A new discovery in the Côtes de Thongue, with Gilles and Delphine Giraud. No prizes for working out how the name of this new estate came about. There have been vines in Gilles’ family for five generations, but after several years of working for other people, and in some instances learning what not to do, Gilles wanted to make his own wine. He has rented vines from his father and also bought some vines of his own, and now has 30 hectares, from Chardonnay that has just been planted to 50 year old Carignan. Most of his vines are just outside the village of Tourbes, where they have built a simple functional cellar, that is well equipped with shining new stainless steel vats, that are thermo-regulated, and for the moment just two barrels. They are developing their sales in bottle gradually; currently a large part of their production goes to the cooperative in Montblanc. As sales develop, they can gradually increase their production but for the moment, they only vinify the grapes from their very best plots.
Gilles loves both working in the vines and making the wine. He first started helping his father prune when he was aged about ten. He favours Haute Valeur Environnementale and they have been registered for two years. He criticises organic viticulture for its dependence on copper and follows the BioDiv&Eau programme that the syndicate of the Côtes de Thongue has instituted. Delphine observed that they find more birds nests in the vines these days and they let the grass grow. For Gilles the most important thing is to taste the grapes. That is how you decide when to pick. It is fundamental. And in the cellar, he avoids any excess extraction, with fairly short cuvaisons for his red wines, and he likes an élevage on lees for his white wines.
All the wines are Côtes de Thongue. And our tasting began with 2021 Le Blanc de Delgi, a pure Viognier - 9.00€
Light colour, with a delicate peachy note, and on the palate good acidity balanced the fruit. Some understated Viognier fruit. Subtle and elegant.
2021 Chardonnay - 6.00€
Light colour. Some delicate buttery fruit, on both nose and palate. Fresh acidity on the finish. Gilles favours an élevage on the lees, and some bâtonnage and the wine was bottled in February, so about five months ageing in vat. No malo-lactic fermentation.
2021 Muscat à petits grains - 6.00€
A dry Muscat, with good varietal character. Some pithy, grapey Muscat fruit, with what the French un joli amer or bitterness on on the finish. Fresh with good varietal character. Gilles sees it as an alternative to Picpoul and suggested it would go well with oysters. I admit to not being so sure. But if you like dry Muscat, it is a good example.
2021 Rosé - 6.00€
An unusual blend of Grenache Noir and Pinot Noir. They decided to blend their Grenache with Pinot Noir to make something a little difference - an example of the freedom that you have if you make an IGP rather than an appellation. Pressurage direct. This was a pretty pale pink colour. The Pinot Noir made 13º and the Grenache 11º. There is about 10 days difference in the harvest dates, so the two wines are blended once the fermentation is finished, and some élevage on the lees follows to give some rondeur. Gilles likes rounded flavours, but the acidity is nicely refreshing, with a touch of raspberries and a rounded finish.
2021 Marselan - 6.00€
This is a crossing of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache Noir, developed by INRA some 60 years ago, in nearby Marseillan, hence its name. I am not usually very enthusiastic about Marselan, but Gilles explained that he does not look for structure, he wants supple fruit,. Some appealing red fruit and a ripe supple palate. Slightly chilled it would be a great summer barbecue wine.
2021 Torves - 6.00
This is a pure Merlot and named after one of the original names for the village of Tourbes, used back in 990AD. It comes from three different plots. Gilles explained that it ferments in vat, beginning with quite a cool temperature and gently rising to about 28C, with the cuvaison lasting about ten days. Deep colour. Ripe cassis fruit with a rounded nose, and on the palate ripe supple fruit, with supple tannins. Nicely balanced.
2021 Le Rouge de Delgi - 9.00€
A blend of 40% each of Syrah and Grenache, with 20% Carignan. The Syrah and Grenache are picked by machine, so destemmed and then vinified together, with the Carignan fermented separately with a carbonic maceration, and then blended in January. The harvest dates are quite different, 26th September for the Syrah and Grenache, and 2nd October for the Carignan. There was some appealing rounded spice, a touch of garrigues and some red fruit and supple tannins with an elegant blanc and a long finish.
2021 Carignan Vieille Vigne - 10.00€
The vines are 50 years old and had been planted by Gilles’ grandfather. They are gobelet bush vines. Made by carbonic maceration which took three weeks. 20% of the blend is aged in barrel. So a touch of oak on the nose which was well integrated on the palate. More structured than the previous wine, with some firm fruit and a tannic streak. it was a very appealing example of Carignan with some youthful fruit and ageing potential.
Asked about future projects, Gilles would like to try a vendange tardive. He has an oenologist, Matthieu Dubernet, whose father, Marc, has done so much for the Languedoc. And they have also planed some Grenache Gris as they feel it has good potential for white wine in the Côtes de Thongue. Gilles and Delphine exude quiet enthusiasm for their region, talking about the mosaique de caractères of the Côtes de Thongue. I felt they had made a good start and deserve to do well.