Tuesday 3 March 2009

Faugères - all about schist

Yesterday afternoon I toddled off to Faugères for a tasting of the 2008 vintage. 35 producers presented their wines in the appropriately named Salle de Bacchus, under large posters displaying the region's new artwork and strapline ' Faugères, l'appellation Nature schiste.`

This striking new poster captured the essence of Faugères. Schist. For the record, schist is a metamorphic rock which can be easily split into thin layers. The french word 'schiste' also means slate, which is a type of schist, as well as the broader term, schist.

All the vineyards within the Faugères appellation are grown on schist - in fact it is the only appellation in the Languedoc to be based on one homogenous terroir. Vineyards with a high proportion of schist are  naturally low yielding and they force the vine to send its roots deep down in search of water and nutrients. This stands the vine in good stead in times of drought. In addition, the stones act as mini heat stores. They absorb the heat during the day and radiate it back to the  grapes at night, so promoting grape maturity.

So what of the wines? I particularly enjoyed the 2003 Grande Cuvée from Chateau des Estanilles, which had oodles of dark,  brooding fruit and was just beginning to develop and reveal tantalising hints of tea, dark chocolate, tar and smoke.  Soon after I moved to the Languedoc I tasted the 1998 vintage of this wine which was (and no doubt still is) staggeringly good.

In complete contrast, but just as good, were the wines of Domaine Cottebrune. This domaine is small, only 10 hectares and is owned by Pierre Gaillard, an accomplished and celebrated winemaker in the Rhone. He is best known for his Cote Rotie, which is also based on schist.  Pierre's sure touch is in evidence in these impeccably made, stylish wines. The 2007 Transhumance is concentrated yet elegant, with a deft touch of oak. The 2007 Parole de Berger is the top wine, a masterly blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache. Cold maceration pre-fermentation, malolactic in barrel and 12 months ageing in barrel, of which 30% were new are the points to note in the vinification. The resulting wine is brimming with plum and black cherry fruit with hints of smoke and coffee. The oak is well  balanced and it has a lovely long finish. A classy wine with a good future ahead of it.

1 comment:

  1. There's an excellent self-published book Faugères: A Guide to the Appellation by Michael Meadowcroft and Elizabeth Bee. More details are here.
    There are descriptions of 37 producers along with maps and other essential information. I only wish there were guides like this to other areas.