Chateau Trillol

It had been a while since my last visit to Châeau Trilllol in Cucugnan, so an invitation from Charles Sichel provided the excuse for a grand day out.    We didn’t just visit Trillol, but we also bought bread from the one of the best bakers in the whole of France, Le Moulin et Fourril de Cucugnan,  and afterwards we went to the awe-inspiring Cathar castle of Peyrepertuse.  

Charles explained how his father had first  bought a bergerie, along a winding road outside the village of  Rouffiac-des-Corbières, which we went to see later.  It is a wonderful isolated spot, with vines surrounded by garrigue.  You can see them quite clearly from the top of Peyrepertuse.   The grapes were looking very healthy, with no mildew.  Originally the grapes went to the cooperative but the previous owner had no one who was interested in taking over his vines, so was happy to sell to Peter Sichel.   And at Cucugnan, the estate of Domaine du Reverend was up for sale. This was the period of the European wine lake when many vineyards were being pulled up.  Happily the Sichels managed to restructure things so that the best vines were kept, and the worst eliminated.  These days lack of yield is the biggest problem - they are lucky to get 35 hl/ha whereas in Bordeaux they have to work to reduce the yield to 45 hl/ha.  

We drove through the vineyards, along the valley heading west out of the village, towards Duilac-sous-Peyrepertuse.  In some vineyards they have increased the number of vines per hectare to 8000, as opposed to the more common   Languedoc density of 4000.  Double the number of vines increases the quantity by 25% but the quality is quite different, with the competition of the roots, making for less bunches per vine.  I asked which works better, and Henri Guiot who runs the estate, answered diplomatically ça dépend des années.  This year, with plenty of water, 8000 is working well.  Carignan and Grenache are planted on the slopes and the soil is a mixture of clay and limestone.  They are also planting  some Grenache Blanc and Vermentino,  Roussanne is the basis of their white wine, and the Macabeo is being pulled up.   Weeds are controlled mechanically, but this year that has been complicated.   Altogether they have 47 hectares in 65 different plots. mostly around Cucugnan, and also towards Duilac,  including four hectares cultivated organically.  Most of the vineyards face south, but there is some north facing Syrah outside Cucugnan.   It is a wonderfully dramatic spot with Peyrepertuse in one direction - you can hardly distinguish the castle from the rock face, and another Cathar castle, Quéribus, in the other direction.  Henri talked about maintaining good relations with the hunters, who keep the wild boar under control, but they also feed them, to ensure that they have plenty to hunt   It is a delicate balance.     And back at the cellars, we tasted.

2016 Corbières Blanc, la Dame d’Argent - 9.40€
Roussanne with 15% Macabeo.  A little colour.  Lightly herbal, white blossom on the nose.  Three months on fine lees in vat.  They used to have Marsanne but no longer.  Good acidity, fresh and elegant with good depth.  White wine accounts for just 3% of their production.

2017 Corbières Blanc
Lightly lemon colour.  Very perfumed, ripe, rounded nose.  Very fresh with good acidity.  Intriguing weight, texture and mouthfeel. Lots of nuances.  No malo. Bottled at the beginning of April. and needs time to settle.

2013 Corbières Rouge - 9.40€
The mainstay of the range.A blend of 39% Grenache, 29% Syrah and  32% Carignan.  60% of the blend is aged in new and older wood for  ten months and gradually blended with some wine kept in vat, to obtain the desired balance.  Deep colour.  Fresh spicy fruit.  Quite rounded, lightly leathery.  A complicated vintage as the  summer only arrived in early July.  Black fruit. with rounded fresh elegant tannins.  A fresh finish.

A relatively normal vintage, with nothing exceptional.  About 30 hl/ha.  A year for Grenache, with it accounting for 50% of the blend.   Deep colour.  The same élevage as 2013.  Selected yeast - Henri does not want to take the risk with natural yeast.  Deep colour.  Red fruit, cherries.  Rounded spice. Quite fleshy, with more weight.  Fresh finish.   Henri mentioned the effect of altitude - the vines at la Bergerie de Trillol are higher, at 450metres, and there is a nearby village, appropriately called  Dernacueillette at 750 metes, where indeed they are the last to pick. 

A pretty normal year.  Deep young colour.  Youthful fresh red fruit.  Quite fleshy and youthful, ripe and harmonious.  Nicely balanced tannins.  Medium weight.

2014 Corbières Prestige - 16.00€

For this cuvée they chose the barrels that are able to cope with a longer élevage of 12 months, including some new oak. The wine is much more concentrated and dense.  The blend changes a little with each vintage, but not significantly, so that it usually about 50% Syrah and a quarter each of Grenache and Carignan.  Integrated oak, but with obvious vanilla notes.  It was quite sturdy and young.  Dense, but with silky tannins,  and very good fruit.

2013 Prestige
Deep young colour. Ripe rounded oaky nose.  On the palate, more fleshy initially, than 2014 with riper red fruit with a fresh finish, but maybe a little more austere on the finish.  Average 13º alcohol.  Charles observed that Bordeaux tends to worry as to whether the grapes will ripen; whereas here the grapes always do ripen.  However, initially they did not take altitude into account, which can delay the ripening.   

And then we adjourned to a cheerful restaurant in the village appropriately named l’Auberge du Vigneron.


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