I still remember my very first visit to Château la Baronne. I was researching French Country Wines in the late 1980s and at the time la Baronne was one of cutting-edge estates of the Corbières, along with Domaine le Voulte-Gasparets and Georges Bertrand at Domaine de Villemajou – it is his son, Gérard, who owns Domaine de l’Hospitalet in la Clape, amongst others. Andre Lignères was a doctor as well as a vigneron. He took me to see the vineyards in spring sunshine, with a backdrop of the Montagne d'Alaric. These days it is his sons, Paul and Jean, who run the 90 hectare estate. Unusually for a Midi estate, they have an Italian consultant oenologist, Stefano Chioccioli, who made his name in Tuscany, but Marc Dubernet, who has done so much to improve the quality of wine-making in the Midi, also advises. I was last at la Baronne in 2005 so it was great to have the chance of an update with Anne Lignères. She talked of the attention they paid to site selection and triage of the grapes. They have been registered with Qualité France for organicx viticulture since 2007.
We began with their white entrée de gamme, 2009 Domaine des Lanes Corbières - 8.00€ a blend of Vermentino and Grenache blanc. 8€
It was quite rounded, with some appealing herbal fruit and a nicely textured palate. They keep it on the lees for a bit, to give it more body. A touch of bitterness on the finish emphasised its youth. Anne explained that their yields are very low, 25 hl/ha at the most. Everything is handpicked; only natural yeast are used, and a minimum of SO2.
2009 Corbières blanc, les Chemins – 12€
Grenache Gris, with15% Roussanne, which is fermented in oak. This is deeper in colour, with lovely herbal notes and fleurs blanches on the nose. I didn’t detect the oak at all; it just fills out the palate, giving some rounded fresh fruit, with more weight than the previous wine. There is no fining or filtering.
2008 las Vals, Vin de Pays de Hauterive – 15€ A pure Roussanne, fermented and aged in barrel. This is still very young. The oak is very apparent, but it is attractive oak, with some herbal notes as well. A multi-layered wine, with lovely texture. I wondered how it would age.
2009 Domaine de Lanes Corbières rosé – 8€. A blend of Mourvèdre and Cinsaut, made by saigné, running off the juice, rather than pressing the grapes. It was redolent of ripe fruit, raspberries and strawberries, and almost sweet, but with refreshing balancing acidity.
2008 Domaine des Lanes Corbières rouge – 8€, a blend of 60% Carignan and 40% Grenache Noir
Deep colour. A rather closed nose initially, but ripe and rounded on the palate with supple tannins. It is kept in vat and they stir the fine lees, which adds more texture.
2008 Chateau la Baronne, les Chemins – 12€ A blend of Grenache Noir, Carignan and a little Mourvèdre, aged in vat.
Ripe spicy fruit on nose and palate. A rounded palate, with a smoky, mineral note and a fresh finish. Supple tannins and lovely mouth feel.
2008 Alaric, Corbières 17.€ 60% Syrah with 20% each of Mourvèdre and Carignan, aged in barriques. Deep colour. Solid rounded nose. An intense palate, ripe, with a firm spicy backbone, and quite a powerful finish. Young. Definitely needs time.
2008 Pièce de Roche, Vin de Pays de Hauterive – 24€
This is pure Carignan, from vines that were planted back in 1892. They produce no more than 20 hl/ha. The wine is aged in barriques, from a cooper that was unknown to me, Darnajou in Montagne St. Emilion. A family business, said Anne, and the wood is very gentle or doux. There was a hint of oak on the nose, and the oak added a touch of spice on the palate. There was some lovely fruit, balanced with very silky tannins, with a long finish. Carignan can sometimes be a touch rustic; this was almost sophisticated in style, and very elegant, with no edges. They produce just 5000 bottles of it.
And we finished with 2008 las Vals, Corbières. 26€ - It is mainly Syrah with some Carignan and Grenache, and aged in wood.
This is young and solid, with closed fruit on the nose, and very dense on the palate, ripe with some spice, with layers and length. It promises well.