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29 July 2010

Languedoc: Domaine du Grand Arc, Corbières

Bruno and Fabienne Schenck set up domain in 1995 in beautiful middle of nowhere near Cucugnan at the bottom end of the Corbières, before the meandering climb down into Maury and beneath the awesome Chateau Quéribus (just to throw in a hint of cliché touristy and dramatic Cathar ambience - the castle is a must-see though)... although they already had and worked vineyards before then and used to deliver their grapes to the local co-op cellar. The estate now comes to 23 ha (57 acres) with vines planted from around 250 to 400 metres altitude (over 1000 ft on average).
When I called in at Grand Arc in late July 2010, Bruno expressed their philosophy as "agriculture non-violente," meaning, although not strictly organic, "sometimes we don't interfere... and take a little risk, we might lose a bit but you get better balance and we always have enough crop." He also said: "We no longer green-harvest and do very little de-budding and leaf-removal," the idea being that "it's all well thought out to try and understand everything around us. So, we make a range that reflects all our terroirs... The climate is very even here, we try to use that." And on the winemaking front, he claims to have experimented with not using sulphur for wines made in 2008 and 2009, except adding a very low quantity at bottling to "guarantee stability and ageing potential." I tasted their range at the same time as some eager Belgian tourists, who promptly drove off with a few cases, so obviously a hit! I'm inclined to agree, as no doubt does UK wine merchant Stone, Vine & Sun who stocks some of these wines:

2009 Veillée d'Equinoxe white (Grenache Blanc Roussanne Maccabeu 14%) - aromatic floral & banana-y nose; fatter fuller palate vs crisp and quite mineral, attractive light bitter twist too. €5.30 / £8.50. 80-85
2009 La Tour Fabienne rosé (Grenache Syrah Carignan Mourvèdre Cinsault 14%) - has plenty of creamy strawberry/raspberry fruit to start; juicy vs quite chunky style with bite and subtle bitter twist, rounded & fairly powerful too vs crisp and fresh. A foodie rosé, good value too @ €4.80 / £8.25. 85
2009 Nature d'Orée red (Grenache Syrah Carignan MourvèdreCinsault) - nice lively fruity style showing a touch of grip vs liquorice and black cherry, spicy and punchy too; drinking well now although quite serious, value too @ €5. 85
2008 Réserve Grand Arc red (Carignan Grenache Mourvèdre) - tighter and fresher style with crunchy vs ripe blue/black fruits; good bite vs weight and very light touch of oak. €6 / £8.75. 85-87
2008 Quarante red (Carignan Grenache Syrah) - more closed up with subtle concentration of blue fruits, spicier and grippier too; nice tight length showing refreshing side vs oomph and again a deft touch of oak (?), long and quite fine. €7.60 / £10.50. 87-89
2008 En Sol Majeur red (Grenache Syrah) - richer and more powerful, a touch more oak too adding coco spice and texture; concentrated and tight, again not very expressive at the moment with toasty/grainy finish; lush fruit underneath though vs solid mouth-feel and punch. Promising. €10.80 89-91
2008 Aux Temps d'Histoire red (mostly very old Carignan) - spicy and grainy and closed up to start; gets more aromatic and very intense, attractive blue/black/red fruit combo adding rich vs crunchy profile; fresh acidity on the finish too with pure intense fruit vs coconut grain texture, long and tight. Wow. €12.90 90-92
A couple of previous DGA vintages here (Fenouilledes road trip 2005) and 2009 reds 'en primeur' here.
Le Devez, 11350 Cucugnan. Tel: 04 68 45 01 03, www.grand-arc.com

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