Family-owned Domaine de l’Arjolle is a producer making a virtue out of flavoursome and interesting, easy-drinking, varietally-labelled IGP wines (the old Vin de Pays category). Their 90 hectares of vineyards all lie within the Côtes de Thongue IGP, around Pouzolles, west of Pézenas in the Languedoc.
Their 90 hectares are spread over the hills and the lower slopes between the Black Mountain and the Cévennes, and the plain, in an area that was, 15 million years ago, covered by sea. The diverse soils allow them to experiment with planting different grape varieties in different locations. They’ve found that the clays on the top of the slope are good for reds, including syrah and grenache, the sometimes terraced mid-slopes of clay and limestone suit whites such as sauvignon blanc, sauvignon gris, chardonnay and viognier, while merlot and cabernet franc prefer the gravelly bottom of slope.
The domaine’s wines are made to Terra Vitis standards. This is an organisation that operates various measured and certified sustainable protocols.
As part of their sustainability work, the domaine is taking part in a biodiversity pilot study in the Côtes de Thongue, along with 13 other member producers. Together they cover about 20% of the IGP, so expect results to have rigour for the rest of the IGP. The aim is to analyse the level of biodiversity and put into action a plan to improve it as part of wider sustainability work. So far the group has learnt that they need to plant more hedges to act as wildlife (flora and fauna) refuges and corridors. Some 3,300 metres of hedges are planned.
Tasting, in situ, October 2012
Domaine de l’Arjolle, Sauvignon 2011, IGP Côtes de Thongue, £6.95 at Wine Society
Specifically called ‘Sauvignon’ because it’s 70% sauvignon blanc and 30% sauvignon gris.
It’s had lees stirring for one month to add a bit of texture. Fresh, grassy and lemon zest, with a noticeable degree of added texture and body. Not hugely aromatic in the pungent sauvignon blanc style, which for this wine I view as a bonus.
Domaine de l’Arjolle, Delphine de Margon Chardonnay 2011, IGP Côtes de Thongue
Fermented 70% in tank, 30% in 2-3 year old barrels. Matured six months, with lees.
Has kept its freshness nicely, with added bit of nuttiness and vanilla ice-cream, all delicately done. Balanced pithy and nutty finish.
Domaine de l’Arjolle, Cabernet-Merlot 2010, IGP Côtes de Thongue, £7.50 at Wine Society
Fermented 60% in barrel, 40% in tank, with one year in 3-4 year old oak. Soft, supple, plumy red fruits with a hint of green pepper for interest. Easy drinking style, light in tannin and uncomplicated.
Domaine de l’Arjolle, Cabernet 2010, IGP Côtes de Thongue
Specifically called ‘Cabernet’ because it’s 70% cabernet sauvignon and 30% cabernet franc. Twelve months in barrels of which 30% were new oak, including 5-10% American oak. For a relatively easy drinking style, I found the oak to the fore with accentuated spiciness detracting from the fruit I’d hoped to find.
Domaine de l’Arjolle, Paradoxe 2010, IGP Côtes de Thongue,
Syrah, 40% ; cabernet sauvignon, 25% ; merlot, 25% ; grenache, 10%. Twelve months in barrel, 60% new, 40% 2-year old.
Overt new oak spiciness and toastiness here, but no surprise given this is a wine for bottle ageing. Fresh, attractively medium –bodied, with plentiful red berry fruits for concentration.
A tasting of the 1999 (yes) version of this showed a remarkable wine – gentle, mellow, distinct but not dominant farmyard flavours, really interesting and still balanced.
My visit to the Languedoc was sponsored by a group of half a dozen producers.
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