Domaine de Majas is run by Alain and Agnes Carrère. The 30 hectare domain is located in the Roussillon by the village Caudiès de Fenouillèdes. Tom Lubbe from nearby Domaine Matassa helped to change into organic cultivation. The vineyards are at 350-400 meters’ height in slopes with good exposure and drenage. We see around 120 year old vines of carignan, grenache noir and macabeu, and younger (30-35 years) of syrah, cabernet franc, merlot, rolle and chardonnay. The climate is affected by the nearness of the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean sea.
The wines are fermented with natural yeasts in old cement tanks, some steel and a small percentage old, used wood.
Here we experience harsh winters and warm, sunny summers. The tough northwestern wind from the Pyrenees and the wet Mediterranean breeze often follow each other.
Even if the domain lies within the AOC Côtes du Roussillon they often choose to classify their wines as Vin de Pays de Côtes Catalanes, to honour what they consider te be a unique area.
The soil is mainly chalky clay and schist.
The grapes for this wine are grenache 50%, grenache gris 25%, and grenache blanc 25%. They were hand-harvested, naturally fermented in cement and aged there for 6 months.
Cortado 2017 (Dom. de Majas)
Light ruby. Aroma of white flowers, plums, peach and raspberry. In the mouth it’s intense, fruity with round tannins.
Food: Light meat, white fish, salads
The Ju de Vie is a favourite, with all its character and lusciousness. The 2016 is made from grenache 35%, merlot 30%, marselan 25% and mourvèdre 10%, grown in sandy soils with the typical round pebbles. It was aged for 8 months in concrete tanks, and only given a tiny amount of sulphur.
The white Coume de l’Olla is a lovely, citrusy skin-contact wine. Today we had the red wine with the same name at a restaurant.
- It’s made from grapes biodynamically farmed in the Calce region, on the northeast side of the Pyrenees. They are grenache 70%, grenache gris 20%, and macabeo 10%. The must was spontaneously fermented and aged in cement tanks.
Coume de l’Olla 2015 (Dom. Matassa)
Light ruby. Aromatic, smells of red fruits, both sweet and sour (plum, cherry, cranberry), floral overtones and hints to truffles and mature cheeses too. Quite soft, fleshy, but just enough tannin to bind it together, a fresh, natural acidity and some spice in the finish.
Food: Light meat, salads and much more. At an Italian restaurant we tried it today with four different dishes, and it performed brilliantly with vitello tonnato (veal in tuna mayonnaise) and pasta with a creamy sauce and mushrooms.
It was some thirty years ago that I wandered through the legendary Chapelle vineyard in Hermitage. Little did I think at the time about the level of organic practice. Since then I have tasted an occasional wine, and to my taste many have been good, especially during the latest years.
And it was around ten years ago that the Frey family purchased the property, and Caroline Frey took over as the new oenologist. They started converting the estate vineyards to biodynamic principles.
This Côte du Rhône has its background from 40 years old vines of grenache 55%, syrah 35 and mourvèdre 10. The yields were low and it was finally raised in steel tanks.
Biographie 2015 (P. Jaboulet Aîné)
Dark purple red. Fruits from garden and woods (raspberry, black cherries, blackberry), and an amount of typical spices. Quite fresh with decent acidity.
Food: A variety of produce, from meats to tasty salads, hard cheeses…
This week’s suggestion is from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape country in Southern Rhône, between Orange, Avignon and Carpentras (Vaucluse) to be more precise. Here we find Julien Mus, who studied in Beaune, returned to his native village Bédarrides where he joined the cooperative, and then in 2005 founded his own Domaine de la Graveirette, biodynamically certified since 2015.
Harvesting is done by hand, he uses no additives, except for minimal doses of sulfur. In his wines there is always a harmony of body, fruit and acidity, be it bigger Châteauneuf wines or bottlings with more “humble” designations.
This particular wine is made from grenache 35%, merlot 30%, cabernet sauvignon 25% and mourvèdre 10%. The fermentation was spontaneous and carried out in concrete. Aged in steel and concrete.
Ju de Vie 2015 (Dom. de la Graveirette)
Dark, quite deep red. Young aroma, red and dark berries, with a slight earthyness. Quite full in the mouth, with a nice touch of acidity and some tannins. Good length. It’s good now, but I imagine it will evolve positively over the next couple of years.
You might think that Antidote could have something to do with the Remedy restaurant, about which I wrote a few months ago, at least their names could suggest so. But no. They have a few things in common though, they both offer a cure against depressive tendencies, and they offer well-prepared bites, and a lot of good, healthy wines – all worked organically, many biodynamically in the vineyard.
They rely on market catch, and the menu changes often. The food is quite simple, but well made, and often with both a modern touch and inspired by several corners of the world. The wine list is quite extensive, and there is a good selection of wines by the glass. They say that the wines come largely from France. That’s true, but I have spotted wines from other European countries like Italy, Spain and Slovenia, an occational one from Greece, and outside Europe too, such as Australia.
I visited this cosy Soho locale twice in August, the first time with my daughter who is vegan, and they were very helpful, and gladly made some creative twists. Second time was the day after, when I had some more wines and a couple more bites.
Along with their “Heritage Tomato” dish (with lemon, lovage parsley and goat’s curd) I had Ch. la Coste “Pentes Douces 2014 (Ch. la Coste), a provencal blend of vermentino and sauvignon blanc: light in colour, a rich aroma with hints of herbs, and a slightly warm touch in the aftertaste. With next bite, Spring Onions with egg yolk, comté cheese and buckwheat, I tried Clef de Sol 2014 (La Grange Tiphaine) from Montlois sur Loire, a light, fruity, mineral chenin blanc, with a lot of acidity wrapped in super fruit. Following this with the same dish I tried what turned out to be one of the stars of the evening, Maupiti 2014 (Clos de l’Elu), a light red wine from Anjou, also in the Loire. This one is made from gamay and cabernet franc. It shows lots of red berries, it’s fresh and fruity, mellow in the mouth and just delicious drinking.
La Poudre d’Escampette 2014 (from winery Le Casot des Mailloles) is a dry red wine from Banyuls, quite unusual for the area’s image as a dessert wine region. It’s made from 120 year old grenache and 80 year old carignan vines. An unpasturized camembert from Normandie was perfectly matched with the (to a certain extent volatile) acidity of the high-hill wine. A good match was also the ossau-iraty, a sheep’s milk cheese from French Basque Country.
An unusual wine to round off maybe, but excellent there and then, was I Clivi RBL 2014, a biodynamically farmed, native yeast spumante brut nature from the grape known as ribolla gialla in Friuli, Italy, close to the Slovenian border. It was dry, but rounded off, fruity, a little carbonic-mineral, and nice for washing away what might remain of the fat from the cheeses.
This week’s pick comes from a winery that never converted to organic growing. It wasn’t necessary because it has always been, as they count on a history of five generations and 200 unbroken years of making natural wines. They were also key figures in establishing the AOC for Bandol during the German occupation. François Dutheil (father to current owner) was one of the people behind AVN (l’Association des Vins Naturels), where Marcel Lapierre of Beajolais participated and soon became a leading figure. The only ingredient except for the grapes is SO2, only in tiny amounts and only in the vineyard against fungus.
The vineyards of Bandol lies for a great part on south-faced terraces in the in-land from the seaside town that gives the wine its name. As for the rest of the region rosé is dominating in quantity, around 80% even here. And much wine is classified as Côte de Provence. Myself I am drawn towards the red wines of the region, often a bit mystic, not lightweight, neither heavy and «clumsy». They can have a fresh fruit, but they are never sharp. They have long oak-ageing, often more than the obligatory 18 months. But the best will never smell of wood, as they are subject to a treatment in big, used foudres that make them «breathe». At Ste. Anne, red is the most important wine.
The mourvèdre grape is king. Just like its equivalent monastrell on the Spanish Levante coast Bandol is one of the few places where you can be sure that the grape will mature. But still the general alcohol levels in Ste. Anne’s range of wines are low. This is due to the special microclimate below the Gros Cerveau peaks, that gives very cool summer nights. The cold air is accumulated because of special metheorologic phenomena between the mountains in the area. The tannins are soft and rounded. Mourvèdre is harvested later here than other places, around mid-October. It must be fully ripe, otherwise the wine will be hard and bitter. A way to understand when the time is right, according to Raphaël, is that the skin is no longer elastic and that the pips are brownish.
The Bandol 2010 is made from 60% mourvèdre, and equal parts of grenache and cinsault. This is their main wine, and 30.000 bottles are made. Their bandol stays 20-22 months in foudres, and the various vintages are released when they are considered «ready». As a result the 2003 was released after both ’04 and ’05.
Bandol 2010 (Château Ste. Anne)
Deep purple in colour. Very complex aroma of red fruits (raspberries), flowers, balsamic notes (red lickorice), combined with some mineral notes. There is a slight touch of volatile acidity too, that is by no means disturbing, but in my opinion it adds to the freshness. Medium to full body. When I last tasted this wine, at the winery before the release, the tannins were more evident, now everything is in perfect harmony. Mature, but will keep.
Food: Beef, game, duck and other full-flavoured meat. Cheese, both manchego type and some blue cheeses. Fiona Beckett writes about steak pie that red bandol can be a perfect choice. The possibilities are endless.
And the first 100% organic village for agriculture is Correns, in the inland from the Azur coast between Nice and Marseille.
Much has been said about this property and its affinity to artists throughout the years. Briefly: In 1970 jazz pianist Jacques Loussier used it as a recording studio. (Parts of Pink Floyd’s The Wall are recorded here.) Today it’s owned by actors Jolie & Pitt, and the wine is made by Perrin, the family behind many outstanding wines like Beaucastel.
Covering 500 hectares of land in the Côte de Provence, the wine château is only a small part of this, together with olive groves, woods and wildlife. The vineyards are located around 350 meters above sea level, partly terraced, on clay and limestone soils. The temperature varies a great deal between day and night, given a nice freshness to most of the wines.
This rosé is made mainly from the cinsault grape, with some grenache, syrah and rolle. Rolle? Well, this is quite complicated: Rolle is a synonym for a local grape named rollo. It’s also a synonym for the better known Italian vermentino. It can even be that the two are related…
Most of the grapes are lightly pressed directly. But some of the syrah are made according to the “saignée” method, which means that part of the juice is removed from the must to concentrate phenolics and other components. (Needless to say, it’s not an ideal practice with “naturalists”.) The fermentation was mostly in stainless steel, with a small part (around 5%) in oak, with some batonnage.
Miraval Rosé 2015 (Ch. Miraval)
Pale pink. Delicate aromas of citrus, raspberries and white flowers, and a touch of pepper. Quite fresh on the palate, some volume too and a nice concentration that makes it persistent, with a dryness and a touch of a salty minerality in the finish. I find that many of the rosés in the area have too much alcohol for the body and concentration. This one not.
Food: Salads, fowl, fish and seafood
Egget (The Egg) didn’t come first, only around a year ago. But it managed to bring new concepts to the already varied gastronomic scene in Stavanger, a Norwegian town with more than its fair share of cafés and restaurants. This is mainly because the country’s most important culinary educational institutions have been located here. Add to this the nearness to the oil industry and university students from across the country, and I think you are beginning to get the big picture.
What is special then? The obvious features are the facts that the responsibles at Egget don’t have written menus, nor wine lists – and they don’t take bookings. Other than this they seem to have a rather holistic approach, and I doubt they have fixed prices for every dish or every wine.
But maybe the most important: I can’t think of any other restaurant in the area with extremely high ambitions in wine and food, without being formal and pricy. One of Egget’s nearest neighbours just up the street, the first one outside Oslo to receive a Michelin star, can exemplify this. (No offence, that one is excellent too, but more “formal-normal”.)
Left to right: Diego Gimeno, Roy Klausen, Benoît Berthail (not present that day: head-chef Anthony Orjollet, creator of most of the dishes)
This time I visited at late lunch-time with a friend. And when we sat down at a table of our choice the relaxing reggae music was turned down to a perfect level. We shared tapa-sized dishes throughout the meal. Our waiter, Ben, made it clear that it was squid day, as the food is always based on today’s catch, and the squid was especially good that day. So along came squid in its own ink, in a salad – and a dish that looked like a chocolate cake, but it was in fact a risotto that included squid with ink as well. There was a ceviche of cod, and a hot dish made with skate (you know that fish that looks like a kite in the water), fermented carrots, grilled milk-marinated lamb… The ingredients and techniques are taken from anywhere in the world, but quality and creativity are common denominators.
The wines are what I like to call natural wines; you know, artisan, low-intervention, organic wines, even without added sulphur, and they are without exception served by the glass. For me Egget is a place I go to get surprised. Sometimes I want to discuss a few options with the waiter, but most often he will suggest a wine, and I will say “ok”. And what to serve with the wines? Well, the kitchen is absolutely free to chose. The food is always superb, often with a creative twist, and with the wines they serve here it has never struck me that the food and the wine didn’t match.
When you enter the place, you notice oak barrels from Rioja producer Muga in their yard. But you better look upon them as tables, as the wines served are neither oaky nor old-fashioned (and with all respect, Muga is not in the avant-garde of Spanish wine any more, if they ever were).
The first wine this time was the white Amphibolite Nature 2015 from producer Joseph Landron in Loire’s Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine. Landron disposes of 45 hectars with varying soil. Amphibolite is the name of the stones that can be found in this particular vineyard, containing magnesium and iron silicate. When the mélon de Bourgogne vines are rooted deep in this soil it can transmit very mineral character to the wine. The wine was slender, citrusy, mineral and structured.
Next was a light red grenache-based wine, Cuvée Romanissa 2014 from Domaine Matassa, on the French side of Catalunya. The grapes are grown in schistous soils rich in iron, and it’s very luscious and fresh, with aromas of red berries and herbs.
We were also offered the Flotsam & Jetsam Cinsault 2015, from Hemelrand (Alheit Vineyards) in South Africa’s Darling region. Also light coloured, this one had more roundness, and a sensation of sweetness from the cinsault grapes. Strawberry is maybe the dominant aroma, but it showed some spiciness too.
Éric Texier’s Chat Fou (Crazy Cat) is a long time favourite, now in the 2014 vintage. This time we ended with this lovely unfiltered Côtes du Rhône, with its blend of 50% grenache, the rest a mix of four other Rhône grapes, including the white marsanne and rousanne. It was the darkest wine of the lunch, but still deliciouis, luscious summer drinking – yet concentrated and with a hint of spices. Éric isn’t one who uses many tricks to make his wines darker, fatter, more tannic… On the contrary his minimal intervention philosophy seems to maintain a perfect balance in his wines.
This was a few days ago, when everyone was preparing for Norway’s national day. I bet many people were crowding up on that day too. Lucky the ones who managed to get one of the 5 or 6 tables. New surprises. Hooray!