Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2007 Domaine Le Pas de l'Escalette "Les Clapas" Rouge Coteaux du Languedoc France

Domaine Le Pas de L’Escalette

Le Pas de l’Escalette is a young Domaine owned by Julien Zernotte & Delphine Rousseau. It is located near Poujols, a little village situated northwest of Montpellier and south of the National Park of the Cévennes (Hérault).

In 2002, while searching for some new Terroir(s) to establish a vineyard, Julien and Delphine passed by Pégairolles-de-L’Escalette, a little “Hameau” (hamlet) nestled in the gentle rolling hills of the “Pas de L’Escalette”, on the emblematic path between the south of the Larzac plateau and the Mediterranean sea. They fall in love with the area and its magical feel, and despite the stony, hot and arid land, they took the challenge of creating a Domaine.

Julien, with his degrees in viticulture and oenology (as well as a track record of producing outstanding wines in the Loire appellation of Menetou-Salon), and his wife Delphine, have built the domaine from small parcels of old-vine Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, and old plantings of Alicante, Aramon, Carignan Blanc, and Terret Bourret.

Their Domaine is growing. They recently bought some vines in the "Vallée de Lauroux" (somewhere west between Pégairolles et Poujols, not too far from the Domaine), planted with 15 years old Grenache Noir, some old Cinsault, two parcels of Syrah, some olive trees and a nice "Mazet" (name for a small country house).

Surrounded by small dry limestone-calcareous stone walls called “Clapas”, the 10 hectares of vineyards are planted in terraces carved into the rocky soil of steep limestone hillsides, located at 350 meters above sea level in the southern foothills of the Larzac plateau. On the calcareous stone heaps of the plateau, they work the soils in the most natural way possible, with Organic leaning towards Biodynamic methods and immense respect for the environment, and more especially for the diverse indigenous wild herbs, flowers and garrigues.

If we divided their entire vineyard in two, half of the parcels are east facing so enjoy the rising sun, the rest face west benefiting from the setting sun. Complementing the ideal exposure of the vines, the stony soils provide complexity and depth, but also contribute to the richly ripe fruit by redistributing the heat of the day during the night, and help to restrain yields, resulting in wonderful concentration of flavors.

The grapes are hand harvested and transported to the winery in small plastic baskets to be more easily hand sorted and destemmed. Fermentation take place in tronconic shaped oak vat (in a truncated cone shape). The wines are then aged partly in oak barrels and partly in bigger oak vats. Unless the vintage requires it, Malolactic fermentation isn't always done to keep the maximum of freshness.

They are just about to finish their new cellar where the 2009 vintage will be the first vintage to be vinified and aged.

Their philosophy: The exposure of the vineyards on terraces, the altitude, the depth of the clay-calcareous soil, the traditional grape varieties used and the temperate climate, represent the perfect factors and conditions to produce great wines.

They produce 5 wines:

  • “Le Grand Pas” is their main wine and the primary reason for this adventure. It is a beautiful, rich and age worthy red wine blending harmoniously the silkiness and richness of the Grenache with the freshness of the Carignan and the finesse of the Syrah.
  • “Ze Rozé” is self explanatory: made from old Syrah and Cinsault, it is a fresh and simple rosé for everyday drinking under the shadow of a fig tree or an oak tree during a picnic, as an aperitif or even with a light summer meal with salad, fish, chicken and cheese.
  • “Les Clapas” Blanc, an unusual blend of two forgotten grape varieties: Carignan Blanc & Terret Bourret (one of Languedoc’s oldest grape varieties, also known as Terrain and Terret Gris), delivering great freshness and complexity due to the age of the vines and their location. Goat cheese is a “must have” with it.
  • “Le Premier Pas” is a “blink of an eye” to the first step of their son, Jules. It is an easy going, friendly and versatile red to drink for any occasion. It is a blend of all the grape varieties from the Domaine, and its vitality makes it the perfect everyday wine.

And of course, our wine of today: “Les Clapas” Rouge

2007 Domaine le Pas de L’escalette “Les Clapas” Rouge
Coteaux du Languedoc France

Suggested retail price $20-$24
Importer / Distributor Sussex wine Merchants / Petit Pois

In short for the vinification process: the hand harvested grapes were totally de-stemmed and de-stalked. Then macerated in vats for 30 days. The alcoholic fermentation occured in 50 hl oak casks with natural yeasts. Regular draining and circulation of lees. Malolactic fermentation occurred in wood and the wine was then aged for ten months half in oak vats and half in oak conical casks.

The old Carignan vines (in Gobelet training system: meaning roughly untouched and unpruned, it looks like a a small round vine bush just a few inches of the ground cover with small stones) are the soul of this wine, they bring the earthiness and the freshness. The opulence and richness come from the Grenache. The old Cinsault and the Syrah respectively bring the aromas of flowers and wild red and dark berry fruit. Overall, the Meridional profile of this wine accentuates the characteristics of these Languedoc grape varieties.

A blend of 35% Grenache, 35% Carignan, 20% Syrah and 10% Cinsault, the resulting wine is quite amazingly attractive: balanced, focus, earthy, medium bodied yet complex, dense without being heavy and well structured by present yet integrated tannins. The robe is dark ruby red yet of medium intensity. The nose is quite expressive, clean and floral with bright red and dark berry aromas intermingled with earth, mineral and spice. The palate follows the same path with the same type of flavors in a complex, expanding, bright, vibrant and focus way, leading toward the lingering finish. Still a bit young with great ageing potential, we didn't decant it but opened it at least 30-45 minutes before drinking it. What a lovely wine!

As I always say when I buy a wine: “A good wine always calls for another glass!”, well this wine has my approbation to be on the shelf of the store. No problem. I instantly loved it when I first tried it. Last Sunday, I brought it for the Lunch at a friend’s place and it showed beautifully. We enjoyed it with “Carré d’Agneau à la Provençale et Purée de Pomme de Terre a l’Ancienne” (baked Rack of Lamb with onion, shallots and herbs in olive oil and served with traditional buttered mashed potatoes). It was a great combination of flavors.


LeDom du Vin

Pictures taken from and Info mostly translated from the winery website at www.pasdelescalette.com , where you will also find great pictures of Pas de L’Escalette hills, vineyards and surroundings.

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