Harvesting the last mourvèdre grapes at Faugères 4th October.
On the edge of the village of Faugères stands an impressive 19th century ‘Vigneronne’ or winemaker’s house which is so much more than its name implies. Belgian couple, Christian and Régine Godefroid, have restored and extended the property which now houses the winery and cellars plus a wine boutique and five smart-rustic chambres d’hôte rooms. Régine is an impeccable host and her regional table d’hôte cooking is delicious. Christian’s vineyards are on higher ground just outside the village where he cultivates 5 hectares of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and grenache blanc vines. The white grenache ‘Soif de Toi’ is a fresh, floral wine whose clean palate and notes of lime blossom make a perfect accompaniment to Régine’s warm salad of Pelardon goat’s milk cheese with garlic, thyme and honey. The red ‘de Chair et de Sang’ (60% mourvèdre, 40% grenache) is full of aromatic concentrated fruit and an elegant minerality coming from the micaceous subsoil hereabouts. Good food, fine wines, a wonderful house full of charm and hospitality all surrounded by the pretty hills of Faugères; the Godefoids fell in love with La Vigneronne and so do their guests.
La Vigneronne, Faugères.
It’s not easy to summarize the renaissance, since 2002, of this beautiful domaine and its wines. Coups de coeur and triple stars from the Guide Hachette and several medailles d’or celebrate the quality and consistency of Jonathan and Anne James’s excellent Vin de Pays. In spite of the odd setback (the roof of the winery collapsed in the winter of 2004!) they have transformed the property into a stunning chambres d’hôtes and themselves into successful winemakers. The James’s have forty-five hectares under vine which are cultivated ‘à la lutte raisonnée’ and the fruit is handpicked for the top cuvées. Jonathan’s apprenticeship in the cellar included working with no less than two Masters of Wine; his range of high quality reds, whites and rosés are exported to the UK, Germany, Japan and Benelux. The cabernet/merlot ‘Advocate’ 2004 Vin de Pays d’Oc is a spicy fresh Bordeaux blend with a superb level of fruit, bags of regional character and a long, blackberry finish. Spend a couple of nights here, sample the top cuvée ‘Silk’ and discover the delights of the reverse infinity pool.
Domaine Saint Hilaire, Montagnac.
Beneath the big sky of the Minervois, the tranquillity of the domaine is at odds with its proximity to Carcassonne and the tourist hordes. Two brothers, Pierre and François (right), oenologue and viticulteur respectively, produce and bottle a modest amount of very well made Minervois wine from this little family farm surrounded by vines and the wild garrigue. Only 6000 bottles (two gutsy reds and a fresh rosé) are sold each year with the remainder of the brothers’ production being sold in bulk. The merlot – Incarnat – has a rich core of ripe fruit and a firm structured palate: a ‘Borderlais’ character, perhaps influenced by the Atlantic climate to the west of the vineyards. La Pierre Droite, a 100% syrah is perhaps more Mediterranean, with bags of spicy fruit, a very refreshing acidity and a more supple structure. A tiny stone building belonging to the farm is let on a B&B basis – a perfect retreat for two people to enjoy the isolation and natural beauty of the Minervois countryside, and it’s rich, colourful wines.
Domaine Metairie Neuve, nr Prat Majou, Caunes-Minervois.
Christa Derungs and Peter Wildbolz are a Swiss couple who moved to this ‘house on the sunny hill’ in 2002 and together produce some excellent Coteaux du Languedoc La Clape wines. Soon to be certified organic, the grapes are harvested by hand to very low yeilds (25 Hl/ha) and produce a range of wines of superlative quality. The wines from the typical regional varietals express the character of the ‘Clape’ terroirs: aromatic, fresh and mineral Roussanne and Bourboulenc, and deeply rich mineral fruit from the GSM (grenache, syrah, mourvedre) blends. A real surprise is the local character expressed by the wines made from merlot and cabernet franc – the borderlais blend ‘Terre du Vent’ has a personality all of its own. The house, which was built in the 1970s contains five beautiful chambres d’hôtes rooms in a colonial-rustic style in keeping with the property’s Provençal architecture. Breakfast in the comfort of the ochre and sienna coloured dining room or beside the azure pool overlooking the vines.