Monday, 22 November 2010

Is it snow? No, it's terroir!

At first glance, it seems like there is a light scattering of snow over these vineyards. But in fact it is a graphic demonstration of terroir.

We are in St Jean de Minervois where the 'snow' is the chalky white soil the covers this small section of vineyards on the plateau in the north east corner of the Minervois. The altitude here is over 200 metres above sea level and so the climate is cooler and grapes ripen later than on the plains. So the Muscat grapes need all the help they can get to achieve their heady, perfumed ripeness. That's where the soil comes in. It reflects sun and heat back on to the grapes and promotes ripening. The Muscat vines are pruned low, close to the ground, so as to maximise the effect.

These recently pruned Muscat vines are at Barroubio, producer of my favourite Muscat de St Jean de Minervois. Their black label Muscat is a classic and a staple in my cellar, particularly during the summer. It is full of grapy, perfumed aromas and delicately sweet without being cloying. It effortless supports its 15 % alcohol.

A visit to the Miquel family at the hamlet of Barroubio is always a pleasure. And tasting through their range of Muscats - dry, late harvest, fortified, late harvest with lees contact etc is a lesson in sweet wine-making.

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