I never cease to be amazed by the number of new wines estates in the Languedoc. They seem to pop up at an incredible rate. I thought I knew about all the significant estates in our immediate neighbourhood, but no, there was Domaine Ste Cecile du Parc at the Rising Stars tasting earlier this spring. And following that encounter Christine Mouton Bertoli invited me to visit. She gave us directions - take the road from Caux to Pézenas and turn up the dirt track opposite a large white tower covered in graffiti. As yet there is no sign up. And it is a lovely spot, backing on to the large walled property of le Parc, which totals 140 hectares, enclosed by one large wall, which dates back to the Middle Ages and if you are looking carefully, you will see two sets of open gates crossing the road between Caux and Pézenas.
Christine and her régisseur, Jérôme, took us round the vineyards and we met her husband Stéphane later. His other career is the Intermarché in Pézenas. Christine explained that they have 9.5 hectares, planted with Grenache, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Sauvignon, with 15 hectares of land altogether, including some olive trees. The Cabernet Franc and Grenache are recent plantings, and the Carignan and Cinsaut will probably be pulled up. The Cabernet Franc is Stéphane’s particular enthusiasm. They have carried out a lot of soil analysis; they have limestone and clay, some villefranchien and a little sand.
The previous owner sent his grapes to the Caux coop, so they needed build a cellar, a smart streamlined building, which was ready for the 2011 vintage. There is a brand new basket press, and cement vats are varying sizes, a couple of wooden tronconique vats, some stainless steel tanks, and they are also considering a couple of cement eggs. Barriques are in the adjoining cellar. Stéphane arrived at this point, and talk of the encouragement that he had been given by Vincent Puygibet from Domaine la Colombette. He had worked in Italy for a number of years and as a newcomer to the Languedoc, had simply not realised that the wines of the Languedoc could be so good. Their very first vintage was 2005; but 2006 was more serious.
First we tasted from vat and barrel :
2010 Cabernet Franc – deep colour; rounded nose with some oak, and on the palate ripe cherry fruit balanced with oak, acidity and tannin. It will be given a total eighteen months élevage, in a tronconique vat, in which it was also fermented.
2011 Cabernet Franc.
This was fermented in a tronconique vat and was destined to go into barrel the next day. Deep colour; quite rich and concentrated. Very ripe berry fruit. Very good tannins. Amply rewarding Stéphane’s enthusiasm.
There were a couple of vat samples of Syrah; one made by carbonic maceration was very perfumed with notes of tapenade and ripe cherry fruit, with a freshness and elegance. It was their first attempt at carbonic maceration and they were very pleased with the results, with its nice balance of acidity and tannin. The classic fermentation seemed heavier and riper in comparison.
They have experimented with various coopers, Dagaud & Jaegle, Seguin Moreau, Radoux, among others, as well as the Tonnellerie de Mercurey, which they particularly like. They usually ask for a chauffe moyen.
A barrel sample of Syrah was perfumed and peppery with nicely integrated oak. Next came two barrels of Syrah made by maceration carbonique, one was the vin de goutte, which was very perfumed and elegant, with a refreshing lightness, while the vin de presse had a more solid nose, with ripe fruit and supple tannins, and was more substantial than the vin de goutte. An interesting contrast to see them side by side.
And then we went on to bottles:
2011 Notes Frivoles, rosé IGP Caux – 6.00€
1/3 each of Grenache, Carignan and Cabernet Franc, pressed. Very pretty pale colour. Delicate fresh nose and palate. Delicate dry and fresh. Delicious in the May sunshine.
2011 Notes Pures - 9.00€
A pure Sauvignon. Light colour. Rounded oaky nose, but with very good fruit underneath. Nicely crafted and satisfying. Should develop further in bottle.
2009 Notes d’Orphée, Pézenas – 9.00€
Syrah with some Cinsaut. Élevage partly in barrel and partly in a stainless steel tank. Quite rounded and textured with satisfying layers of flavour and supple tannins.
2009 Sonatina, Pézenas – 12.00€
Again, 90% Syrah with some Cinsaut. Fermented in a tronconique vat, with élevage in that and in barrel. Ripe and rounded, with quite firm tannins and some fleshy fruit. Nicely mouthfilling, and a treat with some roast lamb and a tian of vegetables.
And Stéphane pertinently and modestly observed that ‘we don’t know anything about wine-making’ – on y connait rien du tout – and that is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Definitely an estate to follow.