This is one of the newer wine estates of the Côtes de Thongue. I wrote about it in Wines of the Languedoc, and then had a recent opportunity for an update, with Emilie Alauze, who is bright and articulate, not to mention a rather good winemaker.
Things have gradually evolved since my last visit. She has planted some Roussanne and Carignan Blanc, for white wine, but in 2021 the Roussanne suffered from frost, so her most recent white wine is a pure Carignan Blanc. Emilie talked about working on the tipicity of the grapes. She is converting to organic viticulture and has followed the requirements of Biodiv&Eau since 2010. She has created a pond; it dries up during the summer, but nevertheless encourages the birds and she planted trees for shade and biodiversity. She avoids insecticides, trying to retain what she called a balance in the environment. She waits to mow the grass in the vines until mid July. And they find more birds nests in the vineyards; gobelet bush vines hide a bird’s nest very nicely.
Her vineyards now total 19 hectares, mostly of bush vines, with two small vineyards trained on wines. Her youngest vines are seven years old and the oldest 85 years old, including some Aramon. A lot of the work is done by hand. She knows her vines well, and tries to foresee problems. Nothing is uniform; the soil isn’t uniform. There is always the effet millésime, the vintage differences. As for winemaking, she favours shorter cuvaisons with less extraction. Essentially she is trying to improve what she is doing, rather than changing the range of wines, concentrating on growing good grapes. The great thing about the Côtes de Thongue is the liberty of expression. You can really do what you like. She uses natural cultured yeasts, and prefers blends of plots of vines to monocépages.
2021 Blanc - 8.80€
Emilie’s third vintage of white wine, a pure Carignan, as the Roussanne was frosted. From seven year old vines. It was firm and fresh with good acidity. Normally the Roussanne would add some rondeur, but I liked the firm austerity and stony notes of the pure Carignan. It was quite elegant and very fresh. She only has one plot of white, a cooler plot where the soil is not too rich. Most of her vineyards are better for red grapes. And the label, shown above, recalls the old vine press.
A blend of 60% Carignan with 40% Roussanne. This was quite different, with good acidity, but the Roussanne added weight and texture. A dry finish and an interesting comparison.
We talked about the recent vintages. 2016 was a year of drought with the crop 50% down; mildew affected 2017; there was drought again in 2018 and in 2019 grapes were sunburnt. 2020 was the year of Covid and in 2021 there was frost. Nature and the weather never stop, It is a never ending series of challenges, but you sense that Emilie enjoys it all.
2021 Rosé - 6.00€
A blend of Grenache and Cinsault, pressurage direct, and only the first juice. A pale pink. Delicate fresh raspberry fruit, with good acidity. Very lively and fresh. From young vines.
2020 Aramon Vin de France - 6.00 €
Emilie thinks that Aramon is not allowed in the Côtes de Thongue, but it does feature in the cahier des charges. But this way it stands apart from the rest of her wines. Emilie mentioned how Aramon reminds the older generation of their childhood, picking large bunches of Aramon. It is good to eat, even better than Cinsault, which can also be considered a table grape. However it is very fragile, with large berries. and complicated to destem, so they press whole bunches and run off the juice mid-fermentation to avoid any stalky flavours.
The colour is quite light, with red fruit and spice on both the nose and palate, with some acidity as well as some supple tannins and notes of the garrigues. 12º. Easy drinking. A very sympa glass of wine, which is what they want.
They have just 1.5 hectares of Aramon. The vines are about 68 years old, planted in quite narrow rows and needing supports. You need to work slowly, and of course people these days tend to work quickly with everything mechanised.
2020 L’Embre - 11.30€
A blend of 30% each of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan with 10% Mourvèdre. Too much Mourvèdre marks a blend too much. So a classic blend, aged in vat. and blended in December or January for bottling in March, and given then some bottle age before sale.
Deep young colour. Some black fruit on nose and palate, with supple tannins. Nicely balanced. Supple tannins giving some backbone. The cuvaison is now shorter, two to three weeks rather than the previous four or five weeks, and the flavours are more subtle. The yields are 30 - 35 hl/ha, and nowhere near the 90 hl/ha allowed for Côtes de Thongue.
Pure Carignan from 40 year old and 85 year old vines. A traditional vinification rather than maceration carbonic. Deep colour. The cépage d’ici and very sensitive to terroir. Notes of garrigues and spice and red fruit. For Emilie, Carignan is the most interesting grape variety of the Languedoc. Syrah is more uniform, and so is Grenache. She ages it in vat. Deep colour. Fresh red fruit, with notes of the garrigues and spice. Some tannins, with freshness on the finish, and some acidity. A long finish, with good balance. A lovely example of this grape variety.
2020 Roem - 14.00€
Pure Syrah, aged in vat for 6 months. It used to be longer, but now Emilie bottles earlier, and uses less sulphur Deep colour. Firm peppery nose and palate. Medium weight. Ripe but not heavy.
Emilie is working on a blend of Grenache and Syrah for red wine. She now has one 14 year old plot of Grenache, in the middle of the garrigues, which is starting to perform well. The drought of the summer meant that it needed time. She is not interested in rosé; red is so much more interesting.
Her grapes of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are sold to the négoce. There is one plot of Cabernet Sauvignon that could be interesting, with more Mediterranean flavours. The vines were planted by her father in 1996, but they do not really have any tipicity of the region. Her parents ran the village butchers in Magalas and kept her grandfather’s cellar, but did not want to make wine.
2016 LB - 18€
Her father’s idea was 24 months in new wood, in 400 or 500 litre barrels. 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah and 40% Carignan. Very deep colour. Very ripe rich and intense. Tannins ripe and rounded and sturdy. The oak is well-integrated. but the new wood gives an international character. Emilie has also made this wine in 2019.
Considering the tipicity of the Côtes de Thongue, Emilie talked about the styles of people, and the different ways they see things. She commented on the camaraderie of the wine growers, both the cooperatives and independent wine growers; everyone gets along and works well together. There is great diversity because of the cépages. She wants to bring out the best and feels that Biodiv&Eau has helped, as it includes everyone and gives cohesion to the area. Everyone knows everyone and the average age is quite young compared to some regions. The palette is broad and people bring out the best.