Our buyers get blending...
It might seem like an eternity ago now, but mid-January Matthew and I embarked on a week-long trip down to the south of France finishing up in the Rhone.
We started off in Carcassonne, visiting 2 of our partners to do the blends of our house wines for the 2018 vintage.
2018 in the Languedoc was a difficult year for many, after much of the region suffered from mildew which for some of our producers wiped out up to 60% of their production. For some, 2018 was the year that they were going to start conversion to organic but felt that the only way to save their crop was to spray with fungicide (which is prohibited in organic viticulture) so instead they will commence conversion to organic in 2019 - fingers crossed for better weather conditions this year.
Despite the difficulties faced in 2018, the yields were higher than in 2017 (which was famously low). Harvest started around the 3rd of August and Limoux was the last area in the region to be harvested at the end of September.
After two days of blending, we could confidently say that the 2018’s are looking very good. Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon seemed to perform particularly well, the Sauvignon was zesty and nettley with crisp acidity and the Cabernet had excellent black fruit with lots of concentration and body.
We managed to cover a lot of miles on this trip, so on the Tuesday afternoon we whizzed accross to Corbieres to have a quick tasting with Louis and Paule at Chateau Fabre. As organic producers, the mildew was a big concern for them this year however their response was to spray the vines each time before it rained with a lemon zest mixture which is effective in preventing mildew. We tasted through the range; Famille Fabre’s wines are consistently good, and this year is no exception! As well as the fresh 2018 whites and rose, we tasted the 2016 Corbieres which was excellent –brambles, cloves, coffee and the classic garrigue notes which make the wine so distinctive.
From Corbieres, we made our way to Picpoul de Pinet to taste and blend at Domaine Morin-Langaran. After tasting through the individual tanks, we came up with the final blend for 2018 – crisp and dry with notes of green apple, blossom, flint and a tangy saline character, suitable for vegans as they only fine the wine using Bentonite, which is a type of clay.
After a night in Montpellier (accompanied with steak, a cheeseboard and a very nice bottle of Terrasses du Larzac), the next day we visited a producer who was new to our portfolio last year; Domaine de l’Armet. They also call themselves Clos du l’Armet as their vineyards are enclosed by an old wall. We met with the owner and winemaker Emmanuel Biscaye, the domaine has been family owned since 1924 and Emmanuel has been in charge since the death of his grandfather over 15 years ago. He took us for a tour of the vineyards and explained how he will begin converting to organic this year for the 2019 vintage and should be certified organic in 2022. A range tasting followed including tasting a tank sample of the 2018 Marselan which showed very good potential. We also tasted a finished sample of the 2017 Marselan which is the vintage we will move onto once the excellent 2016 is finished. The ’17 was rich with notes of black cherries and cassis, very ripe and juicy – the perfect follow on to the ’16.