Karen Turner is a bright young Australian whom I first met three or four years ago, on a cellar visit at the Prieuré de St. Jean de Bébian, outside Caux. At that time Bébian was owned by Chantal Lecouty, who has since sold it to Russians, who are allowing Karen full rein at their property. Meanwhile Karen has also started to produce her own wine with her French husband, Emmanuel Pageot. They have five hectares in three different plots around the village of Gabian. All their vines are north facing, except for their Grenache Noir, and on three different soils, schist, argilo-calcaire or clay and limestone, and basalt. Gabian should have been included in the appellation of Faugères, but at the appropriate moment, the mayor of the village, with considerable lack of foresight, said Non. The village has some great vineyard sites. Also the cooperative of Gabian has recently closed down so that a number of its members are now beginning to make their own wine.
2009 Le Blanc – 9.00€ - (not yet bottled)
A blend of Marsanne and Roussanne. Twenty per cent of the blend is fermented on the skins and stalks, with wild yeast, and then the juice is put into in old oak barrels. The rest is fermented in old oak barrels and then put into vat, and then blended after several months. It is a characterful wine; very textured in the mouth, with plenty of fruit, and rounded herbal notes and good balancing acidity. It promises well, with a wonderful note of originality.
2009 La Rupture, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault – 16.00€ (still in barrel – one year old oak and to be bottled in March)
A pure Sauvignon; there is still an aroma of young wine, with smokey oak on the nose and palate, and some leesy texture. Again it promises well, with intriguing layers of flavour. I tend not to enthuse about Sauvignon from the Languedoc; it is usually too tropical and flabby, but this is definitely an exception.
2009 Rosé – 7€ (to be bottled mid-February)
This is a blend of 60% Grenache Noir and 40% Syrah, which was saigné after 48 hours, so that the colour is a deep pink, ‘a true clairet’, observed Karen. Indeed it is a serious mouthful of wine, especially for a rosé. It has tannin and acidity, in balance, and ripe raspberry and strawberry fruit. With such weight and texture, it demands food. This is no faint-hearted aperitif wine.
2008 Le Rouge – 11.00€
A blend of 80% Grenache, grown on schist, with Syrah from argilo-calcaire and basalt soils. It was bottled in November, and mostly aged in vat – apart from two barrels of Syrah. It still tastes very young. There is a surprising freshness, with acidity, from the Grenache on a north-facing slope, said Karen. And there is also plenty of fruit, but it needs a little time to settle down.
2008 Carmina Major – 14€
A blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Mourvedre, the best grapes of each variety, which spend a year in wood, (40% of which is oak) and then time in vat. The colour is deep; the nose redolent of smoky oak and the palate is rich and rounded, with a streak of firm oak, with some satisfying weight and texture. There is plenty of fruit underneath the youthful oakiness. This promises very well.
And we finished with a late harvest Roussanne, Santo, a humble vin de table – 18.00€ for a 50cl bottle. The regulations demand the clumsy mention of vin issu de raisins en surmaturité, in other words, late harvested grapes, but you are not allowed to use that term.. The wine has spent time a couple of years in a barrel and will be bottled in April. Karen explained that she is experimenting with some oxidative processes. On the nose there is delicate honey, and a rounded palate, with refreshing acidity and elegance on the finish. The actual alcohol is 14º, with 21º potential alcohol, and 65 gm/l of residual sugar.
Karen and Emmanuel also produce verjus, a useful cooking ingredient; in 2008 it came from Roussanne and in 2009 from Grenache Noir. – 6.00€ a bottle.
2008 was Karen and Emmanuel’s first vintage. They will be a name to follow.