Monday, 16 April 2018

Corbières - A pair of cooperatives

Terroirs de Vertige, Talairan

The Talairan cooperative is one of nine cooperatives that form Terroirs du Vertige which covers an area of higher altitude vineyards from Lagrasse to Cucugnan.  It is run by Benjamin Andrieu, who studied oenology at Toulouse and arrived in Talairan in 2016.  I sense he will be a refreshing breathe of fresh air and bring new ideas to the cooperative.    The Talairan cooperative covers several villages, from Thézan at 100 metres to Cucugnan at 400 metres, taking in the Cathar castles of Peyrepertuse and Quéribus.  The altitude brings advantages and disadvantages, allowing for a diversity of grape varieties and wines styles.   The Pyrenees have a strong influence so that the harvest can last six or seven weeks, usually beginning at the end of August and in 2016 it finished on 16thNovember.  Benjamin cited the example of Merlot, that can be picked in mid-September, or delayed until the end of the month, if it is at a higher altitude. 

Asked about their tipicity, Benjamin said they were working on wines for longer keeping, using less maceration carbonic and as for flavour, he talked of tapenade for Syrah and minerality and freshness for Carignan. He wants elegance rather than concentration.  The higher altitude is good for white wines, with Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Roussanne, and Macabeo.   Vestiges, which he called the flagship of the cellar, comes from 80% Syrah with 20% Grenache Noir, with a 30 days cuvaison and elevate in vat.  The emphasis is on fruit;  that is what people really want and the wine is ripe and peppery.  Other cuvées such as Talarius and Guilhem l'Hérétique include higher proportions of Carignan and some elevate in oak.  Although they want to increase the percentage of the production that is bottled, they are also very aware that quality is a keen consideration for their bulk wines. 

Les Celliers d’Ornaisons, Ornaisons

Les Celliers d’Ornaisons is based at Ornaisons and run by Christophe Groppi, who is bright and perceptive.  Again, this is a group of cooperatives from the surrounding villages, accounting for 1000 hectares including 470 hectares of Corbières, as well as IGP.  They have known how to grow with the times.  In the 1980s they carried out a lot of replanting; in the 1990s they invested in technology, equipping the whole cellar with a cooling plant. In the 2000s they have concentrated on sélection parcellaire anfor Christophe, that is now the basis of everything, with lots of selection, with at least six different qualities of Syrah.  They have a new barrel cellar and a stream-lined vinification cellar, with a pneumatic press.  The bulk of their business is wine en vrac for the négoce,with their own wines in bottle accounting for a quarter of their turnover, but only 8% of their volume.   

L’Infernale is a blend of two thirds Grenache Noir to one third Syrah, from lower yielding vineyards, resulting in some supple spicy fruit.  B de Boutenac, for which they have seven growers, is the top of their range, from Grenache, Carignan and Syrah, with the spicy cherry fruit, characteristic of Grenache. Christophe enthused: ‘j’adore le Grenache; it is a wonderful grape variety, but alcohol can be a problem with it’.  Unlike so many cooperatives, they have not been lured by the cheapest, firmly avoiding Corbières at 1.75€ a bottle, but have built up a well-conceived range.

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