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15 September 2010

Languedoc: Château des Estanilles, Faugères

Château des Estanilles
New kid on the block Julien Seydoux (pic. right, obviously, next to the previous owner) is quite laid-back considering what he's taken on, an exciting-potential Faugères winery / 35 ha (85 acre) estate; with a little help from its well-established vineyard and name. He told me his philosophy wasn't so different from previous owner Michel Louison, although in the vineyard Julien's already on the way to organic certification and has been implementing changes in the cellar as well. "I'm getting rid of 70 barriques this year replacing them with more demi-muids (a larger 450 to 600 litre cask) for the malo-lactic fermentation and small wooden vats for the Grenache," he explained. "I'm not interested in making "natural wines" as such, as I want to be sure the wines will all age well with no unexpected problems. But I do go for minimum intervention after fermentation and using as little SO2 as possible." All sounds reasonable to me.
Julien also took me for a hairy spin up the steep (and rather muddy/slippery on that rainy mid-June day) south-facing Clos du Fou vineyard (runs up to 300m/1000ft), which Louison compactly planted with Syrah, much to the amazement of the locals at the time ("he must be mad" type comments hence the name), where you get a grand view of the vine-scape around Lenthéric. Julien exports to the UK (Terroir Languedoc and Yapp Bros) and Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada and Japan - see website for more info. A few notes on his wines follow - well, mostly his predecessor's actually as Julien only took the place over last year... As I said, I went there in June 2010, talked and tasted.

2007 Faugères blanc (Marsanne, Roussanne) - oily nutty maturing nose; rounded and mealy palate with aromatic floral honey flavours too, fair weight vs a touch mineral on the finish. Captivating little number. 85
2008 Le Rosé M (mostly Mourvèdre 15% alc. oak-aged!) - rather toasty and punchy, oily texture vs crisp bite vs alcohol vs toasted chocolate flavours. Odd but why not I s'pose. Not sure if Julien's going to carry on with this quirky style: he already does a classic unoaked rosé, which we didn't taste for some reason.
2007 Faugères Tradition (1/5 each Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignan 14% alc.) - ripe maturing and smoky with dominant black cherry notes; attractively lush and ripe mouth-feel with peppery vs "sweet/savoury" edges, light bitter twist and dry grip. €6 85+
2005 Faugères Prestige (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre 14.5% alc.) - complex "cheesy" tones underpinned by subtle vanilla oak and dark berry fruits; smoky and rich vs grippy and structured, touch of coco/choc tannins yet quite dry and austere still; has power, weight and richness to finish though. €9.50 87+
2007 Grande Cuvée (mostly Syrah 14.5% alc.) - lightly toasted chocolate again although it's pretty rich; "rubbery" oak dominates to start vs concentrated blackberry and cherry, punchy mouth-feel then tight firm and grippy with chocolate tannins on top; a touch extracted maybe but has lots of nice fruit too, taut and long vs big and textured. Needs time still. €16.50 88-90
2003 Grande Cuvée - more savoury and developed vs ripe cassis with herby edges; quite big and grippy with powerful streak, sweet vs dry texture; a bit too much vanilla/cloves/cinnamon still present from the oak vs chunky and concentrated finish. Not sure if it'll improve much, it's big and impressive but a bit forced and out of balance. 87
2006 Le Clos du Fou (Syrah 14.5% alc.) - showing quite a lot of smoky new oak still but it's lush and concentrated with much nicer tannins than above; still very structured and tight with better balance of power and wood texture vs "sweet/savoury" richness underneath. Wow. €24 90+

Lenthéric, 34480 Cabrerolles. Tel: 04 67 902 925, www.chateau-estanilles.com.

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