December 17, 2010 Domaine d’Aupilhac
Domaine d’Aupilhac Le Clos
carignan (40%), mourvèdre (40%), syrah (20%)
I’m nearing the end of my year-long odyssey into organic/biodynamic/ natural wines. Appropriate then that as the tide goes out it leaves another wine from what has been a wine region of some focus over the year — Languedoc in southern France. I spent four weeks there in February and March, and came back home with considerably more wines than I have had the opportunity to drink. This one is from a highly regarded domaine in Coteaux du Languedoc, and has a dozen years of bottle age. I picked it up in what became a favourite wine shop — Espace Vin, in the town of St.-Chinian.
The Cave of Domaine d’Aupilhac is located in the centre of Montpeyroux, a small town 36 km north-west of Montpellier. On the same property is the family home of vigneron Sylvain Fadat who started the domaine in 1989, a pioneer in what had traditionally been a region of mass-produced wines of little note. Today he works 27 hectares. Most are just outside the town, but in recent years he has acquired new and different terroir, allowing him to expand his range of wines.
Fadat’s family has a history of grape-growing that goes back five generations, but he was the first to take control and start independent production, expanding well beyond the few hectares inherited from his grandparents. Especially noteworthy is his success with the varietal carignan. The grapes that make up my 1998 Le Clos come from south-west facing terraces of the site after which the domaine is named — Aupilhac.
To avoid the ravages of drought, the vineyards are ploughed regularly, forcing the roots to go deep and seek out the cool, moist sub-soil. Harvesting is by hand, and, of course only naturally occurring yeasts are used in fermentation. The wines mature in casks and barrels in the Cave in Montpeyroux, and are left unfiltered prior to bottling.
According to Fadat, his overall approach to wine-making rests on the belief that “work in the vineyards has far more influence on a wine’s quality than what we do in the Cave.” He is passionate about allowing the terroir to speak through his wines. And equally that they maintain a balance through careful blending. It would appear that his approach has worked very well indeed. Today his is one of the benchmark domaines in Languedoc.
Domaine d’ Aupilhac Le Clos 1998
A well-rounded, mature wine. Caught at its peak, giving all it has to give, the taster well rewarded for his patience. Garnet in colour, and on the nose leathery fruit, sweet scents of garrigue. Rich, medium-bodied, a wine to gradually fill the palate with black fruit compote, bringing traces of smoke and a marriage of rustic flavours. Natural, homemade in the most positive sense. $$