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03 January 2010

Languedoc: Château Pech Redon, La Clape

Down-to-earth owner/grower/winemaker Christophe Bousquet also happens to be the president of the Clape winegrowers association and doesn't have to put up with annoying neighbours at all, as he doesn't have any; lost as he is up a rough meandering climbing track, perched up on the highest point (vines run from 150 to 200m/500-650 feet altitude at Pech-Redon) of the curious hunk of untamed hilly rock that is La Clape. The dramatic terrain here is so different from the flat land around Narbonne, which it overlooks obviously, sticking out awkwardly and dropping into the Med. Christophe and his fellow winemakers are working on shaping a separate mini-appellation for La Clape (its name is already visible on labels alongside "Coteaux du Languedoc"), which he thinks "should be in place by 2011." If there is a more convincing argument for creating this kind of obscure sub-AOC, then La Clape does seem like a case in point compared to other oversized and varied/variable, compromise appellations.

Paraphrasing and summarising what Christophe told me when I called by in January 2010, he's simply trying to make the most expressive wines possible and as naturally as possible (he does farm organically by the way) from his vineyards, and bring out the true character of the grape varieties (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and some whites too) grown in them along with the environmental factors that shape them. Which is a long-winded way of saying "terroir" wines, I suppose, or wines with a "sense of place" - me I mean, he didn't overuse the "T" word like some people do. Having tasted quite a few wines from La Clape, you can often pick up dark scented "garrigue" aromas, like roasted wild herbs or something like that, and plenty of attractive sweet/sour fruit character. Even if scientifically it's difficult to prove how different plants could or do interact and draw flavours from their soil or surroundings.

Anyway, let's not get too heavy here. Pech Redon's wines basically aren't very textbook, a bit on the wild side even, and quite well-distributed in English speaking markets - Christophe exports most of his production. In the US, via Village Wine in NYC and an importer in North Carolina, whose name I neglected to write down (I'll ask him again sometime)! In the UK, try Terroir Languedoc, the Real Wine Company, Discovery Wines (Cambridge) and Richards Walford sell a few bottles into posh restaurants in London. 

I tasted these wines with Christophe in his little barn-cum-cellar:
2008 white (Grenache blancBourboulenc) - wild cidery and mineral style, turning fatter and nuttier on the palate vs crisp and refreshing twist; gets more exotic with oxidising hazelnut tones, complex and attractive in fact. 87+2002 Les Genêts (ChardonnayViognier 14%) - apricots and buttery tones with a touch of toasted vanilla; "sweet" palate vs aniseed and hazelnut twist, creamy and mature yet still has a hint of freshness and life about it. 89+
2008 Les Cades (
CarignanCinsaultSyrahMourvèdre,Grenache 14%) - smoky and ripe, "tar" notes with spicy wild herbs too; dark vs crunchy fruit, quite firm yet with nice fruit vs bite; closes up on the finish, although you still get more of that aromatic floral character then darker side. 87+
2005 L'Epervier (mostly 
Syrah Grenache 14%) - more open on the nose, pretty wild and smoky with spicy cloves and minty/medicinal tones; concentrated with solid tannins vs dark cherry, spice, thyme, leather and balsamic flavours; powerful finish with slightly bitter grip yet quite lush wild fruit too. Not everybody's cup of tea (and possibly a tad faulty) but I kinda like its one-off style. 87+
2007 Lithos (50/50 
Syrah/Grenache 14.5%, unfiltered) - fairly upfront and lively style showing crunchy, red-pepper tinged fruit vs baked black cherry and sweet cassis; pretty firm mouthfeel and weight vs rich and smoky finish. 89-91
2002 La Centaurée (
SyrahGrenacheMourvèdre 14%) - meaty development on the nose with background vanilla notes; grip vs depth on the palate, a tad over-extracted perhaps vs substance? 87
2003 La Centaurée (
SyrahGrenacheMourvèdre 14%) - more aromatic and spicy with attractive liquorice notes, turning to leather vs dark ripe fruit; has more substance, weight and roundness with a more generous, complex maturing finish. 90-92

Latest here (2007 L'Epervier, La Clape tasting report April 2011).

Route de Gruissan, 11100 Narbonne. Tel: 04 68 90 41 22, www.pech-redon.fr / blog-pech-redon.moonfruit.fr.

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