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26 October 2008

Languedoc: Etoile du Matin, Corbières

Etoile du Matin

Geoffroy Marchand’s tiny domaine is organically grown ("if you can't here, where can you?"): his equally tiny cellar isn’t well-marked, although you should find it easily enough on the left just before the village of Feuilla; look out for the give-away wine-tractor or decorative Étoile du Matin boxes. Feuilla is the final frontier (derr dedd derr...) between Corbières, Fitou and Roussillon; and what a stunning setting too. I know I say that often enough, but you have to go there and you'll believe me! Geoffroy is one of an increasing number of young risk-taking growers either side of the Corbières, who’s crafting handmade, very natural and sometimes breathtaking wines (and sometimes a bit strange!): AOC, Vins de pays & table as fits his whim. He studied and worked in Burgundy, then a stint for the Roussillon’s one-and-only Hervé Bizeul, before settling here. His signature label (Syrah, Grenache and/or Carignan) is a wild-fruited powerful Corbières; there’s a peppery pure meaty Grenache rarity called Les Agnelles - actually, it’s got some Lladoner Pelut in it too, a disappearing Catalan variety thought to be related to Grenache (pelut means furry or pointy I think); and the 2006 was bottled without sulphur dioxide, something Geoffroy might continue to do depending on acidity levels etc. (starting with the 2007s) - and a slightly off-the-wall 100% Carignan. This estate should rapidly enter into every critic's Corbières top ten and is unquestionably one to keep an eye on. Tasted late October 2008:

2007 Védépé (2/3 Carignan, 13.5%) - still had a bit of a malo-lactic fermentation pong, but this went after a few days open (probably implying it will naturally after a few months in bottle: the 07s were only just bottled when I tried them and haven't been released yet). Moving on to nice depth of pure crunchy fruit, spicy and fresh mouth-feel with lively blueberry and black cherry finish. 87+
2007 Miss Tam Corbières (Syrah Carignan 13.5%) - similar slightly 'off' aromas at first, moving on to a more concentrated and powerful palate, again it has that hallmark purity and earthy spicy berry fruit; chocolate texture v lovely wild fruit v dry grip. Will be good. 89+
2006 Carignan - fragrant liquorice and wild herbs; crunchy v rich, powerful yet quite fine and long, refreshing fruit purity too. 90
2005 Carignan - developing smoky liquorice, lush peppery and concentrated mouth-feel, still firm tannins but beginning to melt with savoury/tobacco notes. Delicious. 90-92
2006 Les Agnelles (Grenache Lladoner Pelut) - very appealingliquorice and cinnamon with raspberry and blackberry; meaty tobacco edges to a grippier textured palate, again has delicious fruit on its long tasty finish, maturing yet very alive. 92+
2006 Patangame white (Grenache blanc Grenache gris) - declassified to vin de table because it has 20 grams/litre residual sugar (g/l RS: meaning it would have been 16%+ if fermented dry) and is a little atypical! Nutty oxidised tones with floral honeyed fruit; that touch of sweetness balances nicely with its power and fresh mineral acidity v toasted almond v milky yeast-lees notes too, then appley finish. Different! 90These wines are priced between €8 and €19. More Etoile du Matin wines here.

La Plantaire, Route de Treilles, 11510 Feuilla. Tel: 04 68 45 01 82, etoile.du.matin@wanadoo.frwww.etoiledumatin.com.

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