Clairette – a surprising white grape from the Languedoc
Whilst in the Languedoc recently I was able to go on lots of study trips of the wine areas and also to attend quite a few masterclasses – in fact I have been thrilled this year to learn that the French, Croat and Slovene words for masterclass are, well, masterclass!
The beautiful Domaine La Croix Chaptal – photo courtesy of the winery.
One of the best of these masterclasses was about a little known white wine called Clairette du Languedoc. The appellation / PDO was created in 1948, making it the oldest white wine PDO in the Languedoc. Only one grape is permitted, the Clairette or Clairette Blanche, which is really only found in the Rhône, Provence and Languedoc regions. It is a low acid, but high alcohol grape, so can make pretty flabby wines if you are not careful with it. It is widely grown in the Southern Rhône, where it is used as a blending grape, including in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The grape lends its name to the sweet sparkling Clairette de Die, despite only 25% of Clairette being allowed in the finished wine, the rest must be Muscat – originally it was 100% Clairette.
In the Languedoc two areas specialise in the grape Clairette de Bellegarde, in the far east of the region near the Rhône, and Clairette du Languedoc, just west of Montpellier. So troublesome was the grape that in the past it was often used as the basis of vermouth rather than being drunk on its own, and further back in history it was a sweet wine – the dry versions were apparently called Picardon and the sweet ones Clairette. Luckily though, as is so often the case, modern know-how has come to its rescue and in the Clairette du Languedoc zone a modest renaissance is underway. The sea is only 20 km away and sighting the vineyards to catch the sea breezes and the refreshing Tramontane wind is very important to retain freshness.
The appellation is the smallest in the Languedoc with just 100 hectares of vineyard and 18 producers, 7 of which are cooperatives, but it produces four styles of wine all from the single grape. Fresh, dry whites are made, as well as sweet versions, long wood aged rank wines and fortified Vins Doux Naturels. I tasted examples of all of these and truthfully found the sweet versions to be a bit light and lacking, which is a shame as there is more sweet wine made here than dry. The drier styles quite excited me though and I brought one back to show in a tasting and it excited everyone there too.
The beautiful Domaine La Croix Chaptal – photo courtesy of the winery.
Domaine La Croix Chaptal Clairette Blanche
This delightful estate is owned by Charles-Walter Pacaud who hails from the Cognac region, but fell in love with Languedoc’s Terrasses du Larzac while studying winemaking in Montpellier. He managed to buy this estate which has a recorded history going back to the 10th century, but Gallo-Roman archeological finds in the vineyards suggest the land has been in use for a lot longer than that. Most of what he produces is either Coteaux du Languedoc, Languedoc or Languedoc Terrasses du Larzac, with just one hectare being Clairette, but they are old vines that give better concentration and they grow on well drained stony and gravelly soil.
Charles-Walter Pacaud tending his vines – photo courtesy of the winery.
The grapes are harvested by hand, as required in the appellation, destined and spend a little time macerating on the skins for flavour and texture development. 30% is aged in new oak on the lees, with the rest aged in stainless steel tank on the lees for 18 months.
The aromas are quite beguiling, very mineral, herbal – especially fennel and vanilla – together with honey, almonds, peach skin and light toast. The palate is more fleshy with some burnt orange and a mouth-filling texture. there is even a very attractive touch of Fino sherry about it, just a point of oxidation that makes it quite delicious. The finish is very long and mineral and the more you come back to this wine the better it gets. A wonderful discovery, try it if you can – 91/100 points.
This would be wonderful with rich fish dishes, shellfish with garlic butter, fish pie, Coquilles Saint Jacques, chicken and all manner of cheeses too.
Sadly this excellent wine is not available in the UK, so contact the
I cannot find any other examples of the region available here either, so make
sure you try it when you are over there.
NEW !!! Les Sigillées !!! Coteaux du Languedoc
Ceramic fragments found in the vineyard
Indeed they are “Sigillées”
Archeological excavations have unearthed several Gallo-Roman wine-producing villas in the surroundings of Domaine La Croix Chaptal. It is however impossible to determine if on La Croix Chaptal estate, there was any wine-producing activity as we would have to uproot the vines to make sure...
What a fine name for our Coteaux du Languedoc !The discovery of such fragments of Sigillées gave me the idea of naming my range Coteaux du Languedoc after them. It is the only appellation which I produce in the three colours, since Clairette du Languedoc is 100% White Clairette and Terrasses du Larzac are 100% red :
· « Les Sigillées » Blanc, sharp, elegant and mineral
· « Les Sigillées » Rouge, fruity and voluptuous
· « Les Sigillées » Rosé, round and gastronomic
What a fine name for our Coteaux du Languedoc !
new label unveiled at ProWein
An ideal opportunity to (re)discover Domaine La Croix Chaptal, both richly endowed with a time-honoured wine–producing tradition and firmly anchored in its own time !
COME AND DISCOVER OUR WINES AT PROWEIN
and also, our Aramon !!! a Rare grappe varietial
age-old variety almost forgotten
Several signs testify to its age-old setting up in Languedoc, including the numerous names that the inhabitants have had time to give it as well as the village in the Gard area that bears its name. An additional sign is that, on top of Black Aramon, there exist extremely rare variations in pink and white
has become poorly thought of, however…
That trend somehow overlooked the fact that on hillsides and with limited yields, Aramon can produce wines that are indeed interesting.
original cuvée to rediscover Aramon
keeping with current concerns
Finally, old vines which have been producing grapes for 80 years save the environment the ecological cost of uprooting and planting again.
One of the best wine tasting
events I’ve been to all year was the one featuring Languedoc AOC wines, where I
tasted wines made from grapes that were unfamiliar to me and learned about the
fascinating history of this wine region.
CLAIRETTE DU LANGUEDOC
TERRASSES DU LARZAC
For the second year in a row, Domaine La Croix
Chaptal is selected as one of the top 30 Languedoc Wines on the USA market
thanks to its cuvée "Les Terrasses 2007" - AOC Terrasses du Larzac - Languedoc
And good news to start the New Year :
"Aromas of grilled
pepper, ripe tannins, a silky well-structured and very balanced wine.
The best I have tasted from the South of France. It has tinges od the
Lafite Rotschild style".
Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung 04-09-2010
Enjoy the Languedoc - it
won't be here forever, from Andrew Jefford :
January 2009 (pg 21)
of January 2009 : SAVVY SHOPPER
Three stars in the September issue of DECANTER
Domaine La Croix Chaptal - Terrasses du Larzac - Cuvée Charles 2005 :
1999-2009 the adventure goes on...
HACHETTE guide 2009 : confirmed presence of Cuvée Charles.
BETTANE ET DESSEAUVE 2009 : identity and character of our Terroir.
DUSSERT GERBER 2009 : an outburst of praises.
· Out Déodat de Séverat 2004 is praised in Terre De Vin n°30, p 18:
“Charles Pacaud’s estate goes a step further with “Les Origines”, a new ambitious range of three “cuvées”, each one with one of the three following varieties : Carignan, Grenache or Syrah as its main basis. This Coteaux du Languedoc 2004 (17,50 €) pays tribute to Déodat de Séverat, a monk from Gellone Abbey who created the vineyard of the estate of Cambous in the early Xth century. In this wine, the Syrah variety prevails supported by a touch of Grenache and Carignan. Its nose is toasted and full of ripe wild black berries and elderberry. In the mouth, touches of blackberry jam, of prune, of thyme and ash prevail. This is a powerful, fleshy, concentrated wine but it remains fresh and full-bodied with a long-lasting mint-flavoured final touch.”
Last Press Release from "Wine Reviews & Rant" - Australia : 92 points to La Croix Chaptal - Seigneurie de Cambous 2001
"The vineyard is mainly old vines planted near Cambous about 45 minutes west of Montpellier. It is mainly Carignan with a bit of Grenache and Syrah. The nose was still closed, but had a bit of cinnamon spice and licorice. The same tones were in the wine along with an almost thick structure of fine tannins. No fruit sweetness, but still a bit dark red fruits and spicy overtones. The wine was made to "express the unique terroir of Cambous as it must have been in the 10th century when owned by the monks of Gellone Abbey". This is one of the best Languedoc wines I have tasted."
Tasting scores : 90-100 = very fine, extraordinary, 80-89 = very good, 70-79 = solid, 60-69 = faults are not obvious.