I've been back to the Dame Jane, this time for a Faugères tasting. Alix Roque, daughter of Catherine from Mas d’Alezon, welcomed us, explaining about the association of producers. It includes wine growers from Faugeres and the Orb valley, as well as producers of honey, olive oil, a baker, who are mostly organic. And then she introduced Michel Salette who is a local wine communicator, who gave a general introduction, talking about terroir, and the possible hierachisation of the wines of the Languedoc .He observed that 80% of wines sold in French supermarkets cost less than 5.00€ a bottle.
Then Camille Chauvin, the bright young winemaker at the new estate of Domaine des Champs Pentus – she has just made her first vintage - gave us an introduction to Faugères. Some pertinent figures included the colour breakdown of the appellation – 80% red, one third under organic viticulture, with 59 independent wine growers as well as the cooperative. She talked about the different schists. Schist is not just schist, but it can be grey, blue, yellow or ochre. It is schist gives the appellation its homogeneity. One of its great characteristics is that it retains water and heat. It is not an exaggeration to say that the grapes ripen at night. Wind plays an important part in the climate; the north Tramontane is a drying wind, while the vent Marin brings humidity, and potentially disease.
As for grape varieties, Faugères includes the usual five of the Languedoc. Cinsaut is not obligatory, but you must have all the other four in your vineyards. And at least two must be in each wine. The possible white grapes are Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Roussanne, Marsanne, Clairette and Viognier. Again there is minimum of two varieties in the wine. Yields are fixed at 45 hl/ha for white and red wine, and 50 hls/ha for rosé, but rare is the vigneron who achieves that amount. Another observation was the average age of the wine growers is relatively young, and includes a fair number of women.
Michel then gave some thoughts on tasting, talking particularly about minerality and what that might mean, and he encouraged us to spit. This seemed a bit of a challenge to some people present! And caused a bit of merriment. We tasted six wines, as follows:
2012 Château Haut Lignières rosé
Light colour, a pretty pale pink. Dry raspberry fruit, on the nose. Oo the palate good acidity, with nicely rounded fruit. Good balance and a rounded finish. In short a jolly nice glass of rosé.
2012 Domaine Frédéric Alquier Blanc – NB the Christian name is important here; Frédéric is the brother of Jean-Michel and often referred to as the other Alquier. He keeps a lower profile than his brother. His white is a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne, with no oak ageing. It was quite delicate on the nose, and on the palate quite dry and stony, but with no great depth.
2012 Domaine Cottebrune, le Cairn
This wine was presented by Maxime Sécher, the young regisseur of the estate, which is owned by Pierre Gaillard of Côte Rôtie fame. 2010 was the first vintage of this wine. The vines were planted in 2006, en echalas, a Côte Rôtie technique where by each vine has a supporting post. The blend is equal parts of Roussanne, Vermentino and Grenache Blanc. It was wonderfully characterful after a fermentation and élevage in barrel, lightly golden colour, with quite a resinous oaky nose and on the palate very good acidity, balancing dry honey and some weight and body and satisfying mouth feel. The wine undergoes regular bâttonage until Maxime feels it has enough weight and body. It developed beautifully in the glass and was textured and long.
2012 Le Parfum des Schistes, from the coop and a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. The Syrah is vinified by carbonic maceration and the Carignan comes from older vines. Some spice on the nose and quite firm tannins on the palate with some spice. A touch confit on the finish. Some peppery notes with a stony finish.
2012 les Novices, Abbaye de Sylva Plana.
Quite a deep young colour. Rounded ripe sweet nose, and on the palate some spice with a firm streak of tannin. Some quite rugged tannins. This is Sylva Plana’s entry level wine and intended for easy drinking.
2011 Domaine de Cébène, les Bancèls was presented by Brigitte Chevalier, the owner of the estate. Deep colour with a rich concentrated youthful oaky nose. Brigitte explained that Cebena is the goddess of the Languedoc and gave her name to the Cevennes. The palate was youthful and intense, with lots of nuances, smoky, peppery, tapenade, with some youthful tannins and balancing acidity. It is a combination of four varieties. Brigitte observed that the 2012 vintage produced des vins charmeurs, whereas 2011 was more powerful. Initially it was very closed and is now beginning to open up.
And then some delicious tapas appeared, various dips, hummus and bagna calda, and a glass of your favourite red or white wine of the evening. I opted for les Bancels.
This was the first such evening at la Dame Jane, and it was deemed to be a great success. More evenings are planned, including one in English, but no dates announced yet. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org And the website address is www.damejean.fr but there is not yet much information on it.