I was delighted to receive this batch of wines from Andy Cook (right), ex-manager of Luvians bottleshop in the Scottish town of St Andrews, turned extremely successful winemaker in the Roussillon region. Andy now lives in Collioure with wife Kristen and family and holds down a position as winemaker at the renowned estate of Coume del Mas. But since 2008 he has partnered with Philippe Gard, owner of Coume del Mas, in Tramontane Wines. Tramontane not only distributes the wines of Coume de Mas, but also those of Mas Cristine, a separate domaine with its own vineyards, owned by Andy and Philippe. A third range is labelled as Tramontane. These are essentially négociant wines, though Andy prefers to call them “partnership wines,” made by Andy or by friends in the region, but supervised “from vineyard to bottle” by Andy and Philippe.
The selection of wines sent to me for tasting in August 2011 is from the fourth and final range made and distributed by Tramontane Wines, called ‘Consolation’. Andy explains the Consolation philosophy thus: “This is the range that I created for fun. It allows Philippe and I to experiment with varietals and see what happens. These wines are made either at Mas Cristine or Coume del Mas, from small parcels that we consider to be outstanding.”
I have to say the wines were terrific overall, each a very modern take on classic styles of the region. Fruit concentration and intensity has been ramped up, but never at the expense of freshness and food-friendly, savoury character. This is the south of France, a few miles from the Spanish border, so ripeness and alcohol levels are high and the wines share a characteristic of power and weight, but balance is excellent by and large with fruit concentration, acidity and the always quite subtle oak influence all handled extremely well.
The wines are available from Luvians Bottleshops in St Andrews and Coupar, Inverarity1-2-1 in Glasgow, Noel Young in Cambridge and Harrods in London. See all stockists on wine-searcher.
Consolation, Petit Gris Carignan 2010, France
Made from Carignan Gris, Andy says he had Chablis in mind when making this 13.5% alcohol Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes wine. Picked early, it was aged in large casks with no battonage. The nose has an apple fruited stillness about it with a touch of nuttiness and melon skins in the background. On the palate the fruit is exuberantly fresh and forward, the broad, weighty texture of the wine adding richness. Apple and pear flavours retain a cool, underripe vegetal edge with lemony acidity making this both fruity and focused, and densely savoury. The oak adds some texture and a little nip of spicy tannin, but no more. 90-91/100. £16.00
Consolation, Juliette Roussanne Sauvage 2009, France
Picked ripe and handled reductively to retain varietal aromas and freshness, this 14% alcohol VdP Côtes Catalanes was barrel fermented partly in new oak. There’s a honeyed note to the stonefruit aromas in this wine, with peach and nectarine, but overlaid by soft cashew and delicate herbs and spices. On the palate it has that hint of sweet fruit richness, but there is so much underripe apple and lemon peel acidity and grip that the overall impression is dry and savoury. This is a smooth, leesy, full-textured wine with plenty of old vine concentration that reminds me somewhat of the Beaucastel Vieilles Vignes, and like that wine is more about power than delicacy. 90/100. £20.00
Consolation, Catala Grenache Gris 2009, France
A 14% alcohol Appellation Collioure wine from “a big, ripe year,” it was fermented and aged in all new oak and comes from a single vineyard that is ploughed by horse. There’s a stewed apple note and a touch of custard here (dessert wines!) and a burgeoning sense of herby and salty seriousness. The aromas are powerful, with hot stone and slate aspects too. On the palate there’s a rush of sweet fruit; ripe apple and pear, and the merest touch of lemon rind waxiness. There’s a grippy quality here too, with some tannin and some savoury, subtle oak, but the finish is really quite long and has excellent freshening acidity. 92/100. £16.00
Consolation, The Wild Boar Syrah 2008, France
A 14.5% alcohol Côte du Roussillon Syrah from the top of the Mas Cristine vineyards “with a lot of extraction work,” this was aged for 14 months in old oak barrels. The nose has a haunting, beautifully evocative fragrance where Parma violet and cracked black pepper top notes sit over fleshy red plum and just a background hint of cedar. The palate has full, rich, spicy and concentrated fruit. The alcohol is just a little hot, but then it is supporting copious black fruit, savoury, umami-rich soy meatiness and still that bright-fruited lift of the flowers and spice in the background. Chewy, dense but with tannins and acidity nicely balanced, this is a big, powerful and delicious style. 91/100. £16.00
Consolation, The Dog Strangler Mourvèdre 2008, France
Do not be alarmed. ‘Dog Strangler’ is an old name for the Mourvèdre grape and this 14.5% alcohol Collioure wine comes from the Coume del Mas vineyard. Fermented in an open-topped barrel and trodden and punched down by foot, it then spent a year in one-year-old oak before release. That similar garrigue and herby, floral lift, but here joined by a streak of wild and meaty gaminess over darker, plum and tobacco-spiced fruit. On the palate this is immense: creamily rich in texture, the alcohol sits meekly within the massive framework of tannin and earthy, gamy flavours, the thick, spicy richness given a keen edge by excellent acidity. A real tour de force this, and though a huge wine, it has great length and never loses balance. 94/100. £26.00
Consolation, Coume del Mas Banyuls 2008, France
Grenache Noir in the ‘Rimage’ style (i.e. reductive winemaking with a fresher, fruitier character), this was fortified on the skins to 16.5% alcohol and aged in new oak for 18 months. “An attempt to make a full throttle Banyuls in Vintage Port style,” according to Andy. The nose is darkly concentrated and liquoricy, with black, plummy fruit and little hints of herbs, ash and charcoal. On the palate a delightful bittersweetness, with juicy cherry fruit and pulpy richness filling the mouth, but edged with bitter chocolate and that ashy dryness, the long, firm finish never wavering and the tannins and acidity giving great structure. A lovely wine. 93/100. £18.00
See all stockists of Consolation wines on wine-searcher.