Domaine de Martinolles

The Limoux wine region is at the western most point of the Languedoc and is located just south of the medieval city of Carcassonne. It has a unique geoclimate, a situation due to the dual influences of the Atlantic which brings cool and wet weather and the Mediterranean which delivers hot and dry conditions.

The Domaine de Martinolles was owned by the Vergnes family from 1926 until 2011 when the estate was sold to the native Languedocoen vigneron, Jean Claude Mas. The vineyards lie on the same hillsides that the monks of St. Hilaire cultivated in 1531 when they produced the world’s first sparkling wine.

The vines, which are planted in chalky soils at elevations ranging from 200 to 600 meters, are worked traditionally without herbicides or fertilizers. Domaine de Martinolles is a member of Terra Vitis, an organization that certifies the practice of sustainable agriculture.

The Cabardès appellation is located on the southern slopes of the Montagne Noir, the most southern outcropping of the Massif Central and just outside the medieval walled city of Carcassonne. One of France’s newest A.O.C.’s, it was established in 1998 and has fewer than 20 estate bottled producers. Its unique climatic situation with influences from both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea give rise to the appellation’s motto “Vent d’Est, Vent d”Ouest. In fact, the A.O.C. laws mandate that a minimum of 40% of the varieties must be “atlantique”; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc and 40% “mediterranean”; Syrah or Grenache; also a maximum of 20% of Cot or Fer Servadou may be used.

Along with Saint-Chinian, Faugères forms the western border of the Coteaux du Languedoc; a viticultural region that extends from Nimes to Narbonne. Faugères is one of just a few viticultural areas in this broad region to be granted appellation independence from the more encompassing Coteaux du Languedoc appellation. Comprising 2000 hectares, Faugères is most often discussed in terms of its nearly omnipresent schist soil, a factor that along with the micro-climate of the Monts de Faugères, gives a singular expression to the typical Languedocian grape varieties. Schist is a metamorphic rock and more specifically a metasedimentary rock, having changed from shale or mudstone to schist through a process called recrystallization. It is believed that these Paleozoic rocks in Faugères give birth to wines of finesse and austerity. [Veterans of the wine business understand metamorphosis. Ours usually involves fractional melting followed by desiccation cracks with no hope of a post-glacial rebound.]

In 1997, Catherine Roque, already a vigneronne in the Vallée de L’Orb, acquired Mas D’Alezon and its 7 hectares in the northern corner of Faugères. The vineyards are in the village of Soumatre and, ranging from 350 to 450 meters in altitude, are the highest in the appellation. Catherine’s vineyard is certified organic and she employs bio-dynamic principles to enhance the health of the soil and the plants. Catherine grows Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah for her reds and Clairette and Roussanne for her white. The average age of her vines is 25 years, including plots of 70 year old Grenache and 80 year old Mourvèdre. Due to the combination of infertile soils and cool micro-climate, her grapes are very slow to ripen and yields are typically 20 to 25 hl/ha. The domain’s two red wines are vinified similarly.

Catherine relies on indigenous yeasts for the fermentations and she believes in long and slow fermentation at cool temperatures. The wines are aged in cement tanks and barrels that are not new, for up to two years. No sulphur is used during this process and only at bottling is the smallest amount added.

*N.B. The geological terms and explanations (not my attempt at humor) are taken from an amazing book titled Reading the Rocks by Marcia Bjornerud.

Read Catherine’s comments in the Languedoc Vintage Reports

The Orb River runs for 135 kilometers from the Larzac Causses in Haut-Languedoc down to the Mediterranean Sea. Domaine de Clovallon is situated in the Haute Vallée de L’Orb which refers to a small stretch of the river valley that runs east to west with exposed hillsides and excellent southern exposure. Spanning geological periods from the primary to the quartenary, the Haute Vallée de L’Orb contains virtually every soil type found in France, and many of them are present in Clovallon’s 10 hectares.

To be in the company of Catherine Roque and her daughter Alix, is to be in the company of and feel the energy of passionate farmers. Catherine says that seeing the results of her bio-dynamic farming practices has greatly inspired her. In the vineyard, the Roques use fertilizer from their neighbor’s cows along with a mix of valerian and dolomite. In between the rows, the natural grasses are left to grow and Alix is contemplating buying a few sheep to help with the “mowing”. They already employ the help of their chickens. As non-interventionist winemakers, their wines naturally convey their respect for and delight in their land and vineyards.

Read Alix’s comments Languedoc Vintage Reports