Le Clos du Serres
The usual motorway exit for St Jean de la Blaquière was closed so we took a circuitous route from St Felix de Lodez and approached the village through wild garrigue, olive trees and vineyards, with the dramatic skyline of the northern hills of the Languedoc. There are stretches of red iron packed soil, known as ruffes Sébastien and Beatrice Fillon at Clos du Serres have a smart cellar down a dirt track just outside the village.
Our tasting began with a comparison or 2020 and 2021 Le Saut du Poisson - 17.00€
2021 was difficult because of the frost. Consequently there was no Vermentino in the blend that year, so that it was mainly Grenache Blanc and some Carignan Blanc. The wine was ripe and floral, with freshness and finesse, white blossom fruit with good acidity. The Grenache Blanc is kept in 500 litre barrels and the rest in vat, with blending in May for bottling in June. Nice weight and balance, with youthful harmony.
2020 has more Carignan Blanc, including some fruit from younger vines, as well as some Vermentino. It was much more focussed and less opulent, with some herbal fruit. More pointu in style. 2010 was their first vintage of white wine.
White wine is the current project for the appellation the Terrasses du Larzac There is a much broader range of possible grape varieties than for the red wine, namely Carignan Blanc and Gris, Grenache Blanc and Gris, Vermentino, Roussanne, Marsanne, Chenin, Clairette, Piquepoul, Terret. Some people have Viognier which would probably not be suitable for an appellation as the flavours are too powerful, and many of those who do have Viognier, say they would probably not plant it today. White wine currently equals about 10-15% of the production of the region.
Sébastien does not make any rosé; he doesn’t really like it, commenting that people expect it to be cheap. Instead he has started making a light red, 2021 Plan B, AOP Languedoc, 13.50€ based on Syrah with some Carignan, Cinsault and Grenache, but no Mourvèdre. He only has about half a hectare of Mourvèdre as it needs the right place, with some quite deep soil. The grapes are destemmed, with a 15 days maceration.
Bright deep colour. Very perfumed, ripe fruit. rounded supple tannins. A rounded mouthful. Medium weight with a lovely explosion of fruit. 13 Serve slightly chilled.
2021 St Jean - 13.50€
The cuvée of the village, a balance between the five cépages and about ten different plots. Altogether Sébastien has 15 hectares, with about 18 plots, with some 60 year old vines and some newly planted. Only his white wine goes into wood, with élevage in concrete vats for all his red wines He has tried out élevage in barrel but was never really never satisfied with it. The wood dampens the éclat de fruit, whereas a concrete tanks refines the fruit and the texture. The aim of élevage is to refine, not to add make up, or maquillage. Their schist soils makes for wines that are forward in their youth; they don’t need the exchange of oxygen to bring out the flavours. In contrast wines from calcaire, limestone, need more oxygen.
Good colour. Red fruit and garrigues on the nose. A rounded palate with supple tannins. Nicely mouth filling, with elegant concentration. A long fresh finish.
2021 Ste Pauline - 14.50€
A lieu-dit named after a chapel. The soil is composed of tiny galets, and the vineyard is near the river, with a subsoil of ruffes. 'A micro Châteauneuf-du-Pape', quipped Sébastien. There are three plots altogether, of Carignan, Cinsault and Syrah. All the grapes are destemmed, with a three week maceration, and a délestage at the beginning to liberate the juice and then some remontages, but no more pigeages as they produced too much tannin. The wine is blended in January and bottled in the summer.
Fresh red fruit on the nose and palate. Silky tannins with supple, subtle favours. Good length on the finish.
2020 Les Maros - 17.00€
Two rivers go through St Jean de la Blaquière, the Marguerite and the Maros, with the vines on the slopes of the river valley. Mainly Grenache with some Cinsault and a little Mourvèdre, and occasionally there may be some Carignan, but no Syrah.
Lighter colour thanks to the Grenache. Lovely Grenache fruit on the nose, redolent of liqueur cherries. Very fresh with some spice and liquorice. Some tannins, giving some backbone. Quite a rounded palate. Medium weight and youthful. Good length. Should age very nicely.
And then to show how well it would age, Sébastien opened the 2012 Maros. It was made the same way, with no wood and no pigeage. He now has cement vats, whereas he had fibre glass in his old cellar. He think cement makes for more elegance.
Nicely maturing nose. Discreet, Medium weight. elegant. Cedary notes and also garrigues. Quite restrained and gentle. Sébastien recalled 2012 as a cool year.
2019 Humeur Vagabonde - 28€ Just 2000 bottles.
They have pulled up their old Carignan as it did not survive the heatwave of 2019, so now the plan is to change the composition of Humeur Vagabonde from year to year, using what they particularly like. So this is mainly Grenache, their oldest vines, with some old Oeillade planted in the 1950s, with a little Carignan and Syrah.
Nicely perfumed. Liqueur cherries. Very ripe and rounded, but with more structure than Maros and a streak of tannin. And riper too with 14.5 alcohol. 2019 was hotter vintage.
And Sébastien is very pleased with 2022. The weather was perfect up to 15th June and then the heat arrived, which was very worrying. However, rain between 15th and 20th August saved them. The vines carried on ripening. and they began picking on 22nd August. The Syrah was ripe earlier and benefitted less from the rain. Everything else ripened well and the other reds were picked about a month after the Syrah. The Syrah reached 13 - 13.5 and Grenache 14.5, but a month later.