First she explained that they had particularly wanted to plant their new vineyards using massal selection, taking cuttings from their existing vineyards, rather than buying clones from a nursery. Massal selection makes for greater variety of flavour and complexity in a vineyard, not to mention greater resistance to disease. Vines selected by clonal selection tend to be very consistent, so that they react in identical fashion to any problem in the vineyard, whereas massal selection vines are much more diverse. A vine nursery took the cuttings and grafted the vines. They are gobelet, bush vines, each with its own supporting post – making 3500 posts for 3500 vines; with 50 ares of Cinsault and 25 ares of Grenache Noir.
And then we tasted some wines, which had been sent out to the attendees ahead of the zoom meeting.
2019 Champs des Bluets, Languedoc Blanc -16.00€
A blend of 80% Vermentino with 10% each of Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris. 2014 was the first vintage of this second cuvée of white wine. 30% of the blend has been aged in acacia, rather than oak, which Deborah considers to be more gentle than oak. The barrels are not new and they do not mark the wine in the same way as oak. The colour is pale, and the nose delicate, with a hint of pear. On the palate there is fresh fruit, balanced by good acidity and what the French call ‘un joli amer’, a refreshing bitterness that is typical of Vermentino. The palate is nicely rounded with some satisfying weight on the finish.
2018 Les Trois Terrasses, Pays de l’Hérault - 12.00€
So called as the grapes come from three adjacent terraces. The principal variety is Carignan, blended with some Syrah and Grenache. The Carignan vines are at least fifty, if not 65 years old. The wine is aged in a cement vat. Deep young colour. Fresh spice and red fruit on the nose, with more fresh fruit on the palate. There is a firm fresh streak of tannin, which gives the wine structure, balanced by some flesh from the Grenache. I love the fresh finish of the Carignan, making it a very refreshing wine. Carignan is often criticised for being a tad rustic; this belies that generalisation with an elegant finish. And it illustrates just how much Carignan is improving, and how it deserves to be taken seriously.
2017 Clos des Lièvres, Pézenas - 17.50€
A blend of 75% Syrah, with 25% Grenache. Aged for 12 months in 5000 litres demi-muids. 15% new oak. Deep young colour. An intriguing contrast with Trois Terraces. The palate is richer and fleshier, with a touch of pepper from the Syrah. There is rounded weight and youthful fruit. Although it was drinking well on the night – we subsequently finished the bottle with a coq au vin – it is definitely a wine that will develop with bottle age.