I meant to post this when I wrote it, in August, but it inadvertently got left on my French computer, so better late than never!
I ventured into the Aude to visit a new relatively new estate in the Corbières, Château Spencer la Pujade in the village of Ferrals-les-Corbières. The property was bought in 2007 by Christopher Spencer. Despite his name, he is half French and lives in Paris, where he works in finance. And the purchase of vines in the Corbières was the fulfilment of a long-standing ambition.
In his absence his régisseur Sébastien Bonneaud runs the estate. Sébastien trained in Bordeaux and then worked at Domaine Oustric, where he made a variety of IGP Cité de Carcassonne for Bernard Magrez. He arrived at Spencer la Pujade in December 2011. This estate could very much be summed up as work in progress. They have taken over a cellar in the village, with plans for renovation for barrel ageing and storage, and they are also planning a vinification cellar, tucked into the hillside overlooking their vineyards, provided they get planning permission.
There is also work to be done in the vineyards. Currently they have 24.5 hectares, planted with Carignan, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache as well as 42 ares of Clairette; eventually they plan to reach 30 hectares, and maybe plant some more white varieties. Carignan represents 57% of their vineyard holdings, the youngest vines of Carignan are 31 years old, and the oldest 70. All the vineyards are within the commune of Ferrals, bordering the cru of Boutenac, and most are in one large plot, in a magnificent amphitheatre. At the beginning of August, the vérasion was starting; Syrah is quite advanced, and Mourvèdre just getting going, while the Carignan still looks like green peas. The soil is quite mixed; some clay, some gravel, some red sand. And they also have 140 olive trees.
After a drive through the vineyards on a rather grey day – unusual for this time of year in the Languedoc – we adjourned to the village restaurant to taste:
2011 Le P’tit Spencer – 5.50€
Medium young colour; soft spicy nose, some ripe cherry fruit, soft and easy with a youthful backbone of stalky tannins. Carignan, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache, aged in vat. For easy drinking. Sébastien was responsible for the assemblage but not the vinification.
2011 Carignan, IGP Hauterive. 7.00€
Elevage in vat. Good colour ; quite a rounded palate, with red berry fruit. Medium weight. A streak of tannin and a rustic note. Classic vinification, rather than carbonic maceration. It benefitted from being chilled on a warm, humid day.
2010 Corbières – 9.50€
From all four grape varieties. Syrah, aged in barrel, accounts for 15%. Quite a deep colour. A firm nose with a touch of oak and vanilla. Some spice on the palate, with some fruit rouges. Well integrated oak. Quite a sturdy streak, with a rustic edge, typical of Corbières.
2008 Le Millésime – 22.00€
Only made in the best vintages. 80% Mourvèdre to 20% Syrah. 12 -14 months in barriques. Good colour; quite rounded oaky nose, and on the palate ripe and smoky, with ripe fruit and notes of tapenade. A tad alcoholic at 14˚. Quite a rounded finish. The oak needs to become more integrated, but has not dried the fruit.