Snap out of your turkey stupor and stop by this Saturday to taste some exciting wines from a leading winemaker and sustainable farming advocate in the south of France.
Rising out of the Languedoc Plain, north of Béziers and high up into the foothills of the Cévennes mountain range, is the AOC Faugères. This is an arid landscape of scrub covered ridges and windswept stone outcrops. Just outside the hamlet of Lenthéric at Domaine Léon Barral (named after his grandfather), Didier Barral is making cellar-worthy wines of power and complexity that speak of the earth.
Faugères is famous for its dry and crunchy metamorphic schist that forces the roots of the vines to penetrate deeply in search of moisture. This cherished soil for grape growing also absorbs the heat of the daytime before releasing it in the cooler evenings. The humid Marin winds off the Mediterranean and the dry, violent Tramontane winds from the northwest are a constant presence in the Faugères hills that help to ventilate the vineyards. Most of Didier’s vines are very old, some up to ninety years of age. All of these factors help for even ripening of the grapes and further increases their concentration.
Didier farms about 75 acres of vines using biodynamic practices. Cows, horses, and pigs graze the cover crops in and around the vineyards, which promotes healthy microbiotic activity in the soil. Didier believes this interdependence between the animals and the vineyards are essential to the health of the vines. Although he would consider the wine all but finished once it leaves the vineyard, the harvest is cared for with the same attention once it reaches the cellar. While these principles form an idyllic narrative of a natural product, the fact is that Didier has a profound influence on other viticulteurs who can see how his ideology translates to results.
All wines are hand-harvested, hand-sorted, fermented with indigenous yeasts and have no sulfur added. They are never racked, filtered, or fined. We are allocated a very limited amount of these prized wines. If you can’t make it by on Saturday, let us know if we can reserve few bottles or an assortment for you.
2011 Domaine Léon Barral Faugères
Price – $35/bottle
50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, aged for 2 years in cement and stainless steel cuves.
2011 Domaine Léon Barral Faugères “Jadis”
Price – $49/bottle
50% Carignan, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache, aged for 24 to 26 months in barrel (10% new oak).
2011 Domaine Léon Barral Faugères “Valinières”
Price – $79/bottle
80% Mourvèdre 20% Syrah, aged for 24 to 26 months in barrel (10% new oak).
For a pictorial view of Domaine Léon Barral check out the slideshow.
For a more literary view of the landscape and people, read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes. It chronicles a twelve-day, 120 mile hike he took through the south of France with his donkey Modestine, passing just a wee north of Faugères