Domaine Clavel

I kept bumping into Pierre Clavel at wine fairs earlier this year.  And he kept asking: when are you going to come and see me au domaine?  Finally  earlier this month the opportunity presented itself.  He had started picking, the whites, and so far so good.  And he has also picked some grapes for his rosé and the red harvest will get going next week, that is to say the week of 8th September. 

Pierre’s very first vintage in his old cellar at La Méjanelle was 1986; his first vintage at Assas was 2001 and he has been working organically since 2007. 

First we had a look at his cellar.  Over the last five years he has shifted away from barriques to foudres – and mentioned that Boutes, the cooper in Narbonne, has bought the foudrerie garonnaise in Marmande.   And he also has a couple of concrete eggs which he has used for both red and white wine; he likes the fact that there are no angles and there is a mouvement de convection.   He admits to being influenced by Gavin Crisfield’s enthusiasm for eggs.  See an earlier blog about Gavin and la Traversée.   

And then we moved into the tasting room, followed by a friendly black and white border collie, answering to the name of Garrigue.  There is a magnificent piece of equipment for weighing barrels to determine the amount of wine, first full and then empty.  Barrels were never an exact size.

2013 Cascaille, Coteaux de Languedoc - 13.50€
From Roussanne and Grenache.   Other varieties, Rolle and a little Marsanne, as well as some Clairette are being harvested for the first time this year.   The Rolle is looking particularly good this year, de toute beauté, observed Pierre.  He also has some Viognier, but very little, and quite often he blends it with his Syrah.   One third in egg; one third in tonneaux and one third in vat.   Blending at the harvest and a gentle pressing.  

Light colour. Lots of nuances on the nose. Quite floral, white blossom.  Good acidity.  Very youthful satisfying texture.  And tension.  Will develop nicely.   Cascaille used to be more opulent in style, but the age of the vines, now 25 years old, has come into play, and there is a trend toward more elegance.  Pierre explained that he likes heavier wines very much less than he used to.  Most of the white grapes are from Méjanelle, where the soil is galets roulées.  A big difference of picking dates between this year and last year – 26.8,2014 as opposed to 12.9.2013.  And then Pierre launched into an explanation of the translation of cascaille in Occitan.  Ca cascaille – old men chatting; cascailler – a rolling stone clinking against another; or it could refer to birds singing in the plane trees.

2013 Mescladis, Pic St. Loup rosé – 7.00€
A blend of Syrah and Grenache.  Light orange pink.  Nicely rounded, fragrant nose.  Good raspberry fruit and a certain weight and body on the palate.  Very harmonious.  A food rosé.  The vinification is simple :  you take good grapes and press them.  -  Mescladis means mélange  or mesclin, with the expression Che mescadis in Occitan meaning quel bazar, or what chaos.   And on the subject of meanings of words, clavel is a clou – and Pierre’s grandparents did indeed produce clou or nails, at Camplong near Bousquet d’Orb.   It is nails that provide the theme for Pierre’s labels.  And on his labels he describes himself as a vigneron, winemaker and wine lover.

2013 Rosé à Rougir, Vin de France– 10.00€
Pure Grenache Noir.  Saigné after quite a few hours, so quite a deep colour. Ripe raspberry fruit on the nose and palate.  Fresh fruit with acidity, and nicely mouth filling.

2013 Le Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc – 7.00€
Includes grapes from all three parts of the estate, Méjanelle, Pic St. Loup and next to the cellar at Assas.  The emphasis is on fruit, from Carignan Syrah and Grenache.  I found it a touch reductive on the nose – it just needed some air, but on the palate there was some lovely black fruit, balanced with  tannin and acidity.  It is still very young.  Pierre observed that 2013 was a great vintage between Béziers and Nimes. 

2012 Les Garrigues, Coteaux du Languedoc– 10.00€
Syrah – 55%; Carignan 25% and Grenache Noir 20%.  Élevage in vat.  Mainly from Méjanelle.  A closed note and a slightly viandé palate, medium weight, with some warm sunshine, but also a slightly bretty edge. 

2012 Pic St. Loup, Bonne Pioche.   – 12.00€
Elegant red fruit, on both nose and palate.  Aged in foudres for 12 months,  Nicely rounded, with ageing potential, and avoids the rich opulence of some Pic St. Loup  I liked it so much that I had to follow my own advice and buy some.  The percentages in the vineyard are 65% Syrah with 20% Mourvèdre and 15% Grenache.  Pierre talked about Pic St. Loup.  He sees it as his future.    He has been renting vines, 13 hectares,  at St. Jean de Cuculle for eighteen years – we went to see them later.  The soil is deep and stony. with varied colours, blonde, brune and rousse.  Brune gives more structured wines.     The vines come from the old estate of Domaine de la Salade, whose owner has retired, and not to be confused with Domaine de la Salade St. Antoine.  Pierre is working on a top cuvée for Pic St. Loup.  He commented on how he likes the freshness and elegance of the Pic St. Loup.  It is wetter than other parts of the Languedoc.   And he is doing some experimenting with micro-cuvées of it. 

2012 Copa Santa, Méjanelle – 16.00€
83% Syrah with Grenache aged in foudres, tonneaux and an egg.  Good young colour.  Quite rounded, solid and dense, ripe and confit.  Sunnier and less elegant than the Pic St. Loup.  Riper and from a hotter terroir.   At 7 a.m. in the morning in early September there can be as such as 6˚C difference,  with 10˚C in the Pic St. Loup and 16˚C in Méjanelle.    And our visit finished with a look at the vineyards, and a bunch of juicy ripe Muscat grapes to enjoy. 


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