Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Domaine les Aurelles

I’ve just spent an intensive week with my friend and colleague, Tim Atkin, visiting wine cellars in the Languedoc,  from the Pic St. Loup to La Clape, taking in Montpeyroux, St. Chinian and Faugères as well as a couple of wine growers near Pézenas.   There were some new discoveries, and we visited some more established wine growers, some whose wines did not necessarily live up to their reputations, and others whose wines deserve a wider recognition.    And we finished on a high note, at Domaine les Aurelles outside the village of Nizas.   Why these wines are not imported to the UK is beyond me.   They undoubtedly merit a wider audience – the reds are beautifully elegant and the white Aurel must be one of the great white wines of the Languedoc.

Basile St. Germain comes from Lorraine; he trained as an architect and landscape gardener and then turned to wine, and spent two years as a stagiaire at Chateau Latour in 1984 and 1985.  As he said, it was a great apprenticeship.  His wife Caroline comes from Cognac and for a while he worked there, before coming to the Languedoc in 1995.   He has nine hectares of vines, and a spacious cellar, built in 2001.    

Basile’s red wines are original in that they see no oak; instead they are aged in steel  vats for four years before bottling.   The vats are shallow and wide, allowing for a large cap of grape skins, and natural extraction.   Basile observed that he follows the methods that he learnt in Bordeaux, favouring minimum intervention, maybe a few remontages, and long macerations.  

We tasted outside under the shade of a large olive tree. 

2008 Déella – 12.50€
A blend of Carignan and Grenache, with some berry fruit and some leathery notes.  Balanced and youthful with some fresh fruit.  Good balance.   In  some instances Basile also gave us tastes of the same wines, opened two days earlier for comparison, and an indication of ageing potential, but for simplicity’s sake I’ve combined my tasting notes.   He explained how he had picked earlier than usual in 2008, as it had hailed the week before the harvest, and there was a fear of more rain damaging the grapes, so  the alcohol level is a modest 12.5˚.   The wine was given three years, élevage in vat. 

2009 Déella – which will be bottled in January 2013.  It is not made every year.  14.5˚  A blend of Carignan, Grenache and a little Syrah.  Quite a firm nose, with a rounded palate; quite a fleshy ample mouthful, with good fruit and very silky tannins, combining elegance and concentration.  Basile said that the work in the vineyard was responsible for the silky tannins, and you sense that he is a man who pays enormous attention to detail.

2007 Solen
A blend of Carignan and Grenache.  Basile called Solen his homage to Carignan, observing that he wanted Carignan in his vineyards as culturally it is the grape variety of the Languedoc.  He also described the Languedoc, very aptly I thought, as a sleeping beauty.   But he does not want to make a pure Carignan as the focus of the Languedoc lies in blends, but Carignan should be the dominant grape variety.    Again no oak; the only red wine he aged in oak was his 1995 Aurel, and he has never liked the wine.

This Solen was quite solid a rounded with ripe fruit on the nose; elegant tannins giving backbone, quite cassis on the palate, with a certain density, combined with elegance.  Basile observed that barrels do not suit the wines of the Languedoc – and I think I am inclined to agree with him.

2008 Solen, Pézenas  - 18.00€
Fresh cassis and herbs on the nose, with some leathery hints.  Rounded supple palate with  spice and lots of nuances.  Lovely and supple and elegant.  From 2008 the vineyards of Les Aurelles come within the cru of Pézenas. 

2009 Solen  - ex vat.  Again some lovely ripe cassis fruit, rich but elegant with silky tannins.  In 2009 the Carignan gave particularly good results. 
Basile observed that his great problem is that he has no method, especially when he doing his assemblages;  Francois Pennquen, a new name to me,  is his oenologue

2010 Solen, again a vat sample.  Youthful fruit, berry fruit, spice with a touch of pepper and a firm backbone of tannins.  Some ripe Grenache cherry fruit.  Some lovely elegance.  Basile felt this had great potential:  2010 is a great vintage for him.  But apparently this wine was rejected at one of the labelle tastings for a lack of matière – what rubbish!

And then we moved onto 2007 Aurel, a blend of 65% Mourvèdre, 20% Syrah and 15% Grenache Noir.   It has more depth and structure with some fleshy ripe fruit from the Mourvèdre.  There is also a slightly viandé note in the best sense of the word , with plenty of nuances and a certain structure.  25€

2005 Aurel.  Quite a deep colour.  Smokey notes ,with some elegant cedary fruit.  A fine elegant tannic streak.  Nuances of red fruit with elegant cedary notes and a frim finish.  Evolving beautifully.  And will continue to do so.

2008 Aurel – ex vat
Quite ripe and rounded.  Ripe cassis and fresh fruit.  Belle matière.  Very silky tannins.  Lovely texture. And a long finish.  Basil observed, and I agree, that a grand vin should have a long finale.  It’s fundamental to quality.

2009 Aurel -  ex vat – there is no Syrah in this, but 75% Mourvèdre with 25% Grenache.  Lovely depth and fruit.  Very fine tannins.  Some spicy fruit.  Lots of nuances.  A long elegant finish. 

2010 Aurel  80% Mourvèdre to 20% Grenache
Deep young colour.  Quite rounded ripe cherry fruit.  Youthful tannins.  Very elegant.  Promises very well, but will not be bottled until 2014.  Basile is adamant that a long ageing suits his wines, allowing them to make themselves, for wine changes more slowly in a larger container, rather than in bottle.   

And then we went onto the white Aurel , which fully justified its reputation as one of the great white wines of the Languedoc.  It is pure Roussanne.  The wine spends 12 to 18 months in 350 litre barrels, and then 12 t o18 months in tank.  Malo faite.

2010  Light colour.  Some oak on the nose, hardly surprising for a young wine, but the palate is rich and fleshy, with lots of nuances, I got fennel, white blossom and oak.   Basile explained that Roussanne is very tricky – the yields are tiny, as the grapes are small and do not provide much juice and it can be quite capricious to vinify.  The only skin contact is in the press and he does some bâtonnage but not pour le gras but to keep the lees in suspension and to avoid adding SO2.  He does not have any Marsanne – it does not have the elegance of Hermitage in the south – and its yields are pretty high.  Roussanne is so much more complex; he prefers to concentrate on that.

2009 Aurel – In bottle but not  yet for sale.  Light golden.  Quit ripe, honeyed and rich.  Lots of nuances.   Some herbal notes.  Lovely mouth feel.  Quite delicious.  Lots of potential.  My tasting notes simply do not do justice to the wine.

2008 Aurel -  Light golden.  Quite honeyed on  the palate.  Less mature on the nose than 2009.  Again lots of nuances with herbal notes, and more restrained that 2009.  White flowers, and elegance.  Wonderful depth and length.  And great potential.    48€  But is that so expensive if you make comparisons with Château Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape?? 

2007 Aurel - Light golden, with ripe white blossom.  Wonderful nuances; lovely herbal nose.  Ample, rounded fruit.  Delicious.

2006 Aurel - An easier vintage and more forward.  Light golden.  Again lots of nuances, but needed to breathe, to lose a slightly oaky note on the nose.  Quite ripe fruit, and fatter with more weight on the palate.

2001 Aurel – which has been opened for a few days.  A mature, evolving nose with  extraordinary depth on the palate.  And here I seem to have run out of superlatives.   Basile observed that the great difficulty with whites in the south is to keep the freshness in the wine.  He has succeeded remarkably well.    So will someone please import his wine into the UK.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Domaine Verena Wyss

Verena’s wines get better and better.  I first visited her about six years ago, and returned a couple of years ago – see my earlier blog – and this time I just want to enthuse as I came away with a great impression of elegance and finesse.

2011 les Perdreaux – 10.00€
This is Verena’s Roussanne cuvée that used to be fermented and aged in oak, but in 2008 Verena decided to tone down the oak, and each year she reduced the amount of oak, so that with 2011 there was none.  You can’t go from oak to no oak in just one vintage, she observed.  Your customers might not like it, if the wine changes dramatically from one year to the next.  There is a little colour, with some ripe fruit on the nose, lots of white blossom, and on the palate lots of nuances with weight, depth and length.  

2010 Wyss Wine, Viognier, Pays d’Oc – 10.00€
Again, no oak.  The wine is ripe and peachy with subtle nuances, and a herbal note.  It is quite elegant, for a Viognier, with lightly peachy notes on the palate, and a herbal streak.  Quite intriguing.

2010 Viognier Tradition – 11.00€
Seven months in wood, with bâtonnage.  Some depth of colour. Quite rounded and peachy, but with a drier finish, with oak providing a streak of tannin.  I preferred the unoaked version.

And then Verena gave us a treat, 2000 Roussanne.  Lit was light golden in colour, with a mature buttery nose, but quite a different butteriness than that of Chardonnay. Fifty per cent of the wine had been fermented and aged in oak.  On the palate, there were lots of nuances, with a hint of maturity, and quite soft acidity and great length.  It was hard to believe that it was a white wine from the Midi that was almost twelve years old.  

2011 Rosé Lladoner Pelut – 7.50€
Lladoner Pelut is a cousin of Grenache.  The colour is a pink orange, with quite a delicate nose.  It is saigné, with the juice run off very quickly.  The plate is nicely vinous, dry and rounded with a refreshing finish.

2009 Lladoner Pelut Vin de France – 8.50€
With 11 months in oak.  Verena has 1.20 hectares of Lladoner Pelut, in the hottest part of her vineyards.   The wine is aged in oak, in barrels of several fills.  Used oak, she insisted, not old oak.  Medium colour with some liqueur cherry fruit and a tannic edge on the nose.  Medium weigh with ˚quite a firm dry tannic streak, and some cherry fruit and a fresh finish.   This would be a lovely summer red, served lightly chilled.

2008 Merlot Chant de la terre  -14.00€
The colour has developed a little.  Quite cedary with some vegetal notes on the nose. And on the palate ripe cedary fruit with supple tannins.  Quite fleshy and nicely rounded with an elegant finish.  The wine spends 126 months in nearly new oak.  Verena buys a new 600 litre barrel ever year and asks for light toasting.   We joked that this was the St. Emilion of Gabian.

2008 La Tonga – Tonga being Thongue, the nearby river in Occitan.
40% Petit Verdot with Cabernet Sauvignon.  Élevage in oak and blended together a month before bottling.  Deep colour.  Lovely depth with ripe cassis and a grip on the nose.  Very good fruit, with youthful freshness.  Medium weight. Elegant tannins.  Maybe the Graves of Gabian?

And to what did she attribute the improvement in her wines?  Temperature control; she keeps the fermentations cooler; if they are long and cool, the aromatics are retained, and you must not over extract.  Also she in the process of converting to organic viticulture and maybe that helps too.

2008 Bel Canto - 12.00€
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  The Cabernet was planted in 1992, the Merlot in 1996 and the petit Verdot in 1998.   Deep colour; smoky cedary nose and palate.  Richer with more depth; some lovely cedary notes, smoky, rich and elegant with great length.   The St. Julien of Gabian, without a doubt!

And then Verena opened a bottle of a cuvee called l’Art Brut, which had been made on demand for a group of German customers, who had dictated what they wanted in the wine, and helped make it.   In Verena’s hands it would have been Bel Canto.  Instead it came from the New World, without the regional characteristics of the Languedoc, with intense ripe confit fruit and sweet oak, and an alcohol level of 15˚.  The blend was half and half Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.   The contrast was quite dramatic and I had no doubt which I preferred.  But fascinating to taste the difference in the glass.  

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Faugeres Fete in 2012

I really enjoyed the Faugères fete this year.  For a start although the sun was shining, the temperature was tempered with a refreshing breeze, and the narrow village street was cheerful and animated.  The confrerie of Faugères processed with various visiting confreres, all dressed in colourful robes, and carrying their banners, accompanied by a fanfare of music.   I had also arranged to meet my tasting buddy, Lits, before things got too crowded, but even so, access to Francoise Ollier from Domaine Ollier Taillefer or Simon Coulshaw at Domaine des Trinités was virtually impossible, with a crowd several deep around their barrels. 

Domaine de Sarabande was right up the top of street so that was my first stop, with Paul and Isla Gordon.
2011 Rose – 7.00€
Paul has been experimenting with his rosé. This is 60% Cinsaut picked early, blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre, picked later.  It was quite solid and dense, with some very firm acidity.  Paul wondered whether it would age a bit.  He also made the pertinent observation that rosé may be his cheapest wine, but it is the most expensive to make, with a controlled fermentation necessitating three and a half weeks of high use of electricity.

2011  Misterioso – 7.00€
A blend of Grenache and Syrah.  Quite  a deep young colour.  Ripe red cherry nose.  Rounded palate with fresh tannins.    Ripe rounded fruit with a fresh edge.

2010 Faugères – 11.00€
Ripe spicy with fresh tannins.  Medium weight, and lovely Faugères

2010 Aramon, Vin de France.
This includes a touch of Syrah.  Deep colour.  Quite round berry fruit with some firm tannins and a peppery note.  Youthful and fresh.

And asked how things are looking for 2012, Paul observed that he had a lot of fruit this year, but that’s relative – he means about 35 hl/ha as opposed to 25 hl/ha.  The reason is a good spring in 2011, as it is the previous season that determines bunch initiation.

Domaine de l’Ancienne Mercerie
2010 Les Petites Mains – 8.70€
Quite firm leather nose – rounded spice, medium weight and elegant.  Nice balance with a tannic edge.  Élevage in vat.  50% Carignan, 20% each Grenache and Syrah with 10% Mourvèdre.   

2008 Couture  -14.80€
Same assemblage as les Petites Main, but with two years in wood.  Quite rounded and solid, with well-integrated oak.  Good structure; should age.ore anon as I am going back for a cellar visit later in the month. 

Domaine de Valambelle in Laurens, with Michel Abbal.  A sympathique vigneron who I had not met before.

2011 Rosé – 6.00
Grenache with a little Cinsaut, Carignan and Syrah.  Fresh raspberry and strawberry fruit, with some fresh acidity and a ripe finish.

2011 Faugères, Millepeyres – 6.00€
Medium colour, ripe and fresh with rounded supple fruit.  Easy drinking.  Includes all five varieties of the Midi, but Carignan and Grenache dominate the blend. 

2009 L’Angolet – 7.00€
35% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 25% Carignan and 10% Mourvèdre.    Some leather y nose.  Quite dense perfumed fruit, with furry tannins.  Some red fruit and quite a warm finish.

2008 Florentin Abbal – 8.50€
60% Syrah, 20% Carignan, 10% each of Mourvèdre and Grenache.  Aged in vat.  Ripe rounded fruit.  Some soft spice and some tannin.  A touch of peppery.  Medium weight.

2009 La Grande Cuvee – 13.50€
70% with an élevage in wood.  Medium colour. Quite solid and dense and a bit drying on the finish.  I preferred the unoaked cuvées.

2011 Faugères Blanc – 9.50€
A blend of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. Quite fresh white blossom on the nose.  Good acidity, with some hints of fennel. And a tannic streak.

My previous tasting of Valambelle had been a bit cursory and fleeting, but I thought some of these promised well. 

Domaine Frederic Alquier
2010 Faugères Blanc, - 9.50€
A  blend of Marsanne and Roussanne.  Light golden.  Quite ripe and fleshy with some rounded fruit, a herbal note and some balancing acidity. 

I am less enthusiastic about Frederic’s other wines, so we moved on to Domaine de Cébène.  I’ve tasted Brigitte’s wines and blogged about them recently, so will not repeat my tasting notes, but it was good to have a chat and she also wanted me to taste the wines of Domaine St. Martin d’Agel. Brigitte and her partner, Pierre Roque, help the owner, Céline Lugagne-Delpon.    There have been vines on the property for 200 years or so, but production in bottle is recent. 

There were two cuvées to taste, 2010 le Pelerin  and 2010 La Chapelle.  I found some fruits rouges in both, but there was also a curious streak that I could not identify.   Pierre suggested minerality, but I wasn’t sure.  Celine said that her aim was gourmandise, and that she was looking for wines that are easy to drink.  She has 35 hectares next to the Château de Grézan, including 12 hectares of Faugères, while the rest is Coteaux du Languedoc. 

Simon Coulshaw was proudly sporting a T shirt stating that Stress is Useless.  And we managed to grab a glass of his 2011 rosé – 6.25€, with some delicious ripe fruit and refreshing acidity.

Next stop was Château Peyresgrandes, with mixed impressions.  The wines seemed to have a bit too much oak with not quite enough fruit to balance it.   A couple of wines from Chateau des Adouzes left us underwhelmed. 

And then we came to Chateau Haut Lignières.  This estate changed hands five years ago, so that the first vintage under new ownership was 2007.   And the quality has improved.

2011 rosé – 6.50€
Mainly Cinsaut.  Light pretty colour.  Fresh and crisp with some herbal fruit.

Le 1er – 6.50€
Their entry level Faugères and from all five grape varieties.  Lovely fresh ripe nose, with supply rounded fruit and a slightly tannic edge, which gives some backbone.  Stony minerality .   Very appealing. 

2011 Romy – 8.50€
No Cinsaut in this and 50% in vat and 50% in barrel. Ripe and rounded with more body and a good stony finish.

2009 Carmina Butis – 13.50€
The name means red hill.  Twelve months élevage in wood.  60% Syrah.  Medium colour; quite perfumed fruit on nose and palate.  Medium weight with an oaky streak. 

2009 Grande Reserve – 18.00€
We were told that this came from the same varieties, grown on the same plot, with the same picking date.  The grapes were destemmed by hand and the juice fermented in barrel, using only the free run juice.  It is only made in the best years.  The colour was good and  the nose was quite solid and dense.  The palate was youthful and tannic, and the oak quite present with some vanilla notes.  I thought there was potential, but perversely I much preferred Carmina Butis.  

Would definitely repay a cellar visit.

And we finished in the cool tasting room of the Presbytère with Alix Roque, for a comparison of  Mas d'Alezon, 2010 Presbytère, in which Grenache is the main variety,  with some cherry fruit, firm tannins and a youthful balance, and 2010 Montfalette, which was stony and ripe, with rounded spice.   Both delicious.

Alix was also showing a bottle of 2002 Coteaux du Languedoc – it was not Faugères as her mother did not have a cellar in Faugères in 2002, hence the declassification.  It was quite evolved with some leathery notes, and dry spice, with fading elegance.    And a nice finale to the morning.

Some of the different coloured schist in the vineyards of Faugeres. 

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Domaine de l'Escarpolette

I had fun this morning and went to Montpeyroux for a cellar visit with Ivo Ferreira from Domaine de l’Escarpolette.   I had tasted some of his wines at the Montpeyroux caves ouvertes day, - see my earlier posting – but it is always more satisfying to taste with a vigneron chez lui in his cellar.   I first asked Ivo how he landed up in Montpeyroux – ‘le hazard’ was the short answer.  He was born in Oporto and came to France when he was fifteen; he worked in restaurants in Paris, including a rather smart two Michelin star place  where his interest in wine was kindled.  And then he wanted to do more, so after a vintage in the Jura, he spent year at La Tour Blanche in Sauternes.  By this time he was married and his wife’s cousins have Château le Puy in the Côtes de Francs, so he worked there for five years.  And then it was time for a change.  He found a job managing a wine estate in St. Jean de Fos and meanwhile developed his own vineyard, finding a house with a cellar to rent in Montpeyroux as well as five hectares of land, in nine different plots, around Montpeyroux, and the adjoining villages of Arboras, St. Saturnin, St. Jean de Fos and Lagamas.   He has plots of Carignan, Cinsaut, Syrah, Grenache, Merlot, Macabeo, Muscat and Grenache blanc.  But for one three year old plot, the average age of his vines would be 60 years old. 

His cellar is the traditional village cellar, that every wine grower had before the cooperatives were created, on the ground floor of the house, with large concrete vats, and a small barrel cellar out the back in the garden.   One of the vats is dated 1920.  Swallows return regularly every spring, so he has to leave the back door open.  And his elderly ginger cat made it clear that he thought that we were intruders.  Ivo’s first vintage was 2009.  He favours short macerations, seven to ten days, and wants gentle extraction, so no pigeage or remontage.  He also picks his grapes when they are perhaps not fully ripe, but that makes for freshness in his wines, with an underlying elegance and minerality. 

Some of these wines I had tasted earlier, but it never hurts to revisit so:   All Ivo’s wines are Vin de France.

2011 Le Blanc 18.00€  
Half Macabeo and half Muscat à petits grains.  An orange wine, in that it is fermented for ten days on the skins, but not with the stalks.  There is a two week gap between the harvest of the two varieties.   No so2 is added and the juice is initially free run, coming from the weight of the grapes.    I found lots of intriguing nuances, notes of ginger, some spice, some nutty notes, some oxygenation.  Not tannic despite the presence of the skins.   Very good acidity, with a fresh finish.   The wine was nicely mouth filling, without being heavy, with a fresh finish.    This is quite a different process from a pre-fermentation  skin contact for a few hours at a low temperature. 

2011 La petite Crapule – 13.00€
The name translates as the little rascal.  An observation perhaps on how Carignan is perceived in the region.  Young Carignan vines, that is to say about 30 year old vines from a vineyard at Lagamas.  Picked quite early, with lovely refreshing dry cherry fruit.  Medium weight; elegance and minerality.  And relatively low alcohol, especially for the Languedoc. Fermented by carbonic maceration, but only for ten days, so the carbonic character is muted. 

2010 L’Escarpolette – 16.00€
60% Cinsaut and 40% Carignan.  10 days carbonic maceration. Quite firm spice on the nose; quite rounded and denser than la Petite Crapule.  A stony note of minerality.  More body with some fresh fruit; riper and more textured.  Minerality on the finish, with a fresh finish. 

2010 Les Vieilles – 22.00€ 
Les Vieilles refers to 70 year old Carignan vines, from a plot at Arboras, where the soil is marnes bleues and limestone.  Relatively early harvest at the beginning of September.  Ivo did a micro-vinification for this, in a fibre glass tank, rather than using one of the larger concrete vats.  The wine is  given a ten day maceration and then transferred into used demi-muids for 18 months.  There is a  regular bâtonnage so that the lees have virtually dissolved by the end of the élevage
A touch of oak on the nose, but the fruit fills out.  It is rich, but not heavy, with velvety notes and some fresh acidity and lovely cherry fruit.  Ivo explained that he made this the same way as he made Château le Puy when he was working there.  A great future.

2010 Merlot
Quite intriguing and very different from the usual perception of Merlot from the Midi, which I do not usually like, when it is rather jammy and heavy.  This had some spicy cherry fruit with some tannin, but somehow had quite a different range of flavours from the Midi grape varieties.

Then we transferred to the tiny barrel room, and Ivo climbed nimbly over the barrels to reach inaccessible wines.  There was the future 2011 l’Escarpolette with a veritable explosion of fruit, spicy orange perhaps.  A pure Cinsaut was redolent of fresh red cherries, with a mineral note.  Carignan was quite ripe and fleshy, with some lovely fruit – with a note of spicy cherries, I initially thought of Grenache.  The 2011 Merlot was quite rich and concentrated. 

And we finished with a tasting of 2007 Château le Puy, Côtes de Francs – 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.  I always find it quite difficult tasting Bordeaux blends in the Languedoc, but this had some lovely supple fruit, and again was made with a short maceration and a long élevage.  

And Ivo also very generously opened another new comer’s wine, Lionel Maurel at Nébian, Yo no puedo mas 2010 Mas d’Agalis, vin de table, with some rounded fleshy fruit.  It was still very youthful. 

Altogether a great visit.  Ivo deserves to do well.  He has a thoughtful discursive approach, not to mention some obvious talent.  

Ivo in his cellar with the traditional concrete vat and his invention of a destemming table.  You push the grapes through the holes.  

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Domaine Ste Cecile du Parc

I never cease to be amazed by the number of new wines estates in the Languedoc. They seem to  pop up at an incredible rate.  I thought I knew about all the significant estates in our immediate neighbourhood, but no, there was Domaine Ste Cecile du Parc at the Rising Stars tasting earlier this spring.  And following that encounter Christine Mouton Bertoli invited me to visit.   She gave us directions -  take the road from Caux to Pézenas and turn up  the dirt track opposite a large white tower covered in graffiti.  As yet there is no sign up.  And it is a lovely spot, backing on to the large walled property of le Parc, which totals 140 hectares, enclosed by one large wall, which dates back to the Middle Ages and if you are looking carefully, you will see two sets of open gates crossing the road between Caux and Pézenas.

Christine and her régisseur, Jérôme, took us round the vineyards and we met her husband Stéphane later.  His other career is the Intermarché in Pézenas.   Christine explained that they have 9.5 hectares, planted with Grenache, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Sauvignon, with 15 hectares of land altogether, including some olive trees.   The Cabernet Franc and Grenache are recent plantings, and the Carignan and Cinsaut will probably be pulled up.  The Cabernet Franc is Stéphane’s particular enthusiasm.   They have carried out a lot of soil analysis; they have limestone and clay, some villefranchien and a little sand.

The previous owner sent his grapes to the Caux coop, so they needed build a cellar, a smart streamlined building, which was ready for the 2011 vintage.   There is a brand new basket press, and cement vats are varying sizes, a couple of wooden tronconique vats, some stainless steel tanks, and they are also considering a couple of cement eggs.   Barriques are in the adjoining cellar.  Stéphane arrived at this point, and talk of the encouragement that he had been given by Vincent Puygibet from Domaine la Colombette.  He had worked in Italy for a number of years and as a newcomer to the Languedoc, had simply not realised that the wines of the Languedoc could be so good.    Their very first vintage was 2005; but 2006 was more serious.

First we tasted from vat and barrel :

2010 Cabernet Franc – deep colour; rounded nose with some oak, and on the palate ripe cherry fruit balanced with oak, acidity and tannin.   It will be given a total eighteen months élevage, in a tronconique vat, in which it was also fermented.

2011 Cabernet Franc.
This was fermented in a tronconique vat and was destined to go into barrel the next day.  Deep colour; quite rich and concentrated.  Very ripe berry fruit.   Very good tannins.   Amply rewarding Stéphane’s  enthusiasm.

There were a couple of vat samples of Syrah; one made by carbonic maceration was very perfumed with notes of tapenade and ripe cherry fruit, with a freshness and elegance.  It was their first attempt at carbonic maceration and they were very pleased with the results, with its nice balance of acidity and tannin.  The classic fermentation seemed heavier and riper in comparison.

They have experimented with various coopers,  Dagaud & Jaegle, Seguin Moreau, Radoux, among others, as well as the Tonnellerie de Mercurey, which they particularly like.  They usually ask for a chauffe moyen.

A barrel sample of Syrah was perfumed and peppery with nicely integrated oak.  Next came two barrels of Syrah made by maceration carbonique, one was the vin de goutte, which was very perfumed and elegant, with a refreshing lightness, while the vin de presse had a more solid nose, with ripe fruit and supple tannins, and was  more substantial than the vin de goutte.  An interesting contrast to see them side by side. 

And then we went on to bottles:

2011 Notes Frivoles, rosé IGP Caux – 6.00€
1/3 each of Grenache, Carignan and Cabernet Franc, pressed.  Very pretty pale colour.  Delicate fresh nose and palate.  Delicate dry and fresh.   Delicious in the May sunshine.

2011 Notes Pures  - 9.00€
A pure Sauvignon.   Light colour.  Rounded oaky nose, but with very good fruit underneath.  Nicely crafted and satisfying.  Should develop further in bottle.

2009 Notes d’Orphée, Pézenas  – 9.00€
Syrah with some Cinsaut.  Élevage partly in barrel and partly in a stainless steel tank.  Quite rounded and textured with satisfying layers of flavour and supple tannins.

2009 Sonatina, Pézenas – 12.00€
Again, 90% Syrah with some Cinsaut.  Fermented in a tronconique vat, with élevage in that and in barrel.  Ripe and rounded, with quite firm tannins and some fleshy fruit.  Nicely mouthfilling, and a treat with some roast lamb and a tian of vegetables.

And Stéphane pertinently and modestly observed that ‘we don’t know anything about wine-making’ – on y connait rien du tout – and that is both an advantage and a disadvantage.    Definitely an estate to follow.