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Domaine Bila-Haut

This week I was able to taste through a selection of wines from Michel Chapoutier’s Domaine de Bila-Haut.  Domaine Bila-Haut is imported by HB Wine Merchants of New York.  Mike Riego was pouring the wines at MacArthur’s where I was allowed to join in on the fun.  This selection represents strong value as a quick use of wine-searcher reveals that the white and red wines I tasted often retail for $20 or less.  These wines were opened right before the tasting.

Vineyard of L'esquerda, Image from HB Wine Merchants

Michel Chapoutier purchased Domaine de Bila-Haut in 1999.  The domaine is located in Latour de France and is composed of 75 hectares of vineyards.  Michel purchased the estate so that he would have access to the older vineyards and sites he felt would make great wine in Roussillon.  The estate is large enough to support new planting and experimentation.  The winery was renovated over the first several years and now has its capacity expanded annually. Vats are being added as well to keep up with increased production.   This biodynamic domaine produces a range of wines including a white from made from Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, and Macabeau along with reds from Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan.

Vineyard for Occultum Lapidum, Image from HB Wine Merchants

I really enjoyed the L’esquerda.  It was the most interesting wine both on the nose and in the mouth and I felt, a step up over the other wines.  I think the Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rouge would show better after several hours of air as it showed development after half an hour.  The IGP Cotes Catalanes is well done and I believe attractively priced.  I look forward to revisiting some of these wines once they are in stock.  This will allow me to post more thorough tasting notes and actually drink a few glasses!

2010 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut, Blanc, Cotes du Roussillon
This wine is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, and Macabeau.  Macabeau is also called Viura and is used in the production of Spanish Cava.  The grapes are sourced from vineyards in the Valle de l’Agly that contain limestone and clay soils and higher altitude vineyards at L’esquerda with granite soils.  These later vineyards lie at 500 meters.  This wine is both vinified and aged for a few months in stainless steel tanks.  This wine had a delicate, floral nose with some grassy notes.  In the mouth the apple-like fruit, grapefruit, and floral flavors were supported by bright acidity.

2010 La Croix de Bila-Haut, IGP Cotes Catalanes
This wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan sourced from vineyards throughout Roussillon.  These vineyards are planted with younger vines and represent sites that might be leased in the future.  This wine was produced in stainless steel as the there was not enough vats.  This inaugural release showed a youthful, tasty nose of grapey aromas.  There were bright red fruit flavors, plenty of acidity, and tart red fruit in the finish.  This lively wine would be refreshing to drink cool on a warm summers night.

 2009 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut, Rouge, Cotes du Roussillon Villages
This wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan.  The majority of the grapes are sourced from vineyards in Valle de l’Agly with schist soils.  The wine is raised in cement vats.  This sports a darker nose than the Cotes Catalanes.  There are blueberry and dark berry flavors throughout the wine with some Syrah notes.  Within half an hour this developed an enjoyable racy quality that mixed with the fine grape tannins.  This wine leaned towards firm finesse.

2008 Domaine de Bila-Haut, L’esquerda, Cotes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerda
This wine is a blend of 60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, and 20% Carignan.  The grapes are all sourced from vineyards in the cru Lesquerda.  This vineyard lies at 350 meters on hill tops and slopes with granite soils.  As a result the grapes are harvested between the middle of September and middle of October, which is later than the other sites.  Horses are used due to the rugged terrain and inaccessibility.   The vines average 30 years of age with a few newer parcels and one parcel of very old vines.  The wine is aged 90% in cement vats and 10% in oak barrels.  This vintage was produced before Michel Chapoutier had control over the vineyard.  The nose immediately reminded me of a Grenache-based Southern Rhone blend.  It had the most attractive nose out of all of the wines with aromas of dark, complex berries, and herbs.  Though it showed more structure than the previous wines, the lifted, mouthfilling flavors were delicious and easily approachable.

2008 Domaine de Bila-Haut, Occultum Lapidem, Cotes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France
This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache, and 20% Carignan.  The grapes are sourced from the vineyard located in the cru Latour-de-France.  They have been working these vineyards since 1999.  Horses are used for some of the work.  This area is a higher altitude vineyards that contain older vines that are 20-35 years of age with some parcels that are even older.  50% of the wine is matured in vats and the rest in casks.  This also revealed dark fruits on the nose but was not aromatically expressive like the L’esquerda.  The dark fruits mixed with pleasing minerals and stones but the overall profile was not as dynamic as the L’esquerda.  The structure in this wine was dominated by ample, fine tannins.  I found the fruit flavors a bit too closed down compared to the level of tannins.

1999 Domaine de Bila-Haut, Rivesaltes
This wine is made from Grenache.  This wine is aged for 24 months with 50% in vats and the rest in oak casks.  There was an earthy nose mixed with sweet berries.  In the mouth this supple wine repeated the earthy, sweet, red berries delivered in a completely balanced manner that was not confected nor overbearing.  I have no experience with Rivesaltes so notes were quite short!

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