We arrive early in the afternoon . Although the Abbaye is open to visitors for tasting and visit, we had called in advance to have Mr Phillippe d'Allaines, the owner, tell us about the domaine and the wines . While we wait for him, we take a look at the many books on display . They are about cistercian abbeys, benedictine monasteries, about trappists, cathars , Citeaux , protestants in Languedoc . On the wall , a medal and prize awarded in an "exposition vinicole" on march 10th 1868 in Montpellier, that points to noticeable quality wines long time ago .
Philippe d'Allaines's family owns the abbey since 1838 . It was built in 1138, as a benedictine abbey first, then soon joined the cistercian order . Cistercian monks planted a vineyard, like they did in most of their abbeys including of course in Burgundy .
The domaine today has 70 hectares of vineyards . Wine production went quite uninterrupted for 8 centuries . And as said before, wine literally saved the monuments, as in the revolutionary chaos, a new owner who bought the place in 1791, used the church to make wine and store wine casks , thus preventing the buildings to serve as stone quary, as it often happened after religious buildings were deserted . Later, in 1838, the Count of Turenne, an ancestor of the present owner, bought the estate-abbey and continued its wine production .
Philippe d'Allaines tells us about a forgotten red grape variety they work with here : Morastel, known as Graciano in Spain ( small percentage in Rioja wines ). In 1860, the abbey had 1/3 planted in Morastel, but as often, the phylloxera brought havoc with the grape varieties and Morastel was not among the replanted varieties . This a capricious late variety with small yields . After asked the authorization to INAO to replant it, it was so much appreciated at the degustation tries that followed, that it was accepted right away as recommended grape variety . It is now blended in the "Le Secret de Frère Nonenque" cuvée ( 25 000 bottles/year ) . Mr d'Allaines lobbies to have the Morastel included in an AOC now . The positive side of this variety is that with just a small quantity of it, the wines get a nice acidity, plus specific aromas : Cooked jam, chocolate, caramel, orange peel . Replanting in the domaine was done 10 years ago .