Small is beautiful

Andover Wine Friends’ monthly tasting featured wines from small French appellations and provided a tour of the south of France with a stop-off in Corsica.  Led by Lefty Wright (picture in second box below), it showed what quality there is outside of the well known areas – if you can source these small production bottles, here provided by Yapp Brothers. 

First up was rather a classy wine, AC Cassis, Clos St Magdeleine 2009.  Cassis itself is an old fishing port, now tourist resort, with the AC having 180 hectares of vineyard. Made from Marsanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Ugni Blanc, this wine had a good lemon richness on the nose, citrus and ripe fruit on palate with an interesting toffee note (as though it had been in old wood which apparently it hadn’t) and good length.  Structured and substantial it would be good with all sorts of food.   
IMG_2661 No photo of Dom. Saparale’s Corse Sartene, 2010 which may have been a Freudian slip as this was the dis-appointment of the evening.  Almost water white, this Corsican Vermentino comes from the south of the island and an altitude of 300m which should make for quality.  Quite a marked nose but only herbaceous and pear drop notes, missing the lemon fruit which characterises good Vermentino from here and other Mediterranean shores.  Those who had had this wine before said it was not a typical bottle. 
By contrast this wine was one of the stars of the evening, living up to its top reputation.  La Berne, AC Condrieu 2003 comes from the home of the Viognier grape, which is now grown around the world, in the northern Rhône.  It shone with its rich, honeyed and peach nose with some fine wood notes, classic satin texture and, surprisingly for a very hot year, a good sharp edge of lemon and grapefruit acidity. Very intense, full of elegant fruit, just very good.  Thanks to Lefty for sharing this from his cellar.  IMG_2675
IMG_2672 Moving much further south west into Basque country (the last AC in France), this wine is a Pyrenean version of a Bordeaux blend: AC Irouleguy 2007, Dom. Ilarria, made from 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Franc and just 20% Tannat.  Fresh and dried red and black notes on nose and palate, fine perfumed bouquet, medium weight, good tannic structure but perfectly drinkable, medium length.  The domaine works just six hectares of vines. 
As there seems to be quite a lot of Cornas about, it comes as a surprise that there is only 110 hectares of vines, 13.5 of which belong to Dom. Lionnet: Terre Brulée, AC Cornas 2005.  And the refinement of the wine was also unusual, as normally Cornas comes in a rustic style.  Perfumed with violet and red fruit notes, slightly meaty edge on the palate but with very good depth of flavour, not obviously peppery.  We agreed that this was an excellent wine and most thought that we might not have spotted the northern Rhône Syrah in a blind tasting. thanks again to Lefty for this bottle from his cellar. IMG_2678
IMG_2679 With nearly 1,000 hectares of vines it was stretching a point to include Bandol in this tasting – but it made the cut on the (good) grounds that Lefty likes it.  And it is another old fishing port which has made its distinctive name in the world of wine.  Powerful aromas of red fruit and blackberries, plus herby garrigue aromas, in an excellent example of a very good if rustic wine.  55% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache, 20% Cinsault and 5% Syrah make up the blend for Mas de la Rouvière, Bandol 2007. 
Back to the genuinely small, Bellet is an appellation with 15 producers which is under threat from being built over as it is now in effect a suburb of Nice.  The blend here is the very local Braquet (now not thought to be a relative of the aromatic Brachetto in NW Italy), Folle Noir and Grenache – so that you can recognise one grape variety.  Dom. de la Source, Dalmasso, AC Bellet, 2006.  Strongly farmyard aromas to begin with, then good red fruit, a fine and structured wine without being heavy this far South, good acidity and length. IMG_2680
IMG_2682 Ch. Simon is the big player in AC Palette, near Aix-en-Provence, as it has 16 of the AC’s total of 35 hectares.  The wine here is made from 45% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault and 20% of other red grapes which includes some Syrah.  Ch. Simone, AC Palette 2007 is matured in a slightly unusual way: eight months in small casks and then a year in more conventional barriques. Vanilla and red fruit on the nose, refined palate, moderately fine tannins and all round a very classy wine.  A very suitable climax to an intriguing tour of southern France’s small treasures.
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One Response to “Small is beautiful”

  • Lefty:

    We thought that we would drink up the second bottle of the Domaine Saparale last night, as it was not that good. This bottle was betterwith less pear-drop character and a bit more body. Still not great, but we obviously opened the wrong bottle on monday.

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