Friday, 27 August 2010

It was a beautiful early drive along the Estang de Leucate from Barcares up to Fitou to join the auto route and eventually to Narbonne

Here I met with the ever energetic Andree Ferrandiz eagerly awaiting yet another harvest! I tasted both the 2009 XV du President and the new Cabernet de Canet and gave the thumbs up for the bottling to begin.

Once the bottling was rolling smoothly Andree and I headed to Beziers to see Baron Arnold de Bertier and the Vermentino vineyard. The grapes tasted good with delicate lemony flavours showing through but the acid was still high so I’ll wait and check again next week.

From Beziers I made my way back to Carcassonne and then directly south to Limoux home to the La Voute vineyards to meet Regis the vineyard manager. Regis was born and bred here and lives and breathes Limoux so is a very handy man to have around when looking at the vineyards.

With 2800 hectares of AOC vineyards, spread all over the four terroirs amongst the maze of dirt tracks, it is near impossible to find the vineyards even though I have been visiting them for four years! But Regis, his battered Renault Clio and his built in GPS knows it like the back of his hand and always surprises me with different vineyards that he thinks are exceptional this year.

First set of vineyards were in the oceanique terroir to the west where we visited the individually named vineyards of Vie, Astruc, Planet, Pauligne, Sarda. Here we checked the grapes by walking up and down the rows tasting berries trying to predict the harvest date.

We then bolted off in the Clio up and over into the Haut-Vallee area – the highest of the Limoux terroirs at 400m – to Conilhac to see the vineyards Canet, Azam and Lauzade. The high altitude here meant that the maturity of the grapes were way behind that of the vineyards below.

However I got my first surprise from Regis by meeting Monsieur Bonnes in his spectacular Chardonnay vineyard, under the tiny fortified village of Roquetaillade, which I learnt from Regis’ history lesson was one of the last Protestant strongholds in the department back in the 15th century.

Monsieur Bonnes, who spends his life in the vineyard tending and caring to his old vine Chardonnay, certainly knew what he was doing as the grapes were already showing fantastic maturity. After a lengthy conversation (with Regis on hand to translate the local patois words) we seemed to have struck a deal for the grapes!

After a very long but exciting day I managed to get back to Carcassonne and was rewarded with a glass of a fantastic 2006 AOC St. Chinian from Domaine La Croix Sainte Eulalie.

Tomorrow I will make my way back to Bordeaux but not without stopping to see some vineyards along the way!


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