Clos Fantine is a Faugeres estate that is owned by three siblings, Carole, Corinne and Olivier Andrieu. We met the two sisters, who spark off each other very nicely. They have 28 hectares of vineyards, planted with Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsaut and a little Syrah, as well as some Aramon and Terret. All the vines are gobelet or bush vines. They explained the division of labour; Corinne makes the wine; she studied oenology at Montpellier. Carole does the paper work, having gone to business school, and Olivier looks after the vines. But they all help with pruning and they do not need to employ any extra help.
Carole explained that their grandmother was born here and inherited three hectares. Their father, Jacques, worked in Paris and then came back to the land and invested in his patrimoine and developed the estate. He was a coop member, at Autignac, one of the now defunct coops of Faugères, which has disappeared with the current cooperative crisis. He also started cultivating his vines organically; like all good vignerons, his philosophy was to respect the vine. And his children have taken this further and are now ardent supporters of the movement for natural wine. They build a cellar in 2000, three years after their father’s death.
We sat outside in the courtyard and tasted on a warm July afternoon. It is a peaceful spot, just outside the village of Lenthéric. The sisters observed that 2011 had been very difficult to make, and not all the vats had finished fermenting. 2010 was easier. Their vines are all within about seven kilometres of the cellar, several different plots, with different aspects and problems. They vinify by cépages, rather than by plot – space is a problem – and then the wines are blended fifteen months later. They use no wood at all.
2011 Terret blanc, Valcabrières, Vin de France – 16.00€
80 – 90 year old Terret, but mixed up with other varieties. For the sisters the essential characteristic of vin nature is no S02, and natural yeast. Part pressed and part whole bunch fermentation. This was quite orange, amber golden in colour. Quite a firm dry nose, and on the palate a certain leesy, stony note with some acidity and a touch of bitterness. . Good depth of flavour. Bottled in March.
2011 La Lanterne Rouge, Vin de France. 9.00
Half and half Aramon and Cinsaut The Cinsaut is destemmed and the fermentation starts and then they add whole bunches of Aramon, and press it all a couple of days later. This was very intriguing, quite tannic with some berry fruit and a certain rustic note. Quite ripe on the finish. Élevage in vat, to keep the fruit and the salinity. Corinne explained that they search for purity, so they keep the wine in a closed environment and they do not rack the wine, so that gas remains to protect it.
2010 Clos Fantine, Faugères – 9.00€
A blend of Carignan, Cinsaut, Syrah and Grenache, but mainly Carignan and Grenache. 75% destemmed and 25% whole bunches; several délestages for the first five days, and then they do nothing. The carbon dioxide helps the extraction. Bottled in April 2012 after an élevage in concrete vats. Quite solid, rounded fruit; black fruit; quite tannic and ripe, with that volatile edge that can be characteristic of natural wine. But quite intriguing, with lots of nuances.
2010 Cuvée Courtiol, Faugères - 15.00€
A wine that is made each year from the most expressive cépages of that particular vintage; in 2010 that was Mourvèdre, with 10 – 15 % Syrah and Carignan. Aged in vat and bottled in April 2012. The 2009 was also Mourvèdre dominant, but some years it is Carignan. Quite ripe and rounded on the nose; a textured palate, some tannins, with a certain freshness, as well as some ripe notes.