Category Archives: Languedoc-Roussillon

April 2016 Pop-Up Wine Stall Berkshire

If you’ve ever been to one of my pop-up wine stalls, you will be familiar with just how blue a person’s lips can turn. For some reason, the weather is generally against me and I stand bearing the freezing cold, gales (no snow so far) and rain, purely for the love of wine.

If you’ve never been to one of my pop-up wine stalls and you live local to Maidenhead, love wine or just fancy coming to poke fun at the nutter in the earmuffs selling wine outdoors, please do come and find me. The usual format is me talking a lot about wine, a boot load of wine boxes and several wines open to taste, all under the protective cover of my pop-up stall (or as one kindly customer sneered “Pop-up? It’s a tent!”).

My last outing was at Fernygrove Farm in Hawthorn Hill, between Maidenhead and Bracknell back on a particularly freezing cold April Saturday (yes, Perfect Friday Wine can be drunk on a Saturday, or any day of the week). This was a new wine pop-up location for Perfect Friday Wine with a cafe, florist, farm shop and butcher to boot and I saw many of my lovely, loyal customers up there as well as meeting new ones!  I had a whole raft of wine open to taste and buy and had a great day – where there is other brilliant food, there is the desire for fabulous wine. Here’s a reminder of those on taste, all handpicked with springtime in mind.

Casa Silva Pinot NoirCasa Silva Pinot Noir Reserva
: One of the best value Pinot Noirs I’ve come across, the Casa Silva Reserva from Chile is a delight of cherry fruits, delicious and a lighter for the spring. I hadn’t tasted this vintage (2014)  since February myself and I was reminded as to just how fantastic a Pinot this is. I enjoyed the leftovers very much once I’d warmed up on the following Tuesday, when it was still drinking superbly.

 

Villa Blanche Grenache

Villa Blanche Grenache Rosè: Springtime sunshine marks rosè time! The delicate and delicious Villa Blanche Grenache is Languedoc in origin, Provençal in style, dry, pretty, peachy and great value. From the genius of Calmel and Joseph, this is just as good as their Villa Blanche Picpoul de Pinet and Syrah and went down a storm (likely because it was kept so blimin’ chilled) – definitely the  WINE OF THE DAY.

 

 

Bluebell Vineyard Blanc de Blancs

Bluebell Vineyard Estates Blanc de Blancs 2011: It’s Bluebell season, so this award winning Sussex fizz seemed fitting to open. Interestingly, this has been in the press twice since, firstly on Olly Smith’s recommendation on The Daily Mail Online and then ‘Food Matcher’ Fiona Beckett stating what ‘good value’ it is on theguardian.com. As I continue my championing of English Wine, it’s good to see it, the sparkling in particular, getting a louder ‘voice’.  This is a class or 5 above the cheap Prosecco that’s enjoyed so heartily in the UK – it’s Champagne method, Champagne grapes and excitingly, from our own fair shores – just don’t call it Champagne (Wine fact: did you know that Taittinger have bought land in Kent to begin planting vines? Even the French are on it).

 

calmeljosephlaruffe

Calmel and Joseph ‘Les Cuvèes Rare’ La Ruffe 2013: New to PFW this spring and lush, this saw its first outing back in March where I chilled myself  (and the wine) to the bone at my Emmett’s Farm Pop-Up in Little Marlow.  I must find a way to keep my reds warm enough so that by 2pm they’re not fridge cold. In the words of wine critic Tamlyn Currin, who rated La Ruffe a very high 17+ out of 20: “50% Carignan, 40% Syrah, 10% Cinsault. They didn’t want to pump the wine, so they had to carry it down with a pick-up truck. No filtration. Dark chocolate, peppermint, green herbs. Lots of black chocolate, lots of power, massive structure. Thick velvet-and-portcullis tannins with opulent fruit firmly behind bars at the moment, but it’s definitely there. Tightly bound. Very imposing. A sleeping dragon. Needs five to 10 years. Drink 2019-2026” Although I think it’s rather nice right now (agreed that it will only get better)! Full article on jancisrobinson.com.

So, there we have it.  April’s Wine Pop-Up summarised. Where can you find me next? After a while away, I’ll be bringing wine back to Maidenhead High Street on Sunday 8th May, joining the new street food market Eat on the High Street alongside a whole gang of other local food producers. Keep posted on my events page or better still, sign up sign up to the Perfect Friday Wine Newsletter to keep up to date with my whereabouts over summer 2016 and beyond.

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Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, English Wine, France, Home Counties, Languedoc-Roussillon, Maidenhead, South America, Uncategorized

Languedoc Wine Hotel, Chateau les Carrasses and Canal du Midi Wine Tasting

Now I’ve set the Saint-Chinian scene and explained a bit about the wines in my previous post, I’ll go on to tell you more about the beautiful and very tranquil region of Saint-Chinian and the fabulous Languedoc wine hotel we were so lucky to stay in.

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The view from the terrace at Chateau les Carrasses. The perfect base to explore Languedoc.

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Chateau les Carrasses

Bearing in mind that the school summer holidays were 2 whole months long and I’ve only just started to recover, to say the view from our first night’s accommodation,  the Chateau les Carrasses, brought a smile to my face, is a massive understatement. A little gem of a hotel, hidden away in the Saint-Chinian countryside, only 35km from Beziers Airport, I’m tempted to pop over every weekend. The Chateau les Carrasses is adult and child friendly, has a gorgeous pool with some jawdropping views. There is also an onsite restaurant and terrace and even bikes for all the family to borrow.

Being surrounded by vineyards, Chateau Les Carrasses also makes its own wine, a refreshingly chilled glass of which was gratefully received on the terrace on our arrival. Although those workers amongst us had a jam-packed itinery filled with wine tastings, visits to tasting rooms and sites touristiques du Saint-Chinian, regular guests who fancy being taken out into wine country beyond the adjacent vines, can get a feel for the locality on a Les Carrasses’ Wine Activity Day.

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Wine Tasting on the Canal du Midi

If you prefer to make your own way around, but aren’t sure where to start, there’s the Office du Tourisme du Canal Midi in local village Capestang, a short cycle ride away (although it’s uphill home). The office du tourisme is named after the ancient canal that runs right through the village, stretching to Toulouse in the west, straight across to the Mediterranean near Sete. The tourist office have a summer long schedule running regular wine tastings alongside the Canal du Midi, buddying up with local winemakers who are more than keen to share their wines with willing tasters.

You could also do as we did and grab a hire boat on the Canal du Midi, pick up some wine from the Office du Tourisme, and take a (self-driven) tasting actually ON the Canal itself.  This was undoubtedly the most peaceful wine tasting that I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience – I think I may have actually gone into a trance-like state as we pootled along the canal on a little boat, in the warm evening sun, tasting delicious local wine and produce from the surrounding Saint-Chinian area, to the sound of the breeze in the plane trees.

Saint-Chinian whites as I like them.

Saint-Chinian whites as I like them.

As mesmerised as I was, I did manage to stay awake and took lots of tasting notes before we headed back to the Chateau les Carrasses for dinner. Although most of the best wines in Saint-Chinian are red, the best of the whites can be very tasty indeed. Perhaps the most notable of the wines tasted being this Cuvee Bois Joli from Chateau Coujon, a Grenache Blanc and Rolle (better known as Vermentino) blend which had seen 6-8 months on oak. A crisp and citrussy white with pineapple flavours and a hint of dried coconut went particularly well alongside the tiny local olives known as ‘Lucques’.

After all that hard work, there was only one thing for it, to head back to the Chateau les Carrasses for a slap up dinner in their restaurant and of course, more wine tasting..

 

 

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Filed under France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Wine and Food Pairing, Wine Tasting, Wine Travel

Wine Love in Languedoc: Saint-Chinian AOC

The Languedoc-Roussillon wine region in Southern France remains the one that keeps calling me back, most recently, specificially Saint-Chinian AOC,  situated  around 60km east of Carcassone, 35km north of Narbonne. My first visit to the vineyards of Languedoc-Roussillon was  in May 2014, where I spent some time amongst the old Carignan vines of the rolling hills of Minervois with negociant Calmel and Joseph, tasting a comprehensive selection of some of the best Languedoc-Roussillon red wines around. I was back in January 2015, this time to charismatic Montpellier to visit Natural Wine Fest Milleseme Bio and meet some of Languedoc’s most enterprising independent wine producers ‘Les Outsiders‘.

Saint Chinian Map (credit from Saint-Chinian.pro)

Saint Chinian Map (credit from Saint-Chinian.pro)

But, this side of the summer, I was lucky enough to spend a few sunny days visiting many vineyards, meeting even more wine producers and tasting a vast amount of Saint-Chinian AOC wines all accompanied by my very lovely guide from the St Chinian tourist office, Nelly.

Saint-Chinian isn’t just one appellation, but three. The areas around the highly regarded and very picturesque villages of Roquebrun and Berlou, hold their own appellation statuses, Saint-Chinian Roquebrun AOC and Saint-Chinian Berlou AOC. Although the wines aren’t necessarily better than a straight Saint-Chinian AOC (most  is grown in similar ‘terroir’ and tastes just as good), the village named wines are guaranteed to come from high quality grapes grown on the sought after hilly, schisty, less fertile soils north of the river Vernazobre and the village of Saint-Chinian itself.

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One of many tasted prior to lunch.

I like a lot about these Saint-Chinian appellation wines. From a practical standpoint, I like that most actually have a back label, often so lacking in French wine, telling you what’s in the bottle.  It should tell you about grape varieties and, something to look out for, likely to mention the ‘schisty’ soil and ‘foothills’ or altitude, important factors distinguishing the AOC wines from the lower-quality, bulk, non-appellation wines of the flatter plains further south.

I like the blends. The whites are dry and tend to have a bit of body, some tropical fruitiness and some minerality. Tending to contain Viognier (the oakier ones are the best in my mind), Vermentino (or Rolle, as it is known locally), Rousanne and Marsanne, the main player is Grenache Blanc, which has to be at least 30% of the blend.

Like most AOC Languedoc wines, nine out of ten Saint-Chinian AOC wines are however red wines, blended from Carignan (often old vine, low yield – of which I am particularly partial to), Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, and must contain 70% of the latter three. More Mourvedre makes for a heavier wine, Syrah brings spice, Grenache; juiciness. More Carignan tends to produce, a very palatable, more medium bodied, lower tannin, versatile wine which works well without food (just like the Calmel and Joseph Saint-Chinian).

But just as importantly, I like the personality and charm of these wines and that the vast majority of the wine producers, whether they are negociants, co-ops or independent, really seem to care about the wines. They care about the vines in the vineyard and the fact that the grapes take on flavour characteristics of the ‘garrigue’ of lavender, bay, thyme, rosemary situated amongst the vines. Many wines are ‘organic’, even if they are not formally labelled that way with many winemakers choosing not to bother with the cost or faff of registration, concentrating of the actual wine rather than paperwork.  Most care about how and when the grapes are harvested, the way the wine is fermented, blended and aged. This is pure and precise wine making without pretension but from a passion and love of wine, very much in harmony with the beautiful region that they are made in.

Not only are these producers making some of the best wine from Languedoc-Roussillon, whilst Saint-Chinian remains relatively unknown, these wines are relatively inexpensive compared to some of their better known French relatives therefore offer real value, although that that may not remain the case for long!

Feel the love!

Le Caroux protects Saint-Chinian from northerly winds and resembles a lady lying down, cast in stone.

Le Caroux protects Saint-Chinian from northerly winds and resembles a lady lying down, cast in stone.

* An appellation is the French term for a designated wine producing area whose wine meets a certain number of criterior e.g. yield, grape varieties, blend. AOC stands for ‘Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée’ or Controlled name of Origin.

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Move over Corbieres, step in Faugeres…

photo (4)Please do come and visit Perfect Friday Wine this Saturday 5th April (not March as I’d previously stated in an email communication!) on Maidenhead High Street. The first Saturday of the month is always bustling with most of the usual traders down there, so come and support your local market! Bring a copy of my latest article in local freebie magazine, ‘Life Etc’, to receive 5% off any purchase. The article can also be viewed on pg38 here if you’ve already ‘filed’ yours in the recycling bin, I will be testing you to check that you’ve read it. 🙂
If you can’t get down, I am currently taking orders for delivery on Friday 4th April – don’t forget FREE local delivery to Maidenhead. Please note that as of Sunday, 4 of the wines* will be increasing in price, so get your orders to me by Saturday to take advantage of today’s prices. To soften the blow, any order of 6 or more bottles (was 12) will now attract a 5% discount.
 So you can try before you buy, I will have the following 3 wines open for tasting  this coming Saturday;
  • faugeres2-360x1335 Calmel and Joseph ‘Les Terroirs’ Faugeres 2012 *NEW AND IN STOCK* £10.50 I have decided to not stock the Corbieres (2 bottles are still up for grabs) over summer, but in its place steps the structured and almost minty, Faugeres, also from Languedoc in France. A similar blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan to the versatile St.Chinian but TOTALLY different reflecting the difference in where the vines are grown (the terroir). This one is wilder and more rigid with some fabulous meaty tannins and a big punch of ripe plums. If you’ve ever seen the term ‘garrigue’ mentioned in a tasting note, this has that exact sentiment of lavender, rosemary and a hint of eucalyptus. Great with barbecued minted lamb chops or my favourite Spag Bol.
  • Villa Blanche Grenache Gris Rosé  (Languedoc, France) Dry, delicate with raspberry fruit, welcome acidity and a lingering finish. *NOW IN STOCK* £8.50 (rising to £9 on 6th April, as will the other Villa Blanche wines). Another chance to try my much anticipated Rosé now it’s actually here.
  • Calmel and Joseph Languedoc White *NOT YET AVAILABLE, FEEDBACK REQUESTED* I’ve been looking for a Marsanne/ Rousanne blend for a while and then as if to read my mind, my trusty Calmel and Joseph release the very same! I am very excited to taste this typical white Rhone blend and would love to hear my customer’s thoughts before I add it to the wine list (£10-10.50). If it’s no good (which I doubt), I’ll be opening my new Comenge Verdejo 2012 instead.
Since Bank Holiday season, will shortly be upon us, I have added some new Spring wines by the case, one ‘Summer’s Coming 6’ (£61.75) inspired by my husband’s recent order (yup, that’s right, I make him pay 🙂 ), the other ‘Spring Forward 6’ (£62.70) by my most popular wines sold in March, so if you need inspiration for a case, these are designed to help.
 
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support of a new and local independent business. I put a lot of thought into reviewing the wine list and finding interesting and exciting, well-priced wines to add to the portfolio and continue  to aim to introduce you to wines that make a change to the usual Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc and Aussie Shiraz. I welcome your feedback too, so drop me a line and tell me what you’d like to see next. Do please get involved on Facebook too, I love to hear what you’ve been drinking!
*Although I’ve kept the Villa Blanche and Pierre Paillard wines priced lower than the RRP for as long as I can, Mr Osborne’s latest duty increase has tipped me over the point of no return and price increases will be in place as of Sunday 6th April. Villa Blanche wines will be increased to the RRP of £9, the champagne will increase to £28. I have been searching high and low for a new sub £9 range but am yet to find one worthy of PFW. Orders taken before Sunday and delivered by 12th April will take advantage of today’s prices.

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Filed under France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Maidenhead, Uncategorized, Wine and Food Pairing, Wine Tasting