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Faugères – France’s Well Kept Secret

Domaine Léon Barral (Faugères, 2012)

We have been trying to bring in Didier Barral‘s wines for years now and we were finally able to score the 2011 vintage last year, so some of you might already be familiar with his extraordinary wines of power and complexity that speak of the earth. The 2012 vintage is now in and it is drinking beautifully, although some cuvées are certainly cellar-worthy. And since Faugères is a small appellation and rarely exported, prices are still quite reasonable for this level of wine.

Didier farms about 75 acres of vines using biodynamic practices. Horses and ancient breeds of cattle and pigs graze the cover crops in and around the vineyards, which promotes healthy microbiotic activity in the soil. Between the vines grow all sorts of rare greens and unusual wild herbs, often harvested by Michelin starred chefs from all over France.

An arid landscape of scrub-covered ridges and windswept stone outcrops, Faugères is known 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 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.

Although Didier considers the wine all but finished once it leaves the vineyard, the harvest is cared for with the same attention once it reaches the cellar. All wines are hand-harvested, hand-sorted, fermented with indigenous yeasts and have no sulfur added. They are never racked, filtered, or fined. 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.

Didier’s Faugères bottling is a blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, and 20% Cinsault from vines aged 40 to 70 years old. After fermentation, the wine is aged for 2 years in cement and stainless steel cuves. The aromatics are joyous with black cherries, cocoa, herbs and flowers. A sip is filled with fruit yet nimble on the palate, elegant even, with a finish of sun-baked stone.


More Wines from Domaine Léon Barral

Domaine Léon Barral (VdF, 2013) White
Orange wine! 80% Terret Blanc and Gris, 10% Viognier, 10% Roussane. Produced using an ancient method of extended pressing and skin contact for a deeply colored wine with some tannins. Unique and delicious.

Domaine Léon Barral “Jadis” (Faugères, 2012)
50% Carignan, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache, aged for 24 to 26 months in barrel (10% new oak). Black fruits and herbs in abundance. Can develop in the cellar for another 5-10 years.

Domaine Léon Barral “Valinières” (Faugères, 2012)
80% Mourvèdre, 20% Syrah, aged for 24 to 26 months in barrel (10% new oak). Big, meaty, and concentrated. Can develop in the cellar for another 10-15 years.

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Posted on 2015.10.07 in France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Saturday Sips


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