|Recently Yapp sent me a selection of wines from their portfolio representing French regions other than the Rhône and Loire, where they have been become increasingly involved in recent years. I am naturally drawn
to many of these wines, the unsung heroes of Pic Saint-Loup, Costières de Nîmes, Irouléguy and the rest, having been a fan of these individual and intriguing styles for years.
The selection includes the fascinating 100-year-old Carignan from the biodynamic estate of Ferrer-Ribière, which I visited a couple of years ago.
Domaine de Peyreficade (France) Picpoul de Pinet 2006
Made from the local Picpoul (or Piquepoul) grape, this clean as a whistle white wine comes from grapes picked at optimum ripeness, so that it delivers a far from weedy 13% alcohol by volume. It has a refined and beguiling nose, with a sea-salt and ozone tang, a white blossom note and fresh-squeezed lemon fruit. On the palate it is surprisingly weighty, with a fleeting glimpse of honey and ripe, juicy nectarine before the dry, crisp white fruit and citrus character comes through. Savoury and mouth-watering, the finely-tuned core of acidity and those persisting nuances of floral, almost exotic fruit notes push through into a long, flavourful finish. A delightful, crisp and elegant wine with a bit of texture and complexity. £6.75, Yapp Brothers.
Château Roubaud (France) Costières de Nîmes Cuvée Prestige 2006
I've long been a fan of the red wines from Costières de Nîmes, the Languedoc's most easterly appellation that is really a southerly extension of the Rhône Valley. This Roussanne and Grenache Blanc blend is fermented for 20 days and sees no malolactic fermentation to retain vitality. It has a pale yellow colour, and a charming, slightly oatmeally nose with some nuances of white flowers and peach skins. On the palate there is a rush of crisp, crunchy orchard fruits, with plenty of vim and vigour and no sign of the blowsyness sometimes found in Roussanne-based wines. There's a real sense of minerality here, with a pithy lemon acidity and crisp, cool character into a long, tangy finish. £7.60, Yapp Brothers.
Domaine de l'Idylle (France) Cruet Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2005
The vineyards of Savoie lie south of Lake Geneva in the upper valley of the river Rhône, close to the Swiss border. This wine, from the estate of Philippe and François Tiollier, is made from the local Jacquère grape. It has a light, golden colour, and an absolutely beautiful nose, brimming with floral-edged ripe fruit, with notes of crunchy apple and lime zest. On the palate there's a fleeting suggestion that this is off-dry, with a delicate sherbetty sweetness, but refined, dry, mouth-watering orchard fruit takes over, flooding the mouth with ripe, juicy flavours. The wine is light- to medium-bodied, with a very breezy and fresh character thanks to crisp acidity and a gossamer-like delicacy to the fruit. Really appealing stuff this, which I drank with an asparagus risotto to delightful effect. £7.95, Yapp Brothers.
Domaine de la Charrières (France) Jasnières Clos Saint Jacques 2005
100% Chenin Blanc from the rarely seen Loire appellation of Jasnières, this wine comes from rich, minerally soils. This pale green wine has a subtle, refined, very slightly flinty nose with some apple fruit and just a suggestion of honey. On the palate this comes to life much more decisively, with a blast of zesty, vivid lemon fruit and a suggestion of real fruit sweetness and ripeness. It is fairly straightforward at this stage, though there is a very nice, clean, pithy lemon acidity adding fine tension and balance, but these Chenins have a reputation for ageing, where that more honeyed character builds. I have no doubt this intense, well-balanced wine has the capacity for cellaring. £11.95, Yapp Brothers.
Château Roubaud (France) Costières de Nîmes Cuvée Prestige 2005
A typical blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah, this wine comes from the Molinier family, who have run the estate for five generations. A dramatically dark and opaque wine, there are thick-set aromas of plums, liquorice and meat stock, with a tightly-wound, muscular character. On the palate this is a chunky and robust wine, with a big, grippy palate of rustic tannin and meaty, leathery black fruit. It has good balance, with some juicy acidity giving some lift and crispness to the finish, though it stays rather foursquare and solid throughout. £7.60, Yapp Brothers.
Mas Bruguière (France) Pic Saint-Loup l'Arbouse 2005
The Bruguière family have been making wine in Pic Saint-Loup since the Revolution, and the 12-hectare estate is now run by Isabelle and Guilhem Bruguière. This wine, a 50-50 blend of Syrah and Grenache, has quite a pale cranberry colour, and a delightfully schisty nose of charcoal, thyme and raspberry fruit. There's a certain chocolaty nuance, but this is fresh and gives a racy impression. On the palate that crunchy and vivid fruit character comes to the fore, with vibrant, tangy flavours of fresh raspberries and redcurrants. There's an earthiness too, with slightly sauvage, gamy qualities that are complex and warming, with subtle, diffused spices and notes of caraway and liquorice in the finish. With refined tannins and elegant acidity, this is a savoury and serious wine, but one with charm and elegance too. £8.15, Yapp Brothers.
Domaine Ferrer-Ribière (France) 'Empreinte du Temps' 2005
Domaine Ferrer-Ribière is a strictly biodynamic estate in the Roussillon, run by Denis Ferrer and Bruno Ribière, that makes a whole bunch of fascinating and often quirky wines. This Vin de Pays Catalanes wine comes from a parcel of 128-year-old Carignan vines, and is made by carbonic maceration. I loved the 2004 vintage of this wine, and this 2005 has a similar, perhaps slightly more dense, dark, concentrated blackcurrant and berry fruit. But there's a lovely blue/black glossiness with hints of Parma violet and white pepper. The palate has a firm, juicy structure, with a massive, dry concentration of fruit. There's a liquoricy grip off tannins too, and along with a taut acid structure, this is a serious, complex wine with layered complexity that unravels slowly. £9.15, Yapp Brothers.
Domaine de Torraccia (France) Corse Porto Vecchio 2005
Domaine de Torraccia sits in the hills above Porto Vecchio, on the southeast of the island of Corsica. Owner and winemaker is Christian Imbert, who planted his organic vineyards in the 1960's, and who is now assisted by his son Marc, who has worked at Château Latour and Jekel vineyards in California. This wine, a blend of Grenache, Syrah and local Corsican varieties Sciacarello and Nielluccio, has an elegant black cherry and ripe, juicy plum nose, with little nuances of dried herbs. On the palate this is immediately quite serious and meaty, with a broad stripe of tannins and keen acidity supporting lithe, savoury fruit, that is pure and elegant, with notes of cherry and raspberry. This wine is quite sinewy and lean, though with only 12.5% alcohol and a medium-bodied finesse, giving it a food-friendly, supple appeal. £9.65, Yapp Brothers.
Château de la Canorgue (France) Côtes du Luberon 2005
A typical Rhônish blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, this organically produced wine comes from Jean-Pierre Margan and his wife Martine, who planted their vines in 1978. It has a vibrant, dark crimson colour, and a subdued and vinous nose, with some black olive and herbal tinges to black fruit. On the palate there is an immediate spiciness, with a full, creamy-textured wine that has supple, fine-grained tannins and plenty of subdued, slightly leathery black fruit flavours. That savoury olive and spice character persists, and the freshening acidity keeps this quite focused into a long finish. £9.90, Yapp Brothers.
Domaine Ilarria (France) Irouléguy Rouge 2004
This wine, a blend of 70% Tannat, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc, comes from Irouléguy in south-west France, not far from the Spanish border. This estate has very low yields (25 hl/ha) of hand-harvested, organically grown grapes, and the domaine is confident it will cellar for 10 years. It has a vivid crimson colour, and a beautiful nose, with soaring aromas of kirsch and violets, with a touch of chocolate and refined raspberry coming through. On the palate there is real concentration, with plenty of dry extract giving weight and grip on the palate. The dark, brooding fruit quality is married to decisive tannins and a fine, pure acid structure, and juicier, more forgiving black cherry and plum fruit starts to emerge on the finish. An impressive wine packed with character, that will certainly cellar well. £10.95, Yapp Brothers.