Female Wine Makers in Languedoc-Roussillon
I first met Nicole Bojanowski about 6 years ago when I was searching for special vineyards to tour. I was immediately struck by her quiet and thoughtful approach to what she wanted to achieve. She had not been born into a wine making family but when working as an export manager for a cave cooperative she had caught the ‘wine making bug’ and sent herself off to college to learn how to make wine. After a few years of practising the art of wine making she and her husband John set about searching for the type of terroir that she was convinced would produce the sort of wine she wanted to make. Full bodied reds with freshness and elegance – hard to achieve in a Mediterranean climate. She found her vineyard in the village of St Jean de Minerve settled on the white limestone soils and so was born Clos du Gravillas. She makes a rather large range of wines from just 7.5 hectares but the mainstay of the range are her mineral, rich and complex white made from Grenache blanc, gris and Maccabeo and called L’Inattendu and the 100% Carignan called Lo Vièlh.
Katie Jones is becoming quite a star and it’s only been 3 years since she started making wine at her very small winery in the village of Tuchan called Domaine Jones. She had worked for many years at the cave cooperative in Tuchan in charge of sales & marketing in the UK but she felt the time had come for a change so she bought a tiny vineyard in the next valley and set about making white and red Grenache wines. The wines were very well received and both won medals and this success spurred her on to buy another vineyard this time in the appellation of Fitou. She was thrilled to find that the tiny patch of land contained the 3 grape varieties needed to make a Fitou. The grapes from this vineyard had always been sent to the cooperative where they were mixed with everyone else’s so no one had made wine from just this patch of land until Katie came along. The result is astounding – the wine won the gold medal at the International Wine Challenge this year.
I met Brigitte Chevalier of Domaine de Cébène at the beginning of June when I was asked to arrange a tour for some clients staying near to the Faugeres appellation. Her profile fitted the bill perfectly as I like to introduce people to hand crafted wines grown on interesting terroir, usually fairly small production and with a wine maker who has passion for quality at the heart of things. Brigitte came to the Languedoc in 2006 from Bordeaux where she had been an export manager for a wine merchant. I was bowled over by the way she has captured the purity of fruit in her wines. I particularly like the wine called Ex Arena which means “out of the sand” so named because it is grown on a 40 metre-deep bed of sea sediment. It’s mainly made from old vine Grenache grown outside of the Faugeres appellation and is beautifully perfumed and is full of fruit with flavours of cherries and spice. I also loved her Mourvèdre grown on the famous schist of Faugeres and I am yet to taste her 100% Carignan – I can’t wait…
Véronique Robin-Cuculière of Domaine de Mingraut farms 7 hectares organically in the Corbières appellation. She was not born in the Languedoc and neither is she from a winemaking background. I admire the approach she adopts to making her wine as she is not at all prescriptive. Each year she works with what the land and the weather has given her and therefore some of her wines are not repeated. One of my favourite wines is named Chardon Bleu and is made from 100% chardonnay which is matured in barrels. The oak is perfectly integrated and does not over-whelm the fruit providing a wine with flavours of ripe melon and peach wrapped in vanilla and a little cream. I had it with very garlicky roast chicken and it was superb. I also like Cuvée DM made from 100% Syrah aged in 3rd use oak barrels. It’s aromatic and full bodied with flavour of black fruits, pepper and the ripe tannins give it excellent aging potential – if you can keep your hands off it…!
Now for the exciting bit…! Through the Imbibers Society we have arranged for all these woman to be in the same room on July 12th to provide us all with a wonderful tasting of their wines. The tasting is taking place in Caunes-Minervois in the Languedoc and all are very welcome to come and meet these amazing women and taste their equally amazing wines. I hope you will be able to make it – for more details take a look at The Imbibers Society web site.