La Clape is one of the wine regions of the Languedoc that organises an annual  balade vigneronne.  This is the first time that I have been in the Languedoc in mid-May and able to take part.  This year it was centred on the village of Fleury d’Aude, on the eastern edge of the appellation.   The countryside is gently undulating, rather than dramatically mountainous, as it is in the heart of the Massif de la Clape, and given the inclement weather, I think I was rather relieved that we were not too far from civilisation.     We awoke to torrential rain and thunder in the Hérault, but a phone call to Susan Close at Camplazens reassured me that the rain was calming in the Aude.  Nonetheless we went prepared for the worst……  and were incredibly lucky.   The rain stayed off until we were back at our starting point, the Cave Cooperative de Fleury d’Aude.    You are issued with essential equipment at the start of the walk; wine glass, knife and fork; meal tickets; list of wines – and a sunhat.  That Sunday mine eventually doubled up as a rain hat, keeping the water off my glasses.       

We set off from the coop to our first étape, where a mise en bouche was served, a delicious cream of cauliflower with a coulis of prawns.  But first some tasting:   What follows are highlights – I have omitted any wines that I did not enjoy.

2010 Château Ricardelle Blanc Combemale – 8.00€
A blend of Roussanne, Grenache blanc, Vermentino and Picpoul.    Light colour; delicately fresh nose, delicious and fragrant on the palate.   Again this is not the occasion for detailed tasting notes, but a balade like this is a great opportunity for gaining an overall impression and for spotting estates to visit, and also which to ignore.   And also for catching on the local news.

2011 Château Mire l’Etang Blanc, Aimée de Coigny – 7.00€
Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Bourboulenc – Bourboulenc being the essential grape variety of la Clape Blanc.  Quite a fragrant nose, lemony, citrus notes.  Youthful with fresh acidity.

2011 Château Capitoul, Rocaille – 6.00€
Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier and Bourboulenc.  Quite a  fragrant nose. Quite a firm palate with a peachy note from the Viognier.  A slightly bitter finish. 

The track took us through vineyards and garrigues; there were some beautiful pyramid orchids and other wild flowers.    Our entrée was a gateau d’oeuf aux morilles, with a salad.

From the Fleury coop La Vendémiaire blanc, les Arbres blancs 2010 – 4.90€
Light, delicate and fresh nose.  Lemony fresh fruit on the palate.  Nice acidity balance.  And good value.

2011 Chateau Moyau rosé – 6.00€
Here it was a nice surprise to find old acquaintances, Susan and Peter Munday pouring the wine.  They used to have vineyards in the Corbières at Domaine des Chandelles, and are now managing Moyau for the absentee Swiss owner.
Fresh nose with a touch of raspberry.  Nice balance of fruit and acidity.  Nicely vinous with a fresh finish.

2010 Château Rouquette sur Mer  Esprit Terroir rouge – 8.00€
Mid colour; ripe nose,  very garrigues.  Ripe rounded palate, with supple tannins.  The Midi at its sunniest.

2009 Mas du Soleilla, la Rupture – 13.00€
A blend of Bourboulenc, aged in vat, with two barrels of Roussanne.  Quite solid and rounded on the nose, with a touch of oak.  Very good acidity.  Youthful with plenty of potential for future development.

2011 Vignoble Moujan, red, D’ici et d’ailleurs -
A blend of Cinsaut, Grenache, Syrah and Carignan in vat.    The first vintage under new ownership.  Very bright colour.  Youthful oak on the nose.  Patrick Mazzoleni  explained that he is the new owner  and there is a lot to do as the estate had been a bit neglected by the previous owners.     And the wine is not really ready;  but this was a premier essaie.  Very youthful, with potential .  Worth watching.

A gentle track  through vines and garrigues to the fish course, a carré de saumon mi-cuit with some broad beans and buttered bean, ham and basil.  The salmon was delicious, cooked to perfection.  And there was a selection of pink and white wines to go with it.

2011 Château Abbaye des Mongs blanc, Augustine – 8.00€
An estate near Gruissan.  I’ve not come across this estate before; their first vintage was 1995.  90% Bourboulenc, with 6 months in oak.  Quite lemony and oaky on the nose.  Medium weight.  Good balance of fruit and fresh acidity on the finish.  Oak nicely integrated on the palate. 

2011 Domaine Sarrat de Goundy, Cuvée du Planteur – 6.00€
Another estate that was new to me.  First vintage 2003. Pale colour; delicate and fresh, with very good acidity.  Nice depth.   Delicious.

2011 Chateau Capitoul, Rosé Rocaille – 6.00€
One third of each of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsaut.  Half pressed and half saigné.  Some depth of colour. Light nose, but quite a rounded vinous palate.  Ripe strawberries. Full and rounded.

2011 Château la Négly, Brise Marine  - 8.00€ - 9.00€
70% Bourboulenc and 30% Roussanne.  Light colour.  Quite a firm nose.  Quite herbal, lemony and fresh.   Nicely balanced.

More vineyards and past an old capitelle to the meat course.   A delicious piece of poitrine de porc, sage flavoured jus, potatoes and red onions cooked in duck fat.  Succulent meat and a lovely selection of red wines to go with it, bar a couple of disappontments, which I won’t mention

2008 Chateau d’Anglès, Grand Vin Rouge – 15.00€
Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache.  Quite a young oaky nose.  Quite a solid rounded palate, with oak and fruit.  Youthful with a lot of body and weight,  and plenty of potential.

2009 Château Abbaye des Monges, Augustine. – 8.00€
10% élevage in wood. Quite a rounded nose.; nice touch of spice.  Medium weight.  Nicely balanced.

Domaine Maury, L’Insoupçonné – 15.00€
80% Syrah with 20% Mourvèdre. Half the Syrah was fermented by maceration carbonique and half a classic fermentation.    Paul Maury’s first vintage, and what a great start.   Very tapenade on the nose.  Rounded spice with quite a fleshy palate.  Eighteen months élevage.   He has 5 hectares of La Clape, with a cellar at Sallèles d’Aude. 

2009 Mas du Soleilla, Les Chailles – 15.00€
Medium colour.  I thought there was some oak on the nose, but Peter Wildbolz assured me  there was none.  Quite rounded ripe palate.  Good body.  Quite ripe and dense.  Needs time.  With plenty of potential.  As it happened we had drunk the 2003 a few days earlier, and it was still very youthful, but with the warmth of the vintage. 

The cheese course was a selection of goats cheese, from Mas Combebelle, with some delicious local honey from La Cité des Abeilles et des Fleurs  at Domaine d’Aubian at Cuxac d’Aude.

2009 Domaine de l’Angel – 6.00€.  
A new name for me, but an old estate.  The first vintage under new ownership was 2004.  Half Bourboulenc, half Grenache blanc.  Very floral nose with herbs and citrus notes on the palate.  Fresh and mineral and a great choice with the goats cheese.

2009 Château Camplazens, la Garrigue - 9.00€
Medium colour.  Ripe rounded spicy fruit on nose and palate.  Very tapenade.  Soft tannins and a ripe finish, and all too drinkable.

The route took us back to the coop at Fleury for dessert and coffee, and the rain drops began to fall.  Dessert was sablé biscuit with a dollop of a pistachio almond cream on top.  And there were three dessert wines or Cartagène.

Chateau Ricardelle, Cartagène.  – 10.00€
Quite ripe and grapey, with nutty biscuity notes.

Cave de Gruissan, a red Cartagène,  8.00€ - which was rich and raisiny, with a dry finish.

Domaine Sarrat de Goundy, Vendanges  Surmûries, Trobaïritz – 18.00€
Late harvest Roussanne, honeyed ; with a touch of oak.  Medium weight and quite a dry finish.  But I am not sure that La Clape is really very suitable terrain for dessert wines.     

And then it was time to turn for home, savouring some new discoveries and enjoying more familiar wines, and with a feeling of relief that the weather had been, relatively, kind to us.     

The meal was provided by Restaurant La Table in Narbonne.   www.cuisiniers-cavistes.com  and it was certainly one of the best balade lunches that I have enjoyed.  


Unknown said…
A delightful account of the balade, Ms George. Indeed, the rain relented and I, for one, was able to shoot some very fine video of the esprit de corps of the hundreds who defied the weather prediction to walk the meadows and vineyards. The joie de vivre was electric along the 6 kilometer trail. It was a pleasure to meet you again; the first occasion having been at a Vinifilles event in Montpellier during VINISUD 2012 in February. Perhaps our paths will cross again. Cheers.
I do hope so. And delighted that you had a good walk too.

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