Image courtesy of Sud de France Développement

A trip through the Sud de France

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The number of organic and biodynamic estates in Southern France has been increasing in recent years, and as the farming has improved and growers have started to turn from the prevalent co-op model towards making and bottling their own wine, we’ve been able to enjoy some fantastic blends and single-vineyard expressions from the region. Today, we’ll take a trip on paper to introduce some of the small estates that we have started to work with over the last year. Some of these wines will be perfect for summer gatherings, grills, and BBQs, while others may be more appropriate in the fall and winter. Without exception however, these are all wines of terroir, which speak to a natural approach in the vineyard and cellar, and the varied soils and grapes of the South.

Clos des Boutes

We start in the Costières de Nîmes, north-east of Montpelier, with an estate called Clos des Boutes. Sylvain Boutée settled in the region around Nîmes in 2003, after stints in Burgundy and Bordeaux. He converted 8.5 hectares to organic viticulture, and “out of no particular financial means,” started his project. Sylvain’s focus on organic farming, careful work in the vineyard, and development of polycuture led him to eventually convert to Biodynamics in 2012. His theory is that good vineyard work is necessary to reveal terroir, and through manual harvesting, gentle fermentations with indigenous yeasts, and ageing on the lees, Sylvain is able to bottle wines that - in our opinion - prove his theory.

Beauthorey

Heading west from Nîmes, we stop in Corconne, just north of Montpelier, home of Christophe Beau, the winemaker/poet at Domaine Beauthorey. Christophe’s history in the region dates back to the autumn of 1979, when he was backpacking in the Languedoc and ended up working as a harvester. He stayed a bit, and from that point on situated himself in the Languedoc. Over the last 30+ years, Christophe has pursued a philosophy of respect for nature and self-sufficiency, not only in the vineyards (adhering to organic and biodynamic principles), but also through the form of a collective community model, establishing partnerships with local vineyard owners, wine stores, and preservation societies (only about a third of the vines are privately owned and the rest are worked collectively). He has reintroduced animals, plants and trees to the vineyards and has even started a “winemaker’s garden,” where the community is exploring different methods of vine growing and training, with a focus on ancient Greek and Etruscan techniques. Beauthorey wines have been certified Organic since 1985 (Nature et Progrès), and certified Biodynamic for more than a decade.

La Petite Commanderie

Heading south, past Montpelier and deep into the heart of the Languedoc, we reach Corbières, where Stephane Madiec decided to start a little domaine – La Petite Commanderie - more than 15 years ago. He built his cellar by hand with reclaimed century old oak beams from Normandy, and soon after bought vines in Pradelles-en-Val. After spending many years putting things in place - pruning, retraining and recuperating the vines – and struggling with erosion and other challenges, he started using manure and completely abandoned synthetic products, starting in 2007 with organic farming. Gradually the land has been planted with wild oats, poppies, and other beneficial flora and fauna. Stephane plows a bit, but allows grass to grow, and only uses sulfur and copper (Bordeaux mixture) when necessary in the vineyards to prevent oidium and mildew. The grapes are harvested by hand and carefully sorted, then undergo whole cluster carbonic maceration. All of Stephane’s wines are bottled by hand without any added sulfur. As he says: “there is nothing to correct or protect, deter or make up.” When the wines are ready, he uses unbleached cardboard boxes (no chlorine) and even applies the labels using a natural adhesive (no chemical glue). Some may scoff at the extent of Stephane’s holistic approach, but the wines are the real deal, and truly taste like a pure and unedited expression of the wild countryside of the Languedoc.

Enfants Sauvages

Finally, we head south to the Cotes Catalanes, close to the border of Spain, to a town called Fitou, where Niko and Carolin Bantelin began their winemaking project, Les Enfants Sauvages. They came to the area from Germany, originally to visit friends, and then, after they fell in love with the region, to settle down and continue their life together. When they purchased an old estate with 7.5 hectares of vines, the idea of working the land and making wine immediately appealed to them. Carolin studied winemaking in France, as she and Niko began revitalizing their vineyards by applying Biodynamic methods, and integrating the vines into a natural organic cycle. After selling their grapes in 2000 and 2001, Carolin interned with Olivier Pithon, who encouraged them to make their own wine rather than selling to the co-op. So the story of Les Enfants Sauvages began! In the vineyard there are no pesticides or herbicides. Instead, self-made preparations of nettle, chamomile and horsetail. Their vines are cultivated in the traditional "goblet" style, on a terroir of clay and limestone. Grapes are harvested by hand into small crates and wines are aged in cement or barrel, depending on the cuvee. They may not be French, but Carolin and Niko are as open, friendly, and passionate as any of our favorite French winemakers, and the wines are as authentic as they get. 

Eben Lillie

Beauthorey 2013 Languedoc Oree Blanc

This is a white blend, marrying Roussane, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Rolle (Vermentino), and Bourbelenc. It's medium - full bodied for a white, with notes of apple compote and baking spice. A prime candidate for wine drinkers who typically prefer reds, and truly a unique expression of the region's diverse grape varieties.  Eben Lillie

  • white
  • 5 in stock
  • $15.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Enfants Sauvages 2015 Cotes Catalanes Enfants Sauvages 1.5L

A blend  of 60% Carignan 30% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre. A truly versatile red, in magnum size!  Eben Lillie

  • red
  • 7 in stock
  • $35.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Clos Des Boutes 2014 Pays du Gard Carignan Blanc 1.5L

From a small parcel of Carignan Blanc, this wine is only available in mags. Fear not, it's delicious, super complex and well worth opening with friends! It's rare to try Carignan Blanc on it's own, so this wine is an homage as much to the grape as it is to Sylvain's organic and biodynamic farming and careful winemaking. Great texture, with notes of herbs and a long mineral finish. As the wine opens up, it evolves to reveal subtle buttery notes, all the while maintaining balance and acidity. I would be curious to see how it tastes on day 2, but have yet been able to hold onto the bottle once it's open!  Eben Lillie

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $36.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Clos Des Boutes 2014 Costieres de Nimes Le Pluriel

Carignan, Syrah and Grenache. This cuvée is driven by a large percentage of old vines Carignan, which Sylvain believes retains it's freshness even in the heat of the South. The style is truly right down the middle, with plenty of generous earthy fruit, but very integrated tannin and good lift. This is a fantastic everyday red that could accompany a wide variety of foods.  Eben Lillie 

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $11.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Beauthorey 2010 Vin de France Bella Parra

Bella Parra is a blend of primarily Cinsault, with some Syrah. There's something about Cinsault that offers bright red fruit, and a spicy, gamey character. I often describe it as "playful," as I find it stands out among many of the heartier and perhaps more heavy handed red varieties in the South. Here, it's given extra backbone through the addition of some Syrah, but the spirit is intact. This is a fun medium-bodied red, and a perfect carry over from the hot days of Summer into the Fall.   Eben Lillie

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $11.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Beauthorey 2012 Languedoc - Pic Saint-Loup Pleine Lune

This is 100% Syrah, from clippings that Christophe took from the Gonons in St. Joseph. "Textbook" Syrah, with blackberry, roasted meat, and spice notes. Full and rich, with soft acids and plenty of earth. Definitely a wine for fans of full bodied and dark fruited reds, and a prime candidate for grilled meats and other Southern fare.   Eben Lillie

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $19.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Petite Commanderie 2014 Corbieres L'Immortel

Grenache / Syrah from Corbières, no sulfur added. Fans of "barnyardy" reds rejoice! Stephane Madiec offers you this vibrant expression of the untamed countryside. A bit funky perhaps on the nose, it's pure fruited on the palate, with expressive herbal notes, great tannins, and a very long mineral finish. We've been carrying this wine for many months and it is tasting it's best lately, with really harmonious fruit and earth.   Eben Lillie 

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $17.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • No Sulfur

Enfants Sauvages 2015 Cotes Catalanes Che Chauvio

Now this is a first: Syrah is pressed like a rosé, then the Cinsault grapes are tossed (whole cluster) into the fermenting juice for 4 - 5 days, without extraction. The wine is then pressed, and kept in stainless steel. My tasting notes provide this information and are then followed by one word: "Yummy." They call it a "wonderful light and fruity summer wine." Combine the two and you get the idea. This is juicy, fresh and very light bodied. Truly a FUN wine, and one that will benefit from a little chill. 11.5% alc.  Eben Lillie

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $14.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Enfants Sauvages 2015 Cotes Catalanes Enfant Sauvage

If there's a wine that best epitomizes the overall spirit and style of the offerings from Carolin and Niko, the Enfant Sauvage is it. A blend (60% Carignan 30% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre) from different parcels, fermented and aged in concrete. Whole cluster fermentation, without pigeage (punch over), and one week of maceration before press. A colleague summed it up well when she said "It's complex, without being fussy." It truly is a complex wine, but it's balanced, and easy to drink, with just the right amount of tannin and acidity to pair well with a variety of foods. It's also smooth enough to have with simple snacks or without food altogether!   Eben Lillie

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $15.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Enfants Sauvages 2013 Cotes Catalanes Noces de Lumière

100% Mourvedre from a small parcel, aged for a year in 6 hl used Austrian barrels (Stockinger), then kept in bottle. This is the most elegant and finessed Mourvedre I've ever tasted. At 12%, it's not light, but it is really charming, with developed earthy flavors, yet free from any chewy tannins. Really quite velvet-like smoothness, and ample complexity, with a long mineral finish. Certainly wins the award for the most 'beautiful' of the Enfants Sauvages offerings. It's a joy to drink, and a great chance to study the oft-blended Mourvedre grape on it's own.  Eben Lillie

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $21.99

Enfants Sauvages 2014 Cotes Catalanes Roi des Lézards

Roi des Lézards is all Carignan, from vines ranging from 35 - 75 years, aged in a combination of 1500 L Austrian Stockinger barrels, and 500 L used barrels. This is a significant bottle of Carignan, offering dark, purple fruit and good grip. The famous French term "garrigue" immediately comes to mind, even from smelling the wine. Used to describe the aromas typical of the shrubs and fauna of the Mediterranean, such as Thyme, Rosemary and Lavender, one couldn't find a better descriptor for the flavor profile of this wine. This vintage is a touch lighter and more balanced than the '13 so it could be enjoyed on it's own, but will likely be best on the dinner table with grilled meats and veggies, or other hearty fare.  Eben Lillie

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $21.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur