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Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

06 April 2010

Languedoc: Domaine Sainte-Croix, Hautes Corbières

Domaine Sainte-Croix - updated July 2013 (click there)

Jon and Elizabeth Bowen's fledgling domaine is found in the 'Hautes Corbières' (it is indeed higher up here) in the quiet little village of Fraisse-des-Corbières, "two valleys to the north of the Pyrenées Orientales (the official department name for the Roussillon+)," as Jon put it. Great drive across the 'border' too, it has to be said. Actually, they "set up in 2004," so longer ago than some in this guide: good to see new people are still landing in this breath-takingly raw and natural vineyard setting. Like many, Jon said they were "drawn to the parcels of old-vine Carignan and Grenache noir, blanc and gris planted on incredible soils." Before this, he'd already worked in the south as a winemaker at some well-known estates such as Pierre Clavel, just north of Montpellier.
Jon sums up their wines as "being made with the aim of expressing their origins, as I feel that here is a truly unique area. However, having worked both elsewhere in France and also in Australia and California, there are influences gained from many places in the way that we work." Pretty good overall definition of terroir, I'd say without using the terrible T word! And he expanded on this: "without resorting to clichés, as a winemaker it's of utmost importance our wines have a sense of place and an integrity gained by limiting the amount of interventions during winemaking." Fair enough I'd say, especially as wine doesn't make itself as others like to imply. These wines were tasted at their home in Fraisse on a dry but rather chilly January day 2009 (yes, it is cold here in winter too). They have good distribution in the UK through certain independents and elsewhere around the world - see their website and 2010 update below.


2007 La Serre (Grenache blanc Grenache gris Terret 14%) - nutty 'toasted' but not toasty notes, rounded full texture v mineral intensity running through it; creamy finish yet with attractive bite too. €10 87-89
2007 La Sorbeille rosé (Syrah Carignan Grenache 13.5%) - big ripe juicy style with oily 'nutty' tones too; rounded and rich fruity v again that nice mineral bite. €6 85-87
2006 Le Fournas Corbières (50% Carignan Grenache Syrah 14%) - nice pure ripe smoky tobacco-edged fruit, liquorice and leather v plum and toffee apple; juicy v lush v dry grip, good balance and style. €7 87-89
2004 Magneric Corbières (similar blend of Carignan Grenache Syrah but from older vines and different parcels 14%) - developing attractive 'tar' notes mingling with tobacco and leather; bigger and more concentrated, with chunky tannins and very light wood texture; closes up on the finish although coming back to it, already 'sweeter' and more aromatic, more tobacco too. €12 88-90
2006 Carignan Vin de table - not very expressive on the nose to start, lightly nutty and herby perhaps; concentrated crunchy fruit with floral cassis aromas/flavours, very firm and dry-textured v depth and purity, again closes up on its long finish; it did open up later with some air, although there's a slightly awkward background wood texture? €16 89+?
2005 Cel
èstra Corbières (Grenache Carignan Syrah 14.5%) - complex minty herbal aromas with wild fruit backdrop; closes up on its firm-textured palate, yet lively lush flavours v sour & savoury, concentrated and intense finish; wow certainly different, I like it although not one for everyone; still pretty youthful actually. €20 90+? 


2010 UPDATE: the following - a second tasting of some plus a few more recent vintages and one new wine - were served up by Jon at the enigmatically named "Salon du X" - it's not that much of a mystery, actually, a tasting organised by their agent Xavier Peyrot des Gachons with a dozen Languedoc & Roussillon winegrowers present (there were originally 10, I think) hence the X - back in April at Domaine Gayda's impressive winery & restaurant complex between Limoux and Castelnaudary.
2009 La Serre white - appley nutty and crisp vs oily, zesty and chalky; long steely finish. 87
2007 Le Fournas Corbières red - wild and smoky vs rich and tasty; turning meaty with spicy black fruits underneath, grippy and intense finish. 87-89
2006 Magneric - fruitier aromas with maturing plummy edges; again shows that lovely concentration with intense wild "garrigue" vs fruit and spice, lightly grainy finish. 89+
2006 Carignan - attractive maturing and meaty nose; good depth of fruit with tight elegant palate and grainy texture, although not sure about that wood? 87+
2005 Celèstra - carafed (as a touch 'reduced' or wild/herbal anyway?): very spicy and concentrated palate though, again had mixed feelings as I did above but it certainly commands your attention!
La Part des Anges (Carignan Grenache, "late picked" 15%) - lush and sweet vs intense and crunchy blueberry; attractive bite and grip with wild spicy sweet finish. Very nice and unusual "passerillé" style (dried grapes). 90


More updates here (Corbières report May 2011) and here (2009 vintage showcase June 2010) both featuring Ste-Croix wines.

7 Avenue des Corbières, 11360 Fraisse-des-Corbières. Tel: 04 68 42 27 26 / 06 85 67 63 88, www.saintecroixvins.com.

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