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04 April 2011

Languedoc: Domaine de Cébène, Faugères

Brigitte Chevalier purchased a few parcels of lofty vineyards in 2006 in the northern reaches of the Faugères appellation, which give their name to three different wines reflecting terrain and grape variety. Les Bancèls, the name traditionally coined by the locals for high schist terraces on the Cévennes foothills, is a blend of east- and north-facing Syrah, north-facing Grenache and Mourvèdre, which Brigitte believes is particularly at home on her highest south-facing slopes. Felgaria is a barrel-selection cuvée based on at least half of the latter variety plus the other two, with less Grenache in it. However, for those hardcore G-aficionados out there, she also makes another red called “Ex Arena” from 85% Grenache sourced from sandy pebbley deposits in a different spot.

The estate has been converted over to organic winegrowing from the beginning with “official” status granted when the 2010s are released. Overall, on evidence of three vintages (see below), Brigitte’s wines look very promising, even if a touch dear; well, for me anyway, and no more than many other small-production hand-crafted wineries. These five reds were sampled at the “Languedoc Millésimes” tastings in the region (21-25 March 2011), where I met and talked to Brigitte one evening. I’ve used my ‘new’ scoring system of one, two or three ‘ticks’ (good, very good, fabulous); or just plain 1 to 3 here, if you get my drift. Euro prices are cellar door per bottle inc. taxes, added later so didn’t influence my notes (if it makes any difference).

Les Bancèls 2009 (50% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 25% Mourvèdre) - sweet cherry fruity nose with aromatic wild herbs, strawberry and peppery edges; solid grippy palate vs lovely fruit and nice rounded tannins. 1.5-2 €14
Tasted one year previously: Les Bancèls 2009 - lively fruit on the nose; more austere palate with power and bite, although again attractive tannins. €13 87
Les Bancèls 2008 (similar blend) - similar nose, nicer fruit palate with maturing oily touches, peppery and black cherry; quite punchy/hot on finish vs firm vs bit of sweet & savoury. 1 €14
Les Bancèls 2010 (cask/vat sample, will be the first certified organic vintage) - delicious black cherry/berry fruit with some earthy savoury edges, quite chunky palate and tannins but nice balance. Promising. 2
Cuvée Felgaria 2009 (50% Mourvèdre, 35% Syrah, 15% Grenache) - wild herb and tobacco notes, lovely spicy fruit and intensity, nice rounded vs dry tannins and plenty of that peppery vs sweet fruit. Yum. 2-3 €30
Cuvée Felgaria 2008 (similar blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache) - lovely intricate nose, herby and minty even vs developing sweet & savoury fruit; subtle oak texture and choc vs cherry fruit, concentration and oomph vs elegance (although a tad hot in the end maybe). 2 €30

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