Peter and Deborah Core made a life-changing move when they quit their jobs in London and headed to New Zealand to learn how to become wine makers. Deborah was a lawyer and Peter an accountant so their new chosen path was one that took them in an entirely different direction and one they have no regrets taking.
After spending more than a year in New Zealand completing the wine course and then working at a winery, they headed to France, to Bordeaux to take up trainee positons at a winery and to enrol on a French language course. Peter had spent some time in Languedoc after leaving university and was drawn back here to set about searching for a vineyard. He had a very clear view about the type of terroir he was searching for and it took them a long time to find it and he was just about to give up when in 2006 he found exactly what he wanted in the village of Caux close to the town of Pézenas. The 6 hectares are mainly on east facing terraces and some of it was already being farmed organically which was a method at the heart of their plan. Also at their core (excuse the pun) was to use local varieties and they were delighted to find some old Carignan noir and even more delighted to find some Carignan blanc which is quite rare these days. In fact less than 50 hectare of Carignan blanc exist so to own a few hectares is to own a large percentage of this excellent grape variety.
So 10 years ago Mas Gabriel was born and they set about making their own wine and last week I was thrilled to be invited to join an esteemed group to celebrate their 10th anniversary by tasting a flight of the 2 different Carignan. Those who follow my blog will know that I am a ‘Carignan Nut’ so my mouth started to water at the prospect of what was coming.
There were 13 of us gathered in the tiny winery. Andrew Jefford, esteemed wine writer, Rosemary George MW, Michel Smith, French wine journalist, Alan March, retired teacher and wine blogger, as well as Catherine Roque from Domaine Clovallon, Gary Voss and Annette Atkins from Voss Estate in Martinborough, New Zealand and Helen Deneuve from Coteaux Du Languedoc. We started with the 2014 Carignan Blanc called Clos des Papillons, a name that conjures up a vision of butterfly’s fluttering through a wild flower filled vineyard which indeed is what we often see when we visit this vineyard on our tours. This wine is partly barrel fermented in acacia wood which brings a floral character to wines and is often used in the sweet wines of the Loire Valley. The 2014 as you would expect was clean, fresh and floral and with a hint of creaminess wrapped around peach and citrus flavours. Summer in a glass! Deborah explained that in this vintage, for the first time they had added a small percentage of Vermentino, a grape that hales from Sardinia, which has added a delicious fresh, tangy herbyness to the wine. This vivacious wine has superb acidity and a lovely mineral tingle on the tongue
Next up was the 2013 vintage which showed me how this wine will start to develop taking on flavours of greengage with a dash of honey. The wine was calmer and more sophisticated with great length. 2012 was a shining golden colour with a nose of honey and toast. On the palate it had gained weight and now was less of the plum and more honeyed peach with a fabulous tingling spine, great concentration and a spicy finish. 2011 was deeper in colour again and the nose really took me by surprise as the kerosene made me think of an mature Riesling. Steely this time, not honeyed and slightly oily, very evolved with apple flavours and was leaner and very elegant and was my favourite of the vintages. 2010 was as you would expect the deepest colour of all and on the nose the honey and marzipan were quite powerful and it was a little waxy with hints of banana. A fantastic wine proving that Carignan Blanc has everything it takes to develop into a very complex and delicious wine.
The Carignan Noir which is called Les Trois Terrasses named after the vineyard where it grows, was next starting with the 2013 vintage. This vintage and indeed all the vintages since 2010 included a small amount of Syrah and Grenache but the main component is Carignan. It was youthful and perhaps a little like an awkward teenager but I am sure that will disappear given a few more months in the bottle and preferably a couple of years. But the flavours were exactly what you expect, a little soar cherry, blackberry, cassis, tangy mineral acidity and super ripe tannins. Buy it now but try to keep your hands off it for a few years at least and you will be well rewarded. The 2012 vintage was beautifully bright in the glass, inky deep and a youthful black and purple coloured. The nose was clean and pure with a perfume of cassis and black cherry with hints of spice and liquorice. It was dangerously drinkable, smooth, refreshing and elegant with first class balance. Drinking superbly well now and will do for 4 or 5 years at least, maybe more.
2011 showed the wine developing quite a lot and the fresh cherries and blackberries were now prunes and damsons. An elegant and slightly more restrained nose did not pave the way for the surprisingly powerful palate of wild berries and creamy cassis. The alcohol was a little more noticeable but this did not take anything away from this spicy, tobacco, concentrated mouthful of pleasure that would be the perfect accompaniment to cassoulet or succulent sausages. 2010 was made with only a small addition of 15% Syrah and no Grenache, allowing the Carignan to rule the majority of the wine. The evolvement has brought a garnet colour to the wine but the fresh and concentrated nose is still youthful and so was the palate. Fresh, mineral with slight cocoa powder tannins and lots of ripe black fruit. Top class and delicious.
2009 was my favourite and if you still have some in your cellar you had better hide it from us, we all loved it. It was deeply opaque and the nose meaty and gamey but the wild berries on the palate were fresh and lingering, clean but bold and still on its journey. 2008 was another 100% Carignan and the birth year of Les Trois Terrasses, Peter and Deborah’s’ first vintage of this delicious wine and was Andrew Jeffords favourite. The evolvement was marked by the texture, slightly lighter than the others, mineral, fresh and wild and a little unruly but full of character.
Peter and Deborah have a lot to be proud of and at Vin en Vacances we are also very proud to be working with them. They welcome our clients with great enthusiasm and give their time so generously. If you would like to visit this vineyard please get in touch with us and you can also read about the tour on our Faugères & Pézenas tour.
You may also like to consider buying some of these delicious wines and the 2014 vintages are available to buy direct from us providing you live in Europe and we will send them directly to your door, prices are as follows:
3 Clos es Papillons @ €14.30 a bottle and 3 Trois Terrasses @ €10.50 a bottle plus packing & postage – €103.40
6 Clos es Papillons @ €14.30 a bottle and 6 Trois Terrasses @ €10.50 a bottle plus packing & postage – €191.30
To order please email your request to email@example.com along with your address and telephone number and I will come back to you with details of how to pay.
If you do order some, try to lay a few down, you will be well rewarded if you do..!