Faugères (map) is a village located on the first hills 30 km north of Beziers in Languedoc . Altitude 240 meter . Lentheric , where we're heading to , is a smaller village about 10 km from Faugères, and also lies in the Faugères Appellation zone .
We slept in Montpellier, where we experienced our first stay in the hotel chain Formule 1, a subsidiary of the Accor Hotels group with cheap hotels all over France . Very basic but clean , easy to reserve and very cheap, we paid 28 Euro for a room if I remember . This is another bright sunny day and we take the freeway to Beziers, and then take the D909 north . Progressing slower than expected , we reach the Domaine late in the morning . This Domaine, wich was created by Michel Louison in 1976, is now considered the flagship of Faugères wineries . Sophie Louison , his daughter, who also works on the domaine, opens the door . She will be our guide here .
Although not originally from the region ( he comes from the region of Tours in the Loire Valley ) , he gained a reputation of perfectionist and his wines soon gained fame . Since he bought the place in 1976, additional buildings have been added along the years, in 1980, 1987, 1990 and 1999 for the result we see today in the chai , the cellar and tasting room .
We soon sit in her 4x4 to visit the vineyards . This type of vehicule is well suited for the steep and rocky tracks to the hills where the vineyards lie . She a few times stops to engage the 4 wheel gear when the terrain turns hazardous . They have 33 hectares in production, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, some old Cinsault and Carignan . Vineyard on densely schistic soil from the primary era . No use at all of herbicides, but frequent plowing at chosen times of the year . Some sort of guano is used as organic fertilizer . About the plowing , usually, after plowing 3-4 times in spring, by june, with the heat and summer drought, the grass does not come back . This is still a lot of work to be done . Reasoned viticulture is what they practice here . Not affiliated with any chart, though . From may to july, 10 workers work in the vineyard . The green harvest needs intense manual work force . Royat Cordon is the norm here, but there is also some Goblet .We first pass a plot planted at the early stage of the estate by her father : Syrah . Not as densely planted as what is done today, but still the best Syrah here for now .
Then we slowly pass a large plot she personally bought in 1999, and that was immediately uprooted and left to rest a long long time until future replanting wich should happen soon . This piece of land has such a density of schists, with thick rocks, that I wanted to picture that . That is going to make a good, good wine , sure . It will be planted with Grenache probably, she says .
The vines that were uprooted on this plot were the post-phylloxera ultraproductive Aramon grape variety . This variety could yield in the early 20th century as much as 300-400 hectoliter/hectare in plains, but was of poor quality . As a reminder , don't forget that after the phyloxera destroyed the french vineyards all over
the country, not all the french wine regions were fully replanted , and , with the high demand for ordinary table wine in the beginning of the 20th century , the Languedoc region made the lion's share of wine production then, with these highly productive grape varieties . Languedoc was also the first french region to have been struck by phylloxera, and the first to have been replanted . But as Languedoc wines made their way back to quality in the 1970's , these varieties were gradually uprooted and replaced by others .
We then pass old tormented vines : 80 years old Grenache vines, in goblet [ Picture above left ]. Grenache canes have a typical golden-yellow clour that we can check in part of the plots , where they have not been cut yet . Very different colour for Mourvedre canes, wich are more like red .
Speaking of the work force, a permanent worker and an apprentice work here year around, plus her parents and herself . And temporary workers are hired on demand depending of the tasks and season's needs .
The 4x4 climbs to a spot on a steep slope : Clos du Fou [ Picture on the right ] . Named as such even if there are no walls to be seen . Syrah exposed on south . A look at the ground : Plenty of schists, some quite big, mixed with wild yellow flowers . The plot is backed to the wild garrigue and its mediterranean bushes and aromatic plants . At some point, on the back of the plot, we clearly see the geological layer on an emergence wich seems just plain schist rock .
Vinification is very traditional here for the reds . Rather long . 40 days with regular pumping-over . The goal is to diffuse the tannins rather than extract . White and rosés are vinified in casks, with glass bungs . Rosés : one year , whites 9 months with assemblage with wine from vats .
The wine of the domaine is exported in Europe , Canada , Japan (Kimijimaya in Yokohama ) .
Thank you very much to Sophie Louison for her guidance . I will post the tasting notes about the wines as soon as we gather a few wine lovers with whom we'll share the bottles .
Note : If you plan to visit the region, you can stay at La Vigneronne, a bed and breakfast set in a beautiful old mansion ( pictured on the picture at the top of my article) . This nicely restored house has guest rooms ( chambres d'hotes ), plus a very wide selection of local wines .
Château des Estanilles : 34480 Cabrerolles - Phone: 33(0)4 67 90 29 25 firstname.lastname@example.org