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Posts Tagged ‘Languedoc’

It sounds so evocative, does it not? Lost vineyard sites, secretly tucked away throughout the garrigue laden hills and valleys of the Midi..

Old vines, many at 50, 60, 75+ years of age with names like mourvedre, grenache, carignan and cinsault.

Throughout the Languedoc and the Roussillon there exist numerous “lost vineyards” just waiting to be re-discovered.

Old vine mourvedre with a view of the ocean

Many of these small vineyards had been disregarded by larger producers because of their isolation, their low cropping potential and their inability to be machine worked. However with passion, talent and lots of hard work,  fantastic and memorable wines can be made from such sites that bear the unmistakable imprint of this gorgeous countryside.

The mediterranean village of Peyriac de Mer..home of Les Clos Perdus

This ethos  is precisely what inspired friends Paul Old and Hugo Stewart to establish their modest winery aptly named: Les Clos Perdus (the lost vineyards). This past spring, and en route from Cahors to the southern Rhone, I met and tasted with Hugo Stewart at their modest garage/winery located in the small sea side village of Peyriac de Mer.

simple tools..a basket press

Neither Paul nor Hugo possess a conventional background in viticulture or winemaking. However this has not deterred them from diving in and completely immersing themselves in this new endeavor. Before working several vintages in Australia and Bordeaux, Paul Old enjoyed a successful career as a professional dancer. Pre Les Clos Perdus, Hugo Stewart worked and managed a farm in Wiltshire, England. I suspect that the supreme dedication and rigour of both professions lend themselves to the present challenges and successes of Les Clos Perdus.

La gamme

I first met Hugo Stewart at a trade tasting several years ago. After tasting several dozen wines, none of which rocked my world, I came upon Les Clos Perdus. Modest, unassuming and in perfect French, Hugo presented the “Prioundo”. One whiff of this nuanced and delicately spicy bouquet and I was captivated. No doubt there are lots of delicious wines to be found throughout the Midi, but these wines in particular had something very special to transmit.

2006 Les Clos Perdus “Prioundo” Corbières                    

The 2006 Prioundo contains 70% Grenache, 30% Cinsault from select vineyards in the Corbières hills, near the village of Villesèque.  The juice had three days of maceration before the spontaneous fermentation started. After spending 21 days on the skins the juice was pressed and placed in stainless steel where it under went malo-lactic fermentation. Organically farmed.

The wines bouquet is both floral in character (faded roses), but also evokes a fresh fruit bowl of strawberries and raspberries. On the palate this medium+ bodied wine which presents itself as fresh and vibrant. Ripe fruit envelops the palate while fine tannins provide extra dimension and texture.

 
 
 

The Mire la Mer vineyard

A second, delicious wine includes a healthy proportion of mourvedre, from a low yielding vineyard site with a view to the Meditteranean.

 

2006 Les Clos Perdus “Mire la Mer” Corbières          

 

The Mire la Mer (in view of the sea) comes from this “Lost Vineyard’s” Mediterranean vineyards around the villages of Peyriac de Mer and Bages. The wine contains 55% Mourvedre, 35% Carignan from 100 year old vines and 10% Grenache. Organically farmed.

With firmer tannins than the Prioundo, and a meaty finish, it will benefit from a year or two in the cellar. Then, drink it with hearty fare such as brisket or grilled tri-tip.

 
 For an excellent interview with winemaker Paul Old click here:

 

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From a minuscule one hectare vineyard in the heart of the Languedoc comes this most unusual and profound red from Murielle and Laurent Girault. As you might recall from my last 2 posts on Domaine Begude, Laurent is the vineyard manager/winemaker at Domaine Begude.

hovering at around 1200 bottles: a.k.a. micro-volumes

In addition to his full-time responsabilities at Begude (as well as being a husband and dad) Laurent spends many of his weekends at a small Languedoc vineyard site not far from the town of Pezenas (about a 90 minute drive from Limoux). It is here that Laurent tends the vines that ultimately yield the fruits of his labor and love.  Both a red and a white are produced, and both from a veritable field blend of organically grown grapes.

Laurent Girault (photo courtesy of Domaine Begude)

The Giroflet rouge is composed 15 different varietals all co-planted in 1925.  Along with Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Syrah, you’ll find more ancient varietals like Aramon and Grand Noir de la Calmette.

more factoids…

Wine/Producer:  Murielle & Laurent Girault

Composition: 15 varietals (Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Syrah..)

Vintage: 2006

Country: France

Region: Languedoc

Sub-Region: Pézenas

Geology/Soil: Sand / Clay / Chalk

Alcohol: 14.5%

Importer: Premier Wines (available exclusively at K&L Wine Merchants)

US Retail: $20

Total Production: 1200 bottles (100 cases)

Harvesting is done by hand to ensure optimal ripeness (although never at the expese of acidity) and undamaged fruit. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel, with only natural yeasts being utilized. After primary fermentation the wine undergoes 24 months of elevage in older wood to develop addtional complexity and nuance. The Giroflet rouge is neither fined nor filtered.

Grilled tri-tip and 2006 Giroflet rouge

Gorgeous nuances of dark red fruits, baking spices and garrigue come to mind. The Giroflet rouge is a red to contemplate with a selection of fine cow or sheeps milk cheeses, or to enjoy with a garlic crusted roast leg of lamb or the grilled tri-tip and summer salad pictured above!

Projet Giroflet is truly a labour of love for those of us who appreciate hand-crafted artisanal wine from all corners of the world. Thank you Murielle and Laurent, and please, carry on!

Next: The lost vineyards of Les Clos Perdus

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Tasting at Domaine Begude

Every year since K&L has featured the wines from Domaine Begude I have made it a point to visit the domaine and taste the new vintage. Yes, it is very difficult work, and I have graciously volunteered to do so. But seriously, every year upon my arrival, (I am usually either 1 hour late or 2 hours early) I receive a play by play of the vintage and overall production from James and Laurent.

Crazy delicious: La Folie de Begude

On this particular day, we tasted through the current range, as well as this delicious sparkling wine that is currently only being produced in uber limited quantities. Afterall, Limoux is most famous for its production of sparkling wine or Cremant de Limoux. La Folie de Begude is a blancs de blancs bubbly composed of 100% chardonnay.

Dinner al fresco as the sun sets

Dry, creamy and chock full of apples..it was delicious, and a perfect way to segue way out of our formal tasting and into a lovely selection of entrées prepared by Catherine, including a smoked salmon, caviar and avocado, olives and an arugula salad.

For additional photos of my visit to Domaine Begude , please check out “Les Photos” on the right side bar of this blog.

 

As the sun slowly set over the vineyards, James, Catherine, Laurent and myself moved inside to a second round of delicious roasted potatos, eggplant tian and grilled herb steaks.

When traveling to France, folks always if I have any memorable restaurant experiences or places they should try. The truth is, my most memorable dining experiences have taken place not in fancy restaurants, but rather in more intimate settings like the one I found myself in that evening. There is nothing like a delicious home cooked meal.

The '79s

As Catherine and James began plating dinner, Laurent announced, and with great modesty, that he has brought 2 bottles of wine to share with us tonight. Really, neither wine needs an introduction. You’ll see the two bottles above, both of which showed beautifully that evening.

The ’79 Palmer was fantastic with our grilled meat, while the white Burgundy complemented our cheese course which followed.

We ended the evening with a deep, rich pot de crème meets chocolate truffle dessert inspired by Catherine. And what to pair with such chocolate decadence? A delicious 2007 Languedoc red..but more on this in my next post.

Thank you to Catherine, James, Laurent and the team at Domaine Begude for putting your heart and soul everyday into making quality and delicious wines for all to enjoy!

NEXT: un veritable vin naturel; Giroflet

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I am way behind. Dozens of great pictures on my camera to download. So many wine adventures to recount, that things are getting away from me. And they all need to be told. I have met so many wonderful wine people this year and we are only into July!

A fresh breeze is blowing in the Languedoc

Let’s get on with it then as I recap a recent visit to Domaine Begude in France’s Languedoc wine region. Located about 30 minutes from the medieval city of Carcassonne, Domaine Begude is owned by James and Catherine Kinglake. Back in 2003, this British couple was looking for a new life adventure, removed from the hustle and bustle of city life in London.

After searching for many months, and visiting dozens of estates throughout the south of France, they found Begude. Here they settled down and embarked upon a life with clean fresh air amongst the vines. Not long thereafter came daughter Millie. Talk about life changes.

The intrepid Catherine and James

With a magnificent view of the Pyrenees, the domaine spans approximately 25 hectares and 320-370m above sea level in the cool climate growing appellation of Limoux. If you think that the Languedoc only produces big, bold Rhone inspired reds, think again. In Limoux varietals like chardonnay, chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc, mauzac, pinot noir and merlot excel.

nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees (photo courtesy of Domaine Begude)

At Begude sustainability and ecological responsibility are key. Towards this end, the vineyards are farmed using only organic cow and sheep manure. Weed killing is also done mechanically and without the use of chemical pesticides.

Kinglake works with a small but very dedicated group of individuals. Laurent Girault, who was born into a family of winemakers, is the vineyard manager/winemaker. Quiet, dedicated, but with a twinkle in his eye, Laurent is passionate about the vine and wine.

Right hand men Vincent Boutin and Driss Yousfi are also integral to the quality and success of Domaine Begude.

 

“Our driving ambition is to make excellent wine from long established high-quality terroir with a modern twist; in effect we are bridging the gap between new world and old world, producing fresh, zesty, fruit wines often reminiscent of the new world, but with the elegance of the old world..” ~ James Kinglake

 The domaine produces a modest range of white wines that I believe strongly affirm this ethos.  Over the past several years K&L Wine Merchants has featured a range of wines from Domaine Begude. The following wines have been immensely popular with both our customers as well as our staff.

LES VINS..

 

2009 Domaine Begude Sauvignon Blanc Pays d‘Oc IGP

Brisk, bitey, crushed stones, minerals. Inspired more by the sauvignon blancs of Sancerre than the grass and gooseberry of Marlborough.

2009 Domaine Begude Chardonnay “Le Bel Ange” Pays d’Oc IGP

Crisp, with no oak or malo influence to detract from nuances of citrus, fuji apple and pear. 10% chenin rounds it out just a touch.

2009 Domaine Begude Pinot Noir Rose Pays d’Oc IGP

Dry, delicate strawberry fruits. Our guys and gals in K&L Hollywood sell this wine like a house on fire. Alas the 2009 is long gone, and we must wait patiently until next year.

2008 Domaine Begude Chardonnay “Classic” Limoux

This beautifully balanced white has made me take to chardonnay once again. A bit of oak, but not to much, along with cool climate acidity have me predicting that the classic will be a huge winner amongst casual drinkers and connoisseurs alike.

For additional photos of life at Domaine Begude click here.

NEXT: Domaine Begude Part II

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