Monday, 29 October 2012

Chateau la Baronne

A chance encounter with Paul Lignères of Château la Baronne over lunch at Easter led to a cellar visit in the Corbières in September.    We met up in the village of Moux.    I had first visited this estate for my book on French Country Wines.  when Paul’s father,  André, was running it with his wife Suzette in the mid-1980s.  At the time you very much felt that they were among the pioneers of Corbières, and the next generation, Paul,  and his brother Jean, have maintained and improved the quality, and deserve a wider reputation than they currently have on the British market.

First stop was a cellar for barrel ageing.  The use the OXO  system which enables them to store the barrels five high – as many as ten levels is possible –and you can turn the barrels automatically so that racking is much simpler.  But it’s expensive.    For oak, they favour Darnajoux, a cooper  in St. Emilion, and use new wood very cautiously, renewing barrels after six or seven years.  They ask for a chauffe moyen.    

The barrels are expensive –‘ il faut pleurer’, to have your order accepted, and again when you pay the bill, said Paul.  Altogether, they have five ageing cellars, containing a total of 600 barrels,  three cellars  in the village of Fontcouverte, this one in Moux, and one at the Château de la Baronne, outside Fontcouverte,  which is where we went next to see the vineyards and vinification cellar.    

Paul explained that the Montagne d’Alaric, which dominates the skyline, acts as a régulateur de l’eau; it is a limestone mass and operates like a sponge.  Its  altitude is between 270 – 300 metres, creating a microclimate, with the prevailing wind coming over the mountain, cooling the air, and making ultimately for more acidity in the wines.  The wind – and it can blow in the Aude – is ‘notre grand copain’.  

Altogether they have three estates, totalling 110 hectares.  There is Domaine de la Baronne, and adjoining it, Domaine las Vals, and they have a separate property, Domaine du Plo de Maorou, which is joint venture with the Jackson family in California, and only sold in the US.  The harvest was in full swing; everything is hand-picked and there was a cheerful team of Andalusian pickers in the vineyard – the same people return every year – 24 cutters and 6 porters, making an efficient team.   

Paul explained that the vineyard soil is argilo-calcaire, but very heterogeneous; they have four geological eras within about four kilometres and about fifteen different terroirs within the estate, all based on clay and limestone.  Everything is organic; they were certified in 2010.  Their oldest vineyard is Carignan, which was planted in 1892 and  Carignan accounts of 40% of their vineyards.  Paul is particularly partial to that variety, liking its elegance and length and he finds it a very good expression of the terroir.

Back in the cellar grapes were being meticulously sorted.   Rejects are composted.  They use natural yeast, which gives a slower start to the fermentation and no S02 during fermentation, which takes place either in stainless steel vats or in tronconique oak vats.    There was Roussanne in a tronconique vat; which is given some skin contact until the fermentation starts.  It had been destalked.    Some Vermentino was given 24 hours of maceration in the press, and then settled at 14˚C for a débourbage, without using any enzymes.   A smiling Italian, Alessio, was running the cellar.   There is an Italian influence as the Tuscan oenologist, Stefano Chioccioli,  is their consultant, working alongside Marc Dubernet, who is based in Narbonne.

We tasted some Roussanne juice that was sweet and grapey, with acidity and not yet fermenting.  Paul explained that it can be difficult to control the temperature, if you have large vats for carbonic maceration.    Here they had small vats of Carignan, which makes for cooler temperatures.  The key factors are size of vat and temperature of grapes when they go into the vat.   You can’t control the temperature once the grapes are in the vat.   And you don’t want to identify the terroir with a Carignan  made by carbonic maceration; you can only identify terroir with a classic vinification. 

And in an outhouse was an old lorry, a Berliet dating from 1919, which Paul's great grandfather had driven, to deliver barrels.  It reached a speed of 13 k per hour –and curiously the steering wheel was on the right-hand side.  And then we adjourned to the old cellar that had been Paul’s great-grandfather’s, dated 1890, with the enormous foudres of Hungarian oak. 

Paul explained that for his red wines, he makes three levels at la Baronne, namely les Lanes, les Chemins and a selection of different terroirs

2011 Domaine des Lanes, IGP Hauterive – 9.00€
A blend of Grenache Blanc and Vermentino – 50/50  Light colour; light pithy nose; quite rounded with some fresh acidity.  Quite sappy; citrus notes,  grapefruit pithiness.    Not debourbé; natural yeast, but no so2.  So2 is good for conservation, but  during vinification is an extracteur, and ‘results in une extraction mal faite’.  Batonné sur lies.  Good mouth feel with a certain weight. 

2010 las Vals, IGP Hauterive  -15.00€
From Roussanne grown on the foothills of the Montagne d’Alaric.   Light golden colour; quite rounded, rich, very good texture.  A blend of the three styles of Roussanne, stainless steel, barriques and skin contact with whole grapes.  There is a touch of tannin from the stalks, with refreshing acidity.  Paul observed that a low pH is a characteristic of the estate.  And the so2 is low too.

2010 Domaine des Lanes,  Corbières  – 2010
A blend of Grenache and Carignan.  No wood.  The wine spends twelve months in cement tanks, on the fine  lees, with some bâtonnage.  The wine is neither filtered nor fined.  Medium colour.  Rounded fruit on the nose.  Quite spicy berry flavours.  Some tannins, with an elegant palate and a fresh nervosité.  Medium weight and eminently drinkable.  They want buvabilité, which sounds more appealing than drinkability. 

2010 Les Chemins, Corbières  – 12.00€
A blend of Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre, from different terroirs, and some aged in vat, and some in barrel.  Deeper colour.  A richer nose, more confit and a very rounded palate, but with a freshness and nervosité, and some lovely dry spicy fruit.  They are careful about extraction, aiming to extract as little as possible.  The wines are treated very carefully in the cellar, and great attention is paid to the work in the vineyards.  Paul was adamant that they do not want to make heavy or tiring  wines, and they have certainly succeeded, producing wines with an elegant finesse that leave you wanting more.

And then we went onto a selection of different terroirs, beginning with:

2009 Alaric, Corbières  – 17.00€
60% Syrah with some Carignan and Mourvèdre, mostly in barrel, but not new wood.  They do not want their wines marked by oak.   Deep colour, with a much richer more confit nose.  Quite solid and rounded on the palate, but not too heavy.  Dry spice balanced with elegant tannins.  2009 was a hotter year, so the wine is less fresh compared to the 2010s.  The Syrah dominates the palate.

2010 Alaric,  Corbières  – 17.00€
Lighter nose.  More elegant fresher nose and palate.  Quite sturdy tannins, with a refreshing note on the palate and more vivacity.  Nice balance of elegance and tannin.  Very appealing.

2009 Pièce de Roche,  IGP Hauterive  -24.00€
This is the Carignan that was planted in 1892 – they have 4 hectares, with 15,000 plants. La Pièce describes  la plus belle vigne du domaine.  Traditionnel vinification.  Destemmed.  Quite serious, dense and concentrated, with acidity and tannin.  Very youthful.  Neither filtered nor fined.   Carignan always gives a tannic streak, with considerable length.  Dense rustic berry fruit. Paul observed that the cadastre viticole which records what was planted where did not start until 1905 – so they do know exactly what was planted after phylloxera and before 1905.

2010 Piece de Roche, IGP Hauterive
Again I preferred this to the 2009.  The was a wonderful purity of fruit.  Quite a firm nose, with some red fruit – those little griotte cherries.  A lovely freshness and more vivacity.  Very satisfying mouth feel.  Fresh acidity and tannin.  Stony fruit and minerality with some berry notes.  Again as little so2 as possible – they are working on reducing the sulphur levels. 

2010 Les Chemins de Traverse – 14.00€
A blend of Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre, vinified in the tronconique vats, without any additional so2.  Yeast always produce some so2.  Quite a heavy nose, a tad reduced, but with a fresh palate, fresh cherries, acidity and elegance developed as the wine breathed in the glass.   Quite a firm finish with tannin from the stalks.

Paul observed that there is an important market for wines without so2.  However, the vins natures need more polyphenols to protect them against oxidation, and you do not get the same identification of terroir that you get with more conventional wines.   

A great visit with some great wines.  

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Absolutely Cracking Wines from France

This is an annual tasting that I really enjoy.  Wine writers, and this year, for the first time, sommeliers, are asked to choose three of their favourite wines from France, in three different price bands – under £8; between £8 and £15 and something special for Christmas.  There are some classics, and some quirky and original wines, and of course the Languedoc got a good look in.  And the great thing about this tasting is that you know that there will be no dud wines, because one of your colleagues is really enthusiastic about each of the 150 wines at the tasting.  It was quite a marathon and what follows are my highlights. 

2011 Côtes du Roussillon, Château Saint Nicolas - £5.99 - Waitrose
Syrah, Grenache and Carignan.   Good colour.  Rounded, ripe and perfumed, with a touch of orange and some leathery fruit on the palate.  Youthful and characterful and excellent value.

NV Berry’s Crémant de Limoux, produced by Antech – £11.95 – Berry Bros & Rudd
A blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Mauzac and Pinot Noir.  Lemony,  creamy nose; ripe and rounded palate; maybe a touch earthy, but with a nice balance. 

NV Domaine Préceptorie de Centernach, Coume Marie - £10.99 – The Wine Society
A blend of Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Macabeu and Carignan Blanc.   Light golden.  Quite a rich, resinous rounded nose, with more resinous oak on the palate.  Lots of texture, weight and body, and considerable length.  Full of character. 

2010 Château Rives-Blanques Limoux Cuvée Occitania Mauzac should have been included but it had transmogrified into their sparkling Blanquette de Limoux, which was rounded, ripe and creamy with some herbal notes on the finish.  

2011 Vermentino, L’Atelier Miquel, Pays d'Oc - £9.99 - Waitrose
Quite a rounded nose, with some herbal notes, and on the palate ripe with a pithy finish.  A Vermentino with some character.

NV Le Mas des Masques, Silex Chardonnay - £14.50 - Swig.   
I'm not sure exactly where this is from.  The producer's name was a cryptic SCEA DDM and the address 13100, which is somewhere in the Bouches du Rhone.  This was  wonderfully funky.  A light colour; ripe oaky buttery and powerful and both nose and palate.  Rich and characterful.  And about as far removed as you can get from my favourite Chardonnay that is Chablis.

And straying out of the Languedoc across the water to Corsica:

2011 Coteaux de Cap Corse Rosé,  Domaine Pieretti - £13.95 from Yapp Brothers.  And also available at Harrods, as their new buyer, Jo Aherne MW, informed me, but I don’t have their price
Grenache Noir, Nielluccio and Alicante.   Pretty light colour; light fruit on the nose with a delicate palate, but also with some hidden weight.  Lovely balance, and very stylish.

There was also a rosé from Chêne Bleu, an estate near the Dentelles de Montmirail – I can’t give you the grape varieties, or the correct price, as there was a bit of a blip and the tasting sheet said Chardonnay!   A nicely rounded ripe,  rather vinous rosé,  with texture and body.  Very satisfying. 

2011 Mas Coutelou, Le Vin des Amis – Roberson  Wine - £12.95
Grenache, Syrah Cinsaut and Mourvèdre.  Lovely fresh ripe juice fruit,  and on the palate, ripe and intense flavours with liqueur cherry fruit.  Lovely depth.  Lots of character. Showing really nicely.

One of my suggestions – I  strayed outside the Languedoc for the others – was 2009 Domaine des Trinités, Faugères le Portail 2009 - £9.31 from Ellis of Richmond. 
A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.  Fresh perfumed fruit.  Medium weight.  Supple  Faugères fruit, with the herbs of the garrigues.  Gouleyant and easy to drink.  Midi sunshine in a glass.

1999 Domaine Fontanel, Rivesaltes Ambré– £14.95 - Stone Vine & Sun and Indigo Wine.  
Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris.  Intense amber colour.  Lovely ripe sweet walnut fruit on both nose and palate.  Rounded and rich, smooth and unctuous, but with a bite.  A long finish. 

2011 Domaine Pieretti, Muscat de Cap Corse. - £21.00 - Yapp Bros.
Lots of perfumed fruit on the nose.  Ripe and pithy and characterful.  A bitter sweet finish.

2011 Domaine Jones Blanc –.  £16.95 - The House Wine
Grenache Gris.  Medium colour.  . Ripe and textured  on both nose and palate, with lots of nuances.  Some lovely southern fruit,  with a touch of spice. 

2008 Collioure, Domaine Cazes, Notre Dames des Anges - £22.46 – Harrods
Medium colour.  Quite ripe and rounded, with some warm spice and dry tannins on the palate.  A warm edge on the finish. 

2011 Domaine Jones, Fitou  - The House Wine - £20.83
Carignan, Grenache, Syrah.  Warm ripe spice on nose and palate; restrained opulence, ripe spice with dry tannins and some fleshy fruit.  Good balance. 

2009 Maury, Domaine Mas Amiel - £18 - £25  Lea & Sandeman, Slurp
Medium colour.  Ripe and dense and spicy on both nose and palate, with lots of black fruit and a  dry edge on the finish.

2008 Clot de l’Origine, les Quilles Libres, Cuvée Spéciale, IGP Côtes Catalanes - £23 – Raeburn Fine Wines
Grenache Gris and blanc. Light golden colour. Ripe, rounded,  rich and leesy with a resinous note on both nose and palate.  Good acidity.  Youthful with potential for development.   develop.  Lots of nuances and texture.  Very intriguing.

2008 Domaine le Soula blanc.  Côtes Catalanes  - Roberson Wine - £26.95
A blend of Sauvignon, Macabeu, Vermentino,  Grenache blanc and Gris, with a drop of Marsanne, Roussanne, Malvoisie du Roussillon and Chardonnay.  Light colour.  Quite rich and leesy on the nose.  Rounded ripe textured palate.  Great depth and length.  Could age, but drinking nicely now.

And straying in to Provence:
2009 Bandol, Domaine Tempier - £11.75 per half bottle - The Wine Society.
Medium colour; rounded dry supple nose; subtle elegant leathery notes on the palate.  Understated power.  Delicious.

2008 Palette blanc, Château Simone – Yapp Brothers  - £30.00
Clairette,  Grenache blanc, Ugni blanc and Muscat blanc. Light golden colour. Quite rich and leesy with some resinous notes on the palate.  Rounded and intense and plenty of ageing potential.  Lots of character.

2011 Bandol rosé, Château de  Pibarnon - £20.50 – Slurp
Mourvèdre and Cinsaut.  Pale orange pink. Quite rounded and ripe and vinous, but also elegant and understated on the palate.   Nicely characterful.

2010 Bandol, la Bastide Blanche - £13.99 - Waitrose
Mourvèdre and Grenache. Quite rounded and ripe and very nicely balanced, with good fruit and depth.  Surprisingly ready to drink, but with some tannin and alcohol on the finish. 

2010 Maury, Domaine Terres de Fagayra - £29.00  - Caves de Pyrène
Grenache Noir.  Medium colour. Quite rich and intense on the nose, and on the palate rich and sweet with a herbal note.  Still very youthful with an alcoholic edge.

And I could go onto enthuse about Chablis, as well as some original flavours from the Jura and the Pyrenees, not to mention the Loire valley and the south west.......   

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Chateau Prieure Borde-Rouge

An encounter with Anne Lauvige at a tasting in London resulted in an invitation to visit Château Prieuré Borde-Rouge in the Corbières near Lagrasse.  Pierre Roque, who is their consultant oenologist, was also there and we said a brief hallo to Bertrand Boileau, the cellar master, who was busy with the harvest.   

First a quick update.  I remembered coming to this estate at in the late 1990s were when it was owned by Alain and Natasha Quenchen. They had bought an abandoned property in 1994 from an old lady who sold her wine en vrac to the big producers' union of Vignerons Val d’Orbieu,  so that it was Alain and Natasha started the path of reviving the fortunes of Prieuré Borde Rouge.  They renovated the cellar and planted some Syrah, and concentrated on the best 20 hectares of the estate.   Then in 2005 after Alain’s death  the property was sold again to a father and son, Jean and Frédéric Carrère, who work in property development, but wanted a base for their family in the region where they had spent their childhood.  They had looked for and found a functioning vineyard. 

We were taken first for a walk, and then a more extensive drive through the vineyards.  The first thing you notice is the red soil, which matches the red plaster of the house.  A lot of work has been done in the vineyards.  They are now organic; they have regenerated the fauna of the soil, using tons of manure each year and also bought back some of the original vineyards which had been sold off, so now the estate totals 39 hectares, on clay and limestone, with a high iron content.  They have also planted olive trees, not just the Lucques that are common in the Midi, but seven or eight other varieties.

They were mid-vintage at the time of our visit in mid-September.  Whites and rosé had been picked the previous week and they were about to start the reds.  The crop is down on last year; Pierre wasn’t sure why.  The sortie had been difficult; last year there had been a large sortie so perhaps a natural balance had come into play.   The prieuré depends on the stunning abbey of Lagrasse; there is a path past the vegetable patch into the nearby village, which the monks must have used.   And as for the red soil, local legend has it that Charlemagne fought and defeated the Saracens in this valley, and the soil is red with their blood.  The village used to be called Lemaigre and the name has changed to Lagrasse, from thin to fat. 

They are equipped to irrigate in some parts of the vineyard, as they want to avoid stressing the vines, but it is not drip irrigation; instead the equivalent of good 20 millimetres of rain can fall at any one time.  The principal grapes are Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, with a little Merlot for vin de pays, and they also planning to plant Cinsaut.  And for white wine they have Grenache Blanc, some old Macabeo and Clairette and some Roussanne, and 2012 will be their first vintage of Vermentino.  And they have also planted some Viognier.  With such an eclectic mixture of grape varieties, the harvest lasts about a month.  They were not expecting to pick some of their Grenache until 1st October.   We stopped in a vineyard to admire some terraces of vines and an old capitelle, as well as checking the taste of a grape or two.  Some Grenache was quite perfumed and some Carignan has more acidity.

The cellar all works by gravity, so there is no pump.  A tronconique vat was wrapped up in plastic, waiting to be put to use – le petit bijou de cette année, observed Anne.   And in 2011 they had a new press.  There were some new barrels, both barriques and demi-muids; they experiment with different wood and chauffes;  the cements vats had been lined with epoxy and there are some stainless steel vats too. 

And then it was time for some tasting – first some juice.  This is tricky.   I followed Pierre’s observations.

The white juice was just starting to ferment.  Pierre explained how the sugar can camouflage things, and there is a yeasty quality, but also some good acidity.  He thought it prometteur, and the flavour was marked by the Roussanne.  Grenache Gris and Blanc are more discreet.

And then we tried the rosé which has been fermenting for about three days, so it had less sugar but much more acidity.  Some cherry fruit, and acidity from the Carignan.  It is a rosé de presse; the grapes for the white wine will be riper than for the rosé, to maintain acidity.

2011 Carminal Blanc – 9.80€
Grenache Blanc – there’s a bit of Grenache Gris too, though theoretically that is not allowed in Corbières.  Roussanne, and a little Macabeo and Clairette.
A little colour.  Quite a rounded nose; some body,  some weight and a streak of tannin.  20% of the blend is fermented in new oak with a two month élevage to provide some weight and texture, which are balanced with acidity.   The name Carminal is an invention, from carmine, a red colour, and cardinal, for the ecclesiastical associations.   A herbal note.  The Roussanne adds some complexity, and as will the Viognier and Vermentino when they come into production.

2011 Rubellis rosé – 6.50€
Orange pink colour, from pressed juice.   A blend of Syrah and Grenache, with a little Carignan to add acidity.  Very rounded ripe and vinous, with a dry finish and some firm fruit.  A touch of sucrosité from the Grenache, with a fresh finish and some good acidity.  The choice of grapes is decided in the vineyard.

For red wine, they explained that they wanted to balance the traditional with the more aromatic and fruity wines that the consumer wants today. 

2011 Rubellis Rouge – 6.50€
A blend of 45% Carignan, 35% Grenache and  20% Syrah.  From younger vines and aged in cement.  The percentage changes, depending on the vintage.  They are looking for elegance and something un peu sauvage, a touch of the wild side.  Good young colour.  With red fruit on the nose and a touch of leather.  Quite gutsy on the palate, ripe and leathery with more black fruit and some herbs of the garrigues.  Quite rugged, definitely un peu sauvage, but also very gouleyant.  Medium weight and quite a firm finish.

2009 Carminal – 9.80€
50% Syrah, 35% Grenache and 15% Carignan.  The Carignan and Syrah spend 12 months in wood, while the Grenache remains in vat, and then they are blended and spend a further six month in vat before bottling before the summer.  However, this year they are planning an experimental fermentation in the tronconique vat, probably of Carignan.  The nose was quite rounded, with some leathery spice on both nose and palate.  Some nicely integrated oak with firm tannins.  Good depth, with a rounded finish.  Very satisfying.

2010 Carminal – recently bottled
Young colour.  Quite a firm young nose, with some black fruit and tapenade.  Youthful palate with acidity and tannin.  Very tapenade, with good body.  Pierre observed that the tannins had suffered and not yet settled down after bottling.  They are changing the style a little and looking for something more opulent, but with a certain fraicheur.

2007 Ange – 17€
This was the flagship wine of the previous owners, with a first vintage in 2001. a blend of 60& Syrah, 30% Grenache and 10% Carignan, a selection of the best plots.  Half the juice was fermented in 500 litre barrels –  and then all the wine was aged in new oak for 12 months.  Good deep colour. Very rounded cassis nose.  Very harmonious and beginning to evolve.  Some cedary notes on the palate.  Elegant and still youthful, but developing beautifully.  A long finish.

2009 Ange
Medium colour. Quite rounded ripe nose.  Ripe cassis fruit on the palate.  Very rounded and harmonious with more depth than 2007.  In 2009 all the wine was fermented in 500 litres  barrels, and there was more Carignan in the blend, which adds freshness.  Carignan is the signature of the Hautes Corbières.  And Pierre observed that they were working on the epaisseur of the wine, depth rather than thickness, I think as a translation.

2010 Ange
Bottled ten days ago.  Very similar in style but a cooler year.  Young colour.  Quite a tight closed nose with firm red fruit. Quite a perfumed palate, with fresh young fruit.  Some hints of tapenade.  Elegant with good depth.  The Carignan component comes from 60 – 75 year old vines. 

Rosâme, Vin de France  – 13€ for 50 cl. From the 2010 vintage with a little 2011. 
Le petit bonbon observed Anne.  Grenache Gris from a small vineyard  that had been forgotten, so it did not get picked until November.  The grapes were at four stages of ripeness, ripe, confit, flétri or withered and  raisins.  The colour was orange pick with some ripe spicy honey on the palate, a rounded palate, reminiscent of sherry trifle and honey, with good acidity.  The ferementation was stopped at 15º, leaving 50 gms/l of residual sugar.  It was a lovely finale to the tasting .

And for lunch we were treated to some deliciuous  local charcuterie, which went beautifully with the wines, and freshly picked tomatoes from the vegetable garden.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Les Vignes Oubliees

Jean-Baptise Granier comes from a wine making family.  His grandfather Marcel at Mas Montel in the village of Aspères in the Gard was one of the pioneers of the Languedoc; his father Jean-Philippe works for the Comité Interprofessionel des Vins du Languedoc  and is also involved with Mas Montel.   So it would have been very easy for Jean-Baptiste simply to join the family wine estate but no, he wanted to create something of his own.    And he was attracted by the hills of the Terrasses du Larzac, in preference to the flatter land of the Gard, where the wine is ‘good, but not great’.

Officially Jean-Baptiste does not own any vineyards, but buys grapes.  In fact he has created what you could call a small cooperative of four viticulteurs with vineyards in the village of St. Privat.   That way the wine growers who were members of the now defunct cooperative of St. Jean de la Blaquière can keep their vineyards, and continue to work them, under Jean-Baptiste’s direction.    They were losing money and the vines would otherwise have been pulled up.  Jean-Baptiste has established a cahier de charge and makes the key decisions in the vineyards,  which are now all organic,  They were already being tilled to remove the weeds, and now they share an intercep, a useful piece of equipment for getting at weeds within the row of vines.  Jean-Baptiste said he chose the plots first, but another criterion was that he also got on with the viticulteur, observing that he did not want to work alone.  You never drink wine alone – so this is a way of sharing the work and the experience. 

He took us to see the vineyards – they are in a beautiful spot up in the hills above St. Privat, with great views towards the Mont Liausson, six hectares altogether, in about ten plots, all pretty much on the same hillside, making up 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Carignan, - some years he might also have some Cinsaut - at an altitude of 280 – 380 metres, so some of the highest vineyards of the Languedoc.  Part of the vineyard is on an outcrop of schist, some of the last schist of the Hérault, and there is also some marnes and some grès, as well as a little clay and limestone.   We tasted some grapes, the day before the harvest would start, with some lovely sweet fruit.   There had been some rain at the end of August, just what the vines needed, which gave them a spurt of energy.

And then back at his small cellar in St. Jean de la Blacquière we admired some shining new equipment.  Although Jean-Baptiste likes cement vats, he has sensibly bought some stainless steel vats as he does not know how long he will stay in this cellar, and might want to move the vats.  Also stainless steel is much easier to clean and uses less water.  He destems and has a sorting table, and then the grapes are lightly crushed.  It will all work by gravity – he doesn’t want to use a pump; they take too much water for cleaning. 

Jean-Baptiste explained how he did a stage with Olivier Julien in 2007, including an experiment with some grapes from St. Privat.  They fermented Grenache and Syrah in an open demi-muid, racked it and put in to wood and liked the result.  In 2008 Jean-Baptise went to work chez Faiveley in Burgundy and enjoyed what he called the energy of a family négociant company, while Oliver Julien made a bigger cuvée of what they were beginning to call les Vignes Oubliées.  And it 2009 Jean-Baptise officially created les Vignes Oubliées, the forgotten vines.   And the 2010 and 2011 vintages were made in Olivier Julien’s cellar in Jonquières.

And then it was time for some tasting.  Jean-Baptiste makes just one wine each year.

2011 – bottled on 9th August.  And will be given three months élevage in bottle before he begins to sell it in October.   So 60% Grenache, 20% each of Carignan and Syrah.  And when does he blend?  That depends.  This time he fermented a vat of Syrah and Grenache together; it helps stabilise the colour of the Grenache.  And the wine spends nine to ten months in 500 or 600 litre demi-muids, with no racking and fining, and just a light filter.  Very perfumed nose; liqueur cherries, so very Grenache. Some peppery notes on the palate, so more Syrah on the palate, with some lovely ripe fruit.  Quite rounded with a firm tannic streak; ripe and balanced and rounded.  Tout en finesse

2010 – same vinification.  16.00€  18.000 bottles were made, and virtually all sold out.
Good colour; some peppery and spice on the nose; nice leathery notes. Quite fleshy.   Medium weight.   Lovely depth and length.  You can definitely taste a similarity between the two wines.

And Jean-Baptiste is also doing some experiments with white wine; he has access to a little Clairette, Roussanne and Grenache blanc, which are fermenting in six Burgundian pieces.   I loved his red wine, so I can’t wait to try his white.