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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Domaine Singla Passe Temps

France (Roussillon)

grenache noir (80%), syrah

While staying at La Bellevue in the Loire Valley, some weeks ago now, I encountered this and other cases of Domaine Singla wines, newly shipped from Roussillon.

And here’s a bottle from that case passing through Paris.

On its way across the Atlantic, where it was given a few weeks to recover before being poured.

Was it worth the wait? Absolutely!

Domaine Singla Passe Temps 2009

Dark, near black red, it sits solidly and invitingly in the glass. A rich basket of vibrant berry-fruit, laced with tobacco and leather. An earthy, lively expression of grenache. Entirely approachable. Rich medium body. Spiced, fresh fruit, acidity nicely balanced. The fruit of the terroir coming into its own in the heat of the south of France, obviously in very capable hands. $

I had heard great things about the wines of Domaine Singla, and on the recent stay in France several found their way into my glass, all because of the generosity of Gérald Beaumont at La Bellevue, a friend of the vigneron since Gérald’s days operating a wine bar in Paris. Each wine was impressive, each it its own way. I was taken by them all, from the younger-drinking Passe Temps to some other, very age-worthy cuvées.

From a portion of his 45 hectares in the Opoul/Salses-le-Château region of Roussillon, near the Corbières hills, Laurent de Besombes produces a range of 13 terroir-led wines under the Singla label. Still only in his mid-30s, de Besombes is one of the most-watched young vignerons in France.

There was a time when wine-making was something de Besombes would shrink away from rather than embrace. He admits that in his youth he was even reluctant to admit to friends what his father did for a living – labouring in vineyards of several hundred hectares, selling wine to merchants and never seeing the finished product. Then came what Laurent calls a ‘thunderbolt’ moment (in the midst of studying for another career) when he felt an intense draw back to the land. To the life of an independent vigneron, focussing on a section of the family holdings, listening to what the terroir had to offer. The path towards biodynamics followed, although he is quick to point out, ‘I seek to make good wine above all. Bio is a means, not an end.’

The argilo-limestone, stoney soil comes with its challenges, as does mid-summer’s intense heat. Yet the vineyards can produce remarkable wines, even if as a wine region isolated Roussillon is sometimes forgotten. (Although apparently not by the sommelier to the French President, who made room for an earlier vintage of Passe Temps in the Palace cellar.) Whole, selected fruit, foot treading, no added yeast, no fining, no filtering. It all seems…well…rather natural. Something to get entirely passionate about, whether you’re the vigneron, or a wine drinker on either side of the Atlantic.

Or a customer at Gérald and Sarah-Jane Beaumont’s new wine bar, Bistrot Les Tontons, in Saumur, due to open this month. Wish I could be there.


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