*** PRESS PASS December, 2004 ***
Member Yvonne Mason Follows The Story to Les Fenouilledes

Member Yvonne Mason Follows The Story to Les Fenouilledes

Earlier this year, Press Pass included an invitation for wine writers to visit Les Fenouilledes. Member Yvonne Mason was invited to pay a solo visit and found enchantment among the vineyards. She shares detailed information about the significance of the region and the individual winemakers.

By Yvonne Mason

Cool cellars, pleasantly musky with the aroma of fermentation fills me with thoughts of antiquity. The regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea are home to some of the oldest vineyards in the world, many started by the early Romans. About half an hour drive west of Perpignan in southwestern France is Les Fenouilledes (roughly pronounced in English “lay fe-new-ed”).

Vineyards have been planted here since the beginning. But, the wines had been sold in bulk and used principally as medicinal wines or to help improve wines of large yields from other viticulture regions. Around the turn of our new century young winemakers started buying old vineyards in Les Fenouilledes. A Hectare of vineyard land had skyrocketed to 200,000.00 euros in Bordeaux and a hectare of vineyard in Les Fenouilledes could be purchased for 100,000.00 euros. Young winemakers came from other areas of France, as well.

The pairing of old vines and young vintners makes Les Fenouilledes one of the most interesting wine regions in the early twenty-first century. The making of hand crafted wine is an art form on its way to becoming a masterpiece in Les Fenouilledes. The last week of October 2004 I was taken on a wine tour to meet some of the young winemakers. We visited cellars and vineyards. Fall was aglow with green, yellow, orange, rust, maroon and burgundy leaves on a single grape vine. A kaleidoscopic patchwork quilt of vineyards undulated between the Corbieres and the Pyrenees as we drove rocky paths the size of goat trails.

The terrain allows the production of a great range of styles from Rhone-like to Loire-like. Numerous grape varieties include grenache, carignan, mourvedres and syrah, grenache blanc and roussane, as well as, the classics: chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. For a wine to receive an AOC (Appellation d’ Origine Controlee), it must be 30% syrah, referred to as the noble grape. Vines are thinned out for aeration; they need the wind. There is no irrigation, no diseases, and the weeding is done by hand. The grapes are picked by hand in small bins to keep their integrity. They use natural fermentation and no yeast is added. Some of the many fine winemakers I visited were: Domaine Argutti, the winery of Ugo and Marie-Christine Argutti. Ugo worked for a very long time in a famous chateau in Saint Emilion. The Arguttis make wines with grenache gris: grenache noir and cariganan. Fermentation is currently taking place in stainless steel, French and American oaks.

Domaine Pellegris owner Arnaud Pellegris is from Toulouse. He works with grenache noir/cabernet noir; 100% carignan, grenache noir/carignan, muscat. “Softly from grape to bottle with a lot of flow.” Pellegris described his technique. He also plays Buena Vista Social Club tunes as the grapes like to dance as they start their fermentation. The very talented winemaker also consults at Domaine d’Arfeuille. Doumaine des Soulanes, (vineyard looking for he sun), winemaker David Lafitte has been working here for 13 years and uses all the varietals. Mas Karolina, Caroline Bonville has seven hectares of white varietals and 16 hectares of red. She studied oenology at the University of Bordeaux, worked at Chateau Sainte Michelle in Washington state and was in the Wine Corps in South Africa. Bonville works with all the varietals, specializing in a new in a new style dry muscat, more like sauvignon blanc without astringency. She picks the whites from only 7 a.m. to noon. There is a lovely softness to her wines. Domaine Serrelongue’s Julian Fournier makes the intriguing red wines fermented in red cement vats. Vin de esprit lively with tastes of raspberry, filet mignon, chocolate and Vin de Passion.

Domaine Calvet-Thunevin’s Jean-Roger Calvet makes a vin du pays 2002 carignan, 70% grenache, 30% with full mouth tastes of plum and blackberry. Domaine Jean Louis Tribouley L’Alba and Les Trois Lunes were particularly good. Domaine de la Balmiere uses artisan production for the syrah. Carignan noir, grenache noir and muscat grapes in their AOC “Cotes du Rossillon Villages La Tour de France. Domaine Rivaton, yet another talented winemaker with 10 years experience making wine at Chateau Neuf du Pape. This is his first vintage of red wines. Domaine de Rancy pours impressive old wines such as 1973 and 1954 vintages in his cave in La Tour de France. The wines of Les Fenouilledes are good, with a long life expectancy, give the wine time and it will become great. I highly recommend this tour as a great learning experience that your readers will love to hear about. A lot has happened since 2004, I have been invited to return to Les Fenouilledes to update the amazing story. I go in spring ’13.

Last update Mon February 18, 2013 2:14 PM