Maison Ventenac is the largest producer of Cabardès. It was started by Alain Maurel in 1973 with 30 hectares and these days is run by Olivier Ramé, who married Alain’s daughter Stéphanie, with 130 hectares, and another 70 en fermage. Olivier has studied business, but then went on to do the OIV Master’s degree, whereby you visit 200 wineries in 40 different countries. His first vintage at Ventenac was 2007. You immediately sense that he has a strong commercial sense, and is very focused, knowing where he wants to go. as well as understanding and enjoying wine making. They also have a négociant business, for which they control the production of the grapes. Essentially, they produce two ranges, Domaine de Ventenac for varietal IGP and Château de Ventenac for Cabardès, with a range of Sélection, Réserve, Grande Réserve and Mas Ventenac, the top cuvée.
The cellars are modern and streamlined; there are some new concrete tanks for both vinification and élevage, insulated and equipped for temperature control. Smaller tanks allow for the fermentation of smaller plots and there are some amphorae, for an experiment with Cabernet Franc. They are gradually moving from 300 litres barrels to demi-muids to foudres and Olivier particularly favours the Austrian cooper Stockinger, but also uses Boutes in Narbonne. Olivier asserted that they want to be specialists in Cabernet Franc; it should be fresh and elegant, and above all he wants drinkability. There is a lot of attention to detail, with a sorting table, to supplement one already on the mechanical harvester, pneumatic presses, nitrogen blanketing, and so. In the vineyards, they follow lutte raisonnée and moving toward organic viticulture.
We tasted a selection of convincing Cabardès. La Reserve de Jeanne is a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc with 40% Syrah and 10% Merlot, which spend a year in vat, with a little barrel ageing for a small part of the Cabernet Franc, with fresh dry cassis and some firm pepper and streak of tannin. La Grande Réserve de Georges, is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon of which a large part is aged in oak, so that it is more structured with some firm cassis fruit. Mas Ventenac comes from 50% Cabernet Franc, with 40% Syrah and 10% Merlot, with 14 months ageing in oak, with youthful structure and elegant restraint.