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01 November 2009

Roussillon: Domaine des Enfants, Maury

Photo by Ron Scherl

There are more children (see 'Les Enfants Sauvages' too) found a little up the hill in Maury off the Cucugnan road (almost next door to Dept 66): Swiss-owned Domaine des Enfants is another great-potential 'start-up' estate. When I called by in late 2009, Marcel Bühler was brewing up his third vintage in his compact cellar, formerly owned by Serge Rousse (of the sadly defunct Domaine Terre Rousse)... This was gleaned from 20 ha (50 acres) split across seven sites (half the vines around Maury plus Caramany, Cassagne, Rassiguere and Latour-de-France) with a variety of soil types (schist, granite, gneiss, 'terra rossa'...) and alarmingly low final yields of eight hl/ha. "We pick late then really select through (the fruit)," Marcel clarified, "we must've chucked away a quarter of it this year. Everything's very manual as the vineyards are old, so I've got two horses... No herbicides are used and I'm going for organic certification in 2010."
Marcel's background was in Zurich banking; he then studied wine-growing / -making at Germany's esteemed Geisenheim university. "I looked (at vineyards) in the Languedoc, in the Montpeyroux and Pic St-Loup areas, and Priorat and elsewhere in Spain... but it was all too expensive. Then I stopped off in the Roussillon and met Jean Pla (former proprietor of Le Pichenouille wine shop & restaurant in Maury and vineyard land broker)..." Dom des Enfants wines are mostly sold in Switzerland and Germany at the moment, by (e)mail order or at Jean's place above. Marcel, like other newcomers aiming high, has priced the wines at a pretty ambitious level: €18, €36 and €55. For those who can afford, they are very good it has to be said - all these were tank or barrel samples:

2008 Les Enfants Perdus (Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Lladoner Pelut) - lifted currant and berry notes, floral and spicy turning to liquorice; subtle oak backdrop vs lovely fruit then nice fresh bite. 87+
2008 Carignan - oakier but it's lush vs spicy with chocolate tannins, pretty concentrated and powerful wrapped in nice rounded and pure finish. 89+
2008 Grenache - meatier and more savoury with very ripe liquorice and black pepper undertones; subtle oak again adding texture vs intense black fruits, power and chocolate oak finish although that should blend in nicely. 90+
2008 Syrah - very dark and spicy nose with wild herb / minty edges; very concentrated and intense, fleshy vs dry texture. Yum. 90+

Varietals for the "mid to top wines... with 14 to 16 months in barrel":
2008 Carignan - even more intense, crunchy and spicy fruit with the oak more upfront but layered with lovely rich blueberry and liquorice. 91+
2008 Syrah - toastier with more chocolate but again has superb fruit, pure and spicy with ripe dark vs savoury touches; fair oomph and tasty tannins on its impressive length. 92+
2008 Grenache - more floral with 'garrigue' notes vs chocolate texture, again delicious intense liquorice, pepper and dark berries; more elegant than the above perhaps. 92+

2008 white (Carignan blanc, Grenache gris, Grenache blanc, Macabeu) - honeyed and flowery with very light toast, rounded and exotic vs spicy; quite big vs refreshing bite, attractive clean finish. 87+
And this red over lunch at the above-mentioned Pichenouille in November 09:
2007 Les Enfants Perdus (14.5%) - oaky at first turning rich and tasty with bite vs rounded mouthfeel and power, that dark chocolate oak melts in after a bit; well-made, concentrated and chunky but not overblown at all. 89+

Route de Cucugnan, 66460 Maury: www.domaine-des-enfants.com where I pinched the photo from.

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