Friday, 18 December 2015

Domaine Thierry Navarre

Thierry Navarre is just across the road from Domaine Marquise des Mures.  He is a great enthusiast of  the old forgotten grape varieties of the Languedoc, varieties like Ribeyrenc Noir and  Blanc, and even Gris, which disappeared after phylloxera.  I came away with a bottle of Oeillade, one of Ribeyrenc and one of Terret, all of which are wonderfully original, showing just why the Languedoc should reconsider the potential of these old varieties and  incorporate them  in the appellations.  Instead they are humble Vin de France.    Thierry feels very strongly that the diversity of the Languedoc has been seriously reduced and that this has a serious effect on agriculture and the environment.

2014 Lignières blanc, Vin de France – 8.00€
A blend of Ribeyrenc Blanc, Clairette, and Grenache Gris, which is very much better than Grenache Blanc, which tends to be rather flat.   He obtained  the plants of Ribeyrenc from the INRA; you cannot buy them from a nursery.  Classic vinification; temperature controlled and all fermented together.   Quite a floral nose with white flowers and on the palate some mineral notes and some floral notes and fresh acidity on the finish.  ‘I wouldn’t plant Chardonnay’ observed Thierry; he feels that the vignerons ‘are ashamed on their region’ - that is why they plant international varieties rather than the old indigenous varieties of the region.

2014 Vin d’Oeillade, Vin de France7.00€
Œillade has the advantage of being ripe at 11.5˚     Some ripe fruit, but the bottle had been open a couple of days and was possibly a touch evolved on both nose and palate.   Carbonic maceration for 8 days.

2014 Ribeyrenc Rouge, Vin de France – 10.00€
Again a low alcohol of 11.5˚.  Quite light colour.  Bottled three weeks earlier.  Fresh cherry fruit.  A côté orange.  Fresh easy fruit.   There are only three vignerons with Ribeyrenc  in the whole of the Languedoc, namely Patricia Domergue at Clos Centeilles, François Henri in St. Georges d’Orques and Thierry.  Thierry has just 1.75 ha!  And two hectares of Oeillade.  He referred to Ribeyrenc as his baby.  Once upon a time the vineyards of the Languedoc essentially comprised one third Ribeyrenc, one third Oeillade and one third Picpoul.  Carignan and Grenache Noir arrived from Spain in the 19th century, and were planted after phylloxera.   Ribeyrenc must be grown up in the hills, never on the plain.  The nose has some light perfume, with a medium weight palate, with some fresh cherry fruit.  Very appealing.   He has also planted some Picpoul Noir – apparently there is a lieu-dit in Roquebrun called Picpoul.  

2013 St. Chinian Le Laouzil – 8.00€
Carignan, Grenache Noir and Syrah – Laouzil means schist in Occitan.  Destalked and given a three week maceration.  13.5˚.  Good spicy fruit on both nose and palate.  A medium weight  palate.  Very much an emphasis on fruit.  And then I noticed that all Thierry’s back labels says Tchin tchin, or cheers!  He has a nice sense of humour.

2013 Cuvée Olivier, St Chinian – 12.00€
From his oldest vines, 30 years old Syrah and 80 years old Carignan and Grenache Noir.   Initially ac losed nose that develops in the glass.  Ripe supple fruit.  Two winters in vat – 13.5˚  Quite concentrated, but not heavy.

And then we deviated for a bit of history.  Thierry’s first vintage was 1988.  His family were never members of the coop.  His grandfather bottled wine in the 1960s, and sold Muscat and Grenache noir, vin doux, but with no added alcohol, as did most small vignerons at the time.  That was very much the tradition of the region, and Thierry feels it is a shame that the appellation does not remember this  old tradition for Grenache and Muscat. The grandfather also produced Vin Rouge, Carignan des Coteaux, which was initially sold en vrac and then he began to bottle it.  He also made white wine from Servant, which  can also be a table grape, which ripens very late.  And Thierry is dismissive of the cru of Roquebrun – that is for competitions, and they concentrate on Syrah, which is a stupidity – it comes out like encre de chine, or Indian ink.   The challenge is to produce fresh wine in a hot climate.

2012 La Conque, Vin de France - 10.00€
And then we moved onto Thierry’s other project,  a vineyard of just 1.30 hectares with  Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, planted by friends up in the hills at 600 metres, at just about the highest point of the commune of Roquebrun.  La Conque is the name of the lieu-dit. The vineyard is surrounded by woods, with a three week delay in ripening, compared to the lower vineyards of Roquebrun.  The soil is clay rather than schist.  A complete change of key in the taste spectrum. Elegant dry cassis.  Medium weight.    Some tannins.  Very elegant finish. 

They are building a cellar there now, for élevage, as it is so much cooler.  The wine makes itself slowly up there; the 2014 was just finishing its malolactic in September 2015.  Thierry uses a drop of s02 and that is all.  The pH is higher,  which helps keep the wine.   The Cabernet is aged in 500 litres new wood. 

And then we tried 2013 Terret Gris, which is lightly orange in colour  - 8.00€  It is harvested and pressed;  the colour comes from the pulp.  It is not fermented on the skins, like the orange wines of Georgia.   The wine is very original – with some orange fruit, with a hint of honey and it is solid and rounded, with some citrus notes.  Textured and rich on the finish.

And the finale was Vin de Grenache – 12.00€
17˚.  Égrappé in vat, and then forget about it and let it macerate five or six days, and then press and chill to stop the fermentation.  Spends time in wood.   Red fruit, fig, dried fruits, some floral notes and slightly honeyed on the finish.  

Asked about projects for the  future – Thierry has replanted Oeillade and wants to plant more Ribeyrenc Blanc and Terret gris – and he would love a new cellar……

And then a tractor arrived, full of ripe healthy Syrah grapes, so we watched them being unloaded into the égrappoir and then headed to Les Cave St Martin for a spot of lunch, which for me was some delicious paté, with a really ripe tomato salad and a glass of Yannick Pelletier’s L'Oiselet.  I was amused to see that the menu for the charcuterie proclaimed assiette de jambon,  cochon heureux!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Domaine Marquise des Mûres

The village of Roquebrun gives its name to one of the crus of St. Chinian, but as I found on a day spent in the village visiting four of the vignerons independents, no one apart from the coop seems to mention Roquebrun on their labels!   And they make some delicious wine.   

It was harvest time, but Nelly Belot who runs the syndicat of St. Chinian had managed to organise some appointments for us.  First stop was Domaine Marquise des Mûres, with Jean-Jacques Mailhac.  We arrived just as he was finishing running off a vat, and was able to take a break from the grape juice.   First question: why Marquise des Mûres, which elicited a story.  Par provocation, he said.  His father was president of the coop of Roquebrun in the 1980s, but Jean-Jacques preferred to take his vineyards out of the coop.  He laughingly observed that the moment someone has a small shed in the vines, they immediately call it a château, even if it is no more than a hut.   And the real aristocracy of the region used to be the shepherds, who used to bring their sheep, and goats to tidy up the vegetation on the edge of the vineyards, including all the brambles, which produced blackberries.  And he had known the daughter of the last shepherd of the village, and leads to Marquise des Mûres, the marchioness of the blackberries!

Jean-Jacques’s first vintage was 1992; he sold 1990 and 1991 to the négoce, but that was not what he had left the coop for.   He now has 15 hectares of vines, all in Roquebrun, planted with the usual red varieties, but not Mourvèdre as it is too temperamental, and for white he has Sauvignon Blanc, as well as Viognier, Vermentino and Roussanne.    He is self-taught or has learnt from his father and his oenologists, first Jean Natoli, and now François Pennequin.  Essentially his vineyards are in three large plots – it is difficult being organic if you have neighbours, so he has conducted a policy of restructuration.    And asked about the tipicity of Roquebrun, he replied that St Chinian is complicated, there is schist and limestone. The best soil is quite deep, but poor – the same vein of schist runs towards Berlou, but the depth of the soil varies. The real tipicity comes from a terroir sans produits chimiques.

At the beginning of September he was optimistic about the harvest, ‘provided it doesn’t rain’.  And it didn't, too much.  The north wind and the cool nights are good.  He began on 24th August with Sauvignon, then rosé, and started reds on 7th September. 

And then we tasted in his rather smart tasting room at the entrance to the village

2014 Nasaara, Vin de France – 7.10€
What the name mean?  Another story.  He visited Burkina Faso with a friend in 2007, who was working on a charitable project with schools in the country –and he noticed people kept saying Nasaara, which simply means white.  Hence the name, and he has given a percentage of his profits to the project.   As for the wine which is a blend of Sauvignon, Roussanne and a little Viognier, it has quite a rich honeyed nose, with a touch of peachy fruit from the Viognier and an appealing textured palate, with some fruit and acidity.  And a slightly bitter touch on the finish.  The vineyard of Sauvignon is by the river and the land is not in the appellation,.

2013 Les Filles de la Guinguette, Vin de France – 5.00€
A blend of Cinsaut, Carignan and Marselan.  Another story,  about enlisting the help of friends for a tasting to decide on the blend for a refreshing easy to drink red wine.  All the girls liked the same wine, and their names are on the label.  And the wine is indeed eminently drinking with red fruit and supple tannins. Serve it slightly chilled.

2013 Lou Carignan, Vin de France – 7.10€
His natural wine, so no sulphur in the wine, but maybe some in the vineyard if there are problems with oidium.  He starts the fermentation by carbonic maceration and then destems the grapes and finishes the fermentation.  And from just one vineyard, a hectare of 50 year old vines.  Fresh cherry fruit, with rounded fruit on the palate, with a fresh streak of tannin and a mineral note.  Medium weight.

2011 Métis, St Chinian – 7.10€
A marriage of four grape varieties, Cinsaut, Grenache, Carignan and Syrah and two terroirs, schist and gravel – hence a métis.  No fining or filtering and just a little S02 and a minimum of two winters, if not three in vat. but no wood.  The cool cellar encourages the wine to deposit naturally.  Quite a powerful spicy nose and on the palate.  Some notes of orange and red fruit, supple tannins,  acidity and spice.  Quite harmonious.

2010 les Sagnes, St. Chinian. – 10.40€
Sagness is a lieu-dit.  Asked about Roquebrun ; Jean-Jacques doesn’t bother with it.  'C’est fou  ça; it’s for the shelf stickers in the supermarkets.  There’s no difference between Roquebrun and Berlou.  It’s all the same soil'. So a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan.    25% aged in wood, but two or three years old.   Medium colour.  Quite a firm nose with a hint of oak; a more structured palate, but with appealing red fruit and spice.  Quite an elegant finish.

2009 Réserves des Marquises, St. Chinian – 19.90€
It is for this wine that Jean-Jacques buys the two new demi-muids each year, making one barrel of Syrah and one of Grenache and Carignan.  They are given a week of carbonic maceration and then destemmed and put into the barrels, without their tops, so that the grapes can be punched down or (pigé ).  Once they are pressed, the tops are put on the barrels, and the barrels are filled, and the wine is given two years élevage, and then blended and then spends another one or two years in vat.
Ideally the wine should be opened in advance.  Deep colour.  Firms structured nose, with some ripe fruit and good tannins on the palate.  Rich but balanced.  The vinification in wood helps to soften the wine.

And we finished with the rosé, as Jean-Jacques had forgotten about it earlier in our tasting:

2014 Métis rosé – 7.10€
Based on Cinsaut (pressed)  with some Syrah(saigné) and he is giving up using Grenache as it makes the colour turn orange.  Ripe and rounded, with some raspberry notes.  Jean-Jacques observed that rose is ‘the most complicated’ wine to make.  

A fun visits with lots of ideas.