12 Mar 2015

A tasting of Foncalieu wines hosted by Yorkshire Wine School

Tasting Foncalieu wines with Yorkshire Wine School

A fancy Big Mac style burger from Original Fry Up Material

This was a good way of cheering up a Monday night in February: tasting eight sunny wines from the south of France. From work I take a train from Bradford to Leeds, call in for a tasty hipster burger at Trinity Kitchen and then head up to the Radisson Hotel for the tasting. I'm always excited trying wines that are new to me. Life's all about retaining that excitement for new things isn't it?

The wines are from Foncalieu, a big cooperative of more than 1,000 wine estates, whose winemaker and marketing supremo Isabelle Pangault appears in person to help bring them to life. Yorkshire Wine School's Laura Kent is also on hand to provide expert titbits; Laura is hosting the event and has kindly let me experience it as a guest.

French wine often projects an image of bringing the landscape to the glass - terroir - but I'm interested to hear Isabelle talk a bit more pragmatically about how Foncalieu's agronomist (soil and plant man) Gabriel Ruetsch tailors the wines to the market where they sell them; in other words they look at what sort of stuff British drinkers tend to like and they try to satisfy that demand. That's not to say they aren't reflecting the land though - they have lots of different landscapes and microclimates to choose from, a mosaic of terroir as Isabelle nicely puts it, giving them scope to create different styles of wine. And it is encouraging to hear Isabelle emphasise that it's elegance and freshness they're looking for, in other words they're keen not to obscure the pure fruit with too much oak. The more I'm a wine fanatic, it seems the more I enjoy fresh tasting wines over big oaky ones.

I really enjoyed these wines - in particular the three from Chateau Haut Gleon we tried, especially the white - and it'd be great to try them again with a meal which I bet would make them even better. Here's a quick run-through of my thoughts as I tasted them on the night:

Le Versant Viognier 2013, Pays d'Oc
Smells champagney; tastes like peach, lemon and lime with elderflower freshness. Reminds me of vinho verde.

Le Versant Pinot Noir 2013, Pays d'Oc
Smells of strawberry, or maybe raspberry, and mint. Easy-drinking, a touch dilute?, round and soft texture, nice and fresh.

Griset Sauvignon Gris 2014, Pays d'Oc
Fresh, light rose coloured, a nice refreshing summer drink. Agree with the suggestion of watermelon, rose water and rhubarb from the YWS and Foncalieu tasting notes.

Les Illustres 2012, Coteaux d'Enserune IGP
Smells of Marmite, blackberries, oak and leather. Also brings to mind blackberries in the mouth with black plums and parsley and coriander! Dry finish, would be good with slow cooked beef I think.

Le Lien 2012, Minervois AOP
Smells great - to me of liquorice and lavender - which mixes with coffee and cigar smoke in the mouth. Tastes of expensive oak. Again would be good with beef. Enjoyed this more with a slice of the Friends of Ham salami provided on the table.

Chateau Haut Gleon Blanc 2013, Corbieres AOC
Really like this wine. Reminds me of an Australian semillon. Tastes of nuts to me - hazelnuts, almonds, pistachio with apricots. Really good.

Chateau Haut Gleon Rose 2013, Corbieres AOC
Also really enjoyed this one. Light but with a faint peppery spice, bit more to it than a standard light rose. Tastes and smells of strawberry and pepper, fresh tomato and gooseberry.

Chateau Haut Gleon Rouge 2009, Corbieres AOC
Smells of blueberry and blackberry or blackcurrant and scrubby herbs, rosemary and thyme, with a taste of liquorice.

As I understand it, Le Versant wines will cost around £7.99-8.99 in shops; Les Illustres and Le Lien around £25 (or £60 in a restaurant); and the Chateau Haut Gleon wines around £23-25 each.