Many of you have been following the story of the project I have in the heart of the Languedoc making wine with land owner Jim Pearce and finding markets to sell it. We are considerably helped by top winemakers David Morrison and his side kick, the delightful Raphael Genot. These guys know what they are doing. They travel the world making wine and advising companies big and small - and we are certainly the smallest of the lot! We don't even get hefty bills from them but instead ensure that some of the resultant wine finds its way into their cellars. Actually I think Jim is giving Raphael a pig as well this year!
We have made two vintages of the Carignan so far and last year made a Merlot for the first time. This year we had planned a rosÃ© but the co-op, where we were supposed to be making the wine, ruined it so we abandoned that project and the co-op too for that matter! However the new Chardonnay/Viognier blend is tasting very good and we expect our first shipment to arrive in May.
However there are changes afoot. I was out there in March and some tough decisions have had to be made.
The main patch of Carignan Vines which are 57 years old are looking rather ragged and the yields are getting very poor. Also Jim needs more land for his other fruit projects and so after this vintage we are taking out these vines. However all is not lost as work is being done to improve a small Â½ hectare plot of Carignan on another part of the estate. This is now being earmarked to make a very small amount of exceptionally high quality wine.
Meanwhile our existing vintages are tasting good and we have entered the 2006 for the Decanter and International Wine Challenge Awards having won a 'Commended' for the first 2005 vintage.
The Merlot is also looking good and we have deliberately made a lighter style in 2007 that we intend to produce every year and build up a following for it. The Chardonnay/Viognier was my idea as both varieties are grown here anyway and it is generally a popular blend. We tasted the wine in March and were delighted with the results. I wanted a light fruit-driven style but the general feeling from the winemakers was that very subtle use of a tiny amount of oak would enhance the flavours and complexity, so we have gone for this style.
The exciting news is that we have planted a hectare of Syrah (Shiraz) which is a grape associated with this part of the world. It will take at least 3 years before we get a harvest but it does give us great blending flexibility in the future. Perhaps we can make a Syrah/Viognier blend that is currently all the rage or even a Syrah/Carignan.
So we now have about 1.5 hectares of Chardonnay, 1.5 hectares of Merlot, 1.5 hectares of Viognier and a hectare of Syrah plus the small patch of high quality old vine Carignan. We have also created a new label for all the wines which Jim is actively going to market in France only.
Finally, although at the moment we (like the rest of the wine trade) are struggling with the exchange rate, fuel surcharges, the rising price of glass and tax increases, we have had a reasonable harvest and the wines will remain at Â£6.99 for the main blends; this looks remarkably good value as other prices rise at an alarming rate.