the good and the great

One of the endearing features of tasting wines in situ is discovering the range of wines produced.  Most areas will have a wine style that they do really well, occasionally outstandingly. But alongside those wines will be competent wines, sometimes from local grape varieties, sometimes from the well travelled international brigade.  The Tuscan white Vermentino would be a good example of competence and local interest.  It’s normally not as good as the great reds of Tuscany, there might be better Vermentino in Sardinia, but it still well worth it.

Dinner with friends who have a house in Roussillon was an excellent second best to tasting in situ.   Five wines, four from the locality, give a snapshot of the lively Roussillon wine scene and fill out the picture gained by the visit of Jean Pla from Maury last autumn.  The first two were a fun rosé sparkler and an interesting white, a Maccabeu-Viognier blend – try saying that clearly after a few glasses!   I shan’t write up these two in detail as they will figure in Andover Wine Friends’ summer tasting/party in July … watch this space!

Brief digression – in the picture we have a lively Welsh wine, sourced by star wine restaurant,IMG_0173   The Harrow Inn, as part of  a summer menu. This is Ancre Hill’s Welsh Regional Wine (mainly Madeleine Angevin), initially leafy like Sauvignon Blanc but then quite complex fruit  on the palate and a good finish.  Well worth a try.  If not ‘great’, certainly ‘good plus’ and proof there is life in the British wine scene.

To return to Roussillon, the star wines are undoubtedly red, in both dry and sweet styles.  Typical of the quality and value is this Corbieres,IMG_0178 Domaine du Grand Arc, Aux Temps d’histoire 2008, mostly the Carignan grape.  On the nose is deep red fruit with a pleasant layer of oak, then substantial structure on the palate, balance, great depth of ripe fruit with a refreshing and long finish.  It’s a perfect example of what the area does really well and at 12 euro.  

Second digression: with the cheese course we tasted the  characteristic wine of the Jura, far away on the Swiss border of IMG_0179France.   Les Coteaux de Val de Marne, Côtes de Jura 2008, is made from the indigenous grape, Savignin.  This bottle was a normal table wine though the wines from semi-dried grapes are perhaps more famous.  With its bright if pale yellow colour and intense apple aroma, this went perfectly with the local cheese, Comté, quite light in weight but with good acidity. I like the home made label. 

Finally, to return to Roussillon, and to perhaps its most famous wine, sweet red Banyuls.  If you are setting a challenge for food and wine matching, IMG_0182chocolate and chilli pots are pretty much up there with asparagus or raw artichokes in difficulty. But Maury’s big, sweet, structured red is where to head.  A vin doux naturel, ie with added spirit, gives a heady 17˚ of alcohol.   You can just see the legs on the glass in the photo with all that extract and alcohol.   This was the vinous climax and after a splendid evening, we left the car at our host’s house and walked home. 

Thanks to Paul (whose rack of lamb with a lemon and nut crust is not to be missed!) and Penny for their splendid hospitality. 

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