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13 April 2008

Languedoc: Domaine Bégude, Limoux

English couple James and Catherine Kinglake put their money into a dream in 2003 and bought this charming property, which lies up above (at 400m altitude) the village of Cépie to the north of Limoux (south of Carcassonne) and offers spectacular views in all directions. Describing his philosophy as "turbocharged lutte raisonnée" meaning as environmentally friendly as possible without being full-blown organic, James and his winemaker are making some handsome Chardonnays – oaked-aged, full-bodied AOC Limoux styles and lively unoaked Vins de Pays – surprising Chenin Blanc and an attractive rosé from the small amount of Pinot Noir they have planted (see 2008 update below). They can accommodate up to 30 people for a vineyard tour, tasting and lunch in their converted barn function room, if booked in advance. Bégude's wines are available in the US and UK as well as elsewhere in northern Europe and the Far East. Email them for details (at the bottom).

The following 2005s were unfinished wines tasted from vat in the cellar December 2005:
2005 Sauvignon Blanc - attractive citrus v mineral style, soft ripe gooseberry fruit then leaner crisp finish.
2005 Chardonnay (will be blended with barrel fermented Chardonnay) - nice clean white peach fruit and balance of weight v elegance, again finishing with crisp length.
2005 Chardonnay (will be vin de pays) - more mineral and yeast leesy style, tighter longer finish.
2005 Chardonnay - livelier and richer although a touch bitter on the finish at the moment.
2005 Chenin Blanc (will blend 85-15 with Chardy) - lovely melon v buttery fruit, intense and fresh v fat yet fine.
2005 Pinot Noir rosé - elegant rose petal aromas build to creamy weightier mouthful.
2004 Chardonnay vin de pays - creamy raisin fruit showing juicy fatness v greener crisper edges; very attractive at €5.
2004 Chardonnay-Chenin Blanc - again creamy to start followed by leaner fresher finish. £5.99 in the UK.
2004 Chardonnay Limoux - shows light toasty oak and juicy fat fruit then a more elegant finish, well balanced.

"The Corbières in Autumn" from www.domainebegude.comBégude update April 2008: A long-overdue return visit revealed that, with the successful 2006 vintage the Kinglakes have launched an experimental red batch made from late-picked Pinot Noir called L’Esprit - they left one row of the most promising Pinot until the end of September - and a limited barrel-selection Chardonnay called L’Etoile ("about one third as much as the classic," James told me, after several critical tastings of all the Chardy in barrel). He's also toying with the idea of making a sparkling Limoux: watch this space. I tasted these including a few potentially exciting 2007s from tank and cask:
2007 Sauvignon Blanc - lovely piercing citrus and pea notes with zingy grapefruit, pure and zesty palate with crisp yet relatively soft finish. €6 at the winery, and also available in Loch Fyne restaurants across the UK. 87
2007 Bel Ange (Chardy + touch of Chenin Blanc) - nice peachy v citrus style, rounded mouth-feel with weight v freshness; very drinkable now actually. £6.49 Majestic. 87+
2007 (different batch) - a bit fatter, oilier and honeyed with again crisp graceful finish; less structured perhaps. 87
2007 Pinot Noir rosé - zesty nose with light red fruits, elegant and fresh with subtle depth of fruit. €6 87
2006 Limoux blanc 'classic' - judicious toasty oak adds texture as do the lightly creamy yeast-lees characters, shows nice fruit v acid balance. €8 89
2007 Chardy from a new demi-muid (600 litre barrel) - lively fruit v subtle oak coating, very promising.
2007 Chardy from a barrique - more yeast-lees presence with lovely fruit, texture and crisp length; stylish.
2006 L’Etoile de Bégude, Limoux (selected Chardy, 13.5%) - closed nose showing delicate toasted coconut oak, creamy oily and peachy mouth-feel with nice yeast-lees depth, weight then crisp balanced length, tight structure and purity too. Opened up over the next day or so. €15 90-92
2006 L’Esprit de Bégude, Vin de pays d'Oc (Pinot Noir 14.5%) - unusual sort of New Zealand meets Sonoma PN style: a layer of oak adds a bitter chocolate texture to its smoky savoury characters edged with attractive cherry fruit; pretty big and bold yet there's freshness too. Should open up with a few months in bottle, it's a bit awkward at the moment. 89-90?

Saint-Martin-de-Villereglan, 11300 Cépie. Tel: 06 86 05 73 74 (mobile), fax: 04 68 69 20 41; james@domainebegude.com, http://www.domainebegude.com/.

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.