Domaine de Bassac
Domaine de Bassac is one of the pioneering estates of the Côtes de Thongue, and more importantly one of the pioneers of organic viticulture in the Languedoc. François Delhon explained that his family have had vines in the village of Puissalicon for eight or nine generations, but his father was the first member of the family to actually make a living from his vines. His grandfather was a doctor, and his great grandfather a senator. And their old cellar in the village is 300 years old.
The first vintage to be sold in bottle by his father was 1987, and the wines were organic right from the start. They now have 80 hectares in Puissalicon, Magalas and Puimisson, in 65 plots, with five big lots, from one to five hectares, with 13 different grape varieties. I asked François for the list, so here goes: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat à petits grains, Vermentino, Roussanne and for red grapes, Cinsault, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache Noir, Carignan and Marselan. Tempranillo has been pulled up and he is planning to plant Touriga Nacional, as it will resist the heat. He does not want to plant any of the new resistant vines, as humidity is not the problem. They bought their own bottling machine 30 years ago.
As well as wines from the estate, they have a négociant range, for entry level wines, while the estate wines focus on higher quality wines. François now has a partner, Jean-Philippe Lecar, who comes from Bordeaux and who had initially worked with François’s father and then when his father died in 2010, they decided to go into partnership together. They enjoy experimenting, making anything between ten to 35 different cuvées each year. They like working with oak; eight barrels have grown to 140, with five different coopers, one from Bordeaux and four from Burgundy, and they experiment with different degrees of toasting. The old cement vats and old basket press are still in place, but these days they have smaller vats, so they can make smaller selections. They also have a Vaslin press, which allows you to control the pressure more effectively. They also do some carbonic maceration, which they find works well with Carignan.
2020 Le Manpôt - 10.00€
The name is the nickname of François’s great grandfather, who had large moustaches, as depicted on the label. Sorry, no photo. I forgot to take one, and then it was too late. Two plots of Chardonnay; one picked early and one later; one fermented in vat and the other in barrel, and blended after six months. Light colour. Lightly buttery. Nicely rounded on the nose. Good acidity, fresh and youthful, and a slightly bitter note on the finish.
2021 Nos parcelles, le Grand Mus - 14.00€
100% Vermentino. Picked quite early. 20% fermented in barrel. Light colour. Lightly herbal notes on both nose and palate. Quite firm fruit, some weight and structure on the palate, with acidity on the finish. Good varietal character.
I quizzed François about the tipicity of the Côtes de Thongue. It is quite a large area. The soils give a certain acidity and he enthused about the return to original grape varieties such as Carignan, and also Vermentino. The whites have acidity; the rosés some fruit and finesse, while the reds are fresh, with some power. He also observed that there was a good camaraderie amongst the producers .
2020 Domaine de Bassac Blanc - 17.00€
A blend of 50% Chardonnay, 35% Vermentino, 15% Sauvignon. In new barrels, and the best grapes of the year. Some colour. An intriguing nose. Quite leesy with some oak, and on the palate, some elegant oak, leesy with satisfying weight and texture. Dry finish. The barrels are on oxalis which allows you to turn them easily, providing some form of bâtonnage.
François has also followed the Bee Friendly programme since 2019, observing that the organic label does not consider bio-diversity. He practices sexual confusion in the vineyard and keeps the grass, or flattens it. He also has shelters for the bats.
2021 Pink Chot - 8.00€
A blend of Grenache and Cinsault. Pale orange pink. Quite rounded and ripe on the nose and palate, with good acidity. A little weight on the palate, with fresh acidity on the finish.
2020 Le Manpôt Rosé - 10.00€
50% Cinsault, with at least 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and some Vermentino. About 20-25% blend goes into barrel. Pink orange colour. Quite rounded and ripe; nicely vinous. Some weight., with a rounded finish.
2020 Icone Rosé
An original blend of Cinsault and Cabernet Franc. One barrique of each fermented and then aged in barrel for six moths, followed by a year in bottle before sale. It works extraordinarily well. Light colour. Quite a firm structured nose. Very good mouthfeel. Textured and vinous with some weight. Very intriguing. François admits to being inspired by Garrus in the Côtes de Provence.
The Côtes de Thongue are developing a reputation for their white wines, and increasing the production, while rosé is, perhaps surprisingly, rather stagnant. Red wine accounts for 60% of the production.
2019 Le Manpôt - 10.00€
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah. About 25% of each. Half the wine spends 12 months in wood, with those grapes harvested later and given a longer cuvaison, making for more rondeur. Medium colour. Nicely rounded and ripe without being heavy. A touch of acidity and a backbone of tannin. with a fresh finish
2019 Nos parcelles Marselan - 14.00€
12 months in wood. An uncle planted three hectares of Marselan. Francois observed that it needs a year in bottle, otherwise it is drying and rustic, I often have reservations about Marselan, but this was definitely the exception to the rule. Deep colour. Quite an intense nose. Solid ripe fruit. Quite tannic, quite gutsy and charpenté with a warm finish. in fact 15.5º - but it didn’t taste that alcoholic.
XVII - i.e. 2017 - 17.00€
A blend of 30% Marselan with 70% Syrah, from two specific vineyards. 12 months in 2nd and 3rd fill barrels. Deep colour. Quite solidly oaky on the nose and palate. The Syrah makes the wine more supple, and harmonious and more rounded, with a streak of tannin. Very youthful with potential.
XVIII - i.e. 2018 - 17.00€ -
100% Syrah from a single vineyard. An easier vintage. Good deep colour. Quite intense Syrah, with peppery black fruit. Tannins and structure; rich and powerful, but more elegant than XVII, with some acidity as well as tannin. Again youthful potential.
2017 La Cuvée Louis - 20.00€
Named after François’s father. A blend of 40% Cabernet Franc and 30% each of Grenache and Merlot, Elevage in barrels for 14 - 18 months. Not made every year, so the previous vintages were 2009 and 2014, with 2020 in the pipelines.
Medium colour. Beginning to develop. Quite firm spicy fruit on the nose. Quite a rounded palate, with ripe, supple fruit, and a streak of tannin.
They also produce a Faugères - 14.00€ which is vinified and aged for 12 months in Faugères, and bottled here in Puissalicon. The 2019 vintage is a blend of Grenache and Mourvèdre. Medium colour. Nicely spicy nose. Rounded fruit. Spicy and elegant with a fresh finish. I liked it a lot. A friend lets them choose their grapes from his vineyard. He declined to say who!
2021 Muscat à petits grains - 7.00€
The grapes are picked early and the fermentation is stopped. leaving 40 gms/l residual sugar. Light colour. Spicy Muscat. Quite rounded and nicely grapey, with acidity on the finish. A nice bonne bouche by way of a finale.