It is always exciting to visit a new estate at the beginning of its story, so I was keen to accept an invitation from our friend, Arnaud Deville. He has already helped put Château de Nizas, the revitalized Pézenas property of the American John Goelet, on the map, and then it was time to move on. And Jean-Claude Albret, the owner of the franchise for Carrefour in Narbonne, was looking for somebody to market his brand new estate, les Bugadelles, which he had bought in 2004. The vineyards are new. Earlier vineyards had been abandoned and the land had not produced any grapes since the beginning of the 20th century – in fact although it is in the heart of the Massif of la Clape, with Château de Camplazens its next-door neighbour, it does not qualify for the appellation, for the simple reason that there was nobody to claim the classement back in the early 1980s. Consequently the wines are all vins de pays, or IGP d'Oc

M. Albret has ambitious projects and Arnaud took us for a drive through the vineyards to show us the domaine. The property totals 400 hectares, of which about 40 are planted with vines, the varieties of La Clape in red, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan, with Carignan blanc, Roussanne and Viognier, for white, but no Bourboulenc. He has also planted olive trees, 25 hectares of mature vines that were bought from Spain, as well as five hectares of fruit trees and three hectares of truffle oaks. And there are also sheep, for wool, and maybe cheese, with their own rather smart stone bergerie, and with a view to maintaining the traditional agriculture of the region. Everything is farmed organically. Arnaud took us to a marvelous view point, where you could see the land all around, with a view of Mont Tauch, and the Pyrenees to the south, the mouth of the Aude and the town of Valras and beyond, Cap d’Agde and the Mont St. Claire. And it was windy. The wind is a great help to viticulture on La Clape, quickly drying any rainfall.

And then we went to Château Auris, which has had a slightly chequered recent history. It was the property of a local négociant, Paul Herpe and then briefly a restaurateur, before M. Albret bought it in 2005, with the aim of giving it a new lease of life. It is just up the road from the Cistercian abbey of Fontfroide and the other near neighbour is the Rothschild property of Château les Aussières. While the cellar at les Bugadelles is still an enormous hole in the ground with a huge crane, the cellar at Auris is the traditional Languedoc barn with large cement vats, which have been modernised, as well as a cuverie of small stainless steel vats. Everything here is done by gravity. There are 40 hectares of vines, Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Cinsaut, but no Mourvèdre. The climate is much cooler than nearby Narbonne, at least 2˚C difference, so that the area is one of the cooler parts of the Corbières, with a long ripening period, and vineyards on north-facing slopes.

2010 Château Auris blanc 80% Marsanne, 20% Grenache blanc – 7.50€
All élevage in vat, and blended soon after fermentation. Light colour. Quite full white blossom on the nose. Good acidity on the palate with some herbal notes. Leaner than the nose would lead to expect, with some sappy fresh fruit.

2009 les Bugadelles blanc – 13.00€ Grenache blanc 70% and 15% each of Roussanne and Viognier. All fermented in barrique.
Some colour. Quite a resinous oaky nose. Rounded palate, good texture and weight. Quite leesy. The oak dominates the palate, but in a nice way, and the wine is still young, and so are the vines. Lots of potential. The white wines of la Clape also benefit from the tempering marine influence.

2010 les Bugadelles blanc – a tank sample.
They used less oak than in 2009 and the oak is nicely integrated. Quite fresh with tight knit fruit and some weight. Some herbal hints. Quite characterful and more elegant than 2009.

2010 les Bugadelles, rosé de Grenache – 6.00€
Pure Grenache. Pressed. Pale gris orange colour. Quite a delicate nose. With more weight on the palate. Good acidity. Refreshingly dry, with firm fruit. A food rosé

2010 Château Auris rosé - 7.50€ 55% Grenache, 34% Syrah, 11% Cinsaut –
Quite deep colour for a pressed rosé. More pink than gris. Dry strawberries on the nose with solid rounded ripe fruit, with a dry finish. More body than la Clape.

2010 les Bugadelles, L’Esprit Rouge - 5.50€ 39% Grenache Noir, 37% syrah 24% Mourvèdre. About to be bottled
Quite deep colour. Very garrigue on the nose. You can smell the vegetation of la Clape in the glass. With leathery notes on the palate, and herbal hints. Medium weight and a fresh finish

2010 Domaine Saint-Julien d’Auris – about 6.00€ but not available at the cellar door.
Syrah 42%, Carignan 34% Grenache 24%
Good young colour. Rounded nose, red fruit with a touch of leather. Some fresh crunchy fruit. Cherries and spice; medium weight.

2008 Château Auris , Corbieres– 8.50€ - 50% Syrah, 27% Grenache, 22% Carignan
Deep colour. Quite firm, leathery nose on the palate, quite elegant dry spicy fruit. Quite rich and leathery, long and subtle. A touch of wood.

2009 Chateau Auris , Corbieres - 60% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 15% Carignan, still in tank.
Very deep colour; quite solid garrigue nose. Quite ripe and rounded, with dry leathery fruit. A certain structure.

2009 les Bugadelles – 80% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre and 5% Carignan – 7.50€ About to be bottled.
Deep colour; some spicy peppery Syrah. No wood, but a smoky quality. Very spicy, good minerality, garrigues, restrained tapenade and stony notes. NB the vines are only four years old. The first crop was 2007. 2009 was a hot vintage, but benefited from the proximity to the sea.

So I look forward to following the progress of les Bugadelles, and also Châateau Auris. The start is certainly promising.


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