is darker an more tannic than my syrah”, says Philippe – and La Pierre Noire is an excellent example of just how god grenache can be!

Dark red colour. Big and complex smell of dark berries, herbs de provence, fudge, chocolate, tobacco and leather. Full-bodied superconcentrated taste of dark berries, herbs de provence, tobacco, chocolate and leather. Quiet firm but well integrated acids/tannins that is carried by lucious fruit and a well balanced minerality. Long complex aftertaste!


Saint Jean du Barroux – southern France rules!

Philippe Gimel is such a great guy and he makes such great wines. No wonder that the world is beginning to take notice. Great Parker points will probably do the trick but there is much more to his wines than power.

Okey – I must confess that I am a sucker for the wines of southern France. And if you say “grenache” I’m game! This is probably one of the worlds most underrated grapes capable of both great complexity and power (think Châteauneuf-du-Pape!). It’s not as easy to fall in love with as say a great cabernet or a syrah/shiraz – but gifted winemakers and their best grenache wines are now setting new standards all over the world. Even in Rioja are winemakers starting to re-evaluate this once so neglected and unfashionable grape.

I first came across Philippes fantastic greanche blends a year ago in the outskirts of the god forsaken town of Klippan in the north west of Swedens most southernly region – Skane (or Skåne as we call it!).

He has worked for both Château Beaucastel and Domaine de la Janesse – two Châteaneuf-du-Pape icons and when he finally found his dream vineyard it was in nearby Ventoux. Saint Jean du Barroux is located in the South of France, Provence, on the slopes of Mount Ventoux (300-400 meters above sea level). And it is sandwiched between the more known Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Beaumes-de-Venise. And it is only 25 kilometers to Châteauneuf-du-pape!

His first vintage was in 2003 and he now got a handfull of wines going – all organically farmed. The wines recently changed names and the flagship Saint Jean du Barroux No 5 became La Pierre Noire and the wonderful Oligocéne was renamned l’Argile.

I’ve written quite a lot about the wines in my swedish blog and a few days back I opened another bottle Oligocéne 2005 just for the fun of it! And yeah – it is developing nicely!

SJB Oligocéne 2005
75 percent grenache, 15 percent syrah and 5 percent each of cinsault and carignan. Low yields of 20 hl/ha and 12 days of skincontact/maceration. 1,5 years elevage in cement tanks before bottling.

Dark blueish red colour.
Big opulent nose with dark and red berries (blackberries and strawberries), liquorice, smoke/fudge, herbs the Provence and leather. Notes of tobacco and meat.
Medium to full bodied and concentrated taste of dark berries, chocolate, meat, dried fruits and herbs. After some time in the glass – more red berries, nuts, fudge, dried fruits and liquorice. Long and complex aftertaste. Still quite firm tannins. This wine will continue to develop and evolve for som time!