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23 January 2010

Languedoc: Château de Brau, Cabardès

Cabardès AOC is found to the north of Carcassonne and is trying to push a 'west meets east' image, with varying degrees of success. The region is planted with a mix of Mediterranean, Rhone, southwest and Bordeaux varieties; and further afield too with Chardy, Sauvignon, Pinot Noir etc. cropping up more and more. As you approach from further east or south in the Languedoc, the weather can quickly change once you're in or beyond Carcassonne (sometimes rainier or colder in the winter yet hotter in the summer too), as if there actually is some kind of Atlantic-cum-continental karma at play; even though you're still much nearer to the Med here. While Cabardès has (had?) its fair share of rather ordinary wines (nothing unusual about that then), there's a burgeoning band of top estates coming to the fore such as Château de Brau and the others featured below this profile. For more info on Cabardès producers and to get hold of a copy of their handy little wine trail in English (includes a few hotels, restaurants etc. as well), check out www.aoc-cabardes.com.
Back to Brau. This charming, unpretentious and quite sizeable (40 ha/100 acre) estate is owned by Gabriel and Wenny Tari and farmed organically: certified back in 1989 in fact with the youngest Syrah and Pinot being converted. It's split roughly into two big chunks - one around the winery and chateau, the other just off in the distance on rolling slopes at slightly higher altitude - with natural borders formed by the river to the south (a tributary of the Aude) and wilder countryside to the north. Unusually, they have 15 different varieties planted, mostly red including oddities such as Fer Servadou (from the southwest) and Egiodola, a crossing of Fer and Abourriou (que?!). Their Cabardès red blends are particularly impressive, although so is the Pinot Noir (rare to find good examples in the south) and other varietal wines like Cabernet Franc. The property is well signposted from the tricky-to-pronounce village of Villemoustaussou, and individuals or small groups are preferred by appointment.
What I also like about Gabriel and Wenny Tari, apart from nice wines, is their openness in poking fun at established so-called wisdom, or rather the usual clichés rolled out by some growers. This snippet from their brochure gives you a taster and also shows we must be kindred spirits, reflecting a line from the intro blurb on my homepage (an attempt at humour, if you bothered to read it and are a Monty Python fan): "We have not been growing wines since Roman times. We are farmers... modern-day peasants and have been for a long time... we don't have an exceptional terroir, just good land for vineyards of which we've ploughed every inch and which we've revived according to organic principles over the last 20 years" (not my translation by the way). Hats off. 

The following wines were tasted at Millésime Bio, Perpignan January 2008, and/or in situ when I visited in April 08.
2006 Pinot Noir Pure, Vin de Pays d'Oc - touch of toasty chocolate oak leads on to attractive 'sweet and savoury' Pinot fruit, juicy mouth-feel v fresh bite and tannins; with a little air the oak drops revealing more silky Pinot character, surprising considering it's made from young vines too. 89-91
2005 Domaine Majelus Merlot - smoky plum and cassis notes, nice ripe edges with 'tar' and liquorice v grip and fresh acidity. 87+
2006 Cuvée Château Cabardès (Merlot Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon) - nice mix of herbal pepper and ripe smoky fruit, again solid tannins v ripeness and power v lightness of touch. 89-91
2006 Cuvée Exquise Cabardès (Syrah Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon and sometimes Grenache too) - different from above, more berry fruit with light mint tones then liquorice on the palate v dry grip from textured tannins; less charming now perhaps but could blossom. 88+
2005 Le Suc de Brau Cabardès (SyrahCabernet Sauvignon) - more peppery and rustic with light coco oak, black cherry and cassis; powerful chunky and quite concentrated palate v rich smoky liquorice and black fruit layered on its firm solid framework. 90-92
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Pure - attractive juicy cassis enhanced by smoky prune tones, quite elegant finish actually. 87-89
2006 Cabernet Franc - pretty ripe and spicy v red pepper notes but mostly full and rounded in style, very appealing wine. 87-89
2006 Fer Servadou - a little reduced and funky on the nose but this is concentrated, peppery, rustic and rich; nicely handled tannins and finish too.88-90
2006 Egiodola - a bit stalky and closed on the nose, reveals more in the mouth with lively spicy tart aromatic damson v darker fruit and liquorice; quite concentrated with very grippy tannins and fresh acidity, different for sure! 87+2006 Syrah - less exciting to be honest, although made from young vines so we'll see.
2007 Domaine de Brau Chardonnay-Roussanne (12.5%) - nice peachy v yeast leesy style with a bit of depth and crisp finish. 85+ 

Update 2010. Gosh, was that really two years ago... these new vintages tasted with Gabriel and Wenny at Millésime Bio show in Montpellier:
2008 Chardonnay / Roussanne - quite rich and exotic with peachy and yeast-lees tones; juicy with a touch of weight then crisp bite vs "sweet" fruit and lively finish still. 87
2008 Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon - attractive "sweet vs savoury" mix with herby red pepper notes vs richer darker berry and cassis fruit; nice styling and depth on the palate. 87+
2007 Fer Servadou - juicier than previous vintage perhaps with meaty/savoury notes and light wood spice; quite lush vs tarter side with dark fruits and leather on the finish, attractive tannins too. 87+
2009 Pinot Noir - a bit closed up but slowly reveals enticing "sweet/savoury" Pinot style, nice fruit vs grip too; promising. 87-89
2007 Cuvée Exquise Cabardès - a touch of oak on the nose vs maturing herbal berry fruit; chunkier and lush on the palate vs tight firm mouthfeel, ripe vs savoury finish. Yum. 90
2006 Le Suc Cabardès (SyrahCabernet Sauvignon) - spicy wood aromas, moving on to chunky and concentrated mouthfeel; a tad oak-heavy perhaps but has nice oomph, richness and spicy finish. 89

Latest Brau here (report June 2012).

Domaine de Brau, 11620 Villemoustaussou. Tel: 04 68 72 31 92, chateaudebrau@aliceadsl.fr.

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